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IIHS 15 SAFEST VEHICLES OF 2018

Posted on Thursday, February 8th, 2018 at 2:51 pm    

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently announced 15 vehicles which made its top safety category following recent testing.

According to an article appearing in USA Today, as a result of a decision by the IIHS to require better headlights and retest for offset frontal impact collision on the passenger side of vehicles, the number of vehicles earning the highest safety award by the IIHS has fallen in 2018.

However, outgoing IIHS President Adrian Lund said that new vehicles are safer than ever even though the stiffer testing standards introduced have caused a drop in the number of vehicles earning the IIHS Highest Safety Award of Top Safety Pick Plus designation. One of the major reasons for this change is that the IIHS is now testing the headlights on new vehicles to determine if they provide adequate visibility for drivers and do not adverse or impair the vision of oncoming traffic. Adrian Lund noted that with the introduction of the headlight testing, automakers are rapidly improving headlights and created a growing awareness that vehicles aren’t sufficiently luminating the roadway to keep drivers and pedestrians safe.

Toyota lead the industry with 10 vehicles making the Top Safety Pick Plus or the Top Safety Pick list.

Here are the vehicles which have earned the IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus Award thus far this year:

SMALL CAR

– Kia Forte (Sedan only)
– Kia Sole
– Subaru Impreza
– Subaru WRX

MIDSIZED CARS
– Subaru Legacy
– Subaru Outback
– Toyota Camry

LARGE LUXURY VEHICLES
– BMW 5 Series
– Genesis G80
– Genesis G90
– Lincoln Continental
– Mercedes Benz E-class (Sedan only)

MIDSIZED SUVs
– Hyundai Santa Fe
– Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

MIDSIZED LUXURY SUVs
– Mercedes Benz GLC

More information can be found at an article entitled, “These are the 15 Safest Vehicles You Can Drive in 2018, IIHS Says” appearing at usatoday.com on December 7, 2017 by Nathan Bomey.

A WINTER WEATHER CHECKLIST FOR YOUR AUTOMOBILE

Posted on Thursday, January 25th, 2018 at 3:07 pm    

Here are some tips offered by USA Today to help you prepare and make your wintertime travels safer.

USA Today recommends that you have the following items in your car in case of an emergency or in case you might become stranded in winter weather:

• A cellphone and a portable charger or extra batteries
• Jumper cables
• Blankets
• Extra layers of clothing, such as hats, coats, and mittens
• A flashlight with extra batteries
• First-Aid kit
• Water and non-perishable snacks/food
• Windshield scraper
• Shovel

In addition to keeping the above items in your car, you also want to make sure that your car is ready for bad weather travel too. So remember to do the following:

• Keep a full gas tank
• Make sure your anti-freeze levels are sufficient
• Ensure the heater and defroster work properly
• Make sure your fluid levels are checked and that your brakes are in good condition

The Center for Disease Control also recommends a few additional items for winter weather travel:

• Blankets
• Chains, tow chain or rope
• Tire chains
• Canned/compressed air with sealant for emergency tire repair
• Sand or road salt to help tires get traction
• Booster cables
• Emergency flares
• Bright-colored flags or help signs
• Road maps and compass
• Waterproof matches and a can to melt snow for water
• Hazard reflectors/emergency flares/emergency distress flags
• Any necessary medications

Sources: An article appearing at usatoday.com on 01/14/17 entitled “11 things to keep in your car this winter” by Amanda Hardy and a winter weather checklist found at www.cdc.gov/disaster/winter/beforestorms/supplylist.html#car

G.M. PATENTS A PEDESTRIAN AIRBAG

Posted on Thursday, January 18th, 2018 at 2:42 pm    

The Detroit Free Press recently reported that General Motors has received a patent for an airbag located on the outside of the vehicle which is designed to provide protection for pedestrians. This appears to be another effort by the industry to address a growing concern over the large number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in 2016. NHTSA reports that the number of pedestrians killed by automobiles in the United States jumped to nearly 6,000 in 2016. This was an 11% increase over 2015.

