1.  Seat Belts
2.  Drowsy Driving
3.  Distracted Driving
4.  Aggressive Driving/Road Rage
5.  Motorcycle Safety
6.  Impaired Driving
7.  Novice Drivers
8.  School Bus Safety
9.  Airbags
10.  Railway Safety
11.  Trucks
12.  Motor Vehicles
  1. AAA-CMC Offers Tips for Handling your Car in the Snow
  2. AAA: Unlicensed drivers heavily contribute to fatal crashes
  3. Ambulance Passenger Risks
  4. Back In, Not Out -- To Improve Your Bottom Line
  5. Best and Worst State Trafic Safety Laws: Some States Do a Better Job than Others
  6. Car Safety
  7. CDC Guide Recommends Ways to Reduce Motor Vehicle Injuries
  8. CDC Looks at Challenges for Motor Vehicle Safety in 21st Century
  9. Developments and Decisions
  10. Don't Forget About These Roadway Hazards
  11. Don't Slip and Slide, Slow Down
  12. Drive It Safe Guide for Mature Drivers
  13. Eye Health Group Urges Caution When Jump-Starting Batteries
  14. Feb 15, 1997 Bill Clinton's radio address on motor safety
  15. Males, Hispanics, Mississippi Drivers hit hard in 1997 crashes
  16. Maneuvering Your Way Through Work Zones
  17. Motor Vehicle Crashes Remain Top Cause of Work-Related Fatalities
  18. Never Leave Your Child Alone
  19. New Car Safety Features Brochure
  20. NHTSA Advises Drivers to Check Tire Pressure Monthly
  21. NTSB Report: Highway Fatalities Rose in 1999
  22. Preliminary FARS Assessment: 1998 traffic fatalities declined
  23. Preparing for Safe Winter Driving
  24. Safety Agenda Targets Major Causes of Preventable Death & Injury
  25. Safety and Tires
  26. Shopping For A New Car? Think Safety
  27. State Farm Calls for Intersection Safety; Reveals 10 Worst Spots
  28. States With Highest Death Rates in Red-Light Running Crashes
  29. SUVs: How Safe Are They?
  30. Tips for Safe Backing
  31. Tire Safety
  32. Traffic Safety Outlook Occupant Protection
  33. The Truth About Trunk Entrapment
  34. Who Dies in Motor Vehicle Crashes
  35. 1998 US Traffic Deaths and Injuries

AAA-CMC Offers Tips for Handling your Car in the Snow

Driving during severe winter weather conditions can be demanding. And how you handle your vehicle in those conditions could be the difference between a safe trip and serious trouble.

Not all cars are alike. To become familiar with your vehicle's winter weather operating characteristics, AAA-Chicago Motor Club recommends practicing slow-speed maneuvers on an empty snow or ice-covered parking lot. The Club also suggests reading your owner's manual for information on equipment and handling characteristics.

The following are things to consider while driving in winter weather conditions.

Front, rear, four or all-wheel drive

Become familiar with what wheels are given power in your vehicle. Front-wheel- drive vehicles generally handle better than rear-wheel-drive vehicles on slippery roads because the weight of the engine is on the drive wheels. The back end of rear-wheel-drive cars tends to lose traction and slide side-to-side during turns on icy roads because there is little weight on the drive wheels.

Many vehicles today are equipped with four, or all-wheel dive, which helps maintain traction in difficult conditions. However, drivers of four-wheel drive vehicles should avoid becoming over confident. Four-wheel-drive does not make the car brake any better.


A vehicle's braking system also determines how motorists should operate their cars in winter weather. Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) provide significant stopping advantages on slick roads, but are only effective if properly used. When stopping a vehicle with ABS in slippery conditions, motorists should apply steady pressure to the brake pedal. The ABS automatically pumps the brakes to keep the wheels from locking up, preventing skids and loss of control. Do not take your foot off the brake pedal if you hear or feel it chatter. That means that the ABS system is working properly and you should continue to steer the car normally..

If you don't have ABS, gently pump the brakes during slippery conditions to avoid locking the wheels and losing control.

Recognize Danger Zones

Intersections - Slow down before reaching an intersection. Scan left and right for cars and pedestrians. If you are having trouble stopping, they most likely are too. After a stop, press the accelerator slowly to get moving again. If you have a manual transmission, try starting in second gear to avoid wheel spin.

Hills - When approaching an icy hill pick a path that will allow you the most traction. Head for unpacked snow or powder where you'll get a better grip. Build your speed gradually before you reach the hill and if you have switch-on-the-fly four-wheel drive, shift before you reach the hill.

Curves - Reduce your speed before you enter an icy curve. Any sudden acceleration or deceleration while turning could send you into a skid. Controlled speed, smooth steering and braking will help prevent from skidding on an icy turn. If your wheels lose grip, gradually release the pressure from whichever pedal you're using and smoothly steer in the direction you want the car to go.

Getting unstuck

The simplest thing to remember when extricating your vehicle from snow and ice is to use finesse rather than power. Hard acceleration is likely to worsen the situation by causing the tires to dig the car deeper into the snow.

AAA-Chicago Motor Club recommends first, clearing away the snow. To improve traction, spread sand, cat litter or some kind of abrasive material around the tires containing power. Then, shift the car into low gear (or second gear in a manual transmission) and slowly apply pressure to the accelerator.

If that doesn't work, try rocking the car back and forth by easing forward and then releasing the accelerator.

If you are unable to free your vehicle, carefully assess the weather conditions before abandoning it. In extreme cold or heavy snow, stay with your vehicle and wait until you can be rescued.

This document was last updated on February 25, 2001.

Return to Table on Contents

AAA Foundation: Unlicensed Drivers Heavily Contribute to Fatal Crashes

Twenty percent of all fatal crashes involve at least one improperly licensed driver, according to the new report Unlicensed To Kill by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The foundation analyzed five years of fatal traffic crash data. Statistics revealed that 278,078 drivers were involved in 183,749 fatal crashes during 1993-97. The improperly licensed driver involved in a fatal crash tended to be younger, male, driving at night while under the influence of alcohol, more apt to have been recently convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI), and more apt to have received several recent suspensions or revocations.

In 1993-97, 3.7 percent of drivers were unlicensed, 7.4 percent were driving on an invalid (e.g., suspended, revoked, etc.) license, and 2.7 percent were of unknown license status. Approximately 42,049 people were killed in crashes involving at least one driver who was unlicensed, driving on an invalid license, or of unknown license status.

Motorcyclists are about twice as likely as passenger car drivers to have suspended or revoked licenses. Drivers of passenger vehicles are about seven times as likely to have suspended or revoked licenses than drivers of combination vehicles.

According to the report, a driver with a suspended or revoked license or an unlicensed driver is 4.9 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a driver with a valid license.

Valid license holders had the highest median age, 36.5 years, while suspended and revoked license holders were 29.5 and 32.6 years old, respectively. Unlicensed drivers averaged 23 years of age.

Unlicensed Driver/Alcohol Connection

Alcohol use is much more common among drivers who are not licensed or who have invalid licenses than among properly licensed drivers. "Given the higher rates of alcohol involvement among invalid license holders, it is not surprising that relatively larger percentages of their crashes occur during hours of darkness," said the report.

Previous convictions for driving while intoxicated are also more common for drivers with a suspended, revoked, or expired license. The report suggests that a DWI conviction may have been "the precipitating event that brought about a suspended or revoked license." Of the 13,094 suspended drivers in the study, 17 percent had been convicted of DWI once during the three-year period prior to their fatal crashes. Of the 3,719 revoked drivers, 29 percent had been convicted of DWI once.

