Should we Call them Road ‘Accidents’ or ‘Crashes’? It’s Actually an Important Distinction!

The incidents which generations of people have grown up calling “road accidents” or “highway accidents” are wrongly named — they need to be referred to as crashes or collisions — but if this sounds like nothing more than silly word-play and semantics to you, read on, because there is a very important reason behind it.

Photo of an SUV in Florida narrowly avoiding a collision with a semi tractor-trailer that rightlytly had to go wide in order to make a sharp right turn and which had been signalling the intended turn correctly for plenty of time. Classic unattentive driving by the person in the SUV.
The driver in this SUV in Florida brakes hard and narrowly avoids a collision with a semi tractor-trailer that correctly had to go wide in order to make a sharp right turn and which had been signalling the intended turn for plenty of time. Sadly, this was classic and potentially lethal inattentive driving by the person in the SUV.   (Copyright image.)   [1]
Continue reading “Should we Call them Road ‘Accidents’ or ‘Crashes’? It’s Actually an Important Distinction!”

Additional Photos, Bronze Advanced Driving Course, MA, USA

This page is a continuation of the images from Good Observations for Safe Driving (with Photographs)

There’s clearly a constant need to be ready for the actions of a reckless or thoughtless driver making an incursion onto the wrong side of the road.   Copyright image.
The situation from the photograph above this one, can swiftly develop into a potentially dangerous scenario.   Copyright image.
When sightlines are restricted, extra care is needed in looking for Vulnerable Road Users [VRU] such as cyclists or pedestrians who can easily be obscured by vehicles, structures or even other, nearby pedestrians who are standing in a line-of-sight.   Copyright image.
This bicyclist is sensible enough to be wearing suitable, bright clothing and a helmet but could still easily be obscured from view at a critical moment, behind a vehicle.   Copyright image.
Jay-walkers don’t make life any easier, either!   Copyright image.
And speaking of large vehicles (two photographs up), when buying a new vehicle please do have a think about how “friendly” it would be to any Vulnerable Road Users [VRU] who might be hit by it. Vehicles that are built like battering rams are very “unfriendly” towards VRUs. It is, however, now possible to find vehicles that take this aspect of other people’s vulnerability into account in their design. Copyright image.
Something that still worries many American drivers — because, to put it simply, the official advice they’ve been given so far is terrible, to say the least — roundabouts remain an issue. However, on ADoNA courses your people will be taught global best-practise techniques that have been developed over almost 60 years, to give greater safety and confidence.   Copyright image.
And, as always, we teach the most reliable observations and systematic approach for all situations, whether routine or less usual, such as the imminent intersection depicted by this sign (and, of course, driving straight through it without taking any safety precautions might be the common failure of many drivers but is emphatically not the safest option).   Copyright image.

If you have any questions or wish to book safe driver training for your team, please contact us via our Courses page.

Good Observations for Safe Driving (with Photographs)

The photographs in this article were taken around a Bronze Advanced Driving course, with Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA], in south east Massachusetts.   They each show typical driving scenes but give only a very small insight into the discussions about the standards of the observations that are essential to effective driver training and to all safe driving.

Photograph taken from a vehicle driving through a small Massacusetts town, showing various potentially hazardous scenarios.
A typical driving scenario in beautiful, small-town America, showing many potential hazards that most drivers sadly get away with ignoring, but each of which, when ignored, can at the very least result in damaged vehicles or something much worse.   Copyright image.

Continue reading “Good Observations for Safe Driving (with Photographs)”

15th Annual Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws – 2018

The following is the introduction to this important document from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a document which highlights that various state governments around the USA are unacceptably lax in creating laws which could save many thousands of American lives each year :

We Don’t Have to Wait for Fully Autonomous Cars to Stop Needless Deaths and Injuries
Effective and Available Countermeasures Must Be Adopted Now

The 2018 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws marks the 15th annual publication by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates). This report serves as a navigational tool giving guidance on successful measures to reduce preventable motor vehicle deaths, injuries and crash costs. Each day on average, approximately 100 people are killed and 6,500 more are injured on our roadways across the country. Yet, solutions continue to languish or be ignored in state capitals, Congress and at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Photograph of rush-hour highway traffic, Washington D.C.
Rush-hour traffic, Washington D.C. (Copyright image.)

