Teen’s Car Saving Lives Long After Her Death
Earlier this month, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey stood alongside traffic safety advocates and in front of a smashed in two-door BMW at a news conference to promote a proposed ban on using hand-held cellphones while driving (HB 144).
The car represented the growing number of lives lost at the hands of distracted driving, including its former driver – 16 year-old Ashley Johnson.
Ashley was reading a text message on her phone when she crossed the center line in that BMW and hit a truck head-on.
Despite wanting to have the car sent to a junk yard and out of his life forever, Ashely’s father Amos realized it had a bigger purpose. So Amos gave the car to VIP for a VIP Inc. (Vehicle Injury Prevention for a Very Important Person) a nonprofit, volunteer organization founded by Greensboro firefighters in 1998. The group reattached the roof that firefighters had cut from the BMW to free Ashley, then put the crumpled car, the air bag still deployed, on a trailer with signs explaining what happened to her.
Nine years later, more than 64,500 students have seen Ashley’s car and Amos hopes its saved lives.
“I wanted people to see what could happen if you’re texting or retrieving a text or being distracted,” Amos said. “My daughter’s car is the outcome. This is what could happen to you, and I wanted people to know that and see it.”
Causey was joined by state Rep. Kevin Corbin and Ashley’s father Amos to advocate on behalf of HB 144. AAA Carolinas spoke at the event as well.
“Distracted driving has become one of the leading causes of automobile accidents, along with speeding and driving while intoxicated,” Causey said. “Unless we take corrective action now, we’ll see accidents increase that will take our loved ones and drive automobile insurance rates higher and higher.”
The bill would prohibit drivers from using a hand-held phone to talk, play games, watch video or access the internet while driving, including while stopped at a traffic light. Drivers caught violating the law face a $100 fine the first time, with higher fines and points on the driver’s license that could increase insurance rates for subsequent violations.
Bicyclist Deaths Double in South Carolina
So far in 2019, the number of bicycle fatalities in South Carolina has more than doubled from this time last year. Through April 15, 2019, nine bicyclists have died on South Carolina roadways compared to just four at this date in 2018. North Carolina has seen four bicyclist deaths to date, compared to three at this time last year.
AAA Carolinas believes the fatality toll is higher as a result of more cars on the road and more motorists engaged in distracted driving.
Sharing the road is a two-way street. Now that spring has sprung and more cyclists are hitting the road this season, AAA Carolinas is offering safety tips for both cyclists and motorists.
For bicyclists on the roads:
- Always wear a helmet when biking.
- Wear reflective gear if biking in the morning or evening. The reflective material shines off of passing car’s head lights.
- Stay in the bike lanes or paths as much as possible.
- Use hand signals when turning to alert vehicles behind you.
- Never bike distracted.
- Look both ways before merging, turning or crossing a road.
- Assume that drivers do not see you and behave accordingly.
For motorists who encounter bicyclists on the road:
- Give cyclists their room – they have the same right to a lane as you do.
- Don’t drive distracted.
- Check the medians.
- Leave extra room between your vehicle and the cyclist.
- Slow down – only pass when it is legal to do so and you have a clear view that there is no oncoming traffic.
- Do not engage with or honk at a cyclist as this may scare them off the road.
If a bicycle-related crash does occur, remember, it’s illegal to flee the scene. A recent AAA Foundation report found that hit-and-run crash deaths are on the rise, and most (65 percent) of the victims of these fatal hit-and-run crashes are pedestrians or bicyclists. Motorists involved in a bicycle-related crash should remain on scene, assist the injured and call 911.
Cycling is a low impact activity that increases cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. It is also a great way to connect with your community and get to know your neighbors. More cyclists equate to less cars on the road and a healthier environment. As a part of NCDOT’s “Share the Road” initiative, the department will be giving away bike helmets to 3,320 children across the state this year, to a record 101 organizations in the program. Along with each helmet awarded, recipients will receive a pair of front and rear bike lights to further enhance cyclist safety.
Schools across the country participate in National Bike to School Day – which this year falls on May 8 – to promote healthy lifestyles for students and bring the school together around a fun event.
We want Carolinians to continue to reap the benefits of cycling without fearing for their safety on the roads. With your help, we can get there.
Prom Promise: Make it There Safely
With prom season approaching, we want to remind teens and their parents of the “perfect storm” of events that can quickly happen behind the wheel when they get too caught up in the festivities to put their safety first.
