autonomous vehicles, car crashes, Collisions, Crashes and Collisions, Distracted Driving, driverless technology, Driverless Vehicles, NHTSA, Road Safety Research, Self-Driving Cars, Technology, traffic fatalities, Traffic Safety

Defining safe behavior standards for autonomous vehicles

Google_self-driving_car

The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, in an average month, more than 150,000 people a month will be killed in traffic accidents around the world.  Around 90% of crashes are caused by human error – so will driverless cars reduce the number of incidences that lead to too many fatalities on the road?

In 2015, Nevada led the way in passing legislation regarding self-driving cars at the state level. Since then, several other states including California, Hawaii, Florida, Arizona and Oklahoma have proposed similar legislation to set standards for regulating self-driving cars. The problem with passing laws that regulate safety standards for autonomous vehicles (AVs) lies in not having a consistent standard defining “safe driving” in terms of how an AV can understand robotic rules of the road – every company that has forayed into the field is writing their standards in a different way. That is why some in the industry think the time has come to devise a standardized set of rules for how AVs should behave in different situations.

A team of researchers at Mobileye, a provider of AV technology, published a paper on a framework, “Responsibility-Sensitive Safety”, that outlines mathematical rules for various activities performed by AVs – lane-changing, pulling out into traffic and driving cautiously when pedestrians or other vehicles are partially occluded, etc. The framework covers all 37 pre-crash scenarios in the accident database maintained by National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It is hoped that this framework would be adopted as the basis of an open industry standard. A similar proposal, “Open Autonomous Safety”, was put forth by Voyage, another player in the AV field, that defines the correct, safe behavior for vehicles in a range of circumstances, including pedestrians being in the road, nearby vehicles reversing and arrival at a four-way stop. In addition, Voyage has made its internal safety procedures, materials and test code all open source, with the aim of providing a foundational safety resource in the industry.

Dr. Bryant Walker Smith, assistant professor in the School of Law and School of Engineering at the University of South Carolina, was interviewed about how self-driving cars can change the way people travel.

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Professor Smith welcomes the proposals from Mobileye and Voyage, but warns that it is too soon for regulators to “calcify dynamic conversations that are fundamentally technical in nature”. Researcher predict it will take years rather than months for the industry to cohere around a standard, but are optimistic it will eventually happen because discussions are already under way and because many people working in the field of autonomous vehicles are recent recruits from academia, who consider sharing and open-sourcing to be second nature.

 

car crashes, Collisions, Crashes and Collisions, Distracted Driving, gesture control, Road Safety Research, Technology, Texting and Driving

Ending Distracted Driving Awareness Month With A View Toward Technology

Any activity that places either visual or manual demands on a driver substantially increases the risk of a crash. This includes texting, browsing, dialing a hand-held phone or engaging in conversation either with passengers or on a hands-free device that makes people react badly to hazards.

hand point The growing sales of luxury cars with advanced safety and comfort features have fueled the development of the automotive “gesture-recognition” market, expected to surpass $13 billion worldwide by 2024. Gesture control not only makes using various in-built systems easier, but also reduces the probability of causing a distraction-related collision by minimizing the need to take one’s eyes away from the road. But will gesture control really eliminate the dangers associated with the use of hands-free devices aimed at keeping driver’s eyes on the road?  

Consider a vehicle being driven at 40 mph and the driver needs to adjust the volume of the radio, change the channel or look at GPS, that might take the driver’s eyes away for about 1.2 seconds. A car traveling at that speed will cover more than 20 meters in 1.2 seconds, opening opportunities for a mishap just waiting to happen. Now combine this scenario with the multitude of features available in vehicles today such as infotainment systems in addition to the alarming rise in the use of mobile phones while driving. 

The idea behind gesture control is that instead of pressing a button, a driver waves his or her hand, points or otherwise gestures. So even with gesture control, the driver is still taking one hand off the wheel. Plus, the driver still has to look at the device to see which option to pick, so the driver’s eyes are still off the road.

Distraction happens in three forms – manual, visual and cognitive. With gesture control, the manual and visual elements are still at play; the crucial cognitive element of distraction does not change the nature of the cognitive distraction at all. It is essential for road safety that drivers think about driving – not about controlling the  newest “infotainment systems” that offer seamless connectivity with smartphones and other wireless devices.  Most infotainment systems are still operated by buttons and warrant a diversion of the driver’s attention, even if for just a little more than a second.

 

Advocacy, car crashes, Collisions, Crashes and Collisions, Distracted Driving, driving behaviors, fatalities, Head-on Collisions, Hit and Run, Multi-Vehicle Crashes, NHTSA, Rear-End Crashes, Road Safety Research, Texting and Driving, traffic fatalities, Traffic Safety

Put Your Phone Away or Get Ready to Pay – U Drive. U Text. U Pay.

