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Of the 41.1 million Americans who will travel this Fourth of July holiday, 89 percent will take to the roadways, according to the American Automobile Association. And when they do, many will be involved in automobile crashes. Each day in the United States, one person dies every 12 minutes on the nation's roadways.

According to an AAA poll, nationwide, 91 percent of drivers reported engaging in at least one risky driving behavior within the last six months. They are the same behaviors associated with the cause of nearly all crashes.
To help prevent such crashes, Bryan E. Porter, associate professor of psychology at Old Dominion University, has conducted research and instituted programs to increase safety belt use, reduce red-light running and reduce tailgating.

To help you survive the drive this summer, he offers the following tips:

· Slow down and stop at yellow lights when prudent: More than half of urban crashes occur at intersections, and red-light running accounts for approximately 22 percent of them.

· Don't tailgate. Allow at least two to three seconds between your car and the car in front of you. If someone is dangerously tailgating you, put your turn signal on and move to the next lane: Unfortunately, tailgating is the norm and approximately 70 percent of Interstate drivers, in particular, tailgate. Following too close accounts for a significant number of Interstate crashes--as high as 40 percent in some areas.

· Buckle-up: By wearing a seatbelt, your fatality risk is reduced 45-60 percent and significant injury risk is reduced 50-65 percent.

Each of Porter's programs has involved creating community coalitions (made up of media, traffic engineers, law enforcement, and Department of Motor Vehicles officials) to work with Old Dominion researchers to increase safety.
The Virginia DMV has funded his research since 1997 and he received funding from DaimlerChysler in 1999 to conduct a nationwide survey of red-light running. Porter has published articles in leading traffic safety journals, including Accident Analysis and Prevention and the Journal of Safety Research. He is a member of the International Association of Applied Psychology's Traffic Psychology Division and is a board member of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running.

Porter specializes in the analysis of driver and passenger behavior, the identification of predictors and consequences of recklessness, and the development and evaluation of community-based programs to reduce risk-taking and increase public safety on the roadways.

This article was posted on: June 16, 2003

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