By Chuck Mai, AAA
Anybody who follows Oklahoma’s motor vehicle crash reports with any regularity knows that rural roads are more dangerous than urban ones.
I have a distinct desire to be around this old earth long enough to see the Chicago Cubs win the pennant, so traffic risks are things I pay particular attention to. It’s all about surviving driving, which is no mean trick. Traffic crashes are still the leading cause of death for those 25 and under in our state. Numero uno. In fact, far ahead of whatever’s in second, third and fourth places.
So, when Fred Storer of Bartlesville sent me a study he had done of Oklahoma roadway collisions, I was all ears. Using information from NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fred’s contention is that “Oklahoma’s county roads and state number highways are three times as dangerous as the balance of the state roads combined.”
He examined the 3,006 highway fatalities in Oklahoma for the five years 2007 through 2011. The results? Twenty-eight percent of them occurred on urban roads and 72 percent on rural roads. See Fred’s website, www.saferight-of-ways.org.
You have to ask yourself, “Why?” Why are so many more of us dying in collisions on rural roadways than on urban ones? The answers are many: narrower roadbeds, limited shoulders, lack of medians, inadequate lighting, speed, tight curves, older bridges, and as Fred says, too many hazards placed too near the roads, hazards such as mailboxes.
But what’s happening inside the vehicle to cause these things to be final factors, that one last element that causes the fatal crash? Alcohol, certainly, plays a role in many of these wrecks, as does fatigue. But probably the number one facilitator of fatal crashes is distractions: other passengers in the car or pickup, reaching for something in the glove compartment, fiddling with an iPod, eating, drinking, smoking – and using a cell phone to either talk or text.
We have it within our power and abilities to save our own lives and those of others on the highway, whether rural or urban. You know how, it’s just common sense – limit distractions, pay attention to the road, drive refreshed, avoid alcohol and buckle up. And encourage your loved ones to do likewise.
After reading or hearing stories about serious, tough subjects hour after hour, we all need a break. A good laugh helps. And when it involves the ridiculous things people do, it’s even better.
Stupid thief tricks can be among the best. Having a laugh at the expense of an individual whose intentions are less than legal is most enjoyable to many people. I guess I’m a definite for that group.
You may have heard about the guy who was acting as his own defense attorney in an assault case. During his questioning of the victim, he asked: “Did you get a good look at my face?” Realizing he had just admitted his guilt, he tried to find a way to back out of it, adding: ” … if I had been there?” End result: conviction.
Or, the woman who was describing from the witness stand how she had defended herself with a handgun when a neighbor threatened her. It took the jury only 15 minutes to find her guilty of shooting with intent to kill. Afterward, the jury foreman was asked why the panel had decided so quickly.
“She said it was self defense,” the foreman said, “but we thought six shots in the backside as (the neighbor) was running away was a bit much when no other weapon was involved.”
Then, there’s the burglar in the bucket robbery in Slidell, La.
It seems that a man dressed in camouflage, wearing gloves and with his tools to break into a food business forgot one key part of his apparel. He left his mask behind.
He knew the business had surveillance cameras, so it was important to cover his face. He chose to do so with a bucket on his head.
The cameras did record a view showing his face, enough to make him recognizable. He was captured at his home and charged with two counts of simple burglary.
These are examples of goofy, strange things that can happen. See other examples by going to KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/UNUSUAL-WEIRD-OKLAHOMA, which also features items from elsewhere in the nation and the world. Just click the button on the area you want to check, then read and enjoy.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
Statistics show that car thieves prefer older vehicles. Surprised?
People tend to think that older cars are of little interest to those sneaky ol’ car thieves because of their low retail value. But there are two reasons why older vehicles are so often on the bad guys’ hit parade: 1) Most vehicles are stolen for their parts, not for the vehicle itself, and used auto parts that many vehicles can use are in big demand, especially now that so many of us are keeping our cars longer; 2) older cars typically aren’t equipped with the sophisticated locks and security systems of newer models.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the top ten stolen vehicles in Oklahoma are:
1) 1994 Chevy pickup (full size)
2) 2006 Ford pickup (full size)
3) 1996 Honda Accord
4) 2001 Dodge pickup (full size)
5) 2000 Honda Civic
6) 1994 GMC pickup (full size)
7) 2002 Ford Explorer
8) 1998 Chevy pickup (small size)
9) 1995 Ford Mustang
10) 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee
So, you might want to consider keeping comprehensive insurance coverage (covers theft) on that 1988 Dodge Horizon you’re driving. You’ll at least have some payout if your car is stolen, and the coverage isn’t likely to alter your insurance rates dramatically.