Between 30 and 70 percent of drivers who've had their licenses suspended or revoked may continue to drive. The report states that rather than attempting to modify unlawful driving behavior, it may be better to create vehicle sanctions or modifications that physically stop unlawful driving through vehicle impoundment, electronic drivers licenses, or alcohol ignition interlocks.

For more information, call AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, (202) 638-5944.

This document was last updated on February 25, 2001.

Return to Table on Contents

Ambulance Passenger Risks

Under a grant from the Emergency Medical Services for Children Program, Dr. Nadine Levick and other researchers at Johns Hopkins Children's Center observed ambulances arriving with children at an urban pediatric emergency department to see how children were being transported. The study was reported at a joint meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pediatric Academic Societies in May. Levick also summarized the findings at the ICPSTC in June.

In 200 ambulances observed carrying 206 child patients:

  • More than half of the children were transported lying on the gurney; 11 percent of them were unrestrained while the others were secured using chest belts with or without thigh belts.
  • 27 percent of child patients were unrestrained on the bench seat or captain's chair.
  • 10 percent were on the lap of a parent or EMT.
  • 13 different kinds of EMS equipment (such as oxygen tanks and medical supply boxes) were minimally secured or not secured at all.

The researchers concluded that, should a crash occur, unrestrained occupants and equipment are at high risk of injury in the "box" of the ambulance.

The group also has done an initial crash test of an ambulance with dummies in the box. Video footage of that test demonstrated graphically how unrestrained occupants and equipment would be injured or cause injury. Their next step is to actually crash ambulances to determine the "crash pulse" (characteristics) of that type of vehicle in a collision.

Contact: Dr. Nadine Levick, 410/955-6143 or nlevick@welchlink.welch.jhu.edu

This document was last updated on February 25, 2001.

Return to Table on Contents

Back In, Not Out -- To Improve Your Bottom Line

Backing incidents may seem like a relatively minor concern when compared with other crashes. However, even though most incidents result in property damage only, consider the consequences of backing into, backing over, or pinning a pedestrian or a co-worker.

According to Liberty mutual Insurance, it happens every day. What's more, they say that backing incidents are so common, they account for more than 10% of all auto liability claims. Add to this the fact that since most incidents are below the insurance deductible, companies tend to pay for them out of pocket, making the final tally of dollars spent one of vast significance.

Presto-X Co., a pest management firm based in Omaha, Neb., looked at their insurance claims and determined it was time to quit accepting backing incidents as a normal cost of doing business. What did they do? They issued a recommendation to all employees to avoid backing up whenever possible! This may sound like a simple solution but nothing is simple that involves changing employee behavior.

Using site visits by management to spread the word to 'back in- not out,' as well as producing videos for their monthly meetings, employees were encouraged to adopt the change. Measurable results were evident by the reduction of more than 35 percent in Presto X's backing incident ratio during the first year.

Jan Keogh, assistant training and safety director stated, "We went six months without a single backing incident. This is a very talked about policy among associates."

Others agree that backing is an issue to address in the workplace. A recent entry in "Traffic Talk," the posting area on the NETS web site, suggested that employers adopt an initiative called 'BBP' or 'Back Before Parking.'

"People are much more cautious of (and attentive to) the hazards if they back first vs. backing into a larger uncontrolled area," said the author of the posting.

This document was last updated on May 30, 1999.

Return to Table on Contents

Best and WorstState Traffic Safety Laws: Some States Do a Better Job than Others

For the first time, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has conducted a comprehensive assessment of key traffic safety laws in every state and the District of Columbia. "We didn't evaluate every traffic safety law by any stretch," says Institue senior vice president Allan Williams. "We looked at provisions of key laws that research shows can change driver behavior and reduce crash deaths and injuries. Clearly some states do a better job than others of getting good traffic safety laws on the books."

Researchers assessed alcohol-impaired driving laws, young driver licensing laws, safety belt use laws, child restraint use laws, motorcycle helmet use laws, and laws allowing camera enforcement of red light violations. A rating of good, acceptable, marginal, or poor is assigned to each law, or set of related laws, in each state. These ratings reflect the extent to which each law reviewed includes the necessary provisions to successfully change driver behavior.

"Enacting good laws is the necessary first step in many areas of highway safety," Williams says, adding that "to be fully effective such laws then have to be publicized and enforced. Our new ratings of traffic safety laws reflect wheether the laws can do an effective job of controlling driver behavior."

DUI/DWI laws: The Institute evaluated four separate DUI/DWI laws including administrative license revocation laws, under which license suspension follows immediately after arrest; laws under which it's illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concrentration, or BAC, at or above 0.08 percent (elsewhere it's 0.10 percent); laws under which it's illegal for people younger than 21 to drive with any measurable BAC; and court decisions and laws permitting sobriety checkpoints to deter alcohol-impaired driving. "Administrative license revocation is the cornerstone of an effective DUI or DWI program," Williams says. Yet Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee still don't have such laws on the books. Another 17 states don't require revocations lasting at least 30 days: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Taxes, Virginina, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Graduated licensing laws: The purpose of these laws is to protect beginners by phasing in full driving privileges so teenagers graduate to unrestricted licenses over at least a year. Beginning with Florida in 1996, "graduated licensing has caught on rapidly," Williams points out. "An impetus has been media attention on young driver crashes, especially fatal crashes. This attention has kept the issue in the forefront and helped make state legislators receptive to graduated licensing."

Now only nine states (Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming) fail to include any of the key provisions of graduated licensing. In the other 42 jurisdictions, there's wide variation in the strength of the provisions.

Williams explains that "the most important aspect of graduated licensing is to restrict driving once a beginner gets a license. States accomplish this by prohibiting unsupervised driving in high-risk situations like at night or with passengers. The tougher these restrictions are and the longer they last past a beginner's 16th birthday, the higher we rated a state's licensing law covering young drivers."

Safety belt use laws: In 1984, New York enacted the nation's first law requiring motorists to buckle up. Within 2 years, 22 jurisdictions had such laws, and now all but New Hampshire do. But the provisions vary widely. For example, most states still don't allow police to stop motorists solely for belt violations (primary enforcement). Enforcement is secondary, which means motorists have to be stopped for some other violation first. This impedes enforcement and explains, in part, why belt use is significantly lower in the United States than in Canada and elsewhere. The laws in only 17 U.S. states (Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas) and the District of Columbia allow primary enforcement, and even in these states the laws don't always cover people riding in rear seats.

Return to Table on Contents

Car Safety

Don't Drink and Drive

  • More than four out of every ten traffic deaths involve alcohol.
  • Even small amounts of alcohol affect your judgment, concentration, reaction time, and your ability to drive.
  • If you drink, don't drive. If a friend or family member drinks, call them a cab or drive them home.

Wear Your Safety Belt


  • Wear your lap and shoulder belt correctly, low and snug across the hips, and the shoulder belt across your chest, not in front of your neck or face.
  • Do not put the shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back.
  • If your car has air bags, make sure you wear both the lap and shoulder belt for the best protection. Move the seat back as far as possible from the air bag.
  • Never place babies under one year old in the front seat of a car with a passenger-side air bag. Always keep babies in the back seat and facing the rear of the car.
  • All children are safest in the back seat using the safety belt or in a child safety seat.
  • Pregnant women should always wear the lap and shoulder belt, with the lap belt firmly placed
    under the belly and across the hips. By protecting Mom, the baby has the best chance of surviving a crash.
  • Buckle up every trip, every time, and every body!

Slow Down - Follow the Speed Limits

  • Nearly one out of three crashes where someone dies is related to speeding.
    Speeding makes it hard to steer safely around curves or objects in the roadway.

