A story I read recently on the news wire about a young man helping a family that had become stranded along a highway brought back memory of a similar incident from years ago.
It was late one Sunday night in October that my family and I were returning from a visit to another city. About 60 miles from our home, we experienced a major engine problem and we found ourselves stranded in the dark.
The preceding week had been an emotional one anyway. Now, we were facing another challenge, one without a quick solution. This was before cell phones were as popular as they are today, and shortly after I had given up having a CB radio in the vehicle. So, there we were … stuck.
This was one time my belief in the theory of STR (Stop … Think … React …) wasn’t producing much in the way of results. The only things in our favor were that we could use the flashers and we had blankets, water and a few treats.
But about a half-hour later, a modern-day good Samaritan and his wife happened to pass our disabled vehicle as they headed back to college from a visit to see their parents.
They found a turn-around and drove back to check on us after seeing my son and I outside with the hood up.
They drove us to the next exit where we were able to call for help, then took us back to the car to wait for assistance to arrive. When I tried to give them money for their inconvenience, they refused. The husband told us that something similar had happened to his wife not long before that and a motorist came to her rescue.
“Just remember this if you see someone stranded and get them help,” he said. “Maybe we can keep the string going and make things better and safer for everyone.”
I know that’s asking a lot, trying to turn around an attitude of distrust that has built through the years because of instances along our roadways where people have been hurt or even killed. But it did give us hope. And it was wonderful to know that there were people who are willing to help.
It was a few years later when I had a chance to repay that favor, one snowy December day. An elderly gentleman had become stuck and had no coat or gloves to combat the cold. I helped free his car, then, when he tried to pay me, told him about my experience on the road.
He said he would tell everyone how the act of kindness was repaid and encourage them to assist, through a phone call or whatever means possible.
The string of kindness continues.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
First of all, let me say that AAA’s position is that we want mature drivers to drive for as long as they safely can. To that end, the auto club provides free information and tools to the public to allow this to happen. We have free events (like CarFit, where AAA-trained inspectors make sure mature drivers are able to use safety equipment in their cars to their maximum benefit), websites (like SeniorDriving.AAA.com) and programs (like Roadwise Rx, on the SeniorDriving.AAA.com website) that help mature drivers drive more safely.
But sometimes, family members may feel like it’s time start a conversation with grandma or grandpa about driving and safety.
How can you tell whether an older driver presents a hazard on the road?
Experts agree that you can’t answer that question by age alone. Biological age and chronological age are two completely different things. Despite what many people think, mature drivers are among the safest on the road. In fact, they often voluntarily avoid high-risk driving situations, such as driving at night, making tricky left turns (by making three right turns instead) and driving in bad weather.
Nevertheless, aging affects our ability to drive in three distinct areas: visual, physical and cognitive. We need sharp vision and peripheral acuity to pick up vital cues as we drive. We need to stay flexible to look over our shoulders and turn our heads side to side, and we need strength and stamina while driving. And we need to be able to quickly mentally process what we see and hear.
If you’re a family member or friend, worried about an individual’s driving safety, these are signs your concerns may be well-founded:
- Unexplained dents and scrapes on the vehicle, mailbox or garage door;
- Showing poor judgment at intersections or having difficulty judging gaps when making left turns or at entrance and exit ramps on divided highways;
- Getting lost or confused on familiar roads or in well-known neighborhoods;
- Feeling uncomfortable or anxious while driving;
- Delayed responses to unexpected driving situations (for example, a sudden stop in traffic or a ball or object in the street);
- Difficulty staying in his or her traffic lane or traveling too far to the right or too close to parked cars;
- Increased “close calls” or “near misses”;
- Difficulty paying attention to signals, road signs and pavement markings.
For additional warning signs, visit SeniorDriving.AAA.com/resources-family-friends.
Money isn’t always the most important need, though it certainly can help in many instances. Those wanting to help people who aren’t as well off, or who are facing challenges in their lives have numerous possibilities available.
A recent caller said she had survived a major situation and wanted to do something for someone less fortunate as a way of repaying her good fortune. We talked briefly, discussing options she might be interested in that could afford her an opportunity. We looked through the various topics in the “know it” library on NewsOK (HTTP:..KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/) and she was surprised by the number of areas she found quickly.
It wasn’t matter of trying to find something, it was more narrowing down the possibilities she could participate in immediately, from working with homeless people (HTTP://KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/HOMELESS-OKLAHOMA) to doing charitable work (HTTP://KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/CHARITY-OKLAHOMA).
But the search didn’t end there. She found several others as she scanned the various topics in the “know it” list.
