Is COVID Making People Drive More Recklessly?

Driving is a privilege that some confuse with being a right. There are rules and regulations by which every driver must abide while behind the wheel. These are in place to keep everyone on the road safe. After all, cars are heavy machinery, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 1.35 million people will die each year due to car accidents across the globe. In the United States, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people under the age of 54.

These statistics alone should be enough to ensure everyone lucky enough to own and operate a vehicle follows the rules of the road, but that’s not true for all. In fact, dangerous behaviors such as reckless driving are all too common – and may have become even more so during recent times. This leads to the question: is COVID making people drive more recklessly? Let’s find out.

What is reckless driving?

Reckless driving is defined as a willful disregard for the safety of people or property while operating a vehicle. In the United States, the laws surrounding reckless driving are clear; it is considered to be a major moving traffic violation. Although some may think that reckless driving is similar to careless driving, the two are not one and the same.

Some examples of reckless driving include speeding, tailgating (not leaving sufficient distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front), not using turn signals, running stop signs or red lights, drunk and distracted driving, and failing to yield to right-of-way laws on the road. The consequences of reckless driving can be serious. Aside from causing injury or traffic accidents, a driver who is caught reckless driving can be fined or imprisoned, or have their license suspended or taken away.

person driving car on empty road at night
Image by Gabe Pierce on Unsplash: Is speeding during COVID-19 on the rise?

Is reckless driving on the rise?

A report published by the National Safety Council in 2019 found that motor vehicle accidents causing death were actually decreasing. Between 2017 and 2018, they decreased by 2%, and then again between 2018 and 2019 they decreased by another 2%. The reasoning behind the decrease is not entirely known, but the report suggests that new laws and regulations, such as lowering the legal alcohol limit, go hand in hand with mitigating reckless driving.

However, pedestrians have paid the ultimate price for reckless driving in the past. According to the CDC, specific reckless driving incidents involving alcohol use account for close to half of all pedestrian accidents, with 17% of those being the driver who was under the influence. In terms of pedestrian fatalities, those numbers had also decreased by 3% from 2018 to 2019. Those downturns in deaths could be attributed to lowered rates of reckless driving – but after 2019, that has changed. 

Reckless driving during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has been taking its toll on the world in various ways since early 2020, and when it comes to reckless driving, it has played a hand in increased traffic incidents. According to an article published in the Washington Post, it took only three months into the pandemic for drivers to begin engaging in reckless driving behaviors such as speeding. This has led speed-related crashes to increase as well.

With empty roadways caused by lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, many who were out on the roads began to speed well over the limit. The assumption is that with less cars on the road, these drivers believed they could get away with it; however, for many people disobeying speeding laws, crashes ensued. The same article in the Washington Post stated that 42 people lost their lives in car accidents in the 45 days following the implementation of the state’s first pandemic stay-at-home order. (In the same period of 2019, only 29 people suffered the same fate on Minnesota highways.)

empty highway road at night
Image by Sebastian Staines on Unsplash: With empty roads, some “crazy” drivers during COVID-19 have come out of the woodwork to drag race and perform other dangerous driving maneuvers.

Emptied roads have left room for people to drive recklessly, and multiple reports of drag racing, speeding, and driving well over the legal speed limit have been reported across the country. Although there is less traffic (down 41% overall across the country), the increase in traffic incidents is a cause for alarm.

Driving safely is the main thing people can do to lessen the risk of fatal or serious car accidents. Reckless driving may have been on the rise during the pandemic, but those who are part of the problem should know that driving is a right and not a privilege. Driving safely is a responsibility and should always be treated as such, no matter the circumstances of the road or the world at large.

Featured image by Samuele Errico Piccarini on Unsplash

Does Obesity Qualify For A Handicap Placard In Ohio?

If you’re living in Ohio and experiencing mobility issues as a result of your weight, you might be wondering if you’re able to get a handicap sticker for your car. Handicap permits certainly make life much easier when driving, as you can park much closer to your destination. However, many drivers aren’t sure whether or not they qualify.