For additional information, please contact the NHTSA hotline at:
1-888-DASH-2-DOT (1-888-327-4236), or the NHTSA Web site.

U.S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
August 1997

Return to Table on Contents

CDC Guide Recommends Ways to Reduce Motor Vehicle Injuries

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has completed the third in its series, the Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). The latest issue is motor vehicle injury. The development team focused on interventions to promote the use of child safety seats and safety belts and to deter alcohol-impaired driving.

The task force "strongly recommended" or "recommended" 11 interventions:

  • Require infants and young children to be restrained in federally approved child safety seats appropriate for the child's age and size
  • Use media support and child safety seat displays in public sites to promote use; use special enforcement strategies to enforce existing laws
  • Provide approved child safety seats to parents through loans, low-cost rentals, or giveaways; include educational components of varying intensity
  • Provide rewards to children and parents for purchasing and correctly using safety seats
  • Require the use of safety belts by occupants not covered by the stat's child safety seat laws
  • Require primary enforcement laws that all police to stop a vehicle solely for an observed belt law violation
  • Increase enforcement at specific locations and times to target violations of safety belt laws
  • Lower the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from 0.10 percent to 0.08
  • Specify an age below which the purchase or consumption of alcoholic beverages is not permitted (maintain age at 21 years)
  • Establish a separate, lower illegal BAC for drivers targeted by law
  • Stop drivers at random breath testing checkpoints

The task force recommendations can be used to promote the adoption, maintenance, or strengthening of state or national laws.

In the first two issues, CDC addressed vaccine-preventable diseases and tobacco product use prevention. During 2001-02, Community Guide topics will be prepared and released as completed. More information is available at the website www.thecommunityguide.org.

Return to Table on Contents

CDC Looks at Challenges for Motor Vehicle Safety in 21st Century

Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States, and although motor vehicle-related death rates have been gradually decreasing through the 1900's, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention views the 21st Century as a time to sustain and improve motor vehicle safety.

According to CDC, in 1997, motor vehicle crashes resulted in 41,967 deaths and 3.4 million injuries. Cost estimates are $200 billion.

To improve safety, future success will be dependent on expanded surveillance to better monitor nonfatal injuries, detect new problems, and set priorities. In addition, direct research will be needed for emerging and priority problems, effective programs and policies will need to be implemented, and interagency and multidisciplinary partnerships will need to be strengthened. CDC says key public health activities will be intended to:

  • continue efforts to reduce alcohol-impaired driving and related fatalities and injuries. Promote graduated licensing and discourage teenage drinking and other risky driving behaviors.
  • Enhance pedestrian safety through engineering solutions, encouraging safer pedestrian behaviors, and increasing visibility to drivers.
  • Accommodate mobility needs of persons over age 65 through alternative modes of transportation; develop strategies to reduce driving hazards
  • Encourage the 30 percent of the population who don't wear safety belts to use them routinely
  • Conduct biomechanics research to better understand the causes of nonfatal disabling injuries, particularly brain and spinal cord injuries
  • Develop a surveillance system at the federal, state, and local levels that tracks fatal and nonfatal motor vehicle-related injuries as a basis for setting prevention and research priorities

The annual death rate in motor vehicle crashes has declined from 18 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 1925 to 1.7 per 100 million VMT in 1997-a 90 percent decrease, according to CDC. Six times as many people drive today as in 1925, and the number of motor vehicles in the country has increased 11-fold to approximately 215 million.

According to CDC, the decrease in motor vehicle-related deaths can be attributed to the establishment of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 1966 passage of the Highway Safety Act and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, changes in driver and passenger behavior, and government and community recognition

This document was last updated on June 21, 1999.

Return to Table on Contents

Developments and Decisions

American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) has issued a warning to all drivers who travel through construction zones. The group notes that vehicle crashes in work areas "are a serious public health problem," averaging more than 700 fatalities and 37,000 injuries per year.

Since Congress last year authorized more than $200 billion in federal funding to improve roads and bridges through 2003, there could be an estimated 66 percent increase in construction sites throughout the nation, according to ARTBA. To assist drivers in navigating safely through construction zones, ARTBA has issued the following recommendations:

  • look for and pay attention to orange diamond-shaped warning signs and/or electronic message boards in advance of construction zones
  • obey posted speed limits since workers could be very close to traffic and most states double fines in work zones
  • use extra caution when traveling through a work zone at night
  • be aware that work zone traffic patterns can change daily
  • watch for detours, lane diversions, or closures
  • prepare for workers or vehicles entering traffic
  • don't speed even if there is no activity-work zones remain marked to alert drivers to potential danger

For information, call toll-free (888) 447-5556; fax (409) 845-0568; 
e-mail workzone@tamu.edu; website: http://wzsafety.tamu.edu

This document was last updated on July 28, 1999.

Return to Table on Contents

Don't Forget About These Roadway Hazards

The unpredictability of weather during the changing seasons can create hazardous driving conditions and motorists can prepare for potential hazards by remembering to practice safe driving techniques, says Indy Car racing veteran Lyn St. James.

"Fallen leaves that remain on streets become slick as ice when wet. With unpredictable weather conditions, increased precipitation and slippery roads, drivers must be more alert than ever," she warns. "Nearly 42,000 people died on our roads in 1997. It’s time to take even more care than usual.

"Also, the temptation in areas where the weather remains warm is to think that good weather means drivers don’t need to take as much care on the road. This is not true even when the weather is warmer, it’s dangerous for drivers to think they no longer need to practice the cautious driving techniques they use when there is snow or water on the road," said Ms. St. James.

"At this time of year, people need to start thinking about the dangerous driving situations posed by the unpredictable weather patterns associated with the approaching winter months."

World renowned as one of the first and the fastest women to race in Indianapolis 500 history, Ms. St. James believes that public awareness is vital to helping consumers, especially younger drivers, master safer driving techniques and practices.

Drive Safer America! in association with Ms. St. James, has developed a series of techniques and practices that all drivers can apply year-round, especially in inclement weather.

Included in Ms. St. James’ recommendations is the use of four-wheel anti-lock brake systems (ABS) which, according to her, offer year-round safety advantages over conventional braking systems. ABS prevents a vehicle’s wheels from locking during hard braking situations and helps drivers maintain the ability to steer the vehicle where they want it to go.

Ms. St. James notes that in unpredictable weather, drivers are more likely than ever to encounter hazards such as deep puddles of water that may cause hydroplaning. During the winter, temperatures hover around the freezing point, and rain and melted snow can refreeze, meaning that drivers are also likely to find patches of ice that are difficult to see from the driver’s seat. As the weather warms up and roads begin to dry, she further reminds motorists to be on the look out for shaded areas that may remain slick.

To combat these challenging driving conditions, Ms. St. James recommends that motorists drive slower on wet roads and retain a longer distance between their car and the car ahead. She notes that it can take up to ten times farther to stop on a wet road than a dry one. In addition, she recommends checking tire treads to ensure that the tire has at least 1/8 inch of tread intact to prevent hydroplaning. Finally, she recommends that drivers take stock of the day’s weather conditions before getting behind the wheel, and that they adjust their driving accordingly.

Return to Table on Contents

Drive It Safe Guide for Mature Drivers

If you've been driving for quite a few years, you bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the task.

Certain changes which might occur in the aging process, however, could affect your driving skills. Fortunately, there are techniques to help you maximize your driving ability and minimize your injury risk.

Traffic situations on today's highways, roads, and streets present many challenges, but vehicle crashes can be prevented.

