Protecting Our Children: Avoiding Accidents When Backing Up

We may not hear about it every day, but it’s astounding just how prevalent this type of accident is. In the U.S. alone, at least 50 children a week are victims of backover incidents, with approximately 48 requiring emergency room treatment for their injuries and two suffering fatal injuries.  These accidents result in about 13,000 injuries and more than 200 fatalities a year.

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DUI Laws in Arizona

So you’ve had one drink. That can’t hurt right? Wrong. In Arizona, that one drink could land you in jail. If you aren’t familiar with Arizona’s Zero Tolerance DUI law, then read on to learn more.

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Driving Scams Everyone Should Be Aware Of

Today’s technology has provided seemingly countless advantages for individuals looking to enhance their own lives and increase their work efficiency. On the flip side, however, some of those same technological advances have opened doors for scammers , hackers, and the like.

When it comes to the world of driving, road travel, and car sales, many would hope that the auto industry would be safe from scams. Unfortunately, from getting cheated on taxi rides to uncovering Mastercard data, driving scams exists all over the world. 

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The Specific Areas of Your Car of which You Need to Be Most Aware

How well do you know your car? The possibility of getting into a car accident can be a scary thought looming over the joys of owning and driving a car. However, did you know that taking simple precautions with your vehicle can go a long way in helping you avoid those accidents?

Being aware of the specific areas of your car that can not only warn you of an impending problem allows you to nip it in the bud and also saves you in case of an accident.

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Car Safety: Comparing the Old With the New

It has been an epic battle for advocates of car safety features over a greater part of the past one hundred years. But the car industry has finally reacted to the growing consumer demand and regulatory pressure with various safety inventions and innovations.

In an attempt to produce cars with better safety features, America has begun a long, complex journey that has recorded quite a number of detours and accidents along the way.

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SB1080 Making Major Changes on Arizona Roads

It looks like Arizona roads are about to become a lot safer, thanks to Senate Bill 1080. On April 20, the Arizona state House gave final approval to legislation banning teens with a learner’s driving permit from texting or making calls from their cell phones behind the wheel. Passing with a 32-24 margin, SB1080 also extends that restriction to the first six months the driver has their actual Class G license, which is reserved for new drivers.

This bill was first introduced to the state senate on January 17, 2017, and just earlier this month, many had doubts that the bill would pass. Rep. Phil Lovas, R-Peoria, who chairs the House Rules Committee, expressed on April 6 that he would refuse to give a hearing to the Senate-passed bill. The Senate had previously approved the bill on a 24-6 margin.

While Lovas claimed that he personally was for the bill, he heard enough concerns from other members to take a bold stance. According to Lovas, once Arizona enacts its first-ever restrictions, no matter how minimal, it potentially becomes easier to expand the law so that more people, not just new drivers, are barred from driving while texting.

This type of thinking is how the term “nanny state” was coined. This describes a situation where the state begins telling people what’s best for them. Those arguments have proven successful in the past, even resulting in lawmakers voting in 1976 to repeal laws requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets.

As it currently stands, Arizona and Montana are the only two states that do not have any restrictions on cell phone use behind the wheel of a vehicle. In fact, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 14 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. 37 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice or teen drivers, and 46 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers.

Unlike laws in other states, SB1080 would make cell phone use and driving for new drivers a secondary offense, meaning the driver could only be issued a ticket for it if they had been pulled over for some other reason, such as speeding.

Despite his threat to squash the bill before it reached the state house floor, it was indeed presented and passed, thanks in a large part to Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, who shepherded SB1080 through the Senate. She expressed that the Rules Committee, unlike other panels, is not supposed to debate the policy merits of a measure. Instead, the only issue for that committee to decide is whether a measure is constitutional and in proper form for consideration by the full House, and SB1080 was approved in both areas.

Now, the bill just needs one remaining signature to become law—Governor Doug Ducey’s. Ducey, who has three sons, two of whom are of driving age, finds this to be a personal bill to him.

That, partnered with the sad statistic that 11 teens die nationally every day while texting and driving, pushes many to believe that Ducey will sign the bill without any hesitation.

While a AAA study found that 94 percent of teen drivers recognize the danger of texting and driving, 35 percent admit to doing it anyways. This gives merit to the importance of the bill and getting it passed.

Ducey is expected to make a decision shortly, so be sure to follow the story for more updates in the coming days.

Wrong Way Drivers in AZ Becoming Frequent Occurrence

On Friday, April 14th at 2 A.M., Keaton Tyler Allison, a 21-year-old student at Grand Canyon University (GCU), was driving the wrong way down Interstate 17. Approaching the Greenway Road exit, Allison collided head on with a driver traveling the right way on the 17. Carrying fellow GCU student Karlie Arlene Richardson, 20, and her sister Kelsey Mae Richardson, 18, neither vehicle made any attempt to brake, and the cars collided at a high rate of speed.

