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A Birmingham News article in today’s paper referenced a talk given by John Staddon, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Duke University. The talk was given at an advisory board meeting of the UAB transportation center. Dr. Staddon argued that some of the reasons traffic fatalities are greater in the United States than in the United Kingdom are traffic signs, speed limits, and cruise control.

According to Dr. Staddon, traffic signs distract drivers from the roadway. Instead of paying attention to the roadway, drivers look to the sides of the road in order to view the signs. Whereas, in the United Kingdom, many traffic signs are painted on the roadway, and they use roundabouts instead of stop signs in many instances.

Dr. Staddon stated that neighborhoods use stop signs too much. Additionally, stop signs are used for speed control in some instances, and as a result, "they require a stop even when stopping is not necessary for safety’s sake." With respect to speed limits, the United Kingdom has three limits depending on the roadway: 30, 60, and 70. In the U.S., speed limits can vary from 45-80 on the same section of roadway. This causes drivers to focus on the signs and not road conditions.

Couple Dr. Staddon’s arguments with the use of cell phones and drunk driving, you can imagine why so many catastrophic injuries and death occur on U.S. roads. Drivers take driving and health for granted and don’t think about the damage even low speed impacts can cause (would you put your hand between two cars traveling at 5 mph?). This holiday season, think about these things while you are driving. Maybe you will save yourself, your family members, or someone else from an unwanted memory.

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