Florida Increases Penalties for Passing Stopped School Buses but is it Enough?

Florida’s School Bus Safety bill, which was passed by the House and Senate earlier this year, has been signed by Gov. Rick Scott. It imposes enhanced penalties on drivers who do not stop for a school bus and cause serious bodily harm or death to a person. It creates the Cameron Mayhew Act, named after a 16-year-old boy who was struck and killed by a car while crossing the road to board his bus on June 1, 2016. The driver of the car received a six-month license suspension and a $1,000 fine.

Children getting off a school bus, with the additional danger of construction work immediately adjacent.  Image Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

Starting July 1, drivers who pass a stopped school bus with its warning signals on and cause “serious bodily harm or death” to another person will be fined $1,500 and have their license suspended for one year. If a driver passes a stopped school bus but does not harm or kill someone, they will have four points added to their license; if they severely injure or kill someone, that will be raised to six points…

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, over 2,400 people were ticketed in 2016 for ignoring a school bus’ red lights or stop arm….

Read the full article, from School Transportation News.


Given that there can be few things in driving that are more recklessly dangerous than passing a school bus that has stopped specifically to pick up or drop off school-aged children, why is there no mandatory, minimum prison sentence included in this law in respect of drivers who kill or seriously injure a child through such a deadly act of stupidity?

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America


The dangers of buying used or second-hand child car seats

The following factsheet is from Britain but of course it is valid anywhere in the world.  It was aimed at the managers of charity shops that sell used items, hence the wording, but it applies equally to any purchase.

Photo: safecar.gov

Sale of Second-hand Child Car Seats
We all know how expensive it is to bring up children and Charity Shops are a valuable way for parents to shop around for second-hand items, to save money whilst raising valuable funds for good causes. But, one item you should never take a gamble on [buying] is a second-hand child’s car seat.

What’s the danger?
It’s impossible to know for certain if a used car seat has been in a collision and relying on a [seller’s] word is too much of a risk to take.

If a car seat has been involved in a crash there may be little or no visible damage to it, but there could well be substantial internal damage, rendering it dangerous.

Missing instruction booklets in second-hand car seats could lead to them being fitted incorrectly, rendering them dangerous in the event of a crash.

It is also vitally important that the size of the car seat is correct for the size and weight of the child and, sadly, not all child car seats fit safely into all cars.  Retailers of new seats receive industry training on appropriate restraints and can advise their customers on fitting them.

How can you tell if it’s safe?
With second-hand seats, you can’t. Just looking at a car seat won’t tell you what you need to know. In fact, the only way of checking a used car seat’s integrity is through laboratory testing.

The fact that many seats ‘look’ OK after an incident leads some parents to continue using their car seats after a crash, unwittingly putting their children at risk.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) advises that car crashes can weaken a child car seat to the extent that a child is left dangerously unprotected in the event of another incident. They advise parents to replace their children’s car seats immediately after a crash.

How can you help keep children safe?
Please do not [buy or] sell second-hand child car seats… the consequences of a seat failing, even in a relatively low speed impact, are simply a risk not worth taking.


Source: http://londonroadsafetycouncil.org.uk/highlighting-the-dangers-of-second-hand-child-car-seats-to-local-communities/ on June 29, 2017



Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America

An Award-Winning but Heart-Rending Road Safety Film by the Thames Valley Police, UK

When drivers use cell phones or other electronic gadgets for any task, the risk of them getting involved in a fatal road crash increases by a factor of between 4 and 26 times, yet still people pretend to themselves that they are somehow special and that they can do it without crashing.  Here is one such individual and what he did (an award-winning UK video):

You may also read the article, from Thames Valley Police, about this incident and the award they have received for this factual video.


South Carolina has Worst U.S. Fatality Rate for Rural Roads

On our Advanced Drivers of North America courses for defensive and advanced driving, we inevitably ask the trainees which type of road in America is the most dangerous in terms of people being killed, between:

  • Fast, divided highways;
  • Fast arterial roads leading into large towns and cities;
  • Business and retail-zone streets;
  • Inner-city side-streets;
  • Rural roads.

To be fair, a few people do get the answer correct — all kudos to them — and the correct answer is that in America and in most other developed nations, more people are killed in crashes on rural roads than on all other types of road added together.

There are several factors which create this situation, including;

  • Inappropriate speeds on narrow and sometimes curvy & hilly roads;
  • Road maintenance and traffic signs, etc., can be questionable;
  • Slow-moving, large agricultural vehicles are often common (see photo);
  • Mud and agricultural detritus can be occasional, serious hazards;
  • Wild animals as well as farm animals can be more likely, on the road;
  • There’s relatively very little police enforcement;
  • Because of low enforcement, drunk-driving etc., can be more common;
  • Local drivers’ over-confidence that “nobody will be coming,” etc.

