Posted on Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 at 2:50 pm
As the days grow shorter, many of us who enjoy running outdoors find ourselves forced to run at night. And, as we all know, running at night can be dangerous. Perhaps, the most significant danger posed by running at night is the possibility of being struck by a motor vehicle.
A recent article appearing in the LNP by Erin Negley offered some safety tips for individuals who choose to run at night in order to help minimize the risk of being struck by a motor vehicle. Here is a brief summary of those tips:
1. LOCATION – Choose your location with care. Try to find a route where there is minimal traffic.
2. VISIBILITY – Its extremely important that anyone running at night be very visible. Some suggestions include carrying a flashlight, wearing reflective vests and armbands, LED lights, and being sure to wear white or light colored clothing.
3. RUN FACING TRAFFIC so that you can see oncoming vehicles and react if necessary.
4. AVOID HEADPHONES, ETC. Leave the headphones, ear buds and other similar devices at home so that you can hear oncoming vehicles and be aware of your surroundings.
5. USE CAUTION WHEN CROSSING STREETS. Be careful when crossing streets and be sure to look both ways. Watch for drivers at intersections who may be looking only for other vehicles and not pedestrians.
6. RUN WITH SOMEONE. It’s a good idea to run with someone rather than alone for many reasons including having someone there to assist you should you get hurt. And carry a cell phone with you in case you need to call for help.
7. TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU ARE GOING AND WHEN YOU PLAN TO RETURN. Let someone know your plans when you go for a nighttime run, including the route you will be following and when you expect to return. That way, should something awful happen, someone will be aware that you have not returned when planned and take appropriate steps to search for you and, if needed, call for 911.
Running at nighttime is always dangerous. If you decide to run at night, be sure to keep these safety tips in mind to try to minimize the risk of injury.
Source: An article appearing in the LNP on Monday, November 9, 2015 entitled Night Running by Erin Negley.
Posted on Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 at 3:11 pm
Unfortunately, in recent years Lancaster County has experienced a jump in the number of fatal pedestrian accidents. According to a report by LNP, so far this year there have been eight pedestrians killed in motor vehicle accidents. Last year there were eleven pedestrians killed in motor vehicle accidents. By contrast, pedestrian deaths averaged only five per year in Lancaster County from 2010 to 2014.
In spite of a recent jump in the number of pedestrians killed in motor vehicle accidents, Lancaster County compares relatively well compared to other counties in Pennsylvania for the five year period from 2010 through 2014. For this time period, the pedestrian death rate in Lancaster County was 1.16 per 100,000 residents which compares to a statewide average of 1.22 per 100,000.
Regionally, Dauphin and Berks Counties were higher with rates of 1.4 and 1.31 respectively. However, York County, Chester County and Lebanon County all faired better than Lancaster County with Lebanon County having the lowest rate of .73 pedestrian deaths per 100,000.
The eleven pedestrians killed in 2014 was the largest one year pedestrian toll in Lancaster County since 2000 and placed the county second in the state for the 2014 year just behind Philadelphia.
As one might expect, Philadelphia County also had the highest pedestrian injury rate for the 2010 through 2014 five year period with a rate of 109.13 per 100,000 residents. In contrast, Lancaster County’s five year rate for the same period was only 30.82 per 100,000.
According to the LNP article there doesn’t seem to be any clear pattern or explanation for the recent spike in the number of pedestrian deaths in Lancaster County.
Source: An article entitled Pedestrian vs. Car by Tim Buckwalter appearing in the LNP on Tuesday, November 10, 2015.
Posted on Thursday, November 19th, 2015 at 2:42 pm
NHTSA recently announced that it will fine Takata at least $70 million dollars for its deadly airbags which have already resulted in eight deaths. And, according to an article by USA Today, NHTSA stated that the penalty could increase to $200 million dollars if Takata does not adequately comply with a plan to accelerate recalls of the defective airbags and eliminate the use of ammonium nitrate. Ammonium nitrate has been identified as the dangerous propellant used in the defective airbags manufactured by Takata.
