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PENNSYLVANIA OFFERS MOTORCYCLISTS FREE LEARN TO RIDE COURSES

Posted on Wednesday, July 27th, 2016 at 2:38 pm    

I recently wrote a blog article talking about Learn to Ride courses offered to motorcyclists at the Lancaster Harley-Davidson dealer. Another great way to learn how to ride a motorcycle safely is by taking one of the basic or advanced rider courses offered by PennDOT.

According to the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program website, this program offers free courses to all Pennsylvania residents and active duty military personnel with a Class M permit or a motorcycle license.

The website also states that these courses are offered year round at multiple training sites throughout the state. In Lancaster County, courses are offered at the following locations:

1. Millersville Community UMC
Millersville, PA 17551

2. Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center
Manheim, PA 17545

3. Ephrata High School
Ephrata, PA 17522

The Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program offers three different levels of courses:

1. Basic Rider Course (BRC):

This course is for individuals with little or no motorcycle experience. Total instruction time is 16 hours, including a skill evaluation test at the end of the course. Students meeting the evaluation standards can receive a completion card which waives the on cycle skill test required by the state for a motorcycle endorsement to your driver’s license.

2. Basic Rider Course 2:

This is a half day/5 hour course designed for riders who want to become more comfortable riding their own motorcycles. It is a skills practice riding course which gives riders an opportunity to improve basic street riding techniques and crash avoidance maneuvers.

3. Advanced Rider Course (ARC):

A one day course designed for experienced riders who wish to learn and practice more in depth riding techniques. The goal is to help riders achieve an increase in perceptual filtering capabilities to reduce risk while riding.

All courses are taught by MSF-Certified Instructors.

Whether you are about to purchase a new motorcycle or an experienced motorcyclist, we encourage you to take one of these courses or one of the courses offered by the Lancaster Harley-Davidson dealer in order to learn the valuable skills to help you become a safer motorcyclist.

For more information on the courses offered by the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program go to www.pamsp.com.

IIHS CRASH TESTS MUSCLE CARS

Posted on Tuesday, July 26th, 2016 at 1:33 pm    

While safety experts are often asked how muscle cars do in crash tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety typically does not test these types of cars because they focus on mainstream vehicles having a much higher sales volume. However, given that sports cars have a high crash rate, the IIHS recently decided to crash test the three top selling muscle cars in the United States: the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang. The results are in and it turns out that the answer is that muscle cars do good, but not great, in crash tests.

In order to earn the IIHS Top Safety Pick designation, a car must achieve good ratings in five categories; namely: the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side crash, roof strength, and head restraint evaluations and must also receive at least a basic score in front crash prevention. None of the three muscle cars tested qualified for the Top Safety Pick designation. Challenger, made by Fiat Chrysler, trailed General Motors Camaro and Ford’s Mustang in the crash test results. Here is a summary of the IIHS test results.

Mustang: The Mustang earned a good rating on all five main categories except for the small overlap front test in which it received an acceptable mark. And, it received a basic rating in front crash prevention.

Camaro: The Camaro received good ratings in all five main categories except for roof strength, in which it received an acceptable. However, it did not receive a rating for front crash prevention.

Challenger: The Challenger received good ratings in moderate overlap front and side crash testing, and acceptable rating in roof strength and head restraints, but received a marginal rating in small overlap front crash testing.

In response to these results, Ford issued a statement saying that “The current generation Mustang is our safest ever, in addition to coming close to earning a Top Safety Pick from IIHS, the 2016 Mustang has also earned the federal government’s highest 5-star overall safety rating.”

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on May 25, 2016 entitled Puny ponies? How muscle cars do in crash tests by Nathan Bomey.

SELF-DRIVING TRUCKS MAY COME BEFORE SELF-DRIVING CARS

Posted on Thursday, July 21st, 2016 at 1:16 pm    

While the media seems to be focusing its attention on the development of self-driving cars, the New York Times recently reported that there are several companies working on autonomous trucks. One effort to develop self-driving trucks is being led by a new start-up company named Otto, which is being led by 15 former Google engineers.

