Bad Driving Habits That Can Get You Killed (Pets)

The Lovable Distraction

Do you take Fido along with you wherever you drive?  Some furry passengers just love to ride!  But traveling with pets in automobiles can be extremely dangerous for you, your family, and your family companion.  While pets are by far the most lovable driving distraction, they can still present a challenge on a par with smartphones and snacks.

Loose pets inside of vehicles can become a deadly distraction for drivers.  A 2011 survey by AAA produced some startling statistics on dogs, driver distraction, and the dangers involved:

29 percent of respondents admit to being distracted by their dog while driving:

52 percent have pet their dog while driving

17 percent allowed their dog to sit in their lap

13 percent of drivers gave food or treats to their dog

4 percent acknowledged playing with their dog

All these behaviors can distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash.

Not only are pets natural-born distracters, they can be seriously injured — and can seriously injure you — if not properly restrained.  Pet restraints can seem so  restraining. But they are the easiest and best method for limiting distraction and protecting you and your pals if a crash occurs.   Without proper restraint, a simple joyride with your four-legged friend could result in harsh consequences for everyone.

An overwhelming 84 percent of survey respondents in the AAA survey, stated that they have driven with their pets on a variety of car trips.  However, only 16 percent use any form of pet restraint system when driving with their dog.   You need to keep your pets from becoming projectiles:

A 10-pound dog that’s not restrained can generate 500 pounds of force in a 50-mph crash.

A 60-pound dog can turn into a 2,700 pound projectile at 35 mph.

An 80-pound dog can generate 2,400 pounds of force in a 30 mph crash.

The use of a pet restraint system can aid in limiting distractions and help protect your pet:

Restraint systems that limit a pet’s ability to distract the driver, restrict pet movement in a crash, and mitigate crash forces are best to use.  You can choose from 3 common options:

  1. Pet seat belts: You’ll need to buy one separately (regular human belts can be dangerous), but they’re often easy to use and work in tandem with your normal seat belt.  Look for a harness that lets your pet sit or lie down, but will keep them restrained in an accident. Check to make sure the pet belt is the right size for your animal. One that’s too big or too small is counterproductive and can cause unnecessary injuries.  Restraining a pet in the back seat is safest for pets.  A car’s airbags can prove deadly to a pet.
  2. Pet carriers: Look for a sturdy carrier with ample ventilation and plenty of room for your pet to turn around and stretch out. Also, make sure you secure the carrier so that it stays safely in place if you suddenly brake or get into a crash.  Padded harnesses with sturdy connectors and straps are available to connect to a vehicle’s seat belt or LATCH system.  Both hard- and soft-sided crates can be used in vehicles, but should always be strapped down. Pet car seats or basket-style holders can be used with smaller dogs.
  3. A wide variety of barrier systems are available to fit various makes and models of vehicles. These can be helpful in reducing doggie distractions, but do not offer protection during a crash.

All of this is to say that driving with pets can be dangerous for both you and your number-one pal.  Finally, keep in mind that if you are in a crash after your pet distracts you, you could be held liable for the damages.



Traffic Laws That Can Get You Killed (Drink, Hit, and Run)

Hit and Run is Serious….BUT Not as Serious as Drunk-Driving

A recent spate of hit-and-run crashes around the city, in which pedestrians in all five boroughs have been killed has focused the spotlight on traffic laws that protect drunk drivers when they flee the scene.  Be aware that when you’re a pedestrian you’re in danger from drunk drivers, even if you’re on the sidewalk.

 The way laws are currently written, leaving the scene before police arrive could actually prevent drunk drivers from being charged  with serious criminal charges, if death or injury occurs.

 Motorist who fail to remain on the scene of an  incident in which they’ve hit and seriously injured someone face a class “E” felony charge and a sentence of up to 15 months to four years behind bars if convicted.   If death occurs the charge increases to a Class “D” felony, with a potential maximum sentence upon conviction of 28 months to seven years in prison.

