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Dumb and Dumber: America's Driver Education is Failing Us All

Biking ElsewhereBY MARK RECHTIN, Motor Trend

Driver’s education is usually taught in high school health class. In those very same underfunded schools that can barely afford math and science textbooks, we are trying to teach adolescents how to pilot two-ton death machines.
...

An eight-year study by the University of Nebraska showed that young drivers who dodged proper driver’s education are 75 percent more likely to get a traffic ticket, 24 percent more likely to be involved in an accident causing death or injury, and 16 percent more likely to have an accident of any kind. And that’s with our bare-bones system in place.

By comparison, a German driver’s license requires a minimum of 25 to 45 hours of professional driving instruction plus 12 hours of theory and eight hours of first aid training. In other words, you know what you are doing when you get your first set of car keys. Comparable German and U.S. federal data shows that young American drivers’ injury-crash rates have declined only slightly since 1990 while young German drivers’ injury-crash rates have dropped by more than half in the same period.

How our DMVs handle failure is appalling, too. When California discovered that only 45 percent of applicants passed its written test, rather than requiring better driver education, its DMV essentially made the test easier.

In America, we treat a driver’s license as a right, not a privilege. We beta-test our children on the open road, and the results are no surprise: The fatal crash rate per mile driven for 16- to 19-year-olds is triple the rate for the rest of the population, according to NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

What’s more, newly minted 16- to 17-year-olds are twice as likely to die in crashes as 18- to 19-year-olds are. How many times does a young driver’s first brush with hydroplaning or an icy road result in an accident? Was it because behind-the-wheel instruction never required such training?
,,,

This lack of road knowledge continues as people age. An online test created by an insurance clearinghouse shows that more than half of all Americans of any driving age are still unable to pass a standard rules of the road test.
...

The Cheap Insurance folks broke out the test performance data by age range, and it asserted that pretty much everyone lacks requisite automotive knowledge: Not only do Americans not know what they are doing behind the wheel, but they also don’t know they are doing it wrong.

Given that the DMV basically rubber-stamps driver’s license renewals, is it any wonder that no one bothers to brush up on their knowledge or skills? Perhaps it’s time for America to re-evaluate what is required to be allowed to pilot death machines down our nation’s roads.

http://www.motortrend.com/news/dumb-dumber-americas-driver-education-failing-us-reference-mark/
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Vision Zero is so 20 years ago. It's time for Moving Beyond Zero.

Biking ElsewhereBy Lloyd Alter, Treehugger

In North America, even when cities talk Vision Zero, they don't really mean it. They don't really want to understand it because it goes against what they really care about, which is making the world safe for cars. So they make up their own version.
...

In true Vision Zero, there is one cardinal rule: “Human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system.” This differs from North America, where deaths on the road are the cost of doing business.

Vision Zero uses a "safe systems approach" that assumes that people make mistakes on the road, and that if there are crashes, it is a design problem. And one design problem they had in Sweden is that sometimes design solutions that worked with cars made life harder for cyclists.

This is a problem and seeming paradox that should be borne in mind. On the one hand we have the noble goal of zero fatalities, but on the other we have to ensure that a road safety intervention does not act as a barrier to active healthy modes of transport like cycling and walking, even if the road safety intervention is effective.

@TheOnion
Study: 90% Of Bike Accidents Preventable By Buying Car Like A Normal Person https://trib.al/V4XfT9G
...

One thing that has changed since Vision Zero started is bike technology, and in particular the use of what they call Electric Power Assisted Cycles (EPACs).

EPACs are providing users, including the elderly and disabled, with much-needed daily exercise, extending and increasing their quality of life. It is, however, in the field of commuting that the potential for EPACs is being most realised. Longer distance car journeys can now be substituted by active bicycle use in the form of electrically assisted bikes.
...

One in four persons in the EU suffers from a mental health condition during their lifetime. Cycling’s contribution to better cardiovascular health delays dementia. Cycling can improve brain function and mental health. It also helps counter cognitive declines including memory, executive function, visuospatial skills, and processing speed in normally aging adults.

Promotion of cycling also improves cities; it gets people out of cars, making the roads better for everyone.

Studies have shown that initiatives that support active transport in urban areas decrease traffic mishaps while improving people movement and encouraging commerce and employment. But cycling investments don't just benefit cyclists. Bus routes can run 10% faster and with greater punctuality, and traffic mishaps can be cut by 45%, as examples from Copenhagen show.
...

https://www.treehugger.com/urban-design/vision-zero-so-20-years-ago-its-time-moving-beyond-zero.html
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New cars increasingly crammed with distracting technology

Biking ElsewhereWASHINGTON (AP) — The infotainment technology that automakers are cramming into the dashboard of new vehicles is making drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time, an AAA study says.

The study released Thursday is the latest by University of Utah professor David Strayer, who has been examining the impact of infotainment systems on safety for AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety since 2013. Past studies also identified problems, but Strayer said the “explosion of technology” has made things worse.
...

