Florida could outlaw all forms of distracted driving

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida could outlaw drivers from putting on makeup, holding a cellphone, reading or performing other distracting activities under a bill unanimously approved by a Senate committee.

The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee approved the measure after heart-wrenching testimony from parents whose children that have been killed in accidents caused by districted drivers.

Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson said distracted driving has become an epidemic in Florida, and not just involving cars hitting other cars.

“Bike riding, hiking, jogging – all of those things – we’ve had record numbers of deaths in this state by distracted driving,” Simpson said.

Right now, it is illegal to text and drive in Florida, but drivers can only be ticketed if they are first pulled over for another reason. Simpson’s bill would make distracted driving a primary offense, meaning law enforcement wouldn’t need another reason to ticket a driver. If enacted, Florida would ease into the law by creating a three-month period where law enforcement would only give warnings. After Dec. 1, police would be able to issue tickets.

Hands-free cellphone use would be allowed, and drivers would be able to check their phones as long as their cars aren’t moving, such as at a stop light or while idling in a parking lot.

Law enforcement officers would also have to record the race and ethnicity of ticketed drivers and an annual report would have to be given to the governor, House speaker and Senate president. Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy asked for that provision to be included due to concerns that a distracted driving ban could be used for racial profiling.

Several parents who lost children in accidents urged the committee to approve the bill. Debbie Wanninkhof said her 25-year-old son, Patrick, died in an accident caused by a driver using a cellphone.

“We need to wake up to the danger of wireless communication device addicts,” she said. “Cellphone use … is an addiction for many. You hear the stimulus of a ping and you immediately grab the phone and you respond instantly. It happens over and over again, and just like a drug addiction, it can be deadly.”

The Senate bill has been unanimously approved in its first two of four committee stops. A similar House bill hasn’t been heard in committee yet, but House sponsor Rep. Jackie Toledo said House Speaker Jose Oliva has promised it will get a hearing.

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Everyone is a Pedestrian

The U.S. is holding steady with nearly 6,000 pedestrians killed in 2017

After two years of marked increases, the number of pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. is holding steady with nearly 6,000 pedestrians killed in 2017, according to estimates from the Governors Highway Safety Association. Most crashes involving pedestrians occur at non-intersections. Crossing Rules

Most of us cross streets every day. We are all pedestrians at one time or another, and we take for granted that we can cross without incident because, most of the time, we do. But sometimes we aren’t so fortunate.

Nationally, each year about 6,000 pedestrians die and 70,000 are injured in traffic accidents. Young children and the elderly are more likely to be killed or injured in a pedestrian crash than any other group. While it’s easy to blame drivers, they are not always responsible for these accidents. All too often, pedestrians are the cause of accidents.

These senseless tragedies don’t have to happen. Review this advice for safe street crossing to avoid potential injuries—and even death.

Always follow these steps when crossing a street:

  • Before crossing, stop at the curb, edge of the road or corner before proceeding.
  • Look left-right-left and over your shoulder for turning vehicles. If it’s clear, begin crossing.
  • Continue to check for traffic while crossing.

Pedestrian Tips

  • At intersections with traffic lights and pedestrian signals, it’s important to follow the signals carefully. Locate and press the crosswalk button, wait until you see the WALK signal and follow the rules for crossing. Always stow your cellphone when crossing the street and keep your head up.

  • A flashing DON’T WALK signal indicates you shouldn’t start to cross the street. However, if you are in the middle of the street and the DON’T WALK signal starts flashing, continue walking; you have time to complete the crossing.

  • If you see a steady DON’T WALK signal, don’t begin to cross the street! Wait for the next WALK signal. The WALK signal and the green traffic light indicate that it’s your turn to cross the street, but they do not mean it is safe to cross. The WALK signal and the green light mean: Look both ways, and then if it’s safe, go. Make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you as you cross. 

  • At night, wear light colors and walk where the streetlights will illuminate you.

Driver Tips

  • Be sure to stop before the crosswalk. This is a no-car zone.

  • When the light turns green, go slow, check your surroundings and proceed with caution. Make eye contact with pedestrians to ensure it’s safe to continue through the intersection.

  • At night, reduce your ground-speed. Always turn on your headlights when visibility is low and use your turn signal to let others know where you’re heading.
  • Pavement Markings Are Your Road Map to Safely Crossing

Crosswalks

While they won’t protect pedestrians from oncoming traffic, crosswalks do serve to guide pedestrians across the street. Motorists are reminded to look for and to yield to pedestrians in the road when they see the bright, white lines of a crosswalk.

