Whether you are driving for work, to and from work, or even to the grocery store, the time you spend in your vehicle can be the most dangerous part of your day. That is why next week we will be observing Drive Safely Work Week, the annual safe-driving campaign sponsored by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS.)
This year’s theme is Gear up for safe driving: Mind – Body – Vehicle. You likely already know that vehicle maintenance is an important part of a safe trip. This year’s campaign will highlight how being mindful of physical and mental wellness—along with the “health” of your vehicle—are all connected in making us safer, more attentive drivers.
We challenge you each day of the next week with the following improvements to improved driving safety:
Monday – Be “Present” Behind the Wheel
DID YOU KNOW?
- Presenteeism has been estimated to cost employers $63 billion in lost productivity2. Presenteeism behind the wheel — there in body but not in mind — can cost more than big dollars.
- A recent study found that “mind wandering” was responsible for nearly 50% of crashes where the driver was at fault.3
- The data is clear—virtually all studies have concluded that manipulating a hand-held device while driving (eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind focused on activities unrelated to driving) leads to less safe driving.
- Many over-the-counter and prescription drugs for common ailments, including allergies, colds, depression, muscle pain, anxiety disorders and high blood pressure can cause drowsiness, slow reaction time and impair vision and coordination.
- A recent 100-car naturalistic driving study has shown that fatigue is a contributing factor in 20% of crashes with significantly more crashes/near crashes due to fatigue occurring during the day than at night.
- Being present and engaged behind the wheel means you are driving actively.
- Minimizing distractions.Resisting activities unrelated to driving that take your eyes or mind off of the road and your hands off the wheel.
- Being alert and clear-headed. Unimpaired by alcohol, over-the-counter or prescription medication and well-rested prior to getting behind the wheel.
- Frequently scanning your mirrors. Many fleet safety programs recommend a “full mirror sweep” every 5-6 seconds. If a vehicle suddenly appears in one of your mirrors without you noticing its approach, you’ll know you are not shifting your eyes frequently enough.
- Maintaining a proper following distance. On clear, dry roads, your following distance should be 3-4 seconds — double or triple if roads are wet or slippery, keeping in mind that in some cases it’s best to stay off the roads until conditions improve.
- Scanning ahead. Looking down the road ahead of you for a distance of 10 seconds. In the city, that’s about one block and, on the highway, it’s about 1/3 of a mile or 4 city blocks.
- Watching your speed. The faster you are driving, the less time you have to react to sudden moves by other drivers and the less time other drivers have to react to you. Always observe the speed limit and slow down to accommodate traffic, road, and other conditions.
- Taking time to recharge. If driving a long distance, it is recommended you take a break every two hours or 100 miles, even if you don’t feel you need one. If after two hours of steady driving you don’t feel you need a break, this may be a strong sign that you are not actively engaged in your driving.
Tuesday – Take A Clear Look at Vision
DID YOU KNOW?
- 90% of a driver’s reaction depends on vision.
- More than 50% of those who fail a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) vision exam are unaware that they have a vision problem.2
- 1 in 4 Americans said it has been more than two years since their last eye exam.3
- 1 in 5 U.S. adults mistakenly agrees that they do not need an eye exam unless they are having trouble seeing.4
- Passing the vision test required for licensing does not take the place of a full eye exam.
- When you obtain or renew a driver’s license, it’s typically standard to undergo a “vision test” that evaluates your visual acuity — your ability to see objects clearly. However, this does not detect other vision conditions that can seriously impact the ability to drive safely. To test for other issues, you need to have regular eye exams with your doctor at least every two years, and in some cases, annually.
- Distance vision – Good distance vision allows you to see down the road and gives you time to adjust more gradually to your speed or change lanes. The sooner you can identify a potential hazard, the sooner you can react to it. This is particularly true when traveling on the highway where higher speeds increase the distance needed to slow or stop your vehicle. Distance vision also enables you to easily read street signs when navigating unfamiliar roads and helps avoid hard braking or sudden stops that can result in a crash.
