3,000 Teen Deaths from Texting and Driving


A study done by the Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center in New York, revealed that drinking and driving resulted in the death’s of 2,700 teens in the US, compared to 3,000 from texting and driving.

How about a quick, honest but anonymous poll:

I was listening to the Peggy Smedley Show this morning while cleaning the bathroom and enjoyed some great interviews in her Distracted Driving Month series. The topics were great, everything from the value of reversing cameras through to why car manufacturers are putting social media technology into their cars.

Anyway, a subject that peaked my interest was comparisons of factors impacting on or causing accidents.Talking or texting on the phone is one that that police and others who examine the results of motor accidents look for by default these days.

Peggy quoted a study (can’t remember which university) where they found that people with a blood alcohol level of .08 performed better behind the wheel than people who were using their mobile phone. If you want more detail, listen to Peggy’s back shows on her website or on iTunes, the latest ones being about Debunking Myths about Cellphones and Driving.

Just putting that into context, most people think that dialing a number (I only dial on my hands-free via voice commands with  Siri, or not at all these days) or sending a txt isn’t a big deal. I see ‘professional drivers’ holding their mobile up to their ear pretty much daily. One would assume they are sober, and mentally alert. I was also going to say relaxed, but if they were relaxed, they probably wouldn’t feel the need to take a personal risk, let alone knowing they are breaking the law; so you could surmise that they are already distracted and their minds are not on the road. Yet the study showed that drivers using their mobile were more distracted and less able to perform than those who were at a blood alcohol level where, according to a Blood Alcohol Chart on Wikipedia, they were at the upper range and would be experiencing:

  • Impaired reasoning
  • Reduced depth perception
  • Reduced peripheral vision
  • Reduced glare recovery; and behaviors including
  • Blunted feelings
  • Dis-inhibition; and
  • Extroversion

SheepI really enjoy listening to music when I drive and I have a full subscription to Spotify. I love it. My iPhone FM Transmitter sends it to my car stereo, while charging my phone. I like that. I have been guilty of occasionally looking down at my iPhone for the name of an artist or to skip a track. Our maximum legal driving speed on motorways and highways in New Zealand is 100kmph. Often that is on highways where kids play or cycle on the side of the road. All it takes is for a ball to bounce onto the road, or wandering stock to change things in an instant.

So I thought I’d have a look at the numbers and went to the Unitarium online speed calculator. I worked out that if my eyes were on my phone for 3 seconds (doesn’t sound like much) whilst driving at a legal 100km per hour, my eyes would have left the road  and I would have been oblivious to what was happening on it for 30 meters!

Have you ever done that?

What could go wrong if you leave your mobile on during an air flight?


The engineer sitting next to me dropped his head in disbelief and then shook it from side to side with an air of disappointment and dismay. I followed his gaze back to  the flight attendant who was leaning into the window taking photos with her mobile of the stunning sunset from the empty front row seat on the port side of our Air NZ ATR 72 flight in the final minutes of our descent into Auckland yesterday evening. I looked back at him and said “I was thinking the same thing.” Having had a conversation with him about our reliance on computers in transport these days.

This is not the flight I was on last night, nor the same type of plane.

This is not the flight I was on last night, nor the same type of plane.

As she was clicking with the volume turned up making a loud camera shutter emulation sound, I thought back to earlier in the flight when one of the flight attendants did her first PA not long into our 1 hour domestic flight. The PA came complete with the GSM bleep a phone makes when it is too close to a speaker; you know, the noise your mobile phone computer makes when you have your it too close to the speaker as it connects to the telecommunications network.

This got me to thinking about the number of people I see on flights who put their phones into flight mode before take off, but don’t actually switch them off, despite being instructed. It seems that a very large percentage of people don’t actually switch them off before they go into their pockets. Most of us have probably done that at some time, not thinking further, even though the instructions are very clear, flight mode, then switch off.

Farther into the flight, we had broken the clouds as I asked a flight attendant, serving mineral water into the plastic glass I was holding out for her, if I could now use my Kindle, which was dutifully in flight mode. I had to say Kindle several times, which she didn’t seem to understand, so I asked if we were at cruise altitude so we could use safe electronic devices. “No.” she replied after a little thought.

On her next PA, there was that GSM ping-ping again, as the flight attendant began another PA, telling us that the coffee service would be delayed due to unexpected turbulence. It was briefly interrupted and the pinging stopped, perhaps as she moved her mobile farther away from the microphone.

