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.
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.
There was a day when you couldn’t get me to say the word “retire.” I had too much going to even give it a thought. From the time I shut off the alarm and got out of bed until the time I turned out the lights at night, my life was set on “go.”
Through the years, there have been a few changes. Actually, there have been many. Some days, it feels like my get-up-and-go just got-up-and-went, as they say. Other days, I”m still going strong. Or at least, I really want it to be that way.
I recently took a class on retirement, just to see how I stood and what I might out to do to prepare for that day when I would be able to leave the fulltime job and shift at least some of my efforts from things I HAVE TO do to things I WANT TO do. Well, at least that’s’ the intention.
It was during that class that I realized I’m certainly not at that point yet. In fact, I’m not certain when I will be there. But at least now I have an idea as to what it will take to get me there. I also know there are many things to consider before I can make it happen.
I have to look at such things as …
* Finance — Where will it come from and how much will we have? Will my retirement account and our investments sustain us?
* Health — Will we able to get around well enough to remain independent?
* Insurance — What can we afford and what will it cover? Health, home and vehicle insurance are only part of that picture.
* Home — Can we maintain our home? There are always areas that need attention, from cleaning to repairs.
* Transportation — What are our options? Will we still be able to drive ourselves, or will we need assistance?
* Activity — A key point for most any retiree. It’s not just keeping the body active. You need to keep the mind sharp as long as possible.
These were just some of the key concerns. There are many more. Each individual’s situation is different.
Take a look at KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/RETIREMENT-OKLAHOMA to see areas a person looking ahead should be aware of before taking that plunge. Don’t forget also to look at KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/MONEY-OKLAHOMA for more ideas on what you can do to prepare.
These and other topics in our “know it” library might be just what you need.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
“What a drag it is getting old.” At least, that’s what Mick Jagger sang back in 1966, when he was 23. These days, as a “golden oldie” himself, Mick might be changing his tune.
Time catches up with everyone, even rock stars, but getting older doesn’t have to be a drag. One of the most important things to know is how age affects driving.
Although it might seem easy and natural, driving is actually a complex, fast-paced activity. It involves sensing information about traffic, road conditions, signals, markings, and the car’s behavior, deciding what to do based on that information, and then acting, all in rapid-fire succession.
A typical driver makes 20 decisions per mile, with less than half a second to act to avoid a collision.
Age affects all three steps in the process: sensing, deciding, and acting.
Sensing. We receive 85 percent of the information necessary to drive through our eyes. But typically our eyes begin to grow worse at age 40 or 50 and decline progressively in later years, even with corrective lenses.
Our ability to clearly distinguish details lessens and we have trouble changing focus quickly between near objects such as the instrument panel and those at a distance such as traffic signs.
The field of vision typically narrows with age, increasing the possibility of a side collision at an intersection. Older drivers are also bothered more by glare and take longer to recover from it. The enormous number of big pickup trucks, vans and sport-utility vehicles on the road today in Oklahoma make night driving particularly difficult for older people. These vehicles ride high, so their lights shine directly into the eyes of a driver in an oncoming passenger car. This can temporarily blind the person behind the wheel, no matter what their age.
Deciding. Once we take in information through our senses, we have to process it and make a decision to avoid a collision. Although older drivers process information and react more slowly than younger people, experience, mature judgment, and good driving habits usually compensate for these diminished skills.
As a sign of continued good judgment, most older drivers recognize and avoid situations where their limitations put them at risk. They drive less after dark, during rush hour, or in bad weather, and they may avoid difficult roads, left turns or certain intersections.
Acting. Making good decisions is one thing. Carrying them out is quite another. Few older drivers can perform fast-paced motor activities as well as younger drivers.
Weaker muscles, reduced flexibility, and limited range of motion restrict their ability to grip and turn the steering wheel, press the accelerator or brake, or reach to open doors and windows.
What’s more, 50 percent of the middle-aged population and 80 percent of people in their 70s suffer from arthritis, which makes turning, flexing and twisting painful.
