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Other People Make Mistakes, Slow Down
January 10, 2014 11:28 AM   Subscribe


 
Brilliant. Please slow down.
posted by Erasmouse at 11:34 AM on January 10


Man, New Zealand is really good at these.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:34 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


Don't Get Stoned and Drive ads from the same agency.
posted by swift at 11:35 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


I saw that just the other day. Holy crap it's powerful.
posted by yoink at 11:37 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Jeez, whoa. Every time I see something like this, the collision is always really jarring.
posted by nevercalm at 11:42 AM on January 10


it takes two people to cause an accident. One person to fuck up and other not to notice.
posted by any major dude at 11:43 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


Yeah, just saw this the other day too and whoa. Really effective.
posted by Inkoate at 11:45 AM on January 10


it takes two people to cause an accident. One person to fuck up and other not to notice.

That's true often enough, but not every time. There are situations where you have no time to react at all.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:46 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


Has everyone not also seen this one, against drunk driving?

New Zealand: really great PSAs.
posted by pmv at 11:47 AM on January 10 [15 favorites]


That's true often enough, but not every time. There are situations where you have no time to react at all.

Yes. Also, one-car accidents are actually very common. (Although I suppose you could say that a tree "fucks up" and grows in the wrong place and someone else fails to notice...). Still, most of us overestimate how thoroughly we're in control of our vehicles, so having an ad campaign that emphasizes how vulnerable we are to other people's errors is a good idea.
posted by yoink at 11:48 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I'm fully convinced when I finally go it will be in a car and not because of an error I made, but because of someone else's error. Because of this I engage in defensive driving, but it's still easy to let irritation and annoyance drive.

I figured out the difference in time between 65 (the limit) and 79 (what I was driving) over the distance of my 25 mile commute, and it was mere minutes. So I dropped back to 70 (any slower and you get passed way too often). I used to road rage a bit over slow people, but then I realized one day I enjoy the trip and I wasn't in a hurry.

Currently my commute is at 25 mph and 3 miles! Yay! So I drive the limit now and even if I get in an accident I am fairly certain of survival.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:58 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I am grateful that you posted this, from a PSA POV. I found the crash anxiety-producing and upsetting (others might too; just a heads-up).
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:59 AM on January 10


Also, one-car [crashes] are actually very common. (Although I suppose you could say that a tree "fucks up" and grows in the wrong place and someone else fails to notice...)

I think the person driving the car fucks up and the tree fails to take evasive action.
posted by ambrosen at 12:00 PM on January 10 [8 favorites]


I have always assumed everyone else is a complete fucking idiot on the road. Result: No accidents so far.

I sincerely hope everyone else on the road assumes I am a complete fucking idiot as well.
posted by jscalzi at 12:01 PM on January 10 [7 favorites]


I have always assumed everyone else is a complete fucking idiot on the road. Result: I have been rear-ended three times while sitting stopped at lights.
posted by agentofselection at 12:03 PM on January 10 [10 favorites]


Okay, that's not actually a result. In fact, the second may helped contribute to the first.
posted by agentofselection at 12:04 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


it takes two people to cause an accident. One person to fuck up and other not to notice.

Not in this accident.

(As an aside, it makes me sad/angry that the median was rendered totally useless by packed snow. I like having that protection from speeding idiots coming head-on)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:04 PM on January 10


I have always assumed everyone else is a complete fucking idiot on the road.

Exactly: I have to be as alert as possible to compensate for the driver on the phone, the driver arguing with children, the driver in a hurry, the driver who isn't as sharp as in years past. Can't hurt, and who knows, it might have helped once or twice.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:05 PM on January 10


This motorcycle PSA from England is pretty effective.

agentofselection: yup, I've been rear-ended three times (twice in my car, once on my motorcycle - by another bike!) because I did foolish stuff like, y'know, yielding to an ambulance or stopping for a red light.
posted by workerant at 12:05 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


The one time my car was rear-ended it was because I stopped at a yield sign. To yield to another car that was coming down the road.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:07 PM on January 10


I also assume everyone else on the road is a complete idiot, but the result is the few "accidents" I've had are when I'm driving less than 5 mph and let my guard down.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 12:07 PM on January 10


When I was a young driver, my father emphasized that he thought I was a good driver, and he trusted me, but that I always had to remember that there were idiots on the road. It gave me confidence while at the same time reminding me that I needed to be careful. I think it's probably the most compelling lesson we can give drivers (assuming they don't actually suck, in which case, maybe not).
posted by jacquilynne at 12:07 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Can't wait for self-driving cars to end the global epidemic of death.
posted by stbalbach at 12:11 PM on January 10 [12 favorites]


Also worth noting that, not surprisingly, the probability of a pedestrian death in a ped-vehicle collision rises dramatically with speed (pdf).

