Stories tagged driving

Jul
10
2007

Danger seat: Are there steps that can be taken to help lower higher-than-average rates of teen driving accidents and fatalities? It's a good question in Minnesota, where there's been a spike in the number of teen road fatalities this summer.
Danger seat: Are there steps that can be taken to help lower higher-than-average rates of teen driving accidents and fatalities? It's a good question in Minnesota, where there's been a spike in the number of teen road fatalities this summer.
It hasn’t been a very good summer in Minnesota for teen driving fatalities. Seven young drivers or passengers in cars driven by teens have died since June 23.

And while we take a lot of pride in Minnesota about being a national leader in rankings for education, health and voting participation, we’re actually one of the national leaders in the percentage of teens who die in traffic accidents. To top that all off, Minnesota is just one of five states in the country that doesn’t have a teen driving curfew and/or restrictions on the number of passengers outside of family members a teen driver can have in a vehicle.

Here are some quick stats that the Star-Tribune reported over the weekend.

• In 2006, the age group of drivers with the most deaths in Minnesota was 15-19, with 70 people killed. No age group 30 or older had more than 40 deaths.
• Teens make up only seven percent of Minnesota’s drivers but are involved in 14 percent of the crashes.
• Overall traffic accident statistics show that one in eight teen drivers are involved in an accident each year in the state.

Past action by the legislature has put on some restrictions on teen drivers. For several years now Minnesota has had a graduated driving license law that includes these provisions:
• New drivers can’t use a cell phone while on the road.
• All passengers in a car driven by a teen need to be seat-belted.
• Must complete one full year of driving without an alcohol or crash-related violation before they can get a standard driving license.

So what, if anything more, should be done?

Would a curfew curtail a lot of teen driving problems? Most the fatalities listed above happened at late-night or early-morning hours of the day. Or would many teens thumb their nose such rules?

The other common method that states use to deal with the situation is to restrict the number of non-family members in the car while a teen is driving. The thinking is, fewer friends in the car will make for fewer distractions to the driver and more attentive driving. Others say that kind of rule will simply divide up teen drivers between more cars.

What do you think? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Jul
01
2007

Well, folks, the numbers are in.

The awesomely named “Center for Excellence in Rural Safety,” based out of the University of Minnesota, has released a list of the states with the most dangerous rural driving (based on the highest percentages of traffic fatalities occurring on rural roads).
Trust the sign: photo by Mrflip on flickr.com
Trust the sign: photo by Mrflip on flickr.com

July 3 and 4 are the most dangerous days of the year to drive, and, although only a small minority of Americans live in rural areas, the majority of highway deaths occur on rural roads. The reason for this, says CERS, is because the type of accidents that happen on rural roads (head-on collisions, and driving off the roadway) are very dangerous, and because “rural roads, with lighter traffic and pleasant scenery, can easily lull drivers into a false sense of security.”

Here is a portion of the list. Also included are the most frequent reasons for driver distraction in each state.
1) Maine (Trees)

2) North Dakota (Ennui)

3) South Dakota (Buffalo sightings)

4) Iowa (Disorientation)

4) Vermont (Fall colors)

5) Montana (UFOs)

6) Wyoming (Loneliness)
7) South Carolina (Sea monsters)

8) Mississippi (Mildew)

9) Arkansas (Arkansas)

10) West Virginia (Vague nostalgia)

15) Minnesota (An accurate feeling of personal superiority)

18) Wisconsin (Proximity to Minnesota)

Anyhow, if you must leave your house this week, drive safely. And, if you can’t drive yet, repeatedly ask your parents to drive safely.

Nov
28
2006

Roger Ledding, former chief of the Minnesota State Patrol, was on WCCO radio this morning, talking about the high number of traffic accidents during today's am rush hour.

No snow, no ice, so what's the problem?

Well, it's been very dry in the Twin Cities lately. A fine spray of oil from cars routinely covers road surfaces. In very dry weather, that oil can build up. When rain begins to fall, it mixes with the oil and the road surface becomes extremely slippery. It can take a few hours for additional rain to break down and wash away the mess.

Also, this morning's wasn't a gentle, soaking rain, but a downpour. That left standing water on roadways. Drivers traveling too fast found themselves hydroplaning--sliding on a thin film of water, unable to stop or steer.

It's been unseasonably warm, for sure, and I wasn't thinking about hazardous driving conditions on my way in to work this morning. But I will be on the way home...