Category Archives: 911

How to avoid a crash on the road

And what to do if you can’t. Here’s some excellent advice from the professionals …

Avoid this!

Avoid this!

Many thanks for this Safety Tip to the VT State Police, VT Department of Motor Vehicles, VT Agency of Transportation, VT Sheriffs’ Association and AARP Driver Safety, a kindly (and smart!) bunch of folks who work every day to keep Vermont drivers safe, and are happy to share their good advice with all of us, wherever we live.

How to Reduce Traffic Fatalities

There were 77 deaths on Vermont roads in 2012, a 40% increase over 2011, and the US full year figures aren’t out yet, but there was a 7.1% increase (to 25,580) nationwide over the first nine months of the year. What’s going on here? Why are there so many crashes? And why don’t we call them accidents any more? Most are due to poor driving decisions. And we call them crashes to stress that they can be prevented by avoiding these unsafe behaviors:

  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Not paying attention (phone calls, texting and other distractions)
  • Following too close
  • Crossing center line
  • Not yielding right-of-way
  • Driving impaired by alcohol or drugs
  • Unsafe passing
  • Not checking mirrors and blind spots

But what if someone else hasn’t read and followed this advice? If threatened with a head-on crash, brake hard and steer toward the right shoulder. Never cross the center line to escape an oncoming car in your lane. If forced to hit something, try to sideswipe rather than crash head-on. A stationary object is normally less dangerous than a vehicle moving toward you.

After a crash, you are required by law to stop and give any assistance that is reasonably necessary. Understand that folks may be confused and upset, and follow these steps:

  • If possible, move vehicles out of the road. This will reduce chances of another crash causing additional damage and injury.
  • If someone is injured, call 911. Unless they are in danger, leave the injured where they are, and keep them warm and calm. Moving them may aggravate injuries.
  • Describe what happened to police officers, and show your license, registration, and proof of insurance to them and to anyone who is injured or whose property was damaged.
  • If you damage a parked vehicle and can’t find the owner, leave your name and contact information in or on the vehicle.
  • If there are any injuries or damage over $3,000, you must submit a Crash Report to the VT Department of Motor Vehicles within 72 hours. Forms are available online at, by calling 802 828-2050, or from any police or DMV office (or check your state’s website for the rules). Be sure to note the exact location, time and road conditions, a description of injuries and damage, and the name, address, license and registration numbers of the other driver.
  • Take photos and get names and contact information from passengers in the other vehicle and any witnesses.

Even in a crash, fatalities can be reduced by safety belts, which are the single most effective safety device for preventing death and injury on the road; they can reduce the risk of injuries by over 50%. Safety belts support a safe, comfortable position for better control of the vehicle and optimal airbag protection. To be most effective, belts should fit snugly across the hips, not over the stomach, and across the center of the chest, away from the neck. Never tuck a shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back.

Children are especially vulnerable, and are safest in the back seat. Drivers should make sure car seats and booster seats are appropriate for the child’s age and size, and properly installed.

Vermont law requires ALL occupants of a vehicle to be restrained with a safety belt or appropriate child restraint system, and so do most other states. Yet while national usage increased to 86% in 2012, Vermont compliance fell to 84.2%. We should do better, because it’s the law, and plain common sense.

We are killing too many Vermonters (or insert your state’s name here). Let’s buckle up, slow down, pay attention, and stay alive in 2013.


Watch out for fake police cars, and it’s still 911 for emergency help in the USA

Yes, I’m sorry to say that there are imposters out there. Not many of them, to be sure. Most of the time it’s really the law and you’re busted. Maybe you should slow down a little. But if you’re the victim, even one is too many, so if you find yourself being pulled over by an unmarked car and are not sure, especially if you’re driving alone, do not hesitate to call for help rather than stop immediately. Real officers will understand if you do the right thing. And what’s that? Easy, you call 911, right? Well, yes, but…

If you’ve been reading the helpful email that’s been going around lately (and by lately I mean off and on and in various forms since 2002, but I just saw a new variation (Thanks, Aunt Anna!) for the first time this week), you may be a little confused about that, and with good reason. This email tells the story of a young lady who saw those dreaded flashing lights in her rear view mirror, but they were on an unmarked car, and having remembered the good advice of her parents (She was an exceptionally smart young lady!), rather than pull over right away she dialed (and this is the tricky part) #112 on her cell phone, and reached the police emergency dispatcher who advised her that there were no real police in that area and sent genuine officers to save the day by capturing the rapist who was trying to trick her with phony police lights.

So this all makes perfect sense (and in fact I recall a rash of these types of incidents a few years back out in Colorado) except for the #112 part. Who dials #112 for help anyway? Well, thanks to good old Snopes, and some extra googling (at the European Commission Information Society, for example), I learned that Europeans do. It seems that 112, without the #, is the standard emergency number in Europe.

