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SHARING THE ROAD WITH MOTORCYCLES

Posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2016 at 1:55 pm    

In 2014, 4,586 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes. While this represented a decrease of slightly more than 2% from 2013, there has been an increase in motorcycle fatalities 15 out of the last 17 years.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers these tips to help motorists share the road with motorcyclists.

– NEVER DRIVE DISTRACTED.
Research by NHTSA has consistently shown that drivers of vehicles are distracted more than 50% of the time. Distracted driving can have tragic consequences for everyone on the road.

– ALLOW A MOTORCYCLIST A FULL LANE WIDTH
While it may appear that there is enough room in a single lane for a motor vehicle and a motorcyclist, looks can be very deceiving. Never attempt to share a single lane with a motorcyclist. Motorcyclists need room to maneuver safely.

– BE CAREFUL NOT TO MISJUDGE THE SPEED OF MOTORCYCLES
Because motorcycles are smaller than most other vehicles on the highway, they can be difficult to see. And, their size can also cause other drivers to misjudge their speed and distance.

– CHECK ALL BLIND SPOTS CAREFULLY BEFORE CHANGING LANES
Again, because motorcycles are small, they can easily hide in a vehicle’s blind spot. Always check for motorcycles before changing lanes by checking your mirrors and blind spots before making a lane change.

– ALWAYS USE YOUR SIGNALS BEFORE CHANGING LANES
Using your signals before changing lanes or merging with traffic will help motorcycles anticipate your movement and find a safe lane position.

– DON’T BE FOOLED BY A FLASHING TURN SIGNAL
Turn signals on a motorcycle may not be self-canceling and the motorcyclist may have forgotten to turn it off. Therefore, wait and be sure that the rider is going to turn before you proceed.

– ALLOW EXTRA DISTANCE WHEN FOLLOWING A MOTORCYCLE
Allow at least 3 or 4 seconds when following a motorcycle as this extra distance will give the motorcyclist more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. Remember motorcycle riders may need to suddenly change speeds or adjust lanes to avoid road hazards such as potholes, gravel, railroad crossings and grooved pavement.

NHTSA also offers these suggestions for motorcyclists:

– Always wear a DOT-compliant helmet and use reflective tape and gear to be more visible. NHTSA estimates helmets saved the lives of 1,630 motorcyclists in 2014 alone.

– Never ride while impaired or distracted. It is simply not worth the risk of killing or injuring yourself or someone else. Almost half of the motorcycle riders who died in single vehicle crashes in 2013 had a BAC level of .08 or higher.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation – NHTSA website

FORD PLANS DRIVERLESS CARS BY 2021

Posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 at 1:59 pm    

Ford Motor Company recently announced that it plans to deploy a fully autonomous and driverless ride-hailing car by 2021. CEO Mark Fields made the announcement at the Ford Research and Innovation facility in Palo Alto, CA noting that the facility will double its staff to 300 people to help it meet its goal.

A spokesman for Ford stated that they are aiming for a Level 4 self-driving vehicle which is a fully automated vehicle, but it is limited to driving in a geo-fenced area that is very heavily 3D mapped. This is another way of describing the typical city center. This is the kind of environment where the major ride-hailing companies Uber and Lift operate. Ford also stated that the sort of autonomous vehicle that it is working towards is a vehicle that is not equipped with a steering wheel and is intended to act as a short distance, low speed shuttle in dense urban areas.

Ford also stated that in testing driver assisted vehicles or what is commonly referred to as semi-autonomous vehicles, where the vehicles do most of the driving, but rely on the human in certain situations, Ford discovered that bringing the driver back quickly can be very difficult to manage. Thus, Ford has decided to develop a car which clearly delineates when a driver is and isn’t necessary.

In related news, other automobile manufacturers including BMW and Volvo announced that they intend to have self-driving cars available by 2021. USA Today reported that currently some 33 companies are developing autonomous car technology including other manufacturers such as Audi and Volkswagen.

