Archive | August, 2001

Crashes Are No Accident!

Posted on 04 August 2001 by Monica Zech

“Why I rarely use the word accident in my public speaking and never during my former career in traffic reporting…”

A Crash Is Not An Accident

I believe, along with many others, “changing the way we think about events, and the words we use to describe them, affects the way we behave”. Motor vehicle crashes and injuries are predictable, preventable events. Continued use of the word “accident” promotes the concept that these events are outside of human influence or control. In fact, they are predictable results of specific actions.

Since we can identify the causes of crashes, we can take action to alter the effect, and avoid collisions. These events are not “acts of God”; but predictable results of the laws of physics.

The concept of “accident”; works against bringing all the appropriate resources to bear on the enormous problem of motor vehicle collisions. Continuous use of “accident” fosters the idea that the resulting injuries are an unavoidable part of life.

“Crash”, “collision”, “incident”, and “injury” are more appropriate terms, and should be encouraged as substitutes for the word “accident”.

Within the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (US DOT/NHTSA), the word “accident” will no longer be used in materials published and distributed by the agency. In addition, NHTSA is no longer using “accidents” in speeches or other public remarks, in communications with the news media, individuals or groups in the public or private sector.

Two other U.S. Department of Transportation agencies, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) joined NHTSA in endorsing their goal to eliminate “accident” from the agencies’ vocabulary. In this manner, attention will be focused on causes of crashes, and what can be done to prevent collisions and the resulting injuries.


This material by SAN DIEGO SAFE COMMUNITIES, a City of San Diego injury prevention project, in cooperation with the California Network of Employers For Traffic Safety.

If you’d like to arrange for Monica Zech to speak to your group or company safety meeting, please call her at (619) 441-1615 or e-mail her at [email protected]

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UT: Peter Rowe

Posted on 03 August 2001 by Monica Zech

Seat belts aren’t optional if you really like living

September 21, 1999

Peter Rowe: Seat belts aren't an option if you really want to live‘Terrible accident.” My car radio spits out that phrase so often during the morning or evening commute, my attention passes over it like a speed bump.

The term’s vague. Unless you’re Monica Zech.

“Terrible accident,” a fireman told her after a recent smashup. “Pretty nasty. You don’t want to hear about it, do you?”

“Sure. Tell me.”

He did. Later, she told me. Now, I’ll tell you. First, though, a warning:

Zech works for Metro Networks, one of the companies that provide traffic reports to radio and TV stations. After 16 years on the beat, Zech has no truck with the song-of-the-open-road, drivers-wanted, driven-to-excitement hoo-ha. You know “Red Asphalt,” the blood-soaked film they show in driver’s ed? She’s seen worse, and not on a screen.

That evening, the fireman told Zech that seven adults had piled into a sport utility vehicle. Two people buckled their seat belts. Five did not.

Southbound on Highway 163, the driver veered and hit the divider rail. Three of the unbelted passengers spilled from the car. One man flew through the night air, across the divider, and slammed headfirst into a northbound BMW.

The windshield decapitated him.

“The two young women in that car were spattered with his blood,” Zech said.

That’s what “terrible accident” means.

Seeing too much

Two or three times a week, Zech speaks at schools, clubs, churches and businesses. Somewhere in these talks, she always pounds home a simple message — use your seat belt. If you have small kids, properly strap them into a securely fastened safety seat.

This no-kidding argument is supported by some you’re-kidding! numbers. Last year, traffic accidents killed about 42,000 Americans. Of those, 63 percent were not wearing seat belts.

“The majority would have survived if they had buckled up,” Zech said.

But what, you might wonder, does this have to do with you? Piloting the space shuttle, this is not. This is driving. Heck, even your friends and neighbors know how to parallel park and change lanes and safely plop a squirming kid into the back seat. No?

No. Buckle Up San Diego and the San Diego Safe Kids Coalition host occasional “child safety seat checkups” around the county. So far, trained volunteers have inspected 750 seats.

