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November 2019 Traffic Safety Newsletter

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AAA Carolinas Sees Spike in Roadside Calls During November Cold Front

When a cold front hit the Carolinas this November, AAA Carolinas Emergency Roadside Service responded to a jump in calls regarding dead batteries. The team responded to 1,028 calls on November 13 and 910 on November 14 – the most it has received since January 22 of this year.

 

“We experienced sub-freezing temperatures across most of the Carolinas for the first time in a while and drops that sudden can have a major impact on a car’s battery,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokesperson. “We’re not surprised to see the jump in battery-related service calls, as many motorists woke up to cars that wouldn’t start.”

 

When the temperature hits freezing, car batteries are 35 percent weaker. At 0 degrees, a car battery loses about 60 percent of its strength.

 

“The first big chill of the season always keeps us busy,” said George Figueiredo, Vice President of AAA Carolinas Member Services. “Our battery program has service vehicles that carry batteries to fit most vehicles which means a technician can check car batteries and replace them on the scene where the car failed to start.”

 

AAA Car Care centers offer free battery checks at every location.

 

In preparation for winter and more cold days ahead, AAA Carolinas recommends that motorists:

 

  • Check the battery– Cold weather is hard on batteries. At a comparatively mild 32 degrees, a battery is 35 percent weaker than at warmer temperatures. At zero degrees, a car’s battery loses approximately 60 percent of its strength. A battery load test performed by a qualified technician will determine a battery’s strength for winter starts.
  • Check the tires– They should always be inflated to their specified poundage and have enough tread to handle all road conditions. To check tire tread, look for “wear bars” that periodically run across the hollow of each tread. If the tread has been worn down to the same height as the wear bar, it’s time for new tires.
  • Check the windshield wipers, fluid and defroster– Driving with a wet, snow- or ice-covered windshield invites a crash. Make sure wipers and the defroster are in good working order. Verify that windshield washer fluid reservoirs are filled with no-freeze washer fluid.
  • Check the engine coolant system– Mix the cooling system antifreeze with an equal portion of water for maximum protection. Have a repair facility check the level of protection with a hydrometer.
  • Pack an emergency car kit– Motorists should be prepared in case they are stranded. A winter emergency car kit should contain a flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, general first aid kit, tire chains, blanket, extra set of clothes, non-clumping kitty litter for traction, flares or reflective triangles, cell phone with extra batteries, gallon jug of water, non-perishable food items, window washer solvent, ice scraper, snow brush and shovel.

 

For more information on automotive issues and to find a AAA approved auto mechanic in your area, go to www.aaa.com/carmaintenance.

 

AAA CAROLINAS TESTIFIES IN FAVOR OF NEW SC HANDS-FREE BILL

AAA Carolinas, along with state and federal officials testified to lawmakers in Columbia in support of South Carolina’s new hands-free bill.

 

Senate Bill 723, filed by Senator Tom Young, was heard in the Transportation Subcommittee on Tuesday, October 29. The Hands-Free Act would make it illegal to use a wireless communications device, like a cell phone while driving.

 

In South Carolina in 2018, there were 19,381 documented collisions resulting in 65 fatalities and 7,939 injuries as a direct result of distracted driving, according to the SCDPS.

 

“We believe the number of crashes due to distracted driving is much higher than what the current data shows,” said Wright. “Law enforcement hardly ever codes a crash as resulting from distraction because it is too difficult to prove and motorists aren’t going to readily admit to it. This bill would make our roads safer.”

 

The Hands-Free bill will give law enforcement the ability to stop a driver if seen holding their phone, whereas in the past law enforcement would have to have a secondary reason like speeding or not wearing a seatbelt. It will carry a $100 fine and a threshold for second and subsequent offenses.

 

Among those in attendance was Sheriff Lee Boan of Kershaw County, who touched on a recent incident in which his deputy was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic because the driver was distracted.

 

Boan told lawmakers that rather than talking to them, he could have been at the deputy’s funeral. Fortunately, she recovered from her injuries and is ok.

 

“She could’ve been sitting on a unicorn juggling panda bears but if somebody’s not looking at her, they’re not going to see that,” Boan said.

