by Annette Dashofy
Years ago, I took a DOT course on emergency driving, so I didn’t expect to learn all that much in this week’s Safe Vehicle Operation class. Wrong again.
Let’s begin with some national statistics. One in eight LICENSED (not counting those driving illegally) drivers are involved in a collision each year. Just under 42,000 people die in motor vehicle crashes annually.
Three in ten Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash sometime in their lives.
Nearly one in three crashes where someone dies is related to speeding.
6,289,000 traffic crashes were REPORTED in 1999 with 3,200,000 people injured. Check your decimal points. We’re talking millions.
These figures point out the importance of Defensive Driving, which means the ability to operate your vehicle in such a manner as to be able to avoid a collision no matter what the road and weather conditions.
Our instructor for the evening, Roland Livermore of the Community College of Allegheny County showed us a series of videos that should convince just about anyone to wear their seat belts. If one person in a car is NOT wearing a seat belt and the vehicle is involved in a crash, that person becomes a missile crashing around inside the car and into other passengers. In the first video, an unbelted passenger was the reason three other belted passengers died and a fourth was critically injured.
We also saw videos on the effects of speeding in crashes. Let’s just say, I drove the speed limit the whole way home.
There was also one on a PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique) involving a police vehicle tapping one side of the evading car’s back bumper, sending him into a spin. Pretty cool, but not permitted in Pittsburgh at this time. Pennsylvania is just starting to train in such procedures.
DID YOU KNOW that you cannot see color at night unless in a lit area? Police calling in descriptions will use terms like “light-colored vehicle” or “dark-colored vehicle” but they can’t accurately determine color.
Also, a sixty-year old needs three times as much light to see at night. Now you know why older folks frequently don’t like to be out after dark.
DID YOU KNOW that when you get hit by an oncoming vehicle’s headlights, the glare causes a temporary blindness that requires five to seven seconds from which to recover? The trick to avoid this is to look at the “Fog Line” which you might know better as “the white line on the side of the road.” Yes, it’s a Fog Line.
Terminology lesson: The preferred term is “pursuit” rather than “chase.” A pursuing police vehicle should maintain a four-second following distance, more in the case of rain or ice.
Officers are trained to exhibit a level of skill beyond that possessed by non-law enforcement drivers. They are to have the ability to remain cool, calm, and collected in stressful driving situations. If an officer loses that ability during a pursuit, they can be ordered to “terminate the pursuit.” They must also have an accurate perception of their driving abilities and the performance capabilities of their vehicle and they must be able to successfully apply their actual driving skills to specific situations in the driving environment.
We heard quite a few wild stories in the course of the evening, but I’ll leave you with just one. Two guys were driving on the highway, passing each other, cutting each other off, and generally demonstrating aggressive, dangerous, and immature driving. The first guy exited the highway. The second one followed him. He followed him all the way to his home. The first guy pulled in his garage. The second guy kept going.
The second guy came back later and torched the garage with the car in it.
Yes, they busted him.
Part of the evening was spent on a quiz. These are questions that very likely were on the driver's test you took when you were sixteen. See how many you can answer now.
Question #1: What does a steady yellow light of a traffic signal mean?
Hint: No, it does not mean GO FASTER.
Question #2: What is the required distance to legally use your high beams?
Question #3: What is the proper position for your hands on the steering wheel?
Question #4: When should you use your turn signal?
Question #5: What do lights and siren mean to a driver?
Question # 6: What is hydroplaning and what should you do if it happens to you?
Post your answers as a comment. (No helping, Gina!) I'll give the correct answers after lunch.
Next week: SWAT Team!