Category Archives: Driving

Aggressive Driving: What You Need to Know

So you’re driving along minding your own business when all of the sudden you notice a car abnormally close to your rear bumper. “How annoying,” you think to yourself. You’ll teach him. If he wants to follow you so close, you’ll just slow down. Right? Wrong! By purposely slowing down yourself you are now just as guilty of aggressive driving as the guy behind you.

What exactly is aggressive driving?

Aggressive driving covers a large range of driving behaviors that are stemmed from hostility, competition, or selfishness. You already know that aggressive driving can be seen in the form of tailgating or purposely slowing down when being tailgated, but it can also be seen in speeding, quickly changing lanes multiple times, and any other behaviors that disregard the safety of others around you.

Why should I care?

Well, for starters, if you are caught driving in an aggressive way you will at the very least get a traffic ticket. The tickets for aggressive driving can range from a minor infraction like careless driving up to a much more serious offense of road rage. Depending on the severity of the charge, this will include a fine and may even cause you to have to go to court. It may also result in increased insurance premiums and a mark on your permanent record.

If a ticket is not enough of a scare tactic, what about a car accident? Not just a fender bender, but a full-on, potentially fatal car accident. In fact, according to the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing “aggressive drivers kill two to four times more people than drunken drivers.” If your aggressive driving causes a fatal accident that you are lucky enough to survive, you will be faced with criminal charges that will undoubtedly change the outcome of your life.

How Can I Prevent Aggressive Driving?

I’m glad you asked! There is actually a lot you can do to calm yourself down on the road so you can stay safe.

  1. Plan ahead. The main reason people drive aggressively is because they are in a hurry to get somewhere. When traffic does not go exactly as they had hoped, the aggression starts to build. If you leave extra time for the unexpected you can rest easy knowing that even if there is a traffic build up you will be okay.
  2. Don’t take it personal. Another cause for aggressive driving is another driver doing something stupid. If you get cut off, remember that it’s not about you. Do not retaliate. Instead, assume they have a screaming kid in the car or they are on their way to the hospital.
  3. Pretend there are no barriers. Oftentimes people get so mad by other people’s driving that they get physically upset, and the anger quickly translates into their driving. Instead, pretend like all the physical cars are gone and it’s just you and the people around you standing in the road. If someone cuts you off in line at a movie theater, you wouldn’t make a scene by screaming and yelling at them, would you? So why do it in your car?
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85% of Drivers do not know what to do at a Yellow Light!

A lot of what we do here at DefensiveDriving.com has to do with education.

Recently, GMAC Insurance conducted a study regarding drivers knowledge across the nation. The study can be found at http://www.gmacinsurance.com/SafeDriving/ExecutiveSummary.asp and the results are disturbing. One in five drivers would not pass a WRITTEN driving test today if they were required to take it. That truly is a scary number. 85% of the drivers did not know what to do when approaching a yellow light. As you probably suspect, a number of people said speed up so it does not turn red.

The problem with this general lack of education is that driver safety training is simply not valued as much as it should be. If we had our way, every individual would be required to take or provide proof they had taken some type of online driver safety program every 10 years. This way, we would at least be requiring ongoing driver education for one of the most dangerous activities we do amongst each other every day and there would be more overall knowledge in the millions of drivers taking to the roads.

A video from our award-winning video course, Wheels in Motion is below. So, if for nothing else, take one of DefensiveDriving.com’s courses, either for ticket dismissal or for discounts for auto insurance or simply to educate yourself on becoming a safer and smarter driver! Yielding

Don’t talk to me about work

This might be the new catch phrase for managers who have employees out on the road.   In our hyper wired society, the mobile office just became a little more complex.   Does your organization have a comprehensive driver safety policy in place?

Scenario number one, Joe is a driver for a company that delivers medical equipment to customers homes.   He is on his cell phone with the office as they are trying to arrange another stop for him, when he “accidentally” runs into the rear end of a vehicle at a stop sign.

Scenario number two, Jenna is on her way from the airport to the hotel in a rental car in Boston, on her first day of a week-long installation she is doing for a customer.   She is on her cell phone with her boss confirming the contacts and versions she is installing when she “accidentally”  hits a pedestrian.

