June 16, 2006

Staying Safe Behind the Wheel

By Ana Hernandez-Bravo

In California everything is centered on cars. Unlike the “big East Coast cities,” the West Coast has yet to adopt a mass transit system similar to subways found in New York.

Because of that car are the number one mode of transportation and the massive network of interconnecting highways serves as a constant reminder that it is much easier to travel around our city with a car than without one.

Yet, while zooming around our highways and road ways many drivers do not really stop to think about safety. Sure safety issues were a major concern during the early stages of driving but after years of commuting it is all too easy to fall into complacency. Every once in a while drivers a jolted into “safety mode,” mainly when they spot a police vehicle, at DUI checkpoints, safety belt check points, and during long holiday weekends.

However, this year drivers have a whole month to remind them about car safety.

National Safety Month started off ten years ago. Its focus is to increase awareness about safety issues and to educate the public in hopes of decreasing accidental injuries and deaths.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of accidental death and injury. 46,200 Americans died in motor vehicle collisions and another 2.4 million were seriously injured. Jobs that include driving are also areas that include high risks. Motor vehicle crashes accounted for 2,086 of the 5,000 workers killed on the job.

When it comes to driving one of the more dangerous time is during the teen years when young drivers are barely starting to learn the rules, regulations, and risks that come with driving. Young drivers make up 6.3 percent of drivers, but they also make up 13.6 percent of all fatal crashes. With number likes these, parents are encouraged to be involved in their teens “driving training.” The common misconception is that is all just stops once they receive their license, but parents should still make an effort to teach their driving kids safety techniques and to monitor their progress.

Very few drivers can boast a ticket or accident free driving record which means that there are many opportunities for drivers to make improvements in their driving behavior. The main causes of driving accidents are related to speeding and driver distractions.

The National Safety Council advises drivers to take some precautions before getting behind the wheel. Start off with making sure the car is in proper working condition. This could also prevent even more extreme issues such as a radiator overheating, battery discharging, and proper fuel distribution which could lead to the car stopping unexpectedly. This would prevent incidents such as flat and worn tires which can lead to accidents. While driving it is important to limit driver distractions such as eating, applying make-up, dealing with children, talking on a cell phone, reading and even include a radio that is playing too loud. Seatbelt usage is also very important which not only includes the driver but also all the passengers. Speeding should also be avoided. But also remember to never drink and drive.

Child passengers should also be taken into account when thinking about driver safety. Children who were using child restraints were 28 percent less likely to be killed in a crash than children who were wearing seat belts alone. So it is important to use the proper car seats and booster seats for children, not only because it is the law, but also because children could pay an ultimate price if it is neglected.

While National Safety Month starts off with driving safety, each week of June has a different focus which includes driving, workplace, emergency preparedness, and home and community safety awareness.

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