UText_Campaign_info

Distracted driving has become a national epidemic—endangering passengers, adjacent vehicle occupants, motorcyclists and bicyclists, and nearby pedestrians. Distracted driving involves a range of activities, from texting or talking on the cell phone to adjusting the radio station, applying makeup, eating, chatting with other passengers, smoking or taking a sip of your drink…. anything that can distract a driver from the essential task of safe driving.

Texting has become one of the most common, pervasive forms of distracted driving, and too many drivers are succumbing to this deadly habit, illegal in all states and the District of Columbia except Arizona, Montana, and Missouri. April is DISTRACTED DRIVING AWARENESS MONTH and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is partnering with state and local officials to step up enforcement and catch distracted drivers.  From April 11 to April 15, the U Drive. U Text. U Pay. campaign will in full force as a national high-visibility effort to enforce distracted-driving laws. Consider the frightening statistics behind this dangerous trend:

• Between 2012-2017, nearly 20,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver.
• According to NHTSA, there were 3,166 people killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2017. While this reflects a 9 percent decrease from 2016 to 2017, there is still much work to be done. In the last six years, 9.5 percent of all fatal crashes involved a distracted driver.
• Texting while driving has become an especially problematic trend among younger drivers. In fact, in 2017, 8 percent of people killed in teen (15-19) driving crashes died when the teen drivers were distracted at the times of the crashes.
• According to NHTSA, young drivers 16- to 24-years-old have been observed using handheld electronic devices while driving at higher rates than older drivers since 2007.
• Female drivers with a cell phone have been more likely to be involved in fatal distracted driving crashes as compared to male drivers every year since 2012.
Safety Tips for Driving
• If you are expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location. Once you are safely off the road and parked, it is safe to text.
• Designate your passenger as your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
• Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving. Cell phone use can be habit-forming. Struggling to not text and drive? Put the cell phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of the vehicle until you arrive at your destination.
Put Your Phone Away or Get Ready to Pay
• When you get behind the wheel, be an example to your family and friends by putting your phone away. Texting and driving isn’t trendy “normal” behavior—it’s a selfish, deadly and, oftentimes, illegal activity that could kill you, a loved one, a friend, or a stranger.
• In 47 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, texting while driving is an illegal, ticketable offense. You could end up paying a hefty fine, and could get points on your license.
• If you see something, say something. If your friends text while driving, tell them to stop. Listen to your passengers: If they catch you texting while driving and tell you to put your phone away, put it down.

Remember, when you get behind the wheel, put your phone away and don’t get caught in the U Drive. U Text. U Pay. dragnet focused on making our roads safer for all.
For more information, visit http://www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov.

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

Advocacy, car crashes, Collisions, Crashes and Collisions, Distracted Driving, driving behaviors, fatalities, Property Damage, Rear-End Crashes, Road Safety Research, teen drivers, traffic fatalities, Traffic Safety

Distracted Driving Deaths Have No Regard for Age

distracted_driving_monthDistracted Driving Awareness Month is a united effort among government agencies, public safety organizations and driver improvement enterprises to recognize the dangers of and eliminate preventable deaths from distracted driving.
Distracted Driving among Teens: How Can We Educate and Protect
Our Youth?“cited 3,000 teen deaths occur every year from texting and driving nationwide,  in addition to 300,000 injuries per year resulting from crashes involving texting while driving.  In fact, car crashes are the leading cause of death in drivers ages 16-19. Anything that causes a driver to take his or her focus off the tasks of driving  is a distraction.

THREE LETHAL DISTRACTIONS

Visual distraction –  taking your eyes are off the road, even for a few seconds
Manual distraction –  taking your hands are off the wheel
Cognitive distraction –  focusing on something other than driving

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Texting while driving is a combination of all three of distractions. For a visualization of how far you can travel in five seconds, think the length of a football field – that’s a long distance to cover when you aren’t looking where you’re going.

Forty-seven states and Washington, D.C. have made texting while driving illegal. Besides avoiding a hefty fine, some as high as $500, resisting the urge to text can save lives. Even using a hands-free device is distracting for the driver, as it still limits a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle properly.  In the 2017 volume of Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, the “Mobile phone use while driving” literary review found 60 studies on mobile phone use, concluding that hands-free mobile phones do not provide greater safety than hand-held mobile phones. Additionally, the review identified four phases in the process of understanding the impacts of mobile phone while driving  including evidence that conversations with the driver are also deterrents to safe driving.  Much of the research points to the fact that it is equally important to have your mind free of distractions while driving.

To avoid distracted driving:

  • Set your phone or app to “driving” mode. This will automatically respond with a message while you’re driving.
  • Be mindful of when you contact your friends and family – don’t text or call someone if you know they are or could be driving.
  • Pull off to the side of the road if a cellphone must be handled (absolutely must respond to a text, GPS navigation tasks, etc.).