Otto thinks that autonomous trucks may reach the highways faster than autonomous cars because the significant costs of adding self-driving technology to a vehicle is more easily absorbed by someone looking to purchase a large tractor trailer truck which can easily cost $150,000. These companies argue that it will take longer for the expense associated with the self-driving technology to become affordable for the average automobile than for the more expensive tractor trailers. Otto is currently testing three self-driving Volvo tractor trailers in Nevada and claims to have logged over 10,000 test miles thus far.

Otto is not the only company working on this technology. Truck manufacturer Freightliner was also recently given a license to test out it’s autonomous tractor trailer in Nevada. Freightliner is owned by Daimler Ag which also manufactures Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Volvo and other truck manufacturers have already held autonomous freeway driving demonstrations in Europe.

Freightliner executives argue that self-driving trucks could help reduce driver fatigue by allowing drivers to be more productive by attending to paperwork while the truck is driving itself down the highway.

However, not everybody is enthusiastic about the idea of self-driving semis. Scott Grenerth, the director of regulatory affairs for the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, who spent 13 years driving big rigs said that he would be very nervous handing over control of an 80,000 lb. vehicle to a bunch of cameras and sensors. Mr. Grenerth also notes that driving a big truck requires the ability to correctly predict what is going to happen far out ahead. And, he believes that the foresight and intuition required to make such a judgment would be very difficult to program into a computer.

Source: Articles appearing at nytimes.com on May 17, 2016 entitled Want to Buy a Self-Driving Car? Trucks May Come First by John Markoff and an article appearing on May 6, 2016 entitled Self-driving semi hits the road.

PENNSYLVANIA ADOPTS IGNITION INTERLOCK DEVICES FOR FIRST TIME DUI OFFENDERS

Posted on Wednesday, July 20th, 2016 at 2:18 pm    

Pennsylvania Governor Wolf recently signed into law a bill that will require most first time DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles. The bill which passed by a 244 to 1 margin by the Pennsylvania Legislature was signed into law by Governor Wolf on May 27, 2016.

An ignition interlock device is a device which is attached to the vehicle’s steering wheel and requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece to check blood alcohol concentration before the engine can be started.

Under the new law, first time offenders who have a blood alcohol level above .10 at the time of their arrest will need to have the devices installed. Current Pennsylvania law required such ignition interlock devices only after a second DUI conviction.

The lone dissenter in voting against the new legislation was Republican Chis Dush, a Republican from Jefferson County. Representative Dush stated that he opposed the bill because by making the installation of the devices mandatory for many first time offenders, “It gets rid of a lot of discretion on the part of officers and especially judges. . .” Dush also stated that the cost of the interlock devices was a concern to him as it could be particularly hard on the low income offenders struggling to keep their families afloat. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the devices cost $70 to $150 to install and $60 to $80 per month for monitoring and calibration. The new law will take effect in 15 months.

Source: An article appearing in LNP on May 19, 2016 entitled Interlock bill meets only 1 dissenter and an article appearing at post-gazette.com on May 25, 2016 entitled Gov. Wolf Signs DUI Interlock Bill by Karen Langley

MORE MOTORCYCLES ON LANCASTER COUNTY ROADS

Posted on Tuesday, July 12th, 2016 at 1:17 pm    

According to recent statistics released by PennDOT, the number of motorcycles in Lancaster County has nearly doubled since 2000 when there were only 11,163 motorcycles in the county. In 2015 this number rose to 20,502, which was an 84% increase. In contrast, over the same time period, the number of passenger cars in the county increased by only 24%.

Statewide, the number of motorcycles in the state jumped from 210,788 in 2000 to 396,796 in 2015, representing an 88% increase.

Although the number of motorcycles on our roads have been increasing over the past 15 years, the fatality rate has been declining. In Lancaster County, for example, from 2000 to 2004 the fatality rate was 6.8 fatalities per 10,000 motorcycles. By contrast from 2011 to 2015 the annual fatality rate per 10,000 motorcycles fell to 4.1%. Statewide, a similar trend was also reported by PennDOT with the fatality rate falling from 6.0 per 10,000 in the years 2000 to 2004 to 4.8 per 10,000 from 2011 to 2015.

