Keep the Party Off the Road: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over

NHTSA provided the following facts about holiday driving and the need to be sober and vigilant.

  • Drunk driving is a killer on the roads all year round, but data shows that the tradition of celebrating the holidays with alcohol leads to an increase of traffic crashes and resulting deaths and injuries.
  • happy holidays buzzed drivingFrom Dec. 13, 2013, through Jan. 1, 2014, state and local law enforcement will be out in force cracking down on drunk drivers.
  • Nationwide, the holiday season is a particularly deadly time due to the high number of drunk drivers on the roads. In 2011, 760 people lost their lives as a result of drunk-driving-related crashes during the month of December.
  • During the Decembers from 2007 to 2011 there were 4,169 people killed in crashes that involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentrations of .08 grams per deciliter or higher.
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 32,367 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2011, and 31 percent (9,878) of those fatalities occurred in drunk-driving-related crashes.
  • Drinking and driving endangers yourself, your passengers, and those on the road around you. Whether you’ve had one or one too many, always hand the keys to a sober driver.

The Consequences of Driving Drunk Are Deadly Serious.

  • Driving while impaired is a crime that seriously risks your safety and the safety of those around you. Whether you have had one too many or are way over the limit, drunk driving is not worth causing a traffic crash, serious injury, or worse—death.
  • Tholiday driving pretty lightshe legal and financial costs of driving while impaired can be significant. Drunk-driving violators often face jail time, the loss of their driver licenses, higher insurance rates, and dozens of other unanticipated expenses ranging from attorney fees, court costs, car towing and repairs, and lost wages due to time off from work.
  • Refusing to take a breath test in many jurisdictions results in immediate arrest, the loss of your driver’s license on the spot and the impoundment of your vehicle. Also, there’s the added embarrassment, humiliation, and consequences of telling family, friends and employers of your arrest.

Plan Ahead and Never Drink and Drive

  • holiday driving drunk elfEven one drink can impair your judgment and increase the risk of getting arrested for driving drunk—or worse, the risk of having a crash while driving.
  • If you will be drinking, do not plan on driving.  Plan ahead; designate a sober driver before the party begins.
  • If you have been drinking, do not drive. Call a taxi, phone a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
  • Be responsible. If someone you know is drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel.
  • If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact law enforcement. Your actions may save someone’s life, and inaction could cost a life.

Remember: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over

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Winter Driving Tips from NHTSA

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NHTSA has provided an excellent resource for drivers of any type of vehicle — if you’re going to be driving in winter conditions you’ll want to check out these links:

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Tank Truck Rollover Prevention Programs from FMCSA

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has developed materials to help prevent tank truck rollovers.  They’ve dedicated a web page to this program — http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/hazmat/rollover-prevention.aspx

Their program is titled “Keep the Load on the Road:  A Driver’s Guide to Cargo Tank Truck Rollover Prevention”  This is a free, 17 minute video featuring driver tips on how to:

  • Avoid sudden movements that may lead to rollovers
  • Control your load in turns and on straight roadways
  • Identify high risk areas on roads
  • Remain alert and attentive behind the wheel
  • Control speed and maintain proper “speed cushions”

You can find the video embedded here or by going to this link – http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/hazmat/cargo-tank-video.aspx

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Technology: Vigilant or Vanity?

Over the past two decades, we’ve seen technology create shifts in driver safety:

  • cell phones promised to help summon aid when our vehicle broke down, or we needed other emergency assistance away from public call boxes or pay phones
  • cells, on the other hand, led to texting and distracted driving deaths from mis-use (using while driving instead of when stopped in a safe parking spot)
  • GPS navigation promised to speed us to our destination, but sometimes our overconfidence led us to “turn off a cliff” or “turn into the swamp”
  • Now we learn more about the new model year at the Consumer Electronics Show than the traditional “auto show” — technology for surfing the web, updating social media while driving is invading high-end cars

A recent news article in the LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-hy-auto-safety-20131129,0,5015378,full.story) highlights efforts by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to use technology to reduce traffic fatalities.

“Ninety percent of all crashes have an element of human error,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said. “We really need to focus on what more we can do to address these risks.” Automakers for years resisted federal safety initiatives, originally objecting to seat belts, air bags and more recently making backup cameras standard equipment. But for now they are supporting NHTSA’s efforts.

“This is the holy grail,” said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.  Much of the technology already exists. Cars equipped with optional collision warning and automatic braking systems were at nearly every automaker’s display at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week. Vehicles currently chime when a passenger isn’t belted; automakers already know how to link that to the car’s transmission to prevent the car from moving.

Now NHTSA and a coalition of 17 automakers are working on the so-called Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety. The DADDS system uses sensors in the cabin to measure blood-alcohol content by breath or touch to ensure a driver is below the legal 0.08% threshold for impairment.

mvr crash sceneDrunk driving killed more than 10,000 people last year, about a third of traffic deaths. It’s a deadlier issue than distracted driving and one that deserves serious attention for many reasons — many of the deaths are among young drivers and typically two-thirds of the deaths are from passengers in the car — not just the driver.

Still, technology offers a vision of solutions that are not always practical to implement based on current manufacturing capability.  Consider early efforts to make seatbelt use mandatory (thru technology):

Automakers have been down this road before. In the early 1970s, more than 50,000 people a year were dying on U.S. roads. In response, NHTSA mandated a seat-belt monitoring system that launched in the 1974 model year. It prevented vehicles from starting unless the front seat belts were fastened.

The public balked and a cottage industry sprang up to help drivers bypass the system, said Jeremy Anwyl, an automotive industry consultant and former chief executive of Edmunds.com. Then-President Gerald Ford beat a hasty retreat, ordering NHTSA to abandon the requirement for 1975 cars.

ALERT CSAOne new system being proposed is the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety or DADDS system for short.  The idea is simple, using various sensors, the ignition would be interlocked — requiring a driver to have a BAC below threshold in order to start the vehicle.  It sounds great in principle, but what if the car’s sensors malfunction and the vehicle won’t start when it ought to?  What happens if the sensors are somehow fooled and the driver crashes while drunk — is it a product liability issue?

I’m not against any reasonable means to improve traffic safety results — actually I would love to see DADDS in place assuming it’s reliable.  However, I’m very nervous about rushing any technology into place, or obligating users to field test any system that’s not really ready for deployment — they come back bashing safety advocates and create artificial barriers to accepting safety mechanisms that ARE ready for use.

Technology can serve to increase vigilance over safety performance, but it can also fuel our vanity for multi-tasking behind the wheel.  Either way, we need to be careful as a society to balance our desire for fun with our responsibilities to be safe.

What do you think?

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