A World of Tragedy
The World Health Organization reports that, each year throughout the world, about 1.3 million people are killed in traffic collisions. And up to 50 million are injured. Each year.
About half of the fatalities are occupants of motor vehicles. The other half are bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.
Drowsy Driving is a True Roadway Menace
For the past decade, most of the national conversation on traffic safety has involved alcohol, seatbelts and cell phones.
Now a new topic is rising in stature, and it is long overdue: Drowsy Driving. Many drivers would never drive drunk, or leave a seat belt unfastened, or send a text message. Yet those same people will sometimes drive while extremely sleep-deprived.
Drowsy drivers cause more than 1,500 deaths, each year, and about 71,000 injuries, according to government researchers. Plain fatigue kills and maims.
Some states are considering the prosecution of tired drivers and Congress is now researching the issue. We can expect some legislative enactments over the next decade. Even car makers are responding. Some models are being equipped with devices aimed at alerting motorists who may be nodding off.
Social theorists claim our competitive culture puts people under pressure to perform. With the weak economy, some are working two jobs. And always we are expected to be technologically connected. As a result, the lines between work and home are starting to blur. For those with long commutes, the danger is particularly great. And high schoolers work long days on academics and extracurricular activities, which fosters sleepiness.
Fatigue behind the wheel deserves more of the national spotlight. Public awareness at least offers society a chance to take corrective measures. Preventing more calamities should be a much higher priority.
Much of the tragedy on our roads is caused by completely unnecessary driving behaviors. Allowing just 10 extra minutes to get to a destination would almost magically reduce a significant number of wrecks. Speeding has been shown in multiple studies to be the principal factor in nearly 30% of those collisions in which someone is killed.
The major problem with aggressive driving is that most people do not believe it applies to them. They think it always is others who drive aggressively. However speeding is clearly an aggressive driving behavior, even without other hostile activity.
Law abiding drivers diminish traffic safety when they fail to yield the right away, ignore signs and signals when they are in a rush, or engage in aggressive passing maneuvers or tail gate. They invariably will not consider themselves to be a threat to public safety. As long as this denial persists, they will always be contributing, in their own way, to the increasing climate of aggressive driving and even road rage.
A little humility and a renewed sense of respect for others will keep you and others safer. Looking honestly at your own driving behavior and not being so quick to blame others is a good place to start. This is hard to do.
Even occasional lapses in driving courtesy can increase the odds of causing a wreck. And remembering the “10 Minute Rule” can not only reduce the odds of getting into a collision, but promote general peace of mind as well.
Rural Roads Are The Most Dangerous
It has long been my experience, as an injury lawyer, that rural roads are more dangerous than freeways. Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released definitive figures that prove this to be true.
Forty-two percent more fatal crashes occur in rural parts of the country than on busy stretches of highways running through cities and suburbs.
Even worse, the study finds that country road crashes are more likely to involve multiple fatalities, rollovers and motorists being thrown from their vehicles. All of this is compounded by the logistics of location. It simply takes emergency medical services longer to arrive at the scene.
Motorists have long believed that denser urban traffic poses greater danger. But the undeniable reality is that rural driving is far more risky.
Life-Saving Advice For New Drivers
Remember, you’re operating a 2-ton machine.
- Left hand turns are the most dangerous maneuver you will make, nearly every time you drive a car.
- Passing is treacherous. Don’t do it until you’ve been driving for a while.
- Never, ever pick up a stranded motorist or hitchhiker. Never. Ever.
Why So Many Teens Die in Car Wrecks
The National Safety Council has recently released statistics which go far in explaining why so many of our kids get killed on the road.
The single factor that increases the accident rate for teens by 300% is not having a powerful car, not loud music and not proper signaling. It’s having 2 teen passengers. If three or more teen passengers are in the car, the odds quadruple.
20-30% of fatal teenage car crashes are due to driver distraction.
30% of all accidents resulting in teen driver fatalities involve not drugs, not makeup application, and not a loud radio – but alcohol.
What the above figures don’t address is one of the most prevalent factors contributing to traffic crashes, and that is speeding. If excessive speed, failure to control and failure to yield were placed into a single category, this would total nearly 50% of the fatal crashes in Ohio.
Of all drivers 15-24 years of age, involved in fatal crashes, 32% are the result of speeding.
Traffic Accidents Are the No. 1 Cause of Travel Abroad Deaths
When we think of traveling to foreign destinations, we worry of plane crashes, crime and terrorism. However the State Department shows that almost a third of all Americans who die while abroad, have been killed by road accidents.
Of countries visited by Americans, the most dangerous one in which to be on the road is Mexico. More Americans travel there than to any other country. That single nation is responsible for 40% of the travel deaths. In second place is Thailand, even though it is not frequently visited by Americans. The Dominican Republic is third, followed by Germany and Spain.