Ford also announced that it was purchasing several technology companies which are involved in manufacturing products related to self-driving vehicles including Velodyne Lidar. Velodyne Lidar makes crucial laser radar components which have been used in the manufacturing of self-driving vehicles.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on August 17, 2016 entitled Ford promises driverless cars by 2021 by Marco della Cava.

NHTSA QUESTIONS SAFETY OF SELF-DRIVING CARS

Posted on Monday, August 22nd, 2016 at 9:34 pm    

It was recently reported by the Detroit Free Press, that NHTSA says more flexible rules and new research sources are needed to determine whether or not self-driving vehicles will be safe enough for all of America’s roadways.

Mark Rosekind noted that NHTSA will release guidelines next month that will set rules of the roads with respect to autonomous vehicle research. However, he warned that these rules are likely to change with time and new developments. Rosekind added that “We need new safety metrics. We are also going to have to broaden our view of the data sources for what those metrics might be. We have laboratory work. We have simulations and real world data.”

To date, most vehicles which are testing full autonomy or Level 4 of self-driving vehicles are being tested exclusively on proving grounds at specially designed environments such as Mcity in Ann Arbor, MI or other similar well-guarded settings.

Auto makers are continuing to introduce what is referred to as Level 2 or semi-autonomous self-driving features which include such things as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning alerts and forward crash avoidance systems designed to enhance safety. However, the path to full autonomy where the driver relinquishes control and relies upon sensors, software, 3D maps and algorithms to drive the vehicle, is a much more challenging scenario.

Tesla Motors recently introduced a feature it called Autopilot that can do some of this. But, in early June, one of its Model X’s with Autopilot crashed into a commercial building in Irvine, CA. The driver stated that the vehicle accelerated on its own from a parking space. Tesla, however, claims that the vehicle’s log showed that the Autopilot feature had not been activated. Such instances illustrate how difficult it is to determine how safe is safe enough.

At a recent meeting of safety experts and industry representatives, Mark Golden, executive director of the National Society of Professional Engineers pointed out a few of the significant problems still facing self-driving vehicles which included:

– Poorly marked pavement which could foil technology which relies on clear lane markings
– Bad weather which can interfere with sensors
– The inability of self-driving cars to take instructions from a policeman
– Inconsistent traffic control devices such as horizontal versus lateral traffic lights.

John Simpson, privacy project director of Consumer Watchdog noted that there have been thousands of disengagements reported in road tests of self-driving cars where the self-driving cars automatically turn control over to the human behind the wheel.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on June 11, 2016 entitled NHTSA chief questions safety level of self-driving cars by Greg Gardner of the Detroit Free Press and an article appearing in the LNP on April 9, 2016 entitled Experts: Self-driving cars not ready yet by Joan Lowy of the Associated Press.

DROWSY DRIVING IS A BAD IDEA

Posted on Thursday, August 18th, 2016 at 1:29 pm    

According to a recent report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one in five fatal accidents in America involve a drowsy driver.

“Drowsiness is similar to alcohol in how it compromises driving ability by reducing alertness and attentiveness , delaying reaction times, and hindering decision-making skills” according to Dr. Nathaniel Watson of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Dr. Watson also notes that rolling down the window or turning up the music will do little to improve your alertness while driving. The solution, according to Dr. Watson, is making sure you get a good night’s sleep every night. And a good night’s generally means 7 – 9 hours of sleep every night.

Here are a few warning signs to watch for to alert you that you are too sleepy to drive:

• You keep yawning or are unable to keep your eyes open
• You catch yourself nodding off and having trouble keeping your head up
• You can’t remember driving the last few miles
• You end up too close to cars in front of you
• You miss road signs or drive past your turn
• You drift into the other lane of traffic
• You drift onto the rumble strip or shoulder of the road

Should you experience any of these warning signs you should pull over or have someone else take the wheel.

If you, or someone you know, sustained injuries in a motor vehicle collision in Central Pennsylvania, contact the Law Office of Bill Pelhan at 717-392-6362 to learn more about your rights and legal options.

Source: An article appearing in The Ephrata Review on March 11, 2015 entitled Defeat drowsy driving dangers: Tips for staying awake at the wheel.

