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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.

FIAT CHRYSLER RECALLS 700,000 SUVS TO FIX BRAKES

Posted on Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 at 1:56 pm    

Fiat Chrysler announced it is recalling more than 700,00 Dodge and Jeep SUVs to address a defective installation on brake-booster shields. As a result of the improper installation, these shields may have allowed water to intrude into the brake-booster which could cause corrosion and freezing. This could cause a degraded brake function according to Fiat Chrysler.

The recall covers Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs in model years 2011-2014. Approximately 646,000 of the vehicles are located in the US with the remaining vehicles being located in Canada and Mexico.

Fiat Chrysler said that it has identified 1 crash that was possibly related to the defect. However, thus far, Fiat Chrysler reports no injuries being linked to the defect.

Possible signs of trouble as a result of this defective installation include “excessive brake-pedal firmness” and potentially a warning light or activation of anti-lock brakes. Fiat Chrysler had previously tried to fix the defect in 2014 by installing the shields, but some of the shields were improperly installed according to Fiat Chrysler. Pursuant to the recall, Fiat will inspect the vehicles to see if the shields were improperly installed. If the brake-shield was improperly installed, the dealers will repair them for free.

Source: An article appearing in usatoday.com on October 3, 2017 entitled “Fiat Chrysler Recall: 700,000 Jeep, Dodge SUVs May Need Brake Fix” by Nathan Bomey.

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.

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.

FIAT CHRYSLER RECALLS 1.3 MILLION VEHICLES FOR DEFECTIVE BRAKES AND AIR BAGS

Posted on Thursday, August 17th, 2017 at 1:22 pm    

Fiat Chrysler recently issued 2 recalls which affect more than 1.3 million vehicles worldwide.

One recall is related to a defect that could potentially cause an inadvertent deployment of the driver side front air bags. According to Chrysler, this recall is a result of wiring that may chafe against pieces of the steering wheel trim which could potentially cause a short that might lead to a short circuit which could result in the inadvertent deployment of the driver side air bag. This recall affects about 770,000 vehicles worldwide including certain 2011 – 2015 Dodge Journeys sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The second recall relates to an anti-lock braking issue involving approximately 565,000 vehicles. According to the USA Today article reporting on the recalls, the alternators in the vehicles must be replaced as a defect in the alternator can cause a compromise in the vehicles anti-lock braking system and electronic stability control. However, the company notes that basic brake function is not effected by the defect. And, the company says that while it has identified 2 accidents that could possibly be linked to the defect, no injuries have been connected with this defect. This recall affects certain 2011 – 2014 Chrysler 300s, Dodge Charger Sedans, Dodge Challenger Coups, Dodge Durango SUVs and 2012 – 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs equipped with electro-hydraulic power steering.

Dealers will repair the vehicles for free and Fiat Chrysler will notify owners when they can get the repairs done.

Source: An article appearing in USA Today on July 14, 2017 entitled “Air Bag, Brake Defects Trigger Fiat Chrysler Recalls of 1.3M Vehicles” by Eric Lawrence.

1.5 MILLION HONDA ACCORDS BEING RECALLED TO PREVENT POSSIBLE ENGINE FIRES

Posted on Tuesday, August 8th, 2017 at 1:51 pm    

According to an article appearing at USAtoday.com, Honda is recalling about 1.5 Million new model Accords globally to prevent possible engine fires that may result from a defect in the vehicle’s battery system. Honda stated that it has linked 4 reports of engine fires to the defects.

This recall covers model year 2016 Honda Accords which were sold in the United States.

Honda stated that the defect involves a 12-volt sensor that monitors the battery’s charge level. According to Honda, the sensor may not be properly sealed off from moisture or road salt which could cause corrosion or electrical shorting. This could result in engine smoke or a fire.

Honda stated that it will notify owners when they can visit their local dealerships for repair and that repairs will be free. However, because of the size of the recall, if upon inspection dealers determine that the battery sensor is in good condition, a temporary repair will be made until enough parts are available to replace the sensors in all vehicles.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on July 14, 2017 entitled “Honda Recalling 1.5M Accord Cars to Prevent Potential Engine Fires” by Nathan Bomey

SUMMER DRIVING SAFTEY TIPS

Posted on Tuesday, July 11th, 2017 at 2:00 pm    

According to a recent article in the Ephrata Review, the highest number of fatal car accidents occur in the months of June and July. Here are a few safety tips offered by the Review to help have a safe summer:

1. AVOID DISTRACTIONS:
It’s recommend that before you leave, you answer any texts or voice messages and choose your radio station in advance. Adjust the volume and interior temperature of your car before you start your trip. Taking these steps should help you avoid any primary distractions while driving.

2. IF IT RAINS, TURN ON YOUR HEADLIGHTS
If it’s raining, turning your headlights on will make you more visible and help other vehicles see you.

3. CHECK YOUR TIRES
Regularly check the air pressure on your tires as under inflated tires can be dangerous and cause your tires to wear quicker. Don’t drive in the summer with winter tires on as they increase your breaking distance.

4. CHECK YOUR WINDSHIELD WIPERS
It is recommended that you change your windshield wipers every year. The rubber can wear off the wiper blades causing streaks on the windshield which will decrease visibility in bad weather.

5. INSECT IN YOUR CAR?
Remain calm! If your hand is near the window control, calmly put your window down, stop the car as soon as possible, and attempt to guide the insect out of the window or door.

Source: An article appearing in the April 2017 Supplement 2 Ephrata Review entitled “Drive Safely This Summer”.