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MORE MOTORCYCLE SAFETY TIPS FROM NHTSA

Posted on Thursday, March 30th, 2017 at 1:30 pm    

Everyone knows how much fun riding a motorcycle is. But, given the dangers associated with riding a motorcycle, it is also important to do so in a safe manner.

NHTSA offers the following suggestions for motorcycle safety:

1. MAKE SURE YOU ARE PROPERLY LICENSED
Because riding a motorcycle requires different skills and knowledge than driving a car, all states require a motorcycle license endorsement before you can legally ride. And to receive this endorsement, you generally will be required to pass a written and a riding skills test.

2. TAKE A MOTORCYCLE RIDER EDUCATION/SAFETY COURSE
Some states actually require that you take a state sponsored rider education course before you can get a motorcycle license. Others will waive the riding skills test if you have taken and passed a state approved course.

Either way, NHTSA recommends that you complete a motorcycle rider education course to help insure that you ride safe. For more information regarding motorcycle safety courses, see our prior blog articles related to learn to ride courses or get more information by calling the Motorcycle Safety Foundation at 800-446-9227.

3. PRACTICE OPERATING YOUR MOTORCYCLE
Since every motorcycle is different, it is important that you take time to become familiar with the feel of a new or unfamiliar motorcycle by riding it in a controlled area before heading out on the highway. And, be sure that you know how to handle your motorcycle in a variety of riding conditions including such things as adverse weather and encountering road hazards.

4. MAKE SURE YOUR MOTORCYCLE IS SAFE
You should be sure to check your motorcycle before you ride to make sure it is in good, safe working order. That means checking the tire pressure and tread depth, hand and foot brakes, headlights, signal indictors and fluid levels. Check under the motorcycle for signs of oil, gas or fluid leaks.

5. PASSENGER SAFETY
If you are carrying a passenger on your motorcycle, be sure to instruct the passenger to get on board only after the engine is started, sit as far forward as possible and to keep both feet on the footrest at all times – even when you are stopped. Also, remind the passenger to keep their legs and feet away from the muffler to avoid getting burned. Finally, your passenger should hold on firmly to your waist, hips or belt; minimize movement; and lean at the same time and in the same direction as you do.

6. WEAR THE PROPER PROTECTION
The proper protection begins with a safe helmet approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). In addition to protecting you in the event of a crash, some helmets also have face shields that offer protection from the wind, rain, bugs, dust and stones that you might encounter. If your helmet does not have a face shield, be sure to wear goggles to protect your eyes. (For more information regarding selecting a safe helmet see our article entitled: Is That Motorcycle Helmet Safe posted June 9, 2016.)

Also you need to wear the appropriate clothing to protect yourself. Ideally you should wear leather or heavy denim. Boots or shoes should be high enough to cover your ankles and wearing gloves will provide better grip and protect your hands in the event of a crash. Remember that wearing brightly colored clothing with reflective material helps make you more visible to other motorists.

Additional suggestions regarding safe riding can be found at our other blog articles on this subject.

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

BIG CHALLENGES STILL REMAIN FOR SELF-DRIVING CARS

Posted on Tuesday, March 28th, 2017 at 8:50 pm    

Recent traffic statistics certainly seem to suggest the need for self-driving cars. Last year, traffic deaths were up with 35,200 more people dying in 2015 than in 2014. This represents a 7.7% increase. And, approximately 95% of those deaths were the result of human error. McKinsey & Co., a global consulting firm, estimates that fully automated vehicles could have prevented about 90% of those deaths.

While these statistics certainly seem to support the development of self-driving cars, significant challenges still remain.

Here are a few of the challenges that still face the industry:

1. CURRENT SELF-DRIVING TECHNOLOGY IS NOT YET READY FOR PRIME TIME. Big risks exist in the development of the Automated Driver Assist Systems that are already present in many new vehicles, but which still require human intervention. How to keep a driver alert enough to take over when necessary is one of the most vexing problems facing the industry now.

2. IT REMAINS UNCLEAR HOW MANY DRIVERS WILL ACTUALLY EMBRACE SELF-DRIVING TECHNOLOGY. Although NHTSA and the U.S. Dept. of Transportation want to support self-driving cars, they recognize that there just isn’t that much information about how self-driving cars will be integrated into traffic flow currently dominated by human drivers. Significant research and data will be needed to address this ongoing issue.