Which is to say, if you're driving in an urban area, slow the fuck down my neighborhood is not your fucking highway.
posted by entropone at 12:15 PM on January 10 [11 favorites]


I like this one about texting. It's a bit long at 4+ minutes, but it shows a lot of the aftermath and how one's actions can affect innocent people, even ending their lives.

There needs to be more PSAs like this in the US.
posted by xedrik at 12:20 PM on January 10


At least once during my commute every day, I find myself having to choose between dealing with someone tailgating me and being trapped in another car's blind spot. My commute route is four lanes; I usually travel in one of the two middle ones, and there is always, always someone who thinks I should be going much faster (because somehow I'm going be able to occupy a space already occupied by other objects?), and someone else who is reading/texting while driving next to me. I spend a fair amount of energy not thinking about how I might die today on my way to or from work.
posted by rtha at 12:22 PM on January 10


xedrik: "There needs to be more PSAs like this in the US."

Except in the US we'd be watching them on our smart phones while driving and tweeting and texting and CRASH
posted by chavenet at 12:25 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


When you're going 10mph above the speed limit it's kinda funny how, like, everyone is in your way all of a sudden. What's up with that?
posted by sourwookie at 12:25 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


This is right up there in the top four reasons why I take the bus everywhere possible. Driving in Seattle is stressful, inefficient, slow, and insane. If I bus and someone hits the vehicle I'm in, Sound Transit or Metro can deal with the fallout.

Plus, TV shows on the commute. That's nice.
posted by fireoyster at 12:26 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Can't wait for self-driving cars to end the global epidemic of death.

...said MeFi's own SkyNet.
posted by The Bellman at 12:27 PM on January 10


Also important to remember that getting all irritated, agitated and - sometimes - aggressive hardly ever makes the other driver change their behavior. I tend to forget this from time to time, but taking a deep breath, smiling, and be willing to leave a few minutes earlier or just be late by a bit are the better alternatives.

But I do get a kick out of it when I am doing everything right and someone else makes a mistake and then they flip ME the bird for - I guess - just being there. So weird.
posted by nostrada at 12:28 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Momentum is a powerful and addictive drug (ask any cyclist how hard it is to relax and slow down). Not that there shouldn't be PSAs like this, but people are going to continue to mainline it and act like assholes. Count me as another who has been hoping for automatic drive cars for many years.
posted by planetesimal at 12:30 PM on January 10


Not in this accident.

Well, to be frank, those accidents are the reason why police around here hand out "driving too fast for conditions" tickets after they pull you out of the snow filled ditch. It adds insult to injury, but I think the point is solid.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:36 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Holy crap that hits home.

People seem to be in such a hurrry, but it often doesn't get them to their destination any faster. And most people seem to confound the notion of the speed limit with an idea that they have a *right* to go at least as fast as the posted speed limit.
posted by ambrosia at 12:36 PM on January 10


The number one bit of advice I always give drivers is to always be sure you have an 'out' in case the other guy does something stupid. Don't assume the other guy isn't going to run the light, make an illegal turn, change lanes into you, etc.
posted by empath at 12:37 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]



Momentum is a powerful and addictive drug. Not that there shouldn't be PSAs like this, but people are going to continue to mainline it and act like assholes.


my experience is that very many of the speed-for-the-sake-of-it drivers are young (under thirty), particularly when it comes to habitually driving fast. It's just how they drive. They feel comfortable at a certain speed so they drive that speed, and they're fully in control ... except when something happens (ie: somebody else makes a mistake).

Certainly, this is how I used to drive. Fortunately for me, the something-happens stuff was never that bad ... but it still shook me up and drove home the point that my driving habits showed a lack of imagination. I just assumed everybody was being as conscious as I was. They weren't. Cars got damaged. I learned.

I no longer drive as fast as I personally feel comfortable. Now, it's always about what's up ahead, what I can see and, way more important, what I can't.
posted by philip-random at 12:39 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Not in this accident.

Obviously not always true but if the vast majority of us drove as if every other driver was about to run a light or stop sign there would be fewer deaths on the road. Just because you're right doesn't give you the right to life on the road. When I'm on the highway I'm constantly looking for clearance on my right and left in case I need to swerve to avoid another driver who may be texting or talking on the phone. I fucking hate driving. About the only solace I take in it is that It mitigates all my other fears because I know statistically that driving a car is the most dangerous thing a human can do.
posted by any major dude at 12:43 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I think of most collisions as the outcome of more than one person making an error, and that's what we see here.
posted by thelonius at 12:46 PM on January 10


When I was a young driver, my father emphasized that he thought I was a good driver, and he trusted me, but that I always had to remember that there were idiots on the road. It gave me confidence while at the same time reminding me that I needed to be careful. I think it's probably the most compelling lesson we can give drivers (assuming they don't actually suck, in which case, maybe not).

