Auto Safety

American drivers are pointing fingers again. A recent survey bears some grim news: the other guy or gal behind the wheel is ruder, more aggressive, and is causing more accidents. A recent survey sponsored by several motorist and insurance organizations discovered that:

  • Most drivers have recently operated their car, truck, or SUV in a risky manner
  • Many drivers think that other classes of drivers should have their driving skills regularly tested
  • The majority of drivers think that their driving habits are fine—everyone else is the problem

It is time to stop pointing fingers. Let’s put our hands back on our steering wheels. Regardless who is at fault, the number and severity of accidents and road tragedies are increasing. The only thing that is under your control is your own driving behavior. While you can’t predict what another driver is going to do, you can make a stronger effort to make the roads and streets safer.

Obey traffic lights, signs, and road markings. All of these are important methods to control traffic and minimize accidents. Just try to figure out how much time you “save” by tailgating, lane changing, and running traffic lights. If you save anything, it’s seconds, not minutes. Also, if you are involved in an accident, you’ve just lost any time ever gained by risky driving. Insurance paperwork and accident reports can claim hours and days of your life. If time is important to you, then take the time to pay attention to the rules of the road.

You will also find it healthier and safer to avoid paranoia. The other drivers in the other cars and trucks are not out to get you. Don’t take things personally since the silly things that happen in cars are usually mistaken or mindless, not malicious. Just relax and concentrate on your own driving. Yield right of way to others, stop for school buses, and watch for pedestrians and bicyclists. The more patient, respectful, and attentive drivers there are on the road, the better it will for all of us (and our insurance rates).

If you regularly carry young passengers in your auto, have you done everything possible to make sure they are safe? Are you familiar with what is involved in keeping children safe? If not, below are some tips for protecting those most vulnerable to injuries during car accidents, children.

Guidance from Child Restraint Laws?

While you might think it would be enough to simply comply with your state’s child safety or restraint laws, you would be wrong in many states. The National Safe Kids campaign recently reviewed the states’ child restraint laws and found them to be quite inadequate. Based upon the guidelines of its own model child restraint law, nearly every state inadequately protects its children. How? In most instances state laws fall short in the following areas:

  • Penalties for restraint law violations are too low to encourage compliance
  • Rarely establishes restraint guidelines for children older than eight
  • Too many exceptions to the restraint laws exist
  • Few states offer child-seat loaner or assistance programs

How are child passengers best protected?

While you’re likely familiar with the needs of infants and toddlers, the focus of protection usually is upon a child’s age or whether a safety appliance exists. Here are some considerations for protecting young auto passengers:

  • Infants-Should be in well-constructed and padded infant carrier that should be located in a rear seat. Infant seats should be of the type that is made to face the rear of the seat and not the front of the passenger area. Infants must be protected from the chance of being thrown forward into hard surfaces.
  • Toddlers-Should be in well-constructed, padded child carriers that, while facing forward, should only be placed in the rear passenger seats. Again, this is to minimize the chance of hitting hard surfaces (such as a dashboard or a windshield) and to avoid contact with air bags which are designed to protect adults.
  • Pre-schoolers-May move from child carriers to well-constructed and padded booster seats. The purpose of the boosters is to make sure that the seat belt fits properly. As with child carriers, these restraints should be installed in rear passenger seats.
  • Older children-Around age 12, it should be safe to allow children to ride in a car’s front seat. However, the age guideline assumes that a child has become tall and heavy enough to be properly secured by regular restraints. Be careful that shoulder straps either fit these children properly or are properly tied-down so they don’t represent a hazard. Also, be realistic. Age is a secondary consideration to body size. If a child’s small build results in a poor fit for regular seat belts and shoulder straps, continue placing the child in the rear of the vehicle with a secure seat belt.

A disconcerting fact from the National Safe Kids campaign survey is the high incidences of children who are allowed to ride in cars without restraints or while improperly secured. This sad fact results in hundreds of thousands of serious injuries and deaths. Every passenger in a vehicle should use restraints that are appropriate for his or her age and size. Don’t depend on a law; depend on what’s necessary to keep everyone safe.