Is this the Beginning of the End for Risky Right-Turns-on-Red?

Allowing drivers in the USA to turn-right-on-red increased cases of pedestrians and bicycles being struck by 43-123 percent, and many of these collisions have resulted in injuries.

A post today on Facebook, from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety [IIHS], pleasingly caught our attention when they confirmed the inescapable conclusion that research has shown that allowing drivers to turn right on red can put pedestrians at risk. There is a very blunt American expression involving ‘Sherlock’ that sums up the situation perfectly!

Whenever drivers who are turning right-on-red take their attention away from either of the two crosswalks they are typically about to cross — usually while looking for vehicles coming from the left — pedestrians are put in danger….. End of story! (Copyright image, 2018.)

Turning to the source for this news, the Washington Post, one finds that the practice of allowing drivers to turn right on red started as a result of the global fuel crisis in the 1970s. Since then, it has been allowed to continue, although seemingly just for the convenience of drivers. Apparently nobody has bothered to rescind the measure until now.

Distraction is often involved in right-on-red collisions and when not only the drivers but the pedestrians are focussed on the wrong thing, injuries become much more likely. When on foot, put your phone or game away and look all around! (Copyright image, 2018.)

Even when pedestrians get a green “cross now” signal, at intersections it is immensely important for them not only to look left and right for traffic (even on a one-way street… we have all seen people driving the wrong way!) but also to watch for drivers turning towards you from any street that’s behind your left shoulder. To quote an old mantra, it is no good lying on the road, perhaps with bad injuries, trying to tell the world that you had the right of way.

Washington DC is one of the American cities that pleasingly has embraced successful European approaches to its traffic safety, and as part of their Vision Zero program around 100 intersections in the District are set to lose right-on-red as a facility for drivers so that pedestrians and cyclists will be safer…. Well done DC!

It’s not just right-on-red that can cause danger… What about this bizarre case of “Don’t Stop at the Stop Sign”? (Copyright image, 2018.)

Interestingly, some places also appear to contradict stop-sign laws in their attempt to achieve the same goal as right-on-red at traffic lights.

The stop sign in the adjacent photograph, complete with its contradictory qualifier, is in Delaware. It, too, is at a crossroads so exactly the same danger can arise if a driver rolls through the intersection, as instructed by the sign, looking left for vehicles rather than at the crosswalk on the right. We would love to see the legislation that makes such a frankly absurd and contradictory situation possible… if any such actual legislation actually exists.

Photograph of two teenage girl pedestrians who were clearly startled by the fast approach of the black sedan, in which the driver had to brake hard to avoid hitting them. This undeniably is a common occurrence when drivers fail to stop correctly at the first crosswalk, as they enter the intersection at which they are turning right on red.
The girl pedestrians in this photo were clearly startled by the fast approach of the black sedan, in which the driver had to brake hard to avoid hitting them. This undeniably is a common occurrence when drivers fail to stop correctly before the **first** crosswalk, as they enter the intersection at which they are turning right on red. (Copyright image, 2014.)
Oh, great…. something else for drivers to look for when their key focus should be on the pedestrians and cyclists they are heading towards! (Copyright image, 2018.)

A conversation and exchange of e-mails later today with the good people at the IIHS revealed that one of their newsletters from 1980, which looked into the effect of right-turn-on-red, found a 57 percent increase in pedestrian crashes following the change to allow this technique to be used. Other studies from around the same time found that allowing right-turn-on-red increased pedestrians and bicycles being struck by 43-123 percent, depending on the study and the locations, and that many of these collisions resulted in injuries. Yet despite these extraordinary increases in collision rates and injuries, only now are some places starting to do anything about it!

Regrettably, the USA is the most consistently poor performer among ~30 developed nations in the world, in terms of the rates of road deaths. Vision Zero and the adoption of other global best practices by America undoubtedly will do a lot to reduce deaths and injuries.

At Advanced Drivers of America, we wish all the places that are developing Vision Zero and similar best-practise strategies and targets the very best of success in this New Year and beyond.

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School Zone Warning Signs – Are Some Better Than Others?

