By Chuck Mai, AAA
Wake up to the facts about drowsy driving.
If you think its okay to keep driving after you start to feel sleepy, consider this: If you dozed off for just a few seconds on a highway, you could travel the length of a football field in an unconscious state at a speed above 60 mph – which could all combine to cause a fatal collision.
Despite the obvious dangers, 41 percent of American drivers surveyed in 2010 admitted to having fallen asleep or nodded off behind the wheel at some point in their lives. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the National Sleep Foundation are raising awareness about these dangers, especially with the holidays coming up and families tempted to drive way too many miles per day. Sleep experts say motorists should drive no more than 400 to 500 miles per day. After that, fatigue sets in, despite what you may think at the time, and you’re rolling the dice.
Follow these tips to stay alert and keep everyone safe:
—Get a good night’s sleep before you set out.
—Don’t be too rushed to arrive at your destination; instead of making good time, concentrate on making your time behind the wheel good.
—It’s much better to allow time to rest before you drive – or stop for rest along the way.
—Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep.
—Avoid alcohol. It impairs your driving ability, and even “just one” can cause drowsiness.
—Take a break every two hours or 100 miles to refresh. Before leaving home, plan your stops to include interesting things to do, both for you and your passengers.
—If all else fails, find a safe place to pull over and take a 15-to 20-minute nap. Even that short a time to sleep can work wonders to refresh you. However, be cautious about excessive drowsiness after you wake up.
Bottom line: opening car windows, pinching yourself, turning up the car radio, stopping for a stretch – none of those things do any good. There is just no substitute for good old-fashioned sleep.
It almost makes a fellow feel cheap, but I’m sure it certainly is something to look at.
A longtime colleague called the other day to chit-chat for a bit. As we have done for years, we wanted to get caught up on what’s been happening in each other’s life, and with our families.
We also wanted to send each other best wishes for the holiday season.
He was telling me about his family and mentioned that his daughter, another veteran journalist, had been working on a feature story about people who make a living putting up Christmas lights for others.
In particular, she told him, she had interviewed a guy who handled the decorative lights for a man who owned a major entertainment company in California. She told her dad the job paid well. Very well. Putting the lights on that one house brought a $50,000 contract.
I haven’t seen pictures, but I know without looking that’s a little more than I spent on my lights this year. OK, more than a little.
I’ve seen some pretty nice displays in my day. Big ones. Expensive ones. Just about anything Christmas-related you can think of, I’ve seen it.
My family likes to view the displays, those at individual homes, as well as the big municipal presentations, such as those in cities and towns throughout Oklahoma. Some of them are nothing short of incredible, from those you tune in to a spot on your radio dial to hear accompanying music, to those with live characters.
You can check on NewsOK and on wimgo.com for community displays to visit. They’re well worth visiting, in my opinion.
And there are even those who piggyback on a nearby display. I saw one recently where a house was awash in lights, from the rooftop all the way to the curb. Lots of blinking, twinkling lights, moving characters and music.
Next door, the house had a smaller display, but a sign in the front yard that caught my eye and added a little humor.
The sign, of good size and circled in bright lights, pointed to the big display and said: “Ditto.”
Technology is on the rise; the holidays are coming and going. The scammers are out and pulling out some of what they think are their best tricks.
We are all very aware of the calls, texts, and e mails, promising vacations and free luxury items if you just call this number and give some “minor” information.
Some consumers are more aware of things like this than others so as good citizens, if you know someone that believes every good thing that they hear … WARN THEM.
Here is what is new or it can be old and just new to me and a few comrades that I have spoken with.
There are marketers calling and saying that you are late on certain utility bills and in order to prevent automatic termination of service you have to pay a certain amount, they are demanding credit/debit card information on the spot.
There are websites with some amazing deals on them, telling you don’t waste time in lines at the stores when you can just order your items on their site and receive them before the Christmas holiday.
The catch on that is, you pay for the items and then you find out days later that those items had to be back ordered and then were never available so they cancel the order as a whole … BUT they have your information and do as they please with it.
