Calling All Cyclists, It’s Not Just Drivers Who Get Distracted!

To coincide with this year’s Tour de France cycle race, the THINK! Road Safety team have issued a timely reminder that it’s not just drivers who get distracted and cause crashes, people on bicycles do, too!

From the THINK! Road Safety team.

As a footnote:  Congratulations to British rider Chris Froome for his fourth overall TdF  victory today, and his third win in succession.

What the U.S. CDC Says about Road and Highway Crash Deaths in America

In July 2016 — with a very welcome degree of frankness and honesty that I have not seen from other top-level road safety bodies in the USA — the Center for Disease Control [CDC] wrote: “…more than 32,000 people are killed and 2 million are injured each year from motor vehicle crashes. In 2013, the US crash death rate was more than twice the average of other high-income countries… Motor vehicle crash deaths in the US are still too high.  There were more than 32,000 crash deaths in the US in 2013…” [Source]

However, since the figure of 32,719 deaths for 2013 became known, the number of road deaths has catapulted upwards and the National Safety Council [NSC] now estimates that 40,200 people were killed on America’s roads in 2016, which will represent a frankly catastrophic, 23 percent increase in just three years.

Despite the CDC’s refreshing frankness, however, there was still one aspect of their associated document which, from any layman reader’s perspective, would appear to significantly play-down the scale of the situation, and this is implied in the graphic shown below.

It is misleading that this graphic shows the ‘per capita’ road death rates for just ten ‘high-income’ countries when in fact in 2013 the USA was in 30th position out of the 32 OECD nations that were listed in that year’s data in the 2015 IRTAD report.

To be fair, the two other illustrations on the same page did carry explanatory notes regarding the overall numbers of countries to which they referred, which is infinitely preferable.  See page 3 of the July 2016 edition of VitalSigns.

It can also be said that while the CDC statement about “the US crash death rate [being] more than twice the average of other high-income countries,” it can be argued that it is even more valid and revealing to state that the USA rate of road deaths is more than four-times worse than the per-capita rates in the leading nations, and three-times worse in the per-vehicles rate, and that if the USA made itself able to match those leading nations, between 20,000 and 25,000 American lives would be saved, each and every year.

The other topic that needs to be mentioned while we are on this subject is that while the USA is justifiably focusing on the biggest known causes of road deaths, it appears to be stunningly intransigent regarding other significant factors.  It can be argued that this is logical and that the specific things which cause most deaths — such as excessive speed, drunk driving, and failing to wear seat belts — should be the priority.  This may well be true insofar as the priority aspect, but given just how far the USA lags behind so many other countries and the fact that America’s situation is currently worsening dramatically by the year, it must now be time to widen the remit regarding which international best-practices should be emulated, over and above the five biggest killers — a currently rather narrow focus which clearly is not working anywhere near well-enough.





NTSB Safety Compass has not Published my Reply to their “Best Days of Their Lives” Blog, but it’s Important

One week ago, on July 10, 2017, the National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB] published their periodic “Safety Compass” blog.  The post in question was called “Best Days of Their Lives” and is very good, in relation to the safety of young drivers.

Photograph of two roadside memorials, on opposite sides of a rural road, and from two separate crashes.
Not one but two memorials for young people, from two separate crashes on either side of the road at this location in Illinois. Photo: Copyright 2012.

Excerpt: “… [This is] the beginning of the ‘100 Deadliest Days’—the driving season in which crashes involving teens ages 16 to 19 years old increase significantly. Youth drivers are getting behind the wheel with cellphones in hand or drowsy from long, summer nights.

