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September 2019 Traffic Safety Newsletter

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AAA Carolinas: More Motorists are Running Red Lights

More than two people are killed every day on U.S. roads by impatient and reckless drivers blowing through red lights, according to data analysis performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

 

Impatience and distraction can lead to motorists speeding up when the light turns yellow in order to beat the red light. This practice is very dangerous and is one of the biggest factors in why we are seeing an increase in fatal crashes at intersections.

 

The most recent crash data available in the study shows 939 people were killed in red light running crashes in 2017 — a 10-year high and a 28% increase since 2012.

 

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, In North Carolina in 2017, there were 33 fatalities caused by red light-running crashes, totaling 254 since 2008. In South Carolina in 2017, there were 11 red light-running fatalities, bringing the total to 127 since 2008.

 

According to the AAA Foundation:

  • 28% of crash deaths that occur at signalized intersections are the result of a driver running through a red light.
  • North Carolina saw its highest number of red light crash fatalities in 2017, with 33.
  • Nearly half (46%) of those killed in red light running crashes were passengers or people in other vehicles and more than 5% were pedestrians or cyclists. Just over 35% of those killed were the drivers who ran the red light.

85% of drivers view red light running as very dangerous, yet nearly one in three say they blew through a red light within the past 30 days when they could have stopped safely. More than 2 in 5 drivers also say it is unlikely they’ll be stopped by police for running a red light.

 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that when properly implemented, red light cameras reduced the fatal red light running crash rate of large cities by 21% and the rate of all types of fatal crashes at signalized intersections by 14%.

 

To prevent red light crashes, AAA recommends that drivers:

  • Prepare to Stop: Lift your foot off the accelerator and “cover the brake” when preparing to enter any intersection by positioning your right foot just above the brake pedal, without touching it.
  • Use Good Judgment: Monitor “stale” green lights, those that have been green a long time as you’ve approached the intersection. They are more likely to turn yellow as you arrive at the intersection.
  • Tap the Brake: Tap your brakes a couple of times before fully applying them to slow down. This will catch the attention of drivers who may be inattentive or distracted behind you.
  • Drive Defensively: Before you enter an intersection after the light has turned green for you, take a second after the light changes and look both ways before proceeding.

 

Speeding Deaths on the Rise

So far this year in North Carolina, there have been 231 fatal crashes because of speeding resulting in 253 deaths – up 19.7% from last year’s 196 crashes.

 

In South Carolina, there were 414 fatalities at the hand of speed-related crashes in 2018. So far in 2019, there have been 240, which will hopefully continue to trend downward.

 

Speeding is the most common traffic-law violation – outnumber all other traffic violations combined. In 2017, speeding killed 9,717 people in the U.S., accounting for more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities, which is down from accounting for one-third of all fatalities in the past 20 years.

 

Speeding results in a high number of fatal crashes because there is less time to react or distance to use to respond to danger ahead. Our reaction times – about 1 second for most motorists – don’t speed up just because we are driving faster.

 

Most motorists speed to get somewhere quicker or because they’re running late, however AAA finds that speeding will barely reduce your travel time and is nowhere near worth the risks. AAA breaks down how much time it takes to make a 30-mile trip at different speeds:

  • 55 miles per hour = 32.7 minutes
  • 65 miles per hour = 27.7 minutes (5 minutes saved)
  • 75 miles per hour = 24 minutes (8.7 minutes saved)

 

So, if you drive 20 miles per hour over the speed limit the entire time of your 30 mile trip, you will only save yourself 8.7 minutes, but you will have put your life and the lives of everyone else on the road in danger the entire way. And this is if you travel at a consistent speed, with no traffic or signals. The average time saved on a 5-mile trip, driving 65 on a 45 mph posted road is only 1.9 minutes.

 

Tips to avoid a driver that is speeding:

  • If you are in the left lane and someone wants to pass, move over and let them by.
  • Give speeding drivers plenty of space. Speeding drivers may lose control of their vehicle more easily.
  • Adjust your driving accordingly. Speeding is tied to aggressive driving. If a speeding driver is tailgating you or trying to engage you in risky driving, use judgment to safely steer your vehicle out of the way.
  • Call the police if you believe a driver is following you or harassing you.

 

Pedestrian Death Increase Outpacing Rate of Population Growth in NC

Last year, 228 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in North Carolina, up 13.4% from 2017, according to the NCDMV. Since 2009, the number of pedestrians killed each year in NC has risen by 54%, more than five times the rate of population growth in the state during that time.

 

This increase seems to be trending at the national level as well.

 

The Governors Highway Safety Association estimated the 2018 total based on the first half of the year and came up with 6,227 pedestrian deaths nationwide, which would be the highest number in 28 years.

 

The reasons for the increase are most likely linked to multiple factors, including an increase in both distracted drivers and distracted walkers and a growing prevalence of larger vehicles (like SUVs) that make a fatal crash more likely, coupled with the push to end drinking and driving – leading more drinkers to walk rather than get behind the wheel.

 

Alcohol use by pedestrians is suspected in about 30% of fatal pedestrian crashes. Of the 228 pedestrians killed last year in NC, 78% occurred at night – between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m.

 

Not surprisingly, most pedestrian deaths occurred in urban counties, where more people are likely to be out on foot. But one county, Mecklenburg, had by far the highest number, with 37, (last year or in 2018) more than twice as many as in Wake County, with 16.