The reason for the predictable, year-in and year-out carnage is mix of factors. The roads are often in disrepair. But there are also many unsafe vehicles, particularly as to tire management. Add to this travelers who are often exhausted, disoriented and unfamiliar with the lay of the land.
One Lifestyle Change To Save Your Life
To save stress, the risk of costly traffic citations and the chance of getting into a significant wreck, there is one thing you can do: leave 10 minutes earlier.
When Pulled Over For Speeding
Around the courthouse, this is what traffic cops and State Highway Patrol officers tell me:
Make life easier for the officer
- Pull over to the right side of the road.
- If dark, turn on the dome light; this is important.
- Keep the window down and the radio off.
- Stay calm and respectful.
- Don’t argue, make jokes, or use sarcasm.
Driver’s Education Needs Improvement
Every year, 6,000 American teens are killed and over 300,000 are injured. Teens make up 6% of all licensed drivers. But they are involved in 14% of fatal wrecks.
There is no national outrage over this predictable carnage, just quiet acceptance.
Driver’s education has long been an afterthought in the American educational system. This needs a rethinking. Most driver’s education courses have changed little in the past 50 years. There is no uniformity of instruction or course materials.
Too many teens see driving as merely a cluster of mechanical skills. The reality is that a person’s driving temperament and maturity often makes the difference between life and death.
Teens need to learn the hazards of blind spots and hydroplaning. But they especially should be told to put their cell phone in the trunk before putting the key in the ignition.
It’s Not Just Cell Phone Use
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that other in-car activities cause more teen vehicle accidents than cell phone usage. These behaviors are eating, drinking and
This squares with our experience. We have brought more claims against insurance companies for injuries to our clients because of the above activities, than because of teens on their cell phones.
Dealing With the Intoxicated Teen Driver
Parents often find themselves in a quandary. If their teen drinks at a party, they don’t want them driving home. But what if the teen calls and says “Ok, I did drink, will you come and pick me up?”
Most authorities believe this matter should be discussed before it happens. Telling your teen that you will quietly pick them, with no questions or lectures, is a good approach.
The penalty can come later. What that entails depends on many factors, including the parent-child relationship dynamics and the parents’ values.
When parents get together with other parents, this is what they talk about.
What A Difference A Year Makes
The National Highway Traffic Safety Council tells us how much difference there is between a 16 year old driver and one who is 17.
The later drivers, although still beginners, have about one-third the number of accidents as their counterparts only one year younger.
This is a very large and important piece of information. It suggests for parents how they should approach their new driver kids and the value of earning trust after they obtain their license.
Many people like to think that vehicle collisions as random, uncontrollable events. This notion is greatly weakened by heavily researched statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). After a quarter of a century of compiling data, clear patters have emerged.
This important study defines the most dangerous driving days. The evidence bears out that weather and fate do not control the number of fatal vehicle wrecks. Drivers, it turns out, cause wrecks.
Here are the 10 deadliest days of the year to drive:
- July 4
- July 3
- December 23
- December 24
- December 22
- August 3
- January 1
- September 1
- September 2
- August 4
Here are the days of the week, from the most dangerous to the least dangerous:
The deadliest times of the day to drive:
- 3:00 – 6:00 pm
- 6:00 – 9:00 pm
- 9:00 – Midnight
- Noon – 3:00pm
- Midnight – 3:00am
The time from 12:00 am to 3:00 am is the most surprising. Conventional wisdom suggests that this is the most dangerous time. But the federal figures say otherwise.
Blaming the Victim
A lawyer friend of mine was defending a career criminal accused of robbing and severely beating a man. The victim was driving his car on Queen City Avenue and stopped to pick up this hitchhiker. His generosity was rewarded by having his money and car stolen, in addition to having serious head injuries inflicted.
After the jury found the defendant guilty, my friend and the prosecutor spoke to the jury to learn their impressions. All the jurors were extremely contemptuous of the victim. They felt his stupidity and irresponsibility were at fault for what happened.
Despite the guilty verdict, no one had really anything to say about the defendant. For this jury, evil lurks – it is to be expected.
We live in a time where being thoughtful of others does not excuse thoughtlessness.
Parents Enable Teen Drinking
I was talking with a Blue Ash police officer who has had 20 years of experience on the force. He said that law enforcement officers traditionally have relied on parents as their allies in the war against teen alcohol consumption.
Over the years, however, he has found that – increasingly – parents are quick to excuse and otherwise enable teen drinking. While half the alcohol-fueled high school parties are without parental knowledge, the other half are held with parental approval.
Parents get it wrong when they say “We know the kids are going to drink, so let’s keep them safer, in our home, where we can watch over.” This casual, even hip attitude about alcohol, and even other drugs, is an invitation to disaster. The law is being broken and the kids are placed at great risk.
Police have found that if more vigilant parents suspect another household is permissive, they will refuse their children to go there. This affects the friendships of multiple kids. It gets much worse if charges are brought or lawsuits are filed.