For example: does obesity qualify for a handicap placard in Ohio? The answer is yes. Many Ohio residents with obesity are able to apply for disabled placards – however, it’s a bit more complicated than you might think. This guide can help you learn what is needed to get a handicap placard in Ohio and how you can get one as a person with obesity. Once you know how the process works, it becomes much easier to get your placard quickly, making it easier for you to travel and park conveniently.

Is being overweight a disability under ADA?

Many states use the Americans with Disabilities Act to determine whether or not a health condition qualifies as a disability. It states that a person can’t be discriminated against based on a disability. However, is obesity classed as a disability? Unfortunately, being overweight on its own is not considered a disability, and also won’t qualify for disability benefits.

This was determined by the courts in 2019, in the decision from the Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority case. The ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated that extreme obesity can only be considered a disability if there’s evidence of an underlying physiological disorder or condition.

This means that if your obesity causes other serious health issues, like knee or joint problems or the inability to walk, then you might be able to qualify for a handicap placard in Ohio. It’s always best to talk to your doctor to learn more.

driving in Ohio
Image by Samuele Errico Piccarini via Unsplash: With a handicap placard, driving can become much less stressful.

Can you get a handicap sticker for being obese in Ohio?

Under Ohio law, a person must meet one or more of the following health conditions to be eligible for a disabled parking placard:

  • An inability to walk 200 feet without needing to rest
  • Requires usage of a portable oxygen tank
  • Has restrictions due to a lung disease
  • Needs assistance from a cane, crutch, brace, prosthetic device, wheelchair, another person, or other assistive device for mobility
  • Has a Class III or Class IV cardiac condition according to the American Heart Association standards
  • Limited mobility due to a neurological, orthopedic or arthritic condition
  • Legally blind or severely visually impaired

As you can see, obesity is not listed above. This means being overweight does not render you eligible for a placard. However, drivers who are obese are very likely to face some of the health concerns mentioned above, such as mobility limitations or a need for portable oxygen. This allows you to obtain your necessary placard due to complications from your weight, rather than directly due to obesity itself.

You would need to have certification from your doctor to apply for your placard, stating that you meet one of the qualifying conditions. Although they can’t state that the placard is required due to your weight, they can qualify you if you meet one of the conditions above that’s caused by your weight.

virtual consultation with doctor
Image by National Cancer Institute via Unsplash: A virtual consultation with a doctor can help you work out if you’re eligible.

What is needed to get a handicap placard in Ohio?

If you think you qualify for a handicap placard in Ohio, your first step is to talk to a medical professional, such as your local doctor, or to organize a telehealth consultation. Your doctor will learn more about your health conditions and review your medical records, then make an assessment based on their expertise. 

The state of Ohio requires the medical professional to complete Form BMV 4234 – Health Care Provider Certification of Eligibility for Disability License Plates. This is legal documentation that states your eligibility for the placard. They’ll also need to provide a signed letter that states the duration of your disability, so the state knows if they should issue you a temporary or permanent placard.

Once you have those documents ready, you can complete Form BMV 4826 – Application for Disability Placards. You’ll also need to pay a small application fee. You’ll then be issued your placard. Permanent placards will need to be renewed yearly, but temporary placards will expire – when this happens, you’ll need to go through the process again to confirm that you’re still eligible.

Although the application process seems complex, it should be straightforward for anyone with a genuine disability or mobility issue due to their weight. Unfortunately, Ohio and other states have had instances of fraud in the past, with people trying to claim disabled placards without a genuine need; for this reason, states need to be stringent when it comes to their application processes.

If you’re living in Ohio and need help with your application, Dr. Handicap can help with your medical certification, so get in touch today! It’s worth the time and effort, as once you receive your disabled parking placard, life will become so much easier, giving you the confidence and freedom to travel without needing to worry about the stress of finding an accessible parking spot.