Always use both your lap and shoulder safety belt

Buckle up every time you drive even for short trips-and insist that your passengers do so, too. Safety belts save thousands of lives.

Keep mentally and physically fit

Proper nutrition, exercise, adequate rest, and stress management will help you maintain your driving skills. Aging or medical conditions that could affect your driving performance include ankle rigidity, wrist pain or weakness, and knee or hip pain or decreased range of motion.

Get regular medical check ups, eye exams, and hearing tests

If you are being treated for a medical condition, talk to your doctor about the advisability of driving.

Your coordination, flexibility, and reaction time-important smis to driving-depend on your physical and mental condition. You should have thorough examinations every year and alert your doctors if there's been any change.

Your vision provides 85-90 percent of the information needed to drive. Your driving ability can be affected by cataracts, glaucoma, or other visual changes.

Never drink and drive

Know how medications affect your ability to drive Some medications slow reaction time, diminish concentration, blur vision, or hamper mobility. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any prescription or over-the-counter medicine that you are taking could interfere with your ability to drive.

Keep informed of traffic laws and safety developments

Traffic regulations sometimes change. Contact your state department of motor vehicles and request the latest rules of the road. You may wish to take a driver's education "refresher" course. Organizations offer classes in many cities to update the mature driver.

Contact your local AAA club for the AAA's "Safe Driving for Mature Operators" course.

Write to the American Association of Retired Persons, 601 "E" St., NW, Washington, DC 20049, for information on their "55 Alive/Mature Driving Program."

Call 1-800-621-6244 to ask about the National Safety Council's Defensive Driving Course for the mature driver.

Driving safely requires your full attention.

To reduce distractions:

  • Focus on the traffic ahead, behind and next to you. Don't let the scenery divert your attention from the road.
  • Limit conversation to only what is necessary.
  • Keep the radio off or the volume low.
  • Do not permit smoking in your car. Smoke may aggravate your congestion and interfere with your night vision.

Driving Safety

Drive at the posted speed limit or stay in the right lane if you are driving slower. If you feel that cars are going too fast, switch to a different route.

Drive defensively and yield the right-of-way

Do not drive when you are tired.

Pace yourself Take a break after every 1 1/2 to two hours of driving. Get out of the car and stretch. Be sure to drink adequate amounts of water.

If you need eyeglasses to drive, wear them each time you take a trip, even if iVs only a short distance.

Avoid driving a car that has tinted windshields.

The American Association of Retired Persons recommends that under good weather conditions, leave enough space between you and the car ahead of you so that it takes three seconds to reach what that driver just passed. In bad weather, extend that to five seconds.

Prepare in advance for long trips. Plan your route on a map, noting exits, landmarks, expected mileage, etc. Get enough rest the night before you leave. Carry bottled water and a first aid kit in the car.

Clean your vehicle's headlights, taillights, windshield (inside and out), and rear window on a regular basis.

Keep your vehicle in good operating condition.

If you have noticed that it now takes longer to respond to situations while you drive, ask someone you trust to accompany you on a driving trip and monitor how well you drive.

To reduce injury risk

  • Always wear safety belts. Don't don't drink and drive.
  • Avoid busy streets, roads, and intersections.
  • Maintain a greater distance between you and the car ahead of you.
  • Alter your route to avoid turning left. (Studies show many accidents involving older people occur when they make a left turn.)
  • Avoid driving in the rush hour, if possible.
  • Avoid traveling during heavy rainstorms or when there is snow or ice on the roads.
  • Drive shorter distances.
  • Drive during daylight hours only. Try to avoid traveling in the direction of the sun as it sets or rises. The intensity of the sun can be very stressful on the eyes.

Driving a car with power steering, power brakes, automatic transmission, and adjustable seats and steering wheel can compensate for loss of strength and flexibility. In more severe cases, special devices can be added to a vehicle to assist with many driving functions.

Don't slouch or hunch forward in the car; sit up straight. Hard car seats provide more support for your back. Adjust the driver's seat so your shoulders are parallel to the top of the steering wheel.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety brochure, "A Flexibility Training Package for Improving Older Driver Performance," is available free of charge by sending a self-addressed, stamped (business size) envelope to Flexibility Guide, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 1440 New York Ave., NW, Suite 201, Washington, D.C. 20005.

Return to Table on Contents

Eye Health Group Urges Caution When Jump-Starting Batteries

Prevent Blindness America (PBA) warns that improper procedures in jump-starting a dead battery causes thousands of serious eye injuries each year.

All vehicle batteries contain sulfuric acid and produce hydrogen and oxygen gases. "If the gases come into contact with a spark, flame, or lighted cigarette, the battery can explode, sending battery fragments and acid flying," said Tod Turriff, PBA vice president of program and information services.

Each year, dead batteries cause millions of cars and trucks to fail to start. Because these failures seldom occur at a convenient time or spot, motorists should educate themselves on basic auto mechanics and jump-starting a battery before it dies, cautioned PBA. For example, businesses and individuals should have an emergency plan in place in case a vehicle battery explodes.

"Most people panic if battery acid splashes into their eye," Turriff explained. "The immediate thing the injured person should do is flush the eye with any 'drinkable' liquid on hand, such as water, milk, juice, or any soft drink. Every second counts, because the longer the acid sits in the eye, the greater the chances of a serious corneal bum or blindness."

When working under the hood of a vehicle, there are many measures of protection people should follow. PBA encourages the use of safety goggles when jump-starting a vehicle. This is a simple, low-cost safety measure.

For more information, contact PBA, (800) 331-2020; website www.preventblindness.org.

Return to Table on Contents

The White House Office of the Press Secretary

Radio Address Of The President To The Nation

The Oval Office

The President: Good morning.

Today I'm pleased to announce a major new step in our efforts to protect America's children -- a universal system for attaching child safety seats in cars. This system, developed by a blue-ribbon commission of industry and consumer groups, will make safety seats easier to install and more secure on the road. It will save young lives.

In my State of the Union address, I issued a call to action to all Americans to prepare our people for the 21st century. Building strong families is central to that mission. That's why we must do all that we can to help parents do all that they can to live up to one of the greatest responsibilities anyone can have -- to care for a child.

Parents are always on the lookout to make sure their children are safe. That's especially true when you get in the car. Thousands of children are killed in car accidents every year; tens of thousands more are injured.

Even though America's cars and roads are the safest in the world, we must make them safer. That's why today -- the final day of National Child Passenger Safety Week -- I'd like to talk with you about the steps we're taking to save more lives on the road.

First, we will continue to stress the fundamental rules of safety: seat belts, safety seats for small children, children 12 and under buckled up and in the back seat. Last month, I instructed the outgoing Transportation Secretary, Federico Pena, to develop a plan to get more Americans to wear seat belts. I'm delighted to be joined today by our new Transportation Secretary, Rodney Slater, who came to us from the Federal Highway Administration. He knows a lot about this issue and he will present that plan to me in March. When he does, I will be ready to review it and act on it.

We must also continue to support law enforcement in its effort to increase compliance with safety laws.

Second, we have taken action to make it clear that, on America's roads, there is no room for alcohol or drugs. We fought to make it illegal for all young people under 21 to drive with any alcohol in their blood, and 34 states now have these zero-tolerance laws. We're also developing a plan to make teens pass a drug test as a condition of getting a driver's license.

Third, we've worked to make air bags, one of our most important safety tools, safer for children. All cars and safety seats now come with warning labels to remind drivers to keep children in the back seat. Plans are underway to permit manufacturers to install less powerful air bags and to phase in a new generation of "smart" air bags. Air bags have saved a lot of lives. With these improvements, they'll save even more.