Scenario number three, Howard is the office manager of a large law firm, from time to time he runs errands for the firm in the ordinary course of business, and he is running an errand for a partner when he is struck “accidentally” by a distracted driver and killed.

Each one of the scenarios pose risks and questions for companies and their risk managers, underwriters and Human Resource professionals.   These scenarios emphasize the need organizations have for a well thought out and comprehensive corporate driver safety training program.

These are the questions organizations have to be asking and answering appropriately if they have employees who regularly drive in their ordinary course of business.  Was the employee having a “work” related cell phone conversation?   Did the accident happen during work related hours or in course of the employees employment?   Is the employee allowed to spend company time running errands in a personal vehicle for company purposes?   Does the company have a cell phone and driving policy in place?   Is it in writing?   Is the employee in violation of this policy?  Have they been before and it was not addressed?

In all three scenarios, a company could be found negligent or liable for injuries, property damage or loss of life.   While DefensiveDriving.com’s corporate driver safety program and driver training does not guarantee you will not have accidents, having a corporate driver training program is an essential part of educating and keeping your employees who drive safe.   The establishment of a comprehensive driver safety policy, which includes the ban of cell phones (which must be consistently enforced) while driving, along with a company driver training program help company’s minimize risk and significant loss of life or capital.

Let DefensiveDriving.com help you today in establishing a driver safety training program as part of your overall comprehensive driver safety company policy.

Drive Friendly!

What every driver should know about high water, driving and their car!

Monday, Houston experienced a cluster of storm cells which dumped anywhere from four to six inches of rain in a little less than three hours.   Southeast Texas and the whole of Texas have experienced a drought of historic proportions for more than thirteen months, the rain was greatly needed, however, with the ground so hard, the water did not really have anywhere to go.  

The result in Houston, wide-spread street flooding.   Several major highways and side streets became impassable and a number of cars and drivers were flooded out by the rapidly rising water.   Other cars were stalled out as their drivers ignored the potential dangers posed by standing water. 

 

A really good tip to remember when it comes to driving in standing water, if you cannot see the curb, you probably should not go forward.  Typical curbs in cities are a minimum of 4 ” tall (rounded) and 6″ is for vertical curbs.   If you cannot see the curb, there is a great chance of 6 plus inches of standing water and it does not take a lot of water to hydroplane, lose control of your vehicle or get water inside of your car. 

Cars are generally well protected when it comes to water, but they were not designed to be flooded or submerged or run in water.   Further, today’s cars are largely dependent on their powertrain control module, the onboard computer of the vehicle.   The electrical damage which can occur from water in your car effectively can have several different effects, which most people do not think about.   For one, water can prevent the distributor from doing its job and if your vehicle stalls, you will not be able to generate sufficient spark to start the car.   Two, the cars ABS and traction control systems, the two systems most responsible to prevent hydroplane, might not work due to electrical damage.    The third concern with respect to water and your electrical system, one that most do not think about, is your power windows.   Why is this important?  

If your car enters a large amount of standing or moving water, it effectively loses traction and you have lost control, it is a very dangerous situation.   Over 300 people a year lose their lives in incidents involving water immersion.   The main problem, they cannot get out of their vehicle.   In the event your car becomes involved in a water event, like some did this past Monday, there are four tips to remember:  1) Open the window, 2) Take off your seat beat, 3) Exit the vehicle and 4) Swim as quickly as possible to safety.   Why is open the window number one?      

If  the car is in water and has or is about to experience an electrical short, there is very little time to open the windows, once there is a short, the power windows will not work.   Opening the window requires breaking one.    This is where the danger lies.    Auto glass is tempered, designed not to break or shatter, for safety reasons.   In a submerged or immersed vehicle, the pressure on the doors might prevent the opening of a door, the window is generally the best option, but you have to be prepared.   There are many tools which can be kept inside the vehicle which allow for a driver to break a window if necessary, but one particularly good tool is the LifeHammer.   The LifeHammer not only allows you to punch out a window with ease, it also includes a tool to cut a seatbelt in the event you need to get out of the seatbelt in a hurry or it malfunction.   For less than $20, if you live anywhere it floods or close to rivers, lakes or coastal waterways, this is a necessity. 