 If the driver is found  to be drunk when the crash occurred then Class C or Class B felonies would be imposed.   Class C felonies carry a maximum of 15 years in prison and the top sentence for a Class B felony is a maximum of 25 years in prison.

 The disparity in sentences creates an incentive to leave the scene because it’s hard for prosecutors to prove drunk-driving if the driver waits hours or days to report the incident when the alcohol is no longer in his/her system.   It then becomes impossible to determine the alcohol content of the person at the time of the crash.   Furthermore, testing a driver for alcohol after the fact wouldn’t necessarily prove whether the hit-and-run suspect had imbibed before or after the incident.

 And did you know there are circumstances where leaving the scene is legal?   A driver who hits a pedestrian crossing a crowded highway might reasonably fear he could put his own life in jeopardy by stopping in traffic.   Or, a driver who struck somebody on a street might fear remaining in the area if a crowd of seemingly hostile people approached his or her vehicle.  In such instances, the driver can leave, but must immediately report the incident to law enforcement once they are out of danger.

 Drunk-driving is still fairly common so be on guard and make sure you carry insurance for uninsured motorists who leave the scene.

Bad Driving Habits That Can Get You Killed (4-Way Flashers)

Hazard Lights Can Be Hazardous!

Your flashers are supposed to warn drivers that you’re in trouble, and you hope they’ll keep their distance and not crash into you.  Well, just the reverse could be true.  You could be inviting them to hit you.

The only time to use your flashers is when you’re stopped in a traffic lane for whatever reason, most likely car trouble.  You should NOT use them if your car is off the road, in a parking lane or on the shoulder of a highway.

Have you ever heard of the “moth effect?”  Probably not.  But just as moths are attracted to light, drivers seem to be attracted to flashing lights.  So, what’s the problem, right?  Well, maybe you also don’t know that where you look is where you steer – without even knowing it.

So, if you’re on the shoulder of a highway with your flashers on, you are attracting other drivers to, yes, steer into you.  Don’t believe it?   Have you heard of the “Move Over Law/”

Every state has enacted such a law except Hawaii.  In 2010, New York was perhaps the last state to pass such a law.  It is called the Ambrose-Searles Law in memory of two police officers who were killed while standing alongside a vehicle on the shoulder and were struck by a car that steered into them.

So, now the law says that when you approach an emergency vehicle you must not drive in the lane adjacent to the emergency vehicles. You must change lanes, i.e. move over into the middle or left lane.  If it’s not safe to do so, then you must reduce your speed by 15 mph below the speed limit. The fine is $275 and 3 points on your license.

Originally the law classified emergency vehicles as police or ambulance.  But in 2012, the law was amended to include vehicles that flash yellow lights as well, e.g. tow trucks, snow plows and other vehicles performing road maintenance, construction or repair.  The penalty was not changed, however.

Experts, like those at AAA, advise to use the flashers.  Be aware that even bona-fide experts quite often spread Ka-Ka.  The moth effect is real; a tow truck operator was struck and killed near Syracuse while tending to a disabled vehicle on the New York State Thruway.

If you need to stop on the shoulder, hang a brightly colored handkerchief or scarf on the antennae or door handle or hold it in place by closing a window on it.  Raise the hood, also.  Do not use your flashers…and need I say, don’t sit in the car.  Stay far away in case someone does run into it.

 If you’re car becomes disabled and cannot be driven off the road, by all means turn on the flashers.  It would also be a good idea to carry flares and warning signs.  Do not try to push the car off the road.  Do not stay in the car.  These activities are extremely dangerous since we have so many drivers these days who drive distracted and don’t pay attention to what’s up ahead.

Bad Driving Habits That Can Get You Killed (Waving Others)

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Waving Another Driver On Is Courteous!

Waving someone to go is dangerous.  Many people think it’s an act of courtesy to wave somebody on, for instance, the driver going straight may wave the left-turner to go first; a driver may wave pedestrians to cross after stopping for a stop sign.  These are just two examples of an activity that can get you and other people killed .

