Terror on the Highway

Wrong Way Drivers

Having a driver who is driving right towards you at highway speeds is not only scary, but is also extremely dangerous. According to the Federal Highway Administration, in the US, wrong-way driving crashes result in 300 to 400 people killed each year on average, which represent about 1% of the total number of traffic related fatalities. Though the percentage is low, wrong-way crashes on divided highways are much more likely to result in fatal and serious injuries because they involve high speed, head-on collisions.

In a study, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that driving while impaired by alcohol is the primary cause of wrong-way driving collisions, with more than 60 percent of wrong-way collisions caused by drivers impaired by alcohol. They also found that wrong-way collisions occur most often at night and during the weekends, and they tend to take place in the lane closest to the median.

Tips for dealing with a wrong way driver start with defensive driving basics:

  • Always use your seat belts. A seat belt is the single most important safety equipment feature of your vehicle, but in order for safety belts to work, they must be worn properly and at all times while driving. A lap and shoulder belt worn properly increase your chances of surviving a collision by 3 to 4 times than if you are unrestrained.
  • Scan for hazards. Keep your eyes moving and remember to look further down the road. Scanning enables your eyes to take in the whole scene, enabling you to identify a hazard before it becomes a last-second crisis. You should also be constantly looking for an escape route or somewhere to go if you encounter a problem or hazard on the road.
  • Don’t drive distracted. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by your cell phone, eating, drinking or even your kids. When you take focus off of driving, you increase the time it takes you to react to problems on the road, which will in turn increase your chances of getting into a collision.
  • At night, stay to the right side of the road, in the right lanes and avoid driving in the fast lane, or lane closed to the median, especially if your view is blocked by curves or hills.

If you do see a wrong way driver, then:

  • Reduce your speed and move to the right lane or shoulder as quickly as you can without losing control of your car. Once the wrong way driver has safely passed you, be sure to notify the authorities.
  • If you can’t move out of the wrong way driver’s path, avoid being hit head-on by turning your car sideways. Head on collisions have the highest fatality rate, so if you are going to get hit, it is better to be hit at an angle, if possible at or behind the rear wheels, than taking the full force of the crash head-on.

Changing Lanes

S.M.O.G. Technique

Many drivers have a problem with changing lanes safely. The S.M.O.G. technique is meant to help remind you of the steps to take when planning a lane change. S.M.O.G. simply means:

  • Signal: Indicate your intentions to let other drivers know you plan on making a move before you actually do it.
  • Mirror: Check your mirrors to make sure that there is no traffic approaching from the rear.
  • Over-the-shoulder: Glance over your shoulder to make sure your blind spot is clear.
  • Go: When you’ve determined the lane is clear, gradually change lanes remembering to maintain your speed so that you don’t interfere with the traffic already in the intended lane.

Don’t forget to look ahead to anticipate and avoid traffic hazards. Before changing lanes, check the direction of travel and watch out for traffic coming from the opposite direction.

Driver Inattention

Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month which reminds motorist that anything that takes your attention away from driving is a distraction and can lead to a traffic collision.   The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 10% of fatal crashes, 15% of injury crashes, and 14% of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2015 had a driver who was distracted at the time of the crash.

There are three kinds of distractions and they include anything that takes your:

  • Eyes off the road (visual).
  • Mind off the driving (cognitive).
  • Hands off the steering wheel (manual).


Activities like interacting with cell phones, passengers, and radio controls, as well as, grooming, eating and smoking can impair your driving abilities.  Driving safely involves being alert and aware of what is happening in your driving environment.   So next time you’re in the driver’s seat, keep your mind on driving and getting to your destination safely.

Get the Word Out

Communication on the Road

Communication with other drivers on the road is very important. Using standard equipment on your car, like turn signals, brake lights, hazard lights, headlights, and your horn, are all simple yet effective ways of telling everyone else what you intend to do next. Communication on the road can also be characterized by conveying your intentions to others through eye contact, body language, and hand signals, while simultaneously picking up on cues from other drivers and pedestrians.

Non-verbal interaction with other road users can help make the roadways much safer. For instance, you may notice another driver continuously looking over their shoulder. This is usually a good indication that they want to change lanes, and you can help by giving them the space they need.   Or perhaps you have stopped at an intersection and a pedestrian is at the street corner. Making eye contact and a simple nod of your head is often enough to tell the pedestrian, “I see you are going to cross the street.”

Shake Those Moody Blues

Driving Attitude

Your mental and emotional state can significantly affect your actions while driving. If you bring a bad attitude into the car with you, it will cloud your driving decisions. Stress and emotions can hijack your mind and you may find yourself unaware of your driving environment or over-reacting to another driver’s bad driving behavior.

Having a positive, courteous attitude, and driving with your own safety, as well as other’s safety in mind, is key to making safe driving decisions. When behind the wheel, put aside negative thoughts that enter your mind and concentrate on driving instead. If you ever feel like you are having a bad day, or you just can’t shake your problems, avoid driving until you feel better.

Walk This Way

Pedestrian Safety

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2014 a pedestrian was killed every 2 hours and injured every 8 minutes on average in U.S. traffic crashes.

