You never know what you might encounter

You Never Know

You never know what you may encounter on the roadway. Along with other traffic and pedestrians, drivers need to be aware of the possibility of horses and livestock on the road. A crash near Jacksonville Florida yesterday points out the necessity of watching for the unexpected while driving.

A man was riding a horse along a country road north of Jacksonville when they were hit by a car. The driver said she didn’t see them initially but, when she did, she hit the brakes but it was too late. The man was thrown from the horse and received critical injuries. The injured and frightened horse ran out into the roadway where it was hit and killed by another car.

In Florida, as well as most other states, horseback riders have a right to use the roadways. Horseback riders along with pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and those who use personal mobility devices are considered to be vulnerable road users.  The Florida legislature is currently considering a bill to strengthen the penalties for anyone who injures or kills a vulnerable road user by careless or negligent actions.

Drivers on country roads may think they have a clear and unobstructed road but can be surprised by what may be around the next curve. Last year, while driving I was driving on a country road in North Georgia, other drivers approaching me flashed their lights at me. Thinking they were warning me of a patrol car ahead, I didn’t worry because I was traveling within the speed limit. What they were really trying to warm be about was a calf that had escaped its enclosure and was wandering alongside the road.

If you approach a horseback rider or a wandering cow from behind, keep in mind that the animal itself can only see straight ahead. The animal may be unaware of your presence. Slow down and give the animal a wide berth. Never honk your horn. That could cause the animal to panic and run out into the road.

You don’t necessarily have to be on a country road to encounter horseback riders. As part of the you never know what to expect file, take a look at this recent news report from Atlanta.

Read more: Car strikes and kills horse; Rider in critical condition

Feds Urge Parents To Make Tweens Buckle Up

It’s hard to get tweens to buckle up so the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are trying to do something about it. Citing alarming statistics of tweens (ages 8 to 14) who were killed because they weren’t wearing a seat belt, DOT and NHTSA announced a new campaign called “Never Give Up Until They Buckle Up.”

Parents who would never dream of bringing their newborn home from the hospital without a proper car seat and who taught their toddlers that the car wouldn’t start until everyone was buckled in seem to give up on tweens. With the rush-rush lifestyle of many families and so many short trips to school, practice and the store, it sometimes seems too much of a hassle to fight the seat belt fight with tweens.

Tweens are entering that age where they are starting to feel grown up. They’re experimenting with limits and testing the rules. They often feel like they’re too old for seat belts and, in order to show their independence, don’t bother to buckle up. That can be a deadly mistake.

According to NHTSA, “Over the past 5 years, 1,552 kids ages 8-14 were not wearing seat belts when they died in a crash, and one in four of those kids were age 14. That’s a trend that has to stop now.”

Among other important information, the Never Give Up Until They Buckle Up website has information for parents on:

The tween years are the time when it’s more important than ever to stress how important the rules are if tweens want to live long enough to become teens.

Read more: Don’t Give Up Until They Buckle Up

75 car pileup

75 Car Pileup Caused by High Speed

Investigators have determined that most drivers Involved in a 75 car pileup on I-95 near Bangor Maine last week were ignoring the posted, lower speed limit and driving too fast for conditions. As a result of the crash, seventeen people were transported to area hospitals, two in serious condition.

Interstate highways in Maine are equipped with flashing, hazardous weather speed limit signs. When road conditions warrant it, the speed limit can be lowered to a safer posted speed. The signs are also equipped with speed detectors that can record the speed of vehicles on the road. Investigators looking at the recorded data found most drivers were traveling an average of 10 mph above the posted speed of 45 mph. At least one driver was traveling at a speed of 73 mph.

The combination of snowy weather, darkness, and speed led to the biggest multi-vehicle pileup in Maine’s  history.

Speed limit signs are posted for ideal conditions. Drivers have a responsibility to adjust their driving speeds when weather or other conditions warrant.