There are lessons to be learned. No matter how much you try to school them, regardless the advance warning, despite all the “when I was your age” comments, young people have to learn for themselves.
And when the time comes during their teen years that they have to make decisions that can cost them money, they learn just how costly those decisions can be.
A family I know well enough to be related to (and am) is about to get a double dose of the money game. Two teenage daughters, with two months difference in their ages (they’re stepsisters) are entering into the world of higher learning.
It can be a great time, it can be a tough time. It all depends upon the decisions you have to make and how you do so.
Their dad has set them up to learn, with a little room to fail. They get an allowance, a decent one. OK, very decent. Each receives 40 times what I got at the best level I ever had. I won’t deny that times were much different and items much cheaper. It’s all relative.
Now comes the adjustment.
Until now, others have made many of their purchases for them. Food on the run, cosmetics, trinkets, or whatever usually has been more of a “gift” from others. They’ve been told that now that those expenses will be their responsibility. But the biggest change will be in transportation.
Now, they will both have a driver’s license. Their dad bought them a car to share, fixed it up with some nice added features and got them both a set of keys.
But he told them they would be responsible for handling the cost of fuel with their allowances. I suspect there will be a steady decline of some other purchases, beginning pretty soon.
So what comes next? A little exercise in budgeting, he says. They’re going to have to learn how to budget their money, because he added a stipulation when he set up their allowances: don’t ask anyone for money; you have your own, until it runs out.
I also suspect there will be some employment considerations, along with a push for an additional vehicle.
The lessons are just beginning.
Check the resources in KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/MONEY-OKLAHOMA to help you with your personal finances. There’s some pretty sound advice there, no matter your age.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
When AAA roadside assistance technician Tim Griffin came to the aid of a stranded family on I-75 in Atlanta late one night, he assumed it would be a routine call. But, in fact, Griffin’s road service vehicle ended up being the life-saving barrier between a speeding car and the family of six he was assisting.
With his truck’s safety lights flashing and safety cones in place, Griffin was helping the family with their disabled mini-van when a passing car slammed into his vehicle. “If I hadn’t positioned my truck behind the family’s van to protect it and its occupants, that car would have struck it. And as fast as it was going, I know it would have injured those kids sitting in the back,” said Griffin.
Unfortunately, incidents like this occur all too frequently. Stranded motorists as well as roadside first-responders are faced with the danger of passing vehicles swerving into them each day.
You can take some key steps to protect yourself along the roadside.
• Pull off the road. Try to exit onto the far right shoulder as far off the road as possible while remaining on level ground. On an interstate or multilane highway with medians, you may consider the left shoulder, again pulling as far away from the traffic as possible.
If you cannot pull off the road, switch on emergency flashers, and do not risk danger to yourself by attempting to push your vehicle to a safe location. If you think your vehicle might be struck from behind, do not remain in it. You should proceed carefully and watch for oncoming traffic while exiting the vehicle; never stand behind or directly in front of it because other drivers may not see you.
• Alert other motorists. Make sure your vehicle is visible to other motorists by turning on your emergency flashers. If your vehicle is along the roadside, raise your hood and tie a brightly colored handkerchief or scarf to the antenna or door handle. Flares or warning triangles can also be placed behind your vehicle to alert other motorists.
• Communicate your situation. Once you and your passengers are in a safe location, call for assistance. If you have a cell phone, call for help from inside your vehicle if you are safely out of traffic. Otherwise, call from a safe distance from the vehicle and roadway.
• Remain with your vehicle. Under most circumstances, if you have a cell phone, it’s best to remain with your vehicle until assistance arrives. If there’s no telephone available within a safe walking distance, try to get the attention of other drivers and seek out law enforcement if possible.
If you choose to leave your vehicle, exit through the side of the vehicle facing away from the road. If you remain inside, keep the windows almost closed and the doors locked.
