In 2009, there were approximately 10,800,000 (yes – over TEN MILLION) car wrecks in the United States and almost 36,000 people were killed. The good news is that is less than 1980 on both the number of wrecks and the number of deaths resulting from those wrecks.
One of the reasons is that we have safer vehicles. Infiniti now has safety features such as lane departure warnings and distance control assistance that will regulate the speed of the vehicle autonomously. Engineers at Carnegie Mellon University are working with General Motors in developing a car that can actually drive itself. It uses sensors, lasers, cameras and even thermal imaging to detect objects, signs, and traffic lights so that it can drive all by itself. Google is working on one as well. It is predicted that these cars will be on the market by 2020.
Until then, and because we probably won’t be able to afford the driverless car even then, here are some easy tips to keep you safer this year especially during the holiday season:
1) Obviously, as referenced in our earlier post, don’t drink and drive. Alcohol impairs inhibitions and delays reaction times.
2) Slow down! Everyone is rushing around during the holidays but you’ll not only be safer but have more money for those Christmas presents if you slow down. Driving slower reduces your fuel consumption so you will get more miles per gallon and fewer speeding tickets if you slow down. It will also decrease your chance of having an accident by as much as 50%. Slowing down will also make sure you aren’t tempted to try to “make the light” when you’re approaching an intersection.
3) Don’t text and drive. Or eat and drive. Or put on your make up and drive. Or pick up that item you dropped on the floor and drive. Or do anything else other than drive. Distracted driving is dangerous. Pay attention to yourself and your surroundings. That is the number one rule of Defensive Driving and distracted driving is the antithesis of that.
4) Wear your seat belt. Many modern cars have airbags, crush zones, and other safety features designed to keep you safe inside the car. But if you’re not wearing a seat belt, you may not stay inside the car when you have a wreck. Most states require seat belts and 33 states can pull you over and give you a ticket just for not wearing a seat belt. More importantly, it can save your life.
5) Breathe. Sure, life is stressful. Especially during the holidays. But aggressive driving does not make any less stressful. Aggravating other drivers, initiating conflict, using rude gestures or language, tailgating, flashing headlights – we’ve all seen it done and some of us may have even done it from time to time. Don’t do it. Go one step further – yield to other cars, even if you don’t have to. Not only will it keep you safer but it will also make you feel better because you’ve been kind to someone else today.
6) Maintain your vehicle. All mechanical maintenance is important to extend the life of your vehicle but it may help extend your life as well. Get your vehicle checked out on a regular basis. Next week’s blog will be about the most important part of vehicle maintenance from a safety standpoint – your tires.
Cars that drive themselves seem like a futuristic dream but are becoming a reality. Until then, slow down and be safe. The life you save could be your own.