The late comedian George Carlin had it right – “anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac” -- according to a new survey on driving habits.
The survey by Michelin North America found that the majority of Americans don’t trust other drivers and say they witness unsafe driving behavior regularly. At the same time, an overwhelming majority – 81 percent – remain supremely confident in their own abilities behind the wheel.
The survey, commissioned to raise awareness during National Teen Driver Safety Week, found that 69 percent of Americans say they witness other drivers ignoring road safety at least a few times a day, and 66 percent report feeling unsafe while someone else was at the wheel. And passengers aren’t afraid to voice their concerns in the form of backseat driving, either -- three out of four respondents admitted to giving driving advice while a passenger in someone else’s car.
“I’m actually surprised that’s not four out of four,” said Sarah Robinson, a spokeswoman for Michelin and its first female test driver, who noted the Carlinesque nature of the survey responses.
Robinson said the tire maker’s safety campaign is an effort to raise awareness and start a conversation among drivers, who are encouraged to share their own experiences on Twitter, via the hashtag #SharingSafety.
“The most alarming thing is that car crashes are still the leading cause of death in teenagers,” Robinson said. “That is a sobering fact. Sometimes people have a tendency to be complacent about this. We think it’s a fact of life, but it’s not. We can make this better, and we can reduce the number of deaths by educating people.”
Robinson offered a few of her own tips for road safety that can benefit even those drivers who believe they are the equal of Mario Andretti when they climb behind the wheel.
“People tend to ignore things that are easy to fix,” said Robinson, adding that maintenance is crucial to staying safe on the road. “Especially younger drivers, teenagers, when they don’t what’s going on under the hood of the car, if they don’t know how to fix something they might not ask. So it’s good to be proactive and learn to do a general inspection of the car.”
Tire tread depth and pressure are important, too. Drivers can check pressure with a standard pressure gauge, and for tread depth, Robinson recommends the classic penny test.
“Take a penny, hold it against the tire upside down. Make sure the tread is deep enough so that it covers Abe Lincoln’s head. If you can see the top of his head, the tires aren’t able to do what they need to do anymore, and it’s time for a replacement,” she said.
But the most important tip is for drivers to stay focused behind the wheel.
“When I’m in a race car on a race track, other drivers are intently focused on the task at hand,” she said. “On the road, everyone’s doing something else. They’re texting, they’re paying attention to other people. Be very aware of the situation. A key phrase is to cast your eyes on the horizon. Your peripheral opens up at that point, and you can take in everything around you and come up with an exit plan if something goes wrong.”