Fuelishness! -- The FuelClinic.com Blog

We Drive With Our Brain and Eyes as Opposed to Our Hands and Feet

As a driver, we can begin the process of mentally preparing to drive by doing hazard perception training. We actually drive with our brain and eyes as opposed to our hands and feet. Your brain tells your eyes where to look, your eyes look and see potential hazards and then send a message back to your brain with a required response. Your hands and feet or are then called to duty to protect you. Cognitively, you’re actually doing this before you realize it. What helps immensely is having advanced training to get your brain ready for these hazards before you really need them. Dealing with many possible hazards and the proper responses before you need them is the way to begin a safe driving career.

Hazard perception training, combined with driving on public roads, enhances our ability to not only perceive potential hazards, but gives you options of how to deal with these often hidden hazards. This actually speeds up the process of hazard perception so the driver is better prepared for the real world. Computer and simulator training are often the best methods to get your brain on the same page as experienced drives. This type of training is critical for a new driver to gain experience in thinking like an experienced driver – but in less time.

Even the best athlete with amazing hand-eye coordination can’t deal with potential hazards as quickly as someone who has been trained mentally to do this. For years I’ve had students who did not have hazard perception training and would often have ‘target fixation’ when a hazard appeared. They stared at the hazard and did nothing. I had to intervene and help them out. For the students who did hazard perception training, they would often respond immediately without assistance; just like a seasoned driver.

So, what type of driver would you like driving your vehicle; someone who thinks and responds like an experienced driver or someone who may have ‘target fixation’ and responds late. I know what my answer is; what’s your answer?

 



The Extra Mile – SaferTeenDriver.com Adds New Tools for Novice Teen Drivers

Today the website SaferTeenDriver.com was relaunched with a new hazard perception evaluation and related defensive driver training courses. The updated website incorporates best in class evaluation and educational services from  BrightFleet.com, but adds a unique coaching guide to help parents and teens get the most from the training.

“We have spent years helping fleets improve their safety programs and reduce risk,” said Bob O’Connor, the CFO of BrightFleet, “Now I have a teenage daughter who was having difficulty learning how to drive. She had learned the basic mechanics of driving, but lacked any real understanding of the hazards around her. It was as if she was driving in a bubble. Out of frustration I thought about applying the same hazard perception evaluation and related courses we had been using for several years with commercial fleets, but this time for her.”

Teen drivers are most at risk of having an accident in their first year of driving. Car accidents are still the number one cause of death for teenagers, and injure or maim countless more. Novice teen drivers lack the experience to identify and understand the kinds of hazards that are common on the roads today. They tend to have poor situational awareness, and target-fixate on hazards that appear suddenly, instead of concentrating on maintaining an “out” if a potential hazard turns into an actual one.

“I found that my child responded very well to the training, given the additional guidance I was able to provide to help her understand how the training worked. She picked it up right away. She completed her evaluation, and was assigned a set of courses like proper use of mirrors, safe lane changing, and the other motorist to take,” said Mr. O’Connor. “She completed her courses in about a week, and in the following  ride-alongs with her I noticed a real improvement in her awareness. She was talking me through the potential hazards she was watching as we drove along. I was blown away by her progress in such a short period of time, and that’s when I decided that we had to make this training available to parents and novice teen drivers.”

Parents interested in seeing how this service can help their own soon-to-be or just licensed novice drivers can watch a short video explaining how SaferTeenDriver works. The training normally retails for $119.95 and includes access for both the parent and the teen driver, but during a limited introductory promotional period, new accounts can be purchased at a discounted rate of $99.95 by using the code “TheExtraMile” during the checkout process.

SaferTeenDriver.com is a service of BrightFleet.com, which is a service of Compendium Software Systems, LLC – a veteran owned small business located in Central Florida that focuses on tailoring advanced technologies into solutions that help prevent accidents, reduce risk, and save companies (and now parents!) money by improving the safety and efficiency of drivers everywhere.



Drive Safer Sunday

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is the busiest traffic day of the year. That means sharing the road with drivers who are using hand-held devices, eating, sleepy, or even drunk. So give yourself one more reason to be thankful. Be safe – slow down, buckle up, stay alert and give heavy trucks plenty of room since they can’t see, maneuver or stop like you can.



Interview with Jamie Lynn Crandall – Miss Utah USA – Working to Stop Texting While Driving

From: Decision Points @ Fleet Blogs

Last week ace automotive reporter Michael Block caught up with Jamie Lynn Crandall, the reigning Miss Utah 2011, who is on a mission to convince people to stop texting while driving.

Block was able to spend the better part of an hour interviewing her over the phone about her mission and her relationship with Hang Up – Save A Life, an organization she helped start after losing a friend in an automobile accident where the other driver was texting.

It’s an interesting interview. She makes several excellent points – including the need to reach young drivers who are just learning to drive, as well as older drivers who are just learning to text.

Decision Points: Do you think distracted driving is also a problem among commercial fleets?

Jamie Lynn Crandall: I think everybody is guilty of it. Although I’m trying more to get the attention of young people in high school that are just starting to learn how to drive, it’s just as important for people my age and even our parents, because they’re just starting to learn how to text, and they’re trying to do it at the same time they’re trying to do everything else. I would especially hope, however, that the drivers of fleet vehicles would take these warnings even more seriously, as they’re on the clock at their job.

Distracted driving is now considered to be as dangerous as driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Texting while driving is considered to be one of the most risky things people can do behind the wheel, and most company and government vehicle policies prohibit it while on company time. Many parts of the country have laws prohibiting texting while driving, and there are apps for smart phones that will help parents and fleet managers control the ability to make and receive calls and texts while driving.

Read the whole thing over at Decision Points @ Fleet Blogs.



Drive Safer Sunday is November 28, 2010

From: Road Safe America — November 28, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, will be the busiest traffic day of the year. Do what you can to be safe – get plenty of rest, stay alert, buckle up, put away the hand-held devices, and slow down.

Be extra careful around big trucks – leave them plenty of room because they cannot see, maneuver, or stop as easily as you can.

Visit our website, www.roadsafeamerica.org, for more safety tips.



Georgia Southern University “Get Pumped” Tire Inflation Campaign

Georgia Southern University took a step in the green direction last month as its Center for Sustainability rolled out a “Get Pumped” Tire Inflation campaign. The Center teamed up with more than 80 student volunteers who informed ~400 drivers about the benefits of checking their car tire pressure each month. Volunteers also showed them where to find their vehicle’s recommended tire pressure in the driver’s door jamb, taught them how to use a tire gauge, and gave them a window sticker to remind them of the proper tire pressure and the date to check their tires each month. If vehicle tires were low, volunteers filled them up.

If all the volunteers and drivers make this simple change in behavior, the collective benefit of the Get Pumped campaign will be a savings of up to 50,000 gallons of gas $250,000, and 720 tons of CO2 each year, not to mention improved vehicle safety and tire life.

Student volunteers enjoyed the opportunity. Volunteer Jade McKibben commented “I really feel that I informed a lot of people who will spread the word about the CO2 emissions and the pros of simply maintaining the recommended tire pressure.” Drivers appreciated the free service, received unexpectedly as they went to their work out at the campus Recreation Activities Center (RAC).

Southside Service Center generously trained student volunteers and K’bob Kelly’s, Sugar Magnolia, and Gnat’s Landing provided gift certificates for the volunteers who educated the most drivers. Campus Recreation and Intramurals, Physical Plant, Parking and Transportation, Marketing all helped to make this event a great success.

For those interested in learning more about how to save fuel, visit fuelclinic.com for helpful tips and an online method to track your car’s fuel efficiency. Join the Center for Sustainability’s facebook group http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=142698357289 or find our website at http://cost.georgiasouthern.edu/sustainability/ for updates on sustainability events on campus and in the community.



5 Top Driving Mistakes that Cause Crashes

GMAC Insurance is one of the largest insurers in the nation and has offices in many different countries around the world. Based on their years of collecting crash data, they offer the following key 5 mistake that lead to accidents most often, along with tips on how to make sure you avoid them yourself.

Source: GMAC Insurance

Multi-tasking While Driving – Driving Tip: When You Turn the Car On, Turn the Gadgets Off. No matter how busy your day is, when you’re on the road, focus only on driving. Catch up on other activities later and you’ll avoid unnecessary accidents.

Following Too Closely – Driving Tip: One Thousand One, One Thousand Two. Leave a two-second cushion between you and the vehicle ahead – it could save your bumper and your life. Make sure to double or triple that time when the weather is bad or the pavement is slick.

Failure to Yield on a Left-Hand Turn – Driving Tip: Check the Flow Before You Go. Look at the street you are turning into to make sure that no vehicles or pedestrians are in your path.

Incorrect Merging – Driving Tip: Yellow is for Yield. Accidents often occur when you are stuck behind a driver who interprets yield as stop. Don’t be the guilty party. Use the ramp as a means for merging into traffic, not causing it.

Backing Up – Driving Tip: Look Over Your Shoulder. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. Don’t rely mirrors alone. Look over your shoulder before backing up.

GMAC Insurance has an online written driving test with questions taken from state test across the country. A report on the 2010 test shows that fully 1 in 5 licensed drivers would not pass a written driving test if taken today.

The 2010 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test released today found that nearly 1 in 5 licensed drivers – roughly 38 million Americans – would not pass a written drivers test exam if taken today. Kansas drivers ranked first in the nation (82.3 percent average score); New York drivers ranked last (70 percent average score).

Take the GMAC online drivers test and see how you score. You can also find state averages for this year, as well as previous years.



Set These Road Rules With Your Teen Driver Today

Every year nearly 5,000 young drivers are killed in automobile accidents in the US, and a staggering 300,000 more are injured or maimed. Car accidents account for nearly 40% of the total number of deaths for teens ages 15 to 19, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

With summer starting, it’s a great time to set or reinforce some basic safety skills and guidelines for your teen driver:

Source: Ford Driving Skills for Life

School is almost out, summer will soon be here, and teens have a license to drive. Unfortunately, with the arrival of summer comes riskier teen driving behavior. No school means more time for cruising, piling lots of friends into Mom’s car, and later nights.

Parents! Talk to your teen about summer driving and set some rules. Here are a few to get you started.

  • Buckle up! – Remind your teenager again and again how important that single little click can be. Statistics show that seat belt usage is lowest among teenagers, even though seat belts continue to be proven as the No. 1 life-saving device in accidents.
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  • Don’t drink and drive – You may assume your teen knows this, but it’s worth a sit-down talk. Make sure your teen knows the dangers of driving under the influence – or getting into a vehicle with someone who’s been drinking.
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  • No text zone – Remind your teen driver to avoid distractions such as texting, loud music and any activities that take their eyes away from the road for extended periods of time.
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  • Passenger Limit – Always set a limit on the number of passengers allowed in the car.
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  • Set a curfew – Make sure your teens know when you expect them home, and make sure they know it’s not debatable.

Parent-Teen Driving Contracts

Consider creating a Parent-Teen Driving Contract with your teen drivers. Parent-Teen Driving Contracts help establish your expectations with your teen driver, where driving privledges are dependant on safe driving behaviors you designate as important to your family. Research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (PDF) indicates that parents are the key to enforcing good driving behavior in young drivers.

Parents are big influencers of their kids’ behavior. The more involved they are, the less likely kids are to engage in all types of risky activities associated with the teen years.

The Success of Graduated Drivers’ Licensing Laws

Graduated Drivers’ Licensing (GDL) is becoming law in many states. GDL’s generally restricts nighttime, expressway, and unsupervised driving during initial stages, but lifts these restrictions with time and further testing of the individual, eventually concluding with the individual attaining a full drivers’ license. In states where GDL’s are required, accident fatalities for teen drivers has dropped by up to 30%. Even if you do not live in a state with a current GDL law, you can create your own Parent-Teen Driving Contract based on the same principles that make GDL’s successful.

It’s important to talk to your teen about the rules of the road, to clearly set your expectations of them, and outline the consequences of failing to meet your expectations.



Motorweek Uses CarChip to Measure Benefits of Eco-Driving Behaviors

The CarChip Pro was previously reviewed here on Fuelishness!

Since then we’ve been selling CarChip Pros to eco-conscious motorists, cautious parents of young drivers, commercial fleet operators looking to reduce risk, and even some government agencies exploring technologies to help reduce green house gas (GHG) emissions.

Each of our customers had one thing in common – all were looking for an inexpensive and versatile piece of hardware that can provide valuable insight into driving behavior.   (You can read all about it and order one here, and if you are a FuelClinic member you’ll enjoy a generous $20 discount per unit. See details on the order form)

Recently found by a friend of FuelClinic – a segment of Motorweek that covers the benefits of fuel efficient driving (eco-driving) and they too are using a CarChip (older version) to compare results of two very different driving styles:

This clip from Motorweek proves there’s no absolute need to change your car if you want to save $$ and get better mileage. Simply altering how you drive can make an impact… in some people’s case, a significant one.



Should eco-driving be part of driver’s education?

As awareness of the benefits of eco-driving habits builds in the US and around the world, there is also a growing interest in incorporating eco-driving techniques in early drivers education courses.

Until recently, professional eco-driving training has been a specialty course provided to already-experienced drivers, often as a work-related program for professional fleet drivers in an effort to reduce company fuel expenses and reduce preventable accidents.

Several studies done in the last 10 years indicate a direct connection between efficient drivers and those drivers with fewer preventable accidents.

One internal study at a major US-based trucking company indicated that their top fuel-efficient drivers were squarely in the top percentile of drivers with the fewest preventable accidents. It was also found that their drivers who routinely drove in an inefficient manner were among those drivers with the greatest number of preventable accidents.

How are eco-drivers safer drivers?

By practicing eco-driving techniques motorists maintain a high level of awareness to traffic patterns and the flow of vehicles around and ahead of the driver, allowing the driver to plan to minimize the loss of momentum while operating their vehicle safely and efficiently.

Eco-driving motorists are encouraged to “de-couple” emotionally from the circumstances of normal traffic, focusing instead on a competition between “themselves and the gas pump” verses jockeying for position with other drivers around them.

By limiting the top-speed and maintaining generous following-distances eco-drivers give themselves extra time to react to unexpected changes, providing additional decision making time and a greater likelihood of maintaining control in evasive maneuvers.

This correlation between efficient driving and safe driving creates an opportunity to apply measurable indicators to driver safety.

In the past an individual driver’s skill and risk was measured by referring to DMV records to count number and severity of traffic citations,  or by referencing insurance records to measure the number and severity of traffic accidents on record. “Defensive driver” insurance discounts are provided to drivers who have had fewer accidents and fewer citation – without any real data to determine if the driver is truly driving in a safe and skilled manner – or has just been lucky.

With the advent of inexpensive on-board driver-behavior data-logging devices (like the CarChip Pro) we can build software systems (like FuelClinic) that are designed to analyse real-world driving behavior based on actual data. With the proper training and monitoring programs in place, this driving data can be processed in near-real-time with timely reporting in an on-going effort to improve both fuel efficiency and safety records.


(Click image to add your vote to this poll)

Several states are currently working to add eco-driving to drivers education, including Michigan and Florida, with RFPs seeking qualified training materials to be added to their existing driver training programs.

What do you think? Should eco-driving techniques be added to the existing driver’s ed program in your state? Comments are welcome below, or join the discussion over at our Facebook Community.



The Distracted Driver: Looking Away From Road Main Factor in Crashes and Near-Misses

From Ford “Driving Skills for Life“:

Independent research based on real-world studies, that’s where drivers are monitored in their own cars rather than in labs, show that looking away from the road is the main factor associated with crashes and near-misses. Another study by NHTSA/Virginia Technology Transportation Institute (VTTI) found that “dialing a handheld device” had a higher risk compared to “just driving,” while “talking/listening on a cell phone” did not statistically differ from risks associated with “just driving.” VTTI summarized their findings by stating that it’s rare that drivers are involved in a crash when their eyes are on the roadway, regardless of any cognitive demand they may be under. Another point to keep in mind is that although there was explosive growth of cell phone subscriptions in the U.S. during the last 15 years, there has been a decline in crash rates which may indicate that drivers choose to engage in tasks when they judge the driving conditions are least demanding.

More than likely this is already apparent to most drivers, but indicates the importance of human-systems integration design in new vehicles so that drivers “know” where their controls and displays are without having to hunt for them.

What impact does this have on add-on gadgets that require the driver to take his/her eyes off of the road to gather information? GPS navigation suckered to your windshield? After-market eco-driving instrumentation or “apps” with charts and graphs indicating how well you are driving?



Oprah Show: Distracted Driving – America’s New Deadly Obsession

Oprah Winfrey is using her considerable influence to educate motorists to the growing dangers of distracted driving, a topic near to our hearts here at FuelClinic.

Millions of people text, talk or e-mail on their cell phones while driving—a recent survey finds that 71 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 49 admit they text or talk on the phone while they drive.

If you think you can call, text and drive at the same time, you cannot. That message you can’t wait to send could kill. Distracted driving is an epidemic that is sweeping through our country, claiming lives and destroying families.

On Monday, she aired an entire episode dedicated to her new cause. While you can’t find the full episode online, here is a short clip available at CNN.

We applaud Oprah along with the many professional driving educators, technology creators, and others working every day to make positive changes in this important effort.



Introducing CarChip Pro w/ Eco-Driving Profile to FuelClinic Users

One of the most interesting things about “eco-driving” is that you can actually measure your progress and see the results of your efforts. FuelClinic allows you to track your overall MPG and related metrics over time, but it takes at least two receipts in order to establish your baseline, and then many more receipts over time to see if your mileage is improving or not. This is great because it’s simple, low-tech, and maybe best of all – it’s free.

But what if you wanted to dig deeper into your driving habits, to see exactly how you are driving vs. how you think you are driving. Maybe you need a little bit of help remembering to drive efficiently, some “virtual eco-driving coaching” along the way. Maybe you wanted to be able to “check in” on your inexperienced teenage driver to see that he or she is driving safely, or check to determine if your employees are doing what they can to drive efficiently and lower your fuel costs.

What is required is an interactive data-logger. There are several gadgets on the market, or soon-to-be released to the market. We’ve spent the last several months evaluating many of these devices for integration with our certified eco-driving training course using the reporting capabilities of FuelClinic, and have found several that seem very promising.

One of our top criteria is that the device not become a distraction to the driver, that it didn’t require the driver take his/her eyes off the road to look at a display or other indicators. Instead we looked for devices that gave simple auditory cues to remind the driver when his/her driving behavior exceeded pre-defined thresholds, and one that allowed the user or fleet manager to determine for themselves what “Eco-Driving Profile” to attempt to achieve.

I believe one in particular hits a sweet spot between cost, capability, ease of use, and integration potential. It’s called the CarChip Pro (and CarChip Fleet Pro for commercial use) manufactured in the USA by Davis Instruments. We’ve been testing several of the units for over a month now and have been getting feedback from professional driving school and fleet owners. Response was very positive, so I have decided to start selling these devices on the website.

CarChip-Pro-8226-Clamshell

CarChip Pro is a portable device that requires no extra wires or batteries (a USB cable is all that is needed to download the data to your computer), is installed in just a few seconds into the OBDII port that is standard on most cars since 1996, and can be moved from vehicle to vehicle easily. I’m working on a new section for FuelClinic that will provide all of the details about CarChip Pro, along with guidence on how to set-up an “Eco-Driving Profile” using the software provided with the unit.

I’m really excited about the CarChip Pro – Davis Instruments has been making the CarChip line of data loggers for nearly a decade, they are small, reliable, and have already been installed in tens of thousands of vehicles. The CarChip Pro is also one of the least expensive interactive data loggers on the market – with no monthly cellular fees or required contracts, making it attractive to parents, consumers, driving school owners, and small business fleet owners (there is also a commercial Fleet version with additional capabilities including a WIFI wireless data-download option and GPS data logging).

Stay tuned for more information about the CarChip Pro and how you can order yours (with a special discount) here at FuelClinic.



Firms Can Save By Going Green

Source: Chicago Sun Times

“There’s no question that if you improve driver behavior, specifically improve driver efficiency, you’ll create less emissions because you burn less gas,” said Samsel, program director.

Some corporations adopt green fleet programs to be more environmentally friendly, while others just want to save money. Whatever the motive, the result is the same — a gallon of gas not burned means 19.5 pounds of carbon dioxide that doesn’t go into the air.

“Ultimately, what we seek to do is reduce greenhouse emissions,” said Jason Mathers, project manager with the Environmental Defense Fund. He said EDF wants corporate fleet managers to focus on emissions, and aim at the “low-hanging” fruit that can easily lower fuel consumption, like driving habits and vehicle size and type.



Spy-in-the-cab Could Improve Teenage Driving

Source: New Scientist

ACCIDENT rates among teenage drivers could be slashed using in-car technology that warns them when they are driving recklessly.

So says safety engineer Oren Musicant at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, who wanted to know if in-car technology could help reduce the appalling number of teenage deaths on the roads. In the US, for instance, car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, accounting for over one-third of all deaths of those aged between 16 and 19 years old.

In March 2008, Staffordshire County Council in the UK trialled in-vehicle data recorders with 50 local teenage drivers over six months. The IVDRs, made by GreenRoad of San Francisco, California, are more commonly used to help truckers drive more safely and with greater fuel efficiency. The IVDR monitors unsafe driving events, such as overly sharp turns, heavy acceleration, hard braking and fast lane-changes. The warning system was switched on halfway through the trial. From that point, red, yellow and green LEDs on the facia of a dashboard-mounted box told the drivers how they were faring.

The unsafe driving events undertaken by each driver halved after the warning system was turned on. Musicant reckons the system could become part of the measures insurance companies mandate for teenage drivers: “Some insurance companies already adjust premiums depending on how far you drive – in pay-as-you-drive programmes. This could be part of such measures, lowering premiums if a teenager uses a risk detector.”



National Teen Driver Safety Week (Continued) – Impact Teen Drivers

We left last week with a message from John Henry of EcoDriveSmart that the real challenge for improving teen driver safety is one that can’t be jammed into one week a year. He’s right of course, so we’ll continue it on an ongoing basis throughout the year, adding it to the mission of FuelClinic and the Fuelishness! Blog.

I will bring you the best information I can find, as I find it. Please bring resources to my attention that you want to get highlighted here. Information like this:

Recently a comment was left by a Fuelishness! blog reader (thank you Martha!) about an outstanding public awareness campaign from California called Impact Teen Drivers. There is a collection of resources for parents and educators to help explain and teach the dangers of distracted driving to teenagers. Recently they released this excellent video…

Since 2008, Impact Teen Drivers has been working to share with teens the dangers of reckless and distracted driving through their effective campaigns online and in schools.

Our message to young people is simple, yet vital: Focus on the road ahead and get to where you are going safely.

There is a related website called “What Do You Consider Lethal” that merits a visit itself. I’ll take a closer look at it in the future.



Teen Driver Safety Week (Day 5) – The Real Work of Improving Teen Driver Safety is Just Beginning

by John Henry, EcoDriveSmart, Inc.

While the The National Teen Driver Safety Week is coming to an end we should actually be thinking of it as a beginning. If we can put all this effort in to the problem of teenage crashes in one week per year, then we owe it to them to come up with a solution, after all we are the one’s giving them guidance. Most of the time, once a teen has passed the state driving test the only other updated driver education the teen receives is when he/she has to addend traffic school because of a traffic ticket.

With almost 30 years of combined law enforcement and driver training experience including being a licensed State Driving Instructor and State Approved Road Test Examiner, I have attended a large number of horrific crashes that involved inexperienced drivers, almost all of these crashes could have been avoided. Believe it or not, the Eco style of driving when taught correctly will help both inexperienced and experienced drivers; it will cut down road rage, excessive speeding and bad road judgment to name a few.

In the USA car crashes kill and injure more teens every year than guns, drugs, suicide, alcohol and violence combined. That is totally unacceptable!

Inexperienced Driver Facts:

• About 900,000 U.S. teens report they were drivers in at least one crash within a 12-month period.

• About two-thirds of fatal teen crashes involve driver error – making mistakes due to inexperience and distractions.

Our Eco and Defensive Driver Training Programs are geared toward but not limited to teenage drivers that have passed the minimum state driving test are great programs for parents that are concerned with teaching their teens to drive safely. Courses like these use the latest driver training technology to give an assessment of their training experience, provide critical ongoing monitoring of performance, and allow parents to become more involved in their teens driver training beyond the coursework and in-car sessions.



Teen Driver Safety Week (Day 4) – The Growing Problem of Texting While Driving – Finding Solutions

Utah Department of Transportation and its public safety partners have created a program called Zero Fatalities, and recently released a powerful 15-minute documentary addressing the growing problem of texting while driving today. View the video below.

The intent is to alter the public’s current perception that traffic fatalities are an inevitable reality that must be accepted. Instead, by making minor changes to our driving behaviors, our roads will become safer for drivers and passengers. We can prevent the deaths of thousands of people.

Traffic fatalities are preventable – not inevitable, yet they are the leading cause of death for children, for teens, and for everyone between 3 and 33 years old. In fact, according to the National Safety Council, your chance of dying in a car crash sometime in your life is one in 84. How many crashes can be prevented each year if everyone in the car is properly restrained, or not drunk, or drowsy, or speeding?

There are techniques and emerging technologies that can help remind drivers to ignore their phone and text messages while driving.

Washington DC has a law against cellphone use (without a hands free device) and texting while driving within the district, and has created a public awareness campaign website that includes a page full of downloadable ring tonesthat simulate a police siren closing in on your vehicle to remind you that you may be getting a ticket if you answer the phone. Another ringtone reminds you “This phone does not have a hands free device, please do not answer this phone.”

Another similar technique that is a powerful reminder to not answer the phone while driving is to record a short message from your loved ones, asking you to come home safely and not answer the phone while you are driving.

But what do you do if simply ignoring a call or email is not acceptable to you. There are a few apps you can choose from that will intercept your email and text messages and automatically reply with a short message that you are currently driving, and will respond to the message as soon as it is safe to do so. One such system is ZoomSafer (which you can try for free), and they have an excellent video online that demonstrates how this system works.

When will mobile phone and messaging device manufacturers get on-board and offer similar functionality right out-of-the-box with each handset they sell?

Many multi-function communication devices already come with a “Plane Safe” mode so that you can listen to your music from your phone while flying, why not a “Drive Safe” mode that uses the built-in GPS and G-force sensors to recognize the phone is moving at road speeds, and offer an option to defer calls and texts until later?

What are your thoughts?



National Teen Driver Safety Week (Day 3) – Survey Reveals Which Distractions Are Considered More Dangerous by Drivers

A recent survey by LeaseTrader.com sampling 3000 drivers provided some interesting insight into the distractions that are perceived to be most dangerous by drivers.

LeaseTrader.com polled more than 3,000 drivers nationwide and asked men and women if there are other more dangerous distractions. Texting while driving is getting all the attention right now but you might be surprised at what people had to say.

LeaseTrader.com, the nation’s most popular online marketplace for car lease transfers, set up the survey to take the pulse of American drivers.

Results for men (click to embiggen):

driving-distractions-men-full

Results for women (click to embiggen):

driving-distractions-women-full

What do you think of these results? An interesting opinion poll or an indication that distracted driving training and awareness programs need to address a much wider array of problems? Is texting while driving underrepresented somehow?



National Teen Driver Safety Week (Day 2) – Public awareness campaigns needed to highlight the dangers of distracted driving

This week is National Teen Driver safety week, and our youngest and most novice drivers are at greater risk of injury and death from unsafe and distracted driving. There are many stats related to teen driver accident rates. One of the most shocking is that sixteen-year-olds are involved in more than five times as many fatal crashes per mile driven as adults.

What is “Distracted Driving”?

While the ABI doesn’t have a strict definition for “distracted driving” they imply that it includes driving drowsy, talking on the phone or texting while driving, speeding or being aggressive, and basically not paying attention to the road. This is a pretty broad array of behaviors but the popularity of cell phones over the two decades and the increase in road rage certainly helped the rate of “distracted driving” fatalities shoot up.

As text messaging and cellphone addiction increases, and the availability and variety of in-car gadgets continues to grow, the potential for distracting drivers long enough to reduce reaction time and rob drivers of that critical second or two that could mean the difference between accident avoidance or tragedy.

Improving Public Awareness

Public awareness of distracted driving is gaining momentum thanks to the efforts of driver safety groups, municipal governments, the Ad Council, and the recent debate on Capitol Hill that resulted in President Obama placing a ban on all text messaging while operating a government vehicle or while operating a vehicle while on government business.

Private insurance companies as well as trade organizations are also getting involved in improving teen driver safety. The Century Council has created this excellent distracted driving poster (which you can download from their site.) 

distracted-driving-century-council

The Century Council has also created an excellent online e-card and game called “The Concentration Game” that demonstrates to driver the impact of distractions on a seemingly simple navigation task like driving home from the store. As you try to solve the maze, your concentration is broken by unexpected distractions. This is a good one to share with your family and friends.

Public awareness campaigns like these really do work. Take for instance the Safe Communities of Wright County who created a series of effective billboards that…

…according to a 2006 Star Tribune article, crashes have dropped nearly 25% since the campaign began and phone surveys found that 73% said they were more aware of the risks of distracted driving. Other states have adapted the billboards and the campaign has even been included in a recent marketing textbook.  

Tomorrow we’ll talk more about distracted driving, and go over an interesting public opinion study that sheds some light on one of the biggest perceived driver distraction threats that we have not yet mentioned!

Public Awareness Resources for today:

  • Safe Communities of Wright County — Safe Communities of Wright County (SCWC) is working to change the odds of crashes and the resulting injuries and fatalities. Since its inception in 1997, it has sponsored innovative traffic safety initiatives throughout Wright County and its efforts are being felt for each citizen and driver who passes through. Severe injury and fatality rates have dropped 34 percent since 1997. That statistic has remained constant despite Wright County being identified as one of the fastest growing counties in the Unites States.
     
  • Century Council Teen Drivers Initiative — As part of our involvement with teen driver safety, The Century Council has produced an interactive initiative called The Concentration Game which mimics distractions a driver may face. We encourage you to play the initiative and embed it on your website. Additionally, if you are a motor vehicle administrator or professional driving instructor and would like to download a poster to display in your place of business as a reminder to not drive distracted.
     
  • Join the Driver Distraction Group at LinkedIn — a professional group of legistlative, legal, enforcement, engineering, sales and human factors people who discuss issues related to driver distraction study and mitigation.

If you know of any other related public awareness campaigns, please post a link and short description to their website in the comments section.



National Teen Driver Safety Week (Day 1) – The need for improved driver education for novice drivers

In 2007 the US Congress established National Teen Driver Safety Week to take place during the third week of October. This year we will work to bring you information and resources that you can use to help reduce the risk to yourself and the younger novice drivers in your family or your social groups.

Today, we’ll review the summary or facts presented by the CDC concerning the risks to young drivers, and a call for improved driver education standards in the US. As is usually the case, our children benefit greatly from the educated and responsible involvement and active participation from their parents.

From the CDC:

Motor vehicle-related injuries are the biggest health threat to teenagers in the United States, accounting for two of five deaths among teens ages 16 to 19 years. The crash risk is highest for drivers 16 years of age due to their immaturity and limited driving experience.

Most traditional driver education provides classroom training about the rules of the road and a few hours of behind-the-wheel training. Research suggests that this approach is not effective in reducing the crash risk among newly-licensed teen drivers. Driver education programs may be improved by teaching psychomotor, perceptual, and cognitive skills that are critical for safe driving, and by addressing inexperience, risky behaviors, and other age-related factors that increase the crash risk among young drivers. However, more research into these factors is needed before they can be addressed effectively.

Inexperience increases the crash risk for new drivers of all ages. However, younger novice drivers crash at higher rates than older novice drivers. These higher crash rates may be due in part to developmental factors such as peer influence, poor perception of risk, and high emotionality. Research about such developmental characteristics could increase our understanding about why young drivers have higher crash rates and could help to improve driver education programs and licensing policies.

A growing body of research indicates that close parental management of teen drivers can lead to less risky driving behavior, fewer traffic tickets, and fewer crashes. However, many parents tend to be less involved than they could be. A recent study indicates that parents can be motivated to increase restrictions on their newly-licensed teens, at least during the critical first few months of licensure. A model intervention, the Checkpoint Program, led to increased parental limits on teenage driving at licensure and three months after licensure.

Teen Driver Resources for today:

  • Allstate Insurance Company — offers a website called Allstate Teen Driver that helps parents understand the need to get involved with their children’s driving, and gives advice on how parents can help their teen drivers understand the importance of driver safety.
     
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — offers a collection of fact sheets, research, and activities that will help you understand the scope of real risks to young novice drivers, and links to other resources you can use to talk with your teen drivers about their safety.
     
  • Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association — offers a collection of national teen driver statistics, with links to Colorado and Utah specific break downs of similar statistics. 

Please feel free to post links to other teen driver safety resources you have found to be helpful in the comments section of this post.



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