Car Safety

Driving Safe

With as often as we drive and are around vehicles, auto safety should be a priority. Being on the go makes it easy to forget small things that are so important from buckling belts to watching other drivers and pedestrians.

AIRBAG SAFETY

Air bags save thousands of lives each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In frontal crashes, air bags reduce deaths among drivers by about 30 percent and among passengers by 27 percent.

Air bags, however, can be dangerous. If small children sit unbelted in the front seat, they can be catapulted into the path of a deploying air bag, which inflates with great force. This risk also applies to small adults (who must sit close to the steering wheel in order to reach the pedals), to pregnant women, and to the elderly. Infants in rear-facing safety seats on the passenger side can be severely injured because their heads are in the direct path of an inflating air bag. If your airbag deploys, you must get a new one, but you will be reimbursed under the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy.

Preventing air bag injuries

Drivers should have all children sit in the backseat wearing a safety belt. Infants should be placed in rear-facing car seats and put in the backseat. Small adults should move the seat back so that their breastbone is at least 10 inches from the air bag cover.

If this is not possible, air bag switches can be installed so that the vehicle owner has the option of turning the bag on or off, depending on the situation. In January 1998, NHTSA allowed auto dealers and repair shops to begin installing air bag cut-off switches.

BECOMING A BETTER DRIVER

American drivers are pointing fingers again. A recent survey bears some grim news: the other guy or gal behind the wheel is ruder, more aggressive, and is causing more accidents. A recent survey sponsored by several motorist and insurance organizations discovered that:

Most drivers have recently operated their car, truck, or SUV in a risky manner
Many drivers think that other classes of drivers should have their driving skills regularly tested
The majority of drivers think that their driving habits are fine—everyone else is the problem

It is time to stop pointing fingers. Let’s put our hands back on our steering wheels. Regardless who is at fault, the number and severity of accidents and road tragedies are increasing. The only thing that is under your control is your own driving behavior. While you can’t predict what another driver is going to do, you can make a stronger effort to make the roads and streets safer.

Obey traffic lights, signs, and road markings. All of these are important methods to control traffic and minimize accidents. Just try to figure out how much time you “save” by tailgating, lane changing, and running traffic lights. If you save anything, it’s seconds, not minutes. Also, if you are involved in an accident, you’ve just lost any time ever gained by risky driving. Insurance paperwork and accident reports can claim hours and days of your life. If time is important to you, then take the time to pay attention to the rules of the road.

You will also find it healthier and safer to avoid paranoia. The other drivers in the other cars and trucks are not out to get you. Don’t take things personally since the silly things that happen in cars are usually mistaken or mindless, not malicious. Just relax and concentrate on your own driving. Yield right of way to others, stop for school buses, and watch for pedestrians and bicyclists. The more patient, respectful, and attentive drivers there are on the road, the better it will for all of us (and our insurance rates).

BREAKDOWN SAFETY

If you are in an accident or your car breaks down, safety should be your first concern. Getting out of the car at a busy intersection or on a highway to change a tire or check damage from a fender bender is probably one of the worst things you can do. The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) recommends the following precautions when your car breaks down:

  1. Never get out of the vehicle to make a repair or examine the damage on a busy highway. Get the vehicle to a safe place before getting out. If you’ve been involved in an accident, motion the other driver to pull up to a safe spot ahead.
  2. If you can’t drive the vehicle, it may be safer to stay in the vehicle and wait for help or use a cell phone to summon help. Under most circumstances standing outside the vehicle in the flow of traffic is a bad idea.
  3. Carry flares or triangles to use to mark your location once you get to the side of the road. Marking your vehicle’s location to give other drivers advance warning can be critical. Remember to put on your hazard lights!
  4. In the case of a blowout or a flat tire, move the vehicle to a safer place before attempting a repair even if it means destroying the wheel getting there. The cost of a tire, rim, or wheel is minor compared to endangering your safety.

 

AUTO/AUTO SAFETY/CHILD PASSENGERS

If you regularly carry young passengers in your auto, have you done everything possible to make sure they’re safe? Are you familiar with what is involved in keeping children safe? If you’re not, read on for some tips on what’s necessary to protect the persons most vulnerable to injuries during car accidents.
How are child passengers best protected?
While you’re likely familiar with the needs of infants and toddlers, protection requirements are usually based based on a child’s age and whether a safety appliance for that age is available. Here are some considerations for protecting young auto passengers:
Infants – Should be in a well-constructed and padded infant carrier that should be located in a rear seat. Infant seats should be the type made to face the rear of the seat and not the front of the passenger area. Infants must be protected from the chance of being thrown forward into hard surfaces.

 

Toddlers

– Should be in well-constructed, padded child carriers that, while facing forward, should only be placed in the rear passenger seats. Again, this is to minimize the chance of hitting hard surfaces (such as a dashboard or a windshield) and to avoid air bags which are designed to protect adults.

 

Pre-schoolers

– May move from child carriers to well-constructed and padded booster seats. The purpose of the boosters is to make sure that the seat belts fit properly. As with child carriers, these restraints should be installed in rear passenger seats.

 

Older children to around age 12

, it should be safe to allow children to ride in a car’s front seat. However, the age guideline assumes that a child has become tall and heavy enough to be properly secured by regular restraints. Be careful that shoulder straps either fit these children properly or are properly tied-down so they don’t represent a hazard. Also, be realistic. Age is a secondary consideration to body size. If a child’s small build results in a poor fit for regular seat belts and shoulder straps, continue placing the child in the rear with a secure seat belt.
A disconcerting fact from the National Safe Kids campaign survey is the high incidences of children who are allowed to ride in cars without restraints or while improperly secured. This sad fact results in hundreds of thousands of serious injuries and deaths. Every passenger in a vehicle should use restraints that are appropriate for his or her age and size. Don’t depend on a law; depend on what’s needed to keep everyone safe.

SENIOR DRIVERS

Most of the problems associated with traffic accidents are often related to extremes in ages of drivers. The biggest concern has always been new drivers. Teens will always cause more than their share of accidents because they don’t have the experience or maturity to drive with as much care as they should. But, inevitably, time passes and their driving improves. However, that improvement doesn’t last forever.

All drivers continue to age and, eventually, driving skills will be lost. It is up to us as individual drivers to address how we handle our ability to drive a car, van, truck, or SUV. It is important to recognize that older drivers can make adjustments. It probably comes as no surprise that the easiest way to adjust driving habits is to pay greater attention to traffic signs, signals, and speed limits. Obeying posted instructions will decrease the chance that an older driver will have to rely on deteriorating eyesight and slower reflexes to avoid an emergency situation.

Some states have laws that increase requirements for older drivers to renew their driving privileges. However, such requirements, such as shorter licensing periods and mandatory driving tests don’t occur until drivers are well past 70 years of age. It makes more sense for drivers to change their habits as well as look for ways to objectively assess their current driving skills. Mature drivers should consider the following:

  • Consider restricting driving to non-peak hours whenever practical
  • Avoid driving in poorer weather
  • Stop driving at night
  • Be aware of how any prescription medicines may affect vehicle operation
  • Voluntarily take driving tests so an objective party can evaluate skills
  • Search websites, such as those sponsored by state motor vehicle departments, senior associations, or driving clubs which offer self-assessment questionnaires. Some helpful links for Senior Citizen info: Help Guide.org, Elder Guru.com, Talk Early…Talk Often
  • Reduce distractions while driving; choose minimal or no use of cell phones, audio devices, etc.
  • Be more sensitive to feelings of fatigue and don’t drive while tired
  • When circumstances call for it, consider giving up your license and depend on other means of transportation

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