Yesterday — June 27 — the Post and Courier ran a saddening article under the headline ‘South Carolina leads nation in fatality rate for rural roads, study says’, and while that word “leads” is confusing, it eventually became clear that “nearly four people died on [SC] state rural roads for every 100 million miles of travel.”

Four deaths per 100 million miles might sound like a small figure to any layman who is not “up” on the subject but believe me it is not.  The latest figures show the U.S. national rate to be 1.13 and South Carolina’s overall rate to be 1.89.  In other words, a rate of “nearly four” is about 250 percent higher than the national average and about 67 percent higher than South Carolina’s own overall average.  To put it another way (using 2016 figures), if the US average road death rate was the same as South Carolina’s rate of deaths on rural roads, the annual number of highway fatalities in America would skyrocket from 40,200 per year — which is already far too high — to something approaching a mind-numbing 140,700.

Read the full article, from the Post and Courier.

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America

Massive Challenges in Cutting Los Angeles’ Road Deaths

Article Excerpts

The city of Los Angeles’ ambitious program to reverse a rising trend of traffic deaths and eliminate road fatalities by 2025 is having unintended consequences in communities sensitive to increased traffic enforcement and mistrustful of street improvements….

Los Angeles embraced an international initiative to cut traffic fatalities started in Sweden called Vision Zero as it tries to grapple with traffic crash fatalities that have risen by 43 percent between 2015 and 2016.

With an average 6.27 traffic deaths per 100,000 residents each year, L.A. has the highest traffic death rate of any major city in the country. Last year, 260 people died in L.A. street crashes, about 30 fewer than died in homicides in the city in 2016….

…many of the most dangerous streets in the city are concentrated in low-income communities of color like South L.A….

Los Angeles Department of Transportation

“Black lives matter, right? I think they matter in a lot of ways,” said Harris-Dawson, who has championed the Vision Zero effort….

During recent budget negotiations… the council eventually agreed to allocate about $27 million to Vision Zero-related projects, a nine-fold increase over the previous year’s funding, but still less than the $80 million that the Department of Transportation said is needed to meet the program’s stated goal of reducing traffic deaths by 20 percent this year.

In early June… [Harris-Dawson] invited community members to offer their feedback on proposed safety measures like longer pedestrian signals and curb bulb-outs that force cars to make wider, slower turns….

One major component of the plan is proving especially controversial: increased policing of traffic violations. There is concern that this part of the Vision Zero plan could do more harm than good in neighborhoods like South L.A.

The city is spending an extra $1.5 million to beef up traffic policing on the most dangerous streets, which are concentrated in low-income communities of color….

[Tamika] Butler has argued that an emphasis on traffic stops will sow more fear and distrust of law enforcement in neighborhoods where relations are already strained….

Lt. Dave Ferry with the Los Angeles Police Department said if giving tickets is needed to save lives, his department will do that. “We’re not gonna pick and choose where we do lifesaving measures like traffic enforcement,” he said….

But Butler wants to see L.A. go further in addressing community concerns by following the lead of cities like Portland. That city’s Vision Zero plans prioritize street redesign and education rather than increased traffic enforcement because of concerns over racial profiling.  [And] in San Francisco, police are directed to focus on the five most dangerous driving behaviors, like running red lights….

The full article is here, from 89.3KPCC



All credit to Los Angeles for setting themselves a demanding road death reduction target, but with respect, an attempt to “eliminate road fatalities by 2025” when the city currently “has the highest traffic death rate of any major city in the [USA]” and is trying “to grapple with traffic crash fatalities that have risen by 43 percent between 2015 and 2016,” seems more than a little bit over-optimistic.

It must be remembered, perhaps, that most-reliably-successful two countries in the developed world — Sweden and the UK — have been working long and hard towards their current very low death rates for at least the last 30 years, so for L.A. to do significantly better than that, by actually zeroing the deaths in just eight years, would appear highly-improbable.

One of the biggest hurdles facing any significant progress by the USA in this direction is that of driver safety culture, but I feel obliged to reiterate my belief that in America the root of this problem is perhaps as bad within the road safety community as it is among the public.  Despite certain references to other countries that have vastly lower rates of road deaths than here in America, it seems to me that there has always been a very stubborn determination that the workers concerned are going to do things their own way, irrespective of what the relevant other countries have established by way of research and best practices.  I’m very aware that this sounds like a sweeping statement so let me stress that I do not think for one minute that it applies to all road safety people in America — there are some truly top people out there — but I do think it applies to too many people!

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America


Autonomous Vehicles Sound Promising but What About Hacking?