According to the patent application, GM’s airbag is mounted in the fender region of the vehicle adjacent to the vehicle’s hood and before the side door. This design could provide protection to a pedestrian from impacting the frontal area of the vehicle structure. According to those involved in the design, most pedestrians struck by an automobile do not die from the initial impact, but rather from secondary impact when the pedestrian passes over the hood and hits their head on the heavy frame piece holding the windshield in place.

GM’s patent did not reveal how potential collisions would be detected in order to trigger the deployment of such an airbag.

Dave Sullivan, a product analyst at Auto Pacific Inc. noted that GM continues to implement airbag technology in ways that other manufacturers have not. For example, he noted that GM introduced a front center airbag that deploys to prevent the driver and passenger from hitting their heads if their vehicle gets hit from the side. This is something that no other manufacturer has done to date.

However, GM is not the only manufacturer looking at airbags as a possible way to protect pedestrians. Daimler, the owner of Mercedes Benz, has also received a patent for an airbag that is attached to the framework at the sides of the windshield. And, Volvo deployed a pedestrian airbag on its V40 model which is designed to cushion the windshield area in the event of a collision with a pedestrian.

Source: An article appearing at USAToday.com on December 29, 2017 entitled, “Could Airbags Save Pedestrians? GM Patents Idea.” by Phoebe Wall Howard of the Detroit Free Press.

46 TRAFFIC FATALITIES ON COUNTY ROADS IN 2017

Posted on Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 at 2:37 pm    

In 2017, 46 people were killed on Lancaster County roads in traffic fatalities. Speeding was the primary factor in about 25% of all the fatal traffic accidents occurring in Lancaster County during 2017.

According to an article appearing in the LNP, records from the District Attorney’s office revealed that speeding was the cause of 12 of the 44 traffic incidents that lead to the deaths of 46 people in 2017. Other significant factors were driving under the influence and distracted driving. The District Attorney’s records show that DUI was a primary factor in 7 crashes and that distracted driving was the primary factor in 6 crashed in 2017.

Six of the people killed in traffic crashes in 2017 were pedestrians and 6 were motorcyclists.
The 46 deaths occurring in traffic deaths in 2017 were one more than the total killed in traffic related incidents in 2016.

PennDOT reports that the state spent more than $375 million in Federal Highway and Safety Improvement Program funds on safety projects from 2012 – 2016 to help make our highways safer.

Source: An AP article appearing at LNP on Monday, January 8, 2018 entitled, “46 Killed on County Roads in ‘17” by Lindsey Blest.

CAR FEATURES THAT CAN HELP YOU SURVIVE WINTER DRIVING

Posted on Wednesday, December 20th, 2017 at 2:35 pm    

Edmund’s recently released a list of 10 car features that it recommends to help you survive winter driving. Here are the highlights of that list:

1. Advanced Safety Feature
Automobiles come with many automated safety features that can help with winter driving such as anti-lock brakes, stability control, adaptive headlights, forward collision avoidance/automatic emergency braking and lane departure prevention.

2. All-Wheel Drive
All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive help deliver power to all of the vehicle’s wheels to help it maintain better traction on slick surfaces. Today you can find all wheel drive on all types of vehicles.

3. Engine Block Heater
An engine block heater can help a vehicle start and warm up faster in extreme frigid temperatures.

4. Headlight Washers and Wiper
Headlight washers and wipers help clear snow and ice to help provide good visibility during winter driving.

5. Heated Side Mirrors
Modern cars feature electrical heating elements to help keep the outside mirrors free from fogging with ice.

6. Windshield Wiper Deicer
Some cars now offer electrical heating elements in the lower part of the windshield to help the wipers deice themselves quicker in winter conditions.

7. Winter Tires
Tire manufactured with specially formulated rubber that remains soft in cold temperatures to help maintain traction in ice and snow.

8. Heated Seats
Heated seats can help keep the driver warm, enabling the driver to maintain their focus on driving.

9. Heated Steering Wheel
This feature can help keep the steering wheel comfortable no matter how frigid it is outside.

10. Remote Start
The remote start feature will allow you to start the engine from the comfort of your home, making sure that your car will be warm before you head out.

Sources: An article appearing at usatoday.com on December 9, 2017 entitled, “Edmund’s Recommends Ten Car Features to Help Survive Winter Driving.” By Peter Gareffa of Edmund’s via AP

BMW RECALLS 1.4 MILLION VEHCILES DUE TO FIRE HAZARD

Posted on Monday, November 27th, 2017 at 3:04 pm    

According to a recent AP article, BMW is recalling more than 1.4 million cars and SUVs in two separate recalls due to the risk of catching fire. While a spokesman for BMW says that the risk of fire is very low, BMW recommends that the vehicles be kept outside in an abundance of caution. Recalls are expected to start on December 18, 2017.

The largest of the two recalls involves the 128i model years 2008 through 2011 and various other 2007 through 2011 models equipped with 6-cylinder engines such as the 328i and the 525i. The potential hazard in these vehicles involve a heater with a positive crank case ventilation valve which can overheat and cause the valve to melt, increasing the risk of a fire even when the vehicle is not in use. This recall involves more than 740,000 vehicles. Thus far, no injuries have been reported due to this defect.

The second recall involves many of the popular 3 series BMWs for model years 2006 through 2011. In these vehicles the wiring and electrical conductors in the climate control system are vulnerable to overheating. Such overheating can cause the connectors to melt which increases the potential for a fire even when the vehicles are not in use. Thus far, 4 drivers have reported injuries as a result of this defect.

An ABC News investigation, which aired this past May, found more than 40 instances over the past 5 years where parked BMWs, including some that had been turned off for days, spontaneously burst into flames. According to a New York Times article, BMW has stated that dealers will replace the recalled components without charge.

Source: An AP article appearing at usatoday.com on November 3, 2017 entitled “Fire Hazard: BMW Recalls 1.4M Vehicles Due to Risk of Under-Hood Fires” and an article appearing at NYTimes.com on November 4, 2017 entitled “BMW Recalls Roughly a Million Vehicles at Risk of Catching Fire” by Christin Caron

Seven Things to Help Keep You Safe on Winter Roads

Posted on Thursday, November 9th, 2017 at 3:07 pm    

With a chill in the air you can be sure that Winter is on its way. Here are seven things recommended by a recent article appearing in USA Today that will help keep you safe on winter roads:

1. Snow Tires
Even a car with all-wheel drive may struggle with snow if the tires can’t maintain their grip. Snow tires are designed with deeper tread and softer rubber to improve traction on wet and slippery surfaces.

2. Emergency Tools
USA Today recommends to always carry a flashlight, a hammer to break safety glass, and a pressure gauge to check your tire pressure.

3. Snow Brush/Scraper
It is important to keep your windows clear of snow and ice so that you will have good visibility while traveling in the winter.

4. Windshield Washer Fluid
It is important to keep your windshield washer reserve filler during the winter months so that you can keep your windows clean. Unlike water, windshield washer fluid is designed to keep from freezing in cold temperatures.

5. A Shovel
Keeping a good folding snow shovel in your car will come in handy if you get stuck on the side of the road or in a snow bank. It could even save a call to a roadside service.

6. A Blanket
If you are stranded in your automobile during a winter blizzard or snow storm, a blanket can keep you warm until you are rescued.

7. Emergency Recovery Traction Ramps
You should keep these ramps in your trunk in case you get stuck in the snow. These ramps will help you get out of the snow without the need of calling for roadside assistance.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on November 15, 2016 entitled “7 Ways to Stay Safe on the Road This Winter” by Keith Barry.

SELF DRIVING TRUCKS RAISE CONCERN OF CONSUMER GROUP

Posted on Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 at 2:48 pm    

Among Uber’s recent ventures into the self-driving arenas was its purchase of Otto, a self-driving truck company, last year for approximately $670 million. And, last October, Otto made headlines when it completed a 120 mile “beer run” with a large semi-tractor trailer in Colorado.

However, recently a California non-profit group asserted in a letter to a California DMV that Otto was testing self-driving trucks in California in violation of that state’s regulations. In support of its allegations, the Consumer Watchdog group cited documents which Otto had submitted to the California officials that described a process where the driver hit a button and let the truck do the work. According to an article appearing in USA Today, the California Department of Motor Vehicles is looking into the allegations.

This is apparently not the first time that Uber has run afoul of California law Not too long ago, Uber had announced that it would start testing its self-driving Volvo SUVs in San Francisco, but shortly after the announcement, halted that process after the California DMV said Uber had not applied for the proper permits. In response, Uber moved its fleet of self-driving vehicles to Arizona.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on February 8, 2017 entitled “Watchdog Group Wants Uber’s Self-Driving Trucks Off the Road” by Marco Della Cava.

U.S. TRAFFIC DEATHS HIT A 9 YEAR HIGH IN 2016

Posted on Tuesday, October 31st, 2017 at 3:30 pm    

According to the Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car accidents killed 37,461 people in 2016. This was a 5.6% increase over the prior year and the second straight year traffic deaths have risen in the U.S. This marks a reversal of a trend where fatalities fell in 6 of the 7 years from 2007 to 2014, reaching an all-time low of 32,744 in 2014.

Although vehicle safety technology is better than ever, according USA Today, there are several other factors that have contributed to the deadly increase in traffic fatalities. The chief factors appear to be: speeding, not wearing seatbelts, and a rise in motorcycle deaths. While in previous years, distracted driving was a growing cause of traffic fatalities, according to NHTSA, distracted driving deaths actually fell by 2.2% in 2016.

The increase in traffic deaths in 2016 appears largely attributable to other mistakes by drivers and passengers including a 4% increase in speeding deaths and a 4.6% increase in fatalities as a result of unbelted passengers. NHTSA also reported 5.1% increase in motorcycle deaths. Other factors noted in the USA Today article included a 9% jump in pedestrian deaths and that drunk driving deaths rose by 1.7%.

NHTSA noted that 94% of serious crashes are the result of human error. Because human error is responsible for such a significant percent of serious crashes, the Federal government and automakers are continuing to push forward at a rapid pace to develope self-driving vehicles. In 2016, the Obama administration set a goal of eliminating highway deaths within 30 years with the expectation that self-driving vehicles would play a key role in reaching this goal.

While safety advances such as automatic brakes, lane departure warnings, rear view cameras, and advanced airbags have helped improve car safety, a recent report by AAA notes that other features such as touch screen systems which allow operation while the vehicle is in motion, have contributed to driver distraction.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on October 6, 2017 entitled “Deadly Car Crashes Are on The Rise Again, Hitting a 9 Year High” by Nathan Bomey.

SELF-DRIVING BUSES BEING TESTED IN TAIWAN

Posted on Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 at 2:01 pm    

According to a recent article appearing in the New York Times, a self-driving electric bus is currently being tested in Taipei, Taiwan. The bus, known as the EZ10 has a maximum top speed of 25 MPH and only has capacity for 12 passengers.

In May of this year, 7StarLake began testing the buses on the campus of the National Taiwan University. However, 7StarLake acknowledges that successful testing on a closed course at slow speeds can only reveal so much about how the buses might perform in traffic. Thus, getting them on the road at busy times is the next step in the development of the self-driving buses. In August, late night trials for the EZ0 first started on a short stretch of a 6-lane artery in down town Taipei. Martin Ting, general manager of 7StarLake, said that the EZ10 was suited for 3 scenarios: closed campus; short, fixed circuit; and city bus routes.

The bus is currently built by a French company called EasyMile. It uses GPS and 8 lasers sensors to navigate predetermined routes. The bus is equipped with front and rear cameras to enable it to detect and void obstacles. At a price of $550,000.00 per unit, the price is nearly twice that of a larger bus with a driver. However, a significant portion of the cost is attributed to import taxes.

According to the Times article, the EZ10 achieves a “Level 4” automation meaning that its route is chosen by humans, but there is no one behind the wheel of the vehicle and it can avoid obstacles on its own. By comparison, Tesla’s current autopilot system is considered a Level 2.

Among the most significant challenges remaining for the EZ10 and other self-driving vehicles is the challenge of creating highly detailed and accurate 3D maps and developing the computer power needed to use the maps for detection and navigation. Mr. Ting noted that “you need to make a map with 99.999 percent accuracy, which is not easy. It takes time and money.” Nevertheless, the developers of the EZ10 remain optimistic.

Source: An article appearing in NYTimes.com on September 28, 2017 entitled “In Taiwan, Modest Test of Driverless Bus May Hint at Big Things to Come” by Chris Horton.