When it comes to survival discussions, everyone gets all excited and nerdy over the latest and greatest gadget, gizmo, and gear. I suppose it’s human nature to get more excited about tools other than the most important survival tool: your brain. Recently I was forcibly exposed to a “drivers safety” class after getting caught going far beyond the posted speed limit. Yes, I am a speeder, always have been, and without conscious thought, probably always will be; a trait I marry with another trait of extreme impatience. Though I accomplished my goal of having the ticket dismissed and a no points pulled from my license, I did actually learn a few things about surviving.
Realistically the mayan, zombie, EMP, Gas Shortage, economic collapse, and alien invasion probably will not happen this year, but I will actually need get to work. Statistically we have the highest likelihood of dying while driving. So here, I’ll share the safety tips I learned; even if you think you already know this stuff, it’s worth getting a refresher.
1. Situational Awareness: The old “Stop, Look, Listen, & Live” mantra is out, and in is a more relevant “Recognize, Understand, and Act.” After all, if you see something that is not right when you are doing 90 in a 60, slamming on your brakes to look around and listen is not the best course of action. Especially when you are talking to your wife on the the phone and the radar detector goes off while going 90 — it could happen. Distilling this down, they noted that a situationally aware person could avoid well over 90% of potential accidents. Included in this statistic was refraining from legal or illegal mind-altering substances.
2. Wear Your Seat Belt: Over 53% of those killed in car accidents were not wearing seatbelts. The statistics typically used are that wearing a seatbelt will increase your survivability by 45% and reduce your probably of injury by 60%. Those involved in higher speed accidents who are not wearing their seatbelts are 30 times more likely to be throw from the vehicle. You don’t fair well at that point, with 3 out of 4 dieing after being “thrown clear”. Having been in a few accidents, I am a seatbelt guy, and based on these stats and odds I will continue to be. Airbags obviously are a lifesaver, as well, but not everyone has them and alone they are not as effective as when a seatbelt is also used.
3. Close and Lock your Doors: I found little to support statically that locking your doors would decrease the probably of your doors flying open in an accident, but every source and piece of information presented to us during the class highly recommended it. I recommend it simply because it secures the vehicle and prevents anyone from walking by your car and opening a door. Logically, it should also provide a barrier to potential carjackings.
4. Adjust your Head Restraint: The Insurance Institute for Highway safety notes that as many as 66% of all “severe” accidents result in a neck injury, and over 50% of those could be avoided by proper heat restraint adjustment. I tend to like my neck and the thing attached to it, so I take the second required to reach back and adjust my head support before backing out of the garage at 40MPH.
5. Stop Using a Cell Phone in the Car: Situational awareness was noted above, but this deserves its own special section. Why? Using a cell phone while driving is a triple manual, visual, and cognitive distraction. Mythbusters tested this and it was shown to be as bad or worse than driving drunk. Since then, a significant amount of testing has validated this great show’s data. Even worse is texting because you also have to look at the screen while using at least two thumbs for typing… so that leaves only 80% of your hands and 5% of your mind able to concentrate on not killing yourself. Accorinding to IIHS.org statistics, you are four times (yes 4) more likely to be involved in an accident when using a cell phone. You have to ask yourself punk, was that call or text worth dieing for?
6. Avoid the Four Highest Percentage Fatal Accidents: #1 Speeding, #2 Right of Way Confusion, #3 Crossing the Centerline, #4 Tailgating/Following Too Closely. Oddly enough there has a been a spike of all four of these deadly accidents with the invention of the cell phone. The distracted driver tends to do all four.
If you are going to die in a car accident, 32% of the time it involves speeding. As a State validated member of the high speed club I will admit that I have had more close calls due to going a bit fast than going slow. If you want to die, you can do it faster by speeding.
Unless you are complete butthole behind the wheel and you have rage issues, let the other driver pass and give yourself some working room when making turns or at crossways. The highest percent of fatalities are due to a left turn. Though less deadly than speeding, 41% of all accidents occur when someone turns left into oncoming traffic, according to IIHS.org. The percentage goes up if you include right turns, parking lot accidents, and other accidents. Watch your left!
If you are going to get into an accident, crossing the centerline is worse than playing Russian Roulette. This accident kills 53% of the occupants on average simply because a head on collision between two 45MPH cars colliding from opposite directions is the same as a 90 MPH crash. It is deadly, and the number one, two, and three causes of this kind of accident are cell phone use/texting, distracted driver, or an impaired driver.
Tailgating surprisingly kills more people than you would think, and it represents most neck injuries due to the sheer number of these accidents. 23% of all accidents are tailgating related, causing 5% of the fatalities of all traffic accidents. My advice is to back off a bit. You hugging their bumper will probably result in a butt whooping or at at least higher insurance rates.
Stay alert my friends, and survive another day going to work, to the hunt, to school, or to the range. It is surprising that the thing we do every day is one of the most deadly threats we face.