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IMMIGRANTS’ SAFETY ON AMERICAN ROADS

“Alert Today – Alive Tomorrow.” – Joe Mungai

Many Americans drive personal vehicles and so this has become the most commonly used mode of transportation in America. Carpooling and public transit run close second. However, the use of public road system in America has proved now and again as a dangerous form of travel for many new immigrants and members of the refugee community before they get well oriented with driving.

As much as its understandable for new Immigrants to struggle with understanding the systems at work in a new country like American, I believe it’s imperative for one to learn how to drive and understand the different road conditions that exist in America including the rules that governs how one ought to drive. This is a must if one will be operating a vehicle on American roads. There is no question about it.

I wrote this book because I was concerned that many immigrants didn’t have the knowledge that would help to maintain safety on the road both for themselves and others.

Immigrant Losses on American Roads

The death of an individual is traumatic for anyone regardless of where it happens, but for the purpose of this book allow me to address the loss of life of Immigrants and refuge community on American roads. The loss is even worse when an immigrant or a member of the refugee community dies in the U.S., because many times the bigger number of the victim family resides abroad. In such an event, a long and painful journey begins-not just of mourning but also of raising funds to clear medical bills if any were left unpaid. This includes arranging to transport the remains of the dead person’s back to their native country for funeral arrangements – unless they are being buried in America.

While gun violence has been the leading cause of death in America, the leading cause of death among many immigrants and members of the refugee community has been noted as road accidents. 

Tip: If you plan to move to America, start learning about driving conditions and traffic laws before you travel abroad.

The call to learn about (driving conditions and traffic laws in America) should be a joint effort of the whole Immigrant community to help reduce motor vehicle-related deaths and injuries among immigrant and refugee families while here.

If you check the statistics, personal vehicles or carpooling (which is the mode of transportation a lot of immigrants and refugee families use) has become the most common way for an immigrant to die in this country.

While the statistics listed below maybe unsettling, they are real, therefore we need to act and act quickly to minimize the incidents. 

Safety on Our Roads

In Iowa, which is my current home state, 330 deaths happened due to car crashes in 2017. I realize that this is a small number compared to the big states with big cities, as opposed to Iowa which is regarded as a farm state. But I take these numbers very seriously, considering that a significant percentage of these deaths comprised of immigrants, many of whom died or got severely injured in those accidents.

When road accidents happen, everyone gets affected, not just immigrants or members of the refugee community. Remember, everyone is using these roads, and so it’s important that we keep everyone safe. That way, we keep our communities safe.

 News of Immigrant Deaths on Public Roads

ACCIDENT CLAIMS THE LIFE OF CONGOLESE WOMAN, TWO YEARS AFTER THREE IMMIGRANTS DIED ON SAME STRETCH OF HIGHWAY 30

For the second time in less than two years, an early-morning fatal accident on a two-mile stretch of Highway between the Keystone and Van Horne blacktops has killed a native of the Congo who fled to Iowa following the unrest and violence of that area of Africa.

On Thursday, the Iowa State Patrol (ISP) responded to the report of a one-vehicle roll-over accident with a passenger ejection west of 18th Avenue on Highway 30 at 5:25 a.m.  According to the ISP, a driver aged 28, of Cedar Rapids, was headed west on Highway 30 with four passengers inside. The ISP says the driver attempted to pass a semi, and then noticed an oncoming car in the eastbound lane. The driver swerved into the ditch to avoid a collision and the vehicle rolled into the south ditch.

The woman driver who was pronounced dead at the scene was aged 40. And three, passenger’s aged, 46; 43; 50. All had Cedar Rapids Iowa addresses and were Congolese natives.

In February of 2016, three people from the Congolese Christian community died in an accident on Highway 30, east of 16th Avenue, less than two miles from Thursday’s crash. That crash, in snowy driving conditions, claimed the lives of three Congolese natives and injured seven more. All 10 were passengers in the same vehicle, a minivan.