“It’s adding more and more layers of complexity and information at drivers’ fingertips without often considering whether it’s a good idea to put it at their fingertips,” Strayer said. That complexity increases the overall amount of time drivers spend trying to use the systems.
...

https://apnews.com/62ae17477d3a49fa849a42e932e64ae7
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How Ethical Is Your Driving?

Biking ElsewhereBy Angie Schmitt, Streets Blog

Americans 16 and older spend almost an hour a day on average behind the steering wheel, according to AAA — more time than they spend socializing with other people [PDF]. That works out to 290 hours a year, or a little more than seven 40-hour work weeks.

Perhaps because driving is so routine here, we tend not to give it much thought. For most Americans, driving is an unremarkable activity. It’s easy to turn the ignition and let our mental autopilot take over.

But we’re still making weighty decisions behind the wheel — we’re just not very aware of them. Our driving behavior can be a matter of life or death for ourselves, our loved ones, and total strangers. Around 40,000 Americans were killed on the roads last year, and millions more were injured.

Serious crashes aren’t so frequent that people have to confront death and injury on a daily basis. And that can lull us into overlooking the potential for severe consequences when making decisions that feel mundane. Decisions like whether to hit the gas or the brake when approaching a yellow light. Or whether to reach for your cell phone on the passenger seat while you’re cruising down a familiar street. Or whether to do a shoulder check for pedestrians and cyclists before making a turn.
...

Nothing alerts you to the extent of driver inattention, carelessness, and aggression quite like walking with little kids. I have learned, for example, that drivers aren’t necessarily more cautious around people who are visibly pregnant or have a baby in a stroller. But some do seem to at least slow down when they see you crossing the street with an unrestrained toddler.

I think I’ve also become a more considerate driver. It’s not enough to merely take care not to hit pedestrians (which is still a higher bar than a lot of drivers meet). I try to drive in a way that puts people outside the car at ease and won’t register as a potential risk to them.
...

Many people set out on a driving trip with one goal: to make it as short as possible. But the idea that we can control our travel time through our driving is mostly an illusion. Speeding, even on very long journeys, isn’t the time saver we might assume.

What we can control, to a much greater degree, is the potential for harm caused by our driving.

In his book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What it Says About Us), Tom Vanderbilt writes that the act of driving distorts human behavior in a few important ways. One is that it insulates us from feedback. If you do something anti-social while driving, there is no mechanism to receive the kind of negative reinforcement you would in a face-to-face setting. You might get honked or cursed at, but soon enough you’ll be on your way.
...

That’s part of why driving is so morally weighty. It has the power to cause great harm, while also shielding people in a cloak of anonymity. This is a great temptation for some people — maybe most — whose urge is to see how much they can get away with. Resisting this urge means thinking outside yourself and applying some ethical calculus to the situation.
...

Now, speed-related collisions are responsible for about as many deaths each year — 10,000 — as drunk driving. We need to change how people view what’s right and wrong when they’re behind the wheel. What would it take for people to start thinking of common behaviors that pose grave risks — like texting and driving, or speeding, or failing to pay attention to people walking and biking — in the same moral terms that they now view drunk driving?

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2017/07/14/how-ethical-is-your-driving/
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'Bike theft is not inevitable': Vancouver rolls out a cycle crime revolution

Biking Elsewhere[B' Spokes: I'll acknowledge Baltimore police have a lot worse problems than bicycle theft but that too is a problem. To perpetually let bike thievery go unpunished is not a solution. I will also assert that this issue plays a part in our bike share issues. If people learn that the police are not concerned about bike thefts then the problem expands to all bikes. My idea is to get Baltimore police to focus on this issue at least once a year, that would be a start.]

Bike theft is the scourge of cyclists around the world, with riders, manufacturers and the law struggling to coordinate a response. That was until city cop Rob Brunt and Xbox pioneer J Allard devised Project 529

By Tom Babin, The Guardian

...
The experience rattled him. Not only did he feel victimised, he was bothered by the lacklustre police response. He started to look into why bike theft had come to seem like a problem without a solution, accepted by so many as an unavoidable part of urban life.
...

“I just couldn’t accept the answers to the questions I was asking after my bike was stolen,” he says over a beer at a Vancouver pub. “I reject the notion that getting a bike stolen is just part of riding a bike.”
...

But bike theft is rampant in cities all over the world. In London, about 20,000 bikes are reported stolen every year; 72 went missing from Milton Keyes station alone last year. Theft costs Portland $2m (£1.5m) a year, and that’s just the bikes which are reported stolen. A 2015 report by the Netherlands’ Central Bureau of Statistics stated that the 630,000 thefts reported to police constituted only about 30% of the total that went missing.
...

https://amp.theguardian.com/cities/2017/nov/07/theft-bike-app-vancouver-project-529-j-allard-xbox
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Fire Department’s New ‘Vision Zero’ Truck

Biking ElsewhereEngine is Designed to Navigate Bulb Outs and Protected Bike Lanes

By Roger Rudick, Streets Blog

,,,
“This fire engine is narrower, not as long, and has a better turning radius,” said San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White. “It’s a beautiful piece of equipment.”
...

