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.