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Belief that Speed Doesn’t Cause Crashes is Untrue & Deadly

Many drivers ardently believe that “speeding alone does not actually cause crashes,” but even though the over-simplification contained in that phrase is not totally inaccurate (see below), in real life-and-death terms it is both misleading and deadly…

Photograph of a car passing a 65mph speed limit sign on a highway.
Breaking speed limits in the USA is an endemic issue, something that many drivers even take to be a right — that they can go x-number of miles per hour over the speed limit without getting a ticket. (Copyright image.)

Continue reading “Belief that Speed Doesn’t Cause Crashes is Untrue & Deadly”

Poor Visibility Even When Driving in Bright Sunshine (No.1)

The photo below is intended to be the first of several images, over a period, to show that even in bright sunshine, visibility for drivers and other road users can actually be very poor, therefore the best safety can be achieved by driving with low beam headlights on at all times.  (Daytime Running Lights, or DRLs, are as safe as long as they illuminate not only the front lights but also the rear lights too.  See our previous article for details on this important subject.)

Photograph of vehicles obscured from sight even on a beautifulo, sunny day, in this case by salt dust, churned up by the wheels of vehicles.
Despite the beautiful sunshine on this very cold day, visibility was significantly reduced by what can only have been the dust from pulverised road salt that was being thrown up by vehicle wheels. Coming towards the camera, on the other side of this interstate highway, are *five* cars and a semi-tractor-trailer, but cars 3, 4 and 5 — only a couple of hundred yards away and travelling around 100 feet-per-second — would be harder if not impossible to see if not for the fact that all three of those drivers are very wisely using their headlights. Well done, them! Copyright image.

Continue reading “Poor Visibility Even When Driving in Bright Sunshine (No.1)”

A Truly Dirty Trick by Too Many Drivers, When Overtaking!

Does any driver enjoy getting a large amount of snow,  dirty water, or — worst of all — salt-filled winter slush thrown up onto their windscreen, temporarily making it hard to see and needing large amounts of windshield washer fluid to clean it away?  It’s a silly question, isn’t it?  It’s obvious that none of us likes that experience, especially as it can at least briefly make things unsafe, through the loss of view, the distraction of rectifying the lost view, and last but by no means least, the fact that the overtaken driver has now been forced into a tailgating scenario (see more about this, below).

Photograph in torrential rain on an interstate, in which the driver ahead of ours had suddenly pulled into our lane, too close ahead and without signalling, but then braked firmly as well. His spray and proximity badly harmed our already poor view and his braking was dangerous.
The driver directly in front of us in this photo dived into our lane, without signalling and far too close for safety, which also drowned our windscreen in his spray. Then, however, he riskily braked quite firmly and forced us to do likewise. Obviously, that is not something a sensible person wishes to do in such terrible traffic conditions. Copyright image.

Continue reading “A Truly Dirty Trick by Too Many Drivers, When Overtaking!”

In Winter some Drivers make Extremely Dangerous Overtakes

One of the biggest contributory causes of serious-injury and fatal road crashes in the USA (and the rest of the world) is speed.

Typically, speeds in excess of the posted limit, or that are within the limit but are inappropriate for the circumstances, are factors in around 28-30 percent of collisions where people are ‘Killed or Seriously Injured’ [KSI].  In American terms, this represents about 11,000 people killed and approaching a million people injured each year  as a direct result of those who drive too fast.

A dangerous driver crazily overtaking our car, despite the terrible visibility and the very slippery road surface conditions.
From our passenger seat, I photographed this dangerous driver crazily overtaking our car, despite the terrible visibility and the very slippery road surface conditions. Copyright photo.
Photograph of huge quantities of snow being thrown up from the wheels of a pick-up truck during a potentially deadly passing maneuver.
The driver of this pick-up truck is doing a homicidal overtake, with a very poor view ahead and on a slippery, snow-covered road, and he is now cutting in dangerously close ahead. The snow coming up from his wheels is about to bury our windshield and almost entirely block our view. (See the next two photographs in the sequence for what happens next)! Copyright image.
This is what you, as a driver, need to be ready for, even when it is just rain and heavy water spray, the impact of the snow and your potential temporary loss of your entire view.
This is what you, as a driver, need to be ready for, even when it is just rain and heavy water spray: the impact of the water or snow and your potential temporary loss of your entire view.  Where’s the pick-up?  (Our view was completely lost a moment after this photo was taken.)  Copyright image.
Moments later, after we had cautiously dropped our speed and the idiot in the driver had pulled ahead of us, the two vehicles coming the other way through the severely-limited visibility came into sight. If they had been just three or four seconds earlier, there would have been bodies in hospital and perhaps in the morgue.
Moments later, after we had cautiously dropped our speed and the idiot driver in the pick-up had pulled ahead of us, the two vehicles coming the other way through the severely-limited visibility came into sight. If they had been just a couple of seconds earlier, there would have been bodies in the hospitals and perhaps in the morgue.   Copyright image.