Read more: Speed led to 75-car pileup on I-95, speed limit sign recordings show

Portable roadside tests for marijuana

New Roadside Tests For Drugs

New roadside tests for drugs are being evaluated by police departments around the country and are showing promise as an effective tool for determining whether or not a driver is under the influence of drugs, especially the use of marijuana.

The problem with testing for the presence of marijuana, up to this point, is that blood or urinalysis testing checked for specific metabolites in the system to determine whether or not marijuana has been used. The drawback to these tests is that they could only determine marijuana use within the past few weeks, not that the user was currently under the influence of marijuana. Another issue was that blood and urinalysis tests can’t be performed at the scene of a traffic stop. The new roadside tests have apparently solved those problems.

The new roadside tests use an oral swab to collect a saliva sample that is placed into a portable analyzer. Test results are obtained in minutes and can detect up to seven different drugs. Results show that the person has recently used the drug and is currently under its influence.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Analytic Toxicology, researchers compared two different oral fluid analyzers. The results of the portable analyzer tests were followed up with standard drug detection tests to check for accuracy. The results showed the Dräger Drug Test 5000 to be more sensitive, especially for the detection of marijuana. The study’s authors stated that the oral fluid tests were more sensitive than the standard urinalysis test for detecting the presence of drugs in the system.

With more states legalizing marijuana and reports by police of greater numbers of stoned and drugged drivers, the new drug detection systems should be a welcome aid in in the prosecution of those drivers.

Do as I say, not as I do

Do As I Say, Not As I Do Driving Culture In US

Do as I say, not as I do, seems to be the driving force among US drivers according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Traffic Safety Culture Index released this week. The survey of 2,705 US licensed drivers age 16 and older shows that most believe that certain driver behaviors are dangerous and a threat to other drivers but a large number admit to engaging in those same risky behaviors themselves.

Car crashes affect most Americans in one way or another. Among the survey’s respondents:

  • One in ten have been seriously injured in a crash and almost one in five have been involved in a serious crash.
  • Almost one in three had a friend or relative that was seriously injured or killed in a crash.

When asked about certain traffic issues, survey respondents who felt they were a somewhat or bigger problem than three years ago were as follows:

  • Aggressive driving – 61.3%
  • Distracted driving – 85%
  • Drunk and drugged  driving – 41.6 and 45.6 respectively

The do as I say, not as I do factor

When it comes to their personal driving behavior the survey showed:

  • 54.7% said red light running was a serious threat and 72.7% said it is completely unacceptable. However, more than one-third (35.6%) admitted to running a red light within the past 30 days.
  • 45.2% of drivers felt that speeding at or above 10 mph over the posted speed limit in residential zones was a serious threat and 84.4% said it is completely unacceptable. However, almost half (43.5%) admitted that they done it within the past 30 days.
  • 78.6% of drivers felt that texting was a serious threat and 64.6% said it is completely unacceptable. However, more than one-third (36.1%) had read a text or email and more than one-quarter (27.1%) had typed one while driving within the past 30 days.
  • 45% of drivers felt that drowsy driving was a serious threat and 81.3% said it is completely unacceptable. However, almost one-third (29.4%) had done so within the past 30 days.

Cell phone use while driving

Many Americans still don’t realize that, when it comes to cell phone use, the distraction doesn’t come from holding a phone to your ear but from the phone conversation itself. Among survey respondents:

  • 65.7% of drivers felt that use of hand-held cell phones is unacceptable while almost the same amount (65.4%) felt that use of hands-free cell phones is acceptable.
  • 46.4% of drivers felt who use speech based in-vehicle cell phone systems don’t believe that the calls are at all distracting.
  • 89.3% believe that texting while driving should be banned.
  • 67.8% support a ban on hand-held cell phones.
  • 40.2% support a total ban on both hand-held and hands-free cell phone use.

For more information on the survey, read: 2014 Traffic Safety Culture Index