“Only six were correctly installed,” Zech said.

Zech loves her job, even though it often terrifies her. She’s seen men who, after an unplanned flight through a windshield, are paralyzed from the neck down. A teen-ager whose pals admiringly called him a “speed demon”; those demons caused him to roll a car, right off the Del Dios Highway and into an early grave. A car seat sprang loose in a crash, hurling its infant cargo onto the interstate. The tot never had a chance.

“The Highway Patrol, police, fire department — they’re frustrated,” Zech said. “They ask me, ‘When are people going to get the message?’ ”

I don’t know. Maybe the message is too vague?

Never happen

Zech has statistics. “The No. 1 cause of car accidents is speed.”

She has advice. Never drink and drive. Stay calm, even if some #%!$ cuts you off in traffic. Always wear a seat belt. Take your child’s safety seat to a free checkup. There’s one today outside the Oceanside Toys “R” Us, 2425 Vista Way, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m..

The following two are scheduled for Oct. 16: Qualcomm Stadium parking lot, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Nov. 13, Toys “R” Us parking lot, 1240 W. Morena Blvd., 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

But she also has a sobering sense that many of us don’t realize that driving is literally a life-and-death enterprise. “The 42,000 people who were killed last year all left their homes thinking it could not happen to them,” Zech said. All 42,000 discovered the true meaning of “terrible accident.” Surely, there must be better ways to learn that lesson.

Peter Rowe’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He welcomes phone calls (619) 293-1227, faxes (619) 235-8916 and e-mail ([email protected]).

(Reprinted with permission from Peter Rowe and the San Diego Union-Tribune)

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A Look At Drowsy Driving!

Posted on 01 August 2001 by Monica Zech

WAKE UP! Are you driving while tired – sleepy – fatigued?

Whether it’s a short or long distance trip, driving while sleepy is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs like alcohol…your alertness, reaction time and even decision making to handle traffic problems is slowed-delayed-impaired. Driving while sleepy has led to collisions resulting in injury and death. The following information could help save your life and that of family, friends, students and employees.


Developed with data from Arizona Dept. of Public Safety.

  1. Have you been tailgating?
  2. Are you changing lanes for no apparent reason?
  3. Are you having a difficult time maintaining a constant speed?
  4. Are you braking for no apparent reason?
  5. Are you driving on the white lines?
  6. Do you keep jerking the wheel to stay in your lane?
  7. Have you drifted onto the shoulder of the roadway?
  8. Are you constantly shifting in your seat?
  9. Did you roll down your window for some fresh air?
  10. Are oncoming headlights bothering you?
  11. Are your eyes closing or going out of focus by themselves?
  12. Are your eyes starting to burn?
  13. Are you having wandering or disconnected thoughts?
  14. In the last hour, did you calculate the exact time you would arrive at your
  15. Have you adjusted your radio more than once in the last hour?
  16. Do you need stimulants to stay alert (caffeine, coffee, soda)?
  17. Did you forget to turn off your turn signal from the last lane change?
  18. Are other vehicles getting on your nerves?
  19. Are you not aware that you are being passed by other vehicles?
  20. Are you not able to remember the last warning sign you passed?

If you answered “yes” to four or more of these questions: You are starting to experience fatigue.

Events are happening around you that require your full attention.

If you are fatigued you are not able to respond quickly to events as they occur. A situation could rapidly develop that you may not be in a position to correct or deal with safely.

When you recognize these symptoms of fatigue it’s time to take a break! Please drive safely!

Get proper rest to be an alert safe driver…on long distance trips plan in rest stops as well. If you feel you’re ready to nod off – stop off at the nearest convience store and get water or some type of non-alcoholic drink to refreshen yourself, even walking around will help…or better yet, find a safe place to take a quick 5 to 10 minute nap. You’ll be refreshed and ready to drive safely again. Remember, playing the radio loud or hanging your head out the window will not help.

Be smart – alert and safe!

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