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Federal Government Spends $172K on Fighting Distracted Pedestrians


New York State is considering a ban on the use of electronic devices while crossing streets. Above, a jogger in New York City. Credit Richard Perry/The New York Times

The National Institutes of Health is spending over $170,000 studying how to crack down on distracted pedestrians looking at their phones when crossing the street by sending people warning messages on their phones to look at while they cross the street.

The study, being conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, also involves tracking what college students are doing on their smartphones when they are near an intersection.

Researchers said an uptick in pedestrian deaths is likely linked to increased cell phone use. The proposed solution is sending an alert to the pedestrian’s phone, which would then prompt them to look at the phone just as they are about to cross a busy intersection.

“Unlike most medical conditions, the pedestrian injury rate is currently increasing in the United States,” according to the grant for the project. “This project will study the efficacy of an intervention to reduce distracted pedestrian behavior using smartphone technology.”

“Over 4,800 American pedestrians die annually, a figure that is currently increasing,” the grant states. “One hypothesized reason for the increasing trend in pedestrian injuries and deaths is the role of mobile technology in distracting both pedestrians and drivers. Existing behavioral interventions to reduce distracted pedestrian behavior are few.”

“We propose to develop and then evaluate Bluetooth beacon technology as a means to alert and warn pedestrians when they are approaching dangerous intersections, reminding them to attend to the traffic environment and cross the street safely rather than engaging with mobile technology,” the grant explains.

Bluetooth technology will be placed at intersection corners that will send college students an alert through an app, with a message, sound, or vibrating warning. The app might also freeze a user’s cell phone screen when crossing the street.

For research purposes, the app also will download data concerning the users’ behavior while crossing the street,” the grant states, including if a user stops using their phone, puts it in their pocket, or leaves music on.

The project began on Sept. 1 and has received $172,321 from taxpayers. Research will continue through August 2020. Check out this article from The New York Times on how “States; Lawmakers Turn Attention to the Dangers of Distracted Pedestrians”
https://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/us/26runners.html

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Defensive Driving Tips

These simple precautions can help ensure you enjoy the ride — as well as the destination.

Want to make the roads safer, while protecting you, your loved ones and your car? Take the first step by honing your defensive driving skills. These tips can help you become more fully engaged in your journeys and stay safe behind the wheel.

Keep Looking Ahead

Be sure to look as far ahead as you are able. All too frequently when people are behind the wheel, they are only concerned the direct area in front of them. While the first few feet in front of your car is its own type of danger zone, especially if there is a hazard of any kind on the road, looking ahead and around is also important. This will allow you ample response time for anything that is coming your way.

Check Your Mirrors

Scan the horizon and continuously check your mirrors. Your eyes should always be moving and taking in as much information as possible. For example, if you notice that the car in front of you is slowing down, start braking. If you are fixated only on the car in front of you, you might not notice another car coming into your lane, which could result in an accident.

Stay Alert and Take Breaks if Needed

Take your required breaks and avoid drowsy driving. Drowsiness can lead to dangerous driving behavior like drifting out of your lane, not braking when needed, and crashing.

Avoid Distractions

Keeping your eyes up means keeping them off devices and distractions in the vehicle. Driver distraction doubled the risk of having a vehicle collision according to research from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). They identified some of the riskiest distractions as using a cell phone, reading and writing, reaching, using a touchscreen, as well as being fatigued, emotional, and interacting with another passenger in the vehicle.

Another VTTI study of commercial vehicle operations showed that texting and driving “raises a heavy-truck driver’s risk of a safety-critical event by 23 times.”

Locking away the phone and keeping objects out of the front seat to avoid temptation are just two ways to minimize distraction and increase overall safety.

Be Prepared for Anything

Being prepared means taking note of the weather or road conditions and then driving to the conditions. Driving at the posted speed limit may be fine in sunny weather, but if it’s snowing or raining hard, that same speed will be too fast. Preparedness also means watching the traffic and being ready to adjust your driving. Don’t forget to check the areas along the road and up onto the sidewalks, in case a pedestrian or animal might cross your path.

Just like having a emergency plan at home, you should always have a plan for emergencies while driving. Having an idea of how you will react in possible situations and preparing for them in advance, will help you to avoid potentially life threatening situations. Having an escape plan can be as simple as making sure that you always have space around your vehicle in case you need to swerve to avoid some type of hazard. The more prepared you are before the emergency, the more likely it will be that you will avoid it.

Leave Space and Keep Your Distance

Although there are some things about driving you can’t control, you can control the distance between you and the next car in front of you. This is unique because you do not have this ability with any other side of your vehicle. Because this is the only distance that you can control, you should be aware of how closely you are following the vehicle in front of you. Also, beware of driving in a pack.

It’s a fact that trucks need a lot more time and space to stop. A passenger vehicle weighing 4,000 lbs and driving 65 mph takes 316 ft to stop. A tractor-trailer weighing 80,000 lbs, driving at 65 mph, will take 525 ft to stop — that’s equivalent to the length of two football fields!

To ensure that you maintain the best following distance, you will want to take certain factors into account:

  • the type of vehicle in front of you,
  • your speed,
  • and the weather conditions.

For example, a small motorcycle will be able to stop much faster than a larger vehicle, so you want to be sure to leave more distance. How fast are you traveling? If you are traveling at 100 mph, it will take much more time and distance to stop than if you were traveling at 25 mph. If the roads are wet from rain or icy from a recent snow, you will need to keep more space between your truck and other the vehicle. You always want to be sure that there is enough room in front of you to stop, regardless of the conditions, to avoid a collision.

Whether you’re exploring the countryside with your best pal or merely driving your kids to school, your car can be a gateway to lots of memorable moments. These simple precautions can help ensure you enjoy the ride — as well as the destination.

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Teaching Your Teens to Drive

Create a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement that puts your rules in writing
to clearly set expectations and limits.

In this country the general population of drivers and their skill levels consists of the following:

  • Average drivers 70%
  • Great drivers 25%
  • Death wish drivers 5%

With these thoughts, if you are that 25% of great drivers and you are comfortable with the idea of teaching your teen to drive, then go ahead and do a great job. On the other hand, if you have been driving them around for 15 years while speeding, talking on the phone, tailgating and rolling through stop signs, do you really think it’s a good idea for you to teach your child to drive?

Teens are involved in traffic crashes for specific reasons. I hear parents say that their teen has had a few minor fender benders and that’s part of learning to drive. What that really indicates, is that it is just a matter of time before they are seriously injured or hurt someone else.

Driving is a learned experience, but the truth is that the initial learning experience is critical in how young drivers develop into great drivers. Teaching your teen is one of the most critical parts of protecting your teens future, most decisions they make will not alter or end their life-think about it.

Download you teen driving contract here:
https://www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey/agreement/index.html

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Car Crashes

40 people died in St. Pete car crashes in 2018, the deadliest year on record.

When you examine car crashes, you must understand one thing, they just don’t happen. Driving skills are becoming less important as we head to more and more ridiculous safety features. If you want to decrease traffic crashes, take the millions invested in driverless cars and put that money into creating better drivers.

Driving is a skill that is learned and must be practiced constantly behind the wheel. The issue regarding driver education is that if your taught to drive by a fool-now we have 2 fools on the road.

Driving must be taught by the great drivers of the world, which by the way is only 25% of the driving population. They didn’t become great by accident. They were taught by someone with great driving skills and they put that education into practice. When you’re driving, you must be aware of everything that is always going on around you, not just occasionally, but all the time. If I had to pick one thing that I could instill in new drivers, it would be to focus on the big picture of driving.

What are drivers doing that are behind you, alongside you and coming head on towards you? That’s what will make the difference in that decision that will save your life. Remember cars that are approaching you at 60 mph, are traveling at almost 90 feet per second. You are traveling at 90 feet per second, so you are closing at 180 feet per second. If you are talking on
the phone or worse texting, you will cross the center line or run the red light and it will happen in a split second.

            Drive like everyone else’s life depends on your actions, because the truth of the matter is that most head on collision are nothing more than not paying attention to your driving. It’s no different than if you took a gun and killed someone. You have no right and the reality is that it’s all avoidable if we increase our driving skills. Be that GREAT DRIVER!

Here’s a local news story for St. Pete that illustrates the need for great drivers:
https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/driving-tampa-bay-forward/40-people-die-in-st-pete-car-crashes-the-deadliest-year-on-record

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Safety Issues and Recalls


The car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) is the identifying code for a SPECIFIC automobile. The VIN serves as the car’s fingerprint, as no two vehicles in operation have the same VIN. A VIN is composed of 17 characters (digits and capital letters) that act as a unique identifier for the vehicle.

Here at the American Safety Institute we want you to be as safe on the road as possible. There’s a lot that happens during driving that is outside our control and the mechanical conditions of your car can be one. Sometimes there are issues with our vehicles that we are unaware of. If you bought your car from a major dealer, they will probably alert you of any recalls or updates. Older vehicles or those bought from a used car lot can’t count on the same notifications. Sometimes you have to do your own homework.