I was looking forward to the PA to tell me that electronic devices in flight mode could be used, so I could enjoy one of the books I recently purchased for my Kindle. It never came. The next PA, again with the GSM pings came on to say we were heading into our final descent again, was to tell us to stop using and switch off all electronic devices.

I was most disappointed because there had been some stunning cloud formations on the flight home that I would have loved to have captured. This is why my attached pic is from a different trip, I took with Air NZ last week.

So back to watching the flight crew attendant taking photos just before she strapped her self in for landing. I discussed the situation of fly by wire and the fact that there were rumors that the American Federal Aviation Authority were going to relax their rules on using mobiles during take off and landing, that they suspected it wasn’t in fact dangerous. With both of us having a degree of engineering training, we understood the concept of signal induction, which was of course the cause of the tell tale bleeps on the PA, which suggested that he phone might not have been switched into flight mode at any stage during the flight.

As we landed, we were pleased to be on the tarmac safe and sound,  but we thought back to the missing Malaysian Airlines plane and I remarked “Whether it is safe to use your mobile or not, imagine if the plane had crashed and it was your mobile they found that was still switched on?”

It amazes me that passengers flout the rules as if they know better than the Aviation Authorities with “I’ve flown a thousand times and I’m still here.” When it is the professional flight crew who flout their position in front of passengers in order to get that great sunset shot, several minutes after having told everyone to turn their devices off, that might be taking it too far.

I didn’t get to read my Kindle eBook, because she had never told us we could turn our devices on. I looked around several times to check if anyone else was using a tablet or other device and they weren’t. What was interesting to me is that not a soul said a word to her about having her mobile on and using it, despite having told passengers that the rules were that we couldn’t. What if her mobile had cause interference during a wing over or other maneuvering of the plane? You might not be reading this blog.

Do you switch off all your devices during flight when instructed. Did you realize they have to be not only in flight mode but be switched off?

 

 

 

 

Returning Veterans in noncombat car crashes (Read Time 1:33)


Motor vehicle crashes are part of every day life and I have an interest in what causes them and how to reduce them. I’ve been listening to a podcast by Dave Wallace, the Traffic Safety Guy, called Highway to Safety.

From a Bradley to a Civy Street

From a Bradley to a Civy Street

Something I have heard of previously but isn’t front of mind in New Zealand because we are a small country with a small defense force, is what happens when you take someone who has spent 18 months in a combat zone, where they literally have to make split second decisions, and when they come home they pop into the family car to go out for a drive.

When we learn to drive, we learn to look out for animals, for kids running our from behind a bus or an SUV or for drivers of other vehicles driving their cars in an unusual manner, all of which are common day occurrences.

Now take hardened, combat ready veterans who have seen innocent looking situations turn into death traps, where sub second muscle memory instinctive and instant actions can save lives. That family pet lying on the side of the road at home could be a sleeping pet, but in the combat zone, could be a booby trap.

According to a 2009 Army study, quoted in the podcast, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are 75% more likely to die in car crashes than the general population. In fact from 1999 through 2012, 4,423 active military personnel died in non combative crashes.

I can’t imagine what it must be like re-integrating between or after terms of duty, but it makes total sense that there is a problem and it is being addressed. A Home Safe, Drive Safe campaign is being adopted by the various sectors of defense in training offered to service people when they return home.

As you will hear in the brief PSA video by Nascar driver Richard Petty, more returned veterans die in their first year back home in motor vehicle crashes than for any other reason.

This is something I have never considered. We hear about all sorts of adjustments people have to make, but next time I hear of a returned soldier who has had a serious accident as a consequence of responding to a situation that would for most of us be a non event, I’ll be wondering if the have had that part of the debrief and are conscious that they are not in a war zone.

So from someone who has never been in that situation, but enjoys living in a free democratic country, I say “Thank you for your service, we want you to stay alive, safe and well.

If you have a story about this topic, I would welcome it if you would like to share an experience or comment.

The GPS Made Me Do It!


A driver in Nashville crashed his car on Tuesday, blamed his GPS unit for the crash, claiming that it told him to do a U-Turn, so he did. 

I hear stories like this all the time and whilst I know from experience that it i easy to get too relaxed when using car navigation, a quality car navigation application is likely to have an instruction along the lines of “When safe, make a U-Turn. Clearly it was not safe.

GPS Warning

GPS Car Nav Warning Screen

Car navigation devices also typically have a warning, like this one from my car. If you don’t click on OK and accept the warning, it won’t even let you enter the address you want to go to.

As parents often ask their kids, “If someone told you to go jump in the lake, would you do it?” If the answer is yes, it may provide recognition that you are not old enough or mature enough to hold a car license.

When people blame their tools rather than take responsibility for their actions, perhaps it is time to ‘Go directly to jail, do not pass Go and do not collect $200.’

Go to jail

Go Directly to Jail

Customer Service and AA Insurance


ImageSome nice person hit my car some time in the last few days, whilst it was parked unattended. I’m not sure where it was, probably in a supermarket car park. No note or apology, they obviously didn’t feel any remorse. This is what it looked like. The hole at the top isn’t my exhaust, it’s where one of my fog lights was mounted before the bracket got smashed in the impact.

Anyway, I rang AA Insurance, got answered within a minute, by a Kiwi in Auckland, I’m not joking! If you have rung a call centre recently, you have probably (as I have with other companies, not to be named here, but you can find them in this blog) waited for anything from 20 minutes to an hour, listened to repetitive Muzak  advertisements and soothing statements of how your call is valued and thank you for waiting.

We went through the obligatory security questions, talked about the incident, some brief friendly conversation with an operator who was very friendly and empathetic, I listened to the honesty statement and agreed that I was being truthful and understood that this was being recorded. I was then told all my options, claim number and what to do next. From the time to picking up the phone to hanging up, feeling pleased despite the stress of the accident and knowing I was going to be without my car for a week, took less than 5 minutes.

This morning, as per the appointment, I took my car to the AA Insurance depot, met with one of their friendly efficient team, had the car assessed, at the time of my appointment, on the dot, paid my excess (ouch, would have been less if I had details of who had dented my car and wallet) and 5 minutes later was in a complimentary taxi back to my office.

I am not used to getting customer service like this. It is that rare that I felt I wanted to share my story and my endorsement. Not only did I get great service, it didn’t take long, I didn’t have to wait and I felt like they cared about me. Generally the experience with large corporates, utility companies and insurance companies seems like they are super friendly when they are signing you up and after that they don’t have time for you.

Its not over yet, I am without my car for a week, but when it comes back, I have a lifetime guarantee on the workmanship and they will have my ongoing loyalty. Just  a footnote, people do business with people and providing great caring service is the best form of marketing. It’s rare enough for me to make the effort to share this story. Thanks again AA Insurance.

They drive on the wrong side of the road


This is a follow on from my blogs on preparing for a USA Road Trip, but it is equally relevant to anyone going to another country and especially where they drive on the opposite side of the road to what you are used to.

It is very easy when you relax into your trip and get up in the morning, to accidentally start driving on the wrong side of the road and many people even in New Zealand have had accidents and even died by losing concentration and automatically driving on the wrong side of the road because they have been doing it for years at home.

The thing that struck me on my first driving experience in the USA was that the traffic lights are often in the middle of the intersection. In New Zealand they are before the intersection, so I almost stopped in the middle of the road.

One of the things on the top of my preparation list was learn the key elements of the US Road Rules. I had my navigation but it wasn’t going to tell me who had right of way. The rules work really well for you once you understand them.

One that was really interesting is 4-way intersections and we found loads of those. The rule is whoever gets there first has right of way, so you really have to pay attention when you get to them.

Another rule that works really well is that you can turn right at a red light if the way is clear, unless there is a sign saying you can’t at that particular intersection. Make sure you come to a complete stop first, I’m told police are often hiding waiting for people to drive straight through.

A rule that I thought was really good on the Interstates was that if a car was broken down on the side of the road, you have to change lanes to give them space.

Whichever country you go to, its worth spending half an hour to make sure you know the basic road rules. Relax and enjoy but don’t relax too much. I was driving onto a major intersection a couple of weeks ago and the nav said turn sharp left, so I did and found myself facing a one way highway full of traffic coming straight at me. I managed to back out safely, but it reminded me of the importance of staying alert at all times. Having said that, I really enjoyed the road trip and the little bit of preparation beforehand made a big difference.

Why I Think People Should Have to Update Their Driving License every 5 Years


There are some changes to the Road Code coming up on the 25th of March and it scares me to think of how many people can’t or don’t obey the road code as it stands without adding to the confusion. Here’s my experience of driving to work this morning in Auckland this morning, yes this is a soap box blog today, but it may have a correlation with why panelbeaters are doing a roaring trade right now.

I was waiting to go straight through a roundabout. Two cars indicated right turns about 20 metres apart, so I waited to let them through. Neither car turned, they both went straight ahead. They should have been indicating left turns to show they were exiting the roundabout.

I got to the motorway onramp which was managed by the traffic lights designed to keep the flow going on the motorway itself. A guy in a Suzuki Swift in front of me had a gap of about 10 metres in front of him and kept stopping. I changed lanes and yes, the tell tale sign was correct, he was busy texting on his phone and occassionally looked up to see if anyone had moved. When he got to his turn of the green light, he totally missed it and had to wait for another cycle.

But wait folks there’s more, 2 more cars at the same set of lights missed their greens as well, didn’t see them at all. Of course that was the signal for people at the next set of red lights to ignore them when they got their turn, obviously justifying their action because if the idiots who couldn’t stay off their phones were paying attention, they would have already been on their way.

So I’m off the motorway and onto the home straight where 2 lanes merge into one. We are all merging politely when all of a sudden a van comes out of nowhere and brakes hard just in time to miss my car and the car that was merging to my side. I swear the blonde who was driving must have a double jointed neck or a really long one like Anna in the TV series V because as she breaked her head popped up from above her glove box on the passenger side. Maybe she had to accelerate because she couldn’t find something she was looking for, but it would have been a nasty injury if she had waited a second longer to pop her head up to windscreen level. I haven’t mentioned people talking on their phones, eating breakfast and other things they do in commuter traffic because it see this is now normal acceptable behaviou, but this does illustrate to me why people should re sit their licenses so they are aware of what their legal responsiobilities are and we can reduce the number of needless daily accidents and incidents. Just my opinion of course.

Post Traumatic Stress in Christchurch and EQC


I was ashamed and embarrassed a few nights ago. I was lying  alone in bed listening to talk back radio (as my wife was in hospital) and heard a woman from Christchurch talking to host Kerre Woodham about how she had not had any response from EQC or anyone else since the first earthquake.  The bottom of her Kaiapoi house was basically destroyed and she was at her wits end. She was crying and pleaded “I need help”. Kerre handled the situation extremely well, took the woman’s number and said they would do what they could to help her offline.

Then a couple of nights ago I watched TV3′s Campbell Live which interviewed loads of Christchurch residents who were in a similar situations and trades people who were going broke providing plumbing and drainage and other services on behalf of EQC, but had not received any payment from them in some cases dating back to last year’s first quake in September. The head of EQC tried to tell him that they were doing everything they could, but tried to say that it was the worst incident in the world since EQC was founded in 1947, then he said the worst in NZ.

I don’t give a damn how bad it was, that is why NZ taxpayers have been paying EQC levies for years. The whole point of having such an organisation is to ensure that when the inevitable disaster occurs, the country is prepared in every way. This includes experts to evaluate damage, the capital and resources to ensure repairs are made as quickly as possible, no excuses. It doesn’t matter that there was more than one quake, this is what we paid for. So where has the money gone that we paid all these years?

It has been well known by Civil Defence, Police, Health Services and others that it is not just about repairing buildings and digging up liquifaction, its about the people and nothing seems to be happening. Behind closed doors there is talk about increased use of drugs and alcohol, increased domestic violence, people freaking out every time there is another after shake. People don’t know what to do. They can’t leave their broken homes because they have mortgages on them and of course no one wants to buy them.

What we have is a quite unique situation in that we have an enemy we can’t see, situations we can’t predict and the Government and Insurance organisations simply are not prepared. We can’t deal with the physical manifestations and I don’t think we know anything about dealing with the human emotions. Even in the military you know who your enemy is and you can pull out. You have at least a feeling that there is someone in control and whilst they haven’t always been great in dealing with PTSD, they recognise it and have systems in place.

Recently I listened to an excellent Harvard Business Review Ideacast podcast with Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the HBR article Building Resilience. He is also the author of Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. He spoke of a new program that they had been working on with the US military, which had amazing results with their soldiers. It was heartwarming. Unfortunately the full report has yet to be released to the US Government, but the anecdotal reports were amazing. This should be something that the NZ Government needs to be looking into.