3. EDUCATING THE CONSUMER ABOUT SELF-DRIVING CARS. If the owner of a self-driving car doesn’t understand when and how she must re-engage or take control or if he or she believes that the vehicle is “fully autonomous” when it is only partially autonomous, bad things will result.

4. STATE VERSUS FEDERAL RULES. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated that when a vehicle is operated by the software, NHTSA intends to be the entity regulating the safety of that vehicle. However, when a human being is operating the vehicle, individual state laws would apply regarding the appropriate licensing. Whose rules and regulations will govern in a conflict? Given the recent announcement by NHTSA, it appears that NHTSA’s regulations would preempt the conflicting state law.

These are only a few of the challenges facing the developers of self-driving cars. Many others exist such as adverse weather conditions, and the interaction between human drivers and autonomous vehicles. Hopefully, regulators and the manufacturers will not sacrifice safety in the rush to mass produce self-driving cars.

Source: An AP article appearing in the Detroit Free Press on September 21, 2016 entitled 8 big challenges remain for self-driving car makers by Greg Gardner.

SOLVING THE DISTRACTED DRIVING PROBLEM

Posted on Thursday, March 23rd, 2017 at 1:57 pm    

NHTSA has come up with a possible solution for the ever growing problem of distracted drivers. NHTSA would like the manufacturers of wireless devices to add a driver mode to modify or block certain apps and features to keep the driver’s attention on the road.

The New York Times reported that in an effort to deal with this disturbing trend of more and more drivers being distracted by cellphone and other electronic devices, the federal government is issuing voluntary guidelines for portable electronic devices that are used while driving. The guidelines require cellphone manufacturers to develop technology to identify when the devices are being used by a driver while driving. The idea is that the limits on use would be placed on drivers and not on other vehicle occupants.

While guidelines cannot force electronics companies to comply, other similar guidelines issued by NHTSA have been voluntarily adopted by car manufacturers and others.

According to NHTSA, these guidelines are in response to a sharp increase in the number of highway deaths in 2015 and the first 6 months of 2016. Highway deaths increased by 10.4% in the first six months of 2016 and by 7.1% in 2015. This recent increase reversed the downward trend in the number of highway deaths over the past decade or so. At the current rate, more than 100 people die every day in traffic accidents. Mark Rosekind, the Administrator of NHTSA, and other safety experts think that distracted driving is a significant factor in this jump in traffic deaths in recent years.

According to the Times article, NHTSA envisions a driver mode on cellphones similar to the current airplane mode which would detect when the devices are being used by a driver and block any use that could be distracting to the driver.

Source: An article appearing at nytimes.com on November 23, 2016 entitled Auto Safety Regulators Seek a Driver Mode to Block Apps by Neal E. Boudette.

TIPS FOR SAFE DRIVING IN WET WEATHER

Posted on Tuesday, March 21st, 2017 at 1:20 pm    

The Federal Highway Administration says that wet roads and rain in particular are the main cause of weather-related crashes. Here are a few tips from a recent article in the Lititz Record Express to help you drive safely in the rain:

– MAINTAIN WINDSHIELD WIPERS. Be sure that your windshield wipers are in good condition by regular inspections.

– TURN ON LIGHTS WITH WIPERS. Reduced visibility is a major factor in wet weather accidents. Therefore, when you turn on your windshield wipers, be sure to turn on your headlights too.

– REDUCE SPEED. According to the AAA, hydroplaning can be a serious problem with as little as one-half inch of water on the roadway. Reducing your speed and avoiding hard braking will help make sure that your tires maintain good contact with the road.

– SKIP THE CRUISE CONTROL. Avoid cruise control so that you can maintain control over your vehicle at all times.

– MAINTAIN TIRES. Proper tire pressure and tread levels are important to your tire’s traction. Therefore, regularly check your tires for tread wear and proper air pressure.

– BE ALERT TO CHANGING ROAD CONDITIONS. Typically, the first few hours of a rain storm can produce the most dangerous road surfaces. This is because accumulated oil and engine fluids float in the rain water and will lie on the roadway before eventually flowing off the surface.

Source: An article appearing in the Lititz Record Express on Thursday, October 13, 2016 entitled Stay Safe When Driving in Wet Weather.

