Trooper: defensive driving can save lives

Published 7:35 pm Thursday, December 11, 2008

Because even good drivers can get into car crashes that are not their fault, it’s important to practice defensive driving, a local state trooper told members of the Bainbridge Kiwanis Club Thursday.

Cpl. Kyle Duke of the Georgia State Patrol’s Colquitt post—which serves Decatur, Seminole, Miller and Early counties—is one of the state troopers who are out doing special patrols of area highways during the holiday season. While his expertise is in spotting drivers who are drunk, high on drugs or otherwise reckless, he focused his safety message to Kiwanians around common-sense thinking that could save their lives.

Duke and highway safety experts say the top three ways to avoid serious injury in a traffic accident are to obey the posted speed limit, have everyone in the car wear their seat belt and make sure the driver is undistracted, unimpaired and focused on the road.

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Taking two seconds to snap a seat belt buckle into place sounds simple enough, but people who do not wear their seat belts continue to die in car crashes on Georgia roads. That’s because people who don’t wear their seat belt are 75 percent more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a rollover crash than people who do buckle up, Duke said.

“I’ve heard people say they don’t wear their seat belt so they could avoid being trapped if their vehicle flips,” Duke said. “I’ve never seen a person killed because they were wearing their seat belt. But if you get ejected, you are probably facing serious injury or death. It’s just not a valid excuse.”

Defensive driving can keep motorists safe

No matter how good a person drives, sometimes fate intervenes and they can find themselves in danger due to people who don’t obey traffic laws, Duke said. Defensive driving, or being an especially careful driver, is important, he said.

Talking or a text messaging on a cell phone, or putting on lipstick or chapstick are actions many drivers are guilty of, but those who do it often can find themselves colliding with another vehicle or running off the road, the state trooper said.

When drivers see another car approaching the intersection they are about to pass through themselves, it’s a good idea to assume the other car will run through a stop sign or traffic light, Duke said.

“As you approach the intersection, take your foot off the gas and cover part of the brake with your foot,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times that’s saved me from a crash.”

The same caution should also apply when preparing to go through an intersection after a traffic light has turned from red to green—drivers should look to make sure no other cars going another way are not trying to beat a light turning from yellow to red, he said.

“Common-sense driving is what brings people home safely.”

State troopers all about saving lives

Duke also dispelled what he said is a false notion that state troopers focus their daily work routine on issuing as many traffic tickets and warnings as possible. He said the only quota state troopers follow is striving to keep crash-related deaths and injuries at zero, or as low as possible.

“Contrary to belief, the State Patrol gets no money from writing a traffic citation; the money goes back to local governments,” Duke said. “It doesn’t matter how many tickets or warnings we write. When we go home after working, all that matters to us is the lives we have touched or saved.”

With Christmas, New Year’s and other holidays still ahead, state troopers urge drivers to plan their travels well in advance and to also consider travel times.

“Careful planning includes allowing plenty of time to reach your destination and anticipating travel delays,” said the GSP’s Commander, Colonel Bill Hitchens. “If alcohol will be part of your holiday activities, plan ahead and designate a sober driver.”

Motorists are also reminded that they may call Star G-S-P (*477) on their cell phone if they spot a suspected impaired driver.  The call will be routed to the nearest Georgia State Patrol post—24 hours a day, seven days a week.