“Our Most Wanted List strives to end alcohol and other drug impairment, distraction, and fatigue‑related accidents, and calls for stronger occupant protection; during the 100 Deadliest Days, young drivers are often faced with many of the challenges included on the Most Wanted List, which makes the collaboration between the NTSB and youth‑serving organizations so vital…”

These are, of course, extremely valid and important points but given how astonishingly far the USA is behind the road safety performance of virtually every other developed nation in the world, I would respectfully suggest that even more needs to be done, so that areas where America is very clearly a long way behind international standards and best practices may be swiftly improved and so that U.S. road deaths — which are currently increasing at an unprecedented and terrible rate — may be turned around and significantly reduced.

This is my reply that, for whatever reason, did not make it through ‘moderation’ and onto the NTSB blog page:

“Very valuable, but in addition it really is high time that all state drivers manuals in the USA were brought fully up to date with global best practices so that young drivers no longer have their heads filled with archaic, inaccurate or even dangerous ‘advice’. It is now over ten years since the paper “State Drivers Manuals Can Kill Your Kids”  was published by the SAE at their 2007 World Congress, in Detroit (and won an ‘excellence’ award from audience feedback) but precious little has changed in that time.”


Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America

Comparing the Evil 9/11 Attack to U.S. Road Safety is Awful

Some people think it is wrong to make the following comparison so I will apologize now to anyone who is offended, but the ongoing situation is so pointless and so crucial to the well-being of Americans that I hope you will forgive me for doing so:

Photo of the Freedom Tower, a symbol of defiance and a great nation. (Photo by Phil Dolby / Wikicommons license)
A symbol of defiance and a great nation. (Photo by Phil Dolby / Wikicommons license)


“September 11, 2017, will be the 16th anniversary of the evil attacks on four planes, the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon, but did you know that for every single person killed on that truly awful day, over 200 people have since been killed on America’s roads?  Yes, a total of almost two-thirds of a million people slaughtered in U.S. highway crashes, plus around 40 million injured, in just 16 years.  And almost all Americans, including supposedly responsible politicians, completely ignore this hideous and  unnecessary travesty because what?”  Eddie Wren, Advanced Drivers of North America, Inc. — July 13, 2017.


Also see: Ranking Countries for Road Safety – the ‘Per Capita’ Rate, 2015  (2015 being the latest figures available as at July 2017.  Figures for 2016 should become available within weeks.)

A 10-second Video Clip that Contains Many Important Lessons in Safe Driving

The video clip on this page is now several years old but for our purposes that doesn’t matter at all.  It was taken by a red light camera and if I remember correctly it is from Ohio.  It is noteworthy, though, because it highlights several important points about road & traffic safety, and surprisingly, one the most important of these is how to steer in the safest way possible — a strange claim given that viewers can’t even see the drivers, but all will be revealed! 🙂

Let’s deal with the various topics in the order they occur in the video:

Stop AT the ‘Stop Line’, Not After It

Right from the start of the video clip, the station wagon / estate car that is in the picture is static, presumably at either a red turn arrow or at a complete red light (the status of the lights cannot be seen).  Either way, however, look precisely where it has stopped:  3-4 feet beyond the ‘stop line’.  This really isn’t good for safety reasons, which is why it’s also illegal!

Stopping after the line commonly causes four types of unacceptable  problem:

