Motorcyclists Drive Distracted, Too!

Don’t assume that drivers and some pedestrians are the only ones who dangerously use cell phones on the roads.  As you can see, this young rider has his left hand off the handlebars and although this bit can’t be see from the angle of the photograph, it did very much look like he had a cell phone in his hand as he went past.  And that’s not as unusual as you might think.

Photo of a motorcyclist with one hand off the handlebars, apparently holding a cell phone in a viewable position, in that hand.
A young motorcyclist, possibly tired of life, who appeared to have a cell phone in his left hand as he rode past us at speed, on our right hand side. Photo taken from the passenger seat. (Copyright image.)

Save crash-related costs by getting your employees properly trained on how best to protect themselves from other people driving badly (and from their own, potentially unrecognized errors, too).  Get details of our corporate defensive and advanced safe driving courses, then contact us from that page with any questions you might have.

Global NCAP tells Donald Trump to Make ‘America First’ in Pedestrian Protection

In response to President Donald Trump’s claim last week that a so called ‘bowling ball’ test is preventing US automobiles from entering the Japanese market, Global NCAP has written to the US President urging him to make ‘America First’ in pedestrian protection by adopting the same global standard applied by Japan…

Photo of a crash test dummy reading a mock book: Crash Testing for Dummies
Photo: Global NCAP

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Speed… Is it Really a Major Safety Issue or Do the ‘Experts’ Exaggerate?

One of the most inflammatory and divisive topics in road or highway safety is that of speed in relation to safety.

The first question that has to be addressed is what exactly do we mean in this context by the word “speed”?  It is very important not to fall into the trap of thinking it only relates to breaking the posted speed limits, even though that is still a serious issue (see below).

A panned photo of a car travelling at speed on a leafy rural road.
Breaking the posted speed limit often contributes to serious or fatal crashes.  However, if there are problems on the road, then it is easy to do a potentially dangerous speed even within the posted limit. This is called driving at an inappropriate speed for the circumstances, and it is particularly common — and deadly — on rural roads. (Copyright image.)

Continue reading “Speed… Is it Really a Major Safety Issue or Do the ‘Experts’ Exaggerate?”

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)

In the photograph above, the door handles are pulled in, flush with the doors, and the exterior mirrors have been swung inwards towards the windows, to minimize any risk of them being damaged while the vehicle is parked.  As you approach the vehicle with the ‘key’ — a lozenge-shaped, plastic covered object — in your pocket or purse, the exterior mirrors and the door handles move outwards to their correct positions, and the vehicle unlocks (see the next photograph).

Photograph showing the The door handles and exterior mirrors out in position, ready for use.
Ready for use. The door handles and exterior mirrors move out automatically as the driver approaches the vehicle. (Copyright image.)

The first thing that is immediately noticeable when getting the car ready to move off is the absolute silence and zero vibration.  Even though the car is ready to go, there is rather obviously no engine noise at all, and the first time this happens you may find yourself looking for a clue — any clue — that anything is happening.   But simply do the usual essential tasks:  adjust the seat, steering position and mirrors, pop your belt on, select forward or reverse on a steering column stalk control, check all around for safety and signal if appropriate, press gently on the accelerator, and in magic-carpet-style silence, away you go.  (Be aware that the parking brake is a completely hidden function.  It automatically switches itself on when you terminate a journey and just as automatically switches itself off again when you press that accelerator pedal to move off.)

Photograph of the Tesla hood insignia.
The Tesla insignia.

With all electrically-powered vehicles the silence aspect, in itself, can be a safety issue because nobody can hear your car approaching.  As a result, there are times when it is very important to be willing to use the horn (and we teach how to do that not only for the best safety outcome but also with the least likelihood of annoying anyone who is too easily upset by such things).

