Category Archives: What To Dos

How to Combat Highway Hypnosis

You get in your car, put your keys into the ignition, and the next thing you know you are at your destination. But how did you get there? Well, of course, you drove there, but you don’t remember ever changing lanes, turning, or stopping at any lights. If this sounds all too familiar, then you are suffering from highway hypnosis, otherwise known as driving without attention mode (DWAM). Highway hypnosis may cause you to question your sanity for a second, but then you probably continue on with your day not thinking much more about it. Well, it is time to start thinking about.

What is highway hypnosis?

Highway hypnosis is a serious condition that is potentially life threatening to you and the people driving around you. It is when half of your brain is doing the driving while the other half of your brain is literally zoned out. If your brain is not fully aware and alert when you are driving, it is almost impossible to have the stellar reflexes needed in the case of an accident.

What can I do about it?

Luckily, highway hypnosis is not some debilitating disease without a cure. It is simply a state of mind that is easily controllable. Being aware of your situation is the first step. The rest is easy.

  1. Frigidity is your friend. As nice as it is to be warm and cozy while you are driving, this only relaxes your body and your mind. Instead, turn the a/c on or roll down a window. While the goose bumps may not be fun, they may save your life.
  2. Have a dance party. Yep, that’s right. Put on some good tunes and have a little dance party with yourself. By keeping your body moving, you will keep your brain alert. So what if the car next to you thinks you are a little weird? If only they knew how much fun you were having.
  3. Phone a friend. This is not just a lifeline on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” It may also be your actual lifeline. Engaging in a lively conversation with a friend will keep your brain awake and responsive. However, it is important to only use this option if you have a hands-free headset or Bluetooth available.
  4. Make a pit stop. When all else fails, pull over. Get out of the car and move your body. This will reboot your brain so you can start your drive anew. It is always better to safe than sorry.
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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!

20,000 Times in a lifetime

I was listening to a local radio station the other day and they were having an odd trivia contest where the listeners were competing against each other with other hosts.

One of the questions they asked was a multiple choice question about what the average person will do 20,000 times in their lifetime… the answer, funny or sad, was curse at another driver. 

20,000 times in your lifetime, on average, another driver will do something to you while you are driving which will cause you to either swear at them, yell at them, wave hello with one finger or worst case, engage in a physical confrontation due to an incident related to driving on the roads.

Our emotions play an important role in our ability to maintain a mature driving attitude.   How we react to other drivers on the road plays an important role in our driving habits and behaviors, and their reaction to us is critical in our own safety.

Do you ever see that driver on the road…with his window down screaming and pointing at another driver?   Feel safe don’t you! 

No, a mature driving attitude is seriously important in preventing accidents and potential conflicts with other drivers. 

DefensiveDriving.com’s award winning safety driving video illustrates the important role your emotions play in driving and how they impact our ability to be a safe driver.   Our online driver safety courses provide suggestions and alternatives for emotional driving, which could keep you safe and will most definitely lower your blood pressure! 

When you think about it… if the average driver curses at another driver 20,000 times in their life time, that means the average driver swears at another, once a day, every day, 365 days a year, for 54 years!

As DefensiveDriving.com’s video below illustrates, there are very specific strategies with respect to driving and your emotions.

http://youtu.be/x8jf0cbusOI

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!