  1. The car’s position can cause problems for vehicles coming from the right that are making a left turn into the road where the static vehicle is standing.  It is a nuisance to all drivers making the turn but can be a real problem for the drivers of long vehicles such as semi-tractor-trailers or buses.  And that’s why road engineers locate ‘stop lines’ set back from the ‘mouth’ of the intersection.
  2. A vehicle that stops after the stop line in a left-turn lane, especially if it’s a big vehicle, blocks the view for drivers waiting at the same stop line who wish to go straight ahead when the light changes to green.  It stops them from seeing either first-responders’ vehicles or vehicles that illegally are still coming from the left, even though the lights have changed, just like the Chrysler PT Cruiser in this video does to the SUV that gets hit.  Some drivers don’t even bother checking left and right before setting off when a light goes green but we all should because green light or no green light, it’s dangerous not to! Over 8,000 — yes, eight thousand — Americans are killed each year in the USA alone in collisions where a driver doesn’t stop at a red light or stop sign, or doesn’t yield at a yield sign.  That’s over 20 people killed, on average, from just this one cause every single day, so always look before setting off and now that you know this, please don’t block other people’s view by stopping after the stop line, in any lane!
  3. Worst of all, think now about a vehicle that has gone beyond the ‘stop line’ before stopping, and is blocking other drivers’ views, as in the previous point.  But this time imagine that when the straight-ahead lights turn green OR a vehicle in the right-hand lane does a right-turn-on-red illegally by not stopping,  there are pedestrians crossing the crosswalk from the left-hand side.  Now, somebody is pinned underneath a vehicle, either dead or crippled, and it’s all because an unthinking driver stopped after the ‘stop line’ and blocked other drivers’ views!  Please don’t do it — as in really don’t — and that includes all the police officers I’ve seen do it who should be setting a vastly better example (and should also be giving citations to those drivers who stop after the stop line)!
  4. Last but not least, when they stop significantly beyond the ‘stop line’, many drivers actually block the marked or unmarked crosswalks that exist at virtually every intersection that has traffic lights/signals.  How safe or  intelligent is that?
Cars Coming the Other Way Are Stopping In Time

It is easy to see in the video clip that vehicles coming towards the camera have responded correctly by slowing down and stopping for what is clearly a red traffic light.  Assuming that, as is often the case, the lights in both directions (other than turn arrows) went red at the same time, the PT Cruiser that enters the scene from the bottom of the image would appear to have had plenty of time to stop.  However, as mentioned above, that is an assumption.

Running Red Lights

The horrifying statistics about how many people are killed in the USA each year by drivers who fail to stop at red lights or stop signs, or fail to yield where they should have done so, are shown above.  Remember that on average it is over 20 people every single day.

What can we Learn from this About the Safest Way to Steer?

Stopping a car in an emergency involves reaction time — which is inescapably linked to the distance travelled in that time — and naturally it also involves the time and distance it takes to physically stop the vehicle, by means of the brakes…. the braking distance.

This is relevant to steering in a way that most people never think about.  Part of the time taken to react before braking in an emergency involves taking your foot off the gas pedal, transferring it to the brake pedal, and applying pressure. But — this is where it gets relevant — unless the driver is incompetent and is driving with just one or maybe even no hands on the wheel (it happens) when a crisis occurs, the driver already has both hands on the steering wheel.  This means that no time is lost getting the hands into position before proper steering can commence, and this, in turn, means that it in a frightening situation a driver is both likely and able to start swerving away from the crisis scenario before he can start to brake.

Let’s go back now to the video and play it again… a few times!  What I’m asking you to do is start the video rolling then as soon as the PT Cruiser comes into view from the bottom of the screen, start click ‘pause’, then start clicking ‘play, pause’, ‘play’, ‘pause’,  with the shortest gaps you can manage between play and pause, each time, so that the video goes forward in the briefest possible increments.  What you will see is that before the PT Cruiser hits the SUV, which comes from the right-hand side of the screen, the driver of the PT Cruiser starts to steer to the left.  Indeed, if you are quick enough with that ‘play-pause’ routine, you will find that the driver’s door mirror on the PT Cruiser is visible before the SUV even appears on the screen at all — something that could only happen if the Cruiser was turning to the left.  You will probably need to repeat this exercise by replaying the video at least one more time because now I would like you to watch and see when the brake lights of the PT Cruiser come on.  The answer is that they illuminate after the driver has started steering/swerving to the left — a confirmation of the point I made in the previous paragraph about drivers starting to steer or swerve before they can start to brake.

