Bicycle deaths on the rise

Bicycle Deaths On The Rise

Bicycle deaths are on the rise according to a report published by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Unlike motor vehicle deaths that increased by only one percent, bicycle deaths increased by 16 percent between 2010 and 2012.

The report also shows some big changes in the patterns and trends of bicycle deaths compared to years past;

  • Eighty-four percent of the bicycle deaths involved adults aged 20 and over compared to 21 percent in 1975.
  • Males made up 74 percent of the bicycle deaths.
  • Sixty-nine percent of bicycle deaths occurred in urban areas compared to 50 percent in 1975.
  • Commuting by bicycle has increased by 62 percent since 2000.

While bicycle deaths have increased nationwide, 54 percent of the bicycle deaths occurred in just six states; California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Michigan and Texas.

Another disturbing trend is that, unlike alcohol related motor vehicle deaths which have gone down, bicyclists with a relatively high BAC have remained fairly constant.

In order to stop the trend, several things have to happen:

  • Roads and highways need to include dedicated bicycle lanes.
  • Motorists need to become more aware that bicycles are considered vehicles and they have a right to use the road. Motorists also need to be on the lookout for bicyclists, especially in urban areas where bicycle commuting is on the rise.
  • More awareness needs to be given to the protection afforded by bicycle helmets.
  • More awareness needs to be given to the fact that bicycling under the influence is just as dangerous as driving under the influence.

Read more: Bicyclist Fatalities a Growing Problem for Key Groups

Texting more dangerous

Aware Of The Dangers, Drivers Text Anyway

Even though they say they are aware of the dangers, most drivers still continue to use their cell phones and text while driving according to a new survey from AT&T.

As part of a campaign against texting and driving, AT&T surveyed 1,004 US adults about their driving and texting habits. The survey showed that, while 98 percent said they were aware of the dangers;

  • Seventy-five percent admit to texting while driving.
  • Two-thirds have read text messages while waiting at a traffic light.
  • Twenty-five percent have sent text messages while driving.
  • More than one-quarter believe they are capable of safely doing several things at once while driving.

Read more: Survey finds people text and drive knowing dangers

First snow of the year

First Snow Of The Year

Oddly enough, the first snow of the year is forecast for this Halloween weekend throughout the mountain areas of the Southeastern US. Weather forecasts call for the possibility of as much as eight to twelve inches in the higher elevations along the Tennessee/North Carolina border and one to three inches in Asheville NC.

Forecasters call for rain in these regions that will turn to snow as the temperatures start to fall. Hopefully, these areas won’t experience the crippling driving conditions that Atlanta experienced last January.

You may remember the headlines from earlier this year when hundreds of thousands of drivers in Atlanta were released from work and hit the road at the same time. Many never made it home and vehicles were left abandoned on Atlanta roads for days afterwards. A lot of people up north gave Atlanta residents a hard time for their inability to deal with what seemed to be only a couple of inches of snow but they didn’t get the whole picture.

That morning in Atlanta, as the snow began to fall, the roadways were still relatively warm causing the snow to melt as it hit the roadways. As temperatures started to plunge, that layer of melted snow turned to a sheet of ice that was later covered with a layer of snow. It was the solid sheet of ice that caused the problems, not the snow!

After Denver and Phoenix, Atlanta, located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains at over 1,000 feet, is the third highest major city in the US. Metro Atlanta’s topography consists of high hills and deep ravines and, when any one of Metro Atlanta’s 5.5 million residents pull out of their driveway, they will be headed either up or downhill.

It wasn’t the snow that caused the problems in Atlanta but hundreds of thousands of vehicles trying to make it up and down those high, ice coated hills. It was a nightmare that few cities in a similar situation would be able to cope with.

Drivers who aren’t used to driving in snow need to use extreme caution if they attempt to go out in the snow this weekend. Most driver manuals in states that have a lot of snow and ice offer these driving rules for coping with wintry driving conditions. When driving on:

  • Wet roads: Slow down 5 to 10 mph.
  • Packed snow: Slow down to half speed.
  • Ice: Slow to a crawl.

In addition to watching your speed, you should at least double the following distance between you and the vehicle ahead.

Know what type of brakes you have. If you have standard brakes, don’t slam on your brakes when driving on snow or ice; instead, lightly pump your brakes to slow the vehicle. If you have anti-lock brakes, apply firm pressure to the brake pedal.