Because many states choose to at least partially disregard national guidelines* designed to encourage the uniform use of traffic signs throughout the USA, different standards in some areas can increase or decrease safety. Perhaps the most concerning of these variations is found in signs which warn drivers that they are entering a school zone.

School-zone warning sign for 'school days', with flashing lights.

Clearly, signs that are very conspicuous are preferable for such a crucial situation, and in this context, those with flashing lights undeniably have an advantage.

The actual message, however, varies from place to place.

Some — the best — state that lower speed limits apply (and therefore that caution is most needed) whenever the lights are flashing.

Some, like the one shown in the adjacent photograph, state that the requirement applies only on schooldays. That’s great unless any of the drivers in the area are from other states or even other countries and are unaware of what are and are not school days, especially in respect of things like summer schools.

The worst signs say only “when children are present,” but that is meaningless if the only children in the area are hidden from view by, say, parked cars or bushes.

There can be little doubt or argument that school-zone road signs throughout the USA should be standardized on lower speed limits and extreme caution being necessary whenever compulsory warning lights are flashing, whatever the hour or the day (so that evening, weekend or recess events may also be catered for). And all school zones should routinely be subjected to rigorous speed and distracted driving enforcement.

Anything less permits unnecessary risk to children’s lives.

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*The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices [MUTCD]

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Please be aware that this website is registered with the United States Copyright Office and that punitive legal action for damages may be taken against anyone who breaches our copyright. This, however, does not stop you from posting links to any of our pages, and you are welcome to do so.

Williamsville, NY, is Taking a Lead in Pedestrian Safety in the USA

The new press-button, gantry-style traffic signals on a new, mid-block crosswalk in Williamsville, NY. (Copyright image, 2018.)

With just over 6,000 pedestrian deaths a year [re 2017, NHTSA], the USA sadly has a very poor record in protecting people on foot.

Here at Advanced Drivers of North America, we have long campaigned for greater pedestrian safety, not only in relation to the construction of more mid-block crosswalks but also for the upgrade of the materials used to create crosswalks.

Williamsville was my home town for 12 years and its Main Street has always had some excessively long gaps between crosswalks, so it has always been in my mind when I’ve been thinking or talking about this subject.

The same crosswalk, viewed from the east. (Copyright image, 2018.)

It was therefore a great surprise and delight for me when I was in Williamsville over Christmas this year and found that the town has installed what I hope will be the first of several mid-block crosswalks.

Drivers needn’t be too concerned about an excessive numbers of stops. Most of the time, the signal lights are simply off. They only function after someone hits the press-to-cross button.

Given the cross-border proximity of the Canadian province of Ontario, it is quite possible that someone in authority in Williamsville has adopted the idea from Ontario’s many such crossings. However, the catalyst doesn’t really matter — it’s to the fact that the first one has been erected.

Well done, Williamsville…. Please don’t let this one be the only one you build!

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As always, please be aware that this website is registered with the United States Copyright Office and that punitive legal action for damages may be taken against anyone who breaches our copyright. This, however, does not stop you from posting links to any of our pages, and you are welcome to do so.

Advanced Driving Course in Texas – Photo Gallery

A three-day ‘Bronze Advanced Driving Course’ for a Fortune-100 corporation in Texas, last week, turned up an excellent variety of roads and circumstances to help us discuss many of the 300-plus safety topics we cover at Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA], in our enhanced-safety curriculum for corporate and professional drivers.

Great confusion was caused by two construction zone trucks displaying “move to the right” arrows, above, when they pulled over across all three lanes to the right-side shoulder and stopped, but made all of those lane changes with the arrows still flashing, so several vehicles followed them!  As always, this photo was taken from a totally safe distance, with a long lens. (Copyright image, 2018.)

All of the safety topics touched upon in this post are things which we discuss in detail with existing and prospective clients, initially in respect of fourteen key areas and later in much greater detail.

Despite the opening photograph, above, the weather was deceptively wonderful at the start of the course, but it went from this through heavy rain, to ice warnings, all of which added to the variety of topics and safety issues we could cover.  Best-quality driver safety training emphatically can not be adequately covered by briefly teaching just a half-dozen topics — one need only look at high-quality statistical analyses of crashes to realize this.  (Copyright image, 2018.)

