Thursday, September 29, 2011

Think before you drink and drive

I went with my little family and some friends to the Puyallup Fair last week. We had a great time. We took our kids on rides,visited the petting zoo, ate corn-on-the-cob, bbq, and cotton candy, and enoyed the atmosphere you only experience at a fair.

On our way out, we saw this car (or what's left of it) by the exit:

As you can tell from the picture, the car hardly even looks like a car anymore. When I looked up close, I couldn't believe how compact the inside had become.

The remains of the car were next to a giant poster board detailing the life of Sam Stephens, a young man who was killed by a drunk driver in a head-on collision. The poster detailed aspects of Sam's life. He was engaged to be married just two weeks after the collision. My heart aches for his fiance, his family, and his friends.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

More Effective

I had the opportunity to do a presentation yesterday at the Department of Licensing's annual Fall Conference for traffic safety instructors. It was pretty nerve-racking for me. Even though I have had little to no trouble standing in front of a group and speaking since I was a kid, this time was different for me. The auditorium was filled with 150 of my peers and DOL staff over traffic safety. I had my newborn daughter with me and we sat in the back before it was my turn to present. Half the people I saw in back had their phones out and were playing games.

I'm usually not a high-stress teacher. I don't have a lot of expectations for my audiences. Just that I like them to be awake. All of them. Including the one who only got a few hours of sleep the night before. I am relieved to report that although the first couple of minutes were awkward for me, the remainder of the presentation was fantastic...and even fun.

Humorous videos are more effective in getting a message across than lecture.

Having teams build a case and debate against each other in traffic court is more effective than lecture. 

Getting out your phone to see how fast you can text, figuring out how far your car travels during that time and then watching this movie is far more effective than the best lecture in the world.

Even if you think you're the best speaker in the world, with the best subject ever, you will be cutting your sphere of influence short if you rely on lecture instead of engaging your listener.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Move it or lose it

A few days ago, while on my way to work, I had one of the scariest driving experiences I've ever had. I was driving down I-5, going about 64 MPH, when I noticed that the car in the lane to the right of me was approaching me from behind, and getting dangerously close to the dividing line. I wasn't in the car's blind spot, so I assumed that the driver was simply getting too close to the line, would realize his mistake, and move back over. I honked my horn (over and over) to let the driver know that I was directly next to him in the lane he was trying to get into. Instead of getting back into his own lane, he continued to just move on over. Out of pure instinct, I moved over into the HOV lane to avoid an accident (screaming in fear all the while), barely missing the car and barely missing another car driving in the HOV lane.

Once the near-accident was over, I looked over at the car to see a very elderly man driving. A man who obviously should not still be allowed to drive. He didn't appear shaken up or apologetic in the least. In fact, I don't even think he realized what he had just done. I'm pretty sure he was completely oblivious of every other car on the road. I was really shaken up. It was the closest I have ever been to a serious accident and I can't explain how angry I was with this driver. I got his license plate and seriously considered reporting him to the police for reckless driving.

After this experience, I was curious to find out what procedures we have here in Washington to ensure that senior drivers are still qualified and capable of driving. I was surprised to discover that Washington does not require more frequent renewals or have any special requirements for senior drivers. This means that seniors only need to renew their licenses every 5 years without taking any additional tests unless somebody at the DOL deems it necessary. Really?? I respect my elders and don't think their privilege to drive should be taken away unnecessarily, but we all know that older drivers cause a disproportionate amount of accidents. Shouldn't we be making sure that they are still capable of driving before renewing their licenses? Shouldn't we consider the safety of not only the older drivers, but also all the other drivers out there?

I did read online that after age 65, a person must renew his license in person and pass a vision test. (Phew, at least we're doing something). However, I could not find any regulation to back that up and could not get through to the DOL to have them confirm it. (I waited on hold for 35 minutes and finally gave up.) Do any of you know if that's really the case?

Some state require an accelerated renewal (more frequent renewals than the standard), additional tests, physician's certification, etc. What do you think is appropriate?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

School Busses: Should I Stop and Wait?

For the past two years Jett has dreamed of riding a school bus with his older brothers. Some days the chatter has been non-stop.

Luckily, dreams really do come true. If only my dreams of teleportation were so easily fulfilled!

But since I won't just be appearing wherever I need to go, it looks like transportation is in my life for the long haul. And as convenient as school busses are for me to get my kids to school, I still don't like it when I'm stuck behind one in traffic. Then my mind starts to twist what I know about right of way laws and school busses. Looking for ways to justify me getting around the bus and on my way.

Look at this next photo. I came across a scene very similar to this (with a real bus) not too long ago. I stopped at the stop sign.

Question: Should I wait? Or turn since the students won't cross my path?

The Washington State Driver Guide states:
You must stop for a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing whether it is on your side of the road, the opposite side of the road or at an intersection you are approaching. You are not required to stop for a school bus with red lights flashing when the stopped school bus is traveling in the opposite direction and the roadway:
- has three or more marked traffic lanes,
- is separated by a median, or
- is separated by a physical barrier.
After the school bus red lights have stopped flashing, watch for children along the side of the road and do not proceed until they have completely left the roadway. (Page 42)
Answer: Yup, I gotta wait, even though I'm pretty sure that a school bus shouldn't be stopping in the middle of an intersection. Ugh!

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