EMSWorld now offers Community Health Watch articles for use by your EMS agency. These short, pre-written, easy to use articles are intended to be educational for your local community members on a wide range of public safety and health issues, and may be branded for your use. Your organization is free to use this as a community column in your local newspaper, a letter to the editor, a press release or in any other way you see fit. Either copy the text below or download the attached Word document.
Be a Better Driver—For Yourself, Your Passengers and Everyone Around You
We’re a nation of drivers. That should be obvious to the many Americans who slog through long commutes each day in bumper to bumper traffic.
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, in 2010 there were more than 210 million licensed drivers in the U.S., representing nearly 68% of the nation’s total population. While the number of annual traffic accidents has remained relatively steady over the past 20 years—often in the 10 million–11 million range, the number of fatalities in 2010—32,885—represents a steady decline during that span. However, much of that can be attributed to safer cars, not necessarily safer drivers.
So how do we become better drivers?
First, and this much should be obvious, when you’re behind the wheel pay attention to your surroundings. Not your smartphone, your make-up, your dollar menu meal or your dance moves when your new favorite jam comes on the radio. We have enough distractions as it is just monitoring what the other drivers around us are doing, so don’t complicate things by adding to the equation. Besides, many states now have laws on the books prohibiting texting while driving and other unnecessary distractions. Do you really want to get a ticket—and pay a fine or spend a lovely afternoon in traffic school—just because you couldn’t wait a couple minutes to text back “LOL!”
Next, give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going. If you’re running late and stressed, you’re more likely to disobey basic traffic laws, ignore posted signs and exceed the speed limit. That puts you and everyone else around you, in danger. It can also lead to road rage, which can have much graver consequences than just a “one finger salute.”
Also consider taking a few minutes to check out some online resources. AAA has a number of resources on the driver safety page of its website, www.AAA.com, from free brochures on topics like distracted driving, aggressive driving, wet weather driving and more, to online driver improvement/point reduction courses and online training for mature or business drivers.
AARP has a driver safety program specifically for seniors with online and classroom options, as well as opportunities for older drivers to sign up to teach their peers about safe driving. You can learn more at www.aarpdriversafety.org.
Finally, if you’re a parent of a teen, take the time to teach your children about responsible driving habits. You might even want to discuss what they’re learning in their driver’s education class, because it may teach you a thing or two, as well. National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 14–20, 2012, and it’s a great chance to highlight with your teen how they can be a better driver, but safe, responsible driving should be a priority for all of us, every day of the year.
Tips and statistics courtesy of AAA, AARP and the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.