Curb that road rage!


Angry driverLast week, another person was killed in a road rage incident in New Mexico, shot in cold blood. This sad event is notable mainly because the victim was a sweet, innocent four-year old child. According to safemotorist.com statistics, at least 218 people have been murdered in road rage incidents over the last 7 years; another 12 thousand plus have suffered injuries. Two-thirds of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving.

Aggression is often matched by aggression, resulting in escalating tensions: Half of drivers who are on the receiving end of an aggressive behavior, such as horn honking, a rude gesture, or tailgating admit to responding with aggressive behavior themselves. Think twice next time you are tempted to retaliate or escalate because 37% of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm.

Jayleen R. Heft of PropertyCasualty360.com talks about these and other stats in her article, Scary drivers! What you need to know about road rage. In the article, she draws the distinction between aggressive driving and road rage – although the lines often blur:

“Although defining road rage is complicated and varies by jurisdiction, generally, the difference between aggressive driving and road rage is that aggressive driving is a traffic offense while road rage is a criminal offense. Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as occurring when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.”

On the other hand, road rage is generally defined as “an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by a vehicle’s operators or passenger(s) upon another person, when the assault was precipitated by an incident, which occurred on a roadway. Road rage requires willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others.”

If you have a road rage incident on your record, it is “a serious red flag” that will, at minimum, result in higher insurance rates. Not only will it be more difficult and more expensive to obtain coverage, if you have any accidents that result from your road rage, you may have difficulty with any associated claims because road rage is often listed as an exclusion in many auto policies.

Heft’s article offers a laundry list of driving behaviors that would be considered aggressive, such as tailgating, making hand gestures at other drivers, using emergency lanes or shoulders to pass, and unnecessary use of high beams.

Protecting yourself from road rage incidents

Driving experts say that it in addition to safe, courteous driving, it is very important not to escalate a situation or to retaliate in any way. You have no idea who the other driver is, whether they have a weapon, and how far they will take a situation. You can’t control them or their behavior — but you can control your own temper and your own behavior. For some, it may take practice. Heft’s article offers some excellent tips to help you avoid road rage encounters. We’re reprinting an abbreviated version here:

  • Don’t assume other drivers are evil. Sometimes, people make mistakes, or they might be driving more slowly for a reason.
  • Don’t honk your horn insistently. It’s really annoying and increases everyone’s stress level.
  • If someone is tailgating you, don’t aggravate yourself and the other driver by playing cat and mouse with your speed. Move out of the way and let the other driver pass you.
  • Crank some tunes, not the engine. Try listening to music as it can help keep you calm.
  • Leave space to pull around the car in front of you. Leaving some wiggle room can reduce vulnerability if the driver in front of you gets aggressive.
  • Try not to run late. When you’re in a hurry, your patience is short, and you’re much more likely to become aggravated.
  • Avoid cutting other drivers off in traffic.
  • Signal several hundred feet before you change lanes or make a turn.
  • Avoid making any gestures or eye contact with another driver.
  • Be courteous in the use of high-beam headlights.
  • Obey speed limits.
  • Drive in the right or middle lane; pass on the left.
  • Stop at stop signs and red lights; don’t run yellow lights.
  • Don’t block intersections.
  • Report any aggressive driving incidents to the police immediately.

Edmunds.com also offers Top 10 Tips To Prevent Road Rage. Here are a few that we found particularly noteworthy:

Your car is not a therapist. Many of us love and identify with our cars (part of why Edmunds.com launched CarSpace), but sometimes you can take the “car as extension of self” idea too seriously. If your boss or your spouse left you steaming, take care not to use driving as a way to blow off steam. Competitive types (you know who you are) shouldn’t try to prove themselves on heavily traveled thoroughfares — save that enthusiasm for weekend romps on your favorite back roads. No matter how much power you’ve got under the hood, your vehicle is first and foremost a mode of transportation, not a weapon.

Practice kindness. Dr. Leon James, a.k.a. “Dr. Driving” and author of Road Rage and Aggressive Driving, says that remembering simple courtesies, like allowing someone to merge or apologizing when we make a mistake, can go a long way in making the driving experience positive for ourselves and others. His basic motto is the old “do unto others” rule: Treat fellow drivers how you would like to be treated. As additional incentive, reducing your aggressiveness on the road can also keep you out of serious trouble: Several states have created special law enforcement teams to seek out and cite aggressive drivers. Depending on the frequency of offenses, violators may be fined, lose their license temporarily or even face jail time. Often, they are required to take a behavior-modification class as well.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also offers great tips: Road Rage: How to Avoid Aggressive Driving (pdf). One tip we think bears repeating:

Adjust your attitude – – The most important actions you can take to avoid aggressive driving take place inside your head. By changing your approach to driving, you can make every trip more pleasant. Try these ideas for a pleasant change:

Forget winning. For too many motorists, driving becomes a contest. Do you allow the shortest possible time for a trip and then race the clock? If something happens to slow you
down do you get angry? The solution: Allow more time for your trip. You’ll be amazed at how much more relaxed you feel when you have a few extra minutes. So instead of trying to “make good time,” try to “make time good.” Listen to soothing music or a book on tape. Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing. You’ll arrive much calmer, fresher, and in a less stressed-out frame of mind.
Put yourself in the other driver’s shoes. Instead of judging the other driver, try to imagine why he or she is driving that way. Someone speeding and constantly changing lanes may be a volunteer fireman, or a physician rushing to a hospital. Someone who jerks from one lane to another may have a bee in the car or a crying baby. Whatever their reason, it has nothing to do with you. Stay cool and don’t take other drivers’ actions personally.