- Field of vision (peripheral) – The ability to see to both sides is important. You need to be able to see cross traffic, pedestrians, and animals at the roadside, without having to look away from the road ahead. Even with mirrors positioned properly, vehicles have blind spots, and reduced peripheral vision can extend them.
- Accommodation (near-vision focusing) – When driving, you need to look from the road to the dashboard and back again quite often. This ability to change focus from far to near is accommodation, and a problem in this area could slow your reaction time to potential hazards.
- Night vision – You need to be able to see in low and variable light conditions and recover quickly from the glare of oncoming headlights. Night vision changes as we age and commonly becomes a debilitating issue for older drivers.
- Color vision – Drivers must instantly recognize traffic lights, indicator signs, hazard warning lights and stop lights. If you have a color vision defect, your reaction time may be delayed or essential visual information could be missed.
- Depth Perception – Our ability to visually perceive depth and distances comes from the fact that we have two eyes. Many vision problems involve some type of disturbance to a person’s “binocular” vision. This is often accompanied by difficulties with a host of visual skills, including tracking, focusing, and, perhaps most importantly for driving, depth perception. Poor depth perception can have an effect on several areas of driving including parking, judging following distances and stopping at intersections.
Wednesday – Keep Your Body Fueled, Well-Oiled & Energized
DID YOU KNOW?
- There are periods of the day when we are most likely to feel sleepy — mid-afternoon from 2pm to 5pm and from midnight to 6am1
- Choosing to snack strategically can help sustain energy and avoid sudden “crashes”, although it is not a substitute for getting the 7.5–8 hours of recommended sleep each night.
- One in seven non-exercisers (14%) reports having trouble staying awake while driving, eating or engaging in social activity, almost three times the rate of those who exercise.
- If you are inactive, adding a 10 minute walk every day could improve your likelihood of a good night’s sleep.
- Be cautious of setting a schedule with early morning or mid-afternoon meetings that can put you on the road during the times when you are likely to feel drowsy.
- Avoid scheduling meetings that will require travel late into the night.
- When booking flight travel, especially if you will be crossing time zones, plan ahead and consider the options for the final leg of your journey—the drive from the airport to home.
- Consider using a cab or car service, having a friend or family member drop you off and pick you up from the airport, or stay the night near the airport and drive home or to the office in the morning.
Thursday – Take Care of Your Vehicle
DID YOU KNOW?
- It is typical for tires to lose 1 pound of pressure per square inch (psi) every month.
- The average new tire starts out with a tread depth of 10/32”–11/32” (.8 to .9 cm). At a minimum, when the tread gets down to 2/32” (.2 cm), you are ready for new tires.2
- You can use an upside-down U.S. penny to check your tire tread. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your tire has less than 2/32” (.2 cm) of tread and you are ready for new tires.
TIPS TO GET A GRIP ON TIRE CARE
• Invest in a quality tire pressure gauge. Pressure gauges at service station air pumps are not always accurate.
• Check tire pressure monthly. Properly inflated tires not only enhance safety, they also improve fuel efficiency by roughly 3% — a significant savings at today’s fuel prices.
• The recommended tire pressure from your vehicle manufacturer is located on a sticker inside the driver’s door opening, not on the tire.
• Recommended tire pressure is based on “cold” tires — three or more hours since the vehicle has been driven. For the most accurate reading, check tire pressure before you drive since pressure increases as tires warm up.
• The “Max Load/Max Pressure” is not the pressure at which the tire will burst. Instead, increasing pressure beyond this point results in no additional load-carrying capacity beyond that stated.
• Unless it is nearly flat, a visual inspection will not show you if the tire is low on air. When checking tire pressure, visually inspect for bulges, cracks or objects that may have pierced the tread.
• A tire that’s been in service for five or six years should be replaced regardless of tread depth or visible wear as rubber tends to break down as it ages.4
• Tires should be rotated about every 5,000–8,000 miles5 (8000–13,000 km) — roughly each time you get an oil change. Rotating tires extends tread life and reduces the risk of a flat or blowout by helping ensure even wear.
Friday – Mind/Body/Vehicle, It’s All Connected
A clean, well-organized vehicle makes for a more tranquil environment where you can better focus on your driving. Just like in your home, if you don’t maintain an organizational strategy in your car, things can quickly get out-of-hand.
