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Safe Driving Tips

January Traffic Safety Tip


Air Bags and On/Off Switch


As of November 1, 1997, over 2,600 lives have been saved by air bags. However, they also have been blamed for causing the deaths of 87 occupants. Although all of these deaths are tragic, virtually all of these occupants were unbelted or improperly belted. One fact is common to all who died - they were seated too closely to the air bag when it started to deploy.


In response, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) decided in November 1997 to allow consumers to apply for authorization to have air bag on-off switches installed in vehicles owned or used by individuals who meet a specific risk profile. This decision was made in an effort to preserve the benefits of air bags while providing a means for reducing the risk of serious or fatal injury that current air bags pose to identifiable groups of people.


Vehicle owners can get on-off switches installed for one or both air bags in their vehicles if they (or the users of their vehicles) fall into one or more of four risk profiles:

1. People who must transport infants riding in rear-facing infant seats in the front passenger seat.
2. People who must transport children ages 1 to 12 in the front passenger seat.
3. Drivers who cannot change their customary driving position to keep 10 inches between the center of the steering wheel and the center of their breastbone.
4. People whose doctors say that, due to their medical condition, the air bag poses a special risk that outweighs the risk of hitting the head, neck, or chest in a crash if the air bag is turned off.

If the vehicle owner (or lessee) is eligible, he/she must fill out a NHTSA request form stating that he/she (or a user of the vehicle) is a member of a risk group listed above. The form must be mailed to NHTSA and, upon approval, the agency will send a letter authorizing an automobile dealer or repair shop to install a manual on-off switch in the vehicle. On-off switches will be mounted on the dashboard and will be activated only with a key. Every on-off switch has a light to remind the driver when the air bag is turned off, and it must be turned on again when someone who is not at risk sits in that seat.


The decision to have an on-off switch installed becomes easier when the owner has the facts. Additional information is available through automobile dealers, State of Michigan motor vehicle departments, your local AAA club, or directly from NHTSA at 1-800-434-9393. Most experts and organizations who have looked carefully at the issue agree that the overwhelming majority of Americans are safer with air bags when they take the following safety steps:

A - Always slide your seat back as far as possible and sit back.
B - Buckle everyone.
C - Children age 12 and under ride properly restrained in the back seat.

Michigan State Police troopers would like to remind you it's as easy as A, B, C. Don't Wreck Your Life! Keep your eyes on the road, never drink and drive, and always wear your safety belt.



May Traffic Safety Tip


Drivers who don't think ahead may find themselves bumper to bumper with the car in front of them. To law enforcement officers, it's called "not being able to stop within an assured clear distance," also known as a violation of the basic speed law. Most of us call it tailgating. It is the most common cause of traffic crashes.


To avoid becoming another traffic crash statistic, always think ahead of your car. Stopping your car safely requires being alert, having a good reaction time, and knowing the mechanical limitations of your vehicle.


Always plan ahead. Allow no less than 2 seconds between vehicles during the daytime, 3 seconds at night, and 4 seconds during inclement weather such as during rain, snow, or icy conditions. Be especially cautious when approaching stop lights, intersections, and when changing lanes. Anticipate potentially hazardous situations that could cause the driver in front of you to stop suddenly.


If you do need to stop quickly, don't slam on the brakes; instead, use firm, even pressure. If your brakes lock, release the pedal and use a pumping action. However, if your car is equipped with an ABS braking system, never pump the brakes. Remember, too, that alcohol, some types of prescription drugs, fatigue, and your emotional state will affect your reaction time and could lengthen your stopping distance.


Finally, Michigan State Police Troopers would like to remind you to "Don't Wreck Your Life!" Keep your eyes on the road, never drink and drive, and always wear your safety belt.


June Traffic Safety Tip

Drowsy Driving

After one of our typically long Michigan winters, many of us take full advantage of the long and often hot days of summer. More daylight and shorter nights, combined with increased travel to enjoy this short season, too often results in tragic consequences--consequences that are the result of fatigue and falling asleep while driving. And falling asleep behind the wheel happens even to the best drivers--drivers who always wear their safety belts, would never consider drinking and driving, and generally obey all traffic laws. In fact, some studies across the nation have shown that falling asleep at the wheel is responsible for as many as 50% of all crashes!

Falling asleep behind the wheel of a moving car is deadly! Prepare for your trip and drive when you are most alert. Here are some tips for staying alert behind the wheel:

  • Never drive more than 100 miles at a time. Switch drivers even if you do not feel tired!
  • Know the signs of driving fatigue.
  • Take regular breaks from driving.
  • Talk with a passenger, or listen to talk radio or talking books.
  • Eat light meals, and use stimulating beverages like coffee, tea, or other caffeinated drinks.

Finally, Michigan State Police Troopers would like to remind you to "Don't Wreck Your Life!" Keep your eyes on the road, never drink and drive, and always wear your safety belt.

July Traffic Safety Tip

Traffic crashes are the #1 killer of people under the age of 32 and take more young lives than all types of crime combined. In 1996 more than 1,500 persons lost their lives from traffic crashes on Michigan roadways, and nearly 60% of those who died were not wearing safety belts!


