Millions of Americans drive every day. Most of them are in their vehicle either going to or coming from work. Many individuals drive professionally—truck drivers, delivery personnel, race car drivers, first responders such as policemen, firemen, and EMTs. These are just a few of the types of jobs that require people to get into a vehicle and get out on the road, whether it’s for a job, for safety and protection of the population, or for services to the community and the marketplace. Most people, however, drive either for employment or for recreation.
Learning to drive through a safety education course when you are just starting out as a young driver is critically important. You are taught how to maneuver your car through various scenarios to avoid road hazards and to avoid accidents. However, over time, many men and women forget these procedures and get lazy, selfish, or stupid. That’s why many accidents happen which otherwise could be avoided.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are more than 1,700 fatalities and 840,000 injuries yearly due to vehicle crashes off public highways. Plus, car crashes are the number one killer of children 1 to 12 years old in the United States. The best way to protect them in the car is to put them in the right seat, at the right time, and use it the right way. Much more information about driving safety can be found at this website: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety .
The National Safety Council has identified five major issues affecting our safety on the roads today, all together offering the greatest potential for saving lives:
1.) DISTRACTED DRIVING: People are guilty many times of not paying attention when they are driving due to distractions such as listening to music, eating or drinking, putting on makeup, or many other reasons. There also has been a fourfold increased crash risks due to driving while talking on cell phones and even greater crash risks from texting.
2.) TEEN DRIVING: Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for American teens. Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) is proven to be effective at reducing these crashes.
3.) IMPAIRED DRIVING: About every 30 minutes, someone is killed in an alcohol-related crash in the United States. Every two minutes, someone is injured. Despite the gains made in reducing impaired driving crashes, about 40 percent of vehicle crash deaths still involve alcohol. Males age 21-34 are currently being addressed for higher incidence of impaired driving.
4.) OCCUPANT PROTECTION: Seat belts save lives. While seat belt use has been increasing and averages about 84 percent nationally, there are still groups less likely to wear seat belts: teens, commercial drivers, males in rural areas, pick-up truck drivers, and people who have been drinking. Protect children who cannot protect themselves, with proper child restraints. Most child restraints are being used incorrectly in some way.
5.) SPEEDING: Speed is a factor in about one out of three fatal crashes. The National Maximum Speed Limit was repealed in 1995, and since then most states have raised speed limits. While other traffic safety issues have shown success, speeding is still a challenge.
In addition to the above factors, the driving population is changing, according to the National Safety Council. Population trends in the U.S. will bring a substantial increase in the number of older drivers on the road in the coming decades.
--MATURE DRIVERS: The number of senior drivers will increase 70 percent over the next 20 years. With crash rates for drivers age 65+ higher than any age group except teens, this large increase could result in up to 100,000 senior driver deaths between 2008 and 2028. Much more information can be found at this website: http://www.nsc.org/safety_road/DriverSafety/Pages/driver_safety.aspx .
Also, if you drive professionally or spend a lot of time driving, it’s important to stay healthy, according to this website: www.stayinghealthy.com . Plus, exercising on the road is challenging, but not impossible. Use the tips below and look for other ways to add activity when you’re on the road.
• Carry resistance bands or use water bottles or cans as weights for conditioning activities.
• Take a jump rope along with you and jump rope at rest areas.
• Walk or jog around rest areas for cardio.
• Check out smart phone and tablet applications. There are numerous exercise resources online and through applications. These resources range from workout podcasts, to videos, to images of exercise instructions. Many of these resources are free.
Professional drivers face the challenge of finding affordable, healthy food while on the road according to Staying Healthy. But, with pre–planning and smart choices you can still eat healthy on the road. If you have access to an in–truck refrigerator, stock food and snacks that are healthy for you. Avoid candy bars and chips. Instead, focus on foods that will keep you fuller longer, like string cheese, pretzels, popcorn, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Additionally, look for smart choices when eating at fast food restaurants. Many restaurants now offer baked options, low–fat or sodium alternatives, and fresh fruits and salads. Menus often times have these options marked for easy identification.
Prepackaged foods and restaurant foods often provide servings that are larger than recommended; and whether you drive for a living or just going on a short road trip as a family or individual, these same practical tips still apply. When eating out, like at a buffet, in can be easy, and even tempting, to overeat. In the long run, the negative effects of overeating will cost more money than ever can be saved by “getting your money’s worth” at the buffet. When eating at a restaurant or buffet eat slowly and only until you are full, use smaller salad plates to ensure proper portion sizes, and focus on choosing healthier items.
• Eat more: Salad, non-cream based soups, baked or lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat salad dressings, and desert alternatives (like Jell-O, pudding, fresh fruit)
• Eat less: Mayonnaise-based salads, full-fat salad dressings (like regular ranch dressing), fried foods, foods with gravies or cream sauces, sugary deserts
Regardless of your personal situation, when you get behind the wheel of any vehicle, you put yourself, your passengers, and the public at risk. Make sure that you are in good physical and mental shape before you start driving, and try to avoid as many distractions as possible. Also, follow the rules of the road and observe safety regulations at all times. Healthy living and healthy driving are good companions.
Until next time.