Featured image by Robert Ruggiero via Unsplash

Emotional Driving: Why You Should Avoid Driving When Stressed, Angry, Sad, And Even Excited

Road rage: it’s one of the most common emotions people have while driving. And while most people recognize that becoming enraged behind the wheel isn’t safe, what most don’t realize is how any strong emotion – not just anger – can be a danger to you when driving. The truth of the matter is that driving while stressed sad, angry, or even excited can impact your driving skills and create a dangerous situation on the road.

Read on for all you need to know about emotional driving, and how to avoid emotional driving to keep you, and everyone around you, safer.

How Do Emotions Affect Your Driving Ability?

Strong emotions, from happiness to sadness to anger, can impair your decision-making skills and cognition. They’re also distracting while driving. Stress, too, can cause some people to sleep poorly and become upset, and the feeling is often compounded when they’re on the road and have to get somewhere in a hurry.

When you drive with strong emotions, then you can easily become distracted. This can cause safety issues, such as:

  • Drifting onto the shoulder or into another lane
  • Failing to use mirrors in crowded places, such as a parking lot
  • Miss a stop sign or a red light
  • Hit another car or even a pedestrian
  • Speed in special zones such as construction or school zones

When your emotions are high, even the smallest incident on the road can trigger those emotions, making something as innocent as being behind a slow driver a much bigger issue in your mind – and potentially leading to unsafe actions on the road.

At the other end of the spectrum, being happy when you’re behind the wheel can also cause issues. If you’re in a euphoric or elevated state, you may be less careful in driving, not watching your speed closely, or not properly looking when completing a simple task such as checking your blind spot before changing lanes. Any type of distracting driving can have serious consequences – it doesn’t matter which end of the emotional spectrum you are on.

woman driving car in emotional state
Image by Paje Victoria on Unsplash: Wondering why you should avoid driving when stressed, and how can anger and stress impact your driving? The bottom line is that any type of emotional driving is dangerous.

Before You Drive

If you really want to make sure you’re driving as safely as possible, start thinking about your emotional state before you get behind the wheel. Give yourself a small time out to calm your emotions. If you’re feeling worked up, you should:

  • Take about 10 minutes to calm yourself down
  • Take a short walk and focus on your breathing before getting in the car
  • Talk to someone to help achieve a state of calm
  • Sit quietly and think about your mood, including what could happen if you got behind the wheel in an emotionally heightened state

If you’re in a rush to get somewhere, it’s even more important to take a few minutes to calm and center yourself before driving. It’s better to be late to something than it is to not get there at all because you’ve had an accident.

When You’re Behind The Wheel

If you’re driving, there are things you can do to even out your emotions. These tips can help you to stay calmer:

  • Create a comfortable environment. Make sure that the temperature inside your car isn’t too hot or too cold. If it’s not right, it can add to your emotional state.
  • Don’t tense up. Relax yourself behind the wheel. Make sure your muscles aren’t clenched and full of anxiety. Don’t grip the wheel too tightly or it can increase your feelings of tension.
  • Deal with frustration appropriately. When you find yourself become upset or frustrated behind the wheel, try turning on some relaxing music. This can be a good way to help keep yourself centered, but be sure to keep the volume low so you don’t trigger more anxiety.
  • Practice controlled breathing. Breathing exercises are a great way to relieve tension and help you to feel more relaxed behind the wheel.
happy drivers in car
Image by Sofia on Unsplash: How does excitement affect driving? In fact, much the same as any other heightened emotional state.

Driving and dealing with other people on the road can be frustrating, and if your emotions are already high, it can make the situation worse. The best thing you can do is recognize that you can easily become triggered by others and refuse to allow your emotions to take over in that moment.

If someone becomes agitated with you on the road, don’t let that pull you into negative emotions of your own. Behave courteously and calmly when dealing with other drivers no matter what, and your emotional state will serve you well in staying safe.

Featured image by mentatdgt on Pexels

Are Police Allowed To Park In Handicap Spots?