With all three individuals trapped in their vehicles, they were pronounced dead at scene after being extricated by Phoenix fire emergency crews.

Bob Romantic, a spokesman at GCU, released the following statement to students and staff in an email sent early Friday morning: “It is with great sorrow and heavy hearts that we share the news that three people, including two students from Grand Canyon University, were killed in a wrong-way driver accident last night on Interstate 17… As a close-knit community of students, faculty, and staff, please keep these families in your thoughts and prayers during this tragic time.”

The death of these three individuals is heartbreaking, and sadly, not a unique situation in Arizona. In 2016 alone, the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) received more than 1,600 reports of wrong-way drivers, 27 of which resulted in serious injury or death. Of those 1,600 cases, more than 100 of the drivers were arrested with suspicion of impairment.

These incidents didn’t begin in 2016 either. Back in June 2014, ADOT, DPS, and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety held an emergency meeting to help combat the increase in wrong-way driving accidents. At the end of that month, Arizona transportation officials erected new signage at various highway exit ramps throughout the state, including larger “do not enter” signs and an additional “wrong way” sign below. They also painted two large arrows equipped with light reflectors signaling the correct direction of travel.

In 2014, DPS reported fielding an average of 25 calls per month with reports of a wrong-way driver on an Arizona freeway. In 2012, wrong-way drivers played a role in 15 fatalities, and 78 fatalities between 2008 and 2012. So it’s clear that this problem is nothing new, and appears to be worsening.

So what is being done in 2017 to reduce the number of wrong-way drivers and save lives along Arizona freeways?

An ADOT spokesperson says they’ve received an influx of suggestions from the public regarding possible preventative solutions. One mentioned was the use of spike strips, which are used to blow the tires of wrong-way vehicles moving at very low speeds. ADOT will not be utilizing them on Valley highways for a variety of reasons, including:

ADOT admits that there is no perfect solution for stopping wrong-way drivers, especially when drugs and alcohol are involved. They do want the public to be assured, however, that they are working on a solution. In 2017, ADOT began work on a project that would use existing highway sensors to detect wrong-way vehicles and alert police and other drivers. These sensors would also be placed on freeway on-ramps. While there is no exact time frame for when ADOT expects to roll out this technology, they do plan to do so in 2017.

DPS Director Frank Milstead believes that increasing local police traffic squads could also help prevent wrong-way crashes on highways. According to Milstead, wrong-way accidents are often devastating because “the closing speeds are so tremendous” as was the case in Friday’s incident.

Milstead doesn’t believe the freeway system needs a multi-million dollar sensor system. His theory is that budget cuts and shrinking police forces are contributing factors in the crashes. If local traffic enforcement officers can be used to spot and pull over impaired drivers, they’ll never even reach the highways, according to Milstead’s theory.

“We can spend millions and millions of taxpayer dollars to try and defeat this, “ Milstead said in reference to impaired, wrong-way drivers, “but at the end of the day, it’s really upon each of us to defeat the wrong-way driver.”

Talk to Your Teen: What to do After a Car Accident

With prom season officially underway for Tucson high school students, it’s imperative for parents to talk to their children about staying safe on the road—especially on a busy night like prom.

Covering drinking and driving, the importance of wearing a seatbelt, and how many kids are allowed in the car while your teen is driving are all crucial topics to review. In the unfortunate situation, however, that an accident should occur when your teen driver is behind the wheel of the car, you’ll want to discuss what steps your child should take post-accident.

1. Remain calm and pull over.

Faced with an accident on their record and the impending wrath of their parents, some teens may become overwhelmed with anxiety, causing them to flee the scene of an accident. By expressing the importance of remaining calm in an accident, your teen will be able to better handle the situation they are facing, and stay put to work through the next steps.

2. Check for injuries on your passengers and in the other car.

While an accident is frustrating, especially when it’s not your fault, what’s most important is that everyone is safe and there are no injuries. If someone in your party or in the other vehicle is injured, your first move should be to call 911 and request an ambulance.

3. Call the police.

Even if everyone in your car is unharmed, you’ll want to call 911. Based on the severity of the accident, they’ll be able to tell you whether an officer needs to come out to the scene of the crash to fill out a report, or if you can fill one out at your local police station.

4. Document the damage.

When getting out of your car to interact with the other driver, make sure you don’t admit fault. Checking to make sure they’re physically and emotionally okay is the right thing to do, but avoid statements such as “I’m sorry” or “I have no idea what happened.” With your smartphone, begin taking photos of each vehicle and the surrounding area. You may also find it helpful to jot down a few notes to help you remember details of the collision.

5. Exchange information.

Even if very little damage has been done to either vehicle, always make sure you get the other driver’s full name, contact information, and insurance paperwork. Take pictures of their driver’s license and insurance card to ensure you don’t run into any issues down the road. You will also need to be prepared to provide the same information of yours to the other driver.

