Staying safe: The county’s 13-second challenge


How long is 13 seconds? If you ask Google, it’s long enough to run 100 meters. Send a text message. Make a paper airplane. Or even look up on Google what you can do in 13 seconds.
In Nassau County, however, it’s also the amount of time — on average — between car crashes. If you stopped to think about that, you might have realized it took you longer than 13 seconds. It’s just not a lot of time.
That’s what 39,128 car crashes look like, according to statistics compiled last year by the Institute for Traffic Safety Management & Research. A good portion of them were minor. But twice a day, there is a serious accident right here in our own backyard, and at least once a week, someone dies as a result.
But 13 seconds is important, because it reminds us that traffic accidents aren’t rare, and they can happen to anybody at any time. We think about safety when it’s raining or snowing, or when it’s dark. But accidents also happen in good weather, in bright sunshine.
That’s why vigilance is key. No matter how good a driver we think we are, 1 in 35 people In Nassau County can expect to be involved in a car accident at some point in any given year.
And we’re just talking about crashes that involve only cars. When you mix in pedestrians, bicycles and motorcycles, the numbers become even more troubling. Like the fact that 856 people were hit by vehicles in Nassau County last year. That’s more than two people every day. More than 95 percent of them were injured, and 22 died.
More than 400 bicyclists were hit, according to the traffic safety institute, with 93 percent of them suffering injuries, and two people dying.
And 328 motorcycles crashed in Nassau County last year, injuring more than 225 riders and killing 14.
Believe it or not, despite the fact that so many people travel during the holiday season and the potential for heavy winter weather, this isn’t the time of year when most accidents happen. That’s actually in the summer, particularly around the Fourth of July. But becoming a statistic is becoming a statistic, no matter what time of year it is. And no one wants to remember their holiday as a statistic, or know someone who becomes one.
The American Red Cross offers some great tips for safe driving — something every one of us should heed. Primarily to buckle up, slow down, and don’t drive impaired. But also to be well-rested and alert. That means giving your full attention to the road, and avoiding distractions like cellphones.
Also, be sure to observe speed limits — driving too fast, or even too slow, can increase the chances of being in a collision.
If you’re taking a long trip, make frequent stops. Rotate drivers if you can. But no matter what, if you’re too tired to drive, stop and get some rest.
This might not be easy for all of us, but be respectful of other motorists, and follow the rules of the road. But don’t follow other cars too closely.
If you plan to drink, designate someone to drive who isn’t drinking.
Before you head out, clean your headlights, taillights, signal lights and windows to help you see — especially at night. And as dusk approaches, turn on your headlights. And anytime your windshield wipers are moving, your headlights should be on.
If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible. And always be alert about any cars moving near you — or where they could be moving near you.
No matter how you look at it, 13 seconds isn’t a lot of time. Yet it’s long enough to stop a car dead in its tracks in Nassau County. This holiday season, don’t be a statistic. Stay safe on the roads.