Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ride Safe in May, and Everyday

May, which happens to be Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, is just around the corner, and the AAA Foundation sees no better time to shed some light on the subject of biking best practices, particularly on the heels of a recent report on motorcycle fatalities released last week by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). The report found that while motorcycle deaths declined by 2 percent overall in 2010, the third quarter actually saw a spike in fatalities compared to the previous year. This has some experts worried that the upward trend in motorcycle deaths the United States saw from previous years might be returning. 

While these numbers could be attributed to a variety of things, such as an improving economy stimulating motorcycle sales or less rain and warm weather extending the riding season, the fact remains that more bikers on the road means more exposure to risk. With temperatures heating up, daylight lingering longer and gas prices soaring, people are likely to dust off the Harleys and hit the open road as both an economic and enjoyable transportation alternative. The Foundation just wants to ensure that in doing so, safely and responsibly remain top of mind for riders.

Motorcycles are entitled to the same rights as any other vehicle on the road, and as such they need to follow the same rules. A motorcyclist has a much greater risk of experience a serious, life-threatening injury in a crash than a driver or passenger of a car because there is far less protection for riders. Most states have implemented helmet laws and encourage riders to take extra precautions before hopping on the back of a bike, like always wearing a helmet, never riding drunk, keeping speed in check, and most importantly receiving the proper training. This is especially true for the baby boom generation—a group that seen a recent uptick in motorcycle registrations—who are reaching retirement age and looking to recapture the riding passion of their youth. No matter the age or the perceived experience level, training is a must for all motorcycle operators.

But make no mistake, the responsibility for keeping our roads safe extends to motorists of every stripe. Car and truck drivers need to be mindful of motorcyclists’ vulnerability and exercise increased caution when encountering them on the road. Sharing the road is the only way to reduce traffic crashes, so do your part this month and every month to be safe behind the wheel … and the handlebars.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Distraction May Be Closer than It Appears

With the 2011 Illinois Distracted Driving Summit taking place this week, the AAA Foundation wants to remind everyone of the many forms distraction can take behind the wheel and how important, and simple, it is to avoid. While cell phone use and texting behind the wheel is a potentially deadly distraction, drivers shouldn’t forget about other sources of distraction inside a car that have been around for years, long before cell phones were even invented.

Experts estimate that drivers do something potentially distracting more than 15 percent of the time their vehicles are in motion. This can range from changing the radio station to eating on the go to punching an address into a GPS. These potentially deadly actions pull your hands off the wheel, your eyes away from the road and your attention away from the task at hand—operating a powerful piece of machinery at high speeds over changing terrain alongside others doing exactly the same thing. While some car designs practically encourage this behavior—iPod connections in the console, cup holders for every passenger and dashboard navigation systems becoming more and more common—drivers need to remember the safe ways to engage in these activities, which is while the car is stopped.

The Foundation offers a few simple tips to help keep distractions while driving to a minimum:

Don’t touch that dial – adjust your seat, air conditioning and music before you even turn on the car, or wait until your stopped at an intersection when you’re on the road.
Stop to eat and drink – while it’s tempting to cruise through the drive-thru to save time, it’s always safer to stop for meals on road trips.
Plan ahead – set up your navigation system before your car leaves the driveway, or have a passenger make adjustments to your route for you along the way.
Don’t multitask and drive – in a world where speed and efficiency rule and multitasking is becoming a necessity in nearly every situation, make driving a place of refuge to do just one thing at a time, DRIVE.

We also challenge you to take the pledge to drive distraction-free for a one week. Driving while distracted is something we are all guilty of from time to time, but we all agree that its dangerous. Changing the “do as I say, not as I do” mindset is the first step to reducing the more than 5,500 deaths every year that result from this tendency. So do your part and lead by example. The next life you save could be your own.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Road Debris and Distraction, Double Danger

This week on “Good Morning America,” the AAA Foundation was asked to comment on the dangers of road debris as part of a story featuring a viral video of a 2x4 crashing through a car windshield. The video was captured by the car’s driver, Wendy Cobb, who said she was using her cell phone camera to film the two trucks driving erratically in front of her when both trucks hit the 2x4 lying in the road and caused it to come flying through her windshield! Fortunately no one was hurt, but our research shows that  vehicle-related road debris causes an estimated 25,000 similar crashes per year, resulting in approximately 80-90 fatalities. This video is an example of just how hazardous and frightening a collision with road debris can be. 

