It is a sad fact that many drivers who have not had adequate training struggle to reverse without a trailer, let alone with one.
Indeed, many of the corporations for which we instruct experience an unduly high number of collisions when their personnel are backing or reversing a company vehicle — something we can swiftly rectify for you, while making your drivers safer all around.
Once again, however, technology is also coming to the rescue, and here’s a smile-making advertisement for one automaker’s offering:
Sadly the seemingly small numbers listed above are very misleading. By this metric, if America (1.19) could match the per vehicle fatality rate of Norway (in second place at 0.37) an astonishing 22,516 American lives would have been saved in 2015 alone – and a similar number every year – and an vastly larger quantity of injuries would have been avoided or have been less serious.
At the time of posting, 2015 was the most recently available data.
Sadly the seemingly small numbers listed above are very misleading. If America (10.2) could match the per capita fatality rate of the leading country (Norway, at 2.3), an astonishing 25,308 American lives would have been saved in 2015 alone – and a similar number every year – and an vastly larger quantity of injuries would have been avoided or have been less serious.
At the time of posting, 2015 was the most recently available data.
Please note: All photographs here and in other articles on this website are taken from the passenger seat and with telephoto lenses, from much further away than the resulting images appear to show. Safety is never compromised to get a photo.
Sadly, in the USA, matched pairs of high-intensity rear fog lights are not permitted. Indeed, if I ask American drivers about this – which I frequently do – they haven’t even got a clue what rear fog lights are. So let’s get the answer out of the way: Rear fog lights are red, they are very bright and they must only be used (to protect your ‘six’) in bad visibility.
To say that the absence of paired rear fog lights is a pity is an understatement because these things save lives. Admittedly, cars from Europe can be imported to the USA with just one rear fog light fitted – not the two they have when on European roads – but as I will show below, this is inadequate and less safe.
About 15 years ago, at an event in Manhattan, I asked some top-level, European vehicle engineers about this silly situation and was told that paired rear fog lights are not permitted in America “in case people mistake them for brake lights!” This reason would be hilarious if it weren’t so stupid. Pairs of these very bright, additional rear red lights have been used in Europe for 3-4 decades, and not once – not even when I was a traffic patrol police officer investigating crashes – have people ever even implied to me that they confused rear fog lights with brake lights. Once informed, even a child would instantly know the difference between them.
Let’s imagine a scenario: You are driving your sedan or SUV in the half-light of dawn or dusk in very thick fog but its 20 miles to the next exit so you have no choice but to continue, by driving as slowly as the conditions dictate. (Stopping on the shoulder in bad visibility can be even more dangerous than continuing, unless you were to cross right over the shoulder and drive on the grass, as far away from the asphalt as possible.) Coming up behind you, driving too fast for the conditions, let’s say there is a fully loaded 18-wheeler semi-tractor-trailer; the driver is late and he’s in a hurry. What happens next? Do you want him to say “Those lights ahead are very bright. I wonder whether they’re brake lights!” <<joke>> Or instead, do you want him to wonder what he has just rammed from behind because he didn’t see anything until it was too late and he slammed into your car and wrecked it… and perhaps you and your family!
The whole purpose of having rear fog lights (plural) is so that not only can other drivers see your vehicle from behind, from a much greater distance in fog, heavily-falling snow, thick smoke, heavy road spray or even sandstorms, but also – when there are two of the lights and not just one – they permit drivers behind you to gauge the distance between their vehicle and yours quite accurately. A single bright rear light often does not allow the same degree of awareness.
There is an answer to concerns about such bright lights being inappropriately used when there is good visibility and the lights’ brightness becomes a nuisance. It is, of course, called the law – specifically one that prohibits the use of rear fog lights unless atmospheric visibility (as opposed to just night-time darkness) is bad. A similar law should already be in existence to prevent people having their front fog lights on except in the conditions described, but in most if not all states, no such law yet exists. The very low mounting height of front fog lights means they create a serious amount of glare on clear nights, even though they don’t actually dazzle, yet in those conditions they serve no good purpose whatsoever. That, however, is the subject for another article which will be linked here in due course.
