Saturday, September 22, 2012

Top 15 Auto-Safety Tips

     I took the American Safety Council safety course, on the recommendation of my auto insurance agent. No, I did got get a traffic ticket. He promised I would save 10 percent on my car insurance, for three years, which in my case will be a little over $70 every six months.

     The course cost $20 and took six hours to complete. You cannot go through it any faster, as the site requires you to spend a minimum amount of time on each page. If there's a way to beat the system, I didn't figure it out.

     Was it worth the time? I'm not sure. But I did learn a few things about auto safety. Some of the items were pretty high on the duh scale. But I found a few tips that, while pretty obvious, nevertheless involve driving errors that I make almost every day. And there were a few others that cover my own pet peeves.

     Will taking this test improve my driving habits? Obviously, the insurance company thinks so.

     Here are the top 15 things I learned from the course. You won't get any discount on your auto insurance by reading these. But you will save yourself about 5 hours and 55 minutes!

     1)  Don't drive if you've been drinking alcohol, especially if you've been taking drugs, such as heroin, at the same time. (Yes, they really had to warn us about this!) Alcohol is involved in 30% of fatal car crashes -- I actually thought it would be more.

     2) The American Safety Council advises, "Avoid roads with potholes, loose gravel and paving materials." I suppose that means you do not drive at all in Boston, New York or Philadelphia. Or in Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago or St. Louis.

     Now on to the ones that surprised me, or gave me information I didn't already know.

     3)  The top three reasons for car accidents are:  inattentiveness, speeding, and tailgating. Inattentiveness can of course be caused by talking on the cellphone. But the main cause of inattentiveness is fatigue. Nearly half of surveyed drivers admitted to driving while drowsy. (Who's guilty of that one? I must admit that I am.) Two out of every ten drivers actually admitted they had fallen asleep while driving! Truck drivers, according to the American Safety Council, are especially susceptible to fatigue related crashes.

     4)  Inattentiveness also comes from drivers being emotionally disturbed. If you're angry or depressed, you're not thinking about the road. This is kind of obvious. What I didn't realize is that certain medications can affect your moods. The nicotine in a cigarette can affect your mood. And think of this:  the caffeine in your coffee is a stimulant, and like other stimulants can contribute to overconfidence, irritability, and more impulsive behavior.

     5)  Auto accidents are the Number 1 cause of death for Americans age 6 - 33. No surprise there. There were 32,788 Americans killed in 2010, and over 2 million injured. But get this:  Since the first documented auto fatality in 1899, some 30 million people worldwide have been killed in auto crashes.

     6) The highest risk area is not the freeway, but intersections where there's congestion and crossing traffic. One third of fatal crashes are side impacts at intersections -- and you never see it coming.

     7) On a ten-mile trip, with average speed limit of 45 mph, going 60 should theoretically save you approximately 3 minutes. However; if there are lights, which are often timed to match speed limits, the speeding driver gets caught in more red lights, and ends up saving less than 1 minute on the trip.

      8)  And now one of my pet peeves. Picture this situation: You're at an intersection without a stoplight. A car is approaching on the cross road with its turn signal on. Can you go ahead and make your own turn? No! The other driver may have his blinker on by mistake, or change his mind and not make the turn. Or, there could be smaller car hidden behind the turning car that will smash into you if you pull out and try to make your turn.

     9)  Some 90% of car accidents are due to human error. But a few are caused by mechanical failure. We all know that properly inflated tires help a car grip the road. But did you know that tires lose one psi for every ten degree drop in temperature? When was the last time you checked your tire pressure?

     10) When you change drivers, do you check your mirrors? (I do most of the time, but sometimes I get lazy.) And do you regularly clean your windshield? According to the American Safety Council, "Windows are easier to see out of when they're clean." Okay, duh. But while I regularly clean the outside of my windshield, I do not keep up with cleaning the inside of my windshield -- and I bet you don't either.

     11) Per vehicle mile, motorcyclists are 34 times more likely to die in a crash than a passenger in a regular sedan.

