Friday, June 22, 2012

Buckle up the toddler or the gas can?

A Colorado woman was cited for a seatbelt violation when she decided to strap up her gas can instead of her toddler. Poor kid.

The controversial photo above was posted on the Colorado Department of Transportation's Facebook page. According to, the photo sparked hundreds of comments and more than 1,000 shares on Facebook, and was taken down.

The CDOT stated the following on their Facebook page after taking the photo down:

"Dear Facebook Friends and Others- We have decided to take down the post of the child sitting next to the gas can buckled in the child safety seat. Please know that we very much believe the photo served as an educational opportunity for child passenger safety and we hope that parents will utilize the information sources available to understand the laws and requirements to protect their children while in vehicles. However, our resources are limited and we can't continue to monitor comments at the level necessary to ensure that any harassing or profane posts are removed promptly. We're trying hard to provide resources for you regarding traffic safety and transportation in Colorado, and want you to feel safe and comfortable posting or asking questions. Thank you for understanding!"

Friday, June 15, 2012

Teach Your Teen: Visual Search Pattern

I started playing basketball in 3rd grade. I wasn't very good. I was afraid of getting hit so I didn't like to rebound or receive passes for that matter. In practice, I frequently lost control if I took my eyes off the ball so I always looked at the ball while dribbling. I was more of a hindrance to the team than a help.

Contrast me then as a new player to me as a more experienced player two years later. I became known as a solid defensive player and ball stealer. Our team made it to the playoffs and won the championship game. What changed? First, I got over my fear of getting hit by the ball (and breaking my glasses). Second, I kept practicing. And third, I learned some crucial skills along the looking down court instead of at the ball.

What does my basketball learning curve tell me about driving? Current rates of collisions by both inexperienced and long time drivers indicate that we've got a problem with traffic safety. Most of us think that just because we can operate a car (like I could dribble a ball) that we should be able to drive without crashing. Too bad it's not true. Performing basic maneuvers without incorporating proper vision techniques leave both basketball players and drivers vulnerable to fouls.

What is a visual search pattern? 
Alternating your eye movement between set places in the traffic scene. You are targeting, looking for potential hazards, and making decisions in advance. Make your pattern a part of your muscle memory so that you'll build a routine you can do without thinking. Consciously drilling positive habits helps mentally prepare you to handle any interruptions in the pattern.

Area One - Expand Your Horizons
Target your eyes on the horizon or as far ahead of you as you see the road go. This will keep you centered in your lane and give you a heads up on when/where the road turns or if there is a slow down in the traffic flow. Keep your eyes continuously moving between each area of the search pattern every handful of seconds.

Area Two - Anticipate Slow Downs
Look for slow downs (turning vehicles, road construction, bus stops, lane closures, etc) and anticipate how you will need to alter your driving to interact smoothly with them. Perhaps, you will need to make a lane change or take your foot off the gas.

Teaching Help: Get your teen driver to verbally tell you when they see stop signs and signal lights as well as brake lights, pedestrians, bicyclists, etc. If you find that they are seeing a hazard in advance and not re-acting appropriately to it, then you can insert directions with a smile (as opposed to cursing when they scare the crap out of you).

Area Three - Scan Each Intersection
Scan intersections at a 45° angle a couple seconds before reaching them. You may want to cover the brake (hover your foot above it) if you are unsure how another vehicle or pedestrian in the intersection are going to act. Be prepared for surprises hidden behind parked cars, buildings and bushes that block your view.

Area Four - Watch Your Back
Keep tabs on who's about to rear-end you. If you are slowing or stopping and the vehicle behind you is approaching too quickly, tap the brakes so that the brake lights flash. This interrupts the rear driver's day dream and let him know he should also be slowing down.

Pop Quiz
What is the most common excuse given at the scene of a collision?

Number one, "I didn't see him," followed by a close second, "He came out of nowhere!"

People and cars don't come out of nowhere when you've got your search pattern a part of your subconscious. When your brain starts to wander while driving, you want that visual search pattern and your actions to it so automatic that there is nothing to stress about, just smooth interaction with others...kinda like a well practiced basketball team.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Securing Your Load

Years ago, my husband witnessed a barbecue fly off the back of a truck onto the freeway. Being the Good Samaritan that he is, he pulled over, got out, ran across the freeway, and helped the driver move the barbecue to the side of the road. Luckily nobody was hurt.

I always tend to get nervous when I see find myself driving directly behind a truck, like the one below, carrying anything that could potentially fall off. I generally make it a habit to change lanes.

After hearing my husband's story recently, I got to thinking about just how dangerous it can be when any object becomes unsecured while driving at such high speeds. There are so many potentially dangerous scenarios. A report by the AAA Foundation estimates that twenty-five thousand accidents per year in North America are the result of unsecured loads.

Photo from the State of Washington Department of Ecology Website

I presume that this is the reason Washington has strict laws regarding securing loads while driving. RCW 46.61.655 states in part that
  1. No vehicle shall be driven or moved on any public highway unless such vehicle is so constructed or loaded as to prevent any of its load from dropping, sifting, leaking, or otherwise escaping therefrom, except that sand may be dropped for the purpose of securing traction.
  2. No person may operate on any public highway any vehicle with any load unless the load and such covering as required thereon by subsection (3) of this section is securely fastened to prevent the covering or load from becoming loose, detached, or in any manner a hazard to other users of the highway.
  3. Any vehicle operating on a paved public highway with a load of dirt, sand, or gravel susceptible to being dropped, spilled, leaked, or otherwise escaping therefrom shall be covered so as to prevent spillage. Covering of such loads is not required if six inches of freeboard is maintained within the bed.

The law is straight forward and is basically what the average person would expect. However, what people may not be aware of or expect are the crimes associated with failing to secure a load. The same RCW outlines that a person is guilty of:
  1. Failure to secure a load in the first degree if, with criminal negligence, he fails to secure a load in compliance with the subsections listed above and causes substantial bodily harm to another,
  2. Failure to secure a load in the second degree if, with criminal negligence, he fails to secure a load in compliance with the first two subsections listed above, and causes damage to property of another, and
  3. An infraction, if the person fails to secure a load or part of a load in compliance with the subsections listed above and the failure does not amount to one of the crimes listed above.
If ever in doubt about how to secure your load, visit the State of Washington Department of Ecology website for tips and videos on how to secure your load and keep the roads safe.

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