MOTORCYCLE SAFETY COURSES OFFERED BY LANCASTER HARLEY-DAVIDSON

Posted on Thursday, March 16th, 2017 at 1:38 pm    

If you are a motorcyclist and are interest in taking a motorcycle safety course, you will be pleased to know that the Lancaster Harley Davidson located in Willow Street, PA, offers such classes starting in April.

According to the website, courses are offered for the new rider and skilled rider.

With respect to the new rider course, there are a few things that you should know about this course. First, unlike the state program, all riders learn to ride on a Harley Davidson street 500 bike which is fitted with safety gear specifically designed to reduce the risk of any injury. The safety equipment includes safety bars designed to keep the bike from falling on an individual should they drop the bike, or otherwise put the bike down.

Other important features of the Learn To Ride course include:

• The course is 25 hours which is approximately 10 hours longer than the state course. This additional time allows more time for riding.

• Classes are limited to twelve (12) individuals. This allows instructors to spend more one-on-one time with anybody having difficulty mastering a particular skill.

• Courses are only $99.00 for all veterans and reservists, active-duty service members, and first responders and their spouses-subject to some minor restrictions. For all others, there is a $349.00 charge.

Upon successful completion of the course, you earn a MSF Basic Rider Course Completion Card which may exempt you from the Riding Skills portion of your State License exam and may also enable you to get a discount on your motorcycle insurance.

A skilled riders course is also offered for the experienced rider. This course is an eight (8) hour one or two-day course designed to help the experienced rider learn advanced tips and techniques. In order to enroll in this course, you are required to own a street-ready motorcycle, have a valid motorcycle license or permit, or motorcycle endorsement, and provide proof of valid motorcycle insurance.

While motorcycles are provided by Lancaster Harley Davidson for the riding portion of both courses, you are required to bring your own DOT-certified helmet and appropriate riding gear.

Courses are already beginning to fill up, so you will want to act quickly if you are interested in taking a course this season. More information and registration is available through the Lancaster Harley Davidson website at www.lancasterhd.com or by calling Joy Shaub, the manager of the riding academy at 717-464-2703 x207.

FEDS TO REQUIRE CARS TO TALK TO EACH OTHER

Posted on Wednesday, March 15th, 2017 at 1:58 pm    

Regulators recently announced new rules aimed at requiring all new cars and light trucks be able to communicate wirelessly with one another within about five (5) years. The technology often referred to as “vehicle-to-vehicle” connectivity or “V2V” enables cars to transmit important information to one another using short-range radio communication and allows vehicles to identify each other’s speed, location, direction, and acceleration or braking, within a radius of about 300 meters approximately 10 times per second.

Such information allows cars to detect vital safety information about another vehicle, such as when a vehicle is about to run a red light, changing lanes, or braking hard in time for the driver or automated safety system to prevent a crash.

According to an article appearing in USA Today, this move could help accelerate the development of self-driving cars and advance NHSTA in reaching its goal of eliminating highway deaths within 30 years.

V2V technology is viewed as critical to the development of self-driving cars because it does not require visual sightings. Although the current rule would only apply to consumer vehicles, NHSTA said that it believes this technology also holds tremendous potential with respect medium and heavy-duty trucks and buses.

Sources: An article appearing usatoday.com on 12/13/16 entitled “Feds: Cars must be able to talk to each other”, by Nathan Bomey, and an article appearing in LNP on 12/14/16 entitled “Gov’t to require cars to talk to each other”

AUTOMOTIVE HEADLIGHTS GET THE ATTENTION OF IIHS

Posted on Thursday, March 9th, 2017 at 2:46 pm    

Although there have been many changes in automotive headlights over the past 30 years which have lead to brighter headlamps, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, headlights haven’t necessarily gotten better. As a result, the IIHS has begun testing automotive headlamps as part of its safety ratings for new automobiles.

In part, this decision to add headlight performance to its criteria for determining vehicle safety is a result of tests that the IIHS conducted in 2016 to see how well headlamps that swivel around bends perform. This testing found that property damage claims fell by 9% for those cars that had curve-adaptive headlights.

According to a spokesman for the IIHS, making good headlamps is not a mystery or even a technical challenge. However, unfortunately, much of the focus has been placed on how the headlamps look as part of the car’s design, rather than on how well they perform. Under current law, headlights can be of any shape as long as the headlight meets certain minimum output specifications set by NHTSA and adequately avoid glare for oncoming vehicles and pedestrians. However, current standards do not set any minimum illumination distance standards. Testing conducted by the IIHS has shown that a number of factors, including something as simple as the proper aim of a headlight, can sharply reduce the ability of the headlight to shine down the road and properly light up the roadway ahead.