Another version of the same story found on Snopes substitutes #77 for #112 (The Knockoff Pullover). That number does work in a few states, but not even close to everywhere. And Snopes thoughtfully includes a US map from with state by state emergency number instructions (Highway Notification Numbers). It certainly seems definitive, and fairly recent (2008), yet the very explicit assurance in the email that This applies to ALL 50 states, meaning the #112, got the better of my curiosity, so I just had to pick up the phone, and sure enough the #112 didn’t work, as I suspected. But never one to give up that easily, I gave it one more shot with plain 112, like the Europeans do, and by golly the friendly 911 operator picked up and was as surprised as I was that I reached him by dialing 112! Back to google, I discovered that 112 also works on GSM cell phones wherever they are.

So are you totally confused yet? Here’s the bottom line. The warning is legitimate; this could happen to you, although it’s unlikely. If you need to make that call in Europe, by all means use 112, but ditch the #. In the US, although 112 or any number of other options may work, 911 is a sure thing, so why not stick with that? Well, that’s Mother’s advice anyway. And you always listen to Mother, don’t you? Sure you do.

Well listen to her one more time please, and have yourself a Happy Thanksgiving and salubrious travels wherever you go.

Mother Says: When to call 911, especially on the road…

…and other things I said I’d get back to but didn’t At least not yet. Did I say later this week? I meant later this month. Or maybe this year. I forget. And that’s the trouble, isn’t it? OK, it’s time to catch up, so here goes…

Have you been enjoying the goofy 911 call stories lately, for things like misbehavior in pets, children or fast food employees? In case you’ve missed any, here’s an LA Times piece that has a pretty extensive list: L.A. Unleashed(but it’s only fair to warn you that the video shows some other cute kitty playing with string, not the actual emergency cat). These nutty folks may be hilarious, and we’re all about a good laugh, but we also can see how victims of actual emergencies who are waiting on hold or getting busy signals might not be so amused. In fact, they could end up dead. Not funny.

Seriously, the official Vermont 9-1-1 website has instructions for what to do if you get a busy signal: You should contact your emergency service provider using their 7-digit telephone number. That is pathetic. So let’s review our 911 guidelines, shall we? Here’s the scoop from the same State of Vermont website FAQs:

When should a caller use 9-1-1?

A person should only call 9-1-1 when there is an emergency that requires immediate action to save a life, to report a fire, or to stop a crime. For non-emergencies the public should call the telephone number for police, fire and EMS in the white pages of their local phone book.

That’s pretty clear, but leaves us in a bit of a dilemma when we need help that doesn’t meet 911 standards. How many of us always have a phone book handy, especially in the car? I suppose there’s a way to get directory assistance but am not sure what it is any more, are you? Should we program our local and maybe state police non-emergency numbers into our cell phones? Couldn’t hurt. Should we join AAA (my personal favorite) or some other fine auto club, or buy a car with OnStar or Sync? Those are all good ideas. And many of us have friends and family standing by, as we are for them. So I want you to go ahead and think about alternatives for situations that can better be handled without 911, like minor accidents or breakdowns on the road. Because we absolutely do not want to distract emergency personnel from meeting more critical needs, now do we? Of course not!

That said, however, I have it on good authority that the police would rather have you call 911 for these kinds of non-emergency crises when you really don’t have a better option. They don’t want you to create an emergency where there wasn’t one, say by freezing to death at the side of the road or hitching a ride with a psycho. And by the way, I’d say that road rage definitely qualifies under saving a life.

When you call, if you do it from your cell phone, be prepared to tell the operator where you are, with specific road signs, mile markers, landmarks or an address if you know it. Cell phones do not transmit precise location information to the 911 center the way your traditional landline does at home. And VoIP is another whole kettle of fish, that doesn’t normally apply on the road so I’m going to pass on that discussion, but if you’re using a VoIP service be sure to check with your provider to make sure you’re set up properly to interact with the 911 system.

OK, let’s review:

  • Have yourself a hearty laugh over those crazy inappropriate 911 callers, and don’t be one of them.
  • Call 911 to save a life, report a fire or stop a crime.
  • If you’re calling from your cell, know and be prepared to describe where you are.
  • Use alternative methods, like the police non-emergency number, an auto service or a helpful friend or family member, for crises that are not emergencies.
  • Go ahead and call 911 when you don’t have any other safe options.

Got it? I know a complete list of possible misadventures with specific instructions would be better, but you’re going to have to use your judgment here. Mother R trusts you completely.

And yes, I know I also promised more on alternatives to sending all our gas money to the grubby folks in OPEC, but we’ve had enough for today, haven’t we? What do you say we postpone that until next week, when we’ve completed and recovered from our New Year celebrations? I am seriously considering a resolution to become more disciplined and less forgetful about blogging on the many happy, safe and healthy driving issues that remain unexplored. So stay tuned.

And Happy New Year!