Yikes – Massachusetts has some really bad drivers


bad driver

File this under “dubious distinctions”: Boston drivers, you are the worst! Your drivers are 157% more likely to get in a crash than the national average – they get in about one accident every three years. In a list of the 200 largest cities, you come in dead last at #200.

Worcester, you aren’t much better – you come in at #199. And no smirking from you, Springfield – you have the 5th worst driving record!

The honors for the city with the nation’s safest drivers goes to Kansas City, where drivers are 24.8% less likely than the average U.S. driver to get in a crash.

The ranking is from Allstate’s annual “America’s Best Driver Report.” You can read a summary of our miserable record at Boston.com’s story: Bostonians crash more than twice as often as the average driver

The only consolation is that despite the number of bad urban drivers in the state, Massachusetts did not make the list of the 10 states with the worst driving records.

Hey, all you bad drivers – here’s some advice from “Uncle Bob”: 70 Rules of Defensive Driving

Drowsy Driving: Scary video shows how quickly it happens


Depositphotos_5342842_xsThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll, 60% of Americans have driven while feeling sleepy and 37% admit to actually having fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year.

The terrifying video below shows three different angles of a crash that happened last October when a Michigan bus driver nodded off for a second while driving – he cut a half mile swath of wreckage. Amazingly, nobody was killed.

A 2014 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found that “…drowsy drivers are involved in an estimated 21% of fatal crashes, up from 16.5% from the previous 2010 study, as most drivers drift out of their lanes or off the road.   Drivers themselves are often crash victims who die in single-car crashes.”

Who’s at risk? According to drowsydriving.org, anyone can fall asleep at the wheel, but surveys show that sleep related crashes are most common in young people, especially men, adults with children and shift workers. Commercial drivers and people with undiagnosed sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and acute insomnia are also at greater risk for fall asleep crashes.

Warning signs of drowsy driving include:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
  • Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
  • Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
  • Feeling restless and irritable

Here are some tips from drowsydriving.org to help prevent drowsy driving

  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Plan to drive long trips with a companion
  • Schedule regular stops, every 100 miles or two hours
  • Avoid alcohol and medications
  • Take a 15 to 20-minute nap. More than 20 minutes can make you groggy for at least five minutes after awakening
  • Consume the equivalent of two cups of coffee; remember, caffeine takes about 30 minutes to enter the blood stream and will not greatly affect those who regularly consume it.

Best times for safe Thanksgiving road travel


If you are planning to hit the road for Thanksgiving, you’ll have plenty of company. Road travel is expected to be very high this year, bolstered by favorable gas prices right now — according to AAA, this week started off with a national average price for a gallon of regular gas of $2.885!

GasBuddy.com is a good source for the best prices — and this year, they conducted a survey on Thanksgiving travel with more than 80,000 people and learned the following:

  • When do we go? 36% say their Thanksgiving travel begins on Thanksgiving Day. 30% said it starts the day before; 18% say they’re hitting the road 2 to 3 days before.
  • What about the return trip home? 25% say they’ll fight the tryptophan malaise and drive home later on Thanksgiving Day; but the majority, 42% say they’ll wait 2 to 3 days and drive home Saturday or Sunday. 22% of us expect to hit the road with a fresh start the next morning.
  • How well prepared are we? 95% of respondents have a smart phone. 52% say they use 2 to 3 travel apps for their Thanksgiving travels; 34% will actively use 4 or more apps.

Google Maps examined the traffic conditions over the last 2 years for 21 cities in the U.S. and translated that data to travel tips for those of you who will be on the road: the best day to travel? That would be Thanksgiving day itself. Google offers tips for days to avoid, the best time to set out, the best times to travel home, and more. See the full list of Google Thanksgiving travel tips here – we’ve excerpted a few infographic-style tips below.
travel-1travel2travel-3

 

Slow down: International TV spots promoting safe driving speeds


It’s interesting to see how some other countries approach the issue of on-the-road safety through public safety announcements (PSAs). It’s not uncommon for spots to be much more graphic or dramatic in content than we would tend to run here in the U.S. We’ve chosen a sampling of PSAs aimed at speeding that are dramatic but not especially graphic. (Alert: they can still be upsetting.)

The first PSA is an experiment from the Victoria Transport Accident Commission that demonstrates the difference that slowing down by only 5 km an hour can make on an impact … that translates to just over 3 miles per hour. How much of a difference could such a small speed reduction possibly make? See for yourself.

The second PSA is a dramatic one from the New Zealand Transport Agency, who says: “No one should pay for a mistake with their life. When we drive, we share the road with others, so the speed we choose to travel at needs to leave room for any potential error.”

“Just Slow Down” is more of a mini-documentary than an ad. It’s from the Winnipeg Police Service. Two young guys tell their experience of surviving a speed-related crash that killed two of their friends. Terribly sad because it is true.

Northern Ireland has a very strong spot that has been under a great deal of protest and controversy. The controversy has caused the spot to go viral on the web. We’ve chosen not to embed it here, but you can read about why it’s creating such a strong reaction and see the spot here: People Are Pretty Angry About This Out-of-Control Safe-Driving Ad From Northern Ireland Too real, or not real enough?