By the time she had gone through such areas as HTTP://KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/RELIGION-FAITH-OKLAHOMA and HTTP://KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/MILITARY-OKLAHOMA, she said she had found at least 10 areas she thought she would be able to work in.
Of course, there are areas where money IS needed. She said she would donate money as she could, but certainly time and work regularly.
It will all be worthwhile, to her and to those she works with, as well as those she helps in other ways … a real “feel good” and positive situation.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
I was sitting at a red light the other day in Oklahoma City when I chanced to sneak a peek at the woman in the car next to me. This is a dangerous thing for a married guy to do.
If you happen to make eye contact, she may think you’re looking for companionship or worse yet, that you want to rob her.
Luckily, she was looking straight ahead so I was able to see if she was talking on her mobile cellular telephone, which had been my objective in the first place.
Nope, no cell phone in her hand. That’s good, I thought. However, I did notice with some amusement that she was singing along with the radio. No, not singing exactly, talking – she was talking along with the radio. No, she was in fact talking to somebody on her hands-free cell phone.
I was seriously crest-fallen.
Somehow the myth that hands-free cell phones are safe has taken hold. In some parts of the country, hand-held cell phone use by drivers is illegal but hands-free is okay. This, my friends, is pure bunk. The dangerous part of using a cell phone while driving is not holding the phone, it’s holding the conversation.
Finally, good solid research has been done which backs me up.
A few years ago, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released the results of a study on cell phones and crash risks, concluding that “drivers using cell phones are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.”
The IIHS report says hands-free equipment did not reduce chances of injury to drivers. “Injury crash risk didn’t differ from one type of reported phone use to the other.”
This research reinforces results from studies at the University of Utah and at Virginia Tech University.
The message is clear: hands-free is not risk-free. Two-thirds of crashes in the IIHS study involved people on hands-free phones. The IIHS study also found the crash risk increases at similar rates across genders and ages. Male and female drivers and drivers younger and older than 30 all experienced about the same increase in risk from using a phone while behind-the-wheel.
Driving has never been riskier. More cars, more drivers, higher speeds. And, unfortunately, more distractions, of which cell phone use is only one of many.
All driver distractions need to be reduced: eating, drinking, smoking, adjusting the radio/CD player/iPod, checking on-board navigational devices, dealing with children and other passengers, looking at objects outside the car away from the roadway, etc.
Parents should be especially concerned about cell phone use by teenage drivers. Teens are inexperienced drivers who often fail to fully appreciate the dangers of multi-tasking on the road. A good parent-teen driving contract addresses these concerns. For a free downloadable copy, visit TeenDriving.AAA.com.
The Secret Service ultimately is responsible for protecting the president. But the police officers and sheriff’s deputies riding in a motorcade, directing traffic and assisting as a prominent individual moves from one location to another is a large responsibility.
It’s everything from security to hospitality, requiring lots of attention. It’s timing, and much more.
It’s not as glamorous as one might think. In fact, it can be a very difficult, very dangerous job.
This was evidenced Sunday in Florida when a veteran police officer was preparing to shut down a stretch of highway ahead of the motorcade of President Barack Obama as it headed for a campaign rally.
Officer Bruce St. Laurent, 55, was killed in West Palm Beach after his motorcycle was struck by a pickup.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund counts 16 officers before Sunday’s tragedy who were killed while escorting a dignitary.
For example, The Associated Press reported:
1902 — A Secret Service agent was struck and killed by trolley car in Lenox, Mass., while in President Theodore Roosevelt’s escort detail.
1928 — A police officer on motorcycle escort for a presidential candidate was struck and killed in Kearny, N.J.
1929 — A Virginia State Police officer was involves in a motorcycle crash while escorting President Calvin Coolidge. The officer died about six weeks later of his injuries.
1992 — A Palm Beach County, Fla., sheriff’s deputy was killed in a motorcycle accident while escorting Sen. Paul Tsongas, a presidential candidate.
2006 — A Honolulu police officer died after his motorcycle slid on a rain-slicked roadway, where he was escorting President George W. Bush.
2007 — In Rio Rancho, N.M., a police officer was killed in a motorcycle crash while escorting Bush’s motorcade.
2008 — A Dallas police officer died when his motorcycle slammed into a guardrail as he was escorting then-Sen. Hilary Clinton’s motorcade.
2012 — The Jupiter, Fla., police officer died while riding in the Obama motorcade.
The danger is always there.
Several public and non-profit organizations have come together in grassroots fashion to help educate the public on the dangers of distracted driving. The organization’s namesake is Drive Aware Oklahoma (DAO) and its mission paraphrased is to educate the public in lieu of legislation.