Let’s analyze the first example.  The left-turner, by law, is supposed to yield t the driver going straight, but the driver going straight is not in a hurry and  as a courteous gesture tells the left-turner to go first.  Anytime you break the law there is a possibility of a crash.   The driver who stops for a left-turner may very well be rear-ended by the car behind who never expected him/her to stop in that situation.  Drivers who know the law expect other drivers to obey the law so they can predict what other drivers will do.

 There was a court case some years ago, where a trucker who was going straight (in the left lane) waved a left-turner to go first.  The left-turner listened and went first and was then hit by a car going straight in the right lane. The trucker was held liable for the crash and charged with impersonating a police officer.  It’s not your job to direct traffic.  You should never tell other people what to do since you can’t control the entire situation. Maybe the left-turner couldn’t see the car coming in the right lane since the truck may have blocked his vision.  And, more than likely, the trucker didn’t check traffic in the right lane before he told the left-turner to go.

 “Courtesy” never supersedes right-of-way laws.  If you’re given the right-of-way, take it.  Doing otherwise can create hazardous situations for others.

 The second example has a similar explanation.  Maybe the pedestrians aren’t crossing because they see something that you don’t see.  You’ve stopped for the sign and you wave the pedestrians to go.  But they see an 18-wheeler coming on your left side, which has no intention of stopping for the stop sign and that’s why they’re not crossing.  Just imagine what would happen if they did listen to you.  You would have caused their death.

 Understand something: the law says you must yield the right-of-way – it does not say you must force anyone to take it.  If you yield and they go, fine.  But if you yield and they don’t go, so be it.  You did your part, you yielded and that’s all that’s expected of you.

 One more thing.  Your license is an individual license, not a team license.  You need to make your own decisions without being “coached” by other drivers. Likewise, you shouldn’t coach other drivers (or pedestrians); let them make their own decisions.

Bad Driving Habits That Can Get You Killed (Stop Signs)

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Stop Signs Are For Pedestrians!


There’s an old joke that you may have heard. A driver rolls through a stop sign and a cop pulls him over to ticket him.  The driver complains saying that he did slow down.  The cop tells him to step out of the car and starts beating him with his night-stick. Then the cop asks, “Would you like me to slow down or stop?”

 There is no such thing as a “rolling” stop. Either you’re stopped or you’re not stopped.  Unfortunately, too many drivers treat stop signs as they do yield signs. You are allowed to roll through yield signs if the way is clear, but you must be prepared to stop if it’s not. So, drivers treat stop signs the same way.

 The law says you must come to a complete stop even with the stop sign or before the crosswalk. Some drivers complain that if they stop at the sign, they won’t be able to see if traffic is coming.  News Flash: you’re not supposed to see traffic from the stop sign. The reason for stopping at the sign is to allow room for pedestrians to cross.  When it’s all clear of pedestrians then you’re allowed to roll up and check traffic.   And if there is traffic coming you must stop again. Just because you stopped at the sign doesn’t mean the cross traffic must yield to you. You still have to yield to the cross traffic.

Something to consider.   If you don’t stop at the sign and you put go too far into the intersection, you might hit by an oncoming car   And then there’s something else to think about.   Even if you plan on stopping beyond the stop sign you might still scare the other driver if he thinks you’re not going to stop. You might even kill him/her by giving them a heart attack. Do it right, obey the law, stop at the sign. Pedestrians matter.

In another blog, I well answer the question as to whether you should wave pedestrians to go when you do stop for them.

Bad Driving Habits That Can Get You Killed (Merging)



Pop quiz: You’re driving in the right lane of a highway.  The speed limit is 55 mph.  You’re approaching an entrance lane and there are cars that need to merge into your lane.

  1. Do you just maintain your speed in the right lane and ignore the situation since you have the right-of-way.
  2. Do you slow down in the right lane to let the other car(s) in?
  3. Do you move over to the middle lane so as not to get involved with the other car(s)?