So there you have it. High-intensity rear red fog lights have been around for at least one third of a century. They are used in quite possibly all of the countries that have a much better road safety record than the USA. Yet still, somebody in some little office took it upon him/herself to decree “not in America!” That person or committee’s ill-informed decision has very likely cost a lot of Americans their lives or their limbs in thousands of bad-visibility crashes over the years.
How about it, NHTSA? It is time for a re-think (preferably by reference to overseas best practices). It would be so easy to use this inexpensive, additional equipment to make bad weather driving significantly safer.
Oh, and please don’t let Detroit force its penny-pinching refusals on you over topics like this. Contrary to their apparent belief, their profits are emphatically not more important than the lives of the people of this great nation.
I would very much like to stop writing about the repetitive lies told about the USA’s alleged success in cutting road deaths when, in fact, the country does very poorly in this crucial situation compared to the other developed countries of the world. But the lies continue and therefore so will my rebuttals, in order to give the American people a more accurate picture.
Let me make the vital point once more: If you, the government departments and major road safety organizations of the USA, keep peddling false propaganda telling the people of this great nation that ‘we’ are doing well in the fight against highway fatalities, when the US has in reality, long been effectively the worst-performing wealthy country in the world, with a rate of deaths over four-times worse than the leading nations, the public will believe you and say nothing when, in fact, they should be yelling at the Government to stop the unnecessary slaughter!
Some government-level people have made the excuse to me that it is simply mistakes, or ’rounding,’ or ‘simplification’ of the data, but apart from being an egregious understatement this is unacceptable. The facts are regularly being twisted far beyond the context of those words.
Here is just one illustration of how far and wide these very misleading ‘inaccuracies’ are being spread:
On June 18, 2016, David Frum, a “lifelong Conservative [who] campaigned for Ronald Reagan and wrote speeches for George W. Bush,” appeared on the BBC HardTalk television show, around the world, and repeated some of the wildly erroneous propaganda about American road safety.
As part of his argument about banning assault rifles in the USA following the Orlando shooting massacre, he said this:
“One of the great public policy successes across the developed world and in the United States has been the reduction in automobile fatalities. It’s just dramatic what’s happened over the past generation. That isn’t because we did one magic thing that one nefarious industry had been blocking. Seat belts helped, yes. true. So did better cars. So did making it more difficult for 17-year-olds to get drivers’ licences… So did the crackdown on drunk driving.”
But this one short comment is full of gaping holes. Of the ~thirty member-nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] — in other words, the world’s developed countries — the USA has the second-worst death rate and has made by far, by FAR, the least progress of any of the long-term members in reducing road deaths, over at least the last three decades and possibly much longer. Indeed currently, based on year-2015 figures and year-2016 estimated figures, the annual number of road deaths is truly rocketing back up again after the expectable slump caused by the global recession which started around 2008 — and America, rather predictably, is suffering a bigger rate of increase than in any other developed country!
If the USA could match the per capita road-death rate of the world’s two long-term, most reliably-performing road safety countries — Sweden and Britain — almost 30,000 American lives could be saved every yearand a much higher number of people would be spared from serious injury.
Some U.S. professionals are pinning their hopes almost entirely on self-driving cars, but while such autonomous vehicles might eventually take away the embarrassment of the current reprehensible state of road safety standards in the USA, they are not even close to full fruition yet. (But then may come the quietly-ignored problem and dangers of criminals or terrorists hacking those vehicles!)
So when are U.S. politicians and people responsible for road safety going to stop perpetrating or silently accepting the lies and the propaganda about something that has killed more than a million Americans in just the last 25 years?
