Tag Archives: backing habits

Red-Light Cameras: Are You Willing to Pay?

The intersection –– or as we refer to it, the “Danger Square” –– is where the largest percentage of multiple car crashes occur. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, twenty-two percent of all crashes in the United States are caused by red-light runners. As a result, there is an increase in cities signing on with companies to have red-light cameras installed.

While there is no question about the high frequency of crashes that take place at intersections, there is widespread criticism about the companies that install and operate the camera systems. As time goes on you will be seeing more intersections with red light cameras (RLC) because they become a “cash cow” for the city.

Everyone involved within the municipality that is installing RLC, as well as the companies that manufacture, install, and process the data from the cameras, will say they are doing it for safety. Yet, they promote the shortening of the yellow traffic light cycle, and the lengthening of the red light cycle, both of which contribute little to safely and everything to increase the number of violators.

There are three major companies that provide RLC to cities, and most often they receive a hefty slice of the collected violator fees. One company received 19 million dollars to install RLC at 190 Chicago intersections; during the ten year period of their usage, the company received over 100 million dollars. Can we really say their focus was doing good for the betterment of mankind or that their focus was on reducing crashes?

Let’s analyze a few things:

A traffic light changing from green to yellow presents a tipping point for the actions a driver will take, or not take –– that is, providing there is a perception of the traffic light, to begin with. One of three actions is likely to occur during the lights transformation: a driver sees the yellow light and has a mindset to stop; a driver sees the yellow light as an opportunity to increase speed to get through the intersection; a driver sees the yellow light as merely a continuation of the green light and pays no attention to the changing condition.

Now, I am not talking about drivers that go blowing through the red light with total disregard for the danger that everyone is exposed to by highly callous high-speed behavior. I am talking about the average driver who pays little attention to the yellow light as a signal to clear the intersection. I’m talking about the driver who ignores the yellow light and only thinks of stopping when the light has turned to red.

The reason all drivers need to be more attentive to yellow lights is to change the mindset into a state of readiness to perceive a green light that is changing to yellow and have time to control traffic to the rear. The duration of the yellow has a lot to do with whether or not a person will be detected as a violator by a red-light camera.

Now get this:

There is no differentiation in fines levied for those who just missed the end of the yellow light compared to those who willfully go blowing through a red light at high speed. The fine and administrative add-on fees for running a red light in California is reportedly $490 plus the cost of attending a “traffic school” course. Or, a judge may grant a violator the option of performing community service at the rate of $10 per hour, which means 49 hours of service. Amazing! The driver who intentionally failed to spend one minute stopped for the red light will be subjected to the option of surrendering 2,940 minutes doing something that may be far worse than sitting for a minute at a red traffic light! The $490 fine and the $50 for traffic school would amount to the driver paying the fine for that one minute at the rate of $32,400 per hour. Do you see how the scale is grossly tipped against you as you try to save one minute at a traffic light? Even when the fine is a more typical $175, as many states levy for running a red light, it equates to spending $10,500 per hour for the purchase of one minute of indifference to conditions at the danger square.

Facts and factors:

There are four factors that determine when and where a vehicle will stop: Perception time, Reaction time, Braking time, and Volition time. Of the four, the one that a driver has the most control over is “volition” time. Volition time is the period of time that one deliberates on the “willingness” to detect and stop for a yellow light. If the yellow light is seen as an opportunity to have control of your vehicle and to save money by not getting caught by the red-light camera, then the proper treatment of the yellow light could be seen as putting gold into your pocket.

Here is how you can change a yellow light into gold. When you approach a green traffic light all you need to do is have the “volition” to stop at a certain point if the light changes to yellow before you get to within two seconds of the intersection. If you are at the two-second point, which we refer to as the point-of-no-return, then you are committed to going through the intersection and you will never receive a ticket by the red light camera being activated and not need to pay upwards of $10,000 per minute. The red light camera will only activate if you are entering the intersection when the light is red. What constitutes entering the intersection is when your vehicle passes the stop line.

If you are intent on running red lights, then nothing but pure luck can prevent you from getting into a crash and not getting caught by a red-light camera. However, if you are like most drivers, and not aggressively attempting to beat a red light, then you may need to change your habits on how you approach a green traffic light. In addition to making certain the “danger square” is clear, be prepared for the green light to turn into gold.

You are in control:

What will make you feel better: stopping at the traffic light and waiting one minute for the light to change; or, getting caught by the RLC and having to pay hundreds of dollars? In the latter case, there are two things you will feel bad about: getting caught and wasting money for no good return. So, tilt the game in your favor so that you are always the winner. Think of the green light as ready to change to yellow, so you are never surprised. If it does turn to yellow, you are prepared to save yourself from paying a costly fine. If the light stays green, you will have more awareness of conditions in the danger square, and you didn’t have to make a stop. Either way, a win-win situation, and you are in control!