Four Ohio teens got caught up in this perfect storm on the way to their senior prom last year and law enforcement is now calling this crash the “poster crash” for teen driving dangers because of the many factors that played a role:
NEW CAR: The danger began when 17-year-old Chynna Brandon’s parents let her drive herself and her friends to the prom in their luxury model Tesla. The thrill of being behind the wheel of a powerful and unfamiliar vehicle may have caused Chynna to lose her focus and take more risks.
UNBELTED: Not wanting to wrinkle her prom dress, Kaylie Jackson, one of the passengers, did not put on her seat belt.
SPEEDING: The situation grew more dangerous as the four teens lost track of time during their pre-prom photos and found themselves late to their dinner reservations. Feeling the pressure to make up for the lost time and get them to dinner on time, Chynna decided to push the luxury vehicle to 112 mph, despite the 55 mph limit on the road they were on.
DISTRACTIONS: Uncomfortable with the speed, Chynna’s passengers began yelling to her to slow down, adding to the stress of being late. Chynna ultimately lost control over her vehicle and ran off the side of the road.
OVER CORRECTING: Novice drivers are very likely to over correct when they lose control behind the wheel in an effort to get back on the straight path. Having never been taught otherwise and not having the experience to know better, teens usually make things worse when they over correct. In this case, Chynna wrapped her Tesla around a telephone pole while trying to over correct.
None of the passengers made it to prom that night. Kaylie was thrown from the vehicle upon impact and later died from her injuries. The other three teens recovered from their injuries, but will never be the same.
The wreck serves as a reminder of all that can affect the safety of teens on prom night. A night that is meant to be special can quickly turn deadly when sound decision making is hindered. On behalf of AAA Carolinas, parents please encourage your teens to be safe getting to and from their prom.
Carolina Traffic School
This month, we are highlighting AAA Approved Carolina Traffic School. A byproduct of The Lovely Law Firm in Myrtle Beach, SC, this driving school is dedicated to four-point reduction defensive driving classes to help better the driving record of its community.
A high number of points on your license can impact your insurance rates or even your privilege to keep your license. Carolina Traffic School is here to help reduce that.
Because Carolina Traffic School focuses solely on point-reduction courses, it is able to offer emergency classes for motorists that find themselves in a bind and need a class right away to reduce points before an insurance increase, a court date or other looming circumstances.
Watch this video to learn more about Carolina Traffic School.
Spring Cleaning: Protect Your Car From Spring Pollen
Spring has sprung in the Carolinas and with it comes blankets of airborne tree pollen. In addition to causing watery eyes and sneezing, pollen can also wreak havoc on vehicles.
Even for motorists who park their vehicles in a garage, it’s an impossible task to avoid pollen completely. During this time of year, pollen affects vehicles both inside and out. It’s important not to neglect the effects pollen can have on your vehicle.
AAA recommends the following tips for motorists to protect their vehicles from pollen:
Clean your cabin air filter.
Most vehicles manufactured on or after the year 2000 have an air filter for the interior that filters out airborne particles – including pollen. Many motorists are unaware of these filters altogether and therefor do not know that they need to be changed. Luckily, they are easy to locate and change without having to take it to a mechanic. They’re normally located under the hood, often near the base of the windshield, or behind the glove compartment. This information can be found in the owner’s manual as well.
It is recommended to change these filters at least once a year. The filter replacements can be found in local auto stores and usually range from about $10-$35. If your vehicle does not have a cabin air filter, most of the time it can be added in. Click here for an air filter video with AAA Carolinas Car Care Technician Jason Karp.
Keep the vehicle’s exterior clean.
Wiping pollen off a vehicle can cause scratches. The best remedy for a pollen-coated car is to take it to a car wash or rinse it off with water at the very least. AAA recommends starting with a freshly washed car and then applying a solid coat of wax. This will allow motorists to just rinse the pollen off weekly or more.
Keep pollen from finding its way inside the vehicle.
Though it’s tempting to roll down the windows and enjoy the spring breeze, motorists looking to avoid pollen should keep windows rolled up to prevent a pollen build-up. The early morning and early evening are the most prominent times for pollen. A damp cloth can remove built-up pollen on the dash and a small vacuum can get it up off the floor boards.