Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stop before "Right on Red"

What was once called the "California slide" when only California had a "Right on Red" law rapidly expanded beyond state lines. "After a full stop" became a feeble effort at slowing down with a momentary tap on the brakes. "Stop" signs were next. What's not to understand about S-T-O-P? I was taught to stop at any intersection without a sign or light if approaching from a smaller road or a parking lot. Guess they don't teach that anymore.

It has gotten worse. The Washington, DC area has always had aggressive drivers, which I've always attributed to the power seekers it attracts and it's horrible commutes, but nonchalant drivers in our suburban neighborhoods? They obviously feel no guilt when mentally transforming a stop sign into a yield sign but don't they know how ill-mannered and ignorant they look? Did they forget we share the same houses, stores, schools, and workplaces?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The recession's silver lining: fewer traffic fatalities in 2009

The recession's silver lining: fewer traffic fatalities in 2009

Md. numbers are reflected in 9% decline in the U.S.

Highway experts say a decline in deaths occurred last year in large part because the economy cut the number of miles people drove. Other factors include improved vehicle safety devices and campaigns to use seat belts and prevent drunken driving. (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron / March 11, 2010)

U.S. traffic fatalities last year reached the lowest level in 55 years, dropping nearly 9 percent from the previous year and demonstrating that the continuing recession has at least one upside.

"It's a consistent pattern that the silver lining in any recession is a dip - and sometimes a significant dip - in highway deaths," said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, about the federal government report Thursday showing that the number of fatalities in 2009 fell by an estimated 3,298 from 2008, putting last year's preliminary death count at 33,963.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report shows a downward trend that picked up steam as the U.S. economy slid into recession and Americans began driving fewer miles. Until 2008, the number of deaths on the nation's roads routinely surpassed 40,000.

The national drop is reflected in Maryland's preliminary totals. According to Vernon Betkey, chief of the State Highway Administration's safety office, the state's traffic fatality count for 2009 stands at 550, with a few more reports likely. He said the final figure is still expected to show a significant drop from the 591 recorded in 2008 - itself the lowest total in many years.

There are signs the trend could be continuing. As of Thursday morning, this year's preliminary count of Maryland traffic deaths stood at 47, down from 98 at this time last year, Betkey said.

In part, that reflects a decline in driving during February's twin snowstorms, but Betkey also credited state legislative initiatives such as increased drunken-driving penalties, red light cameras and speed cameras.

According to NHTSA, the decline nationally reflects in part a recession-related stagnation in the number of miles driven.

But the figures also indicate that other factors might be at work. For instance, the year's largest decline in fatalities occurred during the fourth quarter, when Americans apparently drove slightly more than in the same period of 2008.

The national rate of traffic deaths per vehicle mile traveled declined from 1.25 per 100 million miles traveled to 1.16 - the lowest level ever recorded. Vehicle miles traveled, which declined in 2008, increased by just 0.2 percent last year as economic activity slowly recovered.

Rader said that in an economic downturn, the first type of vehicle use to drop off is "optional driving," which he said is inherently riskier than routine daily trips.

"People may not be bar-hopping on the weekends," he said.

Sue Baker, a professor at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said the decline is "exactly what I would have expected" in view of the economic downturn.

She said that historically there has been a strong correlation between declines in industrial production and drops in the highway death rate.

Like Rader, she said the highest-risk driving, including cruising by teenagers, is most likely to decline in a recession.

"They may have less opportunity to drive when wallets are empty," she said.

Apart from economic factors, Rader said, the most important factors in cutting the number of fatalities has been the improved crash-worthiness of vehicles on American roads.

"The main thing driving that number in recent years has been safer cars," he said.

An NHTSA spokesman agreed, pointing to such advances as air bags, three-point seat belts, strengthened roofs, side-impact protections and crash-avoidance systems.

Betkey, who in addition to his state role heads the national Governors Highway Safety Association, said some of the credit should go to well-publicized multistate law enforcement efforts such as the "Click It or Ticket" seat belt campaign or the push against drunken driving called "Over the Limit, Under Arrest."

Baker said improvements in road design and advances in trauma medicine could also be playing roles in the decline.

But no factor compares with the economy, she and Rader said.

Rader said that as the recession eases, it's likely that the number of fatalities will increase.

"We just need to be cautious about jumping up and down when we look at the total number of deaths dropping," he said. "It's really not the result of any great traffic safety improvement, but it's more truly a result of our sour economy."

But Betkey said highway safety officials hope to keep the downward momentum going.

"We feel good, but we know we're not done," he said. "We know we still have a bit of work to do. Our ultimate goal is really zero."

Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

For 12 mph over the speed limit? Incredible! Slow down!

Speed cameras snap almost 8,800 drivers -

...Almost 8,800 drivers were given $40 tickets during a six-week period that began Nov. 16, when state officials started photographing vehicles exceeding the speed limit by 12 mph or more...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Slamming the Brakes on Distracted Driving

The research on distracted driving is clear: using a cell phone while driving is both common and dangerous. Legislators across the nation are responding to the overwhelming evidence of the dangers of distracted driving by enacting laws restricting cellphone use while driving.

Virginia’s ban on texting went into effect on July 1. The law calls for a $20 fine for the first offense and $50 for a second offense. Washington DC was a leader in the effort to cut down on cellphone restrictions. The District banned cellphone use behind the wheel in 2004.

A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded that the District’s ban and vigorous enforcement of the law have resulted in fewer people using cellphones while behind the wheel. Research shows 43 percent more drivers would be using cellphones if the law and its enforcement weren’t in place.

President Obama recently added to the area’s road safety measures by banning federal employees from texting when driving a government vehicle. They’re also not allowed to text from their own vehicles if they’re using a government-issued phone or are on government business.

Safety experts believe cellphones significantly add to distracted driving, which results in more than 600,000 crashes annually, 2,600 deaths and more than 300,000 personal injuries. The financial toll across the nation is well over $40 billion per year.

Currently, the attempts to combat texting while driving vary from one state to the next; some states have not yet addressed the topic, while other states have banned the practice entirely. However, this scattered approach may not last long. Legislation pending in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives would encourage all states to adopt laws banning texting while driving, resulting in greater consistency across the country.

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—Press release service and press release distribution provided by Source: Slamming the Brakes on Distracted Driving November 22, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eating while driving causes 80% of all car accidents, study shows

Wait till you get home to eat that drive-thru. A new study shows a staggering 80% of all car accidents and 65% of near misses are caused by distracted drivers more focused on their burgers than the road.
The full article:

Seems high to me unless dropping food on your lap is considered an accident. I'm all for focusing on driving though. I love the comment about removing cup holders along with ashtrays.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Driving while using a cellphone is dangerous enough . . .

. . . check the widget in the sidebar on the right for a list of the most dangerous cellphones, radiationwise.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New world stats widget

When I updated the link in the previous post, I found a new multi-purpose world counter. It is so busy its almost too hard to read. By default, it cycles through the categories in the left sidebar showing yearly statistics. To simplify it and duplicate the earlier post's stats, click "Death" in that left sidebar and "Now" in the top bar.
Yes, it is small. Click here for a bigger one.