Most auto policies have exemptions for accidents caused from road rage (image via flickr)

These days it seems like everyone is in a hurry to get everywhere they need to go.  By the way many of us drive, you might think we have someone in the car that is hurt and in dire need of an emergency room because we act as if mere seconds may make the difference between life and death.  Sadly, most of those times, we are just going where we need to go.  This kind of aggressive, me-first, take no prisoners style of driving often leads to road rage, which the NHTSA estimates is a contributing factor in a third of all car accidents and two-thirds of car accidents that result in a fatality.

Whether it is our busy lives, increased traffic, or just the fact that we are used to driving this way, everyone on the road needs to do their part to stop aggressive driving and eliminate road rage.  Not only is this type of driving dangerous and illegal, many auto insurance policies contain exemptions for accidents caused by road rage.  This means that if you are the one raging and you cause an accident, you are on your own; the insurance company won’t cover the damage.  Don’t let your temper get the best of you by following these tips for keeping your anger from affecting how you drive.

1.     Leave Plenty of Time

One of the most common causes of aggressive driving is being late.  When we are trying to get somewhere and the clock is ticking and there isn’t enough time to make the trip, we get stressed and try to make up the time by passing and speeding.  Don’t put yourself in this position, leave early, make sure you have plenty of time, and if you are late, remember that no matter how important it is that you get there on time, it is not more important that your life or the life of someone else.

2.     Give Them the Benefit of the Doubt

Another contributing factor to aggressive driving and road rage is when we develop an Us vs. Them attitude towards the other drivers on the road.  If they are in front of us and going slower than we want to go, we think they are doing it on purpose.  If they merge poorly, and cut us off, they did it on purpose.  If they are driving too close to us, they are tailgating us.  While sometimes these things are true, sometimes they aren’t.  Sometimes other drivers are just not paying enough attention to how their actions are affecting the cars around them.  Give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are clueless rather than deciding that they are your enemy.

3.     Pay Attention to How You are Driving

Take a few minutes to think about how you drive.  Are you the driver that drives just under the speed limit on every road?  Do you find that other drivers seem to become aggressive towards you on a regular basis?  Even if you aren’t the one who is getting mad, you might be contributing to the problem.  Pay attention to how you are driving and make sure you aren’t the one everyone else has to give the benefit of the doubt.

Aggressive driving and road rage is everyone’s problem.  Pay attention, drive courteously, and remember that everyone on the road is just trying to get where they are going in the shortest amount of time.  Winning the battle against road rage starts with you.

 

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Make sure your child is properly restrained while in your vehicle. (image via Flickr)

It’s hard to remember that there was a time when children rode around in cars completely unencumbered.  No car seats, no booster seats, and much of the time, no seat belts.  It is hard to fathom how that could have been the norm now that we know just how dangerous it can be for children to be unsecured in a collision.  In fact, even now with all the safety measures we have in place, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that car accidents are the number one cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 12.  Imagine how much higher than number would be without all the safety precautions we have in place.

While we can all agree that taking the right measures to keep kids safe in cars matters, we don’t always know the best way to keep them safe.  The NHTSA recommends all drivers who have occupants under the age 18 follow these general guidelines.

  1. Pick a car seat that is the right type for your child’s age and that is the right size to fit them.
  2. Pick a car seat that fits in your car and is easy to use so that you will use it every time.
  3. Follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions for installation and use.
  4. Read the owner’s manual for your car to determine if there are any special features for use with car seats or special practices related to their use.
  5. Don’t let children under the age of 12 sit in the front seat.

The ever changing array of child safety seats and laws that are different in each state, you may be unsure if your child or grandchild is properly secured.  Car seats are specifically designed to keep children of specific ages and sizes safe during a collision.  The basic recommendations are as follows?

Birth to 1 Year – Children in this age group should always ride in a rear facing car seat.  As there can be significant differences in size and weight between infants and children approaching their first birthday, there are different kinds of car seats that enable safe riding in the rear facing position.  You can also get car seats that can grow with your child and can be converted to accommodate rear facing positions and forward facing positions.

Age 1-3 – While it is best to keep your child in the rear-facing position as long as possible, once they reach the height or weight limit for the rear facing seat, they are ready to move up to a forward facing seat.

Age 4-7 – Children should ride in the forward facing seat with a harness until they reach the maximum height or weight limit for their seat.  At that point they can transition to a booster seat.

Age 8-12 – It is best for children to ride in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a regular seat belt properly.  This means that the lap belt fits snugly across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt goes across the chest and shoulders.

For all the ages above, the child should still ride in the backseat as that is the safest place for them to ride.