• If you just have a flat tire, go ahead and drive slowly on it to a place of safety away from traffic lanes.
If you think politics only reach extreme or weird levels in the United States, think again.
A judge in Brazil has urged prosecutors to fine a small-town mayor for riding a donkey to his inauguration. The reason for the ride? To make a poke at an opponent who, the story goes, referred to him as a burro during a debate.
Mayor Vaderlei Batista of Passa Sete faces a potential fine equivalent to $250 for failing to adhere to a restraining order. The order prohibited an further “donkey business” after the elections in October.
The judge, Luciane Glesse, didn’t take kindly to the donkey ride, saying it clearly violated the restraining order.
Batista said he intentionally responded with offensive phrases characterizing the opposition party to donkeys after his campaign rival referred to him as a donkey during a debate.
It didn’t take long for Batista’s rival to seek legal action. He asked for the court order barring Batista from using such satirical jabs.
Batista promised voters he would ride a donkey to this week’s inauguration. The judge says no. We’ll see who wins this one.
For other strange but true stories, in Oklahoma, the nation, or the world, check out KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/UNUSUAL-WEIRD-OKLAHOMA and click on the button for your area of choice.
Batista says that he promised voters to ride a donkey to this week’s inauguration.
Lose weight, gain weight, change of attitude, control temper, budget money, spend more time with family, focus on school, raise grades, set goals and reach them …
I think I’ll stop there.
This is just an everyday goal for some, a starting point for things that certain individuals wish to accomplish in life. For others, it’s a new year’s resolution.
Wikipedia defines a New Year’s Resolution as a commitment that an individual makes to a project or the reforming of a habit, often a lifestyle change (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Year’s_resolution).
So, it is safe to say that a lot of people take the new year as a time to reflect on things that they want or need to change in their life. In my opinion, we should reflect daily not only on things that we want or need to change in our life, but we should also reflect daily on the many blessings that we have.
Each year, people have these resolutions, in which some have the same ones every year just to never fulfill them. Each year as a country we find ourselves entering into another year grieving and mourning losses and tragedies …
I say all this to say that you have one life, and in some cases one chance. Quit waiting on the new year and EMBARK on it NOW.
Humble we should be, no matter how successful we are
Appreciative of goal-reaching, no matter how near or far
Patient of things that we diligently strive for
Pleasured that we are able, breathing and alive
Young in spirit despite of our age
Never giving up, no matter how bad the rage
Enlightened by the good as well as the bad
Willing to keep pushing whether happy or sad
Yes, we should answer when we know that we can
Especially when it’s for the good of lending a hand
Aware of our strengths as well as our flaws
Ready to conquer even after we fall
Yes it’s a new year, but it is just another day, the same opportunities maybe just a different way. No need for a resolution to a problem that you wish to solve, because as humans we constantly grow and continue to evolve. So let’s be real, there is no need for a New Year’s Resolution, when 365 days ago you could’ve come up with the same solution.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!
By Chuck Mai, AAA
All the world may be a stage, but Shakespeare never had to share the road with the jesters and clowns you and I encounter every day.
Maybe we should give awards to these characters: “Worst Performance by a Driver on an Urban Highway,” “Most Blatant Display of Distracted Driving,” “Dubious Achievement in Visually Terrifying Effects” – that sort of thing.
My list of actors and actresses is a who’s who of road-worthless evil-doers:
• Lane-jumping Johnny. This is the guy who is determined to get there seven seconds before you do. To him, driving is a game to be won at all costs. Or, to be fair, maybe he’s a doctor rushing to an emergency at the hospital. At any rate, give Johnny a wide berth.
• Tail-gating Terry. What’s scary is that sometimes Terry’s not even aware he’s doing it. He just wants to get there so bad, he gobbles up every available square foot of real estate between you and him and constantly wants more. Pull over, let him have it.
• Left-lane Louie. This guy lays claim to the left lane (the “passing lane”) of a divided highway, whether he’s passing anybody or not. Sometimes I think Louie’s just asleep.
• Blind Spot Doggers. Here’s an interesting personality. There’s tons of unoccupied divided roadway in front of this joker yet he persists in driving a car length behind me, one lane over, right in my blind spot. I figure he has a fear of passing (doesn’t want to appear to be speeding) or perhaps driving in synchronicity with me affords him a certain degree of security. Or maybe, like Left-lane Louie, he’s just asleep.