I, for one, am very concerned that the approaching era of autonomous vehicles, together with “Vehicle-to-Vehicle” [V2V] and “Vehicle-to-Infrastructure” [V2I] wireless technology is quite likely to end in tears.  It is already possible to hack the computerized systems of available cars — and it has been done, experimentally, to one car which was subsequently forced to crash — so the additional hacking possibilities in the future may be nearly endless.

If another country wants to inflict economic harm on the USA, or terrorists & blackmailers want to do harm or extort people, or teenage geeks in their bedrooms simply want to prove to themselves that they can cause serious mischief, then rush-hour traffic around a major city would appear to make a highly-tempting target!

I am keen to see what truly viable defence the US DOT, NHTSA, FHWA and NTSB, amongst others, are planning in order to protect us from this serious and looming threat.

Here’s a current article about a relatively trivial incident with a road safety camera network in the Australian state of Victoria, but much worse will soon be possible:  http://www.caradvice.com.au/561518/victorian-road-safety-camera-network-under-investigation-following-virus-infection/

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America

The Largest Increase in USA Road Deaths in Fifty Years

“Since 2014, U.S. traffic deaths have surged 14 percent — the largest increase in more than half a century. Last year, the number of fatalities jumped 6 percent, to 40,200.”

The Hill, June 22, 2017.

USA Traffic Safety Facts 2015 Data, as published in June 2017

The annual fact sheet from the statistical branch of the U.S. National  Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA] contains the following important topics, on a state-by-state basis where relevant, and with national totals shown:

■■ Overview
■■ State Traffic Fatality Tables
• Table 1: Traffic Fatalities and Fatality Rates, by State, 2015
• Table 2: Traffic Fatalities and Percent Change, by State, 1975-2015
• Table 3: Traffic Fatality Rates and Percent Change, by State, 1975-2015
• Table 4: Alcohol Involvement in Fatal Traffic Crashes, by State, 2006 and 2015
• Table 5: Speeding-Related Traffic Fatalities, by Roadway Function Class and State, 2015
• Table 6: Passenger Vehicle Occupant Fatalities, by Restraint Use and State, 2015
• Table 7: Motorcyclist Fatalities, by Helmet Use and State, 2015
• Table 8: Traffic Fatalities and Vehicles Involved in Fatal Crashes, by Person Type and State, 2015
■■ Restraint Use and Motorcycle Helmet Use Laws


Comments from Eddie Wren:

Latest published fact:  “Since 2014, U.S. traffic deaths have surged 14 percent — the largest increase in more than half a century. Last year, the number of fatalities jumped 6 percent, to 40,200.” The Hill, June 22, 2017.

In general, many of the figures and changes in rates, etc., in this paper might look good but the truth is that when those figures are viewed alongside their equivalents from other developed countries it swiftly becomes clear that America actually performs very badly.  Put simply, if the USA could match the significantly lower rates of road deaths found in the world’s leading road safety nations (currently Norway, Sweden, the UK and Switzerland), over 20,000 American lives would be saved every year and a vastly higher number of injuries would either be prevented or reduced in severity. 

So what are the main things that are holding the USA back in this field?  Sadly, it’s an easy answer:  Politics, and a distressing tendency for nobody in U.S. officialdom to tell the public the truth about the situation.  Indeed, at present virtually everyone who is ‘high up’ in US highway safety seems to be pinning their hopes very prematurely just on the eventual arrival of fully-autonomous (i.e. ‘self-driving’) cars, without any adequately effective attempts to dramatically cut the horrendous death rates in the meanwhile.

Traffic Safety Facts 2015 Data (published by NHTSA in June 2017)

Also see: Ranking Countries for Road Safety – the ‘Per Capita’ Rate, 2015


Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America

GM exits NHTSA safety oversight and seeks new relationship

June 22, 2107


Washington — General Motors Co. is pushing federal regulators to move to a “voluntary cooperation model” for safety oversight now that its 2014 consent agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over its handling of cars with a dangerous ignition switch flaw has ended.

GM was subject to a consent order it agreed to with NHTSA in May 2014 after it was revealed the company’s flawed ignition switches that prompted the recall of 2.59 million cars that year were first found to be defective years earlier.

In May 2014, GM paid what was then a record $35 million civil penalty to NHTSA and agreed to make significant safety changes….


Read the full article, from the Detroit News

In San Diego, Cars are Deadlier than Guns – June 2017

Friday, June 23, 2017


“…In pure numbers, more people die from car crashes in San Diego than are murdered. The city’s police department counted 260 traffic deaths on city streets from 2012 to 2016, and 206 murders over the same time period. Adding in the number of people who die on San Diego freeways, which are governed by Caltrans, there were more than twice as many traffic deaths as there were murders….”

Video: https://youtu.be/BZa3zR3uM5I

Article: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2017/jun/23/san-diego-cars-are-deadlier-guns/