MAY 16, 1952
NEW YORK, Thursday—Now that good weather is with us throughout practically the whole country and the highways will become more crowded, the National Safety Council reminds us of the necessity to observe certain rules when driving. One statement the council makes interested me, which is: "Where traffic is extremely thick, as on congested arteries connecting with popular vacation sites, a driver is always less than a second away from an accident."
This points up the reason for the rules they suggest to all of us:
"Start your trip when rested, not after a hard day's work when fatigue has already set in.
"Let plenty of fresh air into the car as an anti-drowsiness precaution.
"Make a coffee stop at least every two hours; walk around; stretch your limbs.
"Engage in light conversation with your passengers; it will help to keep you alert.
"In case of doubt as to your own fitness to continue driving, pull off the road or go to a hotel and sleep."
Figures on automobile deaths in 1951 are rather startling. 37,500 people were killed and 1,300,000 others were injured in traffic accidents. Among those injured, 100,000 were permanently injured to some degree as a result of the accident.
The reckless driver probably accounts for the greatest danger to himself and other motorists on the road, because his car is out of control even though he may not realize it. Also, because the unexpected is what usually happens on the road, the careless driver may be moving along, apparently quite safe at lightning speed, but not alert to the fact that a child may run out from a hidden play spot, or a side road may not be visible from the main thoroughfare, or some other driver may slow up when you do not expect him to do so.
The National Safety Council says no one can afford to drive who is not rested and alert. The council has made studies and discovered that in large cities the average driver must make 50 decisions per hour, some of them instantaneous, and in rural areas 20 decisions. We know that many of these decisions are automatic and a good driver reacts without even knowing he is reacting, but his reflexes are slower if he is tired or if he allows himself to drive for too long a time on a monotonous highway without getting out. He gets bored and inattentive under such driving conditions.
For anyone driving alone I think a radio is really a necessity. But the rule above all others is that if you are at all drowsy you get off the road and take a nap before you run the risk of having an accident which may injure others as well as yourself.
I speak with feeling because I drove when I was tired and dropped off for a second and had an accident. I will never forget how I felt about hurting other people. I lost my license; I had to take a new examination; and I had to go without driving for a long period of time.
I don't drive myself on long distances any more, but I know from experience that these rules set down by the National Safety Council will help everyone and, if they are observed, will cut down our accident rate.