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TRAFFIC DEATHS RISE IN THE US FOR THE SECOND STRAIGHT YEAR

Posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 at 3:27 pm    

The National Safety Council recently reported that according to its estimates, 40,200 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2016 which represents a 6% rise over the 2015 year.

If this estimate is confirmed, it will be the first time since 2007 that more than 40,000 people have died in motor vehicle accidents in a single year. This rise in traffic deaths in 2016 is alarming safety experts throughout the country since it falls on the heels of a 7% increase in 2015.

Most safety experts believe that some of the increase is associated with the improving economy which has resulted in Americans driving more miles. However, safety experts state that this can only explain a part of the jump in highway deaths. Many safety experts believe that distracted driving is a significant factor in the jump in highway deaths in the last 2 years. Consequently the National Safety Council has endorsed the idea of banning all use of smart phone by drivers, even if they use hands-free calling.

According to a recent report by the New York Times, government officials and safety advocates also contend that a major factor in the increase in highway deaths is the more lenient enforcement of seat belts, drunk driving, and speeding laws by authorities. The Times noted that while almost half of traffic fatalities involve unbelted occupants, only 18 states have laws requiring seat belts for both front and rear occupants, and categorize not wearing seat belts as a primary offense – meaning that the drivers can be pulled over for that offense alone.

David Brown, a research associate at the University of Alabama’s Center for Advanced Public Safety, studied traffic fatality reports for Alabama for 2016 and found an increase in fatalities involving high speed crashes. He noted that while total crashes were up by less than 5%, fatalities were up by 25%. In an interview, Mr. Brown stated that “I think speeding is the No.1 problem.” Nevertheless, in recent years, several states have allowed an increase in highway speed limits, particularly in rural areas. For example, Texas has increased speed limits to 85 miles per hour in some rural areas, and has about 1,500 miles of roads with speed limits of 75 miles per hour or higher.

While NHTSA has placed heavy emphasis on autonomous vehicles to reduce highway fatalities, others, such as Ralph Nader, suggest that more needs to be done now on basic road safety issues, such as simply requiring rear seat occupants to wear seat belts, and better enforcement of the nation’s speeding laws.

Sources: An article appearing at nytimes.com on 02/16/17, entitled “U.S. Traffic Deaths Rise for a Second Straight Year” by Neal E. Boudette

TEXTING WHILE DRIVING IS A BAD IDEA

Posted on Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 at 3:24 pm    

According to a recent article by carinsurancecomparison.com while drunk driving fatalities are decreasing nationwide, texting related fatalities are on the rise. Texting is another form of distracted driving. And, most experts agree that texting is the most dangerous form of distracted driving as it requires you to actually look at your phone screen instead of the road.

At a recent test conducted by Car and Driver involving professional drivers, Car and Driver concluded that texting behind the wheel was the equivalent to chugging a few beers before getting behind the wheel. And, the National Transportation Safety Board recently called for a ban on cellphone use in cars including banning the use of hands-free devices to take calls.

Thirty-five states, including Pennsylvania, have passed laws against texting while driving. Yet, according to carinsurancecomparison.com, a whopping thirty-seven percent of people polled admitted to texting while driving. The five worse states for drivers texting while driving are Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and New Mexico.

Carinsurancecomparison.com recommends that before you get into your automobile, you turn off your phone and put it away so that you won’t be tempted to use it while driving. Additionally, if you see your friends texting while driving, let them know that it is not appropriate. Experts believe that one of the big reasons that there has been a significant decline in drunk driving is because we, as a society, are telling people that it is not okay to drink and drive.

Source: An article appearing at carinsurancecomparison.com entitled Which states are the worst for texting while driving?

WASHINGTON CONSIDERS MANDATING SEAT BELTS ON SCHOOL BUSES

Posted on Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 at 3:03 pm    

The state of Washington is one of 17 states that have introduced legislation regarding seat belts on school buses thus far in the 2017 year. The Senate Transportation Committee recently held a hearing on a Senate bill that would mandate that all public and private school buses purchased in the future have a seat belt for each rider.

Currently, only 6 states, California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas have existing laws requiring seat belts on school buses.

This report said approximately 23.5 million children use school buses to travel to and from schools and school-related activities. On average, six children die each year in school bus crashes. However, in 2016, six children were killed in a single bus crash in Chattanooga, TN.

Jane Terry of the National Safety Council cites the Chattanooga crash as a good illustration of why school buses should be equipped with seat belts. Ms. Terry stated “It’s really the safest way for occupants to ride and it comes down to the bottom line of seat belts save lives and we’ve known this for years.” Terry added that from the time a child is born they are placed in a car seat and taught to buckle up in a car, but for some reason a school bus is treated different.

Senator Michael Baumgartner, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, reported at the hearings that he remembered the time when his son was a kindergartener and was surprised that the child did not have to wear a seat belt on a school bus to a field trip.

According to the AP article, Pennsylvania is one of the 17 states that have introduced legislation in 2017 to mandate seat belts on school buses.

Sources: An article appearing at usatoday.com on 01/25/17 entitled “Washington, other states eye school bus seat belts” by Alexis Myers of the Associated Press

AUDI OFFERS RED LIGHT-READING VEHICLES

Posted on Thursday, February 16th, 2017 at 2:45 pm    

The Associated Press recently reported that Audi is now offering technology on some of its vehicles that allows the vehicles to “read” traffic signals ahead and tell the motorist how long to the light turns green. The system involves a dashboard traffic signal icon with a timer next to the icon. A spokesman for Audi stated that one of the benefits of the system is that even if you can’t see the traffic signal because a truck or bus might be blocking your view, the icon will tell you how long you have to wait for a green signal.

The technology behind this system is referred to as “vehicle-to-infrastructure” technology or “V2I”. Basically this system works by using 4G LTE cellular technology that allows the vehicle to communicate with a central traffic management control network.

Currently the system is being offered in the Los Angeles area because Los Angeles has a central traffic management system which controls approximately 1,300 traffic signals in an area the size of New Jersey, a region where more than 2 million people live. Audi hopes to expand the system to larger cities in the US, including Los Angeles, in the near future. However, the AP article notes that implementing the system in other cities will be more difficult because most cities have multiple jurisdictions involved with the management of traffic control signals.

Source: An AP article appearing at LNP on 12/08/16 entitled “Car company offers red light-reading vehicles” by Ken Ritter

NO RECALL FOR TESLA MODEL “S” AUTOPILOT SYSTEM

Posted on Tuesday, February 14th, 2017 at 7:49 pm    

NHTSA recently announced that it had completed its investigation into Tesla Motors’ Model S autopilot system and found that there were no defects that would warrant a recall. NHTSA began an investigation into Tesla’s autopilot system following a collision where a Tesla S crashed into a truck while on autopilot, killing the driver of the Tesla.

The collision involving the Tesla Motors’ Model S occurred when a tractor-trailer truck made a left hand turn in front of a Tesla operated by an Ohio resident named Joshua Brown. At the time, the Tesla was on autopilot.

Although Tesla calls its system “autopilot”, it is not a true self-driving autonomous system, but, rather a semi-autonomous system which uses cameras, radars and computers to detect objects and automatically brake if the car is about to hit something. Tesla has stated that before a drive can use the autopilot system, the driver must acknowledge that it is an “assist feature” that requires both hands on the wheel at all times and that drivers must be ready to take control.

NHTSA concluded that Brown should have seen the truck for at least 7 seconds before impact, calling this a “period of extended distraction” during which he “took no braking, steering or other actions”.

A spokesman for NHTSA warned that automakers need to keep tabs on how drivers use this technology and should design vehicles with the inattentive driver in mind. Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk has vigorously defended the safety of Tesla’s partial self-driving system, and stated on Twitter that NHTSA’s conclusion was “very positive”.

However, NHTSA also stated that the closing of its investigation did not constitute a finding by NHTSA that no safety-related defects exist. It said that the agency will continue to monitor this issue and reserves the right to take future action if warranted.

This collision seems to underscore part of the difficult problems facing automakers in designing driver-assisted systems. That being how to be sure that the driver can and will take control when the situation requires the drivers intervention. Some companies, such as Ford and Google believe that it is unrealistic to expect drivers to be able to jump in with only a second or two of notice and take appropriate action. Accordingly, Ford and Google are working towards a truly autonomous self-driving automobile.

