No one gets behind the wheel of a car with the goal of being a dangerous driver. That said, there are driving habits and behaviors that everyone is guilty of (often without realizing it) that increase the odds of getting into a traffic accident. So it's in everyone's best interest to try to be the safest drivers that he or she possibly can.
One way to achieve that goal is to enroll in an online drivers' education course (even before you get a ticket!) John McGrane is the social media director for idrivesafely.com, a website which provides several types of these courses in over two dozen states. We asked him to tell us how Americans can become safer drivers. What was the impetus behind idrivesafely.com?
I DRIVE SAFELY started when the two co-founders Gari Garimella and Rick Hernandez each received a speeding ticket back in 1998. At the time, the only option for getting the ticket removed from your record was taking an 8-hour traffic course in a classroom on the weekends. They wanted to create a more effective way of taking traffic school. I DRIVE SAFELY is now approved in more than 25 states.
What makes your site different from most other online driving course sites?
I DRIVE SAFELY’s ultimate goal consists of three main components: knowledge, behavior, and skills. Improving skills comes through getting in a car and practicing, but I DRIVE SAFELY helps build drivers' knowledge of safe driving habits, which will ultimately affect behavior. I DRIVE SAFELY is highly invested in creating a world full of better drivers. Most other online driving courses are simply putting together the minimum amount of information necessary to gain approval from any given state.
Are most driving courses just a rehashing of the same information that drivers learned in driving school classes when they were teenagers?
No. Most online defensive driving schools simply repeat what is on their state's teen drivers' education course, which is usually a copy of what is in their state’s DMV handbook. I DRIVE SAFELY hires top subject matter experts to create interactive courses and content which are highly recognized in the industry.
What do you say to people who tell you, "I'll just pay the speeding ticket. It's not worth the hassle of taking a driving course."?
It is much better in the long run to take traffic school to have the ticket erased from your record. Not only do you get a refresher course in traffic laws and safety, but the impacts of getting a traffic ticket last much longer after the original infraction. Not only do you have to pay the fine, but your auto insurance company is sure to raise your monthly premiums. The most common ticket in the U.S. is speeding 1 to 14 mph over the speed limit and that will raise your rates an average of 11%. These spikes in your premiums can last years and cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars over time.
What do you say to people who tell you, "I don't have four consecutive hours to spend in front of a computer taking a driving course."?
One of the many advantages of an online driving course like I DRIVE SAFELY is that you can take it whenever you do have time and complete the course a little bit at a time. Taking a course online doesn’t restrict you to a strict schedule like taking an 8-hour course in a classroom.
In recent months (or years), have you noticed any trends in the types of moving violations issued or the demographics of people who are in need of driver's safety courses? Or do those categories remain fairly constant?
We haven’t noticed any trends in terms of the type of traffic violations being issued. However, one trend that we have seen is that more and more teens are opting not to take Drivers' Ed and are waiting until they are 18 years old to get their license because most states do not require adults to take a Drivers' Education class. This is worrisome because more and more people are getting on the road for the first time without completing proper drivers' education and safety training. The two primary causes for this trend can be attributed to the rising cost of gas and the fact that drivers' education has been removed from the public education system in the United States.
What are some of the most dangerous driving practices that are prevalent today in America?
Speeding and driving under the influence have always been big problems in the United States (and continue to be), but distracted driving is quickly becoming an epidemic. Texting while driving, talking on the phone, and other distractions have sharply escalated over the last year and are responsible for more and more collisions.
What benefits does a driving course provide other than addressing an outstanding traffic ticket?
When you consider what we identified to be the three fundamentals of driving -- knowledge, behavior, and skills -- taking a driving course improves your knowledge of traffic laws and safety tips. Participating in a driving course is a proactive way of increasing your safety and the safety of others while on the roads. We highly recommend that everyone take at least one drivers' education course, even if it is not required by law in your state. There are also states which will allow drivers (usually over a certain age) to take an online defensive driving class in exchange for having their monthly insurance premium reduced. This is another great benefit of taking a online driving course.
Where do you see your website in 3 to 5 years?
We want to become a lifetime partner for safe driving with our customers. We offer courses at every stage of a driver’s life -- from teen drivers' education to senior insurance premium reduction programs. I DRIVE SAFELY is already the industry leader, and as our user base grows and we offer more courses, we plan to become a household name in the near future.
We have made substantial investment in drivers' education content and technology, and we are dedicated to staying focused on our goal of reducing collisions and being the industry leader. If you would like to learn more about our courses, please visit www.idrivesafely.com. If you become a Friend of I DRIVE SAFELY on Facebook, you will save 20% on any course you take!
