A recent study of 10,000 young passengers killed in car crashes involving a teen driver conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance indicate the three deadliest distractions were:
- Riding with an unbuckled seatbelt
- Driving at high rates of speed
- Riding in the car with multiple teens.
Other distractions included texting while driving, applying makeup, talking on the cell phone, eating, and surfing the radio. All of these seemingly harmless distractions can lead to car accidents that seriously injure or kill both the teens, and whoever else that is infortunate to be involved.
Even if teens are educated and instructed in driving in bad weather, collision avoidance, and proper speed limits, all of these lessons can go out the window when a carload of friends, loud music, and mobile devices are added to their environment. The best way to educate your child about dangerous driving distractions is to simply talk to them about the importance of keeping their focus on the road.
Parents need to enforce some essential rules of the road ie:
Cell phones to stay turned off while in the car.
They aren’t allowed to drive more than one friend at a time.
Choose the radio station or CD before you start driving and stick with that one.
Ten Common Driving Errors
According to the Canadian Safety Council, ten common driving errors cause most accidents. They are:
- Not checking traffic before pulling out.
- Failing to signal.
- Passing without checking for traffic in the passing lane.
- Pulling from the curb without checking for oncoming cars.
- Driving at excessive speeds.
- Distraction inside the vehicle, such as loud music or eating while driving.v
- Inadequate defensive driving techniques.
- Making incorrect assumptions about other drivers.
Being a Responsible Pedestrian
Avoid wearing earbuds and headphones, and texting.
Most of the time, you don’t even think about it: walking anywhere, you turn on your iPod and pop your earbuds in before you’ve even gone ten steps. But listening to music deprives you of some of your awareness of your surroundings: you may not be able to hear a car approaching or another pedestrian’s warning shout. Texting divides your attention and inhibits your awareness of your surroundings. You need to be alert to any circumstances that would require your immediate response.
Wait for the Walk Signal and Cross only at the Intersection
Don’t think you can make it across the street before a car can. Sometimes it can be hard to judge the speed of an oncoming car, and sometimes the driver is not paying as much attention as they should be. Be safe and wait for the green light.
Push the button to start the walk signal at the intersection– it gives you extra time.
Walk quickly across the street. Never stop in the middle of a crosswalk. Don’t run.
Wear light or reflective clothing during low-light situations, and carry a flashlight at night. Stay out of the driver’s blind spot. Keep animals on your left side on a short leash, so it doesn’t run into traffic.
Move over closer to the side of the road when going up a hill, or around a curve as drivers will not be able to see you till the last minute.
Look both ways before crossing and cross at the crosswalk.
There’s a reason your parents drilled these rules into your brain at age two: they are the most basic and most essential rules of being a good pedestrian.
When there are no sidewalks, walk facing the traffic.
Being a Responsible Cyclist
Wear a bicycle helmet at all times when bicycling. (All riders under the age of 16 – its the law.)
Follow the rules of the road: Stop signs, speed signs and Traffic lights.
Know and use appropriate hand signals.
Make sure your bike has the appropriate safety equipment such as lights, bell, brakes and reflective tape.
Stop at all intersections, marked and unmarked; look left, right and left again before entering or crossing the street.
Do not ride at night unless necessary and if you do wear retro-reflective clothing when biking at dawn, dusk, or during inclement weather. The risk of injury during night time is four times greater than during the daytime.
Tips on Traveling Alone
- Plan and map out your route.
- Contact a friend or relative and tell them about your trip and the route you plan to take.
- Upon your arrival each night make arrangements to call on your safety.
- Have a friend or relative call police if they haven’t heard from your that night.
- Keep all valuables in trunk.
- If your vehicle gets stuck or becomes disabled, activate hazard lights, display Call Police sign, sit in passenger seat and lock all windows and doors.
- If identification is requested, pass it through a slot at the top window. If you are asked to step out of vehicle refuse unless you make a cell phone call or can be in a more populated area.
- Make sure battery is always charged on cell phone and it is programmed with emergency numbers.
- When getting fuel at night, go to a well-lit gas station, which is populated and busy.