One complaint that many users of disabled parking permits have is that sometimes people who aren’t entitled to use the spots use them anyway – even the police. Far too often, people assume that using a handicap parking spot because they’re in a hurry is OK, but what they don’t understand is how this impacts people who really need to using those spots.

So who can legally use handicap spots? What are the rules surrounding their use? Are police allowed to park in handicap spots? All of these questions and more are answered below – keep reading to learn all you need to know about handicap parking use and, in some cases, abuse.

Who Are Handicap Parking Spots For?

You see them almost everywhere: blue-and-white signs with the international symbol of access that denotes a parking space for someone with a handicap parking permit. Most people understand that these spaces are only for those people who possess the valid parking permit issued by the state in which they live. Still, it’s not uncommon to see someone taking the space even if they don’t possess the appropriate tag or license plate to do so.

Handicap parking spots are meant for drivers or passengers with conditions and disabilities that make it difficult to get around. These spaces help them to get more easily where they need to go and reduce stress.

If you do not possess a proper handicap license plate or a parking permit, it is illegal to park in a handicap space. Penalties for doing so will vary from place to place, but it almost certainly involves some form of a fine, which can get expensive fast.

police car in parking spot
Image by Kindel Media on Pexels: Can police park in disabled spots? Sometimes. Is it illegal to park in a disabled bay without a permit? Yes!

Are Police Allowed To Park In Handicap Spots?

Police are given a lot of latitudes when it comes to parking and driving in general, but the rules of handicap parking spots still apply to police cars. In an emergency, police are allowed to park in handicap spots and zones. However, police who are not responding to an emergency still must abide by the rules surrounding handicap parking spots, and are not allowed to park there when simply running errands or stopping for something not related to an emergency.

What Can You Do If Someone Is Parked In a Handicap Spot Illegally?

When you are disabled with a handicap parking permit or plate, not being able to find parking can be stressful. While you may not be able to make a space magically appear, you can ensure those who are parking in handicap spaces illegally are reprimanded.

To report a car that is parked illegally in a handicap spot, you should:

  • Gather information. Make sure the car doesn’t have a handicap plate or placard first. Not all disabilities are visible, and this is very important to keep in mind if you see someone exiting a car in a handicap spot who doesn’t look as if they have a disability. If you do determine the car is parked illegally, take down the license plate number and, in the case of someone abusing a parking placard, the number on the placard.
  • Call the non-emergency line. There is a non-emergency line for the police in your area, and that is the number you should use to report this incident.
  • Visit the police department. You can also physically go to a police department to make the report during normal business hours. You will provide a statement of the details and present any other evidence you have.
  • File a report online. In some places, you can file a report online to the local police or sheriff’s department. Check your local authorities’ website to see if that’s an option for you.

Hopefully, police will then take action to punish the person who is abusing the parking situation. In many places, fines of up to $1,000 can be incurred for these violations, and may even include being charged with a misdemeanor that can result in jail time.

Dr. Handicap - handicap parking lot view
Image by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash: Parking in a handicap spot without a permit is illegal – no matter who you are!

Etiquette for Handicap Parking

When you do use a handicap parking permit or plate, make sure you’re aware of the standards of etiquette expected when using them, such as:

  • Awareness of different handicap spots. There aren’t laws that specifically outline what type of handicap spot you should use, but be aware of the limitations of the accessibility of others, even if it doesn’t apply to you. For example, you shouldn’t park in a spot designated for a van if you aren’t driving an accessible van or require a ramp to exit your vehicle. Try to use the space that is most appropriate for your individual needs.
  • Display your permit correctly. In most states, you will be required to display a handicap parking permit clearly and visibly when parking. This may mean it is hung from the rearview mirror or placed face-up on the dashboard of the vehicle.
  • Access aisles should be open. Do not park in the cross-hatched access aisles beside disabled parking spots. They are there to give those in wheelchairs easier access to their vehicles.

Featured image by Matt Popovich on Unsplash

6 Good Driving Habits That Every Driver Should Develop

How can you stay safe on the road? To drive safely, it helps to develop good driving habits each time you get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to get into bad habits while driving – but this can put the safety of yourself, your passengers, and other drivers at risk.