In a related news story, both Honda and Toyota announced that they were discontinuing the use of Takata airbags in their vehicles. While NHTSA believes that vehicles that are located in hot, humid climates for at least five years are at the greatest risk for exploding airbags, NHTSA has stated that it is still investigating and has left open the possibility that it will require Takata to recall all of the airbags it has ever produced using ammonium nitrate as the propellant.
NHTSA has already ordered a recall of 19 million vehicles, 14 million of which are from BMW, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford, Honda, and Mazda. The rest are from General Motors, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and Daimler. And, NHTSA has also recently expanded its investigation to include an examination of side airbag inflators manufactured by Takata which ruptured in accidents involving a Volkswagen and General Motors vehicle.
Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com entitled Honda dumps Takata, fined for faulty airbags by Nathan Bomey on November 4, 2015.
Posted on Tuesday, November 17th, 2015 at 2:32 pm
Tesla recently announced the release of its semiautonomous driving software called Autopilot for its Model S vehicles. According to the New York Times, on Thursday, October 15, 2015, “Tesla owners woke up to discover that their vehicles can wirelessly download the new autopilot feature as a software update.”
Autopilot is a semiautonomous driving system that allows owners hands-free, pedal-free driving on the highway under certain conditions. This software will even allow lane changes autonomously at the driver’s request by hitting the turn signal. While other manufacturers such as Volvo and Mercedes Benz have already introduced their own semiautonomous features, Tesla’s is significant in that it is the first system that operates at high speeds, i.e., speeds up to 70 miles per hour.
As one might expect, the system is not free and is not yet perfect in that it requires clear lane marking and can be affected by bad weather. However, according to the Times article by Aaron Kessler, a test drive of a Model S equipped with the Autopilot system performed remarkably well. Writer Kessler noted that when lane markings disappear or significantly fade you have to take over. Similarly, when heading through a construction zone a driver should take control of the vehicle.
If Autopilot looses confidence in its ability to read the road ahead, whether because of bad lane markings, weather issues, etc. it will signal the driver with an alert on the dashboard followed by an audible alert advising the driver to take the wheel. Should the driver ignore these warnings, the Autopilot will disengage, bringing the vehicle to a stop.
These systems are legal in all states except New York which has a law prohibiting any hands-free driving. While Audi has also been aggressive in developing an autopilot system which can operate at high speeds, Audi has not yet offered that system to the public.
Source: An article appearing at usa.com on October 15, 2015 entitled Tesla’s new software helps Model S drive itself by Marco della Cava and an article appearing in the New York Times on October 15, 2015 entitled Tesla Adds High-Speed Autonomous Driving to Its Bag of Tricks by Aaron M. Kessler.
Posted on Thursday, November 12th, 2015 at 2:41 pm
General Motors recently announced that it is recalling approximately 1.41 million vehicles to fix a defect that has caused approximately 1,200 engine fires. The vehicles involved in the recall are all older model vehicles and have been previously recalled for the same problem in 2007 and 2009.
According to a GM spokesman, the fire hazard occurs because drops of oil may be deposited on a hot exhaust manifold through hard braking which can cause engine compartment fires. GM stated that it is recalling the vehicles once again because customers have reported 19 minor injuries in incidents since the most recent recall was completed.
The recall involves 3.8-liter, six-cylinder, 3800-engine models of the 1997-2004 Pontiac Grand Prix, 2000-2004 Chevrolet Impala, 1998-1999 Chevrolet Lumina and the 1998-2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 1998-1999 Oldsmobile Intrigue and 1997-2004 Buick Regal. According to GM, the Grand Prix, Lumina, Monte Carlo and Intrigue models have all been discontinued and the Regal and Impala have been completely redesigned since 2004.
Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com entitled GM to recall 1.4 millon cars over fire risk by Nathan Bomey on October 27, 2015.
Posted on Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 at 2:42 pm
A recent study funded by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that voice-activated technology used in many new cars can be a powerful and lingering distraction. The study, headed by David Strayer, a neuroscientist at the University of Utah, found that some of the more complicated voice-activated systems can take a motorist’s mind off the road for as long as 27 seconds after the driver stops interacting with the system. This is the time required by drivers to reorient themselves to the road after interacting with their car’s voice-activated technology.
The study also found that among the most distracting voice-activating systems tested were those belonging to the Mazda 6 and cars from Hyundai, Chrysler, Nissan and Volkswagen. This research also found that the same problem occurred with the voice-activated systems from Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Apple’s Siri system was also found to create a high distraction level.
According to the New York Times article about the study, some safety advocates contend that car makers are sending drivers a message that voice-activated technology is safe when, in fact, studies suggest the systems may not be safe. Some safety advocates believe that car makers are pushing these systems because they are profitable add-ons to new cars.
Source: An article appearing at nytimes.com entitled Cars’ Voice-Activated Systems Distract Drivers, Study Finds by Matt Richtell on October 22, 2015.
Posted on Thursday, November 5th, 2015 at 2:52 pm
Since humans are diurnal versus nocturnal, we weren’t really meant to be out and about in the nighttime. Without sunlight, our depth perception, peripheral vision, and color recognition plummet. Consequently, driving at nighttime is one of the most dangerous activities we can do, statistically speaking. In fact, 49% of all fatal car accidents occur at night in spite of there being far fewer drivers on the road.
Here are a few things you can do to help decrease your chances of being in an auto accident while driving at night:
1. Turn your headlights on one hour before dusk and one hour after dawn to increase your vehicle’s visibility.
2. Reduce your speed so that you don’t out drive the beams of your headlights. And, allow greater distance between you and the car in front of you. Distance is harder to judge at night.
3. Make sure that your highlights and taillights are in good working order and that they, and your windshield and windows, are clean.
4. Keep the lights dim or off inside your car to increase your night vision capabilities.
5. Reduce glare from oncoming headlights by not looking directly into oncoming traffic. It is recommended that you focus your eyes on the right edge of the road.
6. Don’t drink and drive. Keep in mind that just one drink can promote sleepiness and reduce your reaction time.
7. Have regular eye exams. Being able to see is crucial to safe nighttime driving, regular routine eye exams help insure that you have the best sight possible.
For more information regarding safe nighttime driving see www.dmv.org/how-to-drive/night.php and auto.howstuffworks.com.
Posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 at 2:47 pm
NHTSA recently announced that it has expanded its investigation of Takata airbags to include Takata side airbags. The current recall involving Takata airbags is limited to front drivers’ and passengers’ airbags.
Earlier this year, NHTSA had asked Volkswagen to provide information related to the rupture of a Takata made side airbag in a Tiguan from the 2015 model year. More recently, General Motors recalled approximately 400 cars when Takata advised GM that the side airbags in those vehicles had failed in testing.
NHTSA said that it was concerned that defects in the inflators could cause the airbags to rupture violently and spew metal fragments at the vehicle’s occupants. This is the same sort of defect that was found to be the problem in the Takata driver and front seat passenger airbags.
While NHTSA stated that they had not yet determined the root cause of the explosions, a spokesman for NHTSA stated they suspect that the ruptures are most likely related to the ammonia nitrate that Takata has used as the propellant to inflate its airbags. Thus, the agency’s investigation is focused on Takata side airbags using inflators propelled by ammonia nitrate.
According to the New York Times, at this time, no one has an accurate estimate of how many vehicles could potentially be affected.
Source: Article appearing at nytimes.com on October 23, 2015 entitled Takata Airbag Inquiry Widens by Ron Nixon, Danielle Ivory and Hiroko Tabuchi.