It’s a common experience for drivers.  Some will move over, some will slow down and others will ignore the situation entirely.  Is there a right answer?  Of course, there is. If you’re an observant driver you would have noticed a sign ¼ mile or ½ mile ahead of the entrance, warning you that you’re approaching an entrance lane (pictured above).   Is it possible you’ve never seen that sign?  Is it possible you never knew what it meant?

Now why should there be a sign warning you there is an entrance up ahead?  Well, because there is danger up ahead.  There are drivers who don’t know how to merge onto a highway, for instance, drivers who don’t understand acceleration lanes or the laws of right-of-way.  There are drivers who shouldn’t be getting on the highway, for instance, unlicensed drivers, drunk drivers, distracted drivers, novice drivers, and permit holders.

Let’s analyze the various solutions cited above.

If you stay in your lane without reducing speed it’s because you think you have the right-of-way over the driver trying to get onto the highway.  Big mistake.  I’ve discussed in previous blogs that the law doesn’t give anyone the right-of-way.  It can only be given to you by the other driver – in this case the driver trying to merge. He/she is supposed to yield to traffic already on the highway – but will they?  What if the driver is drunk, distracted or a novice and doesn’t see you approaching – and doesn’t yield?  The what do you do?  Too late to slow down from 55 mph.  Too late to move over – safely, that is by signaling and checking traffic. You might swerve into another car.  As my headline says, staying in your lane and ignoring the situation is a habit that can get you killed.

What about slowing down?  Well, it sounds like a plan but if there’s another driver tailgating you, which is not uncommon, you will have a rear-end collision.  Do you consider that a good alternative?

Now, about moving over.  You might say that’s not a possibility since there might be a car alongside you.  Well, who put that car alongside you?  You did!  If you had been observant and noticed you were driving alongside another car you could have adjusted your speed to change the position of that car in relation to yours.

Notice I said the warning signs are posted ¼ or ½ mile ahead of the entrance.  The reason for that is to give you enough time to signal, check traffic and adjust your speed (if necessary) in order to make a safe lane change.  If you feel you’re not up to the task, then maybe you shouldn’t be driving on highways.



Bad Driving Habits That Can Get You Killed (Distractions)



More people drive with their eyes closed than drive drunk!  Oh, you didn’t know that people drive with their eyes closed?  It’s absolutely true.

There is the case of a fellow who was driving his family from NY to Alabama.  He was taking his kids to meet his father; the kids never met their grandfather.  The plan was to drive through the night to save money by not stopping at a motel.  Well, somewhere in North Carolina, he fell asleep behind the wheel, drifted into oncoming traffic and wiped out the whole family.  Trying to drive with your eyes closed is a very dangerous behavior.

Then there are those who would say that driving while drowsy (DWD) is common but people don’t purposely drive with their eyes closed and that can’t be more common than drunk driving. Really?

When people drive in dense fog, isn’t that driving with their eyes closed?  It usually leads to multiple car crashes.  There have been crashes where more than 100 cars and trucks were involved.  They were driving in fog and not able to see very far ahead so when they suddenly came upon a crash scene, they also crashed because they couldn’t see that there was a problem up ahead.  Is that not the same as driving with your eyes closed?

Then there’s the case of a 32-year old lady who was texting while driving and also drifted across the center line slamming into an oncoming truck.   If she wasn’t paying attention to the road, could it not be said she was driving with her eyes closed?  And she was not a teenager, the group that usually gets blamed for distracted driving.

Now, it’s true we have plenty of drunk drivers on the road.  But, who among us never, ever drives distracted?  We all do!  And driving distracted is the same as driving with your eyes closed because at that moment you see nothing that pertains to your driving.

And when a driver hits a pedestrian and then jumps out of the car and proclaims, “I didn’t see you!” is that not enough evidence to prove that they were, for all intents and purposes, driving with their eyes closed?

Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute recently completed the largest light-vehicle driving study ever conducted with more than 3,500 participants across six data collection sites in the United States.  The study represents the largest crash database available to date, with more than 1,600 verified crash events ranging in severity from low, such as tire and curb strikes, to severe, including police-reportable crashes.  The report was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  They concluded that drivers more than double their crash risk for more than half of their trips when they choose to engage in distracting activities.  They sited behaviors such as using or reaching for a cell phone, reading or writing, reaching for a non-cell phone object (such as a comb or money), or using touch-screen menus on a vehicle instrument panel as activities that require drivers to take their eyes off the road or, in other words, drive with their eyes closed!