The increasing number of motorcycles on our roads is just one more reason that drivers need to be extra cautious during the warmer weather when motorcyclists are out on our highways again. “Look twice. Save a life.”

Source: An article appearing in LNP on Monday, June 20, 2016 entitled Presence of motorcycles on the rise by Tim Buckwalter.

TAKATA AGREES TO RECALL AN ADDITIONAL FORTY MILLION DEFECTIVE AIR BAGS

Posted on Thursday, July 7th, 2016 at 2:05 pm    

In early May, after prodding by U.S. safety agencies, Takata agreed to add up to an additional 40 million air bag inflators to its already record setting recall. Takata was already engaged in the largest recall in U.S. history having previously agreed to recall 28.8 million air bag inflators. With Takata’s recent announcement, the total number of air bag inflators recalled could reach 69 million.

NHTSA pressed for the recall because the inflators need to be replaced before they are six years old when NHTSA believes the risk of ruptures substantially increases.

The current recall of 28.8 million is expected to take until the end of 2017 due to the lack of replacement parts. With the additional 40 million just added, the government regulators estimate that it will take until the end of 2019 to finish the recalls.

Even though other inflator manufacturers such as TRW Automotive, Daicel and Autoliv have already jumped in to produce additional inflators to replace the defective Takata inflators, automakers have only replaced approximately 28% of the recalled inflators due to the lack of parts and difficulties in locating owners of the vehicles with the defective air bags.

Mark Rosekind, the head of NHTSA stated that the science is absolutely clear in showing that the Takata inflators can become unsafe over time, especially when exposed to heat and humidity. Accordingly, the recall will give priority to older cars and those that are located in the areas of high heat and humidity.

Furthermore, according to the AP article, the latest recall adds three new manufacturers to the fourteen automobile manufacturers that already have vehicles involved in the recall. The new manufacturers include Tesla, Jaguar-Land Rover and Fisker.

Source: An AP article entitled Recall expands, testing industry by Tom Krisher and Jon Lowy appearing in the May 5, 2016 addition of the LNP.

SOME CAR MAKERS STILL SELLING NEW CARS WITH DEFECTIVE TAKATA AIRBAGS

Posted on Tuesday, July 5th, 2016 at 3:50 pm    

The New York Times reported that according to a recently released Senate Commerce Committee report at least four car manufacturers – Toyota, Volkswagen, Fiat Chrysler and Mitsubishi are still selling new cars with defective Takata airbags that will need to be recalled.

Perhaps even more shocking, the automakers apparently are not required to tell buyers purchasing the new vehicles that they are equipped with the defective Takata airbags. In defending this practice, regulators emphasized that the newer airbags do not pose an immediate threat because it takes time for them to deteriorate.

Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, stated “I find it bizarre on multiple levels, . . Multiple mainstream automakers essentially know that they are selling cars that already have a defective part in them. And it’s not a defective windshield wiper or sun visor hinge. It’s an airbag, a primary safety device,”.

Mr. Brauer felt that this was occurring because automakers are struggling to find alternative suppliers for airbags.

Under the current recall schedule laid out in a consent order issued by the federal auto safety regulators, the defective airbags being installed in 2016 vehicles will need to be recalled by 2018. Toyota and Fiat Chrysler have refused to name the new models which contain the riskier airbags. Volkswagen stated that it’s 2016 Volkswagen CC, and it’s Audi brand 2016 Audi TT and it’s 2017 Audi R8 models contain the riskier Takata airbags. Mitsubishi said that it’s 2016 and 2017 model years of it’s i-MiEV electric car contains the riskier airbag.

Karl Brauer of Kelley Blue Book noted that “If a company is unwilling to disclose which models [contain the Takata airbags], I as a consumer would hesitate buying any of their cars until I know which ones are affected.”

Source: An article appearing at nytimes.com on June 1, 2016 entitled Automakers Still Selling Cars With Defective Takata Airbags by Hiroko Tabuchi.