Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Putting a Face Behind Traffic Statistics

Like many industries, transportation officials use statistics to show current trends or to illustrate the scale of certain issues. For instance, earlier this year the Department of Transportation reported that traffic fatalities fell by 9.7% from 2008 to 2009, reaching the lowest death toll since 1950. The reaction by most people reading that statistic is undoubtedly positive because it shows a downward trend in road fatalities. However, the statistic that needs to be mentioned is that despite the trend, 33,808 people still died on U.S. roads in 2009. This is an outrageous number of deaths and we need to remember that numbers like 33,808 is not just a statistic. These are the family members and friends of Americans from accross the country.

This is why I was pleased to read about the DOT’s new video series, Faces of Distracted Driving, on Secretary Ray LaHood’s blog. This campaign helps tell the stories of those who have been personally affected by the issues of distracted driving. Last year, nearly 5,500 deaths and another 500,000 injuries resulted from crashes involving distracted driving. Statistically speaking, 5,500 may sound small, but after hearing the stories of those who’ve been affected, I guarantee these numbers won’t seem like just another statistic. Distracted driving is a dangerous driving behavior and it’s up to all drivers to individually take responsibility for their actions to make our roads safer.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Drowsy Driving

People underestimate the dangers of drowsy driving, but driving while fighting the urge to sleep puts everyone on the road at risk. Sadly, a new analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash data estimates drowsy driving is a factor in nearly one in six fatal crashes. As recently covered by the Good Morning America, CNN, USA Today, the New York Times and others, the AAA Foundation recently published a study showing that two out of five drivers surveyed (41 percent) admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel at some point. In fact, just recently in Maryland two highway workers were killed by a drowsy driver in the middle of the day.

In recognition of Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®, sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation, the AAA Foundation is calling attention to the serious issue of driving drowsy. Just like drugs and alcohol, sleepiness can impair important functions behind the wheel like response time, awareness and judgment. Many people think they can force themselves to stay awake, but science shows us that isn’t always the case, and dozing off behind the wheel, even for a few seconds, is plenty of time to drive off of the road or over a centerline.

AAA offers some helpful tips from the Foundation’s brochure, How To Avoid Drowsy Driving, include:
• Get plenty of sleep (at least six hours) before a long trip;
• Travel at times when you are normally awake or stay overnight rather than driving;
• Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles;
• Stop driving if you become sleepy;
• Do not plan to work all day and then drive all night;
• Drink a caffeinated beverage;
• Avoid driving during sleepy times of day; and
• Travel with an awake passenger