Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about people taking the art of smartphone self-portraiture to completely new and awkward places. Selfies at funerals, the 9/11 Memorial, or Auschwitz? Yikes. Apparently, no setting is too private or sacred to serve as the background for a cheesy self portrait. And now people are even taking driving selfies and sharing them on Instagram and Twitter.
It may not be in the best taste to ham for the camera when you’re standing in front of a casket or the site of a devastating loss of human lives. But posing for a selfie when you’re operating a 2000-pound steel vehicle isn’t just potentially tasteless—it’s dangerous.
AAA Mid-Atlantic published a news release last month to warn of the dangers of taking pictures or making videos while driving. John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs, said:
The number one activity that should be occurring while you are behind the wheel is driving. Hundreds of thousands of people are injured each year as a result of distracted driving and these injuries and deaths are entirely preventable. Put the camera down and wait until you arrive at a safe destination. Don’t let that driving selfie or video be the last photo you ever take.
It can feel like no big deal to whip out the camera for just a second, but it actually is a big deal. And it’s not worth it. Let’s take a look at the numbers to see just how dangerous driving selfies or taking any photos while driving can be. If you take a 2-second photo while driving at 60 mph, your car will travel almost 2 times the length of a basketball course while your attention is off the road. In the time it takes you to shoot just a 6-second video, your car would travel 1.5 times the length of a football field.
So, if you happen to catch a glimpse of your reflection while you’re driving and decide you want to document your perfect hair day to share with the world, wait until you’ve arrived at your destination. Until then, it’s best to toss your phone in the backseat and just focus on the drive.
And if you’ve just finished your driving lessons and passed your driving test, it’s understandable that you’d want to show off to your friends with a celebratory driving selfie. But instead of risking your new drivers license and your safety by pulling out your phone while you’re on the road, just snap a photo while you’re still parked in the driveway with the engine off.
Don’t let a mistake behind the wheel ruin your holiday. Follow these important tips for safe Thanksgiving driving.
Check Road Conditions
There’s some nasty weather brewing on the East Coast! Before you leave, check traffic and weather conditions so you can prepare for wind, rain, snow, sleet, or whatever you might encounter on your way.
Check the Distractions
Don’t forget to put the devices away. If you’re using your smartphone for directions, then set it up before you start the engine, or ask a passenger to use their phone and take over the navigating duties.
If you’re traveling with kids, make sure they’re all properly strapped in and occupied before you start your trip so you won’t get distracted by any backseat emergencies.
No Drunk Driving
Make sure your group decides on a designated driver. If you’re the only driver and you intend to have a few drinks, make sure to stop early enough so you can sober up before you get in the car. If all else fails, ask your gracious hosts if you can crash on the couch.
No Drowsy Driving
Get plenty of sleep before your trip so you’ll be ready for a full day of driving. Chugging coffee, blasting the stereo, and cranking up the A/C don’t always work. So, if you start to feel sleepy while you’re driving, pull over to the side of the road to rest, or switch off with someone else.
Even if you do catch a full night’s sleep, you still might feel like sawing logs after you’ve carved the turkey. If you do fall into a food coma after eating, wait until it’s passed before you get in the car.
If you’re find yourself running late, you may be tempted to put the pedal to the metal to transport yourself toward that roast turkey a little faster. But remember that 43 million other people are going to be out on Thanksgiving driving. Speeding isn’t a good idea when the roads are congested and weather is bad (or even when they’re not). You don’t want to end up spending your holiday in the ICU or taking a traffic school course for a speeding ticket.
I’m definitely going to be wearing my elastic waist pants this Thursday. Don’t deny it—many of you will be doing the same. After gobbling up a sumptuous and bountiful meal, you might think that strapping yourself in with a seat belt is a bit uncomfortable.
Well, not to get too graphic or anything, but wearing a seat belt is definitely not as uncomfortable as getting thrown through a windshield. Seat belts save lives. Be sure to wear yours this weekend.
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, everybody!
Texting Behind the Wheel Costs $10,000…or $20
Texting while driving. Everyone knows it’s dangerous, but people do it all the time anyway, even in the 41 states where it’s illegal.
But there’s a price for this risky behavior, depending on the state you live in. In Alaska, the maximum penalty for texting and driving is a whopping $10,000 fine and a year in jail. At the bottom of the list is California with an embarrassingly small $20 fine, barely even a slap on the wrist. Take a look at this map from Mother Jones to see what the fine is in your state.
A 2012 NHTSA survey found that 94% of drivers think texting and driving should be illegal, and 74% think using the phone at all while driving should be banned. What do these drivers think should be the penalty for talking on the phone while driving? On average, they suggested around $200.