This is a really good point. Some of the most dangerous stuff I've seen people do on the road comes from a lack of confidence. The accident in the video probably wouldn't happen because the guy looked and just went for it but because he started to go, hesitated, and then went anyways because now their nose is in the intersection and a car is coming the other way and I don't know what to do so I guess I'll keep going. Maybe the other car would have had time to stop or other miss him if he had just went for it but after the hesitation, he assumed that the guy was going to wait.

Be defensive, be cautious, but also, be predictable and be confident.
posted by VTX at 12:59 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


this was on DC Streetblog a couple days ago, the comments there have a bunch of other really good ones. this Aussie ad i think is particularly good.
posted by moss free at 1:05 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


It is worth pointing out that the New Zealand road toll has been steadily declining. Last year it was 255, down from 317 in 2012. Amazingly the toll was 843 in 1973. And of course over those 40 years, the population has significantly increased, as have the number of cars on the road. Clearly the decline in the road toll is down to a mixture of many factors, but I guess these PSAs play some part in what is a very good news story.
posted by vac2003 at 1:14 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I've had two cars be completely totalled while they were parked and I was nowhere near them. One was in my driveway. People: not so good at driving as they think.
posted by fshgrl at 1:25 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Further to vac2003's comment above, here is a recent news article about road deaths in New Zealand: Every road death carries a 4.54 million cost. It points out that road death figures don't include severely injured figures.
posted by jzed at 1:31 PM on January 10


Riding a motorcycle is a great way to learn how everybody on the road is trying their best to kill you. I highly recommend it.
posted by Camofrog at 1:34 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


I've been in this crash, except it was at a stop sign, and the other guy ran it and T-boned us.

My one-week old daughter was in the car - we were taking her to the pediatrician's office for a well visit. Coincidentally, the other guy was coming back from the same office. He was probably just distracted for a couple of seconds, maybe less - the intersection sneaks up on you.

Thanks to the miracle of modern car construction, crumple zones, and baby carriers, our daughter slept through the crash. I walked away from it with an airbag headache - if you've never been hit by an airbag in the face, I don't recommend it. Our Odyssey was a total loss, and I'm grateful every day. It could have been worse - so, so much worse.

(Yes, we bought a nearly identical replacement Odyssey a week later.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:38 PM on January 10 [7 favorites]


I've recently started driving quite a bit slower than I used to. Typically what I'll do is I'll decide what the slowest speed is that I can go on a given stretch of road without causing problems, and then I'll just set the cruise control. Sometimes, on an empty road or a mostly-empty one with plenty of space for passing, that means I'll be doing 5mph under the speed limit. I don't worry about getting passed; that's what the passing lane is for. If the roads are more congested then I'll drive at the speed of traffic, but if there's space for people to pass then I say let 'em do it. Doesn't bother me any.

It's been a really good change. When you do the math, driving faster really saves you only a few minutes at most except over really long hauls (hundreds of miles). On my commute, if I drive at 30/35mph (mix of 35mph and 40mph limits) I actually don't take any longer at all most days because going 39/49mph (how I used to drive it) usually just means I get to the red lights faster. And it saves me the frustration of having to stress about the person in front of me who's not going as fast as I want to go, so I arrive happier and more relaxed.

It also saves gas. Air resistance rises with the square of your speed, such that it increases much faster than your speed does. The effect is most noticeable at highway speeds (most cars use about 25% more fuel per mile to do 70mph vs. 60mph) but it makes a difference at surface street speeds as well. It's also gentler on your car's engine, transmission, suspension, etc.

And of course it's safer. You have more time to react and a better chance of being able to stop if something bad happens up in front of you. Even if you can't stop, you'll still probably be able to scrub off some speed and if you're starting from a slower cruising speed then it'll be that much slower of an impact and there'll be that much less energy involved. That means less damage and less chance of injury or death.

The world would be a better place if people drove slower and more calmly. Less stress, less rage. Less noise pollution, air pollution, oil consumption, and greenhouse gas emission. Fewer traffic deaths, less property damage, and even less congestion. People would still get where they're going in nearly the same time. A systemic change toward driving speeds that were 5-10mph slower than they now are would make a big positive environmental and social difference, at very little cost. Even without that, there are considerable benefits at the individual level. All it takes is a change of mindset.
posted by Scientist at 1:38 PM on January 10 [20 favorites]


moss free: Thank you for that last link. This is truly a powerful demonstration of how much of a difference only 5km/h makes. I actually find it hard to believe. Which doesn't mean that I don't believe it.

I once climbed into one of these little sledges on a short incline to see how an impact of I think it was only 11km/h feels (maybe even less?). No crumble zones. It was rather brutal. And that was just a maybe 10 feet long construction. With a driver seat, seat belt, an incline and a dead stop. These are hard lessons to learn.
posted by nostrada at 1:50 PM on January 10


But driving slower is unpatriotic. Driving fast is in the constitution.

I think.
posted by mazola at 1:50 PM on January 10


Plus - the faster you drive, the sooner you are were you need to go - back in the safety of your home.

I think.
posted by nostrada at 1:53 PM on January 10


People just don't realize how a minor error or moment of inattention behind the wheel can ruin their life or the lives of others forever. My mother had to have hip replacement surgery a few years ago, and following the procedure spent several weeks in a rehab facility. Her roommate was a woman in her early thirties who'd become disabled in an auto collision, had spent four years at the rehab place and would likely spend the rest of her life there. She hadn't lost the use of her limbs or anything, but suffered brain injury which greatly affected her motor skills and vision. It was even difficult for her to watch TV or read a book because of her constant blurred vision and awful headaches. What was even more tragic was that her son who was a passenger in her vehicle had become a quadriplegic as a result, and he was only 9 years old at the time of the accident.

The surprising thing was that the crash didn't seem that major on paper; she'd been merging onto the highway at 55 or 60 mph and had been sideswiped by a car that was also doing the speed limit. I think her car spun around and hit the noise barrier wall sideways, but that was enough to inflict those terrible, lifelong injuries on her and her son. She'd sometimes just start crying out of the blue. To think their lives were ruined while taking part in their normal everyday chores and not doing anything particularly callous or dangerous.
posted by Devils Slide at 1:55 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Really good. I always drive assuming that everyone else is out to get me.
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:59 PM on January 10


Yeah, slow down and all that.

But to the dude doing 10-15 MPH in both lanes of I70 through Glenwood Canyon last week : Stay the fuck off the road if you are that goddamned terrified.

Which leads me to another interesting thing - apparently, rigidly enforcing the slow traffic keeps right rule reduces congestion and fatalities more than you would think.

N.B. Nothing irritates me me more than a good Midwestern Hostage Taking - one car passing another at not much more than the speed limit.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:09 PM on January 10 [8 favorites]


A very powerful PSA. I did not expect that ending.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 2:16 PM on January 10


I'm all for much lower (and much more tightly enforced) speed limits in a lot of situations. I'd be ok with letting the buses go nice and fast, and having some kind of location-sensitive speed limiter keep my car at 25 or less in town, say. People drive all fast and frantic, but there's virtually never an actual emergency, and even when there is it is rarely helped by driving fast.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:34 PM on January 10


.... the crash didn't seem that major on paper; she'd been merging onto the highway at 55 or 60 mph ...

Anything that happens at 60 mph is major.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:56 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


wow.
posted by spbmp at 3:06 PM on January 10


PS. agentofselection, it's almost like there's some kind of dark eponysterics going on with the presumably-less-defensive drivers around you. (I'm relieved you haven't been hurt yourself, though.)
posted by spbmp at 3:40 PM on January 10


I just almost got hit in the head by two hummingbirds chasing each other. SLOW DOWN, JERKS!
posted by rtha at 3:53 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


But to the dude doing 10-15 MPH in both lanes of I70 through Glenwood Canyon last week : Stay the fuck off the road if you are that goddamned terrified.

In fairness, Glenwood Canyon is terrifying. But wow, taking up two lanes to do that? Egad.
posted by asperity at 4:08 PM on January 10


I should stop posting for today, but Scientist,
I actually don't take any longer at all most days because going 39/49mph (how I used to drive it) usually just means I get to the red lights faster.
I'm like you and cjorgensen in this regard, where I've thought about how little time I save by hurrying, and I now drive in a really quite relaxed and careful way - and enjoy it more!

The place where that gets messed up though is lights, especially on shorter (10-20min) drives. I'm not sure I've thought it all through correctly, but it seems like any time you catch a light, you're improving your commute by a pretty substantive discrete chunk. I think this seems significant enough to make the theoretical distance vs. speed calculation I've sometimes worked through on the highway ("I'll save six minutes getting to Boston if I really floor it and stress myself out") seem like a not-very-good approximation in the city. And this is where aggressiveness leaks back into my driving when I'm running late and don't counter it.

Anyone got a counterpoint to help me cool my engines?
posted by spbmp at 4:15 PM on January 10


Lots of wise stuff in this thread but, to be clear, driving too slow can also be a major problem, particularly if it's lulling you into not taking stock of what's going on around you.

Are you "parked" in the passing lane? Get out of it.

Is it only a two lane road (ie: no passing lane) with people lining up behind you wanting past? Pull over and let them by.

Are you driving a treacherous stretch of road and thus being very careful, but then when you get to a straight stretch speeding up, thus making it difficult for those more daring types behind you to get past before the next treacherous stretch? Don't. Again, let the more aggressive drivers past. Stress relief all around.

Driving while distracted is a huge issue, and yeah, it's more dangerous if you do it while also driving fast. But that's like saying it's more dangerous to smoke two packs of cigarettes a day than one. Better to smoke none at all.
posted by philip-random at 4:23 PM on January 10


I have always assumed everyone else is a complete fucking idiot on the road.