And today, we're taking a fourth step -- we will make child safety seats safer. These seats are the most effective safety device to protect very young children. In car crashes, they reduce the risk of death or serious injury to infants by 70 percent. They cut the fatality and injury rate for children aged 1 to 4 in half. But while all 50 states have car seat laws, studies show that 40 percent of the time young children do not even ride in safety seats; and even when they are placed in child safety seats, 80 percent of the time children are either not fully secured or the car seats are not properly attached.

The fact is, despite parents' best efforts, car seats are hard to install. Not all 100 models of car seats fit in all 900 models of passenger cars. And even when they do, it's no simple task to put them in place. Seat belts are not designed primarily to hold child safety seats. Anyone who's wrestled with a car seat knows what I'm talking about. Thousands of frustrated parents have called our Transportation Department hotline with questions about how to use car seats properly.

Parents are not alone in their concerns -- automobile and car seat makers, consumer organizations, the medical community all have felt there was too much confusion surrounding child seat safety. In response to this problem, my administration convened a blue-ribbon panel, with representatives from all these groups, to find ways to make it easier for parents to protect their children with safe, secure car seats.

Today, I am pleased that we are acting on the panel's number one proposal -- a universal system for attaching car safety seats. Under a Transportation Department plan, every car safety seat would have two standard buckles at its base. Every car would be equipped with standard latches in the back seat designed specifically to fasten to these buckles. There would also be universal attachments to secure the top of the safety seat to the car's interior, so car seats would be locked in from top to bottom.

This plan will go out for public comment next week. If approved, the new safety system could be on the market by 1999.   A car seat can protect a child from the violence of the worst crashes. So today, we are acting to solve a problem that's been around for too long -- we're taking steps to make sure that your child's car set will stay put in your car every time. With this plan, we're moving closer to the day when safe, well-attached car seats will be the rule of the road.   Together, these efforts represent a new spirit of cooperation in America -- with industry and government working with the American people to support our families as they seek to make life safer and better for our children.

Thanks for listening.

Return to Table on Contents

Males, Hispanics, Mississippi Drivers Hit Hard in 1997 Crashes

Motor vehicle crashes were a leading cause of death in the United States in 1997, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Over 27,000 males and 14,000 females died in traffic crashes, accounting for one out of every 41 male deaths and one out of every 80 female deaths that year. Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for individuals aged 6-33; males aged 7- 11, 13-31, and 33; and females aged 4-28. Half of all people killed in crashes were under age 36.

Data were compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics. The study's purpose was to examine the status of motor vehicle traffic crashes as the leading cause of death and how the deaths were related to age, gender, and ethnic groups.

Individuals aged 18-21 had the highest single age incidence of traffic deaths, accounting for 4,663 deaths in 1997. When comparing unintentional deaths, the likelihood of dying from a traffic crash was 4 times as great as dying from failing, 4.2 times as accidental poisoning, 9.3 times as suffocation, and 12.2 times as dying from a fire.

Traffic crashes have steadily increased their ranking as a leading cause of death for Hispanic males. In this group, crashes ranked as the fifth leading cause in 1992 but then jumped to third in 1997. Native Americans have had the highest ranking over the years: It is the third leading cause of death for males and fifth leading cause for females. Traffic crashes had the lowest ranking for African- Americans: It is the ninth, 10th, or 11th leading cause for males and the 14th, 15th, or 16th leading cause for females.

Traffic crashes consistently ranked highest in Mississippi for males during 1992-97. Both Alaska and Mississippi ranked high over the years for female deaths, with Alaska figuring twice as high and Mississippi three times as high as the states where traffic crashes had the highest ranking as a cause of death. The lowest ranks of traffic crashes as a leading cause of death over the years were in the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

For more information, call Rajesh Subramanian, NHTSA National Center for Statistics & Analysis, (202) 366-5371.

This document was last updated on February 25, 2001.

Return to Table on Contents

Motor Vehicle Crashes Remain Top Cause of Worker-Related Fatalities

In 1980-97, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of injury-related deaths for U.S. workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) surveillance system.

Since 1980, motor vehicle crashes accounted for 24 percent of deaths. As of 1990, homicides have been the second leading cause of occupational injury deaths (14 percent), followed by machine-related deaths (13 percent).

Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death in transportation/communications/public utilities, wholesale trade, and public administration.

During 1980-97, 103,945 civilian workers died from occupational injuries, an average of 16 work- related deaths per day. The annual number of traumatic occupational deaths decreased 28 percent from 1980 to 1997.

The greatest number of fatal occupational inju- ries occurred in California and Texas (10 percent each), Florida (6 percent), and Illinois and Pennsylvania (4 percent each).

For more information, contact NTOF, (800) 356-4674 or (513) 533-8328; website www.cdc.gov/niosh/homepage.html.

Return to Table on Contents

New Car Safety Features Brochure

The American Automobile Association (AAA) and the Department of Transportation have just released the brochure New Car Safety Features - Valuable Information to Help You Buy a Safer Car, which contains detailed information on safety features for 1999 model year vehicles. The guide is designed to help prospective purchasers compare safety features in different makes and models. The guide shows that features such as four-wheel antilock brakes, front-seat upper adjustable belts, traction control, side air bags, and other features are available in many compact or economy model cars.

The free brochure is available through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Auto Safety Hotline, (800) 424-9393, or through the website http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/.

Return to Table on Contents

NHTSA Advises Drivers to Check Tire Pressure Monthly

Return to Table on Contents

Twenty-seven percent of passenger vehicles and 32 percent of light trucks - including sport-utility vehicles, vans, and pickup trucks - are driven with one or more substantially under-inflated tires, according to a new survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NHTSA's study was the first of its kind to be conducted by the government in two decades. A tire is considered under-inflated at 8psi (pounds per square inch) or more below the manufacturer's recommended inflation pressure. This is 25 percent of a common recommended cold inflation pressure of 32 psi.

The study revealed that:

  • 6 percent of light trucks are driven with all four of their tires under-inflated by 8 or more psi, compared with 3 percent of passenger cars
  • 10 percent of light trucks are driven with three or more tires under-inflated by 8 or more psi, compared with 6 percent of passenger cars
  • 20 percent of light trucks have two or more tires under-inflated by 8 or more psi, compared with 13 percent of passenger cars

Last month, NHTSA proposed a new federal motor vehicle safety standard that would require the installation of tire pressure monitoring systems in new passenger cars and light trucks. The proposed requirement would also include buses and multipurpose vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less. The systems would warn a driver when a vehicle has a significantly under-inflated tire

A radial tire can lose much of its air pressure and still appear to be fully inflated. Operating a vehicle with substantially under-inflated tires can result in premature tire failure, such as tread separation and blowouts, and potential for loss of vehicle control. Under-inflated tires also shorten tire life and increase fuel consumption.

Tires should be inflated in accordance with a vehicle manufacturer's recommendations. These can be found in the owner's manual or on a placard usually located on the driver door jamb. Pressure should be checked with a tire pressure gauge at least once a month and before a long trip, said NHTSA.

Return to Table on Contents

NTSB Report: Highway Fatalities Rose in 1999

In 1999, only two fewer Americans died in transportation-related accidents than in 1998, according to a new report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Last year, 43,986 people died in highway, rail, marine, aviation, and pipeline incidents. Highway fatalities accounted for more than 94 percent of all transportation deaths and rose from 41,501 in 1998 to 41,611 in 1999.

Highway-rail grade crossing fatalities dropped from 431 to 402. Rail fatalities declined from 831 to 80 and included a large drop in pedestrian fatalities associated with intercity rail operations. Light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail fatalities rose from 192 to 218. Deaths among train passengers rose from four to 14.