Maximum Fines for Texting & Driving in the U.S.
|Highest Fines||Lowest Fines|
Source: Mother Jones
So would the threat of a $10,000 penalty for texting and driving be enough to keep drivers from doing it? What about $750? Would $200 still be expensive enough to deter distracted drivers? If the cost of these tickets seems high, think about the cost of a person’s life.
If you haven’t already seen Werner Herzog’s “From One Second To The Next” you should. (Two million other people already have.) Made for AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, the short PSA documents four different stories of how lives were destroyed by distracted driving.
There’s been a lot of media focus on the dangers and costs of texting and driving lately. But it’s important not to forget what we all learned in Drivers Education 101: distracted driving of any kind is dangerous and just not worth it. Whether you’re zoning out, eating a snack, putting on makeup, shaving, reading something, or having an argument while driving, the best thing to do is just pull over.
Did you know that it’s National Teen Driver Safety Week? At DriversEd.com, basically every single week is devoted to teen driver safety. So naturally we couldn’t miss this opportunity to talk about helping teens be safer drivers.
Trends in Teen Driver Safety
Let’s begin with facts and figures. Check out the infographic below to see some trends from 2008 to 2011.
On the whole, there’s reason to rejoice: many risky behaviors are on the decline, and fewer teen drivers and passengers were killed in automobile crashes.
But the numbers also point to areas that still need major improvement:
- 58% of teen drivers killed in collisions weren’t wearing seat belts
- 52% were speeding
- 33% of teens admitted to texting or emailing while driving
Talking to Teens about Safe Driving
Parents, you can play a huge role in your teen’s safety behind the wheel. Make sure your teen is educated on how to be safe, responsible driver. Most states require some form of drivers education and in-car training, and for good reason.
Also think about whether you’re demonstrating good driving behavior when you’re in the driver’s seat. Setting a good—or bad—example can be more influential than you might think.
Most importantly, take the time to talk to your teen about safe driving behavior. National Teen Driver Safety Week might almost over, but it’s never too late to start the conversation about risky driving behavior. These 5 to Drive topics from the NHTSA are a good place to begin.
- No cell phones behind the wheel.
- No extra passengers.
- No speeding.
- No alcohol.
- No driving or riding without a seat belt.
It’s deer season, and drivers should take extra care to avoid hitting animals in the road from now through January. The number of collisions with deer is especially high during this period (and the worst in November) because it’s the season for deer breeding and migration.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, collisions with deer are most frequent in West Virginia, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. These crashes tend to happen in rural areas, but drivers everywhere across the U.S. should be careful. Deer species are found in all 50 states, so a collision could happen anywhere (even though the chances in Hawaii are incredibly slim!).
Vehicle-animal collisions kill about 200 people and cost about $1.1 billion in property damage every year. You don’t want to wreck your car, and you certainly don’t want to injure yourself. So make sure you are prepared to avoid a collision with deer and other animals in the road.
Tips on Avoiding Collisions with Deer
- Look for animal crossing signs. Be extra careful in areas with these warning signs. Use your high beams so you can spot animals in the road from a greater distance
- Drive slower at night. You should always respect the speed limit, but it’s especially important to do so after dark. Driving at a slower speed gives you more time to react to animals or other road hazards.
- Deer travel in groups. If you see one deer, others are probably lurking nearby. Don’t make the mistake of slowing down for one animal just to accelarate into another down the road.
- Be extra careful at dusk and dawn. Deer are most active during the crepuscular hours, so take special care in the early morning and just after sundown.
- Don’t swerve, don’t slam on the brakes. If you do encounter a deer or any other wildlife in the road, slow down gradually and honk. Swerving could cause you to lose control. Sudden stops or movements could also scare the animal, causing it to run right into your path.
Bicycles and technology have helped reduce the use of cars by 7 percent since 2005, according to KUFH Houston Public Radio. By using smartphone apps that make it easy to identify the availability of public bikes in Houston, young people have been part of a big shift in consumption trends that lean towards a decrease in car usage and more use of bikes and public transportation.
The reduction in car usage is encouraging. And with the addition of more easily accessible bike share programs in cities like Houston, Austin, New York and Washington D.C., more bikers are sharing the roads with cars. Sharing the road with cars can endanger bikers, and so new laws have been instituted in order to ensure safety.
In California, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the ”Three Feet for Safety Act”, which mandates that drivers keep 3 feet away from bikes sharing the road, or the distance that’s safest for everyone on the road (including other cars when there isn’t enough room to give a biker three feet of space). A violation of the law will result in $35 fine, and a crash, or contact with a bike, will result in a $220 fine. Here’s the full bill if you’d like to read the details.
