It is amazing how the pure number of drivers, cyclists, walkers and runners seems to quadruple overnight when the cold weather finally breaks in NH. It is like ants at a picnic and though everyone has the right to roll those windows down and enjoy the warm air, it is important to stay alert given that the pure increase of people on the road will inevitably lead to more accidents.
Here are a few driving safety tips to keep in mind as you get behind the wheel and drive along our beautiful NH roads.
1. Where there is a bouncing ball, there is a child:
The best advice I received while learning to drive in Milford with my father (with him wearing a bike helmet I might add, as part joke/part sincerity) is whenever you see a ball roll into the road, stop. Now with two boys of my own, I can see why this is so important. Like every good parent, I have taught my children to look both ways before crossing the street. However, this repetitive lesson only seems to translate in their young minds to be applicable while at a busy intersection and not elsewhere. When there is a ball involved, all bets are off and my boys are going for it, deaf to my shrieks of caution and concern.
2. When at a stop sign, stop and look both ways:
This tip is obvious but as a runner and cyclist, I see how frequently this law is broken. Pedestrians and runners are supposed to go against the traffic. If a car is taking a right hand turn, and simply glances to the left and rolls through the stop, they may fail to see the person running along the side of the road on the right. This seemingly slight oversight could result in hitting someone while a quick turn of the head could have prevented the whole incident. As most cyclists say, it is not a question of have you been hit by a car, but when.
3. Look both ways, even on a one-way street:
When turning onto a one way street, we may assume that we don't have to look in the "wrong" direction. I learned the consequences of this assumption the hard way while a new student at UNH many years ago. As a new student, I didn't want to look like a rookie as I crossed the main, one-way thorough fair in downtown Durham NH. I glanced to the right to ensure the coast was clear of any cars, only to be struck from the left by an oncoming bicyclist. Though I was a pedestrian, and not in a car, I have always remembered this incident and try to avoid it as both a driver and a pedestrian as you won't know what hit you if you never looked.
4. Slow Down:
"I was just going with the flow of traffic, officer." These words sputtered out of my mouth when I was pulled over recently. It took me back to my childhood while being scolded by my mother with her response to such an excuse being "If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you follow them?"
This "everyone is doing it" mentality does not justify the more concrete reasons of why speeding is dangerous, including:
- Speeding kills 13,000 people every year in the US.
- Speeding is involved in about 1/3 of all fatal crashes in the US.
- Speed-related accidents cost society more than $40 billion annually.
- According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) every minute "gained" by speeding to a destination, costs US society more than $76,000, and
- In 2006, 47% of speed related fatalities occurred on roads posted at 50 mph or less and more than 20% occurred on roads posted at 35 mph or less. Speeding is not just a factor on the highway.
5. Just Drive
In today's fast pace world, we are always trying to squeeze more into our day. This often means that we are utilizing the "down-time" of just driving into an extension of our work or personal "to-do" space. How many times have you noticed a teen talking on their phone while drifting into the other lane? Or perhaps you have seen the distracted business person weaving as they dig through his or her briefcase? These are hard habits to break, but according to the NHTSA web site, 16% of all vehicle related fatalities in the US involved distracted driving in 2009.
As discussed in a former blog (Ban on Cell Phones, A Working Mothers Perspective) I, like many others, struggle with time management. However, it is a new season and like turning over a new leaf, I will do my best to adhere to the very advice I give. After the long, snowy winter we had in NH this year, it is time to open the windows and let the sun shine in and just drive...safely.