The Congolese community members who died in that crash were: the first one was aged 34, was married and had a seven-year-old daughter. His wife survived the accident but was hospitalized in critical condition. The individual had arrived in the USA in October 2015, less than four months earlier, on a lottery visa.

The second one was aged 36, also married with one child. He had moved to Cedar Rapids recently for a job opportunity. He has been in the USA for less than six months. He also came on a lottery visa.

The third one was aged 30. He was single and arrived in the USA in November 2015 on a lottery visa.

Those immigrants had fled the violence in Congo and came to America with the goal of learning English, finding meaningful work and then bringing their families, if possible, to live here, Boumedien Kasha, the Vice-President of the Congolese Community of Iowa (CCI), told Vinton News Today in 2016.

Source: Posted by Dean Close | Jan 4, 2018 | Vinton Today. News that hits home 

Protect Yourself and Others on American Roads

The first step of improving roadway safety is defensive driving. It aims to reduce the risk of collision by anticipating dangerous situations as a driver, despite adverse conditions or the mistakes of others.

The practice of driving safely emphasizes on avoiding crashes, especially during hazardous conditions.

It’s important to know that in every community here in America, safe driver courses are offered and are available for a fraction of what you’d pay for hospital cost and other expenses if you got involved in a road accident.

Your auto insurance company also has discounts available for safe driving preparation and practice.

Who is a Defensive Driver?

Someone who recognizes hazards, understands what he/she needs to do to avoid a motor vehicle accident. As I mentioned earlier, when you take a defensive-driving course, you may earn recognition as a safe driver and a discount from your local auto insurance. So, I encourage you to check this out (taking defensive-driving course) and see how you can improve or enhance your driving skills.

Five Areas of Defensive Driving Include:

As we cover the listed topics above in this chapter – we will also address the subject of seat belts and car seats

Reckless driving

This is risk taking behavior behind the wheel of a vehicle and it includes: speeding, tail-gating, weaving through traffic, flashing lights and ignoring traffic laws, signs, and signals.

Tip: The four second rule, which requires that you leave four seconds between you and the vehicle in front, giving you more time to react and more time to stop, always applies. In inclement weather add two to five seconds, for extra safety.

Road Rage

This is a fit of violent anger by a driver of a vehicle, especially one directed towards another driver and this is endangering for other motorists or pedestrians.

You can take certain precautions to avoid road range:

Tip: Look ahead to avoid hitting the driver in front and to avoid being hit from behind.

Light variances due to sunrise or sunset

Driving in low light or bright light can be hazardous. The law states you must use your headlamps at dawn and dusk. If daytime light bothers your eyes, make a point of using the vehicle visor, or wear sun glasses to increase visibility.

Bad Weather Conditions

Inclement weather can cause severe driving conditions. As a driver, you must maintain slower speeds, concentrate on the road and traffic. Use windshield wipers to clear rain or snow. Visibility is vital when driving any vehicle. If conditions are extreme, you need to get off the road until the weather stabilizes.  

Remember to keep the four second rule. Add two to four seconds in increment weather.

Traffic Congestion

What steps can you take when you encounter traffic congestion to help you remain safe?

Be prepared for:

Vehicle Maintenance

Operating a vehicle with unsafe components can cause accidents. Regular maintenance is recommended and should be completed by a certified mechanic, or auto shop to keep your vehicle running at optimal level.

You have certain responsibilities towards your vehicle to help with keeping it in a good working condition.

These responsibilities include:

To maintain working headlamps, horn, wiper blades, turn signals, brake lights, tire pressure, and vehicle brakes.  

Tip:  It’s important that you follow your owner’s vehicle manual for maintenance instructions regarding various tasks and parts.

Preform regular tune-ups, oil change, belts and wires, coolant and antifreeze levels, brakes, shocks and exhaust on your vehicle as per the owner’s manual.

Deaths from Vehicle Accidents

According to the U.S. bureau of labor statistics, each year, over 2000 deaths result from occupational motor vehicle incidents, with more than 30% of total fatalities occurring from vehicle related occupational injuries. 

