My new auto insurance bill came last week, showing a $120 increase for the next six-month period. Yikes! So I got on the phone and called my agent. She told me that my discount had expired from when I had taken the Motor Vehicle Accident Prevention Course three years ago.
So I had to take the course again. You can sign up and go to a class. But I elected to do it on the computer. It consists of a series of pages that review all the stuff you already know about auto safety. The pages are timed, so you can't go too fast, and periodically you have to answer a question to make sure it's you taking the test, and not somebody else.
The minimum amount to time allowed for the test is six hours. Six hours of sheer boredom. But it does remind you of a few things. And it does save you 10 percent on your auto policy for three years.
So here are some of the things I found out from taking the test. You're not supposed to drink and drive. You're not supposed to speed or roll through stop signs or run a red light. Personally, I have never run a red light. Have you? If so, you're not alone -- 56 percent of drivers admit that they have!
Here are a few other things I found surprising -- or if not surprising, at least telling . . .
People over age 65 make up approximately 12 percent of all drivers. In general they get into fewer accidents than other age groups. But people over 65 account for 16 percent of crash fatalities, presumably because when they do sustain injuries they are less likely to survive them.
I was also surprised to find out that people over 65 account for 19 percent of pedestrian fatalities. So be careful when you're crossing the street or walking through the parking lot!
In 2010 -- the figures they had on the test -- there were 32,788 Americans killed on the road, many fewer fatalities than the bad old days of the 1960s and '70s, before air bags and seat belts, when over 50,000 people were killed each year. However, I recently read on CNN
that so far in 2015 auto fatalities have actually increased
over last year, and they are speeding along at the highest rate since 2007.
A little less than 5 percent of fatal crashes are due to a driver
falling asleep. You're most susceptible to falling asleep when you're sleep deprived, obviously. But people are also more likely to fall asleep at the wheel when they're driving alone, driving at
night, driving on long trips. Truck drivers are more likely to fall
sleep than regular drivers.
About 12 percent of fatal accidents involve large trucks.
About 15 percent of highway fatalities involve a motorcycle. Per mile driven, a motorcyclist is 34 times more likely to die in a crash than a passenger in a car.
Some 30 percent of crash fatalities involve drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
But even slightly more than that -- 31 percent -- are caused primarily by speeding.
The reason speed is so dangerous is because it cuts your reaction time if something goes wrong. At 55 mph, by the time you recognize a problem, react and then brake, it will take about six seconds to stop and you will have traveled 100 yards. At 70 mph, it will take the same six seconds, but by then you will have gone over 150 yards before you stop -- that's 50 more yards when you can run into something, or someone.
There's also a reason why speed is so deadly. I don't pretend to know the physics of it. But what causes injury and death is the force of impact against the human body. The force of impact is in direct proportion to the weight of a vehicle, which is why, all other things being equal (which they rarely are), heavier vehicles are safer than lighter vehicles. But force of impact has a squared relationship to speed, which is why, no matter how equal or unequal everything else is, you're a lot more likely to suffer severe injury or death at 70 mph than you are even at 60 mph.
So there you have it. I'm sorry. I can't offer you a 10 percent discount on your auto policy. But at least my policy will be going up only $40, instead of $120 for next year. And hopefully, I'll stay alive long enough to reap the benefit!