Part one of two safe driving holiday articles
Again this year, more and more drivers are expected on the road this 2017 holiday season. It’s a good time for our yearly column on the dangers of drinking and driving as DUI arrests continue to be a major problem nationwide. The following story is a too often repeated occurrence that plagues our nation’s highways and centers on a car loving enthusiast who owns a beautiful 1970 Dodge Challenger 383 R/T.
This is the saga of young Joe, a fun loving 23-year-old who is full of life, has lots of friends and is a good person. He loves to drive his Challenger R/T whenever he can and since Joe lives in a warm climate state, taking his car out during Christmas holiday is a yearly routine.
Joe could be your son, sibling, parent, friend or even your husband. He’s having a great time at a holiday party, joining in on all the fun. He’s had one drink too many, but still feels he’s OK to drive his Challenger home.
It’s 1:30 a.m. and Joe is heading home and thank goodness he’s alone in his Challenger. Joe is oblivious to the fact that on this night he’ll become one of the more than 38,500 estimated drivers that will die in car accidents in 2017. In 2016, 37,461 lives were lost on U.S. roads, an increase of 5.6 percent from calendar year 2015.
Further final 2016 NHTSA stats related directly to young Joe’s accident include: Drunk-driving deaths (10,497 fatalities) increased by 1.7 percent; speeding-related deaths (10,111 fatalities) increased by 4.0 percent; unbelted/seat belt not used deaths (10,428 fatalities) increased by 4.6 percent.
These are alarming statistics, especially considering the modern day car and truck safety enhancements that Joe’s car did not have. Also, the actual number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on U.S. roads in 2016 increased by 2.2 percent, and resulted in a fatality rate of 1.18 deaths per 100 million VMT — a 2.6-percent increase from the previous year.
Further, Joe’s fatality will be recorded in the 25 percent group of impaired driving fatalities that occur between 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) closely tracks all data available on alcohol related crashes and fatalities, and stress that drunk driving is often a symptom of a larger problem, specifically alcohol misuse and abuse.
Back to Joe.
Joe is not aware he is speeding at 65 mph and approaching a curve in the highway that should be taken at 35 mph. His reactions, meanwhile, have been diminished by his alcohol consumption and his cell phone starts to ring. He’s now further distracted to add to his delayed driving reactions.
Joe is going too fast to make the curve. To make matters even worse, he also forgot to buckle his seatbelt when he left the party. Before Joe even knows what is happening, his car is off the country road and headed directly toward a huge tree. His 1970 Challenger muscle car does not have airbags.
There is no correcting. Joe’s car hits the tree with a resounding crunch.
At 1/10th of a second, the car’s front bumper and grillwork collapse.
At 2/10ths of a second, the hood crumbles, rises, and smashes into the windshield. The grillwork now disintegrates.
At 3/10ths of a second Joe is sprung upright from his seat. His legs are immediately broken, and his knees crash against the dashboard. The steering wheel bends under his grip.
At 4/10ths of a second, the front of the car is completely destroyed and is now dead still. However, the rear end of the car is still traveling at 55 mph, and the 785-lb. Challenger 383 Magnum V8 engine and accessories are crunched into the tree.
At 5/10ths of a second, the impact rips Joe’s shoes clean off his feet. The Challenger’s chassis bends in the middle, and Joe’s head is slammed into the windshield. The car’s rear-end begins its downward fall as the spinning wheels churn into the ground.
At 6/10ths of a second, the entire body of the Challenger is twisted out of shape while the front bucket seat continues to ram forward.
At 7/10ths of a second, Joe’s chest is pinned against the steering wheel shaft. His internal organs crash against his rib cage.
At 8/10ths of a second, Joe is dead. He’s now a statistic.
If you plan to host a party this holiday season or a gathering for the New Year, remember that you can be held liable and prosecuted if someone you serve alcohol to ends up in a crash. Please make sure all of your alcohol consumption guests designate sober drivers in advance, or help them arrange alternate transportation. Have phone numbers for taxi cab or Uber drivers available; and finally, have everyone put their keys into a large bowl when entering the party and then refuse to give keys back to intoxicated guests.
In summary, it’s not just young drivers like Joe who die on our nation’s highways. Many adult drivers become statistics from similar alcohol induced or distracted driving mistakes. Plan your travel carefully this holiday season, and never be in a hurry. If roads turn nasty, pull off safely at a roadside rest stop or have a coffee at restaurant.
Finally, if you must stop your vehicle to rest, never pull off and stop on the freeway shoulder or side of a road — it’s dangerous sitting there as the odds of being struck by an oncoming vehicle is very high.
Keep in mind that more deaths per mile traveled occur during holiday season.
Have a safe 2017 Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, et al. and overall blessed holiday season.
Next week, we’ll look at distracted driving in all its forms and why driver phone texting/distraction continues to be a driving nightmare.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media publications.
Cars We Remember; The Saga of Young Joe
Part one of two safe driving holiday articles