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Do you know the role Crash Test Dummies play in your safety while riding in a car? (image via google)

Many of us change our diet to lose weight, watch our salt to lower our blood pressure, and take medication to help with cholesterol because we know that heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death for adults in the U.S.  But we rarely think about, let alone change our driving habits to make driving safer.  Yet car accidents, which claim the lives of more than 30,000 Americans each year, are also amongst the leading causes of death.

Fortunately, even though we aren’t thinking about how to be safer drivers, other people are thinking about how to make driving safer and their efforts are making a difference.  These are the people who work in the area of crash test science which uses crash test dummies to learn how car accidents affect the human body so that cars can be designed to provide more protection.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), efforts in this area have helped to decrease the number of fatalities from 23 per 100,000 licensed drivers to 16 during the 15 year period from 1994 to 2009.

So, how does crash test science help make you safer?

The use of crash test dummies in one form or another started early on in the evolution of the car.  Car makers realized that in order to make cars safer, they needed to understand what happened to the occupants of the car when collisions occurred.  In the first half of the 20th century, cadavers and pigs acted as crash test subjects, allowing car makers to see the types of damage caused from things hitting bodies and from bodies impacting other things.    While this was helpful, it didn’t show the other kinds of damage that collisions cause like those resulting from gravitational force and kinetic energy.   It was also impossible to conduct standardized testing.

Then, in 1949, came Sierra Sam, the first real crash test dummy.  Sierra Sam was originally designed to test what happened when a person was ejected using an ejector seat in an aircraft.  From Sam, crash test dummies have developed into very sophisticated pieces of equipment that can cost as much as $400,000.  Crash test dummies allow for standardized tests to be conducted across multiple vehicles and different scenarios.  This enables car makers to learn how to make cars safer and to test changes to ensure changes actually improve safety in the ways they expect.

As long as there are cars being driven by people, there will be accidents.  This means that making crashes more survivable is the key to further decreasing the fatality rate.  Survivability goes beyond keeping people inside the car and keeping the passenger compartment intact, although improvements in these areas have dramatically increased the safety of our cars.  This is where crash test dummies and the data they provide make a real difference.  Gaining a real understanding of the kinetic energy a body is subjected to during a collision enables car designers to design cars in ways to reduce those effects.

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Don’t Drink and Drive (image via google)

Everyone knows that fireworks are dangerous and must be handled appropriately if they are going to be part of your July 4th celebration.  The same holds true for alcohol.  It can be dangerous if not handled appropriately.  This July 4th, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to make sure you are being as careful around alcohol as you are around fireworks.

As people across the country get ready to celebrate Independence Day, officers at all levels of law enforcement are preparing for one of the deadliest holidays of the year.  In 2010, nearly 400 people lost their lives over the July 4th holiday and 39%of those fatalities involved one or more drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than .08 according to the NHTSA.  Here in Arizona, the NHTSA reports that July 4th, 2010 was the deadliest holiday of the year with 6 alcohol-related fatal accidents resulting in 7 fatalities, almost twice the number of any other holiday that year.

This year, police departments all over the country will be participating in an enforcement campaign designed to crack down on impaired driving of all kinds and reduce the loss of life over the holiday.  The motto this year is “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” which highlights the nationwide zero tolerance for impaired driving.  Law enforcement officers will be manning additional sobriety checkpoints, heading out on patrol, and participating in other activities to raise awareness of the danger and encourage drivers to make the right choice.

Here are some tips to help you and the other drivers in your life celebrate Independence Day without risking your life or the lives of others by getting behind the wheel when you are too impaired to drive safely.

1.     Stay Sober or Stay the Night

Making plans ahead of time to spend the night wherever you are going to be celebrating allows you to drink and make merry without worrying about having to drive.  Night driving during the holiday is even more dangerous than driving during the day and driving fatalities involving impaired drivers go up as soon as the sun goes down.  According to the NHTSA, over the 2010 July 4th holiday 80% of nearly 400 alcohol related fatalities happened at night.  Staying the night, even if you aren’t drinking, can save your life.

2.     Designate a Driver

The best way to make sure everyone gets to have fun and get home safely is to make sure there is someone designated to drive.  If you are heading out for the day, the afternoon, or all night, decide ahead of time who is going to be getting you back home.  This is important even if you are going out and have no intention of drinking or getting drunk.  Having a designated driver every time ensures you will never be behind the wheel because you are the “most sober” one.

3.     Don’t Play the Odds

Many people think that if they just drive this one time, it will be fine.  They think that the odds are in their favor because they are focusing on whether or not they will get caught, rather than whether or not they will get killed.  If someone told you that you could stay the night and be fine but if you walked out the front door you stood a 26% (1 in 4) chance that something would fall on you, would you walk out the door?  What if you knew that 40% of the time that something falling on you would kill you?  Would you take the risk?  The odds of getting pulled over, losing your license, and going to jail may not be high enough to make you stay out of the game, but maybe understanding that you are playing with your life will.

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