At the end of the day, driving in any type of standing or moving water should be avoided.   The dangers posed by hydroplane and vehicle immersion are real and very dangerous.   Besides the tremendous financial damage water can cause to a vehicle, it is also can be a life taker.   Know what to do in the event you are involved in a vehicle immersion situation and have a tool available to get you out.   However, the best advice possible, if it is raining hard or there is street and low-lying area flooding or rapidly rising water, do not drive through, turn around, seek higher ground.

DefensiveDriving.com has a great video on hydroplane and it is a focus of our online driver safety program.  

Drive Safe and Friendly…

Windshield Wipers, the basics

Winter has been with us awhile and you have no doubt been overwhelmed with information about winter driving. Leave an appropriate space cushion, your speed should meet conditions, make sure you have proper tire pressure, tire tread and depth, that you have all the necessary emergency gear in your trunk and that you know the route and weather conditions along route.

All of these are great guidelines to arriving safely to your destination during the winter months.

You should always properly maintain your vehicle, regardless of time of year, but it is especially important during the winter months.  Depending on what part of the country you reside, the winter months either mean snow, ice or rain, there is an important piece of equipment on your vehicle which greatly impacts your ability to see.  As DefensiveDriving.com discusses in its online driver safety course, vision is an important aspect of safe and defensive driving.  Vision, how much you can see, literally should decide the speed in which you travel as your reaction time as a driver is impacted by your field of vision.  If you are able to see potential driving hazards in front of you without obstruction, your reaction and the time your need to react are increased.  It goes without saying, if you cannot see well, you might not see a hazard or react soon enough to avoid the hazard.

The windshield wiper is a vital part of your vehicle. Your windshield wiper is part of a system when properly maintained and when properly functioning, allows you to be able to see and increases your field of vision in variable weather conditions. Have you ever tried to drive in a hard rain, or driving snow or sleet without a properly functioning windshield wiper?  It is nearly impossible in the best case, extremely dangerous in any case.

The original windshield wiper was invented in 1903 but it was not until cars started to be enclosed to protect the passengers, that a need for wipers was realized.   Initially, wipers were powered by a hand crank on the inside of the vehicle but they were replaced by the automatic windshield wiper system – which was powered by the air from the intake of the engine. The latest windshield wiper, the intermittent powered blade was patented in 1967 by Robert Kearns for Ford Motor Company. These systems have been the predominant wind shield wiper systems until very recently, with the invention of optical and rain sensing systems, which automatically turn on and adjust the speed of a windshield wiper blade, based on the presence of moisture.  One system detects the moisture itself, the other detects if its optical sensors are blocked which activates the system.

The windshield wiper system is composed of the windshield wiper arm and the windshield wiper blade. Both are essential to proper function of the system.  A very simple test will tell you when you have a problem.  If you spray your windshield wiper fluid on your windshield and the windshield wipers leave streaks, it is time to replace either the blade or arm.

Most manufacturers of windshield wipers list the life span of a wiper blade to be six to twelve months.  Over time, the blades crack and wear due to normal usage, extreme heat or cold and because they are made of rubber.  Replacing the blade is generally the most cost-effective, but you should always check to see if the arm is good working condition.

The arm essentially holds the blade on the windshield to allow it move away snow, rain and sleet.  Sometimes, snow, ice, dirt or mud become lodged in between the arms connectors causing the arm to bow or lose pressure on the windshield over time.  Usually, you can visually see this and if the arm is not applying good pressure, regardless of how new the blade is, the windshield wiper system will not work as intended.  Winter windshield wiper systems are designed with a particularly strong-arm which prevents the buildup of snow or ice within the windshield wiper arm.

Any number of auto parts stores have the parts you need, the part is typically listed by make and model and any decent auto parts store will actual replace the arm and blade as part of their service.

Remember, the majority of any driving decisions you make are based on good clear visibility.  Anything that takes away from your visibility and your decision-making ability should be fixed as soon as possible, especially something so simple but necessary as a windshield wiper!