So You Think You Can Text: Dangerous Driving, Dangerous Walking

By Professor Frederik R. Mottola,
National Institute for Driver Behavior


There are dozens of research studies, each telling the same story: the majority of drivers know it is dangerous to text and drive, but more than half of them still do it. Why?


The problem of texting-related crashes is not limited to drivers. After years of declining traffic crashes in which pedestrians were being killed, in 2009 the trend has reversed directions; each year since more and more texting pedestrians are being killed. In New York City, pedestrians comprise 51% of all motor vehicle deaths.


Why do drivers and pedestrians believe they can text and manage a traffic situation at the same time? The answer is within their unconscious mind. What people don’t realize is that over years of walking, or driving, there is a learning experience on the unconscious level for how to process information of where one is traveling. Everyone knows that vision is the most important sense for detecting, and for traveling, a safe path, while driving and while walking. Out of all of the disabilities a person might have, the only one that a driver cannot compensate for is the loss of sight. And, for a blind person, it takes many months of extensive training to acquire the skills necessary to learn how to walk in a traffic environment and safely navigate a traffic situation. When people walk or drive while texting, they are unknowingly rendering themselves sightless. They lose their ability to use central and fringe vision effectively.


Central vision is a narrow cone of clear vision that is capable of bringing objects sharply into focus to identify details. Central vision is the vision used for reading these words. While driving or walking, central vision is used to search ahead to detect if the path one is going to travel is clear of obstacles. Surrounding the central vision is our peripheral vision, which increases our field of vision to 180 degrees or more. The part of the peripheral vision that is closest to central vision is what we refer to as “fringe vision.” Fringe vision is used to monitor our placement within the travel path, whether walking or driving.


Drivers don’t realize how dependent they become on the use of lower fringe vision to monitor the placement of the vehicle in relation to the lane they are traveling in. You don’t consciously pay attention to where your feet are stepping as you walk along a sidewalk, but when you lose sight of lower fringe vision it becomes difficult to detect when you stray off course


While texting, the head is bent down, which results in a loss of central vision so one cannot detect anything blocking the path the vehicle is traveling; and, lower fringe vision is lost, which prevents the driver from monitoring the accuracy of the vehicle within the lane. The loss of central and lower fringe vision results in three major crash potentials:


1. Drivers crash into something that blocks their path of travel, such as stopped traffic or a crossing pedestrian. Or, they fail to see stop signs and red traffic lights.
2. Drivers veer off the road to the left into oncoming traffic, or into a ditch, often times taking the wrong steering actions and losing control while attempting to get back into the travel lane.
3. Drivers veer off the road to the right into parked vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, utility poles, trees, and ditches, resulting in crashes or fatal rollovers.


In London, texting pedestrians stray so often into utility poles that the city has placed padding on many of the poles to reduce injuries to the pedestrians. The major difference between the crashes of texting-pedestrians and texting-drivers is that the pedestrians are usually only hurting themselves. However, in a large percentage of the texting-driver crashes other innocent people are getting killed. And, the problem is only going to get worse before it gets better.


The major reason that more texting drivers will get into crashes as the years go by is that the more experience one gets texting and driving, the more callous they become to the danger they are exposing themselves and others to. Drivers can convince themselves that they have no issue with being able to text and drive. In a 2011 Ad Council survey, 55% of young drivers stated that “it’s easy to text and pay attention to driving at the same time.” Yet, I am certain that every driver who has the habit of texting every time they drive has been in situations where they found their vehicle had inadvertently drifted outside of the lane markings –– perhaps two or three feet onto the shoulder of the road. However, there was no pedestrian, bicyclist, jogger, utility pole, parked car, or other objects there to crash into. The “crash” was in empty space, so it was perceived as a non-event.


Texting and driving is a societal problem. The way I see it is that society views the problem of texting and driving today in a similar manner as how acceptance of drinking and driving was thirty years ago. Crashes then by intoxicated drivers were accepted as merely being an “accident” that happened by chance. Intoxicated drivers would swerve into and out of their travel lane, and often that behavior would be incorporated into comedy shows on television as “entertainment.”


In 1981 the “town drunk,” who had been cited several times for driving under the influence, had drifted his vehicle out of the travel path onto the shoulder of the road and crashed into a bicyclist. The bicyclist was a forty-one-year-old clinical psychologist –– and he was my brother, Dr. William C. Mottola. He died thirteen days later. The punishment for the drunk driver: $150 fine and thirty days in jail –– after all, it was only an “accident.”