But, there are two important lessons to learn from this video as well that can minimize your risk for a similar collision.

1.       Be alert and avoid distractions. Using a cell phone while driving, to text, make calls, or to video another driver’s behavior, is distracting and makes it difficult to react quickly or to identify potentially dangerous situations …  like a 2x4 heading for your windshield. Accidents can happen anywhere at any time, and driving while distracted only increases your odds of being in one.
2.       Keep your distance from suspicious items or activity on the road. Despite Wendy’s good intention of closely following to record the two trucks driving recklessly, it would have been far safer to drop back to disengage from their behavior, or to stop and call the police to report the activity.

A matter of inches can mean the difference between life and death when encountering road debris. Unfortunately, not everyone will be as lucky as Wendy. So, learn from her close call to protect yourself and the ones you love.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Code Orange - Safety is Key In Work Zones

This week (April 4–8) is National Work Zone Awareness Week and with work zone crashes averaging 13 a week, it is a good reminder of the critical need to drive safely when encountering construction. Most people mistakenly may think that the real danger work zones pose is to roadway workers, but nearly 85 percent of fatalities in work zone crashes are those driving or riding in the cars. The good news is these deaths have declined significantly over the past eight years (1,186 fatalities in 2002 to 667 fatalities in 2009), but the ultimate goal is to prevent them altogether. 
The AAA Foundation offers the following work zone safety tips for motorists:
·         Plan Ahead – Check for planned construction before hitting the road. AAA’s online TripTik® Travel Planner alerts drivers to long-term construction areas, and the free Trip-Tik Mobile app helps drivers navigate a detour (with a passenger’s help of course).
·         Slow Down – Speed limits are normally lowered in work zones, and several states double fines for speeding in these areas. Drivers should take these speed limits seriously and allow for extra time to slow down when approaching work zones. It is also key to leave a safe distance between vehicles ahead, as conditions can change quickly.
·         Stay Alert – Watch for police officers, fire fighters or road crews giving instructions, as well as for any posted advisories or signage. Keep distractions in the car to a minimum as cones, flashing lights and unusual barriers can pull your attention away from the road. Drivers also should never turn off their vehicles when stopped on the road in work zones unless instructed to by a uniformed worker or the specific length of a delay is known.
Following these simple guidelines along with exercising patience while traveling through these areas will go a long way toward saving the lives of both those who improve our roads and those who travel them.
In honor of this week, the Foundation is also highlighting our Driver-Zed training program during the month of April. Designed for novice drivers, this training program allows users to learn how to safely navigate through different driving scenarios – including through work or construction zones.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday! Friday! Gotta BE SAFE on Friday!

That’s right, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety can count itself as one of the 64+ million viewers of YouTube’s latest video sensation: Rebecca Black’s “Friday” song. While we, like so many others, found the song unexpectedly beguiling, we couldn’t help but fixate upon one startling element throughout the video:  the blatant lack of seat belt use. Funny as that sounds, it potentially demonstrates an underlying lack of concern for safety among young adults out having a good time. Understanding that this video is fictional, the fact that it targets young, impressionable audiences and portrays cool looking teenagers riding improperly in both the front and back seats of a convertible sends a dangerous message in an otherwise fun video.  It’s a great example of safety being overlooked as a priority and unfortunately reflects the current state of our traffic safety culture.

Teen driving safety is one of the cornerstones of the AAA Foundation. Habits developed by teens when first learning to drive can last a lifetime, and those habits should be safe ones. A seat belt is a person’s absolute best defense against injury or death in an accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2009 alone, seat belts saved 62 percent of teens (ages 16-20 years old) involved in fatal car crashes. So whether you’re “kickin’ it in the front seat” or “partyin’ in the back seat,” the coolest thing anyone can do is buckle their seat belt.  You can’t “get down,” “hang out” or have “fun fun fun” if you never make it to the party. No matter what day of the week, every day should include safety, and safety means always remembering to buckle up. 

Post by Dan Bleier, Communications Coordinator, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety