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ALCOHOL PLAYS A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN HOLIDAY WEEKEND FATALITIES

Posted on Thursday, September 28th, 2017 at 1:57 pm    

Each year around the Holidays, including Labor Day, police use special patrols and check points to help deter motorists from drinking and driving. According to a recent article in the LNP, there is good statistical support for this extra effort by the police at Holidays.

According to data compiled by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, crashes, especially fatal ones, occurring during Holiday periods are far more likely to involve alcohol. In 2015, for the year as a whole, roughly 8% of crashes involved alcohol. However, that percent jumped to 15% over Holiday periods. And the jump in fatalities related to alcohol is even more significant for Holiday periods. Data for the 2015 year shows that those deaths that were related to alcohol for the year was 29%, but this percentage jumped to 48% for Holiday periods.

The percentage was even higher for the Labor Day weekend reaching a remarkable 57% of highway deaths being alcohol related. In 2015, there were 119 alcohol related crashes and 8 alcohol related fatalities over the Labor Day weekend.

The LNP article noted that in recent years, police have been increasing their effort in looking for drivers under the influence of drugs since they know that this is a growing problem.

Source: An article appearing at LNP on August 22, 2016 entitled “Data Supports Need for Holiday DUI Checks” by Tim Buckwalter.

MORE NEWS ON THE TESLA AUTOPILOT CRASH

Posted on Tuesday, September 26th, 2017 at 2:06 pm    

The NTSB recently announced new information regarding its investigation in to the crash of a Tesla Model S car while on autopilot that resulted in the death of Ohio resident, Joshua Brown. Joshua Brown was killed when his Tesla crashed at a high speed into a semi-tractor trailer truck making a left turn in front of him. The NTSB concluded that both drivers had at least 10 seconds to spot each other, but there was “no evidence of any evasive action taken by either driver before the collision.”

While concluding that the Tesla’s autopilot functioned as designed, it also noted that no vehicle currently on the roads are capable of monitoring and responding to cross traffic like the truck that crossed in front of Brown’s vehicle. Thus, Robert Sumwalt, chairman on the NTSB stated that Tesla’s “operations limitations played a major role in this collision.”

As a result of the investigation, the NTSB recommended that auto makers limit the use of partially self-driving technology by insuring that drivers are engaged at all times. Finally, the board concluded that Tesla’s method of requiring that the driver’s hands are periodically on the steering wheel is not sufficient to ensure that drivers are engaged at all times. And, suggest that other solutions such as a camera that tracks eye movement disengages the self-driving system if the camera detects the driver is not paying attention. This is a method that is being developed by several other auto makers including General Motors.

The NTSB report notes that at the time of the collision the driver was traveling at 74 miles per hour, but the posted speed limit was only 65 miles per hour. The report also stated that the driver used Tesla’s self-driving system for 37.5 minutes of the 41-minute trip and during that time he had his hands on the wheel for a total of approximately 30 seconds.The NTSB report also stated that the driver received seven visual warnings on the instrument panel which blared “Hold Steering Wheel” followed by 6 audible warnings before the crash.

Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, recently stated that technological advances implemented in to Tesla autopilot system several months after the crash probably would have prevented it.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on September 12, 2017 entitled “Tesla Autopilot Crash: Feds Want to Force Drivers to Watch Road” by Nathan Bomey

POOR HEADLIGHTS A PROBLEM FOR MIDSIZED PICKUPS AND SUVS

Posted on Thursday, September 21st, 2017 at 1:56 pm    

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently completed a round of safety testing of midsize pickups and SUVs. According to a USA Today article, none of the recently tested 2017 midsize pickups earned top safety honors from the IIHS due to poor headlights. All headlight packages on the midsized trucks performed poorly in the IIHS testing. The IIHS recently added headlight performance as a category in ranking the safety of motor vehicles.

However, with respect to the small overlap front crash test, The Toyota Tacoma, a crew cab version of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon earned a good rating. The small overlap test measures a vehicle’s performance when it clips and oncoming car or smashes into a pole or tree on the side of the road. However, the Nissan Frontier, which has not had a major redesign since the 2005 model only received a marginal rating. The IIHS also recently reported that only 2 of 37 midsized SUVs offered headlight packages which were rated good in testing. The two that received a good ranking were the Volvo XC60 and the Hyundai Sante Fe. SUVs receiving a poor rating were the Infinity QX60, Lincoln MKC, Lincoln MKX, Dodge Journey, Ford Edge, Ford Explorer, GMC Terrain, Hyundai Sante Fe Sport, Jeep Wrangler, Kia Sorento, and Toyota 4Runner.

According to the IIHS, one of the major problems contributing to the poor performance of the headlights is that manufacturers need to do a better job of aiming headlights in the right direction when they are installed. A representative of the IIHS noted that Federal regulations require aim to be controlled.

Other safety advocates such as the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, contends that outdated US regulations are contributing to the problem and that the US regulators need to adopt new regulations that will allow for the use of modern technology that is currently available in Europe and Japan that could vastly improve headlight performance. One such example cited by the advocates is adaptive beam headlights that dim the light aimed at oncoming motorists to reduce glare while maintain high beams on the road ahead to ensure good visibility. In 2013, Toyota requested the NHTSA to allow such technology in vehicles manufactured for the US, but NHTSA has yet to make a decision.

Source: Articles appearing at usatoday.com on September 6, 2017 entitled “Poor Headlights Dim Safety Test Results for Midsized Pickup Trucks” by Nathan Bomey and an article entitled “Only 2 of 37 Midsize SUVs Offer ‘Good’ Headlights, IIHS Says” Nathan Bomey published on June 13, 2017.

CONGRESS SEEKS LEGISLATION TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM HOT CAR DEATHS

Posted on Tuesday, September 19th, 2017 at 1:43 pm    

As of the end of July, the death toll in 2017 for children dying in hot cars reached 29. Eleven children died in hot cars in July,2017 alone. The last time that this many children died in a single month in hot cars was in 2008.

As a result, some legislators are looking at technology as a possible solution. Recently, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, introduced legislation that would require new cars to be equipped with technology that alerts the driver if a child is left in the back seat when the car is turned off. Blumenthal noted that such technology is already available in many of General Motors newest models.

Since 1998, at least 729 children have died from heat stroke in vehicles in the U.S. The USA Today article notes that the annual number of children dying in hot cars each year increased significantly following legislation that required children to sit in the back seat of automobiles to avoid death from front seat airbag deployment.

Some new GM models prompt drivers to check the back seat if they open a rear door at the beginning of their trip. One safety advocate, Jackie Gillan of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Coalition noted that “We need to educate people to ‘look before they lock’, but on the other hand, we have technology that will solve the problem.”

Source: an articles appearing in usatoday.com on 09/06/17 entitled Hot Car Deaths Prompt Push for Tech That Detects Kids in Vehicles” by Doyle Rice and Greg Toppo.

NEVER RIDE WITH YOUR FEET ON THE DASH OF YOUR CAR

Posted on Thursday, September 14th, 2017 at 2:14 pm    

Propping one’s feet up on the passenger side dashboard is something that many of us are guilty of doing. However, it is a very bad idea! A recent article appearing in USA Today reminds us of exactly why this is such a bad idea. Air bags deploy at speeds between 100 and 220 miles per hour, and the impact from your knees, etc., striking your face or body could cause significant injuries.

According to the article appearing at usatoday.com, Audra Tatum of Georgia had just such an experience approximately 2 years ago. Audra had her legs crossed with one foot on the dashboard when she was involved in a crash which caused her air bag to deploy and send her foot into her face. Audra, who was not wearing a seatbelt at the time, said that as a result, she suffered a broken nose, broken ankle, femur and arm. And she stated that she still walks with a limp and cannot stand for more than 4 hours at a time. Audra hopes that her story will encourage others to think twice before putting their feet up on the dash.

If you are driving a car and your passenger puts their feet up on the dash, tell them about Audra’s story and politely suggest they don’t put their feet on the dash.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on August 15, 2017 entitled “Why You Should Never Ride With Your Feet on the Dash of the Car” by Ashley May.

MOTOR VEHICLE DEATHS DROP SLIGHTLY FOR FOR FIRST HALF OF 2017

Posted on Tuesday, September 12th, 2017 at 1:57 pm    

According to an AP article, preliminary data show motor vehicle deaths and injuries were down slightly for the first 6 months of 2017. Nevertheless, they were still significantly higher than they were 2 years ago.

