Tag Archives: Road Safety

Teen Drivers: Put. The. Phone. Down.

I first got interested in distracted driving one sunny morning when my bored children started counting the number of drivers texting on the New Jersey Turnpike.

They only got to seven or eight, but traffic was light, and it was the New Jersey Turnpike, for crying out loud, so all those texters were going something like 70 miles an hour – unless they were in a hurry.

The risks these drivers were taking shocked me, but I’m behind the times. Two-thirds of Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports National Research Center had seen a driver texting within the past 30 days.

Teen-agers, glued to their media as they seem to be, are an even greater risk. In the survey, younger drivers were less likely to see texting or talking on cellphones while behind the wheel as a danger. Sixty-three percent acknowledged talking on a cellphone while driving, while 30 percent said they had texted.

So, as the Washington Post reports, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Consumer Reports have teamed up to get teen drivers to put their phones down.

Consumers Union has devoted a chunk of its famous April car-buying issue to the distracted-motorist phenomenon, including product reviews of devices meant to address the problem.

The government’s web site devoted to the overall problem, distraction.gov, features videos of young drivers dead because of distracted driving, including this one about the brother of Loren Vaillancourt, Miss South Dakota:

The web site also has a brochure (pdf) directed at parents and educators. Its tips include: Talk to your teen, set ground rules, sign a pledge, educate yourself and spread the word.

But the first tip is: Set a good example – something I hope my kids can see next time we’re on the Turnpike.

I.I.I. has more information on the problem here.

Distracted Driving Summit

The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced the schedule for its two-day distracted driving summit that takes place Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Panelists will discuss a range of issues including: the extent of driver distraction; research results on the nature of the distracted driver problem; how technology is both contributing to and can prevent the consequences of distraction; proposed legislative and regulatory approaches to address distracted driving; and initiatives to increase public awareness of safety issues. Participants include Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. One of the issues to be discussed is how proposed federal legislation would address cell phone use by bus and truck drivers. According to an article in today’s New York Times by Matt Richtel, the trucking industry says on-board computers that hundreds of thousands of truckers on U.S. roads use for directions and to stay in contact with dispatchers can be used safely and are less distracting than Blackberrys and iPhones, and truckers should be exempt from laws prohibiting texting while driving. However, research by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute cited in the article found that those truckers who use on-board computers faced a 10 times greater risk of crashing, nearly crashing or wandering from their lane than truckers who did not use the devices. Check out I.I.I. information on cell phones and driving.

Distracted Drivers

A recent survey by Nationwide Insurance shows that driving while distracted (DWD) is quite prevalent among today’s drivers and more dangerous than you might think. As well as talking on a cell phone, the survey found that reading while driving, adjusting music, talking to someone else in the vehicle and eating are also considered dangerous distractions. On the latter distraction, auto insurance agency Insurance.com has just come up with a top 10 list of the most dangerous foods to eat while driving – a level of detail that may surprise hungry drivers. According to its press release here are the top foods to avoid while driving:

  1. Coffee: even with a travel lid, hot coffee can find its way out of the opening when you hit a bump.
  2. Hot soup: many people drink it like coffee and run the same risks.
  3. Tacos: any food that can disassemble itself will leave your car looking like a salad bar.
  4. Chili dogs: huge potential for drips and slops down the front of clothing.
  5. Hamburgers: from the grease to the toppings, it could end up on your hands and the steering wheel.
  6. Ribs and wings: what’s more distracting than licking your fingers?
  7. Fried chicken: more greasy hands. You’ve got to wipe them off while you’re driving.
  8. Jelly donuts: it’s not possible to eat one without watching the center ooze out.
  9. Soda: carbonation, fizz in the nose, lids that leak, disaster.
  10. Chocolate: try to clean melted chocolate off the steering wheel without swerving.

While an amusing read, this focuses attention on a serious problem. Some form of driver inattention was involved in almost 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes, according to a study conducted by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on auto crashes.

Driving Hazards

The importance of road safety at home and abroad is underscored by two new reports. In its first global status report on road safety, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that only 15 percent of countries have the comprehensive laws needed to address five key risk factors: speeding, drink-driving, seatbelt use, child restraints and the use of helmets. Where laws on these risk factors are in place, they are often inadequately enforced, particularly in low-income countries. WHO noted that enacting and enforcing legislation is critical in influencing exposure to the risk of a crash, crash occurrence and injury severity. Road traffic fatalities are predicted to rise to the fifth leading cause of death by 2030, resulting in an estimated 2.4 million fatalities per year, according to WHO. Check out I.I.I. info on U.S. highway safety.


Meanwhile, New York has jumped from third to first ranking to claim the title as the worst city in the U.S. for road rage. According to the fourth annual In the Driver’s Seat Road Rage Survey, commissioned by auto club AutoVantage, New York is joined by Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Atlanta and Minneapolis/St. Paul as the five worst cities for road rage. This year’s survey sought to define road rage and responses pointed to two key attributes: angry drivers, including drivers who overreact and lose their tempers, and aggressive driving, including cutting into lanes, tailgating, speeding and honking. Behaviors by other drivers that cause stress for commuters and can lead to road rage include: drivers who talk on their cell phones (84 percent see this every day); driving too fast (58 percent); tailgating (53 percent); drivers eating or drinking while driving (48 percent); and texting or emailing while driving (37 percent). Check out this I.I.I. video on road rage.