Concerned about your or a loved one’s driving skills? The remedy may be as simple as an eye exam, a visit to the doctor, a regular exercise program, a driver refresher class (AAA Oklahoma calls theirs a Motor Vehicle Crash Prevention course), or a more appropriate vehicle. Also, a good free resource open to anyone with a computer is SeniorDriving.AAA.com. T0ns of tools and advice.
A free teen driver safety event on Oct. 6 will feature classic cars, iPad giveaways, nationally-known speakers and Oklahoma City Thunder entertainers the Thunder Girls and Rumble.
Sponsored by the Oklahoma City Thunder and AAA Oklahoma, the “Hot Cars & Hot Topics” event will take place in the Freede Wellness Center at Oklahoma City University from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6. There is no charge and pre-registration is not required.
“We’re hoping to reach teen drivers and everyone interested in teen driving with an afternoon of prizes, surprises and fun – and the message that teens can do a lot to reduce their risk on the road,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “Simple things like limiting distractions, avoiding alcohol and buckling up can enable teens to survive driving.”
Members of classic auto clubs will have their “hot cars” there, concessions will be available, the Thunder Girls will perform and Rumble will put on a show of high-flying trampoline dunks on the Freede Wellness Center’s basketball court. Drawings will be conducted for iPads and Thunder prize packages plus there will be lots of free giveaways.
Speakers include Bruce Shults, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Dr. Bill Van Tassel, Driver Training Programs Manager at the AAA National Office; Lt. George Brown of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol; Cheryl Nichols, a mother who lost a son to a texting-while-driving crash; and Jan Moran, External Relations Manager for AT&T, who will show the powerful AT&T video “It Can Wait.”
The Freede Wellness Center is located on the north side of the Oklahoma City University campus on NW 27th St. between N. Indiana Ave. and N. Florida Ave. Take NW 27th St. east from N. Pennsylvania Ave. and go three blocks – or take NW 27th St. west from N. Classen Blvd. and go three blocks.
For more information, visit www.AAA.com/TeenSafety or call Chuck Mai at (405) 753-8040.
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.
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.
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.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
In Oklahoma, the number of motorcyclist deaths has increased each year from 65 in 2006 to 106 in 2009. Oklahoma, however, is bucking the national trend which according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, shows motorcyclist fatalities nationwide decreasing from more than 5,000 in 2007 and 2008 to 4,462 in 2009.
State data shows:
–Of the total of 71,218 traffic crashes reported in 2009 in Oklahoma, 1,406 (2%) were motorcycle-related and involved 1601 individuals that were either drivers (90%) or passengers (10%) on a motorcycle.
–Though only 2% of crashes were motorcycle related, motorcyclists accounted for 14% of persons identified as having an inpatient hospitalization and 14% of persons who died.
–420 motorcyclists were hospitalized or died as a result of the crash as compared to 1.7% hospitalized and 0.4% died among persons in a car or pick-up truck crash.
–There were 649 (46% of the total) single vehicle crashes, 700 (50%) involving multiple vehicles and 57 (4%) involving animals or pedestrians.
–Hospitalization or death is more frequent among motorcyclists not wearing a helmet.
–Based on Oklahoma data for 2009, typical hospital charges are more than $13,000 higher for unhelmeted motorcyclists than for those wearing a helmet.
–Injuries to the head/face/neck are twice as frequent among unhelmeted motorcyclists than those wearing a helmet.
That’s the problem. So, what’s the solution?
First of all, motorists need to pay special attention while driving and watch out for motorcycles. Sometimes they’re hard to see – so always look once and then look again before turning or pulling out onto a roadway.
And there are some things motorcyclists can do:
–Don’t ride if impaired by alcohol and/or drugs.
–Wear a proper fitting DOT-approved helmet; you may want to consider helmets that are also Snell certified.
–Wear clothing or specialized gear that provides protection against road rash and impact injuries to other parts of the body.
–Be extra cautious if riding at night or on narrow rural roads, especially if you are unfamiliar with the road.
This information comes from the Oklahoma Traffic Data Linkage Project, a joint effort of the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. Their good work is very much appreciated.