 

A similar bill was introduced in the South Carolina House earlier this year, but it never came to a vote.

 

Our bordering state, Georgia, has already seen positive results following its recent hands-free legislation. There are now 20 states and D.C. with hands-free laws in place.

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Thanksgiving Travel: By the Numbers

AAA Carolinas predicts that a record 1.54 million North Carolinians and 750,000 South Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving. This represents a 2.9% increase over last year. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov.27, to Sunday, Dec.1 holiday this year.

 

The vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations and, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects Wednesday afternoon to be the worst travel period nationally, with trips taking as much at four times longer than normal in major metros

 

By the numbers

 

Automobiles: the vast majority of travelers – around 1.34 million North Carolinians and 678,000 South Carolinians will hit the road this Thanksgiving, nearly 2.8 percent more than last year.

 

Planes: The largest growth in holiday travel is by air, at 4.6 percent, with 107,700 North Carolinians and 53,300 South Carolinians flying to their destinations.

 

Other modes (trains, cruises and buses): 42,500 North Carolinians will use other modes of transportation to arrive at their destination along with 21,300 South Carolinians.

 

Lower gas prices fuel road trips

 

Gas prices have been fluctuating as of late, but are currently cheaper than the national average at this time last year, giving Americans a little extra money to spend on travel and motivating millions to take road trips. For the majority of Americans, AAA expects gas prices to be fairly similar to last year’s Thanksgiving holiday, which averaged $2.57.

 

For daily updated gas prices, visit: https://gasprices.aaa.com

 

Thanksgiving Traffic

 

The most popular days to travel are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving. If possible, plan your travel around these days (Thanksgiving Day is the best day to be on the roads).

 

In North Carolina over the 2018 Thanksgiving holiday period (11/21/18-11/25/18) there were 3,805 crashes resulting in 22 fatalities and 1,481 injuries. In South Carolina over the same time period, there were 1,280 collision resulting in 12 fatalities and 506 injuries.

 

Law enforcement will be out in full force during the holiday. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol will take part in the Thanksgiving 1-40 Challenge – a joint operation among seven other states along the 1-40 corridor. Starting November 21, troopers will be placed every 20 miles along the major interstate.

 

Last year over the Thanksgiving holiday, AAA Carolinas rescued approximately 8,400 motorists, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. AAA recommends motorists ensure their vehicles are in peak operating condition by having it inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as an AAA Approved Auto Repair facility. Nearby locations can be found at AAA.com/Repair.

 

Blackout Wednesday

 

Thanksgiving eve has become a big night for binge drinking, as family and friends return home to reconnect for the holiday. Labeled “Blackout Wednesday,” many times the evening consists of over-drinking which can lead to drunk driving.

 

“Blackout Wednesday, also known as Drinksgiving rivals New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day,” said AAA Carolinas Traffic Safety Foundation President, Tiffany Wright. “With so many ride sharing services available such as Uber and Lyft, there is no excuse for getting behind the wheel intoxicated.”

 

In order to stay safe on the roads late at night, AAA urges motorists to:

  • Never drink and drive. Have a designated sober driver in place if you plan to drink.
  • Utilize a ride sharing service such as Uber, Lyft, or a taxi.
  • Stay off the roads the night before Thanksgiving if possible.

 

AAA Carolinas offers simple holiday road survival tips for motorists

  • Map your route in advance and be prepared for busy roads. If possible, consider leaving earlier or later to avoid heavy traffic.
  • Don’t drive distracted. Put the phone away. Disconnect and Drive. Avoid behaviors such as eating, applying make-up and adjusting the navigation system.
  • Keep valuables in the trunk or locked area.
  • Have your roadside assistance contact information (eg:AAA) on hand in case an incident occurs on the road.
  • Keep a cell phone and charger with you at all times, in case of emergency.
  • Obey traffic safety laws: Wear your seatbelt. Don’t speed. Drive according to the weather and road conditions.
  • With an increase in traffic, expect delays and incidents on the side of the road. Obey the Move Over Law.
  • Be patient. Understand that everyone is in a hurry to get to their destination. Utilize turn signals, give drivers space and avoid road rage.