If you start to skid, turn your wheel in the direction of the skid and don’t concentrate on looking at the hazards to the sides. Keep your eyes on where you want the vehicle to go and make steering adjustments to steer in that direction.

Be aware that snow tires don’t work well on ice.

This is a perfect training opportunity for your teen driver but you should limit their driving to no further than the end of the street at very low speeds. It should be quite an eye opening experience for your teen. Be prepared however for the possibility that your teen may take out a mailbox or two. It’s far better for your teen to learn under controlled conditions like this than to experience it for the first time on their own after they get their operator’s license.

Hydroplaning tires

Ask The Traffic School Instructor: Hydroplaning

Question: Is there a difference between hydroplaning and skidding?

Answer: While the end result may be the same, the causes of skidding and hydroplaning are different.

Skidding

Skidding is caused by a slick road surface. Your greatest chances for skidding happen when it rains and the most dangerous time is within the first half-hour after it starts to rain. During dry periods, oil and other fluids drip and build up on the roadway. When it starts to rain and there’s a coating of water on the road, all of that oil rises up on top of the water creating a very slick surface. When you hit the brakes, the slick surface may not allow the tires to grip the road. After a heavy rain, all of the oil will be washed off the road.

Other surfaces that can cause skidding are gravel or dirt roads. On those surfaces, the tires aren’t on a flat, even surface. If you can imagine the tire’s surface resting on the small tips of a bunch of rocks rather than having full contact with a flat surface; the tires just don’t have enough grip and that makes it is easier to skid.

It’s important to know what kind of brakes you have on your car. If you have standard brakes, don’t hit the brakes when you start to skid. That can make matters worse. Just take your foot off the gas and concentrate on steering until you pass over the slick spot. If you have anti-lock brakes, they’re made to control your vehicle while skidding by rapidly applying and releasing the brakes multiple times per second. When applying anti-lock brakes, you may feel some fluttering in the brake pedal but that’s normal. Just keep an even pressure on the brakes to stop.

Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning is caused by standing water on the road. As the tires travel through the water, the water is too deep for the tire’s tread to squeeze out all the water and the tires can actually ride up on top of the of the water surface like water skis. At that point, your tires are no longer in contact with the road surface and you’re just along for the ride.

Hydroplaning can happen at speeds as low as 35 mph but it’s most dangerous at speeds above 55 mph. The best way to avoid hydroplaning is to avoid areas of standing water and, if you can’t avoid it, slow down before you enter the water.

If you’re hydroplaning, your tires are no longer in contact with the road. Don’t slam on the brakes! Take your foot off the gas and concentrate on trying to steer until your tires are back in contact with the road.

Recall of Takata airbags

Airbags In Hot, Humid Climates Can Explode

Airbags that can explode, sending out flames and hot shrapnel have prompted an urgent recall for millions of vehicle owners. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a recall on October 20, 2014 for owners of Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, and General Motors. The airbags were manufactured by the Takata corporation of Japan and have been installed in  millions of vehicles going back to the 2002 model year.

According to reports, the airbags may be more prone to explode in hot, humid areas so the NHTSA warning is more urgent for those living in the following areas: Florida, Puerto Rico, Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Hawaii. NHTSA advises owners living in those areas to have the vehicle repaired without delay.

While the press release only mentions an urgent warning for those living in the areas listed above, vehicle owners throughout the Southeast and Gulf Coast regions should get their vehicles checked without delay.

Toyota issued a warning that, until the problem is fixed, passengers should not ride in the front passenger seat. They went further to advise that owners turn off the passenger side airbags.

For more information and a list of the recalled vehicles you can visit:  Affected Vehicles, by Manufacturer, Impacted by CY 2013 and 2014 Recalls Involving Takata Airbags

If you are still uncertain, you can see if your specific vehicle has been recalled by entering the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) by visiting: Search for recall by VIN.

To find your vehicle’s VIN, look at the inspection plate just under the windshield or on the driver’s side front door panel.

Right now, the VIN lookup website is experiencing a high volume of traffic so, if you can’t get in, you may want to call your vehicle’s local dealership for more information.

For more information see: Feds Urge Millions of Car Owners to Get Air Bags Fixed Now