Tags: Safe Driving, idrivesafely.com, Gari Garimella, Rick Hernandez, Avoid Speeding Ticeket
David Strickland does not like the DVD player installed in your car, or the computer in the dashboard. He's not a big fan of the Ford Sync, and he probably doesn't even like your car radio if it's too loud. Who, you might ask, is this buzz kill who hates all this stuff that makes driving fun? The administrator of the National Highway Safety Administration, that's who.
And he's not an uptight Puritan, either. His concern is purely safety: namely distracted driving.
Distracted driving is a real problem. You're probably most familiar with it from laws being passed making texting while driving a crime, but that's just one aspect of it. A lot of people are hurt and killed when a driver picks the wrong moment to go flick the radio volume knob up a few notches or adjust the thermostat in the vehicle. Ever wonder why steering wheels all have volume controls now? It's proven to reduce injuries and fatalities.
The jury is still out on items such as hands-free systems for cell phones. Depending on who you ask, they at least manage to keep both hands on the wheel instead of one ear plugged and one hand holding up the phone, or they just exacerbate the problem, impairing the driver as much as slamming two shots of tequila before hitting the road.
Strickland made this proclamation right in the middle of a huge conference to -- get this -- make cars as distracting as possible. Well, not literally, but figuratively. He noted that he “wasn't in the business of helping people post on Facebook better, ” which was obviously squarely aimed at the Chevy Cruze, which makes a bit of a big deal out of the fact that it can read you your Facebook posts while you drive. In fact, social networking in cars is increasingly becoming a big deal, with built-in apps to access your various social media accounts to keep you updated while you drive and, of course, to let you update.
Personally, we kind of wonder what could be so exciting that your car needs to tweet about it, but that's just us.
What Strickland is concerned about is “cognitive distraction.” That is, you take your mind off the task at hand to focus on something else, like the fact that your girlfriend just dumped you through Facebook. While the NHTSA is concerned about people taking their eyes off the road or their hands off the wheel, it's the cognitive impairment that really concerns them.
Does this mean that social networking systems and other gimmicks are going to be outlawed in vehicles? It’s possible, but unlikely. Texting while driving was kind of a no-brainer: hands, eyes and mind all off the road at once was a pretty simple call. But good luck getting cell phones banned from cars: we've been talking in our cars for decades.
Mostly the concern right now is teenagers, who are, of course, very easily distracted by their friends, their phones, and just about anything that has a touch screen. Everyone agrees that teenagers shouldn’t have cars that tweet, on general principle if nothing else. But for the rest of us? In the end, it might be up to us to prove we can handle tweeting hands-free in our fancy new cars.
If you need car insurance, check out SafeAuto.com.
Tags: safe auto, safeauto, distracted driving, social networking, chevy cruze
Auto Insurance | Safety Tips
Do you remember the dramatic video of an SUV cornering and nearly falling over? Consumer Reports put that together back when SUVs were considered “death traps.” Car insurance rates went up for SUV-drivers as a result. But it seems that that time has come and gone, and now SUVs are the safest cars on the road.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety now says that SUVs are extremely safe, thanks to the addition of Electronic Stability Control (ESC). But how ironic; SUVs (also known as gas guzzlers) have been recognized as the safest cars, just in time for gas prices to go through the roof, and fuel-efficient, four-door minicars are among the most dangerous deathtraps. While SUVs average 28 deaths per 100,000, smaller cars average 82.
The common wisdom about SUVs turns out to be true: their size and weight does protect the driver in a crash. And, ironically, the size and popularity of SUVs are the problem for smaller cars: in collisions involving two or more cars, the death rate rose dramatically when a small car hit a larger one.
So, is it really a tradeoff? Can we only have safety if we're willing to pay for it? Can we only have fuel efficiency if we risk our necks? Fortunately, the answer to both questions is “no.” You can drive an SUV and still save on gas...well, somewhat, anyway. How?
At the end of the day, safety is fairly relative: car crashes are still unfortunately very common in the United States, and we all have to do our part to avoid being involved in them or causing them in the first place. If we all put safety first, the road will be a better place, no matter what we drive.
Tags: safe auto, safeauto, fuel efficiency, safe car
Auto Insurance | gas | Safety Tips
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There are many bad drivers out there on the road. Play It Safe with helpful tips, articles, videos, and of course, examples of what not to do. Brought to you by SafeAuto Insurance Company.