Clearly then, excessive speed, even when below the posted limit, truly is a killer — big time — despite all of the people who emptily argue that this situation is mere propaganda and is untrue.

If excessive speed is dangerous, and it is, there is still an additional aspect that defies any logic or any excuse, and that is speeding in bad weather.  And for our purposes, bad weather extends to include any situation where visibility is reduced, either through simple low-light or darkness, and also airborne view limitations such as mist, fog, dust, smoke or falling rain and snow, together with any cause of slippery road surfaces.

We hope the photographs that accompany this article give you pause for thought.  The driver of the silver pick-up truck in this incident could very easily have caused the deaths of several people.  All it would have taken was for an oncoming vehicle to loom out of the misty murk at the wrong moment and a collision would have been inescapable.  Was he driving at a speed inappropriate for the circumstances?  You betcha!

Even without a vehicle coming the other way, the pick-up driver caused significant risk to ourselves by unnecessarily throwing a large quantity of snow up onto the windscreen of our car as he passed and then pulled directly in front of us with less than a car length between the vehicles (see more on this aspect), and that alone was unforgivable.

Please don’t ever be ‘that’ driver, and equally importantly, be prepared for the day when you will encounter somebody as incompetent and brainless as this particular pick-up driver was.  Naturally, this involves getting your wipers onto maximum speed — in advance if possible — slowing down promptly but safely (there may be another vehicle close behind, and of course the road is slippery).  Then hold a steady course as you do this and don’t allow the situation to panic you.

Last but by no means least, always, yes always, drive with low beam headlights on, day and night, sunshine or rain, and even in preference to Daytime Running Lights.

Finally, please note that these are general comments and do not amount in any way to specific advice.  Please see our Disclaimer in this context.

 

Official Advice About When to Use Headlights is Nonsense!

In many states in the USA and in certain countries around the world, dreadfully unsafe guidelines still exist which say that headlights need not be switched on until half an hour after sunset and can be turned off again half an hour before sunrise.  This so-called advice is — and always has been — dangerous garbage.

Photo of two pedestrians dangerously standing half way across a road in very low light.
Two darkly-clothed pedestrians dangerously standing in the middle of the road (in the center, left-turn-only lane) in dawn light. Technically — because it was after dawn on this very gloomy winter morning and it wasn’t raining, vehicle drivers were not obliged by law to be using headlights, so imagine these cold, wind-blown pedestrians trying to get to work and not noticing an approaching vehicle with no lights. Not using headlights in low light is insanity but many drivers do it, and even more stupidly, the law allows it (in this case, in New York State)! Copyright image

It is also at least partially to blame for the fact that many drivers wrongly believe that as long as they can see where they are going, in low-light conditions, that is all that matters, but again this is dangerous.  A crucial part of the purpose of headlights is to more easily let other road users see you approaching.

Photograph of the speedometer and other dashboard dials, lit up at night.
If you are accidentally driving on your Daytime Running Lights [DRLs] your dashboard instrument lights will *probably* not be lit (to give you a clue) but check your own vehicle to find out if that is the case for you. Copyright image.
And it’s not just dawn and dusk that matter, either.  Some very important research, from various countries, has shown that driving with low beam headlights on at all times, reduces your chances of being in collision with a vehicle or person who — because they didn’t see you coming — drives or walks out in front of you, by between 14% and 28% (depending on the exact research criteria).  Does it need to be said that reducing the risk of T-boning another vehicle, or perhaps of you killing a pedestrian or bicyclist, by such a significant percentage is a really good thing?

Photograph of a pick-up trucke waiting to turn out of a side road, and in which the driver might be dazzled by sunshine when he looks to see if it is safe to proceed.
When the waiting driver checks to his left, towards our approaching vehicle, he may well be dazzled by the low sun, behind us, so this is just one example of times when headlights help your conspicuity greatly, even in bright sunshine. Copyright image.

So when should you use your headlights?

In terms of safety, Sweden was a long way ahead of the rest of the world on this subject — something which will not surprise true road safety experts around the world, because Sweden has long been one of the two best performing countries worldwide (along with Britain).

Back in 1977, it was made law in Sweden that all drivers must use headlights all the time, 24 hours a day, no matter what the weather… Period! Relevantly, this safety function is known as varselljus (“perception light” or “notice light”).  [My thanks to Barry Kenward for this useful insight.]

