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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.

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

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

NTSB SAYS DRIVER KILLED IN TESLA IGNORED WARNINGS

Posted on Thursday, June 29th, 2017 at 2:01 pm    

USA Today reported that the driver recently killed while using his Tesla’s auto pilot system ignored repeated warnings to take the wheel. The driver, John Brown, of Ohio was killed when his Tesla crashed into a tractor trailer truck making a left turn in front of him.

Earlier this year a report by NHTSA stated that that the driver should have seen the truck for at least 7 seconds prior to the collision and called that a ” period of extended distraction ” , noting that the driver “took no braking, steering or other actions”

The report by the NTSB seemed to offer no contradicting information. NTSB reported that the driver had the self driving system on for about 37.5 minutes of his 41 minute trip. During the time the self driving system was on, the driver only had his hands on the wheel for a total of about 30 seconds. NTSB stated that at time of the collision he was traveling at 74 mph in a 65 mph zone. NTSB’s report stated that the driver received 7 visual warning and 6 audible warning before the collision.

Tesla declined comment. However Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has stated that upgrades to the software since the collision would likely have prevented it.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on June 20,2017 entitled “Driver killed in Tesla self-driving car crash ignored warnings, NTSB reports” by Nathan Bomey.

TEXTING AND DRIVING DON’T MIX

Posted on Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017 at 1:26 pm    

Recent statistics show that distracted driving is a factor is a factor in more than 1 million car crashes annually. Texting is the number one distracted driving activity by a long shot. People may not realize just how dangerous texting really is.

An individual texting while driving will take his eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, which results in a 23% increase in the chance of an accident. Putting this in perspective, for the average driver if you are driving at 55 miles per hour while texting, that means that you travel approximately the length of an entire football field while sending a text.

Car & Driver Magazine recently performed an experiment to determine just how dangerous texting and driving can be by comparing it to driving while intoxicated. The magazine tested how long it would take to apply the brakes and upon being given a red signal when legally impaired at a BAC of .08 when reading an email, and when sending a text. Sober drivers took an average of .54 seconds to brake. Legally intoxicated drivers needed an additional 4 feet. It required an additional 36 feet when reading an email, but it took a whopping additional 70 feet when sending a text.

In another test conducted by the Transportation Research Laboratory of London, researchers found that texters had slower response times and were more likely to drift in and out of lanes, and drove even worse than drivers who were high on marijuana.

Many argue that texting is even more dangerous than drunk driving. A statistic often cited is that in 2014, 431,000 were injured and 179 were killed due to car accidents involving distracted drivers. That same year, drunk driving was responsible for 290,000 injuries and claimed 9,967 lives. And, while the number of accidents and deaths resulting from drunk driving is declining, the number of accidents and deaths resulting from distracted driving and texting keeps climbing year after year.

One consequence of the ever-increasing numbers of accidents related to distracted driving is that NHTSA is putting more and more focus on addressing the dangers of distracted driving. You can help by setting a good example for your children by not texting or engaging in other distracting driving behavior.

Source: An article appearing at distracteddriveraccidents.com on 11/23/16 entitled “Is Texting While Driving More Dangerous Than Drunk Driving?” by Kiernan Hopkins

UBER SELF-DRIVING CAR INVOLVED IN COLLISION

Posted on Tuesday, April 11th, 2017 at 1:30 pm    

According to a recent article appearing at USAToday.com an Uber self-driving car was involved in a collision in North Tempe, AZ on Friday, March 24, 2017. According to the report, the Uber self-driving car, collided with another vehicle that failed to yield while making a left-hand turn. A third vehicle was also involved in the collision. However, no serious injuries were reported.

As a consequence, Uber has temporarily grounded its self-driving vehicles while an investigation is conducted by the company.

A spokesman for Uber stated that “We are continuing to look into this incident and can confirm we had no backseat passengers in the vehicle.” The vehicle involved in the accident was a self-driving Volvo SUV and was reportedly in the self-driving mode at the time of the collision. Uber has been testing the self-driving Volvo SUVs as part of a $300 million partnership with Volvo.

Sources: Articles appearing at USA.com entitled Ubers Self-driving Car Involved in Arizona Crash by Diego Mendoza-Moyers of The Arizona Republic posted on March 25, 2017 and an article entitled Uber halts self-driving car tests after Arizona crash by Edward C. Baig posted on March 26, 2017.

DANGEROUS USED CARS ARE SOMETIMES SOLD AT AUTO AUCTIONS

Posted on Thursday, April 6th, 2017 at 2:19 pm    

In a recent article appearing in the New York, it was reported that used cars which are subject to safety recalls are sometimes sold at auto auctions without the recall repair having been made or without disclosure that the car is subject to a recall. According to the article, According to the article, this happens because there is no federal requirements that sellers of used cars fix problems related to safety recalls or disclose that the vehicle is subject to a recall when selling the vehicle. The Times notes that efforts to introduce tougher laws for used cars have languished in Congress under lobbying pressure from the used car industry.

The article went on to report a recent example of a 50-year-old Riverside, Calif., woman, Delia Robles, who died in a collision while driving a 2001 Honda Civic equipped with a defected Takata airbag. Delia Robles was killed when she collided with a pickup truck on her way to get a flu shot when the defective Takata airbag exploded, sending shrapnel into the vehicle’s passenger compartment. According to the article, Ms. Robles’ 2001 Honda Civic was sold three times at auto auctions before her son bought it from an acquaintance. Ms. Robles’ car was equipped with a defected Takata airbag. And, according to the Times,her civic was one of about 300,000 cars with defective Takata airbags that federal regulators said posed a particularly high risk of exploding.

According to the Times article, the gentleman who sold Ms. Robles’ car to her son purchased the car at a wholesale auto auction which is a part of Cox Automotive. The article notes that a spokesman for auction said that the company encourages sellers to disclose recall information, but that there was no realistic way for the company to force dealers to disclose safety defects.

The seller of the Honda Ms. Robles’ son bought for her said he was shocked to learn only after her death about the car’s safety issues, and that when he bought the car, “They just said ‘as is’, I knew nothing about the car.”

A spokesman for Honda stated that it had mailed out 20 notifications regarding the recall and made more than 90 phone calls to the vehicle’s previous owners in an effort to have the defective Takata airbag addressed.

Sources: An article appearing at nytimes.com on 10/26/16 entitled “Used Cars Slip Past Recall Safeguards, Putting Drivers in Danger” by Rachel Abrams and Hiroko Tabuchi

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.