While the number of total traffic fatalities has decreased over the last 10 years, the percentage of pedestrian traffic fatalities has increased.  In 2005, Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) reported 43,510 total traffic fatalities, 11% (4,892) of which were pedestrian fatalities.  In 2014, FARS reported 32,675 total traffic fatalities, 15% (4,884) of which were pedestrian deaths.

The rise in percentage of pedestrian deaths may be partly due to improvements to vehicle occupant protection and safety features.  While safer vehicles improve a passenger’s survival rate in a crash, a pedestrian still has no defense if struck by a vehicle.

Another pedestrian safety concern: distracted walking.  A Pew Research Center survey found that 53% of adult cellphone owners either had bumped into a person/object while using their phone or had been bumped into by another person distracted by their cellphone.  Distracted walking on or near a roadway can spell disaster.

Important Safety Reminders for Pedestrians:

  • Walk on a sidewalk or path when one is available.
  • If no sidewalk or path is available, walk on the shoulder, facing traffic. Stay alert; don’t be distracted by electronic devices, including smart phones, MP3 players, and other devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road.
  • Be cautious night and day when sharing the road with vehicles. Never assume a driver sees you (he or she could be distracted, under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or just not see you). Make eye contact with drivers as they approach.
  • Be predictable. Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections when possible. This is where drivers expect pedestrians.
  • If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area, wait for a gap in traffic that allows you enough time to cross safely, and continue to watch for traffic as you cross.
  • Be visible. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flash light at night.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your judgment and coordination.

Source: NHTSA’s Safety Countermeasures Division

Keep Them Safe

Child Passenger Restraints

rear-facing-child-seatJanuary 1st, 2017 ushers in new laws and regulations. In California one new law affecting motorist and parents will require child passengers under the age of two to be secured in rear-facing child safety seats.

Transporting children in age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, or seat belts is key to keeping kids safe on the road. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), child safety seats lower the risk of fatal injury for infants (under 1 year old) by 71% and by 54% for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in passenger cars.

NHTSA recommends using a Rear-Facing Car Seat for as long as possible: age 0 to 3 years or once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat. Rear-facing seats are the safest way to transport a child as in a crash the impact force is more evenly distributed along the outer shell of the seat, keeping the child’s neck and spine in line.

Be sure to read the instruction manual for your child safety seat as well as your vehicle owner’s manual on car seat installation. Check height and weight limits of the car seat and never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat or in front of an active airbag.

Parental Influence

2016 Teen Driver Safety Campaign

Speak with your teen about making good driving decisions.

For those of you that have young drivers at home, National Teen Driver Safety Week (Oct. 16 – 22) is a good reminder to sit down with your teen and go over the “5 to Drive” risky driving behaviors to avoid.

  1. NO CELL PHONES: Dialing a phone while driving increases your teen’s risk of crashing by six times, and texting while driving increases the risk by 23 times.
  2. NO EXTRA PASSENGERS: Research shows that the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of teenagers in the car.
  3. NO SPEEDING: In 2014, speeding was a factor for 30% of the teen drivers involved in fatal crashes.
  4. NO ALCOHOL: 20% of 15- to 19-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 had been drinking.
  5. ALWAYS BUCKLE-UP: In 2014, 53% of teens 15-19 years old killed in passenger vehicle crashes were not wearing a seat belt.

Source: NHTSA and safercar.gov

Following Distance

Three-Second Rule

Allowing yourself proper following distance between your car and the car ahead of you can be difficult to visually estimate. A good way to gauge a suitable gap is to use the “Three-Second Rule.” Here’s how it works: when the car or truck in front of you crosses a certain fixed object on the side of the road (like a sign or tree), start counting, “one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three.” You should not cross that same point for three seconds. Under normal conditions it takes about 2-3 seconds to completely stop when traveling at speeds between 35 mph to 65 mph; so with a three-second space cushion, you should have enough time to react and brake when something happens up ahead.

Sometimes you may need to add additional space to the following distance calculation. Here are some scenarios where extra room is required and you should allow for a following distance of four or more seconds:

  • If the road or weather conditions are bad. For example, braking distance doubles on a wet road.
  • If you are being tailgated. If a driver is following too closely you should slow down and increase your following distance so that you will have more time to react if the car in front of you is forced to suddenly stop.
  • If you are towing a trailer or have additional weight in your vehicle. The added weight will increase your vehicle’s stopping distance.
  • If you are following a motorcycle. A motorcycle can stop quicker than a car. Give yourself extra space in front of your vehicle so you have adequate time to stop.
  • If your vision is blocked or visibility is poor. When your view ahead is blocked, for instance when you are behind an 18-wheeler or large van, you will have less of an idea of hazards further down the road. Leave yourself more space to increase your reaction time.

Penny for Your Peace of Mind?

The Penny Test

Tire tread is important. Worn tires can’t grip the road properly leading to slips and skids. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to check your tire tread depth and all you need is a penny!

Here’s what you do: Place a penny into a tread groove on your tires with Lincoln’s head pointed down. A newer penny where Lincoln’s head isn’t worn will work best. If part of his head is covered by the tire tread, you’re good to go. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, then it’s time to replace the tire. Repeat the test in multiple grooves and on each tire to check for uneven wear.

So there you have it, a simple way to keep an eye on the health of your tires.