Sources: An AP article appearing in LNP on 01/20/17 entitled “US ends probe of Tesla fatal crash without seeking recall”, and an article appearing at usatoday.com on 01/16/17 entitled “U.S. auto-safety regulators: No defect found in Tesla Autopilot” by Nathan Bomey

NHTSA LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION OF FIAT CHRYSLER VEHICLES FOR ROLLAWAY RISK

Posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2017 at 2:52 pm    

NHTSA has launched a probe into a possible Fiat Chrysler defect after receiving reports of rollaway vehicles which seemed to bear a strong resemblance to the flaw that allegedly killed Anton Yelchin in June of 2016. Vehicles under investigation are the 2013 through 2016 Ram 1500 pickup trucks and the 2014 through 2016 Dodge Durango SUV vehicles which have transmissions that are shifted electronically using a rotary control on the center console. The investigation follows reports of 9 injuries and 25 crashes in which the vehicles apparently rolled away after the drivers thought they had shifted the vehicle into park.

A spokesman for Fiat Chrysler stated that they are coopering with NHTSA’s investigation and stated that it remains a “prudent practice” for “all drivers to use their vehicles parking brakes.”

Fiat Chrysler has already recalled over 1.1 million vehicles as a result of a similar problem.

The USA Today article noted that while many manufacturers have started incorporating electronic rotary shifters in recent years, some motorists are confused by how the technology works and will think that the vehicle is in park when in fact it is not.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on 12/21/16 entitled “Investigators probe Fiat Chrysler vehicles over rollaway risk” by Nathan Bomey

FORD ANNOUNCES SECOND GENERATION SELF-DRIVING CAR

Posted on Tuesday, February 7th, 2017 at 2:38 pm    

Ford recently debuted an upgraded version of its self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrid sedan in Las Vegas. This is Ford’s second generation self-driving prototype and it has been approximately three years since Ford released its initial version of its self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrid.

According to a spokesman for Ford, the second generation self-driving prototype is equipped with a brain located in the trunk that processes data collected by high-tech sensors which can see the road. Ford’s spokesman indicated that the brain contained in the Ford self-driving vehicle had the equivalent computing power of several high-end computers generating one terabyte of data per hour. According to Ford, that is more than the average person would use in mobile phone data in 45 years.

Ford previously stated that it would develop a fully autonomous that it would start selling in the year 2021. A spokesman for Ford said Ford’s goal is to develop a fully autonomous car that does not require the driver to operate the vehicle. Unlike many automakers who believe the development of self-driving cars is a multi-step evolutionary process, Ford believes that the industry must make the leap all at once.

GM also recently announced that it began testing a fleet of autonomous Chevy Bolts on public roads around Detroit. And Fiat Chrysler announced that it delivered 100 uniquely outfitted Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Google so that it could outfit the minivans with self-driving technology. Volvo and Google have also set 2021 as a target date for a production-ready autonomous car.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on 12/28/16, entitled “Ford to unveil its next-generation self-driving car” by Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press.

THE SHOCKING COST OF DISTRACTED DRIVING

Posted on Thursday, February 2nd, 2017 at 2:27 pm    

Here are some shocking statistics associated with distracted driving recently published on distracteddriveraccidents.com:

• Approximately 1.6 million automobile accidents have a cell phone involved in the incident. That is a shocking 64% of all highway accidents annually.

• Each year about 421,000 people are injured in crashes that involve a driver that is distracted in some way.

• Each year, over 330,000 accidents caused by texting lead to severe injuries.

• 1 out of every 4 cars accidents in the United States are caused by texting while driving.

• Texting is 2.8 times more risky than dialing a number on a phone while driving.

• Texting and driving is 6 times more likely to get you into an accident than drunk driving.

• It takes the average person 5 seconds to read a text. At the average US Highway speed of 55 miles an
hour, you will travel the entire length of a football field while reading a text.

• You are 23 times more likely to crash while texting than when driving without any distractions.

• Every day, 11 teenagers die because they were driving while texting

• 21% of all teenagers involved in fatal accidents were using a cell phone at the time of the accident.

Yet 1 in 4 teenagers responded to at least one text while driving every time they drive.

In spite of the above shocking statistics, 77% of adults and 55% of teenage drivers say that they can easily manage texting while driving.

Source: An article appearing at distracteddriveraccidents.com on 11/23/16 entitled “25 Shocking Distracted Driving Statistics” by Kiernan Hopkins