The most dangerous thing you could do today…

…is driving a car. Especially if you are commuting to work.

The commute to and from work is easily one of the most mind-numbing yet dangerous activities many of us engage in on a regular basis. You take the same route, get comfortable with the same traffic patterns, and engage in an activity that you have down to a muscle memory. It promotes complacency.

So in an effort to deal with the boredom, a lot of us turn to talking on the phone, texting, reading and sending emails, yelling at the radio, putting on makeup, shaving, and eating breakfast on the go.

Over the past two decades we’ve also seen a steady progression in both size and power in the cars we drive. It used to be that a car with greater than 300 hp could be considered a supercar. Now 300 hp just means it’s an entry-level luxury sports coupe, sports sedan, or SUV. These vehicles are easily 2800 lbs in weight, and some are close to two tons. Furthermore, they’ve come with a built-in illusion of safety with their 6 airbag systems, electronic traction control, and ABS, leading to riskier driving behavior.

Unfortunately the advances in distraction technology and vehicle power and mass haven’t really had an effect on the laws of physics.

Analogies to Assist in Understanding Bodily Injuries
Due to Motor Vehicle Collision

A fall off a 3.3 feet desk results in a speed at impact of 10 m.p.h. A 10 m.p.h. change in speed (Delta-V) in a motor vehicle collision is equivalent to falling off a desk. Similarly, a 15 m.p.h. change in speed is equivalent to falling 7.5 feet – off a step ladder. A 20 m.p.h. change in speed is equivalent to falling 13.4 feet – off the roof of a one story building. A 25 m.p.h. change in speed is equivalent to falling 20.5 feet – off a two-story building. A 30 m.p.h. change in speed is equivalent to falling 30 feet – off a three-story building.

A less than 20 m.p.h. motor vehicle collision should not be considered a “low speed” in regards to the human body. A fall off a 7.5 foot ladder (10 m.p.h.) may fracture an extremity. Many who fall from the roof of a one story building (15 m.p.h.) sustain injuries. Most who fall from the roof of a two-story building (20 m.p.h.) sustain injuries.

If it sounds like I’m trying to scare you, I am. What you ought to do with that fear, however, is to put both hands on the wheel, pay more attention, put down the devices, turn on your headlights, watch the guy in front, behind, and to your sides, and be ready to use your horn at a moment’s notice. It might save your life.

3 thoughts on “The most dangerous thing you could do today…”

  1. Well said. But no matter how many times I share this information with my otherwise rational and intelligent friends, most people seem to figure themselves exceptions. I think it's not a misperception of the risk as much as it's a refusal to appreciate the severity of a bad outcome. Playing Russian roulette with a 10,000 chamber pistol is easier to understand. My hunch is that if people truly understood how dangerous driving is, many would refrain (e.g., a lot of foreigners won't drive in India, where the dangers /appear/ more obvious); if that happened, however, where would our oil companies be? And, even if it didn't go that far, where would our cell phone companies be if people refused to talk while driving? Likewise, all that extra horsepower must appear appealing, not-at-all dangerous, and controllable by the average, poorly-trained American driver. Don't worry: all those new gadgets will carry you away on a puffy airbag … to heaven, if you've lived a good life.

  2. I've never driven in India, but I have driven in Taiwan, and the interesting thing about the crazy traffic is that everyone agrees to drive in the same crazy way, so everyone knows what to expect and things are okay.

  3. Well said. But no matter how many times I share this information with my otherwise rational and intelligent friends, most people seem to figure themselves exceptions. I think it’s not a misperception of the risk as much as it’s a refusal to appreciate the severity of the bad outcome. Playing Russian roulette with a 10,000 chamber pistol is easier to understand. My hunch is that if people truly understood how dangerous driving is, many would refrain (e.g., a lot of foreigners won’t drive in India, where the dangers /appear/ more obvious); if that happened, however, where would our oil companies be? And, even if it didn’t go that far, where would our cell phone companies be if people refused to talk while driving? Likewise, all that extra horsepower must appear appealing, not-at-all dangerous, and controllable by the average, poorly-trained American driver. Don’t worry: all those new gadgets will carry you away on a puffy airbag … to heaven, if you’ve lived a good life.

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