How many texting drivers and their innocent victims will need to die before society –– before you –– see this as a serious public epidemic? What can you do? The obvious is don’t text and drive. The more difficult, don’t participate in texts when your friends are texting and driving. Give some true love to your friends while they are alive by letting them know that you will not text while they are driving. Your love for them, while they are alive, is more rewarding than placing flowers at their roadside memorial. Society is composed of people, and one person at a time can make a difference. You are that person!


Please feel free to share this blog with others.


About the author: Frederik Mottola, Professor Emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University and Executive Director of the National Institute for Driver Behavior, has, for the past 50 years, researched and developed techniques to help drivers learn good habits for space-management. A scientist, inventor, educator, and author, he has designed successful crash-reducing programs for corporations, municipalities, police, military, emergency vehicle operators, and traffic safety educators on national and international levels.




Backing Up: 50 Children Crushed Each Week –– Four Habits Can Save Them!

By Professor Frederik R. Mottola,
National Institute for Driver Behavior

For Greg Gulbransen and his wife, Leslie, life as they knew it ended one evening eight years ago.

After feeling a bump under the wheel, his headlights lit up a scene in his driveway that would change their lives forever. Their precious 2-year-old son, Cameron, lay sprawled, clutching a blanket and bleeding heavily from his head.

Jennifer McLogan of CBS2 news reported the Gulbransen’s tragedy and their dedication to reducing the likelihood of such hardships from happening to other families. After years of effort, the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act was passed by Congress in 2010, which called for a backup camera in all cars by 2014. However, as of September 2013, the Department of Transportation has continued to postpone implementing the mandate to auto manufacturers.

With fifty children each week being treated in the United States emergency rooms as a result of being crushed under the wheels of a family member’s vehicle, and until all vehicles are equipped with backup cameras, drivers need to examine the techniques they use when backing.

The blind area to the rear of most cars and SUVs is dependent upon the configuration of the rear window and the height of the driver. The lower in the seat the driver is, the greater the blind area directly to the rear of the vehicle. There are very few drivers who have less than a 50-foot blind area, and many have an even greater blind area. To conceptualize how large an area that is, picture this: the average blind area would contain fifty adults laying on the ground shoulder-to-shoulder to the rear of the vehicle and the driver would not see a single one. And, imagine how many toddlers could wander into that space.

The old method taught in driver education (and required on most states’ licensing exams) for turning the head rearward and looking over the right shoulder should be discontinued. Looking out the rear window does not give the driver any more information than is gained by looking into the rearview mirror. And, looking over the right shoulder makes the driver’s side of the vehicle totally blind to the driver. When preparing to back into an area where vehicles and bicyclists may travel, such as crossing a sidewalk, backing into a street (to be avoided when possible) and backing out of parking spaces, turning the head to search out both the left and right side windows is a necessary supplement to using the mirrors.

Drivers should be taught how to effectively adjust the outside mirrors and how to use them, as well as how to acquire habits for using the rearview mirror. A proper adjustment of the outside mirrors should give the driver a slight view of the side of the vehicle, which will allow the driver to detect a child approaching the vehicle. And, if add-on convex mirrors are placed in the lower outside corner of each mirror, the viewing angle will be greatly increased. Speed must be at a slow walking pace. By continuous use of all three mirrors, and with a slow movement, the driver will be able to see anyone wandering into the vehicle’s backing path.

Even when a vehicle has a backup camera, drivers must develop these four habits to help avoid the tragedy that the Gulbransen’s, as well as hundreds of other families each year, have experienced.

1. Check to the front and rear of the vehicle before entering it.
2. Back at a slow walking pace.
3. Check the three mirrors continuously, in this sequence, with no more than one-second pauses: rear, passenger side, rear, driver side, rear, passenger side, rear, driver side, etc, until the vehicle is stopped. When the vehicle is equipped with a backup camera, substitute the views of the rearview mirror with views of the backup monitor along with the use of the outside mirrors.
4. If you feel any resistance to the rolling of the vehicle, STOP MOVING! Secure the vehicle, and check to see what is impeding your movement. Stopping may make the difference between broken bones or fatal internal injuries to a toddler.

About the author: Frederik Mottola, Professor Emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University and Executive Director of the National Institute for Driver Behavior, has, for the past 50 years, researched and developed techniques to help drivers learn good habits for space-management. A scientist, inventor, educator, and author, he has designed successful crash-reducing programs for corporations, municipalities, police, military, emergency vehicle operators, and traffic safety educators on national and international levels.

