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?

Driving in rain can be tricky: How to avoid hydroplaning


Storm Driving

When there’s snow or ice on the road, drivers are cautious, but rain is such a frequent occurrence that drivers are sometimes over-confident. That’s a mistake that could be costly or even deadly. According to the Federal Highway Administration:

“Most weather-related crashes occur on wet pavement and during rainfall. Each year, 75 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on wet pavement and 47 percent happen during rainfall. Nearly 5,700 people are killed and more than 544,700 people are injured in crashes on wet pavement annually. Every year, over 3,400 people are killed and over 357,300 people are injured in crashes during rainfall.”

Edmunds offers a good refresher on best practice Tips and Techniques for Driving in Rain. But one condition that you should know about and prevent is hydroplaning or aquaplaning. According to SafeMotorist.com:

The term hydroplaning is commonly used to refer to the skidding or sliding of a cars tires across a wet surface. Hydroplaning occurs when a tire encounters more water than it can scatter. Water pressure in the front of the wheel pushes water under the tire, and the tire is then separated from the road surface by a thin film of water and loses traction. The result is loss of steering, braking and power control.

Rubber tires have tread (grooves) that are designed to channel water from beneath the tire. This creates higher friction with the road surface and can help prevent or minimize instances of hydroplaning.

Learn more at Hydroplaning Basics: Why it Occurs and How You Can Avoid it

This video from Defensive Driving offers a great overview of hydroplaning, how to avoid it and what to do if it happens.

Sudden acceleration: what to do if it happens to you


Millions of popular Toyotas are being recalled to fix a sudden acceleration problem. While the scope of this recall is huge, the problem is not necessarily limited to Toyotas. According to Consumer Reports, in an analysis of National Highways Safety Institute complaints for sudden acceleration by auto make through August 2009, Toyotas represented only about 41% of the overall complaints. Obviously, these numbers will change, but the point is that it’s a safety issue and it could happen for any driver. Would you know what to do? Consumer Reports also offers a useful video about how to safely stop your car if it accelerates suddenly:

For additional information, the Los Angeles Times offers a good article with more information on the Toyota Recall Q&A and what to do if you car suddenly accelerates.

It’s Tire Safety Week: take the 25 cent safety challenge


June 7-13 is Tire Safety Month, an event organized by the Rubber Manufacturers Association to promote safety and to raise awareness about proper maintenance and care. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 600 deaths and 33,000 injuries per year are due to under inflated tires. And in addition to being a safety hazard, tires that are improperly inflated also lower a car’s fuel efficiency. Consumer Reports offers tips on tire maintenance.
Conventional wisdom has been to use a penny to measure tire tread for safety, but Consumer Reports notes that based on driving performance in a battery of tests, using a quarter would be a safer gauge:

“It has long been the standard that tires are worn out when their tread depth reaches 1/16 inch (or 2/32 inch as found on standardized tread-depth gauges). The easiest way to measure this, if you didn’t have a gauge, was to hold a penny upside down in the tread. If the top of Lincoln’s head was visible, you needed new tires. See test results of foul weather comprises with worn-out tires.
But CR’s tests show that using a penny is too stingy and that most consumers should consider replacing their tires when the tread reaches 1/8 inch.”

Experts at the Tire Rack, an independent tire tester, suggest that measuring tire tread via the quarter method can improve braking distances up to 24 percent. See a quick tutorial for using coins to measure tire depth.
In addition to maintaining good tire pressure and tread, the age of your tires can be a safety factor – rubber breaks down over time. Many safety experts suggest replacing tires that are more than 5 years old to avoid the potential for a blowout or tread separation.

The most dangerous times to drive


If you are risk averse, avoid driving on Saturdays in August. According to a recent article in Forbes, those are the most dangerous times to drive. The article is accompanied by a short slide show filled with interesting accident and fatality statistics.

But as Mark Twain was fond of saying, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” In reader comments about the article, several people point out that it is not the sheer number of fatalities that is significant but the relative risk. If numbers alone were significant, then motorcycles would be the safest means of transportation since the sheer number of fatalities is low in comparison to autos. As the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety notes: “Risk is characterized by the bad outcomes for a given level of exposure.” To determine the risk, it would be more significant to determine the fatality rate in relation to the number of cars on the road at a given time or in relation to the number of miles driven.

That being said, the Forbes article sheds light on an important topic and notes one indisputable and sobering fact: auto accidents kill upwards of 40,000 people each year or about 110 per day, far too many by any yardstick one might care to use. And most accidents and related injuries are attributable to human error: distractions, speeding, drunk driving, failure to use a seat belt, driving too fast for the weather conditions, and failure to keep a safe stopping distance from other vehicles. John Tesh has collected some interesting data points on relative driving risks from Traffic Stats analysis:

  • A cautious 82-year-old woman is more likely to die in a car crash than a risk-taking 16 year old boy. Why? Because the 82 year old is more fragile
  • The second most likely group to die in a car accident, after little old ladies, young male drivers between the ages of 16 and 23. Their fatality rate is 4 times higher than average
  • Drivers in New England are the safest. They get in the fewest crashes of any region
  • The safest passenger in the car? A baby or toddler secured in a car seat during morning rush hour traffic
  • The safest vehicle is a school bus
  • The most dangerous vehicle is a motorcycle
  • The safest driving day is Wednesday. There are the fewest crashes and fatalities
  • Saturdays are the deadliest days on the road
  • The safest driving month: February
  • The deadliest month: October
  • And the drivers with the lowest risk of death are adults between 40 and 50 years old