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.
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
Child Passenger Restraints
January 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- NO SPEEDING: In 2014, speeding was a factor for 30% of the teen drivers involved in fatal crashes.
- NO ALCOHOL: 20% of 15- to 19-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 had been drinking.
- 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
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.
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.
Driver impairment is not only caused by drugs and alcohol. Our driving is impaired anytime our ability to operate a vehicle is compromised. Because emotions can govern our behavior to a large extent, they too can diminish our driving capabilities. Emotional impairment can affect our ability to recognize risks and quickly react.
Here are some helpful tips to help regulate our emotions while driving.
- Do not take the aggressive actions of other drivers personally.
- Cool off when angry or frustrated.
- Don’t drive when feeling upset, frustrated, depressed or angry.
- Don’t have emotional conversations while driving.
- Stay focused on the driving task.
- Turn a negative driving situation into a positive situation.
- Demonstrate the kind of courtesy you would like to receive from others.
Safe driving requires our focus at all times. When behind the wheel, try to ‘shelve’ problems temporarily. Instead, concentrate on the driving tasks at hand. If unable to do that, then it is best to wait to drive until our emotions are under control.
Basic Speed Law
Driving is fast paced. There is a lot going on around your vehicle that needs to be taken into account. That’s why speed limits are important. They tell us a safe speed to travel at in a given area. However, sometimes even the posted speed limit is not safe. This is where the Basic Speed Law comes into effect. The Basic Speed Law tells us to not drive faster than is reasonable and prudent under the current conditions. That means you need to take into account everything going on in your driving environment and decide what the safest speed is. Otherwise, you could find yourself with a ticket.
When determining what a safe speed should be, some things to consider are:
- How’s the weather? Is it a clear day? Is it raining?
- What time of day is it? Is it daytime or nighttime?
- How’s the flow of traffic? Is there traffic congestion?
- Are there pedestrians? Is there a lot of foot traffic or children playing nearby?
- Are you sharing the road? Is there a bicyclist on the road?
- What’s the road like? Is the road wet or dry? Narrow or wide?
Crossing railways can be dangerous. You should only cross railway tracks at designated crossings. Listen and look both directions for trains that may be approaching, and follow these other safety tips:
- Never stop on the tracks. Make sure your entire car is able to cross with enough space to successfully clear the tracks before starting to go.
- Be aware of other vehicles that must stop at railroad tracks.
- Walking on railroad tracks is really dangerous, so just don’t do it.
- Never race a train to a crossing. Drive with caution around railroad tracks and be prepared to stop.
- Stop if you see or hear a train approaching. You can easily misjudge a train’s speed and distance because large objects appear to be moving slower than they actually are.
- When red lights are flashing at railroad crossings, stop at least 15 feet from the closest track. Do not proceed over a crossing until the red lights stop flashing, even if the gate rises. And never drive around a crossing gate.
With the passing of Daylight Savings and shorter days, it’s getting dark earlier. This makes the drive home each night a little more difficult. Night driving brings its own set of concerns and requires more concentration and attention to your driving environment.
Darkness and the glare of lights reduce visibility. You can compensate for poor night vision by decreasing your speed. This gives you time to recognize and respond to potential hazards. Also, you can avoid being blinded by approaching headlights by looking towards the right edge of your lane, and using the lane line to guide you.
So, when you find that your travels take you out after dark, give yourself a little more time and be on the lookout for hard to see dangers.