The driving study method pioneered at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute involved equipping volunteer participants’ vehicles with unobtrusive instrumentation – including a suite of cameras, sensors, and radar – that continuously collected real-world driver performance and behavior, from the time the drivers turned on the ignition to the time they turned off their vehicles.

Drivers in the research program participated between one and two years each, resulting in more than 35 million miles of continuous naturalistic driving data that are securely housed in a data warehouse located on-site at the transportation institute.

When analyzing 905 high severity crashes involving injury or property damage, researchers found that, overall, driver-related factors that include fatigue, error, impairment, and distraction were present in nearly 90 percent of the crashes.

People, observation is the name of the game.  Too many drivers think speed is the name of the game.  They mistakenly feel that the faster you can move a car, the better a driver you are.  That’s ka-ka, as I call it.  Every driver who ever crashed thought that they were in control…moments before the crash.  It takes no skill at all to press a gas pedal.  The mark of a truly great driver is how observant they are; what they see and what they’re aware of.  So, make sure your eyes are wide open when driving and use them effectively to scan the road from side to side and far ahead.

Bad Driving Habits That Can Get You Killed (Traffic Lights)







What happens when the “jumper” meets the “beater!”  Have you heard those terms before?

The “jumper” is a very skillful driver who, when waiting at a red-light, watches for the yellow to come on for the other side.   At that point he/she starts moving knowing the green is about to come on, so there’s no need to wait for it.

The “beater” is also a very skillful driver who knows that when the yellow comes on, the red will soon follow.  So, in order not to get stuck for the red-light he/she speeds up to make it through before the red does come on.

Well, now you know what happens when the “jumper” moves before the light turns green and meets the “beater” who is racing through the yellow. They collide.

I’m pretty sure the seniors reading this remember a time when we didn’t have yellow lights.  The traffic signal was just a red-green combination.  And drivers complained bitterly if they got a ticket for going through a red light.  The claimed they needed some kind of warning that the light would change.  The State listened and that’s when the yellow light was added.  So, now, do drivers heed the warning?  Sure they do, but not for the intended purpose.   Now they race like hell when they see yellow to “beat” the red signal.

And when the two collide, they have the nerve to call it an accident.  Bull-dinky!  It is most definitely a crash caused by bad decisions on the part of UNSKILLED drivers — or Movers, as I call them.

Believe it or not, some drivers are now calling for a warning that the yellow is coming on. Maybe a purple light should be added and then the jumpers and beaters can get a bigger head-start.

Comments are always welcomed and I will respond to questions.

Bad Driving Habits That Can Get You Killed (Signalling)




Are you in the habit of signaling?  Do you know what the signaling law says?

Let’s say you’re driving along and you decide to change lanes.  You check your mirrors and you see there are no vehicles behind you (This is not a trick question – no car will fall out of the sky).  You’ve checked thoroughly and there is no one behind you. You even turned your head to make sure there is no one alongside you in that so-called “blind spot.”  The question is, would you signal for that lane change knowing there was no one behind you or on your side?

If you said, “NO,” you do not know law!  Likewise, if you said, “YES,” you also don’t know the law!

The law says you signal the “intention” to do something, whether it be to make a turn, pull away from the curb or change lanes.  It’s the intention, not the execution.  In other words, signaling doesn’t hinge on the traffic situation.  You should signal when the thought enters your head to change lanes – THEN you check the traffic.

And when you do check the traffic, if it’s not safe to change lanes, you don’t have to do it.  You’re only signaling the Intention, not the execution.  So, just keep signaling, keep driving straight, keep checking, and when it’s safe, make the move.