There have recently been discussions here in the U.S. how to emulate the greater successes and much greater road safety achieved by other countries — most notably the two most consistent, long-term leaders in this field, Sweden and Britain — but I have yet to see anything significant put into action as a result.
There are many good people working in different branches of U.S. highway safety and I hope that you will stand up against the tidal wave of misleading garbage that is poured over the American public. It’s time to tell the accurate truth and let the people of this wonderful nation know so that they can vote for those who will help protect their children and their grandchildren from this massive killer.
Inter alia, I hope that people in the USDOT, NHTSA, FHWA, NTSB, GHSA, State Governments, DMVs & RMVs, NSC, DSAA, ADTSEA and others will take this message to heart and will stand in the way of the liars, propagandists, and exaggerators who are hiding the full extent of this very dangerous, long-term situation from the public, and are thereby letting the American people down.
Have you ever seen a vehicle ahead of you veer sideways because another vehicle started a lane-change or a turn after giving a signal far too late or no signal at all?
Yes, of course. Many of us throughout the U.S. see such incidents every day.
Because of this situation, all motorcyclists and many car drivers are very leery, for good reason, when a signal suddenly starts flashing on a nearby vehicle. They know all too well that the driver may start his lane-change (or a turn) immediately, and bikers in particular may veer away immediately to protect themselves from this danger, but doing so can then endanger the biker! Part of the reason this situation happens so often is that Americans have been taught a crucial driving technique incorrectly…… To put it bluntly, American drivers have been taught yet another example of dangerous garbage! (No, we are not trying to be offensive by using comments like that; we are trying to protect American citizens better!)
All American drivers have invariably been taught to signal then check the mirror, but as the above paragraphs show, this method can, and frequently does, cause at least anger and in many cases danger — whether from collisions or road rage.
If you used “signal — mirror” technique in most other countries you would never even be able to pass the relevant driving test because it is such an inconsiderate and risky practice!
A dramatically safer and more thoughtful method is this:
MIRROR first! Check that it is safe to actually give a signal (i.e. without scaring the bejeezus out of a driver or motorcyclist who is coming up alongside your vehicle, or even a bicyclist on your right if traffic is moving slowly!). This means that the mirror check needs to be done in plenty of time — and more than once, if necessary.
SIGNAL at a suitable distance before the turn or lane-change you wish to make. This distance varies in relation to your speed so if anyone ever tries to tell you to use a physical distance, such as 100 feet, just ignore them (and anyway, do you think that you could accurately point out 100 feet every time? Not many people can, at all). You must not signal for a turn so early that it could cause confusion about you turning into another intersection (etc.) earlier than the one you want. Wherever possible, your signal should flash at least 4-6 times before a turn and definitely at least that many times before you start to make a lane-change! If you are worried about others not letting you in, don’t be — someone eventually will, and all you need do to stop this being a problem is to make lane changes in plenty of time so that a few inconsiderate drivers can’t be a serious problem to you; just let them go by.
The full sequence of actions to stay safe when handling any change of direction (at an intersection or obstruction) or a lane-change is based on “Mirror, Signal, Maneuver” (meaning the turn, lane-change, etc.). There is a second part to this sequence, which breaks down that word “maneuver” into its component actions, but that will follow later in a separate blog post.
Training drivers to have the insight to avoid emergency situations, not the skills to overcome emergency situations
Emergency situations are situations that require immediate action to regain control over the vehicle and/or that require immediate action to avoid a crash. Driver training that aims to enhance the skills to regain control in emergency situations such as skid training, evasive swerving and emergency lane changes has proven not to be effective. Moreover, there is a plenitude of evidence that crisis evasion courses can actually increase crash rates. However, driver training that aims to enhance risk-‐ awareness, self-‐awareness and the acceptance of low levels of risk can reduce the crash rates of young novice drivers. As driving is predominantly a self‐paced task, technically skilful drivers are not necessarily also safe drivers. A not too technically skilful driver (i.e. a driver who has moderate vehicle handling skills) who does not overestimate his or her capabilities and/or does not underestimate the risks, drives safer than a skilful driver who overestimates his or her capabilities and/or underestimates the risks.