1998-99 Highway Fatalities
Year 1998 1999
Passenger Cars 21,141 20,771
Light Trucks, Vans 10,665 11,208
Pedestrians 5,228 4,906
Motorcycles 2,292 2,471
Pedalcycles 757 746
Medium, Heavy Trucks 739 775
Buses 38 58
All Others 641 696
Total 41,501 41,611

For more information, visit the NTSB website, www.ntsb.gov.

This document was last updated on February 25, 2001.

Return to Table on Contents

Preliminary FARS Assessment: 1998 Traffic Fatalities Declined.

The Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), one of the most trusted sources of traffic safety trends, reports that in 1998, traffic fatalities declined to their lowest level in four years, and alcohol-related traffic fatalities reached a new record low.

Preliminary figures from FARS, which were released last week, also reveal that nearly two-thirds of all drivers and passengers who died on the nation's highways did not wear safety belts. Currently, 70 percent of Americans use them. If 85 percent did, 4,000 more lives would be saved annually, and 100,000 additional injuries would be prevented.

"We've been saying it for years and it's still true: Buckle up and increase your chance of survival," said Ricardo Martinez, M.D., head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Some highlights of the preliminary FARS assessment include:

  • Overall, highway fatalities decreased 1.3 percent from 42,103 in 1997 to 41,480 in 1998.
  • The traffic fatality rate remained steady at 1.6 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) while VMT were up 2 percent from 1997.
  • Crash-related injuries dropped 4.4 percent from 3.399 million in 1997 to 3.251 million last year.
  • Fatalities associated with large trucks declined 1.8 percent from 5,398 to an estimated 5,302 in 1998.
  • Pedestrian deaths were down 1.3 percent to 5,284 in 1998, and motorcycle fatalities rose slightly from 2,147 in 1997 to 2,243 in 1998.
  • Alcohol was involved in 15,936 or 38.4 percent of traffic fatalities in 1998, down from 16,189 or 38.6 percent in 1997.
  • 62 percent of those who died in crashes in 1998 were not wearing safety belts.
  • The 1998 fatalities were 19 percent lower than they were in 1979 when 51,093 died on highways.

To produce the annual report on traffic fatality trends, NHTSA collects crash statistics from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The final 1998 report, pending completion of data collection and quality control verification, will be available July.

For a summary of the preliminary report, call NHTSA Office of Public Affairs, (202) 366-9550, or visit the website at www.nhtsa.dot.gov

This document was last updated on June 21, 1999.

Return to Table on Contents

Safety Agenda Targets Major Causes of Preventable Death & Injury

Return to Table on Contents

Last year there was an "alarming" rise in deaths from preventable injuries, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), which just issued its safety agenda for the nation. Unintentional injuries claimed 95,500 Americans in 1999-the highest number since 1988. However, highway fatalities dropped 1 percent.

"We are publishing the safety agenda for the nation to help America stem this unacceptable tide of injuries and death," said NSC president and CEO Jerry Scannell. The NSC agenda proposes a number of partnerships with public and private organizations and sets specific death and injury reduction goals. It also proposes new programs and calls for strengthening the programs already in place.

Motor vehicle crashes accounted for 43 percent of all unintentional-injury fatalities in 1999 and caused 2.2 million disabling injuries. "This degree of human loss is unconscionable in our modern society," Scannell said. Several initiatives have cut the rate of highway deaths per 100,000 by nearly half since 1972. To further improve safety, NSC proposes actions on several traffic-related issues: occupant protection, young driver safety, drunk driving, large truck safety, and pedestrian safety.

To encourage occupant protection, NSC will enhance enforcement of the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety campaign, organize law enforcement agencies to crack down on drivers with unbuckled children, support state efforts to pass primary safety belt laws, continue education to convince drivers to buckle children in rear seats, and work with auto and child safety seat manufacturers to make sure adults properly install child seats.

NSC believes the key to increasing young driver safety is by gradually introducing them to the responsibility of driving. Graduated driver licensing laws should mandate safety belt usage and place restrictions on other teenage passengers without the presence of an adult.

The council will continue to work with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other organizations to reduce alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities and injuries through techniques such as high visibility, nationwide enforcement crackdown, tougher state laws, and the stimulation of a national debate on the efficacy of emerging technologies such as ignition interlocks and electronic offender monitoring.

To improve truck safety, NSC supports implementation of key elements of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, including improvements in the Commercial Driver's License program and efforts to educate motorists about protecting themselves when driving near large truck.

Regarding pedestrian safety, the council will continue its strong support of the Partnership for a Walkable America, which works to improve pedestrian safety and provide easier access to areas where people can walk safely.

For more information, contact NSC, (630) 775-2160; website www.nsc.org/safetyagenda/.

This document was last updated on June 8, 2000.

Safety and Tires

Your tires are an important part of a "team" of mechanical systems in your vehicle. Tires, wheels, brakes, shock absorbers, drive train, steering and suspension systems function together to give you a safe, comfortable ride and good tire mileage. Here are three important tire tips to keep your team in top shape:

  • Balance. An unbalanced wheel and tire assembly may create an annoying vibration when you drive on a smooth road and may result in irregular tread wear.
  • Alignment. Misalignment of wheels in the front or rear, improperly operating brakes or shock absorbers, bent wheels, worn bushings, and other mechanical problems cause uneven and rapid tread wear and should be corrected by a qualified mechanic. A bad jolt, such as hitting a pothole, can throw your front end out of alignment even if you had it checked an hour earlier.
  • Tire Rotation. Sometimes irregular tire wear can be corrected by rotating your tires. The purpose of rotating tires is to achieve more uniform wear for all tires on a vehicle. Consult your car owner's manual or your tire dealer for the appropriate pattern and rotation recommendations for your vehicle. If no rotation period is specified, tires should be rotated approximately every 6,000 miles.

Source: Tire Industry Safety Council

This document was last updated on February 25, 2001.

Return to Table on Contents

State Farm Calls for Intersection Safety; Reveals 10 Worst Spots

One location in Pembroke Pines, Fla., and two in Philadelphia, Pa., are the most dangerous intersections, according to State Farm Insurance's second annual report on the nation's top 10 worst intersections.

The other seven most dangerous intersections are located in Phoenix, Ariz. (2); Tulsa, Okla. (2); Frisco, Texas; Metarie, La.; and Sacramento, Calif.

About one-third of all crashes occur at intersections, according to State Farm. In 1999, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration counted 8,814 fatal crashes at or near intersections. This accounts for about 23 percent of all fatal crashes in the nation.

Intersection crashes are usually caused by red-light running, failure to yield, following too closely or tailgating, speeding, and inattentiveness. Occasionally, vehicle problems or external factors such as sun blindness may be blamed for a crash.

In addition, a problem within a particular intersection may contribute to a crash. In most cases, something probably can be done about it, said State Farm. Traffic engineers estimate that between 30 and 60 percent of all crashes could be prevented or made less severe through road improvements.

Some possible fixes to reduce crashes are: better traffic-signal timing, adding left-turn-only lanes, improving visibility of signs, converting two-way stop signs to four-way stop signs, making more wide-spread the use of roundabouts, improving lighting, and installing red-light cameras.