Isn’t a Driver’s Life Worth More than $30?

Everyone talks about the dangers of texting and driving but most don’t see how texting affects their performance. The general attitude is “sure I shouldn’t be texting and driving, but I can handle it.” An AAA and Seventeen Magazine online survey of 1,999 teens ages 16-19 found that 86% had driven while distracted even though 84% know it’s dangerous. And, according to a 2011 Ad Council survey, 55% of teen drivers believe that is it easy to text and pay attention to driving at the same time.

The Florida legislators have just demonstrated that they are a microcosm of the values society has regarding the dangers of texting and driving: none! The legislators recently passed an anti-texting-while-driving law that clearly sends the wrong message to the motoring public –– a message implying that texting isn’t dangerous. Why is this not a good law? Let us count the ways. First problem: a driver cannot be stopped by a police officer for texting. The Florida law is not a primary offense, which means an officer can only stop a texting driver if the driver violates some other law, i.e., if the driver runs a stop sign, and the officer can see the driver was texting, then the anti-texting law is violated. The second problem: when a person is finally caught, there is a whopping $30 fine, or about the amount a person would pay for four packs of cigarettes, or four Starbucks. This inconsequential monetary fine is not the worst flaw in this law.

The worst is that the law allows drivers to text while stopped at a traffic light! WOW! Allowing drivers to text at a traffic light is the equivalent of saying, “don’t pay attention to the traffic scene; forget the need to manage space while stopped, don’t be concerned that there may be bicyclist or pedestrians crossing in front of you who are not seen as you start your car in motion.” And, “don’t be concerned if a driver approaching your stopped vehicle from the rear is also texting, because the law allows him to do so unless he crashes into your car.” Having a “law” that says it is okay to text at traffic lights encourages drivers to do so, and it is likely to get more people killed at intersections.

While stopped at a traffic light drivers should be encouraged to pay attention to conditions that are constantly changing. According to the Federal Highway Administration, each year 35 to 40 percent of all crashes take place at an intersection, which accounts for about two and a half million crashes at intersections each year. How could the Florida legislators believe that it is okay for a driver to sit at a traffic light and text? Intersections are so dangerous we refer to them as “Danger Squares.”

Picture this: A driver with his head down, engrossed in a texting conversation, is not likely to notice that the traffic light changed and the car in front is moving. At the same time, the driver to the rear is impatient and blows his horn to get the texting driver to move. The texting driver becomes startled, releases his foot from the brake while finishing the text and accelerates directly into the path of an oncoming vehicle that is making a left turn. Now, suppose the oncoming vehicle is a motorcyclist; the texting driver crashes into him; the results is a traumatic brain injury. Texting changes the life of another motorist, yet no law is violated! Or, the texting driver doesn’t see a pedestrian who is still in the crosswalk and accelerates into her. Little good would the law be for protecting the pedestrian. Now, if the pedestrian dies, a number of lives are lost, changed, and ruined because of the texting. I have family and friends living in Florida, I would not want to see any of them victimized by a driver “obeying” the law because someone believes the law is safe.

Perhaps no law will make a difference unless it takes away the temptation of texting, or the law has a consequence that a driver would not want to experience. What if, when a driver is caught texting, the phone is impounded for thirty days for the first offense? And, for the second offense, the phone and the car are impounded for sixty days. Such a law would be a countermeasure to our society’s addiction to texting. Well, is that too severe to save one life, let alone the hundreds of lives that are lost?

However, as blatantly as the government of Florida is turning a blind eye towards a solution to reduce texting crashes, there is hope from other States. New Jersey, for one, is forging ahead with consequences more than a thirty dollar fine. Fines in New Jersey range from $200 to $800 with possible license suspension depending upon past violations and outcomes of the crash. If cell phone users drive recklessly and cause injury or death, penalties would include prison time and fines up to $150,000. And, New Jersey just approved legislation that will post signs along highways warning drivers that there is an anti-texting law in effect.

For Florida, at the minimum, having the no-texting-in-traffic law as a primary offense will at least get drivers searching ahead for police officers so they can pretend they are not using the phone –– and maybe by chance they will see what they need to see to detect problems affecting their space management.

Oh, I forgot: most texters believe they can text and drive without problems. Who needs a “law” to give them permission to text at traffic lights?


About the author: Frederik Mottola, Professor Emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University and Executive Director of the National Institute for Driver Behavior, has, for the past 50 years, researched and developed techniques to help drivers learn good habits for space-management. A scientist, inventor, educator, and author, he has designed successful crash-reducing programs for corporations, municipalities, police, military, emergency vehicle operators, and traffic safety educators on national and international levels.