Seven reasons cell phones kill people on road trips

Even though Thanksgiving is behind us, there are still plenty of reasons to road trip before the end of the year. Well, there’s one reason, really, and that’s Christmas. But, a lot of people are going to get behind the wheel or whine in the back seat. Of course, we can expect a lot of people to be on their cell phones while they’re driving about, according to the Insurance Information Institute’s blog.

Do the math on this: cell phone + car + stupidity = dead people

It really is that simple, but there are some reasons for this equation. In fact, even though I go over seven of them here, the Insurance Information Institute has pulled together an impressive list of distracted driving statistics and insights, and I just lost interest in making the list any longer than it already is (so I suggest you take a peek over on the institute’s blog) … but check out my stuff first:1. Distracted driving: the number of people killed in distracted driving incidents is up a whopping 22 percent from 2005 to 2009. Fortunately, not as many people seem to be dying from cell phone-impeded driving in the recent past, though.. The Department of Transportation reported a 6 percent decline in distracted driving deaths in 2009, which means people are either doing it less or have gotten better at it.

Of course, traffic crashes declined slightly overall for that period, which means the share of them belonging to distracted drivers actually increased. So, there’s no way to rationalize yourself out of this one: stay off the damned phone while you’re driving.

2. Leading cause: cell phones are the top reason for distracted driving, with a variety of perspectives considered. For the future though, texting appears to be the next big killer.

3. Texted to death: 18 percent of drivers in the United State have done it in the past 30 days, according to a recent study by the Insurance Research Council. Drivers 25 to 39 are most likely to be guilty: 41 percent of them copped to it, compared to only 31 percent of drivers 16 to 24.

4. Banning it does nothing: the Highway Loss Data Institute “found that texting bans may not reduce crashes,” writes the Insurance Information Institute. Collisions actually increased slightly in three of the four states examined (but the change was not statistically significant).

5. Complacency: teens are more ready to blame drunk driving than texting for traffic accident fatalities. According to the Insurance Information Institute: “The survey seems to indicates that despite public awareness campaigns about the dangers of distracted driving many teens still do not understand the risk.”

6. Hypocrisy: even though 62 percent of AAA Foundation for Safety survey respondents feel that cell phone use while driving is “a serious safety threat,” close to 70 percent admitted to talking on their phones. Twenty-four percent read or sent text messages.

7. Teenagers are stupid: while 84 percent said in a Seventeen magazine survey said “they were aware that distracted driving increased the risk of a crash,” writes the Insurance Information Institute, 86 percent engaged in distracted driving behavior related to a cell phone.

[photo by inhisgrace via Flickr]

Photo of the day (11.25.10)

The busiest travel day in America has come and gone, was it really that bad?! After all the hype and hubbub, I figured we could all used a nice zen picture of an empty airport and this shot by jrodmanjr was a perfect palate cleanser.

By this time on Thanksgiving Day, you’re either stuffed full of turkey in front of the tv, or putting on your stretchy waistband pants in anticipation of an epic feast. Instead of bitching about airlines and TSA searches, be thankful you’re with loved ones. Be thankful you *can* still travel. Be thankful you have a vacation coming up free of family, traffic, and overeating. Just be thankful for something.

Take a photo of something you’re thankful for on your travels? Upload it to our Flickr pool and we could use it for a future Photo of the Day. Happy Thanksgiving!

10 Congested highways to make you lose your mind tonight

We know that today and tomorrow, traffic is going to be brutal. With 42 million people traveling for the holiday – and 94 percent of them going by car – it’s inevitable that someone’s going to wind up frustrated. Throw in some nasty weather and highway construction, not to mention a handful of screaming kids, and you have a formula for misery.

Can it get any worse? The Weather Channel thinks so. Not every holiday driving experience is equally miserable: in fact, there are 10 spots where you’re extra likely to lose your mind. So, let’s take a peek at the 10 most congested roads in the country, according to The Weather Channel:

1. New York City to Washington, DC: I-95
This is going to suck. You have a lot of people in New York City and a lot in Washington, DC. There are also a lot in between … and so many of them will be getting behind the wheel. To make matters worse, The Weather Channel notes, “Bad weather is not uncommon along this corridor during Thanksgiving week.” Not enough abuse for you? The company adds, “Some experts estimate that this 225-mile trek is the slowest stretch of highway nationwide during the holiday season.”

2. Boston: Westbound Massachusetts Turnpike from Downtown Boston to I-84
At first glance, I wondered why the New York-to-DC stretch didn’t include Boston. I grew up there and spent many a Thanksgiving Eve sitting in the back seat not moving on the Mass Pike en route to I-84. It’s awful, and The Weather Channel’s comment, “it has been known to come to a virtual standstill,” is not an exaggeration.

3. Chicago: Borman Expressway I-80/I-94, the Tri-State Tollway
The Weather Channel calls this “the trifecta of traffic tie-ups,” because three roads with heavy traffic intersect. The big rigs that use these highways make it even worse. Good luck if this is your route for Thanksgiving.

4. New York City: Throgs Neck Bridge, Whitestone Bridge
Yeah, the Big Apple makes a second appearance on this list. There’s a reason why I’m staying put on the Upper West Side this year. If you’re looking to get from the city out to Long Island or up to Connecticut, don’t be fooled by this “key choke point,” as The Weather Channel describes it: built to “help relieve traffic on the adjacent Whitestone Bridge,” the Throgs Neck has now become a nightmare in its own right.