Although, being human, very often, whether you're conscious of it or not, the idiot is you (and me, and everyone else).

driving too slow can also be a major problem, particularly if it's lulling you into not taking stock of what's going on around you.

I hear this argument all the time and, apologies, I think it's moronic. If I'm driving slow, it's because I've taken stock of the situation and decided to drive that speed (or because I'm paying attention to the legal limit, which is there for a reason). And since I'm going slow, I have a hell of a lot more time to react to everything, unlike the sharp-as-a-tack dipshit who's going too fast to do anything about it when something untoward happens.
posted by klanawa at 5:06 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Anyone got a counterpoint to help me cool my engines?

As a simplification, imagine a single light that turns green to red randomly. There is a point d located at a "decision point", that is, the point where you must decide whether to go through the intersection or to stop in time. Each intersection has one decision point associated with it; going faster moves the decision point further from the intersection (because it takes you longer to stop, so you have to react sooner), but it can't remove the decision point. You can think about it like rolling a dice every time you pass the decision point; if you get a 4, 5 or a 6 the light is red and you stop. You can see that (excluding degenerate solutions), the time you spend waiting at lights is related to the number of decision points you pass through, but totally unrelated to the speed at which you pass through them.

In the real world, of course, traffic lights aren't turning on and off at random; they are (to the degree possible - it's a hard problem) timed to produce a "green wave"; a flow where the first car of a platoon of cars hits every light just after it turns green, so the entire group doesn't have to stop. This only works for vehicles which are going the design speed, and the assumption of the design speed is pretty well always going to be the speed limit.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:37 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


driving too slow can also be a major problem, particularly if it's lulling you into not taking stock of what's going on around you

Thanks for the advice, but the thing about driving is that there's no shortage of things to observe, even at lower speeds. For example, if I were driving along the road in the advert, at the beginning of the shot I'd probably be doing 60mph, just a tiny bit slower than the Nissan Maxima, and at the speed limit in my country, but I'd ease off the throttle as I saw the junction come into view, and get my foot over the brake pedal as I saw the Subaru Forester come up, so I'd have lost an imperceptible 5mph or so before I hit the brake pedal, which I'd do in about 0.5 seconds, whereas in the advert it takes 2 seconds (58 frames) before the Maxima driver hits the brakes.

The difference due to that combination of using appropriate speed and precautionary situational awareness?: I'd have hit the brakes 1.5 seconds earlier at 55mph and the Maxima driver would hit the brakes at 125km/h (78mph) (we don't see his speedo until it's he's been on the brakes for 20 frames: ⅔ of a second at -0.7g, so he's lost 16km/h by then).

So at the time when they get out of the car, I've been braking for 2⅙ seconds, and I've lost 22.5mph per second: the hypothetical 55mph driver's now only going at 6 or 7 mph. And at that time the cars are about 20 metres distant from each other and the Maxima's going 67mph. It'll still be going 55mph at the time of the collision. The prepared 55mph driver wouldn't have had the collision.

All freeze-frame analysis done through this site, and all the other links go to points in the video.
posted by ambrosen at 5:55 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


Anyone got a counterpoint to help me cool my engines?

As a matter of real world experience, just notice how often you end up catching up with the car that screamed through on a yellow/red when you stopped at an intersection. Unless your flooring it to catch light A also means you then manage to catch lights B C D E and F which would otherwise be against you (and except in the rarest of rare circumstances, it doesn't), the overall effect on your commute time is minimal.
posted by yoink at 5:56 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I hear this argument all the time and, apologies, I think it's moronic. If I'm driving slow, it's because I've taken stock of the situation and decided to drive that speed (or because I'm paying attention to the legal limit, which is there for a reason). And since I'm going slow, I have a hell of a lot more time to react to everything, unlike the sharp-as-a-tack dipshit who's going too fast to do anything about it when something untoward happens.

Having a big spread between the slowest and fastest vehicles is a bad thing for safety, which is why freeways tend to have minimum as well as maximum speed limits, and is a factor in evaluating speed limits for a section of road. A major part of the solution is to get the fast vehicles to slow down, but there are also safety implications do someone driving much slower than the rest of the traffic and slower than the conditions warrant. I'm not saying that you are driving that slow, just that there are safety issues both ways.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:06 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Yeah, just saw this the other day too and whoa. Really effective.

No. Not really.

I'm an American living in NZ. When I came here, I was amazed by the PSA's. They kinda shame you for driving too fast, being careless in the kitchen, etc etc. And to me as a new resident, I was all "holy shit. this stuff is effective".

But truth of the matter being, it isn't. Everyone is accustomed to them here. Nobody really bats an eye. Every so often, there's an official statistic about nobody dying on a particular part of a road on a particular drunken holiday. And then you hear about a few deaths happening there a few weeks later, and when the numbers come out, its even worse than last year.