IS A ROUNDABOUT COMING YOUR WAY?

Posted on Tuesday, August 16th, 2016 at 2:20 pm    

Once only seen in countries in European countries such as Britain and France, roundabouts are experiencing rapid growth in the United States according to a recent article in the New York Times. Roundabouts have long been favored by traffic engineering because they cut congestion and reduce collisions and traffic deaths.

Roundabouts, which first appeared in the United States in the early 1900’s, have now doubled over the last decade to about 5,000 according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. According to Richard Retting, a former researcher for the IIHS, there are currently hundreds, if not thousands more, in the planning stages.

Roundabouts are not the same as traffic circles. In traffic circles, vehicles have the right-of-way based on when their light turns green. However, roundabouts typically do not have traffic lights. Rather, vehicles approaching a roundabout will slow to around 20 MPH and yield to those already in the circle.

Not only do roundabouts help reduce traffic congestion, but they can significantly reduce crashes that result in serious injuries or death. According to the Federal Highway Administration, roundabouts reduce accidents resulting in death or serious injuries by 82% when compared to a two-way stop and by 78% when compared to traffic signals.

In one state, Washington, state law now requires a “good-faith attempt” to consider the appropriateness of installing a roundabout whenever an intersection is being constructed or retrofitted.

Source: An article appearing at nytimes.com on July 30, 2015 entitled As Americans Figure Out the Roundabout, It Spreads Across the U.S. by Eric A. Taub.

RIDE RESPONSIBLY – TIPS FOR MOTORCYCLISTS

Posted on Thursday, August 11th, 2016 at 2:32 pm    

The latest statistics reported by NHTSA reveal that based on miles traveled data, motorcyclists are approximately 27 times as likely as passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash and 6 times as likely to be injured.

While everyone who has ridden a motorcycle knows how much fun it can be, given these shocking statistics, it pays to ride responsibly. Here are a few suggestions offered by NHTSA for responsible riding:

– Know the local traffic laws and don’t take risks.

– Obey all traffic lights, signs, speed limits and lane markings.

– Ride with the flow of traffic and leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles; and always check behind you and signal before you change lanes.

– Remember to ride defensively. The majority of multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes are usually caused when the other drivers simply don’t see the motorcyclist.

– Proceed cautiously at intersections and yield to pedestrians and other vehicles when appropriate.

– Increase your visibility by keeping your headlights on at all times, wear brightly colored clothes with reflective materials, and by using high beams even during the day.

– Be alcohol and drug free. Simply stated, alcohol and drugs don’t mix with motorcycle riding.

– Always wear a helmet. The proper helmet is the best hope for protecting your head in the event of a motorcycle crash.

Source: U. S. Department of Transportation – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

FIAT CHRYSLER GETS UNWANTED ATTENTION AS A RESULT OF STAR TREK ACTOR’S DEATH

Posted on Tuesday, August 9th, 2016 at 3:09 pm    

Fiat Chrysler is receiving unwanted attention as a result of the recent tragic death of Anton Yelchin, a young actor best known for his role as Chekov in the recent Star Trek movies. Actor Anton Yelchin was killed when his Jeep Cherokee rolled backward down his driveway and pinned him against a brick mailbox pillar and security fence. Yelchin’s Jeep was one of the 1.1 million Fiat Chrysler SUVs and sedans worldwide subject to a recall to address a transmission design flaw that was cited in similar incidents, although none of the prior incidents resulted in a death.

The recall was a bit unusual because the shifters perform as they were intended to perform, but were confusing to owners. According to the NHTSA, hundreds of owners had filed complaints saying that the electronic gear shift mechanism was confusing to use and several owners had actually exited their vehicle without having it engaged in park as intended, which led to rollaway events despite warning lights and sounds designed to prevent this from happening.

In April, Fiat Chrysler announced that it would recall the vehicles to add additional safety measures to the gear shift mechanism. At that time, Chrysler said it was aware of 41 injuries that were potentially relative to the issue. Chrysler also stated that the vehicles involved in the incidents were inspected and no evidence of equipment failure was found.