I look back to the first news coverage where Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker and Christchurch Cathedral Dean Peter Beck were saying the bricks and mortar can be replaced, but its the people that matter. Well herein lies my problem. We aren’t even dealing effectively with the buildings. We are hardly touching the broken people! They can only be staunch for so long and if we don’t help them very soon, we are going to have a generation of traumatized people.

So I say to the Government, to EQNZ, to the city councillors, to my fellow Kiwis: This isn’t good enough. No more excuses. We have paid our taxes for years, in good faith expecting that the money would provide for resources and expertise when they were needed. We were told the big one would come and we would be ready. If you can’t deal with it, bring in people and resources who can. We aren’t the only country to have disasters, they happen all over the world, many much worse than Christchurch. Have the grace to accept you don’t know how to deal with the situation and find people who can.

If you can’t do that, its election year and you will have to fall on your swords and we will find others who can. The current situation may not be man made, but our response to it is a disgrace. Kia Kaha Christchurch. Thanks to the media for making us more aware of what is and isn’t happening. Maybe now we need to tell the world stage that we are not coping and we need specialist help.

Have a read of the comments left on Campbell Live’s Facebook Page. This tells the story that our Government departments are not addressing or are trying to minimize. The situation is not under control and it is not just a few people who haven’t been seen to yet. This is a crisis. What are you going to do John Key? The Rugby World Cup will not be enough of a distraction.

The Insurance Aftermath of an Earthquake


First there were several people who had inadequate insurance in Christchurch. I have no idea what the situation is in Japan, but I understand that some of the worst hit were apparently poor communities illustrated by the ease with which the  tsunami washed away the houses.

I think the first thing goes back to my previous blogs on preparation lessons, the aftermath and getting your household ready. The Earthquake Commission is there to help after a natural disaster which isn’t covered by normal household insurance. But the scope was huge. They had over 440,000 claims and even in dealing with those, their liability is up to a maximum of $100,000 for dwellings and $20,000 for personal property. Try building a house for $100,000 or replacing even your basic possessions including appliances, furniture, clothing etc for $20,000. Some people will pretty much walk away with nothing.

Now insurance itself is a risk game and they take our premiums on the expectation that for a large number of people they will never have to pay out. Now I haven’t seen the financials for EQC, but I suspect that most of the money has gone into running the organisation over  the years, especially given that after the event John Key says that the government may have to treble the levy in our taxes for future incidents. Does this mean that we are now going to start to pay for what happened, borrowing from the future because the funds weren’t there? Are wee robbing Peter to pay Paul?

We always knew a major disaster looming. Of course we thought it was most likely to happen in Wellington. It hasn’t, which of course doesn’t mean it won’t because Christchurch and Wellington are on different fault lines. But I would have thought with years and years of taxes and no major incidents, EQC would have been flush with funds.

Anyway, back to the present. If you don’t have adequate insurance to cover everything, think again and do what you can, even if money is tight, things could get a whole lot worse. I hate insurance. I was once asked to do a whole lot of psych tests by an insurance company who thought I would be a star life sales person. The idea of selling life policies to my friends was anathema but I loved tests, so I spent a whole day doing the tests and they came back apparently saying I would be hugely successful. I declined despite the offer of a big package. Today I wonder if I should have taken the money, because I better appreciate the importance of insurance. It’s a gamble by both parties, both hoping we will never be in a position to need the cover.

I have life, income protection, health, car, house and contents policies and it eats up a lot of money. So far the insurance companies have enjoyed a lot of meals from my table, but if something major did happen, I feel secure that if my company closed for 6 months because its buildings ceased to exist, if I was injured or ill long term, or if my house washed away in a tsunami, I could rebuild. As the Dean of Christchurch Cathedral said, its the people that matter, the church can be rebuilt.

One concern I had with the aftermath was seeing people throw away their household appliances, carpets, furniture etc and wondering how they would be able to prove what they had lost. The share scale meant that many people had to do that, but it does show the value of having a list of your possessions and also photos. I once had a software app that did that, but never fully used it. Another thing to my be prepared list methinks.

 

Household devastation after the earthquake

So I recommend you grab a digital camera or video camera at least, so that you can go through each room and record your possessions and the state of your property, so that you will have proof in the unlikely event that you could need it. Then store the information somewhere safe. I used to keep my songs in safe deposit on video, with the bank, some people thought I was stupid, but again its just insurance.

Enough for now. I hope I’ve given you some more food for thought. Here’s some fond memories of mine of Christchurch a couple of years ago, with a song I am still writing.