SECURE THE CARGO
• Begin each trip by securing the most important cargo—yourself and your passengers. Always BUCKLE UP—It’s the most important thing you can do to prevent injury in a crash.
• Think of everything in your vehicle as a potential projectile in the event of a crash and you’ll see anything you choose to carry in a whole new light.
• Be sure to utilize all secured storage spaces, such as your glove box, front armrest and center console compartments; keep your dash clear.
• Utilize compartments such as seat-back and door pockets.
• Whenever possible, heavy items such as luggage, tools and even laptops should be stored in the trunk if you have one. Nets, straps and bungee cords should be used to secure large or heavy items in hatchbacks and SUVs.
• Try to avoid packing above the line of the seat backs. As well as obscuring the view, anything packed higher than this may fly forward in a crash or after sudden/emergency braking, potentially causing head injury.
• If you have young kids, choose soft books and toys when selecting things to keep them busy.
• The safest way to carry a pet for both its safety and yours is to have it secured in the appropriate pet restraint system.
• The back seat is the best place for pets. Similar to a young child, the front air bag system in a vehicle can be deadly to a dog during a crash, even if restrained.
CLEAR THE CLUTTER
• Each time you fill up with gas, use that time to toss the trash and clean out the cup holders.
• Make a habit of removing unnecessary items from the vehicle once per week. Choose a week day when you know you will have some extra time, and commit to clearing out unnecessary cargo upon parking at home.
• Lastly, make rules for family members who also ride in or drive the car that what comes in must also go out at the end of each trip.
GET THE RIGHT FIT TO YOUR VEHICLE
The right posture is key. The best angle for the back of your seat is 100°, just shy of straight. Place your hands in the 3 and 9 o’clock positions on the steering wheel and position your seat so there are 10 inches (25.4 cm) of space between the steering wheel and your chest. This should be close enough so that you’re not leaning forward, but far enough to allow for safe airbag deployment;
Support your lower back. Adjust the seat’s lumbar support to fill the space at your lower back. If driving a vehicle not equipped with lumbar support, a small pillow or rolled towel placed against the bottom part of your seat back will maintain the right shape for support;
Support your head. When properly adjusted, your vehicle’s head restraint works in tandem with the seat belt and can help prevent neck, brain and spinal cord injuries in the event of a collision. Whether you are the driver or a passenger, follow these guidelines for a proper fit.
• Position the top of the head restraint so it is in a straight line with the top of your head.
• The center of your head restraint should be slightly above the top of your ear.
• The distance between the head restraint and the back of your head should be between 2-4 inches (5-10 cm).
Recheck your fit. If members of your family also drive your vehicle, be sure to share these tips with them so they are safely fitted to the vehicle and remember to recheck your fit each time you’re behind the wheel.
MINIMIZE BLIND SPOTS TO HELP YOU SEE THE BIG PICTURE
While all blind spots cannot be eliminated, properly positioned mirrors are the key to maximizing your field of vision. To set your mirrors, with the vehicle safely parked, sit in the normal driving position and center the rearview mirror. Next, lean your head about 4” to the left and adjust the driver’s side view mirrors until you can barely see the edge of the rear of your vehicle in the mirror. Do the same thing for the passenger side mirror by leaning 4” to the right. While you won’t see your vehicle in your side view mirrors when sitting in the normal driving position, this mirror adjustment will enable you to see more of the adjoining traffic lanes, as well as hazards next to the vehicle.* Even with properly adjusted mirrors, you should always glance over your shoulder to check blind spots any time you turn, merge or change lanes.
*There are various ways to set mirrors used even within the NETS membership and this is one way, but not necessarily the only way.
If you are presently committed to health and wellness, you’ll discover how some of the things you are already doing positively affect your driving. But chances are everyone will find an area in which they might improve—as well as an opportunity to share some relatively simple actions with friends and family to help them be safer behind the wheel.
In addition to always wearing a seat belt, proper maintenance of mind, body and vehicle can go a long way toward getting you to where you’re going safely. We trust you’ll find the week to be interesting, informative and most likely even a little fun.