Break Point!

Volume 3, Issue 9 View the Archives September, 2000
Drive Safely to Work Week
Drive Time is Not "Down Time"
Road Rage the Newest Road Hazard
Buckle Up - Your Best Protection in a Crash
Surf's Up- A Guide To Internet Sites On The Web
Next Month in Injury Prevention

Drive Safely to Work Week

Kathy O'Day
Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Injury Prevention Program

For some drivers the ride to work is the worst part of their day. With an increase in the number of cars on the road, never-ending work zones and a surge of drivers who maneuver the roads distracted, it is not hard to believe the incidence of road rage has risen.

Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for every age from 1-44 and vehicle occupants accounted for 85.3 % of traffic fatalities in 1998. The costs from motor vehicle crashes were over $150 billion dollars. Employers suffer from higher insurance rates, loss of productivity, medical cost and property damage. (NHTSA, 1994)

Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) has declared the week of September 6-11 as “Drive Safely Work Week”. NETS is encouraging employers to introduce traffic safety programs at their businesses to help lower the financial expense of traffic crashes while making safety a priority for their employee.

Break Point will focus on the common causes of traffic crashes and ways to keep your employees or yourself safe while driving to work.

Break Point is produced by Loyola University, Burn and Shock Trauma Institute Injury Prevention Program. Please call us at (708) 327-2455 or email to: Kathy O'Day with any comments or questions.

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Drive Time is Not "Down Time"

Americans work harder today and have less time off than they did a decade ago. Demands on our time have become more prevalent as we get older. That is why many people want to accomplish activities during their free moments. The drive to work is not down time, it is a time to be focused on the job at hand—driving.

Driver inattention or distracted driving is a contributing factor in as many as 90% of traffic crashes. Driving has become a time for people to read, put on make-up, talk on the cellular phone, eat meals or become involved in changing CD’s or the radio.

Driving requires concentration. Here are some tips to help keep focused behind the wheel:

  • Shift your eyes every 2 seconds and check the rear-view mirror every 5-8 seconds. This keeps your eyes ahead of the vehicle and your head focused on driving.
  • If possible, use cell phones or other electronic devices when you are not moving or before pulling into traffic. If is better to use a “hands free” phone. Resist the temptation to use the phone in dangerous driving conditions.
  • Put work and personal stress on hold while behind the wheel.
  • Always drive defensively. Being attentive means looking out for the driver who isn’t. Expect the unexpected and always leave room to stop.
  • Avoid being caught up in road-side attractions, scenery or reading maps. Before driving, plan your trip and be become familiar with the route.
  • Plan enough time between activities to have a meal. If this is not possible, eat in the parking lot of the fast food restaurant and then drive to your next stop.

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Road Rage the Newest Road Hazard

There are not many people who can honestly say at least once they haven’t become angry while driving. Someone cuts you off, rides the shoulder when everyone else is stopped or traveling at 2 miles an hour when you need to be someplace quickly. It is easy to become frustrated and people often express their anger when driving. Many of us just think out loud but for some become out of control and put themselves and the drivers around them in jeopardy.

Road rage is becoming more prevalent each year and the consequences of uncivil behavior is a higher chance for injury and even death. The most obvious form of road rage is aggressive and excessive speeding, particularly on congested highways or in bad weather. Speeding is the major cause of death in one-third of motor vehicle crashes (NETS, 1999)

The following are traits of aggressive drivers: tailgating, making rude gestures, passing on the shoulder, pulling into a parking space someone else was waiting for, flashing high beams at the person in front of you, honking the horn, speeding and driving through yellow lights that are turning red.

Avoid the consequences of road rage by following these tips:

  • Control yourself! Wind down with some soothing music. Avoid making other drivers angry by avoiding anger yourself.
  • Listen to traffic reports before leaving work to plan an alternate route and avoid heavy traffic areas.
  • Spot the warning signs of stress and fatigue and act on those signs. Find ways to decrease personal or work stress in a positive manner.
  • Be patient and pay attention. Don’t yell or use obscene gestures.
  • Don’t block the passing lane. Stay to the right if you are obstructing the flow of traffic.
  • Get into the habit of using your signals even if no one is behind you. You will be less likely to forget when changing lanes or turning.
  • Don’t tailgate. Use the 2 second rule. There needs to be enough room to make a stop especially when traveling at high speeds.
  • Cooperate and don't compete on the road. Let other drivers merge into traffic in an orderly fashion.
  • Don't take another person's actions personally. Everyone makes mistakes on the road.

Here are some ways to avoid a driving assault

  • Don’t react to another driver’s aggressive behavior, avoid eye contact and don’t make any moves that could be seen as confrontational.
  • If confronted by an aggressive driver, go to the nearest police station if you continue to be hassled or think you are being followed.
  • Lock your doors.
  • When stopped in traffic, leave enough space to pull out from behind the car you are following.
  • Don’t be temped to start a fight or carry any sort of weapon. These acts may provoke an assault.
  • Avoid drivers that have outward signs of aggressive behaviors. Slow up and let them pass you it is easier to let them go than to have a confrontation with them.

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Buckle Up - Your Best Protection in a Crash

Safety belts or air bags when used with a safety belt are the best protection against death or injury in a crash. The National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) conducted a survey on safety belt use rates in the United States, they found that only 68.9 percent of drivers were properly restrained.

In December 1996, President Clinton urged the American public to use their seat belts and buckle children under 12 in the back seat where they are safest. With the direction of the Secretary of Transportation, Rodney Slater, they set a goal to increase seat belt use to 85% by 2000 and to 90% by the year 2005. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the seat belt use rate still remains at about 68%.

If this years goal had been met, there would have been approximately 4,194 lives saved with 102,518 injuries prevented saving the American taxpayers about $6.8 billion dollars in medical and insurance costs.

There are three types of safety belt users; the non-user, the part-time user and the full-time user. The non-user accounts for about 5-10 percent of the population and many of these drivers do not see the benefits of seat belt use. The part-time user uses their seat belts only when they feel they are in a hazardous driving situation. They have a tendency to not wear their seat belt when taking short trips or driving under mild traffic conditions. The part-time user does believe in the benefits of seat belts and through education could be full-time users. The full-time user is buckled in every time they drive or ride as a passenger and are more likely to have all the passengers that ride with them buckled in too.

Some drivers believe the air bag takes the place of the lap shoulder belt. Too often they are proven wrong. Safety belts used in conjunction with a seat belt have saved nearly 4,500 lives (NHTSA) the combination reduces the risk of head injury by 75%.

The lap shoulder belt prevents injury by preventing ejection from the vehicle in a crash, it spreads the force of a crash over a wide area of the body, protects the neck and spinal cord, and lets the body slowly “ride down” the force of the crash.


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Coming Next Month in Injury Prevention

  • Walk our Children to School Day (October 4, 2000)
  • Child Health Month
  • National Fire Protection Week (October 8-14, 2000)
  • National School Bus Safety Week (October 15-21, 2000)

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