These deaths include drivers and passengers in highway crashes, farm equipment accidents and industrial vehicle incidents, as well as pedestrian fatalities.

Tip:  Most occupational fatalities occur on public highways where there are seat belt requirements and traffic laws that were not followed.

 “Every Belt – Every Ride”

Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a vehicle. Encourage others to do the same if they ride with you.

Make use of Every Belt – Every Ride slogan to remind yourself and others the life-saving value of a seat belt and your obligation to use the safety devices in the vehicles, private cars and taxies, whenever and wherever you go on the road.

Research shows, using seat belts cuts the risk of death by 45% for people riding in cars and by as much as 60% for those traveling in trucks or SUVs.

Seat belts save 14,000 lives each year and every state in the nation has a law mandating seat belt use.  But 20% of Americans still fail to buckle up. (Department of Transportation Safety Belt Use in 2003)

TIP: Working together, we can help keep people safe on the road – every day. Encourage drivers and passengers to buckle up on every trip.

Child Car Seat Safety

Scope of the Problem

Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. But many of these deaths can be prevented.

In the United States, 675 children 12 years old and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes, and nearly 116,000 were injured in 2017.

Of the children 12 years old and younger who died in a crash in 2017 (for which restraint use was known), 35% were not buckled up.

(National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: NHTSA 2019)

Tips to Protect Children from Transportation-Related Risks – in the Vehicle – Child Passenger Safety

•All children should be placed in child safety seats, booster seats or seat belts – every time they ride in a vehicle.

•Children 12 years old and younger should be buckled up in the back seat.

•Infants must be placed in rear-facing seats until they are at least one year old and 20 pounds.

•Children between 20 and 40 pounds should be placed in forward-facing safety seats.

•When your child outgrows his or her forward-facing safety seat, use a booster seat until your child is at least 8 years old or over 4-feet 9-inches tall.

•Seat belts are made for adults. A booster seat raises a child up so the seat belt fits.

•Children who have outgrown booster seats should always use seat belts.

(source: NHTSA & American Academy of Pediatric)

Again, seat belts are not designed for children. Young children are too small for seat belts and too large for toddler seats. A booster seat raises your child up so that the seat belt fits properly to better protect your child. Also, to better protect your child with a seat belt, shoulder belt should cross the child’s chest and rest snugly on the shoulder, and the lap belt should rest low across the pelvis or hip area – never across the stomach area. Your child’s ears shouldn’t be higher than the vehicle’s seat back cushion or the back of a high-back booster seat.

In 2006, Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta said that only one in five kids who should be in booster seats is actually in one when riding in the car.

Remember, we have a responsibility to keep our children safe on the road – every day.

Tip:  Fire Department in your town conducts car-seat checkup to make sure is installed correctly for its residents free of charge.

Passing

If you want to pass in a passing zone marked by broken yellow lines, check to see if any traffic is coming towards you, then look to see if anyone behind you is moving out to pass. Do not pass unless you can see far enough ahead. If you are being passed, slow down if the other vehicle needs extra room to pass you safely.

Raining

When driving in the rain, use caution by driving slowly. Avoid puddles that can hide potholes and cause your brakes to fail. You can prevent hydroplaning by taking your foot off the gas and slowing down gradually. Remember light rain makes the road wet and slippery. Cruise control should not be used in these conditions.

Maintain your visibility by using windshield wipers, lights and the defroster. You should replace your wiper blades when they become worn. Be sure to wash your wiper blades when you wash your car.

Tip: Using your windshield washer while driving into direct sunlight can cause momentary loss of visibility.

Snow

If you have to drive in snow, first clear off your entire car. Make sure that you have plenty of winterized windshield washer fluid in the reservoir before starting your trip.

Tip:  Being able to see out your windshield is crucial especially when the snow and ice start flying.

Drive slowly and allow for a longer distance for stopping. Prepare for stops and turns well in advance. You should stay at least six seconds behind the vehicle in front of you.