Through June 30, 2017, a National Safety Council stated there were 18,689 motor vehicle deaths. This was 250 fewer deaths than in the same period in 2016. However, deaths were still up by 8% compared to the first 6 months of 2015.

After several years of declines, deaths began to raise in late 2014. There were 40,200 deaths for the calendar year of 2016 compared with 35,398 in 2015. The AP article notes that these increases correspond with record high miles being driven by Americans as the economy has improved. However, while miles driven for the first 6 month are up by 1.7%, the rate of increase in miles driven appears to be slowing.

Deborah Hersman, president of the Nation Safety Council, stated that “Although the numbers may be lowering off, the road to zero deaths will require accelerating improvements in technology, engaging drivers and investing in our infrastructure.”

The information provided by the Nation Safety Council differs slightly from traffic fatalities reported by the NHTSA since the Federal government reports on deaths on public roads while the Council includes private roads, driveways and parking lots.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on August 15, 2017 entitled “Safety Council: Motor Vehicle Deaths Dip Slightly in 2017” by Joan Lowy.

REGULATORS STRUGGLING TO STAY AHEAD OF SELF DRIVING CARS

Posted on Thursday, September 7th, 2017 at 2:54 pm    

Although self-driving cars are just starting to appear on our nation’s highways, USA Today reports that regulators are struggling to catch up with this new technology.

Proponents of the new technology are increasingly concerned about the development of regulations by states which proponents of self-driving cars believe could lead to conflicting regulations and thus slow the development of self-driving cars in the U.S. Many proponents believe the Federal government needs to step in and create national standards relating to testing, crash liability and design requirements for self-driving cars.

So far, 22 states have either passed legislation related to self-driving cars or adopted regulations through government executive orders. Pennsylvania is among this list of states.

While the proponents of self-driving vehicles argue that Federal standards are necessary for uniformity and to make it possible to build vehicles that can be effectively sold across the country, the states say that it is important that they take steps to ensure that this technology is safe.

Tesla introduced guidelines on self-driving vehicle developments in 2016. Recently, U.S. Transportation Secretary, Elain Chao said that the Trump Administration will unveil revised self-driving guidelines within the next few months to replace the existing guidelines.

USA Today notes that competition between key players in the development of self-driving technology, has also lead to issues with respect to the adoption of regulations. For example, General Motors has actively pursued legislation in several states that would prevent non-automakers from providing rides in self-driving vehicles. This sort of competition can lead to problems in developing uniform regulations among the states.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on June 25, 2017 entitled “Regulators Scramble to Stay Ahead of Self-Driving Cars” by Nathan Bomey and Thomas Zambito.

FORD LEADS THE PACK IN SELF-DRIVING VEHICLE ARENA

Posted on Tuesday, September 5th, 2017 at 5:40 pm    

According to a recent study completed by Navigant Research, Ford Motor Company is in the lead in the development of an autonomous vehicle. Navigant Research is a company which sells its in-depth surveys of energy and transportation markets to suppliers, policy makers and other industry stakeholders.

Navigant Research stated that GM was close behind Ford Motor Company followed by Renault-Nissan and Daimier. It should be noted that Navigant’s survey did not include technology companies such as Apple. However, Waymo, a new name for Google’s long running car project, came in 7th.

Ford has been testing a fleet of Ford Fusions in real world situations including night testing in Arizona and snow testing in Michigan. Raj Nair, Ford’s chief technology officer, stated that Ford still plans to roll out autonomous vehicles in 2021. And Ford autonomous vehicles would be at the FAE level 4 which is one step down from full autonomy. Such vehicles can operate autonomously in fully mapped areas, but need human input in unmapped locations and extreme weather.

According to the USA Today article, the most often mentioned road block to the rapid development of self-driving vehicles is the murky regulatory environment which currently exists. Additional factors that are effecting the rapid development of self-driving vehicles also include concerns about reliability, hacking and questions concerning liability in the inevitable event of an autonomous vehicle crash resulting in human injuries.

Source: an article appearing at usatoday.com on April 3, 2017 entitled “Ford Leads Self-Driving Tech Pack, Outpacing Waymo, Tesla, Uber: Study” by Marco Della Cava.