So yeah. It really is a problem here. And the only people who seem to be scared by them are those who aren't accustomed to them.

Its sad.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:28 PM on January 10


Anyone got a counterpoint to help me cool my engines?

One more counterpoint: when I first got a GPS in my car, I used it obsessively, entering every trip. What amazed me most was how accurate the initial estimated arrival times were, especially on trips that had 10 minute non-highway segments at each end. Somehow, catching or missing multiple traffic lights averaged out over the trip.

My main safety trick: On highway segments, I get behind and match speeds with another car that is going the speed I want to go (not in the fast lane). Then I drop back. Way back. Like 10-20 seconds back. You think the cars passing you will fill in all that empty space, but they almost never do. If they're going fast enough to pass me, they'll have to pass the guy ahead of me too. They merge in front of me, accelerate, then merge right back out like magic.
posted by LEGO Damashii at 10:37 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


hal_c_on , Yes the road toll is an issue, but as I noted above, it has been decreasing for quite some time. It is categorically not worse than last year as you state. It is demonstratively better. But, heh, don't let facts get in the way.
posted by vac2003 at 12:22 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


But truth of the matter being, it isn't. Everyone is accustomed to them here. Nobody really bats an eye.

Australia has a history of playing really graphic road toll ads and I think it woke everyone up for a while and it was effective for a long time. After a while, people do get accustomed to them. And dropping the road toll isn't a one step solution: no ad is going to stop everyone. More recently, we've had more subtle ads - reminding us that even if you don't die horribly, you might still be injured for life. Or you might injure someone else for life.

That PSA linked upthread about telling your friends not to drive drunk was recreated for the Australian market. So even when we get "accustomed" to something, something else comes along. I found the ad in this post very effective, even though I've seen graphic TAC ads for most of my life.

Graphic ads in combination with random breath tests for drug and alcohol, and stricter enforcement of laws in regards to safe driving has seen the road toll in Australia drop by two-thirds in the past forty years! And that all started with Victoria passing the first compulsory seat-belt wearing laws in the world in 1970.

The road roll here has dropped steadily for the last twenty years. So you can say people are accustomed to them, or you could say they are actually working.
posted by crossoverman at 1:01 AM on January 11


My father pulled over on the first day I ever drove a car, got out, walked around to the passenger side of the car, opened my door, and said, "Get in the driver's seat."

"I don't have a learner's permit!"

"Don't speed or wreck, then."

I bumbled along the farm road, struggling to stay within the lines, and lurched with each application of the brakes or the accelerator. It was 1984, I was sixteen, the car was a two year-old Jaguar Xj-6 in absolutely mint condition, and the road was approximately two feet wide.

"Dad, I don't want to do this now! I can't keep it straight! What am I supposed to do?"

"Don't die," he said, then added, "and don't kill me or some stranger, either."

He was a strange, intense instructor, focused primarily on two things that he believed I should always have somewhere in the front of my consciousness while driving:

1. Be aware of how you could die.
2. There is no such thing as an "accident."

The former was part of his standard gravity—a warning to remember how fragile the human body is and how violent most of the things we do in modern life are. Everywhere in life, there is the potential of death, a kind of mortal energy coiled up in seemingly everyday things just waiting to be released. When we learned to operate power tools, he would drive us to Walter Reed, and more precisely take us to the secret library of body parts in jars, asking the clerk on duty, "Do you have any hands split by a radial arm saw?"

"I don't have any specimens," the clerk might say, "But in the photographic collection, I've got examples."

As we stood there, hands over our mouths, he would point out the way that a radial arm saw can climb onto the piece you're cutting, shoot towards you, and slice your hand in half.

"This is why you don't use your hand to stabilize your cut."

These were horrible, traumatic lessons, but I use that same radial arm saw regularly, now retrofitted with additional safety equipment, and I never, ever take it lightly. A tool that can make wonderful things can ruin a life, too.

In the car, over time, as I got better, he would sit in the passenger seat, and point out how I would die.

Coming off the highway, I cruised through a solidly-green light at 40.

"You're dead."

"What do you mean? The light was green and the speed limit is 45."

"The speed limit is 45, but did you see the car coming down from High Ridge?"

"It was stopping."

"You think it was stopping. Did you look at the car?"

"It was a blue car."

"It was a blue car with a bent front. Cars with bent fronts usually have stupid drivers. Stupid drivers aren't always paying attention, and miss lights."

I got more than a little tired of driving around in a car with a man who looked exactly like an off-duty Santa Claus and who thought like an on-duty grim reaper, but the rules were the rules. I was sent to Bluebird Driving School for the requisite state-required finishing, got my license, and after swiftly getting a negligent driving ticket for a particularly absurd series of lane changes, was enrolled against my will in Secret Service driving classes that were open only to members of the government and the occasional scion of a convincing Southerner with a high security clearance and a silver tongue. Following a long series of training episodes involving my having to adroitly flip a Town Car or avoid a van full of simulated gunmen, I was sent to trucker school to learn the basics of operating a tractor-trailer.