State Farm has some advice for drivers to follow to reduce intersection crashes:

  • don't speed through intersections
  • know how the rules of the road apply to intersections (e.g., who has the right of way)
  • don't follow other vehicles too closely
  • watch for pedestrians and cyclists
  • signal turns and lane changes
  • don't turn left unless you can do it safely
  • don't try to beat signal changes
  • watch for emergency vehicles
  • don't enter an intersection if traffic is backed up on the other side
  • in bad weather, be aware of slick pavement

Return to Table on Contents

Shopping For A New Car? Think Safety

For car shoppers who rate safety highly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and AAA have cooperated to produce a safety guide. You can order a free copy of the brochure "Shopping for a Safer Car" by calling 1-888-DASH-2-DOT, or look for the information online at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov

NHTSA is the Federal government agency responsible for reducing deaths, injuries, and economic losses caused by motor vehicle crashes. The agency sets and enforces traffic safety performance standards for motor vehicles, and conducts crash testing to determine how well different models protect passengers.

Another source for information about the relative safety of individual models is the Highway Loss Data Insitiute, whose web site at http://www.carsafety.org provides data on injury claims, repair costs, and theft.

This document was last updated on November 3, 1999.

Return to Table on Contents

States With Highest Death Rates in Red-Light Running Crashes per 100,000 People, 1992-98
State Population Deaths Rate Per 100,000
Arizona 4,280,998 305 7.1
Nevada 1,529,841 59 3.9
Michigan 9,655,540 355 3.7
Texas 18,677,046 633 3.5
Alabama 4,255,686 143 3.4
New Mexico 1,670,580 56 3.4
Florida 14,197,723 434 3.1
California 31,645,023 956 3.0
Delaware 717,499 21 2.9
Cities With Highest Death Rates in Red-Light Running Crashes per 100,000 People, 1992-98
Phoenix, AZ 1,125,599 122 10.8
Memphis, TN 614,067 49 8.0
Mesa, AZ 333,756 26 7.8
Tucson, AZ 445,840 34 7.6
St. Petersburg, FL 237,480 18 7.6
Birmingham, AL 256,386 18 7.0
Dallas, TX 1,047,816 73 7.0
Albuquerque, NM 412,625 28 6.8
Louisville, KY 260,572 17 6.5
Detroit, MI 998,523 65 6.5

This document was last updated on February 25, 2001.

Return to Table on Contents

SUVs: How Safe Are They?

The height and sturdy appearance of sport utility vehicles make them seem safer than cars to many buyers. But in large cars and minivans, deaths in crashes are less frequent than in all but the very largest sport utility vehicles. On the other hand, large sport utilities are roughly three times as likely as large cars or minivans to kill occupants of the other vehicle in a crash.

Table 1 shows the number of deaths that occurred in 1998 as a result of car crashes. The data reflect the number of deaths per million of registered vehicles, one-to three-years-old. Table 2 shows the fatalities for each 1,000 crashes involving two vehicles reported to the police, from 1992 through 1996.

Table 1: Occupants Killed in Crashes



Occupant Deaths


Wheelbase 8’4" or less


Small pickups

Lighter than 1.5 tons


Small S.U.V.s

Lighter than 1.5 tons


Small cars

Wheelbase 8’5" to 8’9"


Midsize pickups

Weigh 1.5 tons to 2.0 tons


Very large pickups

Heavier than 2.5 tons


Midsize S.U.V.s

Weigh 2.0 tons to 2.5 tons


Midsize cars

Wheelbase 8’10" to 9’2"


Large S.U.V.s

Weigh 2.0 tons to 2.5 tons


Large pickups

Weigh 2.0 tons to 2.5 tons


Very large cars*

Wheelbase 9’8" or more


Large cars**

Wheelbase 9’3" to 9’7"


Very large S.U.V.s

Heavier than 2.5 tons


All pickups



All sport utility vehicles


All cars and minivans


*Includes long-wheelbase minivans **Includes short wheelbase minivans.


Table 2: People Killed in Other Vehicles



Deaths in Other Vehicles

Large vans

Wider than 6’6"


Large pickups

More than 2.25 tons with payload


Large S.U.V.s

Over 5’6" wide


Small S.U.V.s

5’6" wide or less


Small pickups

Less than 2.25 tons with payload


Large cars

Weigh more than 1.75 tons



No wider than 6’6"


Midsize cars

Weigh 1.5 to 1.75 tons


Compact cars

Weigh 1.25 tons to 1.5 tons


Subcompact cars

Weigh 1.0 tons to 1.25 tons



Weigh less than 1.0 tons


This document was posted on January 7, 2000.

Return to Table on Contents

Tips for Safe Backing

  • Whenever possible, strive to park your vehicle in such a way that backing is not required.
  • Before getting into your vehicle, walk around it, look for people and hazards on the ground and overhead.
  • If you must back, back as short of a distance as possible. When pulling off the road, remember that everything you pass on the way becomes an obstacle on the way out.
  • Whenever you can, use a reliable and qualified person to guide you safely while backing.
  • By planning ahead, you can often avoid backing to your blind side. Backing toward the driver's side eliminates guesswork, giving you the best possible control over a difficult maneuver.
  • If the emergency vehicle is coming from the opposite direction,

Tips provided by Liberty Mutual.

This document was last updated on May 27, 1999.

Return to Table on Contents

Tire Safety

Conducting regular tire inspections is important to ensure that you are getting the most out of your tires. By taking extra care of your tires it is possible to increase gas mileage, extend tire life and maintain the safety of your vehicle. Drive Safer America! offers these safety tips to ensure proper tire maintenance:

  • Check your tire pressure at least once a month. Tires that are underinflated have higher rolling resistance, which reduces gas mileage and causes tires to wear out more quickly. Properly inflated tires can improve fuel economy, offer the greatest safety and extend treadwear.
  • Do not exceed the maximum pressure listed on tires' sidewall. Inflate tires according to the vehicle manufacturer's recommendations, not exceeding the maximum pressure listed on the sidewall.
  • Check air pressure with your own gauge when tires are "cold." Tires are "cold" in the morning or after the car has not been driven for several hours. Some air pressure gauges at service stations are inaccurate due to wear and abuse, so it's important to check pressure with your own gauge.
  • Keep tires properly balanced and wheels aligned. Tires that are improperly balanced or wheels that are out of alignment can create drag and force the engine to use more gas. Local service stations can often repair these problems quickly and inexpensively.
  • Check the tread on your tires. Tires with less than 1/16-inch tread depth are considered bald and should be replaced. In addition, tire manufacturers have designed tires with built-in wear bars (narrow strips of smooth rubber across the tread) that will begin to show when the tire is worn out.
  • Rotate your tires every six months. You can achieve maximum tire wear by rotating your tires regularly. Check your car owner's manual or consult the tire manufacturer for the appropriate rotation pattern for your vehicle. After rotation, you should adjust each tire's air pressure to the appropriate level for its new location, as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
  • Extremely uneven or irregular tire wear can indicate a significant alignment problem. If you notice these symptoms, it is best to have the problem looked at by a qualified technician.

This document was last updated on May 20, 1999.

Return to Table on Contents

Traffic Safety Outlook Occupant Protection

Safety Belt Use Laws

Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Territories have enacted safety belt use laws.

Safety Belt Use and Car Crashes

  • In 1996 the overall safety belt use rate was 68 percent.*
  • Among front seat passenger vehicle occupants over 4 years old, safety belts saved an estimated 10,414 lives in 1996.
  • In 1996, if every passenger vehicle front seat occupant had buckled up, an additional 9,754 deaths could have been prevented.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for Americans.
  • In 1996, 6.8 million motor vehicle crashes were reported by the police; 3.5 million people were injured or killed in these crashes.
  • In 1996, 41,907 deaths resulted from crashes; that is an average of 115 deaths per day or 1 death every 13 minutes.
  • Eighty-five percent of all crashes occur within 25 miles of home.
  • Fifty-eight percent of fatal and injury crashes occur on roads with posted speed limits of 40 miles per hour or less.
  • Motor vehicle crashes cost society more than $150.5 billion each year. These costs not only include health care costs, but also insurance and legal costs, lost productivity, costs to employees, and other costs.
  • If safety belt use increased from the current 68 percent to 100 percent, the nation would save $13.2 billion annually.

