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Safety Activism on the Information Highway

Review and Analysis

Safety Activism on the Information Highway by Robert Nakagawa

Advocates Against Drunk Driving | MADD) |Business against Drunk Drivers (BADD) | Racers Against Drunk Driving (RADD) |The National Commission Against Drunk Driving | Drunk Busters of America |Advocates for Highway Safety |Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety |California Office of Traffic Safety |Reasonable Drivers Unanimous site | American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association | and more |

Safety Activism on the Information Highway by Czarina Naranjo
Staying Clear of Road Rage and Aggressive Driving | Organizations Against Road Rage and Aggressive Driving | News, Issues, and Advice On Aggressive Driving and Road Rage | News, Issues, and Advice On Road Rage | Online Therapy for Drivers Experiencing Car Phobia and Victims of Road Rage

Prepare for the Prom now,
for your daughters to be safe

by Gary Direnfeld, MSW, Executive Director I Promise Program

Ok, so we are only mid-winter, but already young girls fancies are turning to thoughts of their school proms and graduations.

Prom night and graduation parties represents a high risk time for these young debutants and parents had better come prepared.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that at age 16, which is the highest risk age for drivers, 48% of deaths were passengers and slightly more 16-year-old females were killed as passengers than as drivers.

More females will be a passenger of a male teen driver on prom night than any other time of the year across North America.

Speeding, alcohol use, multiple passengers and driving between 12:00 am and 3:00 am represents the deadliest combination of factors and is the prime recipe for car crashes.

In year 2000, 34% of male drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding. In 2000, 23% of speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes were also intoxicated. Between midnight and 3:00 am, 77% of speeding drivers involved in fatal accidents were intoxicated.

Get the picture yet?

Parents who want to reduce the risk of their child's involvement in a car crash should do the following:

1. Check your brakes and brake fluid. Teenagers speed the most. While teens are interested in how fast the car can go, parents should be interested in how well the car can stop. Make sure your vehicle is in its best mechanical shape if your teen is taking to the wheel.

2. Limit the number of passengers your teen is allowed to transport. The risk of a car crash goes up exponentially for each passenger added.

3. Be a good role model and do not drink and drive what-so-ever. Teens are very sensitive to hypocrisy and determine their behavior by what they observe in their parent, not by what the parent says. Tell you teen not to drink and drive and lead by example. 4. Insist that your teen and all passengers wear their seat belts and again, lead by example. Parents must wear their seat belt too.

5. Do not allow your teen to drive after midnight. If transportation is required after midnight, make alternate arrangements. Act as chauffeur, car pool with another parent or arrange for a taxi. It is better that the parent loses one night's sleep than the life of their child.

Remember, the Prom is but one night a year. To be really safe, parents must concern themselves with teen driver safety 365 days a year. Even with Prom night occurring in the spring, most fatal car crashes actually occur in the summertime. Safe driving doesn't take a holiday.

To ensure safe driving year round, parents are recommended to participate in safe driving programs such as the I Promise Program. The I Promise Program has parents and a teen enter into a mutual safe driving contract and then provides a means for their mutual accountability. This program has been developed with the input of thousands of persons from organizations worldwide.

Parents who want to prepare best for Prom night and the other 365 nights of the year can go to www.ipromiseprogram.com  and print out a registration form.

Parents of daughters should particularly insist that their teenage boyfriend be on the program.

Mr. Direnfeld is a social worker, public speaker and author who has worked with teens and families for over 25 years. He developed the I Promise Program to keep his own son safe when he reached driving age. His son has been driving now for 8 months without incident.

Mr. Direnfeld can be reached at; I Promise Program 20 Suter Crescent, Dundas, Ontario, Canada L9H 6R5

(905) 628-4847 gary123@sympatico.ca         www.ipromiseprogram.com

Excerpted from Road Rage and Aggressive Driving : Steering Clear of Highway Warfare
by Leon James, Diane Nahl. ( 2000).  

Citizen Activism Against Government Paternalism

In the 1990s, as government stepped up its fight against aggressive driving, two ideological groups of drivers emerged, taking opposing sides on government intervention in controlling motorists. The ideological "right" consists of "assertive" drivers who take driving seriously, consider themselves skilled, complain bitterly about law enforcement practices, and uphold an aggressive attitude towards many drivers whom they consider incompetent, inconsiderate, and responsible for most accidents. The ideological "left" promote more government intervention and legislation restricting the behavior of motorists, such as aggressive driving initiatives by police, electronic traffic control devices, neighborhood traffic calming strategies, total speed enforcement, maintenance of a national database of aggressive drivers, and a national hotline for reporting license numbers of cars observed driving aggressively. Interestingly, both sides support better driver training, but neither side sees training as the central issue.

An increasing polarization is taking place between those who pressure government officials to initiate more aggressive approaches against aggressive drivers, and those who oppose further government intervention as intrusive and unnecessary. Each side is well-prepared with its own ideology, logic, and statistics to back up its arguments. A variety of individual and collective efforts are active across the country, such as the group Citizens For Roadside Safety:2

The goal of this organization is to save lives and force the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the states to dedicate more time and money to highway safety. In the past there has been an attitude that if a driver runs off the road they deserve to die. Due to pressure from many people and organizations like ours, this attitude is gradually changing.

However, the problem isn't that simple according to groups on the other side who believe that inviting more regulation incurs hidden costs and unacceptable disadvantages, particularly when it comes to speed limits.

