Do not call 112

Do Not Call 112 or #77 For Emergencies

A Facebook post is making the rounds again that suggests that drivers should call 112 to verify whether or not an unmarked police vehicle is real. Don’t do it!

The fear of people masquerading as police officers in unmarked vehicles in order to stop and rob or assault unsuspecting drivers is a very real fear. There have been several news reports over the past year of events like this including one in which a female off-duty police officer was pulled over. However, the advice circulating in social media to call 112 to verify if the unmarked police vehicle is real or not is bogus and it’s causing problems for law enforcement.

The story circulating on Facebook supposedly tells the “true” story of a 19 year old woman who suspected the unmarked car that was trying to pull her over wasn’t real. She called 112 or, in similar stories #77, and was told by the dispatcher that the “cop” trying to pull her over wasn’t real. Shortly afterwards, the fake cop was surrounded by four real cops and the story had a happy ending.

The problem is that 112 is used as an emergency number in some countries and some, but not all, cell phones are programmed to automatically switch over to 911 when 112 is dialed in the US. When the story first popped up in Facebook several years ago, so many people tried calling 112 to see if it worked that 911 switchboards were flooded with non-emergency calls.

If you’re pulled over by an unmarked police car, law enforcement agencies do encourage drivers to call 911 to verify that it is, in fact, a real police officer that’s pulling you over. In a situation like that, don’t waste time calling 112 and waiting for it to shift over. Your cell phone may not be programmed to shift over to 911. If a real officer in an unmarked vehicle signals for you to pull over, he or she will also understand if you motion for them to follow you to a well lit, populated area before stopping.

People certainly shouldn’t call 112 just to see if it works because, if your cell phone is programmed to shift over to 911, you will have committed a crime by calling 911 for non-emergency purposes.

Read more: Dial 112 to Contact Police in Emergency?

Is red light running worth the cost?

Time To Stop Red Light Running

August 2 – 8 is Stop On Red week and it’s a good time to stop and think about the costs of red light running. The summer vacation period is drawing to a close, Labor Day is around the corner and within the next couple of weeks, children will be returning to school. It’s time to evaluate if the time saved running a red light is worth the cost.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 697 people were killed and an estimated 127,000 were injured in red light running crashes in 2013. About half of the deaths in those crashes were pedestrians, cyclists, and occupants of other vehicles that were hit by red light runners.

An IIHS study of urban crashes showed that the most common type of urban crash (22 percent) involved drivers who ran red lights, stop signs or other traffic controls. Injuries occurred in 39 percent of the crashes caused by red light runners. Drivers are more likely to be injured in a red light running crash than in any other type of urban crash.

Red light running has become an epidemic in the US. An IIHS study of 19 intersections without red light cameras in four states showed that drivers run red lights an average of 3.2 times per hour.

The National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) conducted a study of red light running in the US and produced a list of the ten most dangerous cities for red light running. Those cities are:

  1. Houston, TX
  2. Phoenix, AZ
  3. Los Angeles, CA
  4. Las Vegas, NV
  5. Chicago, IL
  6. Miami, FL
  7. Dallas, TX
  8. Philadelphia, PA
  9. Tucson, AZ
  10. Denver, CO

If you want to know how bad the red light running problem is in your area, the NCSR has produced an interactive map that shows all the red light running deaths in the US between 2004 and 2013. You can choose a city to view or you can zoom in to your locality and see how many red light running deaths occurred where you live. To view the map, visit: Red-Light Running Fatality Map

To learn more, visit: Stop on Red Week 2015

 

Buckman bridge crash

Careless Driving – Not Design – Responsible For Bridge Crashes

After several horrible crashes on Jacksonville Florida’s Buckman bridge, the Florida DOT conducted a study that found that careless driving and speed were responsible for crashes on the bridge, not the bridge design.

The call for the study came after two crashes in the past year made people question the safety of the large span across the St. John’s River. In the first crash, a small truck was sent over the guardrail and into the river. A Navy and police diver search located the driver’s body several hours later. In another crash in March of this year, a disabled SUV was struck by a semi and burst into flames, killing a mother and her three children.

The pickup crash into the river was not the first time a vehicle had gone over the railing into the river and the latest crash caused local residents and officials to question whether the railings on the bridge were high enough. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) was tasked with conducting the study.

In the study, released by FDOT last week, the researchers looked at the previous five year history of crashes, both on the bridge and stretches of I-295 approaching each end. The researchers concluded that the structure of the eight-lane, three mile long double span met all safety requirements and didn’t contribute to the crashes, either on or adjacent to the bridge.

Instead, the researchers blamed careless driving and high speeds for the crashes. In their study, the researchers monitored average speeds throughout the day. In spite of the posted 65 mph speed limit, the researchers said that drivers drive at an average of 72 mph on the bridge.

Careless driving and distracted drivers also play a big part in the crashes on the bridge. In the crash that sent the pickup truck into the river, police reported that a distracted driver swerved to avoid hitting the car ahead and clipped the pickup truck sending it spinning over the bridge railing.

In the crash involving the family, as a driver behind the stalled SUV slowed to a stop, it was hit from behind by the driver of a large truck. As the first vehicle spun out of the lane, the truck plowed ahead and hit the SUV sending it into the guardrail where it burst into flames.

We have written before that there is no such thing as a motor vehicle “accident.” Accidents are something we have no control over. Motor vehicle crashes are caused by drivers who make a fatal error, such as; speeding, driving under the influence, or not paying attention to the road ahead.

Speed causes problems because a speeding driver has very little time to react when encountering a problem in the road ahead. Speeding also increases the impact forces in a crash.

