Traffic Safety includes people, cars, weather and even animals!
Each year the Phoenix Fire Department responds to thousands of emergencies involving pedestrians. In fact, Phoenix has one of the highest death rates involving pedestrians in the country. Pedestrian related incidents account for more than one-third of the fatalities in children 13 and younger. According to the US Department of Transportation, more than 1,000 children die each year as pedestrians. It is important for children and adults to learn safe pedestrian skills.
A common myth is that pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way. Pedestrians have the right of way on sidewalks and designated pedestrian crosswalks with signals. Many pedestrian-vehicle incidents are the fault of the pedestrian. Knowing the correct way to walk near traffic and how to cross the street is vital to a person's health and well being. With adult supervision, a child's ability to cross a street safely can improve dramatically.
Several factors put children at a higher danger for car/pedestrian incidents.
- Have a lower profile in traffic. This makes them harder to see.
- Have a narrower field of view.
- Cannot detect the direction of sound.
- Cannot accurately judge how fast a car comes towards them.
- Once in motion, like to stay in motion.
- Mix fantasy with reality.
- Often only concentrate on one thought at a time.
- Are restless.
The most common cause of pedestrian incidents involving children occur when they dash out into the street at mid-block, for example, to chase a ball, or when they run through an intersection.
The following are the "Five P's" or basic principles for effective driving:
Perception - Perceive the complete picture of what is ahead by rotating your eyes 180 degrees, looking to the horizon and scanning from side to side. That way you will see what is developing before it becomes a problem.
Planning - Go through various driving situations in your mind and think through "escape route" options to prepare yourself before unexpected hazards.
Prevention - Practice defensive driving and be ready to prevent a crash by adjusting to the other person's mistakes. Give yourself time to react so that you can remove yourself from another driver's distraction.
Publicity - Indicate your driving intentions early enough so other drivers have time to react to you. Make eye contact when possible. Avoid sudden movements and be as visible as the situation requires by using turn signals.
Proper - Proper attitude is very important in safe driving. Many crashes are caused by bad decisions influenced by anger, speed and frustration. When emotions run high, recognize and avoid any tendency to forego safe driving practices.
Driving at Night
While only about one-third of all traffic-related incidents occur at night, more than half of the fatalities are due to night-time driving. In fact, based on miles driven, there are two and a half times more fatal crashes at night than during the day. This is because less light is available and vision is restricted. Night vision varies considerably among people. Older adults generally cannot see well in the dark and eyestrain can greatly reduce night vision. Bright light, such as lightning or high-beam headlights can cause temporary blindness at night.
Headlights on low beam light up the roadside for about 150 feet. On high beam, visibility will be 350 to 400 feet. At 55 miles per hour, it takes 4.5 seconds to cover 350 feet. For night driving, control speed so that your stopping range is within headlight range.
To improve your visibility and the ability of others to see you, do the following:
- Turn your headlights on at dusk, and leave them on until full daylight.
- Keep your headlights clean and properly aimed.
- Replace burned-out headlights immediately.
- Dim your high beams within 500 feet of an approaching vehicle or within 300 feet of a vehicle in front of you.
- Never stare into the high beams of another car.
- Guide your vehicle by watching the right edge of the road.
- Do not flick your high beams up and down to remind another driver to dim his brights - it can blind him temporarily.
- Never use high beams when going into a curve.
- Keep your windshield clean, inside and out.
- Keep your instrument panels dim.
- Keep your eyes moving; do not focus on any one object.
- Keep a bottle of windshield or glass cleaner in the cab for mirrors and interior windshields.
- Keep your windows clean. Wiping the blades with club soda or carbonated water will significantly reduce streaking.
- If the washing solution under your hood does not leave the glass clean after 10 wiper cycles, replace the blades and/or use a stronger concentration of washing fluid.
Between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., be especially alert for drunk or drowsy drivers. If you notice another car with erratic speeds, weaving across lanes, or delayed starts at intersections, use extreme care in passing.
Driving in Bad Weather
Bad weather affects your ability to control your vehicle. Stopping on wet road takes almost twice the distance as stopping on a dry road. On ice or sleet, it takes you five times the distance to stop. Leave extra space between you and the vehicle in front of you in any kind of weather.
About six times more people are killed on wet roads than on snowy and icy roads combined, and when it starts to rain, the roads are the most slippery. When the road is wet, your vehicle "hydroplanes" - the front tires literally lift so that the vehicle is riding on a film of water rather than the actual pavement. Hydroplaning begins at speeds as low as 35 miles per hour if the tires are worn. When driving on wet roads, remember to:
- Keep your mirrors cleared of water.
- Avoid sudden braking and sudden moves of the steering wheel.
- If you are about to go through a large puddle of water, slow down and turn on your wipers before you hit the water. As you leave the water, tap the brake lightly a few times to dry it out. If the car pulls to one side, pump the brake slowly and smoothly to dry the brake out.
- If you begin to hydroplane, hold the wheel steady, take your foot from the gas pedal and gently pump the brake. If you turn the wheel from side to side to try and get down through the water, or if you jam on the brake, you will probably skid.
When visibility is poor, such as in dust storms, do the following:
- Slow down gradually. Do not stop suddenly.
- Watch the road ahead and behind you for other cars that are traveling slowly.
- Turn on your lights, regardless of the time of day, and use your wipers. Never use the high beam on your headlights. The reflection of the beams from the dust will actually reduce your visibility. Even if the lights do not improve your own visibility (as in daylight), they will make it possible for other motorists to see you better.
If you need to slow down, tap your brake pedal several times so that the flash of your brake lights will warn motorists behind you.
Front tire blowouts are most dangerous, because they dangerously interfere with the steering of the car. You may hear an explosive boom, and the vehicle will veer suddenly to the side of the blown-out tire. To regain control, follow these steps:
- Take your foot off the gas pedal, giving the car a chance to slow down
- Hold the steering wheel firmly with both hands - expect it to be difficult to steer
- When you have gained control of the steering, put on the brake slowly. Avoid locking the wheels.
Come to a gradual and complete stop, if you can, off of the roadway so that you can change the tire safely.
In case of brake failure, do the following:
- Attempt to slow the vehicle, by downshifting either automatic or manual transmission
- Then gently apply your parking brake. You cannot pump an emergency brake.
- Remember that this is a cable brake. The rear wheels may lock if you apply too much force and the vehicle will probably pull to one side.
- Pump the brake pedal rapidly. It may build up pressure in the brake lines and restore some braking force.
- If you have to collide with something, choose a “softer” object, such as a clump of shrubs or a chain-link fence. Avoid head-on collisions - sideswipe whatever you hit.
At slow speeds, simply turn off the engine and let the vehicle coast to a stop.
Animals in the Road
If you encounter an animal running into the road, do the following:
- Gauge your reaction by the size of the animal and your vehicle speed.
- Try to avoid the animal by slowing or swerving, but remember that it is better to hit a small animal (dog, cat, rabbit) than to risk losing control of the vehicle.
- Hitting a large animal (horse, deer, cow) will have an impact equal to hitting another vehicle. Remove your foot from the gas pedal, steer the vehicle in the opposite direction from where the animal is running and be prepared for the animal to stop suddenly. Do not jam on the brake. Keep all steering wheel and brake motions smooth.
- Be alert for children who may run after the animal.