Photograph of a car in the foreground with no lights on, compared to vehicles in the distance which do have headlights on.
The vehicles in the distance are more conspicuous then the nearer vehicle because they have their headlights on but it doesn’t. Remember, conspicuity is at least as important even at a significant distance because it can persuade an oncoming driver not to commence a risky passing maneuver. Copyright image.

Eventually — meaning in the last 20-or-so years — some other countries belatedly started to realize the safety benefits of keeping headlights on, even on bright sunny days.  However, as it is a fact that vehicles do consume extra fuel — even though it is only a tiny fraction more — whenever additional electrical demands are placed on the vehicles, such as air conditioning or headlights, some conservation-minded people protested that using headlights at all times would increase the production of greenhouse gases and add to the pollution problem.

Photograph of a moving car's headlight beam at night, from the side.
The beam from Daytime Running Lights [DRLs] is typically not as powerful as that from your low beam headlights — one of the two safety reasons never to drive in poor light with only the DRLs. Copyright image.
As a result, Daytime Running Lights [DRL] were invented, and these used a bit less power on the headlights, to help reduce emissions.  So far, so good.  But some countries and automakers then very stupidly made a bad decision, which was that DRLs did not need to operate the rear lights as well, just the headlights on lower-than-usual power, because omitting the rear lights would save even more electrical power and the resultant but tiny amount of additional emissions.  The ongoing result of this is that drivers in such vehicles are commonly seen, driving around at night with no back lights at all and with DRL front lights which are not as bright as proper, low-beam headlights, so there is extra risk up front and significant danger from behind, especially in poor weather conditions.

I would stress at this point that I have always been a keen naturalist and now an enthusiastic conservationist, and I am by no means averse to cutting harmful emissions.  However, given the direct and undeniable risk to people which occurs when vehicles are driven without adequate lights and are therefore not seen until too late, which issue has to take priority?

Tongue-in-cheek, you should note that no automakers have decided to devote less power to their in-vehicle air conditioning — something that certainly would save more power and therefore more emissions.  In other words, the hypocrisy from automakers is that they will reduce the safety of road users but they will not consider reducing the comfort of their customers, even though environmentally it would do more good.  Putting comfort (and, of course, profits) before safety!

Photo of a road sign requiring "headlights on at all times for safety.
Even though signs like this are typically only used on certain roads and in only a few of the states, this sign actually says it all: Headlights on at ALL times for safety! Copyright image.

So what IS the best advice, in terms of greatest safety?

Here’s a list:

  1. Do NOT rely on Daytime Running Lights [DRL].  We are all human and if something else is on your mind it is all too easy to forget that in low light or poor weather you have no back lights to protect the rear of your vehicle.  Many people undoubtedly have been killed or seriously hurt as a result;
  2. Do NOT rely on automatic headlamps that switch themselves on when a light sensor tells them to.  As with many automatic things, circumstances can sometimes create the wrong outcome and you wont have lights when they really are needed;
  3. IGNORE any rules or guidelines that mention sunrise and sunset.  Even the bright, low sunshine and contrasty shadows that occur before some sunsets and after some sunrises can create situations where vehicles are hard to see;
  4. The common rule about “Wipers On, Lights On” is also INADEQUATE — written, as is so often the case, by somebody with inadequate knowledge who merely thought it was a good idea.  The fact is that many weather conditions such as heavy cloud, mist or lightly falling snow can easily take the light down below the sensible threshold at which lights definitely should be used, even if wipers are not needed! (See the photographs.)
  5. NEVER drive with just the front sidelights (a.k.a. position or parking lights) illuminated, even where there is good street-  or road-lighting.  Sidelights are not adequate for your conspicuity.
  6. What do we do at Advanced Drivers of North America?  That’s easy to answer.  We use at least low-beam headlights, and therefore rear lights too, 24/7.  Does that increase our vehicle emissions?  Yes, undeniably, but by a miniscule amount.  And is the safeguarding of human lives more important?  We think the last question answers itself.

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Do You REALLY Want to Pass the Snow Plow?

It is easy to identify a person driving safely from someone who is a bad driver by their attitude about whether to pass a snow plough on winter roads.

View of traffic at sunset on Interstate I-87 in New York State.
Traffic on a wintery I-87, with the Catskill Mountains in the background.   Copyright image.

Is that whiteness you can see on the road just a sprinkling of light snow or could there be ice in among it.
Continue reading “Do You REALLY Want to Pass the Snow Plow?”