A bridge like the Buckman carries a tremendous amount of traffic and, along with speeding drivers, there are slow drivers (probably on a cell phone) and drivers weaving in and out of lanes. The bridge has a high hump in the middle to allow for boat traffic and, if there’s an obstruction or problem ahead, a speeding, distracted driver won’t realize it until it’s too late. If ever there was a time to ignore the distractions and concentrate on the road ahead, it’s on a bridge like this one.

Speeding and distracted drivers, along with all the other drivers are trapped within the confines of the bridge and, should a problem occur ahead, there’s no room to escape. Drivers need to maintain a safe following distance of at least two seconds and watch, not only at what’s directly in front, but also as far down the road as possible. When driving over the hump, drivers should anticipate the possibility of problems ahead and give themselves extra room to maneuver or stop.

The only recommendations made by the researchers were for greater enforcement of the speed limit and for electric signs ahead of the bridge to warn of crashes or stalled vehicles on the bridge.

Read more: FDOT releases findings on Buckman Bridge crashes

Photo credit: First Coast News

Rural roads more dangerous than urban roads

Rural Roads More Dangerous Than Urban Roads

When thinking of rural or country areas, most people imagine a laid back, slower lifestyle but, while that stereotype might work for the local country diner, it doesn’t hold true for rural roads. The latest data is out from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the 2013 calendar year and it shows that, just like in years past, more people die in in motor vehicle crashes in rural areas than urban areas.

While most people may think that interstate highways are the most dangerous type of road, it’s actually rural roads where the majority of fatal crashes happen.

 

Type of road

Number of fatal crashes

Number of deaths

Urban

14,026

14,987

Rural

15,998

17,696

 

According to the 2013 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 19 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas. However, rural fatalities accounted for 54 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2013.

Why so many deaths in such sparsely populated areas? There are several factors that contribute to the high death toll on rural roads:

Roads

Most rural roads are generally two-lane, narrow roads. In the east and far west, they tend to be hilly, winding roads with narrow shoulders that limit a driver’s view ahead and give the driver very limited room to escape in case of a hazard on the road.

 Speed

The combination of those hilly, winding roads and high speed can be deadly.  Thirty percent of those killed in rural crashes were speeding at the time of the crash. Speeding drivers may not be able to maintain control of the vehicle in a curve or stop in time if they encounter an object or other vehicle in the road. In rural fatal crashes, 69 percent of drivers involved were on roadways where the posted speed limit was 55 mph or higher.

Alcohol

Of all the alcohol involved fatal crashes in 2013, 54 percent occurred in rural areas.

Seat belts

Fifty-one percent of all rural passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in traffic crashes weren’t wearing a seat belt. The numbers go even higher depending on the type of vehicle driven;

  • In light trucks, 60 percent of rural fatalities weren’t wearing a seat belt.
  • In pickup trucks, 64 percent of rural fatalities weren’t wearing a seat belt.
  • In SUV’s 58 percent of rural fatalities weren’t wearing a seat belt.
  • Sixty-nine percent of rural passenger vehicle occupants killed in roll-over crashes weren’t wearing a seat belt.

When driving in rural areas, drivers should be aware that rural roads can be deadlier than urban interstates and they should gauge their speed by road conditions – not the speed limit and always wear a seat belt.

For more information, read: Traffic Safety Facts – Rural/Urban Comparison

Hands free phones are just as distracting

Why Hands Free Phones Aren’t Safer For Drivers

Hands free phones aren’t any safer for drivers than hand held phones according to research from Carnegie Mellon University.

Cars are becoming more and more connected to the web with dashboard screens that essentially act as a built in smartphone with many of the features seen in a typical computer. Auto manufacturers say they’re providing what the customer wants but, while cars are being made safer in other areas, the addition of these web connected devices are creating the potential for even more distracted drivers on the road. The manufacturers are also pushing the idea that hands free phones and texting are safer than using handheld devices but the scientific evidence doesn’t back that up.

In 2008, the Carnegie Mellon Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging published a study that used brain imaging to see what actually goes on in the brain while a driver is engaged in a phone conversation.

To conduct the study, 29 volunteer subjects “drove” over a simulated driving course while inside an MRI brain scanner. The subjects had to maintain speed while steering along a winding course. For the first test, the test subjects drove the course without any interruptions. In the second test, the subjects had to drive the course while listening to and answering true or false questions.

While driving without interruptions, the area of the brain that showed the greatest activity was the area responsible for “spatial awareness”; the area of the brain most associated with the complex task of safely steering a car

When the subjects had to listen and answer questions while driving, the activity in the brain’s spatial awareness area was reduced by 37 percent and the area of the brain associated with language comprehension showed the greatest activity.

In spite of all the modern day hubbub about the ability to multitask, the results of the study convinced the researchers that the brain itself isn’t capable of multitasking. The brain has to ignore other demands in order to do one task effectively.

If someone is using a phone while driving, whether it be a handheld or hands free phone, the brain is concentrating on the content of the call, not on the task of driving. When activity in the area of the brain responsible for steering a car and watching the road is reduced, it can be easy to miss a potentially hazardous situation ahead and that can lead to tragedy.

Other, more recent studies have shown that voice activated phone and texting systems such as Apple’s Siri or Google’s voice activated search can be even more distracting than using a hand held phone because of the frustrations experienced when the system fails to understand your requests. Studies also show that the distractions of smartphone notifications, even when they aren’t answered, can lead to driving mistakes.

The best advice for drivers who want to complete their trip safely is to turn off the phone while driving and, if a call must be made, pull off of the road.

Read more: Carnegie Mellon Study Shows Just Listening To Cell Phones Significantly Impairs Drivers