NHTSA began investigating the issue in August of 2015 and in February stated that it was concerned that the design of the shifters was confusing to drivers.

According to an article appearing in USA Today, vehicles involved are model years 2014 and 2015 Jeep Cherokees, as well as 2012 to 2014 model years Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300 sedans. Fiat Chrysler now uses a more conventional shifter lever in all three models.

At this point, it is unclear whether or not Yelchin’s Grand Cherokee had been brought in for the recall service prior to the accident. However, the LAPD stated that it is trying to determine whether or not the car was in Park when the accident occurred.

Source: An article appearing in usatoday.com on June 21, 2016 entitled Fiat Chrysler spotlighted by ‘Star Trek’ actor’s death by Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press and an article appearing at foxnews.com on June 20, 2016 entitled Jeep Involved in Fatal Anton Yelchin Accident was Subject of Safety Recall.

GM VICTIMS’ COMPENSATION PROGRAM IS WORKING FOR GM

Posted on Thursday, August 4th, 2016 at 2:03 pm    

In the spring of 2014, GM set up a program to pay victims of accidents caused by their defective ignition switches. At the time, GM’s CEO said that GM was trying to live up to its “civic duty”.

However, The New York Times noted that the program was also an effort by GM to keep victims and their families out of court to avoid long, expensive and image-damaging litigation. The deadline for filing claims having passed at the end of January 2015, it now appears that the effort is succeeding.

So far, Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the program, has made 93 offers to settle claims of people who were very seriously injured and to the families of those who were killed as a result of the defective ignition switches. And, Mr. Feinberg’s office reports that no one has turned down an offer yet.

However, according to the article by The New York Times, attorneys representing claimants for injuries deemed less serious have expressed dissatisfaction with GM’s offers.

As of February 2, 2015, 4,180 claims had been filed. Four hundred fifty-five were for deaths and 278 of them were for injuries so disabling that they require life-long care plans. About 128 claims have been approved for payment while 482 claims have been denied. More than 3,000 claims are still under review.

According to The Times article approximately 2.6 million General Motors cars have been recalled because of defective ignition switches.

Source: An article appearing in The New York Times on February 2, 2015 entitled G.M. Victim Compensation Program Seems on Track by Hilary Stout.

CHARGES FILED IN JAPAN AS A RESULT OF A DEFECTIVE TAKATA AIRBAG

Posted on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016 at 1:48 pm    

The A.P. recently reported that a criminal complaint has been filed against Takata as a result of a defective airbag rupturing and injuring the front passenger of a Nissan X-Trail SUV in a freeway crash in Tokyo in October of 2015.

According to the news report, when the vehicle crashed into a truck on the freeway, the passenger side airbag burst improperly causing injuries to the front seat passenger while the driver’s seat airbag functioned properly. The vehicle involved was part of a recall in May of 2015 prior to the collision. While the vehicle had been brought in pursuant to the recall, no parts were replaced after it was checked to see if the inflator was airtight, which Nissan thought meant that it was safe.

Subsequent to this incident, Nissan has decided to replace all inflators regardless of whether or not they are airtight. Furthermore, Nissan stated if replacement parts are not available, the airbag will be turned off.

At this point, it is estimated that recalls of defective Takata airbags worldwide is likely to reach more than 100 million. Faulty Takata airbags are responsible for 11 deaths and more than a 100 injuries worldwide. And, two more recent deaths are currently under investigation in Malaysia.

This recall involves almost every major automaker including Honda, Toyota, Ford, and BMW as well as Nissan.

Unlike most airbag manufacturers, Takata uses ammonia nitrate in its inflators to create the small explosion that inflates the airbags in a crash. But testing has shown that this chemical compound can deteriorate over time when exposed to heat and humidity which causes it to burn faster than intended, which can cause the airbag inflator canister to explode sending shrapnel spewing in the passenger compartment.

Source: An AP article appearing at nytimes.com on June 8, 2016 entitled Criminal Complaint Filed in Japan Over Faulty Takata Air Bag.