Thus, as part of its testing standards, the IIHS has established minimum distances that headlamps must illuminate down the road as well as on the right side of the road when on the low-beam setting.

Since manufacturers generally are concerned about getting a high safety rating from the IIHS, the IIHS believes that the new standards will help lead to headlamps that provide better visibility without unneeded glare. As an example, the IIHS cites recent testing involving a BMW 2 Series with Xenon headlamps which performed poorly in testing and led to a marginal rating for that vehicle. Shortly after the results of the testing were made public, BMW re-examined its headlights and by re-aiming the headlights was able to improve the visibility for the driver so that on retesting the 2 Series received a rating of “Good”.

New technology such as adaptive driving beams which use 50 to 100 distinct LEDs that automatically adjust depending on the driving situation, promise to further improve visibility for drivers in the near future.

Sources: An article appearing at nytimes.com on 02/17/17, entitled “Headlights Get New Attention as More Than a Car Design Flourish” by Eric A. Taub.

TESLA’S MODEL S FAILS TO RECEIVE TOP SAFETY RATING FROM THE IIHS

Posted on Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 at 2:41 pm    

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently announced that the Tesla Model S did not receive either of its highest safety ratings.

In order to receive a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS, a vehicle must have a rating of “good” in five crash tests and receive a rating of “advanced” or “superior” in frontal crash prevention which requires automatic emergency braking if a collision is imminent. To receive the highest rating, Top Safety Pick +, a vehicle must also receive an “acceptable” or “good” rating for its headlights, which is a new criteria added by IIHS in 2017.

The IIHS stated that Tesla did not receive either of these top ratings because:

− The Model S got an “acceptable” in the small overlap frontal crash test.

− In one of the crash tests, the dummy hit its head against the steering wheel with enough force that it could have caused a concussion or facial fractures in a real crash.

− The car’s headlights were rated as “poor”.

− The test model did not have an automatic braking system to prevent rear end collisions.

Tesla has been known for promoting its vehicles as among the safest available to consumers. In response to the IIHS announcement, Tesla noted that “… we are committed to making the world’s safest cars, and Model S has previously received a 5-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Administration and a 5-star rating from Euro NCAP. Model S still has the lowest ever probability of injury of any car ever tested by NHTSA.”

Tesla also stated that on January 23, 2017, it made software changes to provide for automatic emergency braking in the event of an imminent collision. A spokesman for Tesla also stated that it fully expects the Model S to receive the top rating from the IIHS when it test the vehicle with the software upgrades and other recent modifications.

The New York Times, in its article reporting on the test of the Model S, noted that the Top Safety Pick + designation was awarded to two less expensive plug-in hybrids, namely the 2017 Chevrolet Volt and the Toyota Prius Prime. Three luxury models that have recently received the Top Safety Pick + rating are the Hyundai Genesis G90 and G80 models, and the Lexus RC.

Sources: An article appearing at usatoday.com on 02/01/17 entitled “Tesla’s electric car falls short in IIHS crash tests” by Chris Woodyard, and an article appearing at nytimes.com on 02/01/17 entitled “Tesla S Falls Short of Luxury Rivals on Tougher Safety Test” by Cheryl Jensen

BMW RECALLING 19,000 i3 MODELS FOR FIRE RISK

Posted on Thursday, March 2nd, 2017 at 2:52 pm    

BMW recently announced that it is recalling more than 19,000 i3 plug-in hybrids in the United States because of a potential fire risk posed by a fuel tank vent line. According to an article appearing in LNP, BMW reported that a fuel tank vent line in the i3 could rub against the sleeve of the battery cable and over time, this could cause a hole to develop in the vent line which would then allow fuel vapors to leak out. Such a leak could pose a risk of fire.

To date, BMW stated that it knows of no fires or accidents related to this potential defect which was reportedly discovered by a dealer.

The i3s involved are models years 2014 through 2017, and manufactured between March 2014 and December 2016. BMW will notify the owners and will replace the fuel line for free. BMW is expected to begin the recall in April.

Source: An article appearing LNP on 02/20/17, entitled “BMW recalling 19,000 i3 plug-in hybrids for fire risk”.