Rivera may have been referring to tensions between SFMTA and the fire department over building parking-protected bike lanes on Upper Market Street and in the Tenderloin. The department, he said, is also looking to buy more versatile aerial ladder trucks to accommodate parking-protected bike lanes and other street safety improvements. “We’re working on a new spec for an aerial ladder truck … a redesigned outrigger system will go from sixteen feet to fourteen feet.”

“Safety is a value and a priority the SFBC and the SFFD share,” said the Bicycle Coalition’s Brian Wiedenmeier, who also spoke at the event. He added that he hopes the truck will help the city “build the safe streets we need.”

https://sf.streetsblog.org/2017/11/03/fire-departments-new-vision-zero-truck/
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THE MYTH OF A DISTRACTED WALKING CRISIS

Biking ElsewhereBy MIKE BOOS, TriTag

... It’s the latest in a series of so-called “zombie walking” laws intended to crack down on the alleged scourge of “distracted walking.”

In any legislation intended to alter behaviour, three questions should be asked. First and foremost: is the issue actually a problem? Second, will the proposed measures actually work to address the issue? Finally, would the measures have any other consequences that should be weighed against the assumed benefits?

So, is distracted walking a pressing issue? Anecdotally, many drivers will tell you it is. But what do the numbers show? We’ve seen a steady rise in distracted driving collisions as mobile phones become more prevalent, so we might expect a similar trend with walking. We’ve plotted both over the last two decades in Ontario:
...

http://www.tritag.ca/blog/2017/11/02/the-myth-of-a-distracted-walking-crisis/
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How America’s Staggering Traffic Death Rate Became Matter-of-Fact

Biking ElsewhereBy Angie Schmitt, Streets Blog

How did more than 30,000 annual motor vehicle deaths become something that most Americans accept as normal? A new paper by Boston University professor Itai Vardi tries to answer that question.
...

His work is in a similar vein to University of Virginia professor Peter Norton, whose book Fighting Traffic recounts how the forces of “motordom” reshaped American streets by changing how people thought about cars in the city. Like Norton, Vardi has identified key conceptual frameworks that eventually led people to adopt the “matter-of-fact” tone we use to discuss today’s staggering rate of traffic deaths.

Vardi’s research encompasses historical accounts from media outlets, auto and insurance industry publications, activist groups, and, eventually, federal safety agencies. Here are three big factors that, according to Vardi, shaped the modern American view of traffic violence.

1. Thinking of traffic deaths in terms of fatalities per mile driven

[B' Spokes: If it interesting that MDOT chooses to advertise Maryland's fatality rate per miles driven which is near average but not our fatality rate per capita, which is rather high. But as the article points out it does seem the main point is to give a smaller number so lots of deaths does not seem so bad.]
...

2. “Saving Lives”
...

Vardi calls “saving lives” — which is actually part of NHTSA’s motto — “a rhetorical device to meet institutional goals.”

Forecasting future deaths, Vardi writes, also sidesteps the tricky question of what is an acceptable number of deaths.
...

3. Seatbelts and Drunk Driving

Finally, once highway safety was placed in the hands of “dispassionate” federal agencies, they framed the problem as one of individual mistakes or mechanical failures, rather than systemic flaws. This paradigm was, ironically, advanced by the Ralph Nader-led reforms of the 1960s aimed at car manufacturers, Vardi says.

For example, the top chart, published in 1933 by the Travelers Insurance Company, omits structural contributions to the high rate of traffic deaths — such as street design and poor non-automotive travel options.
...

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/09/14/how-americas-staggering-traffic-death-rate-became-matter-of-fact/
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Cars overwhelmingly cause bike collisions, and the law should reflect that

Biking ElsewhereBy Soufiane Boufous, The Conversation

...
To keep our cyclists safe, it may be time to adopt the approach of many European nations by introducing legislation that, in civil cases, presumes that car drivers caused a collision unless there is evidence to the contrary.

Shifting the burden of proof to drivers – who must prove they didn’t cause a crash – has been highly successful in other nations, along with other measures, in keeping cyclists safer and reducing accidents.

Cars generally cause collisions
...

These results are similar to a Monash University study in which researchers examined camera footage of similar incidents. They found that drivers were responsible for the actions preceding the incident in 87% of cases.
...

https://theconversation.com/cars-overwhelmingly-cause-bike-collisions-and-the-law-should-reflect-that-78922
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Everyone should wear helmets. So why pick on cyclists?

Biking ElsewhereBy Lloyd Alter, Treehugger

[B' Spokes: My favorite points. If the goal is to prevent the most head injuries then car drivers need to wear a helmet. And if cyclists should wear a helmet then pedestrians even more so. Complete with a chart.]

https://www.treehugger.com/bikes/everyone-should-wear-helmets-so-why-pick-cyclists.html
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