     12)  You're supposed to adhere to the two-second rule when following another vehicle, meaning you're two seconds behind the car in front. You should increase it to three seconds if it's foggy, raining or snowing, or if you're following a tractor trailer.

     13) Another pet peeve of mine: failure to yield the right of way is among the top causes of accidents. How many times have you been traveling down the highway. You come up on an entrance and another car merges onto the highway . . . without signaling, without yielding, sometimes without even looking! Arghhh!

     14) Another pet peeve:  Vehicles not just tailgating but also traveling side by side. If cars are side by side, and something goes wrong -- a driver decides to change lanes for example --  there is no room to maneuver and no time to do it. So word of caution:  When merging or changing lanes, you should not rely on your mirrors alone -- quickly look to the side to make sure your blind spot is clear. And do not drive in someone else's blind spot.

     15) Believe it or not, there were over 300 car-related fatalities at railroad crossings. Now here's the advice, which seems kind of specialized, but it makes sense if you think about it:  If your car stalls on the railroad tracks, and a train is coming, and you can't move the car off the tracks, run away from the tracks. But don't run the way the train is going. Run at a 45 degree angle toward the train -- otherwise, the train might knock your car right into you as you're running down the tracks.


schmidleysscribblins, said...

Hard to believe in this day that folks still get killed at RR crossings. I think they happen mostly in rural Southern areas. Dianne

rosaria williams said...

O.k. I concur!
Now, can I apply for the discount?

Stephen Hayes said...

Okay, let me get this straight: heroin and driving don't mix? They're sure about this?

June said...

Husband was driving one day and told me about that two-second rule. He demonstrated how to do the measuring. He had to back off from the vehicle in front of us in order to demonstrate. Just sayin'.
And then he decreed: "That's too close."
Husband drives a LOT, is a very alert aware driver. But I wouldn't want him following me.
And another point about that particular rule. Increase it if you're following a motorcycle because they can stop a lot faster than a car can.

Warren Lieberman said...

To my fellow Texans I would add one piece of driving advice: use your signals. The lack of signal use shows you aren't thinking of the other driver.

Dick Klade said...

Good stuff here. For several years, Sandy and I took the AARP driver training course to gain an insurance discount as well as brushing up on safe practices. We learned something new every time.

Tom Sightings said...

Yeah, I was also surprised by the railroad stat. -- but that's what it said.

Rosaria, I had a disclaimer right at the start about the discount. Will I share mine? Well, hmmm . . . I wouldn't spend that refund quite yet.

And Stephen, I was as shocked as you about the booze and the heroin. Btw, the same goes for LSD too!

Good point on the motorcycles. Actually, I think I saw that in the lesson somewhere.

Meanwhile, I think I'm going to have to reactivate my spam blocker. I've been getting 5 - 10 spam emails a day, which is really annoying; plus, I'm afraid one of these days a spam is going to mess up my blog or my computer. But please don't stop commenting. Your comments are the best part!

John M said...

You pointed out some good practical advice.

Linda Myers said...

All good reminders. Thanks!

Mia Patch said...

A lot of people are actually hesitant to drive during the winter, especially in the parts of the country with extreme weather conditions. These are very helpful tips to make sure that every driver can stay safe during the winter season. We should also know our vehicle well (especially older ones). We must know its limits and abilities so that we will know if it can climb a snowy uphill road even before trying.

Quick Vehicle Insurance Solutions said...

This post serves as a heads up to all drivers, especially tips number 3 that states the common reasons for car accidents. Good job on a well-written and informative article!

Airport Transfer London said...

There was a lot of things that we should remember in handling and having a car. This things are a lot helpful.

Marvis Carswell said...

I agree with what you have written here, Tom. I think the best thing to do while driving is to focus. Keep anything that may take away your focus in driving. Cell phones are notorious for driving your attention away. As obvious as it is, do not text while you’re driving.

Luise Pagett said...

I think it’s pretty much a given that you shouldn’t be driving when you feel sleepy, even more so when you’re drunk! Everything that has been enumerated here is Driving 101. The best advice I can give is to keep your eyes and ears focused on the road and your surroundings. And mind your manners, people. We’re not the only ones hurrying off to go somewhere.

Luise Pagett