- When going to a restaurant make sure vehicle is parked so that it can be seen from window or is in a well-lit area.
- If a vehicle is disabled go back into building to get help.
- Carry keys through fingers and walk with a positive step. Use common sense when traveling alone.
Are you a good driver?
Suddenly a wall of fog rose up out of nowhere causing a random display of brake lights to appear over the two-lane highway. Too late; the early morning tranquillity was shattered by the horrendous sound of crunching metal and crashing glass.
Sporadic explosions as heard by helpless drivers trapped in their crushed vehicles were interrupted by desperate screams. Eight people died and countless others, physically injured would suffer nightmares for many following months.
Labour day weekend, September 3rd 1999. More than 80 vehicles were involved in one of Ontario’s worst vehicular disasters in history. It happened on what has been called the most notorious stretch of the 401 between the Windsor to Chatham corridor.
If these drivers were questioned earlier most would have been on record saying “yes” they were good drivers. The blame was laid squarely on the design of this freeway; police absolved these drivers of any responsibility due to the weather conditions. Implying we must expect tragedy when faced with these types of conditions.
Many of us are quite blasé about driving especially when we have been driving for twenty or thirty years without incident. Alarming statistics provided by the Road Safety Annual Report, show that more drivers are killed or injured where no charges are laid. The Ministry of Transportation collects this information from all of the Police reports throughout the province every year. These statistics force us to ask the question ” What is a good driver?”
In 1984 I responded to an ad, which asked, ” Are you a good driver, would you like to teach others?” I felt extremely confident about entering into the field of driver education. This was a logical career move because I had enjoyed teaching in other areas. I had been driving since I was sixteen and now I was just touching my forties. My knowledge of driving up to this point was from family and friends, with some personal experience thrown in for good measure. A clean driving record and knowledge of manual and automatic transmissions resounded the words “yes” I was definitely a good driver! I had even scoffed when encountering vehicles on the road with a driving school sign. My thoughts were, this person must be “pitiful” if they needed to go to a school to learn to drive. After all, I managed, and it wasn’t that hard.
I was in for a rude awakening! To this day I wonder how I survived driving all those years with my lack of knowledge. All those years, driving my children in vehicles that had very few, if any safety devices compared with cars today. What a combination!
Back in June of 1985 I enrolled with the Ontario Safety League to become a licensed driving instructor. I embarked with attitude in hand, doubting that they would be teaching me, after all, I was experienced. Not only had I driven for many years, I had driven all across Canada and the United States, with a few other countries thrown in.
The highway traffic act took on new meaning for me, as we had to study, decipher, and memorize every portion of it. Speakers and teachers in diverse specialized fields came and explained various theories and statistics, astounding us with statements that stand out in my mind, like this horrifying fact: Since the invention of the automobile in 1886, it has caused more vehicular deaths world- wide than any other cause. This includes natural catastrophes, health hazards, and world wars combined! How incredible, but most of all, why? The explanation given is psychological. Each driver feels capable and in control when behind the wheel. Combined with the immortal attitude of “it won’t happen to me, I’ve handled most problems, I am a good driver.”
We were encouraged to do our own research and tackle libraries, newspaper articles, and archives. This new venture was changing my attitude, and my mind and heart were enveloping everything I learned. Each day I attended this course with a hunger to learn more.
The components of defensive driving were demonstrated in videos and classroom instruction. Instruction in winter driving skills combined with collision avoidance was stressed. The damning revelation was, that over 90% of all collisions are avoidable! Knowledge combined with an investment in specialized training would keep drivers collision free. A light bulb went on as a clear understanding began to form in my brain. Why don’t drivers know and appreciate that there is so much more to this task of operating an automobile?
The time came for us to be paired off with an in-car instructor. He specialized in the finer points of teaching us how to instruct “would be” students in our future vocation. Looking back I realize how little I knew, also the many bad habits I had, and the many times I broke the law in ignorance. Finally, we advanced to skid school. We learned and experienced front and rear wheel skids and how to prevent them and control the vehicle in these conditions. Six techniques of braking and the conditions that would warrant using them were demonstrated, before it was our turn to experiment. Learning the limits and performance of each vehicle guaranteed that each future instructor enhanced his or her own personal skills enabling them to pass this onto others.