6. Call your parents.

While the next logical step for an adult would be to call your insurance company regarding repairing your vehicle, your teen doesn’t need to be involved in that process. Urge your teen driver to call you and have you meet them at the scene. Parents, remember that you too need to stay calm. Once you have a clear understanding of the situation, call your insurance company for more information.

It’s crucial for drivers to remember that while their insurance company may have recommended collision centers, you have the ultimate power and can make your own decision on where you get your car fixed. Make sure you read online reviews before making a decision about where to get your vehicle repaired.

So as the big dance is just a couple days away, make sure you sit down with your student to review the steps listed above.

The Harsh Reality of Teen Drivers

When it comes to teen drivers, it’s no secret that they have a bad reputation. All one has to do is type “teen driver” into a Google search and find dozens of articles related to texting while driving, accident statistics among younger drivers, and the list goes on.

Car manufacturers and independent companies alike are creating software to be installed in new vehicle models to help combat the dangers that come with a teen behind the wheel of a car. For example, General Motors recently released their active safety technology called Teen Driver. This software allows parents to view their teen’s driving habits and use the information to continue to coach their new drivers, even when they can’t be in the car.

Producing a report card at the end of each ride, Teen Driver reports the maximum speed reached, stability control events, forward collision alerts, and more. These categories touch on the biggest issue teen drivers face: inexperience.

While distracted driving does play a role in many of the teen-related accidents, inexperience is the underlying cause. According to a study done by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, lack of scanning the roadway, driving too fast for conditions, and distraction by something inside or outside the vehicle were the most common errors leading to a crash involving a teen driver.

With motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, this is something that parents, fellow drivers, and industry leaders alike must be looking into. And while campaigns like “Don’t Text and Drive” and innovative technology such as tXtBlocker have begun to chip away at the problem, in 2014 alone, 2,270 teens in the U.S. ages 16-19 were killed and 221,313 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes.

So what can parents do to help change the harsh realities of teen drivers on the road? First, they must take time to actually teach their child to drive. Studies show that the more the parent is involved when a teen is learning, the lower their chances are for a crash. While many states only require 50 hours or drive time before obtaining a license, parents should be striving to log more hours of time spent with them in the passenger seat, and their teen in the driver seat.

Secondly, both parents and non-parents alike can support local legislation to help achieve better road safety for everyone. AAA Arizona is advocating for Senate Bill 1080, which would prohibit teen drivers from the use of all wireless communication devices.

Arizona and Montana are the only two states that do not ban texting while driving for all or most motorists, so drivers can also rally for safer roads by pushing to eliminate texting while driving for all drivers, not just those in the teen age bracket.

Recent studies have found that teens who have been involved in a severe collision—defined as “police-reportable” and causing major damage, airbag deployment, injury or a rollover— experience an immediate change in their driving habits. In some cases, risky driving dropped by 34 percent.

The focus now, however, is to change the mentality of teen drivers before an accident ever occurs, and better teach and prepare them for the responsibility of operating a vehicle. Only then will we see a decrease in vehicle-related deaths for drivers of all ages.

ADOT: Taking Highway Traffic Signs to the Next Level

It may be biased to say, but when it comes to Arizona, we seem to do everything better than the rest. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is no exception, and their handiwork on freeway signs throughout the Valley is proof of that.

One of the most important things to know about the Arizona traffic safety sign rules is that they are more permissive than most. And there is a reason behind that; regular traffic signs just don’t catch the driver’s attention. Without a little creativity, and in most cases, a whole lot of humor, most signs go unnoticed by those driving by.

It is because of this reason that ADOT started an exciting campaign designed to boost traffic safety. Rather than the boring “Stay safe and buckle up” phrases, they are utilizing references to many items in pop culture that are trending at the time.

If you’ve been on an Arizona freeway recently, you’ve likely seen references to Adele, Star Wars, Pokémon Go!, and even guacamole. With creativity like that, it’s safe to say that the entire experience is designed to catch the driver’s attention, as well as stress the importance of staying safe on the road, which is the goal ADOT has set out to reach. They stress that the signs are meant to be both serious and fun.

According to ADOT, the signs help reinforce the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan, which aims to cut down on DUIs, speeding, aggressive driving, distracted driving, failure to use seatbelts, and other bad driving behaviors.

With a few jokes and simple messages, each Arizona traffic sign will be able to save lives more efficiently. As safe as we may try to be on the road, and on the freeway specifically, it’s all too easy to get distracted. With an eye-catching sign, drivers are reminded to focus on the road, all while enjoying their commute a little more.

While ADOT has done an excellent job with the content they’ve come up with so far, they’re looking for a little help from Arizona locals. Drivers in the area can share their submissions with ADOT until February 19, and the best 15 messages will advance to the next round. In March, the public can then vote on which signs should be showcased on the road starting in April. To submit your own idea, just visit: http://azdot.gov/about/transportation-safety/safety-message-contest

Regardless of the messages picked, one thing is for certain; Arizona drivers can admire the commitment shown by ADOT for road safety, and we can all look forward to the creative signs in April!