The Driver Behaviour, Education, and Training Subcommittee has declared that training programs aimed at enhancing the skills to regain control in emergency situations should not be included in basic driver education or in advanced driver training programs; because, the learned skills in such training programs erode quickly, and such training programs result in more risk taking due to overconfidence. Basic driver education and advanced driver training should be aimed at improving the calibration skills of learner drivers and novice drivers. Well‐calibrated drivers can detect latent hazards in traffic situations, do not underestimate the likelihood that these hazards will cause their adverse effects (i.e. they are aware of the risks), and do not overestimate their own skills (i.e. they are aware of their own limitations).
This research indicates that a driver with a BrAC of 0.05% is twice as likely to crash as a driver with no alcohol in their system, and the risk for a driver with a BrAC of 0.08% — the current legal limit in all states of the USA — is almost exactly four-times higher than with no alcohol.
The unadjusted crash risk estimates for alcohol indicated that drivers with BrACs of .05 grams per 210 liters g/210L are 2.05 times more likely to crash than drivers with no alcohol. For drivers with BrACs of .08 g/210L, the unadjusted crash risk is 3.98 times that of drivers with no alcohol. When adjusted for age and gender,drivers with BrACs of .05 g/210L are 2.07 times more likely to crash than drivers with no alcohol. The adjusted crash risk for drivers at .08 g/210L is 3.93 times that of drivers with no alcohol. [#End]
Importantly, readers should also view the World Medical Association Statement on Alcohol and Road Safety (1992, 2006 & 2016), which states “…it would be desirable to lower the maximum permissible level of blood alcohol to a minimum, but not above 0.5 grams per litre, which is low enough to allow the average driver to retain the ability to assess risk.”
“BrACs” are Breath-Alcohol Concentrations, as opposed to the more commonly seen Blood-Alcohol Concentrations [BACs].
“0.5 grams per litre” is the equivalent of 0.05% BAC.
Twenty-five years ago, in 1992, the World Medical Association — the world’s top doctors — made a recommendation that no country on earth should allow a blood-alcohol limit higher than 0.05 percent. Things started to move early in this new 21st Century and suddenly virtually all of the nations in Europe and many countries elsewhere had dropped their limits from 0.08% (or equivalent) to 0.05%.
Utah has now taken the laudable step of becoming the first state in America to follow suit and introduce this life-saving legislation, but the uninformed are now appearing out of the woodwork, hollering and howling in protest.
I wish you fortitude, Utah. Stick to your excellent principles and save even more lives!
In a post on April 25, 2016, titled “Your Car is a Public Health Tool” on the NTSB Safety Compass blog, NTSB Vice Chairman Dr. T. Bella Dinh-Zarr wrote about the number of road deaths suffered by the USA.
“In the last few decades of the 20th Century, motor vehicle deaths decreased from 50,000 per year to 30,000 deaths per year.”
“With the vision of a future with no motor vehicle crashes, deaths and injuries, it’s important that we continue to improve crash prevention technologies, while also striving for advances in technologies to improve vehicle crashworthiness, especially as it relates to occupant protection.”
I must address point #2 first because frankly it makes a mockery of point #1, quote: “In the last few decades of the 20th Century, motor vehicle deaths decreased from 50,000 per year to 30,000 deaths per year.” But no they didn’t — not even remotely!
U.S. road deaths were still at 41,945 in the year 2000 and remained above 40,000 per year until 2008 (n=37,261, which equates to a staggering, 40 percent error). That is by no means a part of the “last few decades of the 20th Century!” Then, inline with the recession, the number of deaths per year did start to fall dramatically, as road travel also fell due to the financial situation. Interestingly, many official bodies in the US road safety arena at this point started claiming that their respective programs had been tremendously successful and were indubitably responsible for the significantly reduced numbers of deaths. Perhaps nobody had taught these people that recessions cause such reductions in deaths and that when the recession ended the number of deaths could be expected to rise again. And boy, has it ever!
