Category Archive: Safe Driving

Child Passenger Safety Week

Child Passenger Safety Week / Seat Check Saturday

Child Passenger Safety Week is coming up September 18 – 24 and there are a few issues to be aware of as we think about how to best protect the most precious cargo of all.

A small but interesting study by the Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics revealed that large number of children are unbuckling themselves from their child safety seat while the car is in motion, making their risk of injury in a crash up to three and a half times greater. What is remarkable is that some of those children who unbuckle themselves are as young as 12 months old.

According to the Yale press release, “The team found that 75% of children who self-unbuckle were age three and under, with an age range of 12 to 78 months. Unbuckling was reported as early as 12 months of age and was more common in boys than girls. Of the children self-unbuckling, 43% did so while the car was in motion. Twenty-nine percent of children who unbuckle are in a five-point restraint and do so more commonly from the chest buckle. The most common parental response to self-unbuckling while the car was in motion was “pull over, reprimand, and re-buckle the child.”

If you, as a parent or grandparent, find your toddler unbuckling their seat belt, don’t try to deal with it while the car is in motion. The safest possible action is to slow, find a place to pull over as quickly as possible and then, reprimand and re-buckle your child; trying to deal with the situation while the car is in motion puts both of your lives at risk.

In an article on this study in, Lorrie Walker, training manager and technical advisor for Safe Kids USA, an advocacy group was quoted as saying; “This study raises questions about how the child restraint was used,”. She went on to say that “Federal motor vehicle safety standard 213 requires the buckle to release using between 9 and 14 pounds of pressure. It is often challenging for an adult to unbuckle the harness.” She wondered if the buckle wasn’t adequately locked in some of those cases.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that as many as three out of four parents aren’t installing their child safety seat correctly. If you have doubts about whether or not you are properly buckling the harness or whether or not the child safety seat is installed correctly, there is a service that you can use to get training and guidance on the proper use of a child safety seat. NHTSA has a website called the “Child Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator“. In this site, you can plug in your state or zip code and find technicians who can show you how to properly install and use the child safety seat. These Child Passenger Safety Technicians receive training and certification based on a standardized nationally recognized curriculum.

Using the Child Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator, you can find a nearby Child Passenger Safety Technician, usually at your county’s Department of Public Safety or the local police or fire department. You will need to make an appointment with the technician and allow about 20 minutes to complete the training. Expectant parents should schedule an appointment about three weeks before their child’s due date. This is a free service.

You should remember also that child safety seats aren’t just for babies and toddlers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has determined that children are being graduated from child safety seats to seat belts too early. In small children, instead of resting low over their hips and pushing against their hip bones, the seat belt tends to ride up over their abdomen where it can cause internal injuries in a crash. Children who graduate out of child safety seats should move into a booster seat until they are at least 4’9” tall or anywhere from 9 to 11 years of age.

While talking about car seats, it is important to remember never to leave your child unattended in a car. Even when the outside temperature is cool, the temperatures inside a car can quickly rise up to more than 100 degrees on a sunny day. Kids and estimates that, on average, 38 children die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside motor vehicles.

Yellow Dot Program Saves Lives

A new, low cost, program for saving lives is slowly popping up in counties throughout the United States. Known as the “Yellow Dot Program” this innovative program alerts first responders to a vehicle crash about the driver’s medical information including any medications that the driver may be taking. This information can be critical to a severely injured crash victim during the first “golden hour” of emergency treatment that determines whether a crash victim will survive or not.

The program consists of a simple yellow dot decal fixed to the driver side rear window of a vehicle. The yellow dot notifies emergency personnel that there is a folder in the glove compartment of the vehicle that contains important medical information about the driver. Typically, the folder includes a photo of the driver along with the driver’s address and emergency contact information. The folder also includes information about any health issues the driver may have and a list of medications that the driver may be taking along with the names and contact information for the driver’s doctors.

Knowing that the driver may have health problems, such as a heart condition and the medications a driver may be taking, allows first responders to make important decisions regarding emergency treatment. Knowing in advance that the driver is taking a particular medication that could react adversely with drugs normally given in the emergency room can make the difference between life and death for the patient.

The Yellow Dot Program started in Connecticut and has since spread to eight other states including Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Virginia, Alabama and New York. Each state’s program is essentially the same with slight variations from state to state. Initiated mostly at the county level, the program is catching on quickly and rapidly gaining approval of emergency medical personnel.

If your state or county does not have this Yellow Dot program, you may want to consider contacting your local representatives to see about getting one started. It could save your life.


Driving drowsy Maggie's Law

Maggie’s Law: New Jersey Drivers Aren’t Drowsy

Maggie’s Law is a unique law that exists only in the state of New Jersey. It is a law that drivers must not knowingly operate a vehicle while impaired by lack of sleep. Should they cause a fatality, drivers who lack ample rest may be prosecuted for vehicular homicide. Other states like New York, Illinois and Kentucky are considering similar laws.

Having been passed in 2003, the National Sleep Foundation says, “This is the first law of its kind in the U.S.” With reports about drowsy driving, it’s easy to point out that it could be as bad, or even worse than driving under the influence, yet there aren’t too many laws like Maggie’s law that make it illegal.

A couple of weeks ago, New Jersey was identified as one of the states that had the lowest number of teen fatalities. A strict Graduated Driver’s Licensing program and legislation like Maggie’s law may be pointed out as a reason for this. While there isn’t a test yet that will be able to prove if a driver was indeed impaired by lack of sleep, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave a $1 million dollar contract to the University of Iowa for the development of such a device, but it’s a safe assumption that it would take years until that becomes a reality.