The National Motorists Association (NMA) was established in 1982 "to represent the interests and rights of North American motorists."3 Both at the national level and through a system of state chapters, it has organized a widespread movement of resistance to speed enforcement on highways. Members share the philosophy that highway authorities wrongly attribute the cause of accidents to going faster than the posted speed limit. They question the scientific validity of studies cited by authorities to justify setting the same policy towards speed limits on all types of road ways. They charge that governments at the county and state level set speed limits below the rate most drivers actually travel, in violation of federal regulations, and they believe that this is done to increase revenue through ticketing drivers. From this ideological perspective, anything that leads to more government regulation of driving is viewed with suspicion, for example, recent legislative activity on aggressive driving:

Road rage and aggressive driving has been a hot topic with the Michigan media. This is not a coincidence. The battle against road rage and aggressive driving was thought up in Washington D.C. The insurance industry and the safety lobby thought up the campaign. The government is providing grants to the states to combat road rage…Michigan is using funds to purchase laser speed detection devices to write more speeding tickets. This is not getting unsafe drivers off the road. The unsafe drivers are tailgating, hogging the left lane, weaving through traffic, or driving too slow. If we want to combat road rage we should use the publicity and funding to target the problem--not collect more revenue from those driving a reasonable speed.4

The Association of British Drivers (ABD) like the NMA, opposes current speed limit policies in the U.K. and questions the veracity of official reports attempting to prove that "speed kills." According to the ABD, there is no justification for the oft quoted government assertion that "one-third of accidents are caused by excessive speed."5 When ABD researchers analyzed a 1999 report by the British Transport Research Laboratory (Report 323), they concluded excessive speed was a relatively minor causal factor in accidents (4 percent to 5 percent) in comparison to inattentiveness or "careless or incompetent inability to judge a situation involving another road user." Still, the battle to slow cars is intensifying in many communities with intrusive tactics.

To buttress their position, in 1999 the National Motorists Association Foundation (NMAF) released a study on speed limits and highway safety. It reviewed data since 1995, when the National Maximum Speed Limit was repealed, allowing each state to establish its own speed limits. Thirty-three states raised freeway speed limits in 1996 while 17 did not. What happened when the study compared the accident rate for the two groups of states?3

Comparing the group of limit-raising states and the group of unchanged states, the study demonstrated that fatality rates dropped in both groups, essentially equally. Raising speed limits did not affect overall safety. The study examined fatality rates on all roads in each state, so that the expected usage shifts from less-safe undivided highways to safer and faster freeways were accounted for, helping to explain the favorable safety results associated with higher freeway limits.

According to the report, these findings are similar to other studies that have reported a 5 percent reduction in traffic accidents for all states, regardless of their policy towards highway speed limits. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and others warned in 1995 that raising limits would kill 6400 more people each year, the national fatality rate dropped to record lows in each subsequent year.6

Many drivers refuse to acknowledge that speed is a contributing factor to crashes because it reduces the time available to react in an environment where mistakes are common:

Speed does not kill; it takes an idiot behind the wheel to kill. Don't be an idiot. The whole idea of driving is that you're not supposed to hit things. That's why every car on the road has a steering wheel. If a driver doesn't hit a barricade, the driver won't be killed, irrespective of the speed at which the driver is travelling. (Young man)

Still, some drivers seem to prevail with a cool logic that's closer to the truth:

Speed increases the likelihood of impact and since most recreational drivers are indeed "lousy, lazy or stupid" at times, there's a pretty good chance that someone will do something stupid while somebody else is going too fast to react to it. That's a fairly common theme in most straight-road highway accidents I've been to.

In spite of the propaganda that you've swallowed…speed limits do involve safety issues. The idea, broken down into it's most simple elements, is to keep traffic moving at a safe and predictable speed, so that traffic crossing (at intersections) or merging (at on ramps) or simply changing lanes (anywhere) can correctly estimate closing speeds.

In other words, predictable speeds are critical for drivers to gauge their decisions and the anticipated responses. Without predictable speeds the element of risk increases sharply, which in turn sets up a classic recipe for road rage. This sounds reasonable, because we need predictability to reduce errors, yet it's not acceptable to emotional logic:

Please present some proof that going faster will increase the likelihood of hitting something. You can't because there isn't any! Some very basic driving habits that apply to lower speeds also apply as the speeds go up. If you follow them then you can safely travel at higher speeds. If you maintain a safe following distance, keep right and pass left, and pay attention to the road then you can safely drive much faster than most highways are posted. Not all drivers are as stupid as you think they are. They drive around obstacles at speeds above 55 mph. An extra 20 mph does not cloud their brain and force them to aim for the concrete barriers.

Many traffic engineers agree with the theory that driving is safest when speed limits reflect actual driving rates on that road rather being set lower as an attempt to slow down the traffic. Drivers will drive at their confidence level for conditions, and that is always higher than the legal limit when this is set too low. It creates hazardous conditions because it breaks up the homogeneity of drivers flowing at a similar speed. It promotes a diversity of speeds, and this, the engineers say, is more dangerous than setting the flow at a higher legal rate. In addition to being more dangerous, citizens get slapped with a scary traffic stop, an expensive traffic citation, and a higher insurance rate. Finally, the believe that it's unjust and unconstitutional. Clearly, citizens are passionate about speed, speed limits, and speed enforcement. To many it is obvious that speed kills, while others deny it and remain unconvinced that speed enforcement is justified. Nevertheless, government is extending its efforts to regulate speed and some citizen groups are taking charge in their own way.

See also:  Related Links || Driving Informatics

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