Buckling up is such a simple thing to do - it only takes two seconds to buckle up, and no other single action has as much life-saving potential. And if more adults were inclined to wear their safety belts, their kids would too. Besides, it's the law.


Many of us are aware of the controversy surrounding airbags and their potential danger. Many serious injuries and deaths have been caused by inflating airbags. According to researchers, however, most of these injuries and deaths involve people who were unbelted or were improperly belted. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 1,900 people are alive today because of airbags. In frontal crashes, driver deaths are being reduced by about 34%!


The following are some safety facts to remember:

  • Always place infants in rear-facing child restraints in the back seat and secure with a safety belt. If a rear-facing restraint is used in front, the infant's head is too close to the airbag.
  • When children outgrow rear-facing infant restraints, they should graduate to forward-facing child restraints or booster seats. Like infant restraints, these should be placed in the back seat and secured with a safety belt. Children 12 and under are always safest in the back seat, regardless of their size; kids riding in back are 26% less likely to be killed.
  • Only one group of drivers is at serious risk of inflation injuries. These are drivers who sit very closely to the steering wheel. The closer they are, the greater the risk. These drivers can reduce their risk by always wearing their safety belts and by moving at least 10 inches back from the center of the steering wheel.
  • Most drivers, even short ones, can get 10 inches back from the center of the steering wheel and still reach the pedals. The problem often is that drivers too close to the wheel are leaning forward instead of sitting back in the seat. They need only to sit back. The few who cannot get far enough away from the wheel may consider pedal extenders.


Finally, Michigan State Police Troopers would like to remind you to "Don't Wreck Your Life!" Keep your eyes on the road, never drink and drive, and always wear your safety belt.


August Traffic Safety Tip


Headlights aren't just for nighttime use and use during inclement weather. By driving with your headlights on at all times, even on bright sunny days, recent statistics show that you reduce the likelihood of being involved in a collision by as much as 32%. Turning on your headlights lets the other driver see you first; because the human eye is light-seeking, drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists will see an oncoming car sooner and be less likely to pull into its path.


Some newer model cars automatically turn the headlights on when the outside light reaches a low level, and then off when the vehicle is turned off which saves the battery should we forget to turn them off. Other cars are being manufactured with "daytime running lights" which are on whenever the vehicle is running. If fact, daytime running lights are mandatory on new cars sold in Canada, Finland, and Sweden.


In 1996 there were more than 435,000 traffic crashes on Michigan roadways -- nearly 1200 every day! With 9.6 million people living in Michigan, your chances of being in a traffic crash are 1 in 22 during the next 12 months! Michigan State Police Troopers urge you to give yourself every advantage you can. If your vehicle does not have daytime running lights, upgrade kits are available for many makes and models, or simply turn on your headlights!

State Police remind you to "Don't Wreck Your Life!" Drive with your headlights on at all times, keep your eyes on the road, never drink and drive, and always wear your safety belt.


September Traffic Safety Tip

School Bus Safety

School is finally back in session, and for twenty-three million students nationwide, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus. The greatest risk for these children is not riding the bus, but when they are approaching or leaving the bus. Both children and adults must know and follow traffic safety rules designed to keep them safe.


Children should arrive at their bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps or six feet away from the street or curb. Do not cross the road or enter the bus until the driver says or signals that it is okay. Never walk behind the bus or along side the bus where the bus driver is not able to see you.


Drivers must approach a school bus cautiously; prepare to stop when a slowing bus has its overhead yellow lights flashing, and always come to a complete stop at least 20 feet away from the bus when its overhead red lights are flashing. Be especially alert where children congregate near bus stops.


Michigan State Police Troopers ask you to help make this a safe year for our school children. Don't Wreck Your Life! Use caution near school bus stops, keep your eyes on the road, never drink and drive, and always wear your safety belt.


October Traffic Safety Tip

Most people are surprised at the devastating damage caused to a vehicle involved in a car-deer collision. In fact, most car-deer collisions are serious, causing an average of $1,500 in damage. In Michigan there were more than 68,000 reported car-deer collisions in 1996, which was a significant increase over previous years. That's more than 186 every day and equates to more than $50 million in damages each year!


Worse still, car-deer collisions often result in serious injury or even death; in 1996 there were 2,221 persons injured and 6 people who died as a result of car-deer collisions on Michigan roadways. Too often motorists are injured while taking evasive action to avoid striking a deer, resulting in a collision with a fixed object or another vehicle.


According to the Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan deer population continues to grow, so this problem is not going away. The following are some interesting facts to keep in mind:

  • The majority of car-deer collisions occur during the months of October through December. However, these collisions occur every month of the year, so always stay alert.
  • Most car-deer collisions occur between 6 PM and midnight, so be especially cautious during this time of the day.
  • Most car-deer collisions occur on rural two-lane roadways.
  • Deer are found even in highly populated areas.