So why is this relevant?  Simple:

“If we teach drivers to hold the wheel at ‘8 & 4’ so that (quote) ‘when the airbag goes off, your face, hands and arms will be less badly hurt,’ it is actually a nonsense if the first thing a person is likely to do — as indeed they are — is try to swerve away from the danger.  Where on the wheel will their hands be if a driver is swerving?  It is infinitely preferable to teach young drivers to hold the wheel more effectively, at ’10 & 2′, NOT ‘8 & 4’, to help them maintain best control and thereby avoid bad situations altogether.  Then teach them to use a steering method which prevents their arms ever being across the middle of the steering wheel — the method is called ‘pull-push’ and needs to be taught properly, not by someone who simply doesn’t know what they are talking about! This is one good thing we can do to make young drivers safer.”  Eddie Wren, Advanced Drivers of North America, 2010.

SUVs & Pick-Up Trucks are Still More Likely to Roll Over!

The number of rollover crashes in America certainly has decreased since the mandatory installation of Electronic Stability Control [ESC] on all new vehicles since 2012.  However, this doesn’t alter the fact that SUVs and pick-up trucks have a higher center of gravity than do sedans, station wagons or even minivans, and under some circumstances they are still much more likely to roll over.  One of these situations is as shown in the above video, when an SUV or pick-up is T-boned by a lower vehicle and gets rolled as a result.  And there is certainly nothing that ESC can do about that.  If you drive a pick-up or SUV, do be aware that you are still more likely to roll and that rollovers are immensely dangerous.

The Pedestrian Should Not Have Been Crossing!

Viewers who have paid attention to the pedestrian before the collisions happened will have realized that he could not have been crossing the street legally.  Clearly, if green lights had allowed the SUV to proceed, the pedestrian lights would have been showing a red man or “Don’t Walk.”  This does not, of course, give anyone the right to harm the pedestrian and yet some drivers’ attitudes towards Vulnerable Road Users [VRUs] is truly despicable.  Let me put this another way:  Let any driver who has never crossed the road as a pedestrian when a Don’t Walk signal was showing but no vehicles seemed to be coming “cast the first stone!”

The Pedestrian Survived, but Not for the Reason Some Claim!

The fact that the pedestrian survived being hit by a rolling SUV is astonishing, but what was just as incredible — as is the case with so many road crashes — was the wild speculation that followed.  Very quickly after this video was first posted, someone came up with the notion that it was the collision dent (made by the PT Cruiser hitting the SUV) that happened to land directly over the pedestrian and that it then acted like a little cave over the top of him.  Even National Geographic, in a television  documentary series about crashes repeated this fallacy and yet one only has to watch the video closely to see that it is simply not the case.

Use the pause & play buttons quickly and repeatedly as the SUV gets close to the pedestrian and you will see that it is, in fact, the underside of the vehicle that hits the pedestrian and knocks him over.  The vehicle then lands on its wheels, over the top of the man, so even though the suspension will momentarily crush down to its lowest possible contraction, it was the gap underneath the floor of the car that left enough space for the pedestrian not to be crushed to death.

It is wild speculation such as this allegation about the dent left by the first collision that fuels wild rumors and legends about road safety, and this makes getting people to believe genuine facts so much more difficult.

During my traffic patrol police career I tended to socialize with my non-police friends more so that I did with fellow officers and on occasions it was incredibly amusing to have a friend tell me the craziest stories about crashes I had actually attended and investigated (perhaps even that same day).  Some of the exaggerated and inevitably third-party tales I was told were completely unrecognizable when compared to the actual facts of the crashes in question.  (The stories always started with something like: “A mate of mine told me that….”)

Sadly, such myths and rumors create ludicrous but harmful beliefs which can make subsequent road safety campaigns less effective.

I hope this ‘breakdown’ of just one crash scene has given you a little insight into how complex and frankly fascinating crash investigations can be (and believe me, my comments above represent only the very tip of the proverbial iceberg).

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief Instructor — Advanced Drivers of North America


Please note that all of the text on this page is subject to our Disclaimer and Copyright (as is every relevant item on this website) but clearly in this case the video is not.