International Road Safety Annual Report 2018 – The USA Does Very Badly Again

In the latest edition of what is undoubtedly the most comprehensive international summary of global road safety each year, the mission statement for the USA is:  ‘Dedicated to achieving the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle safety and reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes.’  However, as the following figures and references will show, this stated goal may be true regarding the intent but actual U.S. outcomes over recent decades have been a very long way indeed from any “highest standards of excellence.”

Photograph of the scene of a fatal road crash in the USA.
A fatal road traffic crash (not “accident”) which I encountered by chance during my frequent travel to conduct safe / defensive / advanced driving courses throughout the USA. (Copyright image, 2012.)

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Runaway Vehicle Fatalities Such as the Death of Actor Anton Yelchin are Frequently and Easily Avoidable

A law suit was settled last week in death of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin, who was crushed when his own SUV rolled on a slope and pinned him against the mailbox he was checking.

Sadly, however, deaths like this where a vehicle rolls away despite having ostensibly been left in ‘Park’ are all too common and actually have a  lot to do with the endemic incompetence of the majority of people who write state drivers manuals throughout the USA and yet have little-to-zero expertise in the subject of best-practise safe driving.

Photograph of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin
Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin at The Voice Awards, 2011. (Photograph: Wikimedia Commons)

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Driving Dangers on Big Bridges

On sunny days, or at dawn & sunset, big road bridges can often look very attractive, but when the weather takes a turn for the worse, they can create significant dangers for the unwary driver.

News has just been published today that a truck driver has been killed after high winds apparently pushed his vehicle through the safety fence on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  Tragically the driver lost his life.

This is particularly saddening for me as I went over that bridge, in mildly bad but contrarily beautiful weather, just a few weeks ago while instructing on an advanced driving course in Maryland and Delaware.

Thin fog as we drove eastwards across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
The relatively thin morning fog that we met when driving eastwards over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was misleading. It had been much thicker and potentially more dangerous only a few minutes earlier. (Copyright image.)

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Semi-autonomous Cars — An Advanced Driving Course for Chauffeurs in their Employer’s Tesla

Given that at Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA] we teach defensive and advanced driving, the use of assistance features which reduce the tasks and sadly also the concentration of drivers is not a key area for us.  (How new safety technology might actually be making our driving worse.)

That aspect, however, is not the theme of this write-up.  Instead, I will focus on the Tesla being driven normally, with the minimum of automated features and with maximum smoothness for the chauffeur context plus, of course, maximum regard for driving safely

A Tesla S that we used on an ADoNA advanced driving "safety and smoothness" course for chauffeurs, looking good in a color that's close to the famed "British Racing Green."
The Tesla Model S 85 used on an advanced driving “safety and smoothness” course for chauffeurs, looking good in a color that’s close to the famed “British Racing Green”. (Copyright image)

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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.

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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.

 

Defensive Driving Course for Chauffeurs in Las Vegas

Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA] safe driving courses for chauffeurs are designed not only to maximize the safety of these specialist drivers, for the obvious benefit of  their employers or clients, but also to significantly enhance smoothness and finesse (to an extent that always surprises and delights the chauffeurs concerned).

Photograph of traffic on Interstate 515 near Las Vegas.
There is much that can inevitably be taught about the safest, smoothest driving on busy highways. (Copyright image.)

At ADoNA, we work with corporate drivers and chauffeurs throughout the USA, Canada and related islands.
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Using Headlights in Bad Weather — Listen to the Truck Drivers!

Despite many years of advice and even laws to change the situation, many people apparently still don’t get it that headlights are not just to help them see where they are going!

Photo showing the serious lack of view in a truck's mirrors during rain.
The lack of view in a truck’s mirrors during rain. Photo courtesy of Ryan Douglas Dorius

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Nine Danger Signs Concerning Parked Vehicles — Do You Know Them ALL?

Every time you drive past one or more parked vehicles there are nine common safety indicators that should be monitored so that you never end up being involved in a distressing collision that could easily have been avoided.  The worst of these involve children being run over.

Photograph of a person putting something in the trunk / boot of a car, at the roadside.
To be safe drivers, people certainly need to know all of the nine dangers signs to look for when passing parked vehicles — just one of the many comprehensive safety skills taught by Advanced Drivers of North America, Inc. — Copyright image.

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An Insight into the Vital Subject of Good Observations when Driving

The latest “THINK!” advert gives a small but important insight into the proper use of observations when driving.

Far too many drivers simply gaze ahead of their vehicle while driving  without actually noticing everything they should and being alert to all the things that potentially could go wrong.  Worse than that, many drivers literally do just gaze at the back of the vehicle they are following, reliant on the brake lights of that lead vehicle to trigger a response in themselves.  But either way, drivers who do these things are throwing away a lot of safety.

Photograph of an urban road with multiple dangers such as pedestrians, cyclists, static cars with their doors open, etc.
The speed limit sign is not the only thing that needs to be seen when you are driving! This image is from the “THINK!” campaign in Britain but applies in every country.

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