Of course text and e mail marketing is booming around this time so BE CAREFUL what you believe and what sites you give sensitive information to because believe it or not, it can happen to you, me, or a loved one.
Let’s look out for one another and SHOP SAFELY.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
Reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil is a significant, long-term goal. Petroleum supplies are limited and much is located in areas of political instability. To help drive alternative energy development, Congress passed legislation in 2007 that requires increasing use of renewable fuels, with a goal to produce 36 billion gallons of biofuel annually by 2022, about twice the amount being produced today. Ethanol, a form of alcohol made from corn and other plant materials, is the most common renewable fuel in use today.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first required that ethanol be added to gasoline in 1990 to help reduce exhaust emissions. Today, due to renewable fuels legislation, almost all gasoline sold nationwide contains 10 percent ethanol (E10) – some say as much as 95 percent of it. Modern vehicles can use this blend without adverse effects, although fuel economy is lower than with pure gasoline because ethanol contains less energy.
Ah, but here’s the rub. If the nation is going to meet its self-imposed renewable fuel goals, the only way to do it is to increase the percentage of ethanol in gasoline. As a result, this past June, the EPA approved a 15 percent ethanol blend (E15) for use in all flex-fuel vehicles plus 2001 and newer cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles (SUVs). Although E15 fuel is now trickling to market, availability will be extremely limited for a while. As of this writing (late Nov., 2012), five Oklahoma stations sell E15, all of them in Oklahoma City.
The higher ethanol content of E15 has created a great deal of controversy. Many engines simply cannot use the new fuel without suffering damage. In fact, the law forbids E15 use in model year 2000 and earlier vehicles, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, marine applications, gas-powered tools/equipment, and aircraft.
Some studies suggest that even vehicles approved for E15 use may experience problems such as erroneous “check engine” lights, deterioration of fuel system rubber components, early fuel pump failures and increased wear of the engine valve train. Using E15 may also void your vehicle’s warranty, so it is important to know your automaker’s position before filling up with this fuel. Check your owner’s manual.
E15 pumps are marked with an orange “ATTENTION” label listing the applications that can and cannot use the fuel. However, many (including AAA) are suggesting that E15 should not be sold until additional labeling and consumer education efforts to help avoid unintended misfueling have been implemented and the long-term impacts on engines are determined. Given the many questions surrounding E15, AAA recommends that motorists not use this potentially problematic fuel unless and until your vehicle’s manufacturer says it is safe to do so.
You don’t have to have the most recent, updated, technologically-advanced equipment to enjoy some of the best times of your life. You might not even need any that to enjoy it a second time. A good memory can do it.
During a few days of R&R (Realignment & Repairs) last week, I stumbled onto some items I had forgotten about long ago. A small box in my garage caught my attention. When I opened it so see what was inside, I found a mixture of items, from family and personal, to sports and recreation, to work and struggles.
Each one brought back a memory, often vivid, of another time and place. I remembered the circumstances, the people involved, and why I had kept each piece of my personal history “scrapbook” in the box.
There were papers relating to projects I had worked on in the office. There were documents on the purchase of an automobile, as well as insurance and items bought for it. And there were things my son and his daughter had made for me years earlier.
I found clips of stories relating to events I had been involved in (though, like most people in my business, we’re geared toward covering news than making it), booklets on items I wanted to take a second look at, and trinkets I had kept, for one reason or another.
Maybe they mean nothing to anyone else, but those items — all of them — have memories and meaning to me. They bring back those times when something happened that impressed me, or made me happy. I don’t recall finding one thing that was a bad memory.
I’ve read many times and been told that holding onto memories is healthy, so long as you don’t allow them to control your life. In other words, don’t live in the past, but don’t forget it as well.
There is a healthy middle ground. Check the resources on KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/MENTAL-HEALTH-OKLAHOMA for ways to do just that.
