Tag Archives: Teen driving

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.

 

 

 

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.

Land an Airplane, Drive a Car: It’s All in your Mind

Last week I was at the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association’s Annual Conference in Maine, where I was invited to make a presentation on how to improve teacher performance.

 

A few days before my presentation, an Asiana Airline pilot crashed while on a visual approach to the runway in San Francisco. The pilot had previously made only six landings in the Boeing 777 –– and those were made by autopilot, where the plane basically lands itself. Making a visual approach requires perceptual judgment; the pilot must match the correct airspeed with the proper glide slope. On a difficulty scale of 1 to 10, the skills the pilot needed would rank as a 2, or about the same difficulty level that a novice driver would have in avoiding the rear tire of a vehicle from hitting the curb while making a right turn. The crash could have been easily prevented if the pilot had consciously learned to see with his mind the proper relationship of the plane to the runway as it was on its glide path – in other words, the use of Reference Points.

 

When it comes to learning how to operate any vehicle, whether an airplane or a car, it is easier for an instructor to tell the operator what to do, rather than teach what the mind should be seeing; but teaching the mind to see is the most effective way for learning to occur!

 

During my presentation, I recounted an experience I had in 1972 when I was a student pilot learning how to land a Cessna 150. During my second lesson, as we were coming in for a landing, the instructor was coaching me on the actions I should take: “Pull back the throttle; put in a notch of flaps; pull back slightly on the yoke; put in a little left rudder, etc., etc.” So, I asked, “Al, what are you seeing that allows you to tell me what actions I should take?” “Oh, after three or four more lessons you will begin to get the ‘feeling’ for the actions that should take place,” was Al’s spontaneous reply. By this time the plane was landed, but I continued to probe Al’s mind: “How do you judge the exact moment to flare for a soft landing?” Again, there was a response I didn’t want to hear: “It will come to you after you get more experience.”

 

That same year, as part of our driver instructor training program at Southern Connecticut State University, I had implemented a system for student instructors to videotape their in-car performance as they were student-teaching novice drivers. After viewing the tape, student instructors would then write a critique of what they liked and disliked about specific moments and make suggestions on how they could improve their “coaching” skills for their next lesson. There were no video camcorders at that time; we used a video camera attached to a portable tape deck with reel-to-reel video tape. Well, you probably guessed that I borrowed the video equipment, and on my next flight lesson I installed it in the airplane.

 

With the videotape rolling, I asked Al if we could shoot two or three landings – which he was more than willing to have me do. I took the video home and studied the relationship of how the plane appeared to the runway when it was on its glide path. The visual cues were very clear. I had the correct picture in my mind and was eager to test out my newly-developed mind skills.

 

Once again in the plane with Al and ready to make a landing, I asked him not to give me any instructions. “I want to take all the actions on my own; only correct me if I put the plane in a dangerous condition.” The landing was perfect. Al said, “okay, let’s see if you can do it again.” After the third perfect landing, Al asked, “how were you able to be so consistent?” I smartly replied, “oh, you’ll get it after you have more experience.” Then I told him the secret. Once I knew how the number of the runway appeared to sit directly in front of the cowling as the plane was on the glide path, I had my reference points; and it was easy to use the plane controls to keep that picture constant while making the descent. If the mind knows what to do, it is very easy for the hands and feet to take the correct actions!

 

The improvement we need in driver education is to give our instructors the advantage of new and better training in how to help teens cultivate mental preparation. Development of the mind can take place without the teen being in a vehicle! A maneuver can be defined by each of its key “mind photos.” For example, for making a precision right turn there are five pictures the mind needs to learn. When each “picture” is learned, practiced, and mastered, it is simple for the teen to control the pedals and steering wheel to recreate the correct “pictures.” You will be amazed at how consistently teens can make a perfect right and left turns, as well as accurate parking maneuvers, on their very first attempts – once their minds see the correct pictures for success.

 

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 it Time to Eliminate Motor Vehicle Crashes?

Everyone knows of friends and relatives who have been in car crashes. Crashes occur so frequently that they are accepted –– in some cases expected to happen. There is a flood of information stating that teen drivers have a higher percentage of crashes than mature “experienced” drivers. It doesn’t have to be this way! Teen drivers should be better drivers than their parents and better than the majority of “experienced” drivers. The only things preventing teens from becoming “expert” drivers are the low expectations that society places upon them and the failure of our driver licensing system to place higher standards upon our educational system to provide teens with more than basic driver education.

 

Basic driver education is able to teach the conscious level of driving –– the rules of the road, how to use the vehicle’s controls, and necessary skills and information to pass the licensing exam. However, basic driver education isn’t able to develop and evaluate the unconscious values that already live in the teen’s unconscious mind. Applying John Locke’s conception of the mind, teens do not come into the driver education course with a completely blank slate; the many experiences they have had over their 15-16 years are indelible and often invisible to the teen, the teacher and parents. In the short time span in which novice driver education programs are conducted, there is neither time, nor opportunity, to evaluate how these experiences have been steeped into habits – unconscious values – for space management, or mismanagement.

 

It is the unconscious habits that dictate the position and speed vehicles travel in all situations. It’s the “feeling” of comfort a driver is able to accept for the approaching situation. Two drivers approach the same red traffic light: Driver 1 sees the light 15 seconds ahead, takes her foot off the gas, checks her rearview mirror, makes a slight braking action, and arrives five seconds away from the intersection when the light changes to green, searches the intersection to the left, front, and right for a clear path, continues through while gradually increasing speed back to 45-miles-per-hour –– a demonstration of expert space management. Driver 2, while 15 seconds away, continues to accelerate, applies a forceful braking action, bounces the car to a stop, waits impatiently for the light to change, and accelerates forcefully ahead at the first gleam of the green light only to speed ahead to the next red light where the same chain of actions will be repeated, repeated, repeated. Sooner, or later, perhaps on the 3,556th repeat of emulating a drag racer’s reaction to the yellow light, there is a pedestrian, or motorcyclist, or an aggressive SUV driver attempting to cross the intersection at the end of the yellow light. Just like that, during that one critical second, the “dragster” loses the race and lives are lost.

 

Both drivers performed all of their actions by habit without any conscious awareness. Their minds could have been on thoughts far away. Their actions, a second before the crash, were completely comfortable and acceptable to them. There were no thoughts of “right” or “wrong,” no feelings of “safety” or “danger” –– they were merely “driving.” Stand on any busy traffic light controlled intersection to see Driver 2 and all of his friends who follow him blindly, unknowingly, unaware of better choices that could be made. While standing on that corner you may have difficulty finding a driver performing the behaviors of Driver 1, the one who knows how to effectively manage space.

 

Isn’t it time families demand essential training and effective driver licensing exams to help teens acquire the space management habits necessary to stay out of crashes?

 

NIDB Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation, is offering a new program to families. With the Zone Control Awareness e-Coach, all members of the family, from 4 -year-olds to 90-year-olds, acquire awareness habits that protect them against the wrongful actions of others. And, teens as young as 13 years old will get hundreds of experiences as “co-drivers”  ––  before learning to drive ––  and acquire the right habits for controlling the critical second.

 

Contact: info@NIDBcollege.org

 

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.