While drowsy driving,” isn’t quite outlawed yet in all parts of the country, agencies like the National Sleep Foundation, NHTSA and AAA are giving out advice in order to overcome rest-deprived fatigue:

  • Get plenty of rest the night before. At least 6 hours of sleep.
  • For longer trips, schedule a break every two hours, or every 100 miles.
  • Drive during the times when the driver is normally awake, and choose to sleep in overnight instead of powering on through the night, driving.
  • Stop driving when a driver feels that he is sleepy, or exhibiting signs of fatigue.
  • Take turns driving with a designated driver (for when you are sleep-deprived).
  • If taking medication: take note of the side effects of medicine. Some medications have side effects that include drowsiness.
Aggressive driving

Aggressive Driving and Road Rage

What is Aggressive Driving?

Before defining what aggressive driving is, let’s define what it is not. Although commonly used interchangeably, aggressive driving and road rage are not synonymous with each other. Road rage refers to a criminal offense or violent crime. For example, using a vehicle as a weapon and assaulting a driver are both examples of road rage.

An aggressive driver is defined as a person who “Operates a motor vehicle in a selfish, bold or pushy manner, without regard for the rights or safety of other users of the streets and highways.” Using this definition makes it easier for people to distinguish between the two.

>Spotting an Aggressive Driver

If it seems that aggressive drivers are all over, probably because they are. Instances of aggressive driving are increasing. The increase is typically associated with the overcrowding of roadways which leads to congestion which causes drivers’ frustration. To ensure safety on the roadways it is important to understand how to spot an aggressive driver. The following traffic violations are typically displayed by aggressive drivers:

  • Speeding
  • Frequent and/or Unsafe Lane Changing
  • Failing to signal a lane change or turn
  • Tailgating
  • Failing to Yield to the driver with the Right of Way
  • Running traffic lights
  • Driving while impaired

>>Encountering an Aggressive Driver

After defining the difference between aggressive driving and road rage, the thought of sharing a roadway with an aggressive driver should be less frightening. However, it is still unsafe. Even thought aggressive drivers are not trying to physically harm you, they do not have any regard for the safety of other drivers. If (when) you encounter an aggressive driver, the police recommends the following basic tips:

  • Remain Calm
  • Maintain a Safe Distance
  • Do not pass, unless it’s absolutely necessary
  • Once it’s safe, change lanes and move out an aggressive drivers way
  • If unable to change lines and being tailgated, maintain a safe speed and do not respond to any hostile gestures

>>>Avoiding Aggressive Drivers

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a fool proof way to guarantee avoidance of aggressive drivers? Unfortunately, that is not possible. However, there are things drivers can do individually to reduce the likelihood of encountering an aggressive driver. The following tips and the will help drivers ensure their safety.

  • Observe common courtesy.
  • Avoid actions that can provoke aggressive behaviors from other drivers.
  • Reduce your stress level while driving.
  • Keep your emotions in check.
  • Before reacting, think about the possible reactions to your reactions.

Adhering to the recommended driving tips listed above will help to avoid the frustration of dealing with an aggressive driver. However, it is important to remember that drivers who are unable to keep their emotions under control while driving are a greater risk to themselves than the people around them are.


Driver Safety: Dealing With Flooded Roads

Whether you believe in global warming or not, one thing that can’t be argued is that the US has been subjected to some torrential storms over the last couple of years. Atlanta received 20 inches of rain in a day and earlier this spring Nashville was struck with a massive flood. Some major floods can be predicted but an intense afternoon thunderstorm can also rapidly produce flash flood conditions that can be treacherous for drivers on the road. Drivers in these conditions are surprised at how much damage just a small amount of water on the road can do and, as a result, more than half of the deaths attributed to flash floods are auto related.

Before you go out in these conditions it’s a good time to review the hazards of flooded roads and steps you should take to avoid them or, in the worst scenario, to escape from a flooding situation. Here are some important facts about to remember about flooding:

  • Every flood is dangerous to drivers. Even if the water running across the road appears shallow, what you can’t see under the rushing water is the greatest hazard of all. The road could be washed out and the water may be much deeper than you realize. Even if it appears intact, the roadway could collapse under the weight of your vehicle.
  • Less than an inch of water can cause a driver to lose control.
  • As little as six inches of rushing water has enough force to push your car off the road.
  • Your car can float in as little as two feet of water and you could be washed away into a flooded stream or river.
  • In hilly or mountainous areas, flash floods can occur long after the rain has stopped and far away from the site of a rain storm.
  • The force of rushing water and debris can be strong enough to cause bridges to collapse.
  • Summer thunderstorms can dump one to two inches of rain in a very short time.
  • Flood waters can rise at a rapid rate.

What should you do to avoid flooded roadways?

  • If you live in mountainous, hilly, or flood prone areas, pay attention to weather reports. If there are warnings of flooding, take an alternate route if it is available. Better yet, stay home.
  • If the roadway is flooded, even a little, don’t attempt to drive through the water. Turn around and take an alternate route.
  • Temporary barriers blocking flooded roadways are placed by emergency personnel for a reason; never drive around them into a flooded area.
  • If you find yourself stalled in rising flood waters, do not attempt to stay with the car. A floating car can be swept into deeper water and can easily roll over. Escape if possible and get to higher ground immediately. Many flood related fatalities occur when people try to stay with the vehicle.
  • If the rushing water is too deep and the current is too strong, you will have to make a judgment call about staying with the vehicle. Turn around before you get into that position.
  • Be especially cautious when driving at night when it is much more difficult to recognize flooding conditions.
  • Remember that emergency personnel will be overwhelmed and may not be able to get to you for some time.

Check out additional driver safety tips on driving in the rain or sleet.