The bill gives more protection to bicyclists, who are vulnerable on roads, especially streets without bike lanes. A three-foot distance may sound like a lot, but it’s really a modest amount of space. To visualize three feet, think of it as approximately a little more than one arm’s length.
While it’s important to follow the law, please be sure that you’re not doing so at the expense of your own safety by driving too closely to the opposite lane.
To stay updated on the evolving laws and to avoid fines, be sure to take a course that will teach you navigate the rules and practical tips for sharing the road to make it safe for everyone: bicyclists, other drivers, and yourself.
On behalf of the California Office of Traffic Safety
October is a month of holiday fun
and safe driving awareness
October is not only a month for tricks and treats, it is also a time to talk to young drivers about behind-the-wheel safety. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Approximately 2,700 teens in the United States aged 16 to 19 were killed and nearly 282,000 were treated and released from emergency departments for injuries sustained in motor-vehicle crashes in 2010. The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) strongly encourages parents and other trusted adults, in conjunction with their young drivers, to participate in National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 20-26.
Following on the heels of that week is Halloween, the deadliest day of the year for child pedestrians. All drivers, not just teens, are encouraged to remain alert and drive cautiously when driving in areas where children may be present on Halloween. Parents who are taking their kids trick-or-treating this Halloween are highly encouraged to place reflective tape on their children’s costumes and bags, talk to their children about walking (not running) on sidewalks whenever possible, and to carry a flashlight to help everyone see and be seen.
To teach teenagers safe driving behaviors, adults are encouraged to spend time driving with their teens and discuss good driving habits during National Teen Driver Safety Week, which provides the perfect opportunity to broach the subject. The following tips can go a long way toward making sure your teen develops and practices safe driving behavior:
- Use positivity, not scare tactics — Positively engaging your teen is an effective way of bringing their attention to these issues without creating an atmosphere in which they feel attacked. Focusing on the deadly impacts of unsafe driving is a popular approach to reach teens, but a long-term foundation can be created by affirming good driving habits. Instead of telling them what not to do, try focusing on what good driving behavior is—wearing a seatbelt, driving focused and undistracted, and driving alert—both substance-free and well-rested.
- Use real-world situations to create an environment for teaching and learning — Letting your teen drive more often while you’re in the car gives you an opportunity to encourage good driving behaviors, such as adequate speed and following distance, as they are happening. It is also important to set a positive example by wearing a seatbelt at all times, driving at a safe speed and eliminating distractions as you drive, whether or not your teen is in the car with you.
- Remember, unsafe driving doesn’t stop at graduation — A lot of the focus on teen drivers falls on high school-aged teens, but out of sight should not mean out of mind. Teens starting college often experience more freedom, less supervision, and easier access to drugs and alcohol. A strong foundation can go a long way, but it is important to continue to educate young drivers by reminding them of responsible driving practices and ensuring that they understand the responsibility that comes with more freedom.
- Use resources, including other kids — Encourage your teen to get involved in-school and peer-to-peer programs such as Start Smart, Right Turn, Teen Smart, Every 15 Minutes, Friday Night Live, Sober Graduation, and Teens in the Driver’s Seat.
For more information about National Teen Driver Safety Week and other tips on keeping your teen safe behind the wheel, visit the California Office of Traffic Safety at www.ots.ca.gov and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at www.nhtsa.gov.
New cars are safer for teen drivers than older cars. Stats show that as a whole, teens don’t necessarily have the best track record for safety on the road, which is why it logically follows that parents give them older cars.
“Buckets” or “whoopties,” as older cars are known among teens, are often the training wheels for younger drivers. While it makes sense that a new driver should have a piece of junk for practice rather than a new car, it’s also more dangerous. According to a pool of respondents in a survey by PEMCO, a third of drivers under the age of 55 drove cars older than 10 years of age when they first began driving. But today’s 10-year-old car may lack electronic stability control and side airbags surrounding the driver’s head that could be helpful in preventing injury in the event of a crash, according to Mainstreet.com.
Parents often give their teen drivers their own old cars or choose smaller, older cars when purchasing a vehicle for their newly licensed teenagers. Approximately a third of teen drivers have two-door or small four-door cars. The problem with smaller cars is that they’re more vulnerable on the road because they have a shorter wheelbase and can be more dangerous in the case of an accident, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute.
In addition to opting for a newer, better-equipped, sizable vehicle, new drivers should also prepare themselves to be better drivers before getting on the road. To prevent accidents, even the safest vehicle needs a good driver behind the wheel to maneuver it.
To make sure you’re prepared to handle your car, check out an in-car driving course before getting on the road. It will help you make sure you’re prepared for anything, whether you’re driving a Honda Civic or a Range Rover.