The organization’s first objective is to educate about texting while driving. Just because there are no specific laws in place does not make this the thing to do. It is the number one distracted driving cause of accidents.
To boost education the DAO group has adopted the Ad Council’s STOP THE TEXTS.STOP THE WRECKS campaign which you can find yourself at www.stoptextsstopwrecks.org
The DAO group has spoken to TV and radio stations in both OKC and Tulsa as well as Lamar billboard company to run the ad campaign the week before Halloween. The group is in hopes that awareness will be raised before kiddos are out Trick or Treating.
School Zones are a particularly vulnerable area as well for distracted drivers and a few campaigns already have pointed towards them with distracted driving education. Some states have at least “no phone zones” in school crossings but OK is not one of them.
Drivers should be careful and turn off their phones when they get in the car. That way they are not curious when that “sound” occurs meaning a new text is in. And to go a step further drivers should consider a recording on cellphones that tells callers they will not accept calls while driving. The recording can say that the call will be returned when the driver is in a safe place and no longer moving.
Keep it safe and Drive Aware Oklahoma!
By Chuck Mai, AAA
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, the most effective and easiest way to save gasoline is just to not drive. Like to and from work. But if mass transit or carpooling aren’t options, you might want to investigate working from home.
If more and more of us telecommute, rush hours could someday be as old-fashioned as carbon paper.
But does productivity suffer when a company lets employees telecommute?
A project undertaken by Pennsylvania State University a few years ago looked at 46 studies on telecommuting and came up with some surprising results. In short, telecommuting works. Specifically, PSU reports that:
• Employees have a greater sense of control over their work environment when telecommuting.
• Telecommuting is good for the family, reducing conflicts between work and family; but if the employee works from home three or more day per week, that tends to have a detrimental effect on workplace relationships.
• Mid-level and top management needs to buy-in to the idea and make adjustments to accommodate telecommuting.
• Managers’ ratings of the efficiency of telecommuting employees rose, based on this study, meaning productivity was enhanced.
• Employees were happier when allowed to work from home.
The PSU study also found that telecommuting employees are less likely to quit.
And it’s likely there are fewer distractions at home than in an office.
There are downsides, such as the need possibly for additional equipment, such a secured laptop and additional phone or fax lines. And employees who telecommute need to possess high levels of self-discipline and be self-motivated.
Plus, you’ll have fewer schmoozing opportunities – chances to engage in hallway or office conversations with superiors that some may feel essential to ultimately obtaining a promotion. Then again, you may be spared office politics and episodes of office drama.
I drive 25 minutes each way to and from work and while it’s not a bad drive, I could just as easily do what I do at home rather than in an office. Plus, on my lunch hour, I could get some work done out in the yard.
Now, I just need to sell my wife on the idea.
You’ve most likely read or seen the plea, but unless you or anyone you know ever has needed blood, you may not understand the significance.
As someone who has been in that situation, I can tell you it’s extremely significant. It easily can be a matter of life or death.
“Someone needs blood every two seconds,” said Dr. John Armitage, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Blood Institute. “This constant need is why we are asking … residents to donate blood.”
Because there is no substitute for blood, the supply must constantly be renewed. There always is a need.
Maybe it’s because I have experience firsthand the need. Maybe it’s because I’ve known many others who have been through it. Or maybe it’s because I have worked closely with the institute and its staff for many years to see and hear about those times when a quantity of donated blood allowed someone to continue to live.
Whatever the reason, I do know, and I encourage everyone who can to consider donating. You can find information in news releases in any of the five “know it” communities about how and where you can do so. There are many opportunities through the year. Just check KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/EDMOND, KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/MIDWEST-CITY, KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/NORMAN, KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/OKLAHOMA-CITY, or KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/YUKON for local drives.
You also can find information by contacting the institute or any of its donor centers.
Although all blood types are needed, those with O-negative type blood are especially encouraged to donate. According to the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), those with O-negative blood type make up only 9 percent of the national population. However, O-negative blood can be used in any emergency situation when a patient’s blood type has not yet been identified.
Oklahoma Blood Institute exclusively provides every drop of blood needed by patients at all hospitals in the metro-OKC area. Some 140 other medical facilities across the state also rely solely on OBI to provide life-saving blood for their patients.
Anyone, 16 years or older, can typically donate blood. Blood can be given every 56 days. To find out more or make an appointment to donate, call 877-340-8777, or visit WWW.OBI.ORG.
All 16-year-olds must weigh at least 125 and provide signed parental permission. All 17-year-olds must weigh at least 125 pounds, All 18-year-olds must weigh at least 110 pounds.