Eric Murray – On the winter road again – drive safely
October 26, 2009
It’s just a matter of time before that dreaded picture hits the front page of the paper. You know its coming as the weather begins to get colder: the one of the vehicular road accident taken just after a rainy, icy morning commute – the pickup flipped over in the ditched looking like a crumpled up piece of paper.
The best advice is to slow down of course, but it seems the only deterrent for speeding isn’t possible death and disfigurement, it’s a traffic ticket. For those interested in keeping safe on Grand County roads this winter, here is some advice.
First, realize what you are up against every time you get in your car. Any time you drive, you can usually take for granted that at least half of the other drivers on the road are either tired, in a hurry, gazing out the window at the scenery, stressed out, impaired by alcohol or drugs or – worse – using their cell phones to talk or text message.
MAKE SURE YOUR CAR IS READY TO ROLL. Get your car serviced regularly so you can be assured that your fluids and tire pressure are what they should be. Make sure any needed repairs are made and that your tires have plenty of tread.
CHECK ON ROAD CONDITIONS before you leave. One good source of information about road closures and traffic alerts is http://www.cotrip.org
TAKE YOUR CELL PHONE. Keep the cell phone handy for emergencies, but by all means keep it out of the driver’s hands. According to a study published in Human Factors (2005), cell phone use by drivers contributes to 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries each year.
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Even using a head set or hands-free phone is dangerous because of the distraction. According to the above-mentioned study, a driver talking on the phone has an impairment greater than that of a driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 – the legal limit.
GET PLENTY OF SLEEP THE NIGHT BEFORE. Studies show that at least half of drivers on the road at night are fighting fatigue. Close your eyes for only four seconds while driving 60 miles per hour, and your car will travel out of control for 100 yards. But fatigue and sleepiness start much earlier than the first nod.
Note the warning signs: repeated yawning, difficulty focusing, not remembering the last few miles, drifting from lane to lane, hitting rumble strips, tailgating or missing traffic signs.
Even if you’re well rested, be aware that your body is trained to get sleepy in the hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Fatigue-related crashes are four times more likely during those hours than at other times.
FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELT. In Australia, where seat belt laws are strict, only four percent of car occupants do not wear seat belts, but these persons account for 22 percent of all car accident deaths. In the United States in 2004, non-seat-belt wearers accounted for 55 percent of deaths.
DON’T SPEED. Everybody is in a hurry. Overall, speeding accounts for 30 percent of fatal crashes.
DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE. You probably wouldn’t dream of drinking to excess just before a long cross-country trip. Driving a few miles across town after a football party is another matter … but it’s equally dangerous.
Alcohol is a factor in 39 percent of highway deaths. It takes a male only four drinks in an hour (three for a female) to reach a blood alcohol content of .08, the legal limit in all 50 states. A BAC of .08 quadruples the risk of having an accident, but impaired driving comes at a BAC of .05 or lower.
It’s your decision and your responsibility to refrain from drinking, speeding and being distracted by a cell phone while you’re driving. But you have no control over other drivers or the weather. That’s why it makes sense to be a defensive driver. Leave yourself time and space to allow for the stupid mistakes made by others.