But there is one other point to be made: At no point in this period did the annual road deaths fall as low as the “30,000” claimed in point #2, above. According to ITS/IRTAD, the lowest figure was 32,479 (2011), so this in turn represents an eight percent error. This may seem insignificant but it was a very undesirable exaggeration, it never materialized, and was certainly unscientific!
So now lets go back to the first point above, the CDC claim that “Motor-Vehicle Safety [was] A 20th Century Public Health Achievement,” and the fact that the NTSB has seen fit to promote this claim on its blog. Really, NTSB (and CDC, too)? Both of your organizations must surely be aware that since at least the 1970s the USA has fallen further and further back, behind the much greater road safety improvements made by virtually every other developed nation in the world — greater rates of improvement and in some cases death rates that are now less than one-quarter of the rate in the USA.
To illustrate America’s poor rate of progress, one can turn to the ITS/OECD/IRTAD database 2009 — Long-term Trends, “Road User fatalities” for 1980, 1990, 2000… and .” This shows that in 1980, the USA suffered 51,091 road deaths and in 2007 the number was down to 41,059 a reduction of 19.6 percent. This sounds quite good until one looks at the percentage reductions for the following countries over the same period:
Switzerland . . . . . . . . -68.2%
Germany . . . . . . . . . .. -67.1%
France . . . . . . . . . . . .. -65.8%
Austria . . . . . . . . . . . . -65.5%
Netherlands . . . . . . .. -64.5%
Portugal . . . . . . . . . .. -62.2%
Luxembourg . . . . . . .. -56.1%
Belgium . . . . . . . . . . . -55.5%
Australia . . . . . . . . . .. -50.6%
Great Britain . . . . . . . -50.5%
Slovenia . . . . . . . . . . . -47.5%
Canada . . . . . . . . . . . . -47.0%
Sweden . . . . . . . . . . .. -44.5%
Italy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . -44.3%
Japan . . . . . . . . . . . . . -41.7%
Spain . . . . . . . . . . . . . -41.4%
Denmark . . . . . . . . . . -41.2%
Ireland . . . . . . . . . . . . -41.1%
Iceland . . . . . . . . . . .. -40.0%
Norway . . . . . . . . . . . -35.6%
Finland . . . . . . . . . . . -31.0%
New Zealand . . . . . .. -29.3%
Hungary . . . . . . . . . . -24.4%
United States. . . . . .-19.6%
Poland . . . . . . . . . . . . – 7.0%
Korea . . . . . . . . . . . . . – 4.4%
Czech Republic . . . . . – 3.1%
Greece . . . . . . . . . . . .+14.6%
The countries finishing from 1st to 6th achieved more than three-times the improvement than did the USA, those from 7th to 10th more than 2.5-times more, and those from 11th to 19th did at least twice as well. Does anybody want to elaborate now about how on earth the comparatively poor performance by the USA is in any way the stated “20th Century public health achievement?” Such a claim, for such comparatively poor success, could easily be dismissed as mere propaganda.
Finally, there is no fault with the point #3, above, but it is effectively indisputable that the USA has fallen so far behind the rest of the developed world in this crucial field of road safety because the country has been far, far too introspective and has ignored all of the advances made elsewhere and how they have been achieved. Relying solely on technological advances that may still be a long way off in coming to full fruition is a weak-kneed approach. Many American lives undoubtedly can be saved by the USA immediately opening its eyes to other countries’ far greater success and emulating the methods used, without trying to re-invent the wheel and making a mess of it, as it has done — for example — in relation to America’s recent adoption and best-practice use of modern roundabouts (a failing of the FHWA)!