Pedestrian safety — along with the well-being of all other “vulnerable road users” [VRU] — always features strongly in our various courses, not only because at present a grossly-excessive 6,000 pedestrians are being killed each year on the roads of the USA, often due in part to inadequate safety facilities, but also because as with any at-fault crash, a corporate driver hitting and killing or badly injuring a pedestrian can result in a lawsuit and major financial losses for the corporation, especially if drivers have not been adequately trained for safety.

Approaching Dallas from the south for some driver training work in the busy, downtown area, but naturally we were focussing on the important topics of “lane discipline” and best-practise, safe highway driving in general, on the way there.  (Copyright image, 2018.)

One of the most important features in any driver safety training regime is, of course, the depth of training of its instructors.  This is something we take very seriously indeed at Advanced Drivers of North America, although we know of competitors who train their instructors for only five days, or even just two days, and that’s from scratch — people who up until that point know nothing about truly safe driving other than what they learned while taking their own driving test, often decades previously.

In a nearby city, all sorts of unsafe things were happening in a school zone as the kids were heading for home.  Apart from the driver of the cross-flow sedan, in the foreground clearly not having seen the young lady who was waiting to use the crosswalk, there were other teenagers on the median and jaywalking (see photo), up ahead, and several vehicles made U-turns through gaps in the median.  Insufficient crosswalks on the divided highway was a clear safety issue and something that demands a lot of all the drivers in the vicinity.  (Copyright image, 2018.)

At ADoNA, even our most experienced instructors are never allowed to guess what the answer to any question might be.  Everything we do is research-based whenever that is possible, and failing that it is a combination of global best practices blended appropriately with U.S. safety culture.  Neither of those features work well in isolation.

Something that many people see a few times in their life is a straight line between wet and dry on a road, literally where the edge of a rainstorm passed by, but this was the first time I had seen one where the line coincided with a bridge.  (Copyright image, 2018.)

If you would like some insight into our standards, we suggest that you check out the driver safety resume of our chief instructor and compare it to any individual at any other training supplier in the country.

The very heavy rain soon threw up some serious spray and yet still people drove far too close, despite the fact that their long-range and even medium-range vision had been obliterated and their braking and stopping distances would now be about doubled from that on a dry road.  And many were still tailgating, too!   Once again, this photograph was taken from a safe distance using a long lens.  (Copyright image, 2018.)
As grim as it may be – for which we apologize – this really is what it all boils down to.  Did you know, for example, that in less than the last 30 years alone more than one million Americans have been killed in U.S. road crashes?  Yes – more than a million in just under 30 years!  This poignant white cross was beside one of our DFW-area training routes last week… just one of countless tens of thousands of saddening roadside memorials in the USA.  (Copyright image, 2018.)
Wherever possible, at ADoNA, we incorporate rural roads into our training sessions.  There are multiple reasons for this, which we will happily discuss with potential clients, but one other key point is that more people die on rural roads in the USA than on any other type of road, despite the dramatically lower traffic flows.  (Copyright image, 2018.)
Last but not least — on a tongue-in-cheek note — don’t forget to watch out for dangerous churches…  That is a warning sign, after all!  (Copyright image, 2018.) 

Courses

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Please be aware that this website is registered with the United States Copyright Office and that punitive legal action for damages may be taken against anyone who breaches our copyright. This, however, does not stop you from posting links to any of our pages, and you are welcome to do so.

Safe Driving Courses for People from Other Countries Working in the USA

At Advanced Drivers of North America, we specialize in courses for employees from other countries who are now working in the USA.

Photograph of a moving block / platoon of heavy traffic moving at 35-40mph.
People from other countries often envision this as typical of driving in the USA but that’s not usually the case. (Copyright image, 2018.)

Indeed, some of our instructors, over the years, are immigrants from Europe themselves and we have particular expertise in working with people from drive-on-the-left countries.

Something that has to be remembered about North America, in this context, is that it is vast, with over 4.1 million miles of road – including more than 1.2 million miles that are unpaved ‘gravel roads’ – so those people who drive widely can expect to encounter extremely varied conditions.