So what are good driving habits, exactly? Simply, these are actions, thoughts, or procedures that you follow each time you drive a car, with the aim of making your driving safe. It’s generally thought that new habits take about a month to form, so if you make an effort to practice good driving habits each day, they’ll soon become second nature.

Read on for six good driving habits that every driver should develop – plus a few that you should always avoid.

1. Focus on the Road

Wondering “How can I make my driving better?” Well, our most important driving tip is to always stay highly focused on the road. Distracted driving is the number one cause of car accidents, due to drivers paying attention to something else other than the road and what’s happening on it.

Always remain focused when behind the wheel. This means never texting or making calls while driving, listening to the radio at an appropriate volume, and keeping an eye on your mirrors and rear window, so you have a full picture of your surroundings.

If passengers, children, or pets are fussing or making noise in the car, pull over and handle the situation – but never try to calm your children or animals while still driving.

man sitting in car
Image by Fortune Vieyra on Unsplash: Checking your mirrors frequently is a good driving habit to pick up.

2. Check Your Mirrors

Your rearview and side mirrors are there to help you drive safely, so use them to your advantage. Whenever you get into the car, check your mirrors to see if their positioning is correct; they can easily get bumped, and you don’t want to have to adjust them while driving.

When you’re driving, especially when switching lanes, always check your mirrors first to make sure it’s safe. Keep in mind that all cars have a blind spot (an area you can’t see in your mirrors), so turn your head as well to make sure it’s absolutely safe before turning or merging.

3. Look After Your Car

Your car is a complex and expensive machine, so make sure it’s always running its best with regular serving and oil changes.

You might want to learn some driving basics to make things easier in an emergency. So what basic skills should all drivers have? To start, it can be helpful to know how to change a tire, how to set up flares, and how to call for help in an emergency. Otherwise, always make sure you have a roadside assistance membership so you can call for help at any time.

4. Take Frequent Breaks

Heading out on a long road trip? If so, remember to take frequent breaks. Driving when tired can lead to accidents, so stay fresh by stopping for a stretch and some fresh air every two hours or so.

Breaks can be a good opportunity to look at your map, work out where you’re going, and think about the parking situation at your destination. If you qualify for a disabled parking permit, make sure you always have it with you so it’s easy to access parking.

5. Use Your Turn Signals

It seems obvious, but many drivers neglect to use their turn signals. If you don’t use your signals before turning left or right or changing lanes, other drivers on the road don’t know what you’re planning.

This can be incredibly dangerous, so always get into the habit of indicating well before you plan to turn.

6. Slow Down

Speed can be a killer on the roads. Even if you’re running late, always drive the speed limit. If the roads are wet or visibility is poor, it’s a good idea to slow down even more.

Going the speed limit means you’ll not only avoid getting a ticket, but you’ll arrive safely at your destination.

man showing bad driving habits using phone while driving
Image by Alexandre Boucher on Unsplash: What are some bad driving habits? Texting and driving is one of the worst.

Bad Habits to Avoid

Now that you know how to drive safely, what are some bad driving habits to avoid? Firstly, to stay safe, never text or browse on your phone while driving – it can quickly cause a crash.

You’ll also want to avoid driving while angry. If you’re already feeling mad or upset, you’re not likely to concentrate on your driving, and you might even experience aggression known as road rage. Road rage can make it easy to do something you’ll regret, such as acting negatively towards another driver or making reckless choices behind the wheel.

When driving, always avoid using alcohol, drugs, or prescription medication that you know will make you tired or groggy. If you’re in a position where you’re no longer able to drive, call a cab or rideshare service, ask a friend for a ride, or wait a few hours until it’s safe to drive.

Are you ready to improve your driving? If so, make an effort to develop good driving habits, starting with the tips outlined above. They can help you become a more confident and responsible driver, keeping you and your passengers safe, happy, and secure while on the road.

Featured image by Jan Baborak on Unsplash