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.
I’ve always loved a good ghost story.
When I was a boy growing up, we would go on Scout camp outs, or have friends over and sleep out in the back yard under the summer stars. When I was older, we sometimes would have a camp out on vacation. And when I became a parent, we would do Scout camp outs (you’re never too old to be a Scout), or fishing trips.
But ghost stories always “livened” things up. Occasionally, what was supposed to be downright scary became downright funny.
On one Scout camp out (earlier version), a few of my fellow minicampers, armed with pocket knives for protection, sat around a fire at night and tried to outdo each other with the scariest story.
There were tales of headless spooks roaming the woods, bloody warriors looking for body parts lost in combat, drowning victims, hanged criminals and many others, whose mutilated forms were so aptly described by the storyteller that they best not be here.
Usually, the narrator would toss in a groan or moan for good measure. Sometimes, two or more would work together to add an element of surprise, such as tossing a stick or rock off in the distance when no one was looking to make a startling sound.
All in good scare; sometimes with funny results, especially if someone actually did react in terror.
I don’t scare easily these days. But I do still like a good story. That’s why reading what paranormal Tonya Hacker comes up with in her adventures catches my attention. As author of Paranormal Eyes, she details events and examines what has been reported to have occurred in and around Oklahoma, as well as elsewhere.
If you know of such an item, location, or sighting, she would love to know about it. Just give her a heads-up.
Read her Paranormal Eyes at KNOWIT/NEWSOK.COM/UNUSUAL-WEIRD-OKLAHOMA. And while you’re there, check out odd-but-true stories elsewhere in the country and around the world by clicking on the buttons directly below the title of the page.
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
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.
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.
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’s all about money … how you get it, what you do with it. It’s your choice … mostly.
Who hasn’t watched a game show on TV, where contestants try to win money and prizes? Spin a wheel, answer a question, choose a door, select the right item, match objects and you might win the big one.
Maybe you play the lottery, where you spend money trying to make money. It’s a game of chance, similar to what some businesses “play” every day.
But listening to the radio while driving recently, I heard some hosts talking about how things are viewed today versus how they were thought of years ago. Such as, “If you had the choice of taking $100,000 when you were 20 or $10 million when you were 60, which would it be?”
For the younger set, those who haven’t reached the milestones in their lives yet, it’s all a dream or a wish. For those of us who have achieved at least one of those times, there’s some reality mixed in, especially when we’ve seen prices soar through the years on everything from necessities to accessories.
Later, when I wasn’t behind the wheel, I thought about what I would have done with a spare $100,000 when I hit 20. Like those on the radio show I had been listening to, a new car and a nice home were two items I most likely would have purchased. But I’m not sure how much investing I would have done, or how many trips I would have taken.
Now, getting $10 million at age 60 would bring a lot of interesting possibilities, such as retiring all debt for my family and me, helping others who are struggling …
Then, another question came to mind. “Would someone who suddenly found themselves with $10 million at age 60 continue to work for someone else, or would they either retire or work solely for them?”
I’d have to think about it some more, but I probably wouldn’t think long. I’m sure I could decide that one … shortly after I got my $10 million.
Learn more about handling personal finances at KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/MONEY-OKLAHOMA and its list of resources.
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.
What was supposed to have been an enjoyable ride on the rail between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth became anything but, and answers are needed.
“Heartland Flyer passengers endured nearly eight hours of delays Saturday night in a series of weather difficulties caused by heavy rain, a downed tree on the track and a lightning strike, which disabled one of the engines,” Business Writer Jennifer Palmer reported Tuesday on the front page of The Oklahoman.
The ride from Fort Worth began on time (5:25 p.m., Jennifer reported) but was 16 miles behind schedule when it reached its first stop in Gainesville, Texas. Amtrak, which operates the flyer, said that was due to heavy rain and flash flooding.
A little past Gene Autry, in southern Oklahoma, the train had to stop because there was a tree on the track. It was apparently at that stop that lightning struck the track or the locomotive, disabling it. This required freight locomotives to be summoned to remove the stricken power source.
The train was able to make its stop in Purcell nearly seven hours late. Passengers were warned at the next stop, in Norman, that there was a possibility of more delays. Several people took the opportunity to get off.
Those factors alone made this trip much less than pleasurable. But there was more. After the Flyer was able to move on, and just past Norman it shut down again.
It seems the crew had completed 12 hours, “the maximum time allowed, Amtrak said.” So “two miles from the station, crossing a live track on foot and navigating a ditch in the dark to find another way home, … ” the passengers were allowed to exit the train.
Eventually, a backup crew arrived to finish the journey. The train arrived in Oklahoma City at 5:34 a.m.
“We want people to know this wasn’t a satisfactory trip for us either,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Jennifer. “We’re looking at ways we could have handled this differently.”
Here’s a suggestion: look hard. Look very, very hard. This is where contingency plans should come into play.
Unexpected problems, such as weather or mechanical failures, can make things rough. Having an idea of how to handle them avoids an inconvenience to paying customers and an embarrassment. It can help you avoid what, in many circles, is known as a “public relations nightmare.”
How this incident affects future ridership will show how the public feels about it. Here’s hoping the Flyer can get back on track.