 

car crashes, Collisions, Crashes and Collisions, Distracted Driving, driving behaviors, Head-on Collisions, Hit and Run, NHTSA, Rear-End Crashes

No Fooling – April is Distracted Driving Month!

Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving. Texting is the most alarming distraction.     NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMIN

Distracted Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that there were 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes on U.S. roadways during 2017.  Of these, 3,166 people were killed by distracted driving. Driving is the most complex activity the vast majority of Americans will engage in during any given day. A driver must know 1,500 separate skills to drive a car properly – you simply cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.

It has been estimated by some researchers that for every mile that a vehicle travels, a driver will on average make 20 separate control decisions related to arriving at their destination.  It makes sense that the faster you go, the quicker you have to make driving decisions or completely overlook a critical decision entirely. Impaired drivers tend to make poor or no decisions while their car is in motion. In 35% of all fatal crashes, the driver took no action at all to avoid the collision prior to impact. You really don’t want to answer a cell phone at the same time you are driving, let alone when you have been drinking, taking any type of drugs – illicit, prescription or over-the-counter – or smoking marijuana. A mild- to moderately-intoxicated driver can easily become overwhelmed just driving, without any other distractions. Now add a cell phone and the attention one must pay to the conversation going on, especially distracting when emotions are involved and you got trouble!

The NHTSA found texting to be the most dangerous and alarming distraction on the road. Their research found that reading a text while driving at 55 miles per hour takes one’s eyes off the road the equivalent amount of time as driving across a football field blindfolded. Texting and driving absorb a driver’s visual, manual, and cognitive attention – creating the deadliest type of distraction on the road. Consider these sobering statistics:

  • Around 660,000 drivers use their cell phones while driving during daylight hours.
  • Texting and driving are six times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving. Between 2012-2017, nearly 20,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver.
  • Texting while driving has become an especially problematic trend among younger drivers. In fact, in 2017, 8% percent of people killed in teen (15-19) driving crashes died when the teen drivers were distracted at the times of the crashes. Young drivers 16- to 24-years-old have been observed using handheld electronic devices while driving at higher rates than older drivers since 2007. Every day, 11 teenagers die from texting and driving accidents.
  • Female drivers with a cell phone have been more likely to be involved in fatal distracted driving crashes as compared to male drivers every year since 2012.
  • Texting and driving increase the risk of an accident by about 23 times.
  • Cell phone use is behind only drivers “being lost in thought” in causing the most distracted driving accidents.
  • About 25% of teenagers admit to answering texts once or more every time they drive.
  • Studies have proven that teens who text and drive veer out of their lanes around 10% of their total drive time.

On-the-job crashes cost employers more than $24,500 per crash, $150,000 per injury, and $3.6 million per fatality. And distracted driving caused by hand-held mobile device use is an emerging contributor to these accidents.  An AAA study found that using voice commands to send text messages and emails from behind the wheel, which is marketed as a safer alternative for drivers, actually more distracting and dangerous than simply talking on a cellphone.

Scientific studies have confirmed that even talking on a hands-free cell phone is just as distracting as holding one to your ear, suggesting it is the conversation that is distracting. Studies have also found that a conversation was more distracting to the driver if the passenger was under the age of 24.

Researchers found that individuals who listen to music over 95 decibels (very loud) causes the human brain’s reaction time to decrease by 25%.

Keep in mind that your response to a potential hazard on the road may just take you that much longer to react.

 

car crashes, Collisions, Rubbernecking, Tailgating

Rubbernecking can contribute to the traffic jams around a crash site

3_car_crash

“Curiosity killed the cat” might be a warning to the rubberneckers who cause traffic jams when there is a vehicle crash in their path.  Even drivers on either side of the road where a collision takes place can cause a slowdown of traffic and unnecessary frustrations for others on the road.  Slowing down just to get a close look at what has happened, who got hurt or who is on the scene of the collision can make the situation worse for those who are involved in the crash and those who are trying to help them.

Remember the MOVE OVER law, in effect in all 50 states and the District of Columbia: moveover_imagereduce your speed when you hear sirens or see flashing lights of emergency vehicles, and change lanes when passing an emergency vehicle on the side of the road to create space for them to do their job.  Slowing down too much can make things worse;  a disruption in the flow of moving traffic can cause a chain reaction – as one driver brakes slightly, and the drivers behind them brake slightly to avoid hitting them. This braking will eventually magnify until it creates a traffic jam.

Avoid tailgating, and help keep the flow of traffic moving by maintaining proper distance – 3 seconds at highway speeds and 2 seconds at city speeds.  This tactic helps other drivers change lanes safely.  Stay focused on driving instead of giving in to the distractions of a collision, and be a contributor to keeping traffic moving instead of becoming an additional obstacle.