Resolutions for the New Year

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Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.” –Benjamin Franklin

It’s a new year and of course that means it’s a time for resolutions to be set forth – be it to lose weight, exercise more, or quit smoking. And if you DO smoke, please try and really quit this year. It took me a year to quit in my 20s but it’s one of the best things I ever did.

[Another impertinent editor’s resolution: get more vehicle OEMs to use heavy metal riffs in their commercials! I mean, if HONDA can use The Hellion by Judas Priest to salute the introduction of its new MINIVAN, for goodness sakes … then the sky is the limit! If the Electric Eye allows it, that is …]

Ah yes ... but let's return to planet Earth, shall we?

From a more serious angle, noted entrepreneurial expert Jerry Osteryoung has a few resolutions from a business perspective he’d like to share as well.

Professor Emeritus of finance with the college of business at Florida State University, Osteryoung’s thoughts have graced this blog more than a few times over the years, and he’s got some good ideas to share in terms of “resolution making” for any business owner, no matter the industry:

• Every business owner should make a commitment this year to ensuring that each employee feels like an appreciated and valued member of your team.

• Consider reading a new business book every month. If you do not have time to read, a “book on tape” edition works just as well. This is an alternative Osteryoung (seen below) says he often uses.

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• Make a commitment to replacing marginal workers with the best staff you can find. As part of this resolution, recognize that the sooner you remove a poor employee from among your ranks, the better your business's morale will be.

• Start developing plans for an exit strategy knowing that you will not be at the helm of your business forever. The sooner you have a concrete plan in place, the more content you, your spouse, and your family will be.

• Make a commitment this year to having better balance among work, family and spiritual pursuits. After all, no one on their deathbed ever wished they had worked more. Life is just too short not to enjoy more of it.

• Consider getting involved with a non-profit organization beyond just providing monetary support. Go out and help however you can. Many non-profits are on thin ice and need so much guidance. Helping others will make you a better leader and a better person.

• Eat right and exercise every day to ensure you stay healthy this year. I promise you, the better care you take of your body, the better you will feel and the more productive you will be.

• Finally, do your best to reduce your stress level by eliminating as many interruptions in your day as you can. Nothing kills your productivity or increases your stress level more than dealing with interruption after interruption.

On a very different track, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is challenging operators of vehicles large and small to examine their driving habits and make a resolution to drive safer in 2012 and beyond.

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"Something is terribly amiss in our traffic safety culture when, in the safest year since 1949, on average there is still one needless death every 16 minutes in motor vehicle crashes,” noted Peter Kissinger (seen at left), the AAA Foundation’s CEO. “To reach zero deaths, each driver must take a moment to assess his driving habits and ask, when it comes to safe driving, am I part of the problem or part of the solution?"

[That fatality number Kissinger cites, by the way, is based on Department of Transportation data that indicates 32,885 lives were lost in automobile crashes in 2010 -- fewer deaths on record than any time for the past 60 years.]

For the fourth consecutive year, Kissinger noted that the AAA Foundation's Traffic Safety Culture Index finds that most drivers (86%) view it as unacceptable to drive without wearing a seat belt, yet nearly one in four admit that they have done so in the past 30 days.

Additionally, a substantial number of drivers find it unacceptable to drive 10 mph over the speed limit on residential streets – yet a large number freely admit to doing exactly that in just the past month.

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“Such findings indicate that a false comfort exists among many drivers who believe 'it is the other guy behind the wheel' yet admit to regularly engaging in potentially deadly behaviors like texting, driving while drunk or drowsy, excessive speeding, and red light running,” he pointed out. "This ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude that persists among drivers needs to change before we can experience a traffic safety culture where safe driving is the norm.”

Here are some other findings from the AAA Foundation’s 2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index that indicate a big behavior change is needed behind the wheel:

• More than three in four drivers (76%) say that people driving after drinking alcohol are a very serious threat to their personal safety and nearly all (97%) consider it to be unacceptable. However, over 14% of drivers admit to driving when they thought their alcohol level was close to or possibly over the legal limit at least once in the past year, and of these, more than one in five (21%) have done so in the past month.

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• Distracted driving, specifically cell phone use and texting while driving, is widespread – even though 94% of drivers consider texting while driving a serious threat. More than one third of drivers (35%) admit to reading a text or email while driving in the past 30 days and more than a quarter of drivers (26%) admit to sending a message while driving in the past month.

• Additionally, more than two thirds of drivers (68%) report talking on their cell phone while driving in the past month, and nearly one in three (31%) say they do so fairly often or regularly.

• Speeding is widespread on highways and residential roads, even though 74% of drivers consider it unacceptable for a driver to drive more than 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway. In fact, more than half of drivers (52%) admit to speeding by this much in the past month.

• Virtually all drivers (94%) consider it to be unacceptable for a driver to drive 15 mph over the speed limit on a residential street, yet more than one in four drivers (26%) admit to having done so within the past 30 days.

• Nearly all drivers (94%) view it as unacceptable to drive through a traffic light that has already turned red if they could have stopped safely; however, more than one in three drivers (37%) admit doing this in the past month.

• Most drivers view drowsy driving as a serious threat to their safety and a completely unacceptable behavior. Indeed, virtually all drivers (96%) consider it unacceptable for someone to drive when they are so sleepy they can hardly keep their eyes open; yet nearly one third of drivers (32%) did just that in the past month.

• Nearly one in four drivers (23%) admit that they have driven without wearing their seat belt in the past 30 days, and nearly one in five (19%) say they have done this more than once.

"While we are moving in the right direction when it comes to safety on our roads but we need to do much more,” Kissinger noted. “Changing driver behaviors is not rocket science; it's harder. But we must take the first step and make it a personal goal to be a safe driver in 2012.”

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