 

Among the other findings from the DMV report:

  • Including pedestrians, 1,442 people died in motor vehicle collisions in 2018, up 3.3 percent over the year before, but almost the same number as in 2016.
  • The number of motorcyclists killed in crashes spiked nearly 21 percent in 2018, to 169 statewide. That number fluctuates from year to year, with a less defined pattern than with pedestrians. The same number of motorcyclists died in 2015 and in 2010.
  • Eighteen bicyclists were killed on the road last year. That’s down from 30 the year before but about average for the last decade or so.
  • About 28.5 percent of fatalities were the result of crashes that involved alcohol, which matches the five-year average. In cases where use of seat belts was recorded, 41 percent of drivers and passengers who died in crashes last year were not wearing one.

 

Safety tips for pedestrians:

  • ALWAYS be visible to motorists at all times and make eye-contact with them when possible.
  • Wear lightly colored or reflective clothing at night.
  • Stay in well-lit areas, especially when crossing the street.
  • Make eye contact with drivers in stopped vehicles to ensure they see you before you cross in front of them.
  • Avoid distractions and stay alert. Your eyes and ears are your best tools for keeping safe.
  • Put down your phone and keep your eyes ahead of you.
  • Don’t wear headphones so you can listen for oncoming vehicles.
  • Follow the rules of the road.
  • Follow all signs and traffic signals. Be aware of the signals the drivers around you are getting as well so you can properly anticipate what they will do.
  • Never assume a driver will give you the right of way (even when it is legally yours).
  • Walk in safe places.
  • Use crosswalks when crossing the street. If a crosswalk is unavailable, find the most well-lit spot on the road to cross and wait for a long gap in traffic.
  • Stay on sidewalks whenever possible. If there is not a sidewalk, walk on the far side of the road facing traffic to increase visibility to other drivers.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption.
  • Almost half of all traffic crashes resulting in pedestrian casualties involve alcohol consumption – and 34% of that total was on the part of the pedestrian. Alcohol impairs your decision-making skills, reflexes and other abilities.

 

Safety tips for motorists:

  • Be alert.
  • Look out for pedestrians at all times. Safety is a two-way street. NEVER drive distracted or look at your electronic devices while driving. Looking down for just one glance could make the difference between seeing a pedestrian or not.
  • Follow the posted speed limits at all times – especially in areas of heavy foot traffic and in school zones or neighborhoods.
  • Always use your lights and signals properly.
  • Be mindful of driveways – especially when in reverse.

 

Is Your Child Passenger Properly Restrained in your Vehicle?

September 15-21 is National Child Passenger Safety Week. Car crashes are currently the leading cause of death among children aged 1 to 13. Carolinians can help change these numbers by taking the proper precautions when driving.

 

In conjunction with the nationally recognized, week-long safety event, National Seat Check Saturday is Saturday, September 21. This is the perfect time to remind all motorists with child restraints to check the safety of their restraints and to stay up-to-date on any potential recalls affecting their restraints.

 

In 2016, there were 328 children under the age of 5 saved nationwide because they were in the proper car seats, according to the CDC. There will be safety events held across the Carolinas to teach child passenger safety and to provide free car-seat installation and checks. A list of North Carolina events can be found here, and South Carolina events here.

 

Parents and guardians should adhere to the following North Carolina laws regarding child passenger safety:

  • Children under the age 16 are to be properly restrained in an age, weight and height appropriate restraint.
  • Children should ride rear-facing as long as possible (or at least until the age of 2).
  • Once a child has outgrown the rear-facing seat’s height and weight limit, the child can then ride in a front-facing seat with a harness.
  • Once the front-facing seat is outgrown as well, a child can then ride in a properly harnessed booster seat until the regular seatbelt fits the child’s size.

 

Parents and guardians should adhere to the following South Carolina laws regarding child passenger safety:

  • Children under the age of two or weighing less than 20 lbs must be in a rear-facing child safety seat.
  • Children of age two or weighing between 20 and 40 lbs must be in a forward-facing child safety seat.
  • Children over four years, weighing 40 to 80 lbs must be in a belt-positioning booster seat. This booster seat must be used with both lap and shoulder belts.
  • Any child of at least eight years of age or fifty-seven inches tall is permitted to use an adult safety belt if the belt fits across the child’s thighs and hips, the shoulder belt crosses the center of the child’s chest and the child is able to sit with they’re back straight against the vehicle seat back cushion with knees bent over the seat edge.

 

For more safety information on car seats and booster seats, and to register yours to be notified in the event of a recall, click here.

 

Four North Carolina Cities Rank in the Top 10 for Best Cities to Drive in Nationwide

A recent study done by WalletHub placed four cities in North Carolina in the top 10 for best cities to drive in, including Raleigh (1st), Winston-Salem (5th), Charlotte (9th) and Greensboro (10th). Durham, North Carolina made the top 20 list at 19th.

 

To conduct the study, WalletHub compared a sample of the 100 most populated U.S. cities across four dimensions:

  1. Cost of Ownership and Maintenance (cost of the car, average gas prices, average car insurance, maintenance cost, etc.)
  2. Traffic and Infrastructure (annual hours spent in congestion, number of days with precipitation, number of cold days, quality of roads and bridges, etc.)
  3. Safety (crash likelihood vs the national average, traffic fatality rate, seatbelt usage, uninsured drivers, car theft rates, strictness of DUI punishment, driving laws, etc.)
  4. Access to Vehicles and Maintenance (car dealerships per capita, auto-repair shops per capita, car washes per capita, gas stations per capita, parking lots per capita)

 

Despite growing access to public transportation in U.S. cities, most people still choose to travel by car, mostly for comfort and reliability, but driving is often more of a hassle and expense than public transportation.

 

Drivers spend an average of more than 310 hours on the road, and the costs of wasted time and fuel in congestion comes to about $1,700 per household.

 

But, according to the study, if you have to have a daily commute in a personal vehicle, North Carolina is the best state to do it.

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