Michigan State Police Troopers remind you to Don't Wreck Your Life! Keep your eyes on the road, never drink and drive, always wear your safety belt, and consider the following tips to help you avoid a car-deer collision:

  • Use special caution in those areas marked with deer crossing signs.
  • If you see one deer, expect there will be others. Slow down and be alert.
  • Do not swerve your vehicle to avoid striking a deer. It is better to strike a deer than another vehicle or a fixed object.
  • Continually scan the fields and area adjacent to the roadway for deer. Often you can see them approaching the roadway and can slow down.
  • During hours of darkness use your bright lights when no traffic is approaching. The high beams will illuminate the eyes of deer on the roadway or approaching the roadway much sooner, allowing a greater reaction time.
  • Always drive at a safe and prudent speed.


November Traffic Safety Tip

Winter Driving Tips

Our winter driving season is here a little earlier this year. It's amazing how many of us quickly forget our winter driving skills. For example, we all should know that you cannot stop as fast on an icy or snow-covered road as you can on dry pavement, and that often the most slippery surfaces do not appear hazardous, like on bridges, overpasses, and underpasses. At intersections the moisture emitting from the exhaust of cars waiting at a traffic light quickly freezes on the pavement and can be especially hazardous. And don't be overly confident if your vehicle has anti-lock brakes; they are no substitute for using caution when traveling on slippery roads.


Just as important as good driving skills, however, are some commonsense issues that could save your life in the event you become broken down or stranded. A good place to start is with some "preventive maintenance."


Make sure your car is in good mechanical condition. Temperature extremes always bring out the worst in your car, like dead batteries, soft tires, gasoline freeze, and carburetor and heating problems. Make sure that your antifreeze is at the proper level and that your wiper blades are new and your washer reservoir is full.


Prepare an emergency kit for your car. Include things that prepare you for the unexpected -- what would you need if you found yourself stranded miles from help during a snow storm? Include things like warm clothing, boots, stocking cap, gloves or mittens, flashlight with fresh batteries, flares, small shovel, sand or kitty litter, blankets, and fresh first-aid supplies. You may also want to include candy bars or other nutritious snacks, as well as a supply of small candles and matches to light them with. A single lit candle in your vehicle can provide warmth that will help you survive for many hours, and with precautions is much safer than letting the engine run.


During inclement weather let people know where you are going, your route of travel, and when you expect to arrive. Cell phones are a great safety insurance against breakdowns and getting stranded -- but they do little good if you don't know where you are! Stay alert and know precisely where you are at all times in the event you need to call for help. Watch for road signs and landmarks.


Michigan State Police Troopers would like to remind you to "Don't Wreck Your Life!" Use caution this winter and always plan ahead. Keep your eyes on the road, never drink and drive, and always wear your safety belt.


December Traffic Safety Tip

More Winter Driving Tips

There are almost as many opinions as to how to drive safely on ice or snow as there are automobiles. Most crashes occur when you don't expect the surface of the road to be slippery.


Many people get into trouble by assuming the roads will not be slippery unless the temperature is freezing or below. Ice can form on road surfaces, however, anytime the air temperature drops to 40 degrees or less, especially when it is windy. Bridges and underpasses can be especially hazardous, but these are not the only locations "black ice" can form. Any low or shaded area, area surrounded by landscape, or area that has a source of water running over the pavement can also be quick to form ice. Early morning hours are especially dangerous as the moisture has had an opportunity to sit on the cold pavement and freeze.


Others find themselves in trouble during the winter while driving on roads seemingly clear or only slightly wet, and then try to stop at an intersection only to discover that it is ice-covered and slippery. This is caused by the moisture emitting from the exhaust of cars waiting at a busy intersection and quickly freezing on the pavement.


Always approach intersections cautiously.


Some other basic safety tips for winter driving include allowing extra time to arrive at your destination. Slow down and be alert for other vehicles around you that may lose control, and allow at least 4 seconds between vehicles. Troopers also recommend you allow no less than a car-length in front of you when you are stopped behind another vehicle at a slippery intersection, and then watch your rear-view mirror for cars that may approach you too fast from behind. Often this extra margin of safety will allow you to pull forward in the event that an approaching vehicle begins to slide. If the intersection is slippery you can signal other drivers to the danger by turning on your hazard flashers.


If you find yourself beginning to slide on snow or ice, DON'T PANIC. Take your foot off the gas and DO NOT hit the brakes. Steer the front of your vehicle into the skid (the same direction you are sliding). This technique is used in both front- and rear-wheel-drive vehicles. If you must use the brakes, do not allow them to lock up; gently pump the brake pedal, unless your car is equipped with anti-lock brakes. If your car has anti-lock brakes, use a firm, steady pressure WITHOUT pumping. The grinding noise you hear and the surging you feel in the pedal is normal and indicates the brakes are working properly, allowing you to continue to steer and control the vehicle. And for you 4-wheel-drive enthusiasts, always remember that a 4-wheel-drive vehicle provides additional traction that is useful for going through deep snow, but it does not stop any faster.


State Police Troopers would like to remind you to "Don't Wreck Your Life!" Use caution this winter and always plan ahead. Keep your eyes on the road, never drink and drive, and always wear your safety belt.