 

AAA Recommends Extending Age Requirement for GDL Programs to Encompass More Novice Drivers

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs allow young drivers to safely gain driving experience before obtaining full driving privileges and are implemented in most states. Most include three stages: the learner stage, the intermediate stage and the full privilege stage.

 

In most states, this system is only applicable to newly-licensed drivers younger than 18 – not to all novice drivers in general. What we are observing, however, is that now as many as one in three drivers do not obtain their first license until the age of 18 or older – for various reasons – which legally opts them out of the GDL program and gives them immediate access to a full privilege license.

 

A large body of research has found that GDL systems have substantially reduced the rates of crashes, injuries and deaths of 16 and 17 year old drivers. It has also been shown that new drivers licensed at ages 18-20 have crash rates similar to equally-inexperienced young beginners and much higher crash rates than same-aged peers with driving experience.

 

This essentially means that age alone cannot make someone a safer driver – that stems from experience in real-time situations behind the wheel.

 

In an attempt to combat the problem, the state of Indiana extended its GDL system to apply to all newly-licensed drivers under the age of 21. Specifically, the updated GDL program restricted new drivers under age 21 from driving between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and from carrying non-family passengers for their first six months of license driving.

 

AAA Carolinas applauds the state of Indiana for paving the way toward safer roads for novice drivers and urges North and South Carolina to follow its lead.

 

Drowsy Driving Prevention Week

Earlier this month, we recognized the dangers of driving while tired during National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week (Nov 3-10).

 

With fall activities in full swing and the end of daylight saving time, there is a greater risk for drowsiness behind the wheel. We urge motorists to get the full recommended amount of sleep each night despite their busy schedules as drowsy driving is now involved in one in five fatal crashes on U.S. roadways each year.

 

Symptoms of drowsy driving can include having trouble keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes or not remembering the last few miles driven. However, more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel. AAA Carolinas urges drivers to not rely on their bodies to provide the warning signs of fatigue, but rather to always get the recommended sleep.

 

Missing just one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep each day doubles a driver’s risk for a crash, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s latest study. It’s an alarming statistic when you consider at least 35 percent of U.S drivers sleep less than the recommended seven hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

AAA Carolinas offers the following tips to help drivers avoid potential crashes:

  • Rest Up: Get plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. If you do begin to feel drowsy while driving, pull over immediately and rest or call a family member or friend for assistance.
  • Be prepared for morning/afternoon sun glare: Sun glare in the morning or late afternoon can cause temporary blindness. To reduce the glare, AAA Carolinas recommends wearing high-quality sunglasses and adjusting the car’s sun visors as needed. Use of the night setting on rearview mirrors can reduce glare from headlights approaching from the rear.
  • Car Care Maintenance: Keep headlights, tail lights, signal lights, and windows (inside and out) clean.
  • Ensure headlights are properly aimed: Misaimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce visibility.
  • Keep headlights on low beams when following another vehicle, so other drivers are not blinded.
  • Reduce your speed and increase your following distances. It is more difficult to judge other vehicles’ speeds and distances at night.
  • Be mindful of pedestrians and crosswalks:Yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks and do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.

 

The automobile industry is trying to help combat the problem by equipping vehicles with features to alert a driver when they might be falling asleep at the wheel. Some of the recent new car technologies designed to curb drowsy driving are:

  • Lane-Keep Assist technology alerts drivers when the vehicle deviates from its traffic lane. Depending on the system, it will either vibrate the steering wheel, distribute a beeping noise to alert the driver, or even steer the motorist back into their lane.
  • Collision Warning System scans the road using a camera or radar and then alerts drivers as they near another vehicle that is stopping significantly faster than they are. It senses that its driver is not intending to stop quickly enough to avoid hitting the car in front of them. Some will beep and a break symbol will light up on the dash while others will even tap the brakes to assist the driver in coming to a stop.
  • Drowsiness Detection System monitors a vehicles movements and based on the wheel angle, lane deviation, time driven, etc. it will warn the driver to take a break with a sound and a coffee cup symbol lighting up on the dashboard.

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