The second principle was driven deep into my brain through constant repetition.

There are no accidents.

A driver surrenders control, or another driver surrenders control, but it's virtually always a bad decision or series of bad decisions by a person at the root of every wreck. Sometimes that person is you, and sometimes it's the other person, but in the case of the latter, even the worst stupidity on the part of others can be mitigated by more vigilance and more caution on your part. We tend to be forgiving when people blow it, but blowing it can kill.

I didn't realize quite how well my instruction in driving had been until years after my father died, but I still think like an on-duty grim reaper, and if someone behind me is huffy because I don't blow through a light, that is not my problem. On my motorcycle, I am never oblivious to the things on the road that can kill or maim me, and when I catch myself in a moment of carelessness, that's when it's time to pull off, get a cup of coffee and a doughnut, and read a book.

There are things you can't avoid. Riding through the beautiful mountain roads on my way to my ruinous hideout in West Virginia, there are deer swarming, so I have to practice risk mitigation. I don't ride at night, don't speed, don't ride when I've already seen deer, and, when it's rutting season, even though the roads are at their most gorgeous, I take the truck instead.

Risk is a thing to be managed, and a serious task like driving needs serious management.

Anything we can do to remind people that it's not a privilege, and not just a chore to be dealt with in a lackadaisical way, makes the road safer for everyone.
posted by sonascope at 8:44 AM on January 11 [11 favorites]


The one time my car was rear-ended it was because I stopped at a yield sign. To yield to another car that was coming down the road.

I was involved in my first traffic accident since 1985 last year, in an identical circumstance. And I recognize that this long interval between accidents is mostly a matter of luck.
posted by HillbillyInBC at 10:15 AM on January 11


"This is why you don't use your hand to stabilize your cut."

Is your father J Walter Weatherman?
posted by crossoverman at 2:11 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


crossoverman: "Graphic ads in combination with random breath tests for drug and alcohol, and stricter enforcement of laws in regards to safe driving has seen the road toll in Australia drop by two-thirds in the past forty years! And that all started with Victoria passing the first compulsory seat-belt wearing laws in the world in 1970.

The road roll here has dropped steadily for the last twenty years. So you can say people are accustomed to them, or you could say they are actually working.
"

The numbers are essentially the same in Canada and the US where we don't have much in the way of PSAs like this. Don't discount the effects of engineering in the last 40 years. Cars have become wildly safer, highways and roads have become safer, trauma treatment has become better. Getting people to wear seat belts and cracking down on impaired driving are probably the two big social changes that have effected driving fatalities and most of that, here at least, was done with regulation.
posted by Mitheral at 2:56 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


counter-counterpoint to Homeboy Trouble (I was thinking about this a little more last night.)

If you're driving a constant speed, yes, there are N lights, some duty cycle D and a wait-time plus acceleration back to cruising speed W, and the expected total waiting is something like NDW/2, but I still think you can improve your expected time if you behave more aggressively when
  • you can see a light ahead of you
  • and you're not sure whether you'll make the light or not.
So there's no incentive to rush at a red light, nor at a green light with a parallel walklight, because you know what you're getting. But if you crank it up when you see a green with no walklight clue or with an orange walklight, or more famously, when you're close enough to a light that just turned yellow, then I think your odds improve (both of getting through more lights, and yeah of disaster for that family in the minivan over there, let's make sure we keep that in the picture.)

Yoink, we'd still be seeing a lot of the dangerously-aggressive jerks at red lights because the chance of hitting a red light is still high. It's just a question of whether it's a little lower than for others --- and whether that change in odds times the length and number of the waits is significant, or if it's like driving on the highway, where a big cost in gas and safety only gives you a few minutes in the end.

On such the wrong side of the debate,
-Me
posted by spbmp at 7:14 PM on January 11


This one seems to give some evidence that graphic PSAs are effective.

This one seems to indicate that the graphic aspect matters less than the content of the argument. I don't know, though. I think the ad at the top of this thread makes a very convincing argument, one that I don't think I or others think about very much, but just does so in an extraordinarily attention-getting way. (people can mean well and mess up. It might be someone else that messes up. and did you think about what kinds of families might be in those cars around you that you're risking?)
posted by spbmp at 7:31 PM on January 11


The first principle my mother ever taught me about driving: treat every other driver as a homicidal maniac and every pedestrian, cyclist and motorcyclist as a suicidal one.

A principle discovered while touring around Australia in a VW Kombi: at 80km/h on the open road, bugs have enough time to avoid your windscreen. At 100km/h, they don't.