And by the way, the items in that box I found have been safely stored away.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
I have a sort of fascination with death. Well, not death so much, more with the many ways people find to accidentally die.
When we visited the Grand Canyon, I picked up a book that described all the ways people have lost their lives at and in the canyon. Hundreds of them. Oh sure, while taking pictures and venturing just a wee bit too close to the edge – but also while hiking and getting lost or running out of water.
I guess my fascination with death is born of an even stronger interest: living. I know we can’t cheat the grim reaper forever but there are lessons to be learned by finding out how people accidentally put an end to their own lives. Like the guy who was doing doughnuts out in a field in his pickup and hit a patch of soft sand and the truck flipped. Guy was in his 40s. A friend with him in the truck at the time wasn’t injured.
There are so many things out there just waiting to get us – things over which we have no control – such as genetic disorders, disease, random crime, war, the list goes on. But car crashes are things we can, in large measure, prevent.
Of course, when it comes to motor vehicle accidents, they’re not really accidents at all. My dictionary says an accident is “something that happens by chance,” like there was nothing anybody could do to stop it. Don’t buy into that philosophy. There is plenty we all can do to reduce our risk on the road:
1. Limit distractions. Throw the cell phone in the back seat and ignore it.
2. Drive refreshed and sober. Get plenty of rest before driving long distances.
3. Wear your seat belt and make sure all your passengers are buckled up. For children, this means child car seats or booster seats for youngsters up to 4 feet, 9 inches in height.
I visited a couple of call centers in the metro and began to see an awkward pattern of hairy men. EWWW. I finally drew up the confidence to ask one of them if I was going crazy or not and he informed me that I wasn’t. THANK GOD
So, he told me that he was participating in No Shave November. He could not give me a clear explanation on the purpose of the tradition but all he could say was that it supported a good cause and he wanted to take part.
I decided to do my own research and come to find out this is HUGE. There are many suspected origins as to the original purpose but millions of people; even celebrities participate in No Shave November annually.
I am highly intrigued in the subject so I thought it would be cool to share what I have learned. First off there are ladies that also participate by not shaving their legs or armpits for the WHOLE month of November; personally I couldn’t imagine.
Some sites state that November happens to be the busiest month of the year, so the no shaving tradition came about pretty much giving them the okay to be lazy. Some sites state that it is a tradition in which men don’t shave in order to raise awareness for men’s prostate health.
This specific purpose is said to have started out as Movember which joins the two words mustache and November. One of the other purposes was said to have started from philosopher Plato, who believed that in order for a man to be educated properly, he must imitate those who are highly educated, which were bearded men at that time.
Either way, I find this to be amazing and even went and liked the page on fb. For more information, simply Google No Shave November. FYI there are actual charities attached to this tradition so participation is definitely encouraged because just like the man I spoke with, we all love to support good causes.
A short time back, a gentleman I’ve spoken with many times called to ask what I knew about the painted lines he was seeing on some downtown Oklahoma City streets.
“It looks like they’re bicycle lanes,” he said, “and some pretty good sized lanes. In fact, the biggest lane on one of those streets was marked for bicycles. What’s the deal?”
I told him he most likely had driven into the Project 180 zone and his assumption that these markings were for bicycles were absolutely right on.
This individual is not a bicycle enthusiast, though he isn’t against anyone getting their exercise on a two-wheeler. But he was concerned about how much roadway was being given to riders at the expense of drivers.
Not to worry. To everything there is a purpose. It will all work out.
A few weeks after his call, Kristy Yager of the City of Oklahoma City, sent out this news release. There’s a lot of information here, so read carefully:
“City streets are becoming more bike friendly with expanded ‘sharrow lanes,’ ” her release began. “The first of more than 200 miles of bike routes, including shared lanes or ‘sharrow’ bike lanes, are being installed in Oklahoma City.
“The sharrows are pavement markings which, along with new signage marking the routes, remind motorists to share the road with bicyclists and convey that the street is a preferred bike route. They are different from bike lanes because they do not allocate space just for the cyclist.”