Important Information About Safety Belts and Air Bags
How important is proper safety belt use and child safety seat use, and do air bags really provide additional protection in serious crashes?

Safety Belts
In 1996, 32,317 occupants of passenger vehicles were killed in motor vehicle crashes. That’s 77 percent of the 41,907 traffic fatalities reported for the year. Despite their life-saving potential, safety belts were only used by 68 percent of adult drivers and passengers.

* Statistics for 1997 indicate safety belt use was 69 percent.

The President’s Buckle Up America! campaign recommends new ambitious safety belt use goals to increase national safety belt use to 85 percent by the year 2000 and 90 percent by 2005 (from 68 percent in 1996). As part of a four-point plan, the campaign identifies enacting strong safety belt legislation by adopting primary safety belt laws as an important strategy in meeting these new national goals. The other strategies in the four-point plan include building public-private partnerships; embracing active, high-visibility enforcement; and conducting well coordinated, effective public education efforts.

Increasing the safety belt use rate from 68 percent (1996) to 85 percent would prevent an estimated 4,194 fatalities and 102,518 injuries annually. This reduction in injuries and deaths would result in an economic savings of approximately $6.7 billion annually (1996 dollars). Increasing the safety belt use rate from 68 percent to 90 percent would prevent an estimated 5,536 fatalities and 132,670 injuries annually and would save $8.8 billion annually.

Child Passenger Safety
While child safety seat use is high, many child safety seats are improperly installed. Among children under 5 years old, 365 were saved in 1996 by child restraint use. However, recent deaths tragically illustrate that many parents and caregivers do not understand that children should ride properly restrained in the back seat of cars with passenger air bags. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is determined to inform every parent and caregiver about air bag issues by working with partners in the health/medical field, auto manufacturers, and insurance companies.

Air Bag Safety Air bags inflate at speeds up to 200 miles per hour -- faster than a blink of an eye. That blast can severely hurt or kill anyone sitting too close to the air bag during inflation. INFANTS IN REAR-FACING CHILD SEATS MUST NEVER RIDE IN THE FRONT SEAT OF A CAR WITH A PASSENGER AIR BAG. Even some forward-facing child safety seats place a child at least several inches closer to the dashboard than the normal adult, dangerously within range of the air bag before it is fully inflated. Children ages 12 and under who are unbelted, too small for the lap and shoulder belt to fit properly, or leaning forward, could be thrown toward the dashboard during pre-crash braking. In this position, the air bag can strike them on the head or neck with tremendous force, causing severe injury or death. Parents can protect their children from any danger of an air bag injury by making sure that children ages 12 and under sit properly restrained in the back seat. Almost all of the children killed by air bags were completely unrestrained or were riding in rear-facing infant seats in the front seat.

Vehicle owners and lessees can obtain an on-off switch for one or both of their air bags only if they can certify that they are, or a user of their vehicle is, in one of the four risk groups: infants in rear-facing infant seats; drivers or passengers with unusual medical or physical conditions; children ages 1 to 12; or drivers who cannot get back 10 inches from the air bag cover. Applicants for an on-off switch must read the NHTSA brochure, Air Bags and On-Off Switches, and submit a completed application form. Both the brochure and form are available from state driver licensing offices, AAA Clubs, and may be available at automobile dealerships. They can also be requested by calling NHTSA’s Auto Safety Hotline at 1-800-424-9393 or by visiting the NHTSA Web Site at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

What Adults Can Do to Protect Themselves with Air Bags
Protecting parents is an important consideration as well. The air bag that may be a threat to a child riding in the front seat is the same air bag that could save a child’s parents in a serious crash.

All properly belted drivers, regardless of age and size, are safer with an air bag than without, and almost 2,700 lives have been saved by air bags as of December 1, 1997. Compared with the number of lives saved, 35 drivers are known to have died of injuries caused by air bags in low-severity crashes; about 1 death for every 40,000 deployments. Eighteen of those who died were not wearing safety belts, 3 were using safety belts improperly, and safety belt use is unknown for 3 of the drivers. Drivers and passengers, particularly people of short stature, should make sure they are properly belted and that front seats are moved back away from the dashboard as far as is practical.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Return to Table on Contents

Who Dies in Motor Vehicle Crashes?

squiggly line

A daily look

* EVERYDAY - 115 people DEAD
(like a DC-9 airplane crashing EVERYDAY!!)

*EVERYDAY - One dead every 13 minutes 115 EVERYDAY

* EVERYDAY - 70 males
35 females
10 children
    KILLED in motor vehicle crashes

* EVERYDAY - Economic cost to society of $414 million

$95 million - Fatalities
$214 million - Injuries
$105 million - Property

An Annual Look

* The leading cause of DEATH for persons of every age from 5 - 27 years old is motor vehicle crashes

* Economic cost to society of motor vehicle crashes is $150.5 billion a year

* $33 billion in economic loss due to motor vehicle fatalities a year


* Alcohol related FATALITIES amounted to 17,274 people KILLED in 1995

* Motorcyclists were about 16 times as likely as passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash

* 41,907 DIED IN 1996


Return to Table on Contents

1998 US Traffic Deaths and Injuries

Total Traffic Crash Deaths 41,471
Total Alcohol-Related Traffic Deaths 15,935
Percentage of Alcohol-Related Traffic Deaths 38.4%
Annual Cost of Alcohol-Related Crashes $14,800,000,000
Cost per Alcohol-Related Fatal Crash $3,000,000
Cost of Alcohol-Related Crashes per Licensed Driver $630

SOURCE: Rating the States 2000...A Report Card on the Nation's Attention to the Problem of Impaired Driving and Underage Drinking. Published by MADD and the GuideOne Foundation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 1999 Fatality Analysis Reporting System data will be available in July 2000.

Dose of Reality: Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities 1982 to 1998

The human and economic costs of impaired driving continue. However, it seems impossible to reduce alcohol-related fatalities to no more than 11,000 by the year 2005:

  • In 1998, 38% of the 47,471 motor vehicle crash deaths were attributed to alcohol use.
  • The alcohol-related fatalities' percentile has declined by only 3% during the past five years.

The following chart shows the trend in alcohol-related fatalities. If this percentile rate doubled by 2005, which is highly unlikely, NHTSA could expect fatalities well in excess of the goal of 11,000 alcohol-related fatalities. A more probable goal would be a continued decline or stabilization of around 44,150, which mirrors the trend of the last seven years.


Year % Alcohol Related
1982 57%
1983 56%
1984 54%
1985 52%
1986 52%
1987 51%
1988 50%
1989 49%
1990 50%
1991 48%
1992 45%
1993 44%
1994 41%
1995 41%
1996 41%
1997 39%
1998 38%

Return to Table on Contents

The information on the Loyola University Health System (LUHS) Web site is for educational purposes only. It is presented in summary form in order to impart general information relating to certain diseases, ailments, physical conditions and their treatments. The information provided through the LUHS Web site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease, nor is it a substitute for professional care. Should you have any health-care related questions or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

  @1995 - 2001 Loyola University Health System.  All rights reserved.
 Disclaimer | Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy

Loyola University Medical Center Injury Prevention Program
Loyola University Health System | Email Site Administrator

Home | Transportation | Falls | Home and Leisure Safety | Fire/Burns | Poisons | Fire Arms | Water Safety