A principle discovered since moving out of the city: if somebody is gratuitously tailgating me on a long stretch of country road, I can enforce the two-second rule by continuing to slow down. If they're 1m off my bumper, they've just chosen for both of us to drive at 2km/h. They don't like driving that slow? Sucks to be them. I'm in no hurry.
posted by flabdablet at 6:52 AM on January 12


Probably at 80 the pressure front of the vehicle can overcome the bugs momentum in order to push them over the vehicle and at a 100 they punch through the pressure wave to the wind shield.
posted by Mitheral at 8:32 AM on January 12


if somebody is gratuitously tailgating me on a long stretch of country road, I can enforce the two-second rule by continuing to slow down.

but why not just let them by? Seems less stressful for all involved, and probably safer as well. Certainly for you. Unless you feel it's your personal duty to police the roads.
posted by philip-random at 10:53 AM on January 12


I really think that about half of the drivers on the road should be forced to take some kind of re-education to keep their licenses. It's as if human life means nothing to them.
posted by thelonius at 2:44 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


I really think that about half of the drivers on the road should be forced to take some kind of re-education to keep their licenses. It's as if human life means nothing to them.

Here's the thing, I'm convinced most people could pass a driving test if they had to. I just figure that people who flagrantly do the wrong thing don't care.
posted by crossoverman at 4:18 PM on January 12


why not just let them by?

If they want to overtake, they can overtake. Happy with that, and my tiny little car is not at all hard to overtake. But if they're going to stay back there and sit right up my arse, as so many seem to want to do, then they can do that increasingly slowly until they do overtake (with or without blaring horns and rude finger, all the same to me).

If I'm driving to suit the conditions (where relevant conditions frequently include "it's twilight, and there are wombats") I am not going to speed up just because some nuff-nuff behind me thinks that a 100 km/h limit is a 100 km/h obligation.
posted by flabdablet at 5:51 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: it's twilight, and there are wombats.
posted by Scientist at 11:30 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


"But to the dude doing 10-15 MPH in both lanes of I70 through Glenwood Canyon last week : Stay the fuck off the road if you are that goddamned terrified. "

Amen. And please: tell me he had his hazards flashing!
posted by LBJustice at 7:41 PM on January 14


I have always assumed everyone else is a complete fucking idiot on the road. Result: I have been rear-ended three times while sitting stopped at lights.

A few years ago I was rear ended while parked and filling up at a gas station. Not super hard, but enough that the car moved a bit even with the parking break on. And then she acted like I was some sort of scammer trying to entrap her when I asked for her insurance info. Seriously lady? How do you propose that I managed to set you up to hit me while parked at the freaking pump?
posted by polymath at 8:35 PM on January 14


I got rear-ended at a stoplight. The guy who hit me saw the car at the front of the line go, and then the car after it go, and then decided he should go, even though I hadn't quite gone yet. For that moment it took him to decide to press the accelerator, I had the power of invisibility!

No one was hurt. The woman who rear-ended the guy who rear-ended me looked to have totaled her car, though, because he was driving a pickup and her car ended up with horrendous front-end damage. Our car's bumper did its job. And the guy was incredibly apologetic.
posted by rtha at 9:28 PM on January 14


"But to the dude doing 10-15 MPH in both lanes of I70 through Glenwood Canyon last week : Stay the fuck off the road if you are that goddamned terrified. "

I recognize that driver! If that is a steep canyon road with drop offs, I am going to armchair diagnose acrophobia. I only had to learn this lesson once, but found that I cannot drive on the outside of high curvy roads with steep drops -- against all rationality, every fiber of my body screams at me to be as far from that drop as possible. So I adhere to your "staying the fuck off those roads" advice, unless I am a passenger.

But in truth, unless heavily drugged, I'm not much fun as a passenger on cliff-hanger roads, either.

it takes two people to cause an accident.

Put me down in the "not always" camp. I just recently sold a 17-year old black Honda Civic, which I think was invisible. A number of years ago, while at dead stop at red lights, on three different occasions, I had cars drive into me from behind. Another time at a red light, the truck in front of me inexplicably backed into me. He said he didn't see me and was going to back up to take a turn. Fortunately, none of these events were serious, but they were nerve-wracking nuisances nonetheless. For a good while after, red lights were facial tic territory for me.

My new car is red.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:21 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


mostly likely color to be stolen apparently
posted by philip-random at 4:30 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


If that is a steep canyon road with drop offs

It's not -- the canyon walls rise to the sides of the highway. But boulders falling onto I-70 are a thing there, as are lots of S-curves.

In some ways it's less scary if I drive as fast as I reasonably can on that stretch. Slow might be nice, but then you run the risk of getting rear-ended by someone trying the other approach. Not sure there's a middle ground there, unless you can afford $80 each way in Amtrak fare to skip the whole thing. (Why can't we get decent passenger rail schedules and fares on that route?)
posted by asperity at 5:15 PM on January 16


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