• Cruise Control Connie. This driver seems loathe to switch off her cruise control on the highway, so it takes her seven minutes to overtake a vehicle going in the same direction. It’s like she has found that perfect cruise control setting – within the speed limit – and she’ll be darned if a lawbreaking speeder is going to make her have to reset it.
• Cell Phone Charlie. It’s as if Mr. Multi-tasker is so important, he has to yak on the phone while driving. Many women do this, too. And the teenagers who text-message while driving? Well, I am at a loss. Where are the parents? Who’s coaching these kids on the dangers of risky driving? Text-messaging requires that you look at the phone a lot. Glance up at traffic for a second, look down at your phone for three seconds. Glance up at traffic for a second, look down at your phone for three seconds. Glance up at traffic for a second, look down at your ph . . . crash! No wonder teens pay more than anybody else for car insurance.
Happy Holidays to all of our loyal readers. With Christmas just around the corner, I am sure there is a lot of anticipation from the children and some adults to regarding what outstanding gifts they will receive this year.
I must admit, me and my family love all the Christmas movies and programs that are on surrounding Santa Claus and his suspected trip delivering everyone’s gifts. These programs have raised a HUGE argument as to whether Santa is real or not.
I do a lot of charity work so I am able to speak to a variety of people in all age ranges. I decided to start taking a poll, especially from children, on their thoughts about Santa.
There were an amazing amount of children over the age of 10 that still believe in Santa Claus. I’ll be honest, I was a little shocked. I was under the assumption that not as many parents fed their children the whole Santa story around holiday season.
I was too scared to give my opinion because these children were so passionate about their thoughts and feelings towards the whole topic. They were at each other’s throats if their fellow mate didn’t agree with them; it was the cutest thing ever.
At the end of it all, after I calmed them down, it opened up room for us to share stories about what we wanted, what we were thankful for, and even things that we wanted “Santa” to help us with. It was a beautiful experience; but now I am eager to know, what do you tell your children about Santa Claus and the Christmas holiday?
Comments would be nice, but even if you just ponder on it, that would be awesome as well. Children have these enormous imaginations, and they hear and learn a lot from outside sources that are not their parents, so what conversations is everyone having with their children nowadays regarding Santa and the Christmas holiday?
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year again to all of our loyal readers; have a Blessed one.
A recently released analysis found a 1.9 percent decrease in total fatalities since 2010, officials of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.
Any decrease is good new. Any drop is progress.
But the same analysis found some bad news. There was an 8.7 percent increase in cyclist fatalities and a 3 percent rise in pedestrian deaths in 2011. That is substantial.
“We are still concerned about the numbers of cyclists and pedestrians at risk on our roadways,” said Paul Oberhauser, Traffic Safety Coalition co-chairman. “As the holiday season approaches, we must obey basic traffic safety laws to ensure the safety of those inside and outside of a vehicle.”
The issue is personal to Oberhauser. His daughter, Sarah, was killed in 2002 when a driver ran a red light and crashed into her car.
The numbers in the report show a need for increased education relating to the shift in the types of transportation the public is now using, highway safety officials said. They say it is important to continue to keep overall traffic fatalities down and educate the public on driver distraction, red light running and speed in our intersections.
“The latest numbers show how the tireless work of our safety agencies and partners, coupled with significant advances in technology and continued public education, can really make a difference on our roadways,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a release from NHTSA.
“As we look to the future, it will be more important than ever to build on this progress by continuing to tackle head-on issues like seat belt use, drunk driving, and driver distraction.”
So, to keep roads safer for those traveling this season, the Traffic Safety Coalition is encouraging drivers to take its holiday pledge (http://www.trafficsafetycoalition.com/holidaypledge) to commit to safe driving behavior. The pledge reads:
“During this holiday season and every day throughout the year,
• I pledge to buckle up when driving and as a passenger.
• I pledge to obey traffic signals and always stop on red.
• I pledge to obey the speed limit.
• I pledge to never text and drive.
• I pledge to never drink and drive.”
The TSC works with more than 250 partners nationwide, including local chapters of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Safe Kids USA and other local community organizations throughout the country.
It’s an effort we all can join.