Photograph of the huge central display which contains everything except the most obvious vehicle controls. Here, the reversing camera view occupies just the top half of the screen.
The central display is huge — this is just the top half — and it contains everything except the most obvious vehicle controls. Here, the reversing camera gives an excellent view, but don’t forget the shoulder checks! (Copyright image.)
The central display screen on the Tesla Model S 85 is huge and here is displaying the GPS map, in night mode.
The GPS map — here in night mode — can occupy either the full display screen or just the top half. (Copyright image)

Apart from the obvious controls, such as steering, footbrake, accelerator, turn signals, gear selector (which offers only the options for Drive and Reverse), the wipers, high & low beam, seat and steering position settings, and the horn, virtually every other control can be found in the central display screen, which in turn is huge and very clear to view.

Like all computer operating systems, these days, adjusting the various settings is simply a case of finding the right key words then following a logical sequence of options — but naturally this must only be done when the car is stopped and in a safe location.  In addition, a surprising array of options may also be linked to your cell phone, if you like an even more personalized touch.  As mentioned at the start of this article, though, these facilities are not what this high-level driving course was about.

It is worth remembering that the car we were using was bought for it to be used by chauffeurs, but it is also driven by its owners who undoubtedly enjoy taking it for a run themselves on occasion.  The chauffeur aspect effectively guarantees that it is by no means a small vehicle, and its width is very noticeable when you are getting ready to drive it for the first time.  This applies to a lot of superb cars and only requires that you get used to the dimensions before driving in tight confines.

Photograph of the sleek-looking headlight unit on the Tesla Model S 85.
Sleek headlight units are common nowadays on a lot of cars, and these on the Tesla Model S 85 are no exception. (Copyright image.)

In gasoline-powered cars, the act of easing off the gas triggers something called engine braking, in which the reduced speed of the engine itself helps to slow down the vehicle.  In true advanced driving, the increase or decrease of pressure on the gas pedal is all known as “acceleration sense,” using the word acceleration in more of a physics and engineering context.  Interestingly, in the Tesla, the act of easing off or completely coming off the accelerator altogether, had a significantly greater engine-braking effect than in any other of the thousands of cars I have driven.  But while this may be disconcerting to someone not expecting such an effect and can result in the car slowing down too vigorously or too soon, it can in fact be used to very good effect for immensely smooth speed control.  I liked it a lot!

Photograph of a Tesla Model S 85, beyond one of the company's recharging'pumps."
Our Tesla receiving an astonishing 25 percent battery charge in just ten minutes — more than enough to complete that day’s lengthy training drive. The charging points look sufficiently different to gasoline pumps to prevent any confusion! (Copyright image.)

The Tesla we were using was over four years old but none-the-less could cover a very useful distance before recharging the batteries became necessary.  On one of the driving days, however, we did get to the point where a “top-up” became the wise choice to get us home, so it was simply a case of stopping at a Tesla recharging station, where a 25 percent boost to power can be had in just ten minutes (see the above photo).

Rear three-quarter view of a Tesla Model S 85 sedan.
Good looking from any angle, the Tesla Model S 85, a very enjoyable car to drive. (Copyright image.)

Other than that, overnight charging is the norm with all electrically-powered cars, and the Tesla is no exception.

All I can say is that I greatly enjoyed this vehicle and hope that I get to spend a lot more time in one in the not-to-distant future, and perhaps the opportunity to do a full safety review.

__________

For more details of our defensive and advanced safe driving courses, click here, and feel free to contact us from that page with any questions.

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!”

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.)

Continue reading “15th Annual Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws – 2018”

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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Just a Few Miles Over the Speed Limit — Is it Dangerous or Acceptable?

Once a person has been driving for a few years, and maybe had no crashes, it’s okay to go a few miles an hour over the posted speed limit, right?  And the police don’t give out tickets if you’re doing just 35 mph in a 30 limit or 45 in a 40 limit, so it’s got to be safe, yeh?

Many people try to justify a bit of extra speed like this with their opinion that it’s safe and of no consequence, or they are frankly just oblivious to it because “everybody else does the same all the time,” but sadly — in fact tragically — these myths are the opposite of the truth.