Yes, I was your typical good driver, uninformed, but blessed with sheer good luck! So far nothing serious had happened in all those years of driving, but I do recall a few close calls. Near the end of the course we were reminded several times that there is no such thing as a perfect driver, and understandably so. We are all human beings, and humans make mistakes. We have good days and bad days. So what is a good driver? A good driver is a person who has invested time and interest to update their knowledge of the many changes to the rules of the road and the many advancements vehicles have today, and has also learned the skills necessary to use them to their greatest advantage.
Vehicle crashes are downright outrageous. If these lives were stolen in any other manner we would have a righteous battle to stop it. We cannot blame weather, road conditions, or design of highways, because after all it is the driver! It is always the driver!
We have glorified the automobile in countless ways. Car chases and smash ups in movies, racetracks, high performance engines, style and colour. Many safety features and modifications have been installed over the years. Yet we the consumer are willing to spend money to enhance our golf game, play an instrument, or invest in several types of recreation. These past times are not life threatening.
What is it worth to you and your family to improve your performance behind the wheel?
Ask a driver who survived that horrific Labour Day crash if it would be worth learning how to avoid another such catastrophe. There are eight people you can’t ask. What would you say to their grieving families? Are you a good driver?
Driving and the Modern Woman
The first successful automobile was designed by Karl Benz in 1886. It was later modified with practical advancements by a very modern woman for her time period, Bertha Benz, mother of two children and wife of Karl.
Mrs. Benz, along with her two children, completed the first recorded tour of the new automobile. She quickly discovered a few shortcomings. For example, she realized an extra gear was needed for steep hills. Poor braking was an additional causefor concern, and Bertha found she had to make a quick modification to the carburetor, using a bobby-pin to do it! Ultimately, Mrs. Benz’s recommendations resulted in critical updates to the automobile, including new gears, a carburetor spring, and safer, leather-lined brakes.
So ladies, our gender has not only been responsible for much of the styling and aesthetics of today’s vehicles, but many of the safety features too!
As an enthusiastic motorcyclist and driver with over 35 years of experience, it is pleasing to report that not only are more females taking up the sport of motorcycling, but women currently represent over 50% of automobile drivers and purchasers. Similarly, female representation in the corporate world and general work force continues to grow. Thus, logically, more women than ever are traveling alone on our highways and freeways.
Consequently, real needs have arisen. First of all, like all responsible drivers, more women today have to learn good defensive driving skills. Secondly, knowing what to do in an automobile emergency situation is critical. Finally, a general knowledge of what to look for and the right questions to ask when purchasing a car is very important.
Despite our changing society, women are still often treated “differently” when it comes to purchasing, servicing or repairing cars, especially at garages and car dealerships. Also, changes in automobile design in recent years have, in turn, created new driving challenges. The proper use of anti-lock braking systems is just one example. Having been in the field of driver education, I recognized the profound need to address these problems, and their related areas.
A Few Tips for Safe Driving in Winter
Recognize when you are in another drivers blind spot. If you do not see their face in their rear view mirrors, they cannot see you, so back off or move ahead to be seen.
Leave more space than you normally would between you and other vehicles, especially in bad weather and when driving on highways at high speeds, to avoid the “domino effect.”
Drive as if you had no brakes; over-braking creates skids. If you have to brake, remember to always brake in a straight line and get off the brake when you start turning the steering wheel.
Remember, it’s not the weather or the car that causes accidents, it’s the driver and his/her lack of knowledge or poor attitude!
In addition to being an avid motorcyclist, Annette Kukemueller is the Master Driving Instructor and owner of Accent on Advanced Driver Training school in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. The school promotes women’s driving issues, teaching driving techniques for anti-lock brakes and winter conditions, car maintenance, child safety in the automobile, and upgrading skills for seniors. Often appearing as a Guest Speaker, Annette’s experience and education in both automobiles and driver training is extensive, and her commitment to women’s driving issues is unparalleled.