5. San Francisco: Eastbound I-80 to Sacramento and Tahoe
Are you among the masses dashing out of San Fancisco for Thanksgiving? If you’re looking to get an early feel for winter … well, you’ll quickly realize you weren’t the only person with this idea.

6. Atlanta: I-285 between I-75 and I-85 … in Both Directions
Six major interstates cut through Atlanta, and I-285 is the busiest of them, thanks to two million daily drivers. Throw in the extra traffic for the holidays, and you can expect to see this southern city from under an overpass or across the median. Build a few extra playlists if you’re driving this stretch of road.

7. Washington, DC: I-495 from Merrifield, VA to Landover, MD
Like New York, DC makes The Weather Channel’s list of congested roads twice. The Beltway, which is only 30 miles long, can take two hours on a normal day. Now, add angry, confused or simply stupid holiday travelers … and wait for hilarity to ensue.

8. Dallas: I-35
Are you among the 3.5 million people who will make I-35 a pain this holiday season? Drive with the windows down, maybe you’ll get the chance to make a new friend while you wait … and wait … and wait.

9. Detroit: Northbound Where US-23 and I-75 Merge
Near Flint, you’ll find plenty of people at this spot who are looking to go north for the winter. Blame the “cabin owners, resort seekers and deer hunters.”

10. Miami: The Palmetto Expressway (Near Miami Airport)
The Weather Channel calls this “one of the most heavily traveled roads in the Miami area,” and you can expect it to get backed up from Okeechobee Road to south of the Dolphin Expressway. If you’re either flying in or picking up someone who is, leave a bottle of Advil on the dashboard: you’ll need it.

[photo by FontFont via Flickr]

Ask Gadling: You missed your flight

Even in this day and age of flight delays and cancellations, it’s always not the airline’s fault that you miss your flight. It happens: you oversleep, get stuck in traffic, or just run late on the way to the airport and miss your flight. A few months ago, my husband and I were heading out of Istanbul for the weekend and because of unusually long security lines and non-functional check-in kiosks, our flight closed just before we got to the check-in counter and we missed the flight. Turkish Airlines rebooked and ticketed us on another flight with a small change fee. Recently, some visiting friends missed their flight home though they were *at the gate* due to a last-minute gate change and zero announcements. Despite the fact that other passengers made the same mistake, they paid a change fee plus the fare difference, and they were also flying Turkish Airlines.

So what can you do if you miss your flight?

View more Ask Gadling: Travel Advice from an Expert or send your question to ask [at] gadling [dot] com.
  1. Proceed to the airport check in counter – There used to be an unwritten “flat tire” rule that meant if you got a flat tire en route, you could show up and be put on the next flight with no charge. That rule seems to have gone the way of the free meal in coach, but many airlines may still try to help depending on demand and schedules. If you are on your way but think you will miss the check in cut off time but not the departure time, try calling the airline in case they are able to check you in and then rush you to the gate. Even if you know you will miss your flight, your odds of being rebooked are better if you are physically at the airport than if you go back home or to your hotel. You may even still make the fight if you can (politely, please!) push through security if you tell other passengers you are about to miss your flight.
  2. Use your status if you have it – If you are flying an airline you hold status with, now is the time to call the Gold desk. Flying a full-fare or upper class ticket can also help. This is not to say you should threaten anyone or act self-important, you want to show you are a valuable customer who would greatly appreciate being accommodated. Missed flights are another good case for travel insurance, if you’ve ensured your trip, you may be able to be rebooked for free.
  3. Be calm and flexible – It may not be your fault that your taxi driver took the long way to the airport, but you’re still in the weaker position and at the mercy of the ticketing agent. It won’t help to be difficult or angry. Additionally, being flexible about your routing can help, especially if you’ve missed the last direct flight of the day. Ask about connections or even flights to neighboring cities where you can take a train or drive the rest of the way. The day we missed our flight out of Istanbul to Pristina, we ended up on the next flight – to Prague. Your travel plans may not always be so flexible, but getting a seat on a connecting flight may mean you get home – or on vacation – faster.

Gadling readers: what’s your experience been when you’ve missed a flight? What airlines do you find to be the most accommodating?

Pyongyang to ditch traffic girls? Progress comes to North Korea

Traffic-directing hotties have always been a staple of the North Korean capital. Chosen for their looks rather than their skills in moving cars smoothly along Pyongyang‘s rather empty streets, the traffic girls have become an attractive attraction in themselves … and it looks like they are set to be retired.

According to a post on the site Pyongynag Traffic Girls, there are reports that the seemingly ubiquitous umbrellas in Pyongyang intersections are going empty, with traffic lights bringing automation to what was once a manual task.

It truly is the end of an era …

Pyongyang Traffic Girls references a story from NK News (the link was not working) and copies the following from the original story:

According to a reliable source in Pyongyang, the famous traffic girls of North Korea‘s capital city have for the most part lost their jobs. Instead, modern low voltage LED based traffic lights have been installed throughout town to control traffic.

The girls were allegedly laid off earlier in the year, however some have been retained in case of long-term power shortages and some (perhaps now working as police due to the white uniform) are manually phasing lights in busy areas, such as near the Koryo hotel.

Currently, people who drive in the city are learning about the traffic lights. There have been some bugs in the systems, it seems, but progress is nonetheless sweeping through the streets of the most insulated nation in the world.