That was one my caller had described. Kristy also explained “sharrow.”
“Signs saying ‘bicycle may use full lane’ will be posted along routes. The word sharrow is a combination of the words ‘share’ and ‘arrow.’ The marking consists of a bicycle symbol with two arrows above.”
And here’s the word on how this all is coming about.
“The city’s bike routes are being implemented in phases. Major streets included in the first phase include Eastern Avenue, S Villa Avenue and the I-235 and I-35 service roads north of 63rd Street. Downtown streets are also in the first phase.”
Transportation planner Randall Entz said: “Sharrows are being installed on streets like Hefner Road and NW 19th Street that are popular with bicyclists, but are too narrow for conventional bike lanes. When they are installed downtown as a part of Project 180 renovations, they will also help to keep cyclist out of the door swing zones of parked cars.”
One other very important note:
“Although we are designating bike routes and sharrow lanes, cyclists can still ride on any Oklahoma City street,” Entz added.
Sharing the road will make it safer for all.
Learn more about what’s being done downtown, including with Project 180, by going to HTTP://WWW.OKC.GOV/.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
It’s been 35 years since Tennessee passed the first-in-the-nation child safety seat law. Now all states, including Oklahoma, have them, to one degree or another.
A recent AAA survey showed that a majority of parents look to state law for guidance on how to restrain their children in a motor vehicle – but frankly, Oklahoma’s law needs work.
It says kids under six must be in a child passenger restraint system. And it says children ages six through 12 must be in a child passenger restraint or a seat belt.
Ah, there’s the rub. That part that says “or a seat belt.”
Kids ages six and seven are too small for the vehicle’s seat belt. In the event of a crash, the belt tends to do more harm than good. Children those ages are just too short.
The answer is booster seats for that age group, or any child weighing from about 40 to 80 pounds or more. But the law doesn’t specifically mention booster seats, so many parents don’t think to use them.
Child car seats are complicated and there are lots of do’s and don’ts. For the latest information, visit http://exchange.AAA.com/safety/child-safety.
It only takes a split second to change lives forever. In an instant, the action of (or lack of action by) a distracted driver can produce catastophic, tragic results. That’s only one of the reasons “Drive Aware Oklahoma Week” is so important.
During news conferences Monday in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, members of the various volunteer organizations concerned about traffic safety, unified as Drive Aware Oklahoma, spoke out about what has become one of the most dangerous situations in our state, in our country: distracted driving.
They noted that the number of accident injuries and traffic fatalities related to distracted driving have increased steadily the past several years while attempts to make laws to stop them have been defeated.
Drive Aware Oklahoma members hope that, through making the public more aware of the risks and results of distracted driving, they can spur people to act, such as working with lawmakers to enact new laws and promoting efforts to educate drivers young and old.
It’s badly needed. Drive anywhere and you’ll encounter motorists driving distracted in one or more ways. It may be talking on a cellphone, texting, grooming, looking at maps or other reading materials, adjusting a radio or other entertainment, talking with others in the vehicle, or eating or drinking, to name a few.
The numbers aren’t good. Drive Aware Oklahoma notes that research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and others found distracted driving in fatal crashes rose from 7 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2009. It wasn’t unexpected that cell phone use was the major distraction in crashes, with nearly 1,000 people killed and other 24,000 injured nationwide.
A recent Virginia Tech study concluded that texting drivers are 23 times more likely to crash than non-texting drivers.
Distracted driving is particularly dangerous to young drivers, coming in as the number one killer of American teenagers.
Drive Aware Oklahoma Week has a direct tie-in with “Stop the Texts, Stop the Wrecks,” a texting and driving prevention campaign by the Ad Council, the office of the State Attorneys General and NHTSA.
The awareness group encourages all Oklahoma drivers to get off their cell phones while behind the wheel. If the call is so important that you need to use the phone, group members say, pull off the road and stop first.
The short time it takes to do that just might be the time that saves your life and/or those of others.
We all need to aware of that.