A major part of the problem lies in the laws of physics — the only laws, so the old joke goes, that nobody can break — so if you don’t like what follows, blame Einstein and Newton and all of their pals.

A key fact is that the faster an object is moving, the harder it is to stop it.  But this is where those rules of physics come in.  A normal, non-scientific person would assume that if something is going twice as fast now as it was say a minute ago, it will be twice as hard to stop it, right?  But it doesn’t work like that.  At twice the speed, an object is much more than twice as hard to stop and as a rough rule-of-thumb a vehicle takes about four times as far to stop under braking if its speed has been doubled.

The other problem involves a driver’s best reaction time.  Straight away, though, here’s another sad fact:  Most drivers don’t concentrate properly on their driving so very few can use their “best” reactions in an emergency.  So whether a person has good, medium or bad reactions, they will take the same time  as they usually do to react in any risky situation that they were not expecting to occur, and if a vehicle is travelling at twice its previous speed it will obviously cover twice the distance while the driver is in the process of reacting, so a lot of extra ground has been lost and there is now that much less time and distance in which to stop before hitting the thing up ahead that has caused the driver to brake.

Most people can do well on an actual test of reaction time.  Someone says something like “press the button each time the light comes on,” and you do.  But the problem is that you know that the light is going to come on and so you are ready, with your finger on the button and muscles tensed.  But real life, and in particular driving, are not like that.  Drivers are typically far too complacent (e.g. “I’ve been driving for thirty years and never had a crash.” Or “I’ve driven this road a thousand times; I know every bump and twist.”)

And virtually all drivers are distracted, too.  Yes, far too many are crazy enough to talk on cell phones — even hands-free phone conversations significantly increase the risk of a serious crash but it’s not possible to enforce this so no law enforcement agencies have tried to do so — and others even text while driving, which is a form of homicidal or suicidal lunacy.  But these aren’t the only issues:  Anybody driving while thinking about anything other than their driving at any moment is a distracted driver; there’s no getting away from that fact, and we ALL do it.  A key difference between unsafe drivers and safer drivers is that the safer ones think only about their driving for a much larger proportion of the time, and that takes effort.  But nobody is a robot.  Nobody can concentrate at the 100 percent level for 100 percent of the time, especially on longer journeys.

So now, back to the few miles an hour over the posted speed limit:  That’s only a few MPH, right; not double the speed?  But lets see the effect.

Here’s a relatively old video showing exactly what can happen when a driver is doing 35mph in a 30mph limit.  The age of the video is irrelevant because the physics of the matter will never change. Even as better braking technology has trimmed some feet off stopping distances over the years, that still has not prevented the same effect happening; it just takes place at slightly different distances.

The next video shows a very different way of looking at the same problem, but as the speeds used are given in kilometres, here’s a conversion list for American and British readers:

  • 65 km/h = 40.6 mph
  • 60 km/h = 37.5 mph
  • 32 km/h = 20 mph
  • . 5 km/h = . 3 mph

 

So just a tiny three miles per hour difference in the initial speeds made a life-threatening 17mph difference in impact speeds.  If that doesn’t convince you, nothing will!

Finally, if you are thinking about swerving as an alternative to braking to try to avoid a crash, please don’t forget that while swerving is sometimes successful on racetracks, where everyone is ultra-alert and all travelling in one direction (although it can still fail spectacularly, too), and it might be great fun to practice skid recovery or evasive swerving on abandoned runways and empty parking lots,  the fact is that on real roads there are often vehicles coming the other way.  Do you want to hit one and die?  Trees and ditches can easily kill you, too.  And then there can be pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists nearby.  Do you want to kill them (and then pretend to the officer that it was somehow an unavoidable “accident” rather than a dangerous choice of your own speed)?

Take a look at the Golden Rule of Safe Driving.

If this article sounds as though I’m preaching at readers or lecturing you, I apologize, but as a retired traffic patrol police officer who has attended too many fatal and serious-injury crashes, and also had to tell too many devastated loved ones that their husband, wife, daddy, mommy, brother, sister, son or daughter is never coming home again, then — believe me — I really hope that you will take the above facts to heart and make sure that neither your own family nor anyone else’s will ever have to hear that news all because you were doing a few miles an hour over the speed limit.

