Friday, October 28, 2011

Traffic Safety Tips for Trick-or-Treating

Traffic safety on Halloween hits especially close to home for me. A couple of years ago, my niece and some of her friends were hit by a passing car while trick-or-treating. Luckily, everybody is okay now, but there were quite a few injuries, some of which were very serious.

Trick-or-treating is fun, but can be dangerous if we don't take the proper precautions. This is especially the case here in Washington where many neighborhoods don't have sidewalks.

The CDC has come up with this list of safety tips for trick-or-treaters.
While, they're all important, I'd like to focus on the one relevant to traffic safety:

* Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.

*Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you.

*Look both ways before crossing the street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.

*Only walk on sidewalks whenever possible, or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Drivers' Ed Is Dead

I was hooked at first sight!  "Drivers' Ed Is Dead" by Pat Delgado immediately piqued my curiosity when I happened upon it while on Amazon one afternoon. I had to buy it. 

It's a short and fun read about two boys who signed up to take driver's ed in high school but the class was cancelled and replaced by a business course. For them, what started out as a class project ended up as a real life business when they opened their own driving school.

My review: I enjoyed this tale on a few different levels.
1. Teenage boys learning how to be responsible always nets a positive review.
2. Building interpersonal relationships with those in different generations brings blessings to all involved.
3. Imagining a teen teaching another teen how to drive makes me chuckle. Out loud.

My only complaint may not be an issue for you. As a driving instructor and school owner, I find it hard to believe that Ms. Delgado, a school teacher, doesn't address any State regulations regarding driving schools. Specifically, licensed instructors and an approved curriculum as well as school records. They only had to get a business license. What makes it better is that with their grand opening money, they had to account for their expenses before taking home any money. And that's a good business practice that many failed businesses never learn.

I did have one more problem. The target audience for the book is teenage boys yet the graphics on the cover and inside illustrations would appeal to my grandmother.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Traffic Law Myth Busted

Did you know that it's against the law to eat a lollipop or paint polka dots on the American flag in Washington? Oh, and you can forget about buying any more meat on Sunday. Supposedly, anyway.

We've all heard rumours about these types of "crazy laws" that are still somehow on "the books." While I think these laws are comical, ridiculous, and entertaining to hear about, I find myself wondering if they're really still in existence, or if they ever were.

I recently saw this ridiculous Washington law cited all over the internet:

All motor vehicles must be preceded by a man carrying a red flag (daytime) or a red lantern (nighttime) fifty feet in front of said vehicle.

Really? So, we're all supposed to be driving 2 miles per hour everywhere? Yikes.

Well, if this law happens to actually still be in existence, it's obviously not enforced. I don't recall ever being pulled over for not having a man carrying a red flag in front of me. But, as far as I can tell, it's not still in existence. Not one of the internet sources citing this supposed law cites a corresponding RCW (Revised Code of Washington) to support it.

RCW Title 46 deals with Motor Vehicles. Only one law (RCW 46.37.440) mentions flags and lanterns, but is there any mention of any man preceding any vehicle? Nope. This particular law only says that flags and lanterns must be carried in trucks in case of emergencies.

You can sleep easy now. I'm fairly certain that you won't be pulled over for not having a man fifty feet in front of you with a red flag/lantern. Phew.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Teach Your Teen: You Have Control

I like driving with teens. I like teaching them a skill and working on it for a bit and seeing them improve. It's amazing what an hour of concentrated practice can do.

My friend Diane expressed concern not too many months back about her daughter learning to drive. It's the worst part of having a teen. We're in different stages of life. Her children are in their teens and 20s. Mine are young (the oldest is almost 8). I asked her if she'd like to trade kids with me. Just for a few days. A week, tops. She's got a good memory, though, and didn't want to step back into the world of potty training and coloring on the walls.

One thing that I've only done on a couple occasions, is to ride with a new driver without my passenger-side foot brake. With it, I'm calm and assured. Without it, I get really nervous. Teens are notorious for doing random and unexpected maneuvers while driving. Gas/brake confusion is really distressing. Turning left in front of on-coming cars or lane changing into another vehicle are just as bad. And as I remember these situations, I begin to understand Diane's less than enthusiastic attitude about teen drivers. Aside from about 6-8 formal driving lessons, parents provide most of the practice time with their new drivers. And that can be terrifying.

Before driving with your teen, have the following conversation:

  • You: When I say stop, you stop. Do not ask questions. Just do it. We'll talk about the why when it's safe. 
  • Teen: Okay (Or something in the affirmative. If the response is less than 100% obedience, your teen may lack the maturity to learn to drive right now. A little time and a lot of walking usually cure this.)

Do not fear. You have a lot of control when your son or daughter is driving. Or at least more than you realize. In addition to this initial warning, you may want to discuss the following so that your child knows what to expect out of you.

  • You will be calm and give instructions well in advance.
  • You will be sitting in a ready position to take control of the vehicle if necessary.
  • The steering wheel is not sacred ground. You may be guiding it if there needs to be a minor course adjustment.
  • If there are gas/brake issues, they may feel you grab their knee to lift their foot off the gas or brake.
  • In an emergency, you may pull up on the parking brake. 
  • In an emergency, you may shift into neutral.
  • In an emergency, you may turn off the car.
Use this list of controls wisely and in moderation. You can avoid most of them by not putting your child in a driving situation beyond their abilities. Excessive stimulation from the radio, traffic, siblings in the car or new places usually translates into potential danger. You can do this. The more effort you put into practicing specific skills with your child, the better driver they will become.
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