Two of our favorite and accredited websites have pages dedicated to informing the public of any safety issues and recalls. Make sure your car doesn’t have an issue that the manufacturer will pay to have fixed, but moreover could cause you serious problems if not addressed.

Two of our favorite and accredited websites have pages dedicated to informing the public of any safety issues and recalls. Make sure your car doesn’t have an issue that the manufacturer will pay to have fixed, but moreover could cause you serious problems if not addressed.

www.nhtsa.gov/recalls

www.recalls.gov/nhtsa.html

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Senior Driver Safety

Seniors are outliving their ability to drive safely by an average of 7-10 years and for the first time in history.

Older Americans today are healthier and more active than ever before. The aging baby boomer generation is the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S. By 2030, there will be more than 70 million people age 65 and older, and approximately 85-90 percent of them will be licensed to drive. In fact, seniors are outliving their ability to drive safely by an average of 7-10 years and for the first time in history, we must plan for our “driving retirement” just as we plan for our financial retirement.

Senior drivers are among the safest drivers on the road and often reduce their risk of injury by wearing safety belts, not drinking and driving and by observing speed limits; however, seniors are more likely to be injured or killed in a crash due to age-related fragility. With the exception of teenagers, seniors have the highest crash death rate per mile driven. As we age, our ability to drive safely is affected by natural changes to our bodies over time.

In recognition of these changing demographics, AAA launched “Lifelong Safe Mobility.” This association-wide priority initiative is dedicated to keeping seniors safe and mobile and driving as long as safely possible. Senior safety and mobility is a quality of life issue. By working to protect and promote it, you can help maintain confidence and independence among seniors, and foster a society where older adults can live to their full potential.

To learn more, visit SeniorDriving.AAA.com.

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Tips for Drivers During a Solar Eclipse

The next total eclipse for North America will come on April 8, 2024.

On August 21, 2017, millions across the U.S. witnessed an awe-inspiring total solar eclipse. While the excitement surrounding them is understandable, and as a reminder, eclipse-seekers should map out their viewing location in advance, and to be safely off the roadways while gazing at the skies.

When will we see the next one? The next total eclipse for North America will come on April 8, 2024. That makes it seem as if eclipses are rare, when, in fact, they’re not. They happen about every 18 months as seen from somewhere in the world. However, for any given spot on Earth’s surface, total solar eclipses don’t happen very often.

ASI also offers the following tips for drivers during the 2024 solar eclipse:

  • Do not attempt to watch the eclipse while driving. Exit the roadway and park in a safe area away from traffic. The peak darkness phase will last just 2-3 minutes.
  • According to NASA, you should avoid looking directly at the sun without proper eye protection. The only safe way to look at the uneclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers.
  • Drive safely. Eagerness to view the event is not an acceptable reason to drive aggressively or while distracted.
  • Drive with your headlights on. Not only will you be more visible to other drivers, your forward vision will be improved.
  • Watch out for pedestrians. There may be people standing in or along the roadway watching the eclipse.
  • Be on the alert for distracted drivers.
  • Other drivers may attempt to watch the eclipse and drive at the same time.
  • Keep additional space between you and other vehicles.
  • Reduce your speed so you have more time to make an emergency maneuver, if needed
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Dangers of Driving Into Sun

Driving on a beautiful sunny day can provide stunning scenery, but it can also create a hazard if the driver’s view is compromised by a glaring sun.

Just after sunrise and before sunset the sun can shine directly into drivers’ eyes, leaving many motorists driving with a glare. This glare can make it much harder to see the road ahead and potential hazards creating an added risk to drivers. When sun glare is an issue slow down and use extra caution especially while driving through school zones.

So how can you protect yourself? Here are some tips for motorists when driving into the sun:

  • Invest in polarized sunglasses – they can help reduce glare.
  • Utilize your sun visor – it can help to block out the sun.
  • Leave more following room – when the sun is in your eyes it can be hard to see what the car ahead is doing. This is one more time when it pays to leave more room between you and the next vehicle.
  • Drive with your headlights on to increase your visibility to other drivers

Additional tips:

  • Keep your windshield clean, inside and out
  • Check your windshield for pitting and cracks
  • Avoid storing papers or other items on the dashboard
  • If having a difficult time seeing the road, use lane markings to help guide you.

Rarely will visibility be absolutely perfect while driving, but if motorists know this and make the proper adjustments, you can minimize any additional risks that come with less-than-optimal visual conditions.

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