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Driving: Better Safe Than Sorry
by Barbara Garro

August arrives, the last month of summer, and the procrastinators wake up and decide it’s now or never to get themselves out on the highways and byways, along with all the other vacationers, summer sight-seers, still out-of-school kids with cars, normal business and personal traffic. Sight-seeing buses and double and triple trucks block your vision. Road repair's going on everywhere, because summer is prime highway reconstruction season. End of summer roadways are crowded 24/7, seven days a week. Drivers get cranky. Everyone's in a hurry. You know an accident would make your summer unbearably complicated.

Americans drive over two trillion miles annually. On average, 253 million cars and trucks travel on U.S. roads. Since last year, the U.S. added 3.7 million more vehicles. There are 211.9 million licensed drivers in the U.S. In comparison, China holds the largest number of the world’s licensed drivers at 244 million. Big trucks make up 4.3% of all highway vehicles. Fifty-six percent of those injured in an accident were not wearing a seat belt. Mohammad Ali, a first-class passenger on a commercial flight experiencing turbulence, when asked to buckle his seat belt replied: “Superman don’t need no seatbelt.” The flight attendant replied: “Superman don’t need no airplane neither; buckle your seatbelt.”

TOP SEVEN CAUSES OF TRUCK ACCIDENTS:

1. Unsafe Acts of Car Drivers

2. Driver Traveling Too Fast for Conditions

3. Driver Unfamiliar with Roadway

4. Inadequate Training on Vehicle Being Driven

5. Brake Problems

6. Systems of Compensation that Encourage Faster Driving Speeds and More Hours of Consecutive Vehicle Operation

7. Unrealistic Schedules and Expectations of Trucking Companies

TOP THREE CAUSES OF PASSENGER VEHICLE ACCIDENTS:

1. Distracted Driving: One in ten drivers talks on the phone while driving, disregarding state laws. (Hands-free and hand-held phones cause the same level of driving distraction.)

2. Drunk Driving: Thirty-one percent of U.S. fatalities are alcohol related. Look at this another way—fifty-seven percent of fatal car crashes involved a driver who tested positive for alcohol or drugs. Men are twice as likely as women to choose to drive under the influence of alcohol, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

3. Speeding: The cost of a speeding ticket alone ought to deter you, if not the fear of losing your driving privileges due to points.

TOP THREE LOCATIONS OF PASSENGER VEHICLE ACCIDENTS:

1. Parking Lots: People are anxious to get going, drive too fast, pay too little attention to nearby vehicles

2. 52% of Car Crashes Occur Within 5 Miles of Home: You are familiar, way too comfortable in your surroundings and you relax your high alert

3. On Daily Commutes: Going to work, you may not be fully awake and going home, you may be stressed out and/or tired. In addition, distractions abound, eating, drinking, shaving, putting on makeup, illegally talking on phones, texting.

TOP SEVEN MOST COMMON ACTS OF DANGEROUS OR AGGRESSIVE DRIVERS:

1. Driving slow or hogging the left lane

2. Speeding and weaving in and out of traffic lanes

3. Tailgating

4. Cutting in too closely, cutting off other vehicles

5. Passing on the shoulder

6. Changing lanes without signaling

7. Blinding other drivers with your high beams (common rule is 200 feet behind the vehicle in front of you and 500 feet between your vehicle and the vehicle on the other side of the road)

Garro’s Better Safe than Sorry Road Rules

• Know and obey speed limits and road safety signs

• Never turn right on red

• Stop for a full three seconds at stop signs and let other drivers go first unless they signal you to go

• Always go forward out of parking spaces

• At intersections, always wait for a driver with a turn signal on to actually execute the turn before you go

• Stop when the light turns yellow

• Never drive when you are in a rage or over-tired

• At least monthly, check the air pressure in your tires

• Maintain your vehicle/s according to manufacturer's suggested maintenance and common sense

• Aim to be the most courteous driver on the road

Never believe the myth that all you have to do is mind your business and obey the laws to get where you're going safely. Drivers get distracted, do dumb things. Roads are open driving fields that at any given moment can become war zones. Weather conditions can get hazardous in a heartbeat. Drunk drivers may not be able to tell whether a light is red or green. Cars to the right, left, front or rear of you can be driven by drunk, sleepy, angry or stupid people. You may do something that attracts the angry retaliation of road rage.

Remember, the most efficient, effective way to get safely where you are going is to always be a AAA driver: Awake, Aware, and Adult, avoiding anger behind the wheel, distracting actions like eating, drinking anything except hydrating water, reading, talking, texting, dictating, grooming or getting into heated debates with passengers.

If you look at each trip as a mission to get from one place to another safely, that goal can keep you in control of yourself and your vehicle. If you add to your mission mind-set that your life depends on your successful completion of each mission, you will keep yourself out of all avoidable accidents. And, on high alert, you can take quick action that reduces harm in unavoidable situations.