It happens every day without fail!  About 30 out of the average 100-plus highway deaths every single day in the USA involve someone driving over the posted speed limit or at a speed that was inappropriately too fast for the circumstances, even if that was within the limit.

__________

 

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

and:  ADoNA: The Clear Leader in U.S. Driver Safety and Training – a Research Victory

Converting the USA’s preferred ‘VMT’ rate of road deaths to the ‘Billion VKT’ rate used by the rest of the world shows a shockingly poor result for America

In monitoring its road safety standards, the USA prefers to use “deaths per 100 million Vehicle Miles Travelled” [VMT] rate, rather than the measure used by every other country, which is the “deaths per billion vehicle kilometres” [billion VKT] rate.

Does this matter?  Does it make any difference?  The answer is yes, it certainly does, even if only psychologically.  For anyone who does not know much about road safety it means that America’s rate cannot readily be compared with the rates in other countries.  This is a pity because frankly America’s rate of deaths measured against distance travelled has long been, or at least should have long been, a national embarrassment which the powers-that-be apparently do not want the American people to understand, and the tiny numbers that are used to indicate each year’s VMT rate make it look like there’s no problem at all.  But this apparently deliberate keeping people in the dark needs to stop.

Photograph of distracted rider and pedestrain, plus none-use of a crash helmet..
Some dangerous problems are found in many countries: distracted drivers, riders and pedestrians, none-use of seatbelts or crash helmets, etc. (Copyright image.)

So, first of all, let’s get the math out of the way that allows the VMT rate to be converted to the standard, global rate, in order that everyone can understand the situation.

Firstly, one billion kilometres is 621,371,192 miles, so divide that by 100 million and the answer is 6.214,  so whenever you see the VMT rate published, you just multiply it by 6.214 and you will have the internationally-recognized billion kilometre [billion VKT] rate.  Then, and only then, can you truly compare America’s road safety performance with the other ~29 developed nations of the world that along with the USA are members of the OECD*.

If you now look at Latest Multi-National VMT Road Death Rates – USA Makes Least Progress 1990-2015, you will see that not only does the USA lie in an extremely disappointing 18th place out of the 23 applicable countries for the year 2015 (the current latest figures) and has a billion-VKT death rate that is more than double the rate of the leading nations, but also — when the results are measured from the 25 years from 1990-2015, the USA has made dramatically less progress in cutting deaths than any other applicable country on the list.

From the figures, it can be seen that, if the USA could match the current, top billion-VKT results (i.e. Norway), approximately 22,000 lives would have been saved in road crashes in America in 2015 and even more in 2016 and 2017, because the number of deaths is increasing, year-on-year.  [Note:  This is a different result to the lives that could be saved if the U.S. were able to match the leading nations’ per capita rates, but given the way that countries’ rates do vary quite widely when using the various different metrics, this situation is not unusual.]

 

Footnote

*OECD — Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

 

Over 37,000 People were Killed on America’s Roads and Highways in 2016

Figures released by the USDOT on October 6, 2017, show that 37,461 lives were lost on U.S. roads in 2016, an increase of 5.6 percent from calendar year 2015.  This followed an inaccurate estimation earlier this year by the National Safety Council [NSC] that the figure would be approximately 40,200.

In the context of the NSC’s miscalculation, the lower, more recent, and obviously more accurate figure from the USDOT and NHTSA is a relief but the situation is still very bad news.  Apart from the 5.6% increase in fatalities from 2015-2016, the fact is that since 2014 the number of deaths on America’s roads and highways has soared swiftly upwards from 32,744 to 37,461, a two-year increase of 14.4 percent, representing almost 5,000 “extra” deaths in 2016 alone.

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

Continue reading “Over 37,000 People were Killed on America’s Roads and Highways in 2016”