One of the things that confuses visitors from overseas when driving in the USA is centre, left-turn-only lanes, and these are also often misused by Americans so they are the scene of a lot of usually minor, damage-only collisions.  They are for use not only by vehicles that are turning left, off a main road but also by vehicles that are turning left from side streets onto a main road.

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Vision Zero Fleet Safety Forum, New York City, 2018 — ADoNA Report

At Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA], we attend important road safety conferences in various countries to help keep ourselves as well-informed as possible regarding the latest research and developments in this complex, rapidly-changing field.

New York City Vision Zero and DCAS logos
New York City very laudably took on the Vision Zero challenge a few years ago and this 2018 event was its fifth annual conference.

Even for the countries with the world’s safest roads, such as long-term, global leaders Sweden and Britain, the Vision Zero goal of having absolutely no deaths each year is a massive challenge, but — as the old saying goes — narrowly missing a difficult target is far better than achieving an easy one.

Lisette Camilo, Commisioner, NYC DCAS
Welcoming remarks from Lisette Camilo, Commissioner, NYC DCAS

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In Massachusetts You are Meant to Wave to Drivers at Crosswalks!

We presume the instruction for pedestrians to ‘wave’ before going over crosswalks in Great Barrington, MA, means they should make eye-contact with the drivers of approaching vehicles.  But will it work?

On each end of the crosswalks in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, is the instruction for pedestrians to 'Stop, Look, and Wave!!
‘Stop, Look & Wave’ is the instruction on crosswalks in Gt Barrington, MA. (Copyright image, 2018.)

Continue reading “In Massachusetts You are Meant to Wave to Drivers at Crosswalks!”

A Day of Driver Training at the New York State Police Driving Academy

Fellowship is a very appropriate word for the friendship and allegiance between serving and retired police officers, in most parts of the world.

Since I officially moved to the USA, just over 15 years ago, I have had the great good fortune to acquire some excellent friends in American law enforcement.

Some years ago, through one by the name of Steve Kring, I spent a wonderful day on the police shooting range, in Boston, MA, where those who did not previously know it were taken aback to learn that the vast majority of British police officers at that time, like myself, were never armed at all, and that before that particular day I had never even held a handgun in my life.  Such are the differences (and each approach was, of course, correct for its own country).

Signs for the New York State Police Driver Training Academy
New York State Police Driver Training Academy.  (Copyright image.)

Another massive difference in the job between the two countries lies in the type and duration of police driver training, the latter part of which — specifically defensive and advanced driver training for corporations — is now my professional field.  So it was with great delight that I accompanied my good friend, retired T/Sergeant and EVOC instructor Tom Winterstein, to spend an October day at the New York State Police driver training facility, located on a former airfield.

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It is ‘Move Over OR Slow Down’ for Static Emergency Vehicles

On October 22, 2018, New York State Department of Transportation [#NYSDOT],  in a Facebook post, became yet another major body to publish a description of the ‘Move Over Law’ that can be seen as being too confusing.

Photo of a driver failing to move over, away from workers, even though it would have been easy to do so
A driver failing to move over, away from workers, even though it would have been easy to do so.  (Copyright photograph.)

Continue reading “It is ‘Move Over OR Slow Down’ for Static Emergency Vehicles”

USA Commercial Trucking & SUV Fatalities Up Significantly

Despite the fact that data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Oct. 3 indicates highway fatalities declined overall in 2017 after two consecutive years of large increases, the agency added that highway fatalities in 2017 jumped significantly in the sport utility vehicle or SUV category and commercial trucking sector. Fatalities among SUV occupants climbed 3 percent, and deaths in crashes involving tractor-trailers jumped 5.8 percent.

Photo looking down on a fast-moving semi-tractor-trailer.
Semi-tractor-trailer.  Copyright image.

Clearly, the reduction in overall deaths is very much to be welcomed, however it still needs to be viewed relative to the USA, in the long-term, still being the poorest-performing of 30 developed nations.

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See the AASHTO article about the NHTSA figures.