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Tips for Older Drivers

According to the Department of Transportation, there were more than 36 million licensed drivers 65 years and older in the United States in 2012.  Unfortunately, the risk of being killed and injured rises as one ages.  A study conducted by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that on average 15 older adults were killed and 586 were injured everyday in car crashes in 2012.  A report from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicates that for per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase noticeably starting at ages 70‒74 and are highest among drivers age 85 and older. The most likely explanation for the increase in fatality rate is due to age-related declines in vision and cognitive functioning (ability to reason and remember), as well as physical changes, impacting some older adults' driving abilities.

So what are the steps older drivers can take to stay safe on the road? National Institute of Health makes several suggestions including:

·   Make sure you see well enough – may have to limit driving to daytime hours.

·   Check your hearing.

·   Leave enough space between you and the car in front of you.

·   Start braking early when you need to stop.

·   Avoid high-traffic areas if possible.

·   Scan far down the road so you can anticipate problems and plan your actions.

·   Avoid left turns if they make you uncomfortable. 

·   Consider driving refresher courses.

Distracted Driving a Factor in 60% of Teen Crashes

A recent study conducted by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that the distracted driving among teens is a much more serious problem than previously thought. Researchers in the study analyzed the six seconds leading up to a crash in approximately 1,700 videos of teen drivers taken from in-vehicle event recorders.  The results are alarming to say the list. The study concluded that distraction was a factor in 58% of all crashes studied, including 89% of road departure crashes and 76% of rear-end crashes. According to previous National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimate, distraction was thought to be a factor in only 14% of all teen driver crashes.

According to the study, the most common forms of distraction included:

·         Interacting with one or more passengers: 15%

·         Cell phone use: 12%

·         Looking at something in the vehicle: 10%

·         Looking at something outside the vehicle: 9%

·         Singing/moving to music: 8%

·         Grooming: 6%

·         Reaching for an object: 6%

So what can parents do to help their teens?  AAA recommends that parents teach teens about the dangers of cell phone use and restrict passengers during the learning-to-drive process.

The full research report is available on AAA Foundation’s website (www.aaafoundation.org).

Surviving Winter Driving

With the winter season upon us, it is time to get ready for winter driving. We all know winter driving can be extremely dangerous, and even experienced drivers can get into trouble.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and AAA, there are several steps one can take to protect yourself during winter driving season:

·         Make sure your car is in good mechanical condition – pay particular attention to battery, cooling system, windshield wipers, defroster and tires.

·         Stock your car with items that can be helpful including snow shovel, ice scraper, flashlight, warning devices (e.g. flares and markers), blankets, food and water.

·         Keep your gas tank at least half full.

·         Plan your travel and route – check the weather, road conditions and traffic.

Many driving safety experts offer the following tips in driving on snow and ice covered roads:

·         Slow down!

·         Turn on headlights (low-beam).

·         Apply constant, firm pressure to the pedal with anti-lock brakes. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, pump the brakes gently.

·         Ensure maximum visibility – remove the snow from the entire car.

·         Be careful on bridges and overpasses – they freeze before other roadways

·         Exercise “Steering into the skid” procedure if you find yourself in a skid – ease your foot off the gas while steering in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go. Stay off the pedals (gas and brake) until you are able to maintain control of your vehicle.

 

Distracted Driving Can Be Fatal

Many people associate Distracted Driving with texting and phone use.  However, distraction takes place any time you take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel and your mind off your driving.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the types of distractions while driving include:

·         Texting and using a cell phone

·         Eating and drinking

·         Talking to passengers

·         Grooming

·         Reading, including maps

·         Using a navigation system

·         Watching a video

·         Adjusting a radio

 The statistics associated with distracted driving are alarming (Source: Department of Transportation):

·         3,328 died and 421,000 were injured in distraction-affected crashes in 2012.

·         16% of all distracted driving crashes involved drivers under 20.

·         Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting.  At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field, blindfolded.

·         Unfortunately, studies have shown that hands-free cell phone use is not substantially safe than hand-held use.

So what can you do to reduce distractions while driving?  According to Consumer Reports, you can take the following five steps:

·         Silence the phone – keep phone use on the road limited to emergencies.

·         Map it out – know where you are going.

·         Skip the drive through – do not eat or drink (especially hot coffee/tea).

·         Groom at home – do not apply makeup or shave in the driver’s seat.

 

·         Familiarize yourself with the car’s controls – make sure you know how to use controls needed for safe driving.

Tips for Driving After Dark

With the end of Daylight Savings time on November 2nd, the commute home from work or school will likely be in the dark.  Driving after dark is more dangerous than driving during the daytime.  In fact, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), you are twice as likely to have an accident while driving at night!

The challenges related to night driving stem from:

·         Reduced depth perception and peripheral vision due to darkness

·         The glare from headlights of oncoming traffic

·         Driver fatigue impacting a driver’s reaction time and awareness

However, there are several steps one can take to make night driving safer:

·         Make sure headlights and brake lights are working properly

·         Reduce speed and increase following distance

·         Dim interior lights -- lights in your car could cause nighttime glare on the windshield 

·         Avoid glare -- Try not to look at oncoming headlights. Instead focus on the right side of the road near the white lines.

·         Careful with your high beams – Improper use of high beams can blind other drivers