Watch for icy patches, especially on bridges and shady spots. For better traction, use winter rated tires.

Tip: If you skid, turn in the direction you want to go. If your car begins to skid, take your foot of the gas and turn the wheel in the direction you want the front of the car to go. Do not apply brakes.

Car Trouble on the Road

Pull completely off the road if you experience any car trouble and use your flashes, signs, or flares should your car become disabled.

Cellular Phones

Refrain from using a cell phone when driving. Although this is a call for you to use your judgement, this may be illegal in your state and is very dangerous.

Talking on a cell phone while driving has resulted in numerous accidents. It is highly recommended that you wait to make or receive calls until you have stopped the car. Remember, driving requires your full attention to the road.

Texting While Driving

Be aware that texting or text messaging is illegal while driving.

Most people don’t understand the dangers of texting while driving until it’s too late. It’s still common to see people text while driving, even when they are aware the danger this present to them and other road users. But, remember it’s now illegal to text in most states.

In a 2010 Pew Research Center survey, nearly half (47%) of adults who use text messaging (equivalent to 27% of all U.S. adults) said they had sent or received messages while driving. A 2009 survey found that 26% of 16- and 17-year-olds admitted to texting while behind the wheel.

It can be an irresistible temptation; you’re bored on a long highway trip, and decide to scroll through Facebook with one hand while keeping the other on the wheel.

But remember, distracted driving kills nine people each day in the United States and in an effort to combat this, almost every state has banned text messaging while driving (The Huffington Post, May 2015).

Text messaging has been banned in 47 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 2017.

It’s now illegal to text while crossing the street in Honolulu. The Honolulu Police Department began enforcing the law in Oct 2017 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser). The law doesn’t only target cellphone users; those using laptops, digital cameras or video games will also be expected not to look at them while crossing the street.

I learned not long ago, that even though Honolulu is the first major city to outlaw texting-while-walking, Fort Lee, N.J., also banned the practice a few years ago.

“Cellphones are not just pervading our roadways, but pervading our sidewalks too,” Maureen Vogel, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit National Safety Council, told Reuters.

I think the question is not whether but when will other states institute same restrictions. And I would say, it’s just a little while and other cities and states in America will follow suit in banning texting while crossing the street.

Safe Driving Practices for Employees

Many immigrants and members of the refugee community drive every day as part of their job.

OSHA has great suggestion points just for you as an employed driver. I will share them with you right after I make few observations here below.

Remember this, you are your employer’s most valuable asset.

The way that you drive says everything about you and your company.

Make a positive statement by following these work-related safe driving practices.

Listed below are OSHA important recommendations for you as a driver

Stay Safe

 Use a seat belt at all times – driver and passenger(s).

 Be well-rested before driving.

 Avoid taking medications that make you drowsy.

 Set a realistic goal for the number of miles that you can drive safely each day.

 If you are impaired by alcohol or any drug, do not drive.

Stay Focused

Driving requires your full attention.

 Avoid distractions, such as adjusting the radio or other controls, eating or drinking, and talking on the phone.

Continually search the roadway to be alert to situations requiring quick action.

Stop about every two hours for a break. Get out of the vehicle to stretch, take a walk, and get refreshed.

Avoid Aggressive Driving

Keep your cool in traffic

Be patient and courteous to other drivers.

Do not take other drivers’ actions personally.

Reduce your stress by planning your route ahead of time (bring the maps and directions), allowing plenty of travel time, and avoiding crowded roadways and busy driving times.

Summary of Defensive Driving

Key Points to Avoiding Accidents:

Tip:  my work is not done until you have benefited from this information. I am interested in doing more than just sharing or helping you have accesses to this knowledge. I want you to know how to use it and then make use of it. You have to take advantage of it in order to benefit from it.

Adopted from: OSHA/NHTSA/NETS – Motor Vehicle Safety

Prepared by Joe and the ARCI Team. All Rights Reserved.

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