For those who said you wouldn’t signal at all in that situation, I have to wonder if you know there are signal lights on the front of the car.  Now, who would see those signals?  Of course, the oncoming traffic.  So, even if there were no vehicles behind, there might be a vehicle in front of you who needs to see your signal.  For instance, you want to change from the left lane to the right lane, and you don’t signal because there’s no one behind; but, there’s a driver up ahead in a parked car who is ready to pull out into the right lane and has no idea that you plan on moving into the right lane also.  You’re setting up a collision course.

Here’s another common situation.  You come to a stop sign, you see a car approaching so you wait.  When the car gets to the corner where you’re waiting, he/she turns right without signaling.  And, you feel like a fool waiting for a car that’s not going across the intersection.  So, why didn’t that driver signal?  Because there was nobody behind him/her, never thinking that someone up front needed to see the signal.

Everything in driving is a habit. Signaling is a good habit   It’s not a matter of courtesy.  It’s a matter of survival to let others know what you intend to do.  Not signalling is a bad habit that can get you killed.

Traffic Laws That Can Get You Killed (Right-Of-Way)


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In truth, this law will not get you killed! It’s the common misinterpretation that will do you in.  I’m talking about the right-of-way law.

Let’s say two cars approach the same intersection from opposite sides and they both have a green light, but one car wants to go straight and the other wants to make a left-turn.  Does the car going straight have the right-of-way?

Did you say yes? Well, you’re wrong and it’s that exact misinterpretation of the law that can get you killed.  The law doesn’t give anyone the right-of-way.  The law only tells us who is supposed to yield the right-of-way.  For instance, in the example above, there is no law that says the car going straight has the right-of-way.  What the law says is that the car turning left yields to the car going straight.  Most drivers would interpret that to mean tat the car going straight does, in fact, have the right-of-way. Nonsense! Ka-Ka!

For anyone to think that the car going straight has the right-of-way must be a figment of their imagination or wishful thinking or just a misinterpretation of the law.

Let’s explore a few situations. Would you say the car going straight has the right-of-way if the left-turner turns first in the following scenarios?

  1. the left-turner doesn’t know the law.
  2. the left turner doesn’t care about the law. The driver thinks he can “take” the right-of-way and the other driver will allow it in order to avoid a crash.
  3. the left turner is drunk, dozing, texting, eating lunch, putting on makeup, yelling at the kids in the back seat, or changing their underwear, and doesn’t see the oncoming car.
  4. the left-turner is totally alert, knows the law, sees the oncoming car but thinks there is enough time to “make it” because the oncoming car is far enough away or going slowly.

In all four situations, the driver going straight DOES NOT have the right-of-way simply because the left-turner did not give it!

The first situation is common because many drivers movers don’t know the law.  They think the car going straight is supposed to yield to the left-turner.

The second situation is common because there are many lawbreakers out there; they run red-lights, they don’t stop for stop signs, and they never give the right-of-way.

The third situation is very common.  It’s called distracted driving and who among us doesn’t drive distracted?

The fourth situation is also very common when drivers movers make a “race” out of right-of-way.  “I can make it” is what drivers always say just before the crash!

I have a friend who collided with a left-turner. He was going straight at 40 mph in the right lane on a three lane road when a left-turner suddenly cut in front of him.  There were drivers in the left and middle lanes who stopped to avoid a crash. But my friend collided with the left-turner, no doubt, thinking he had the right-of-way

Right-of-way was the main factor in his collision but there were other factors involved as well.  He could have been more observant, scanning the “big” picture to see the left-turner coming.  The drivers in the left and middle lanes saw him, but my friend did not.  Then there is the speed factor. If the speed limit was 40 mph, he should not have been doing 40 mph when approaching an intersection.  The law demands that you approach intersections with caution since there is inherent danger in an intersection.  So, had he been going slower, maybe he could have stopped to avoid the crash.

What you need to learn from today’s lesson is that you don’t have the right-of-way unless it’s given to you.  And the law doesn’t do the giving.  The law cannot and does not give anyone the right-of-way; only the person you’re in conflict with can give it to you.

Comments are always welcomed and I will respond to questions.