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.

bryansmithred

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.

 

blood alcohol concentration - BAC, blood alcohol levels - BAL, cannabis, Crashes and Collisions, Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, DUID, DWAI, FARS, fatalities, Field Sobriety Tests, Legislative Affairs, marajuana, medical marijuana, NHTSA, Road Safety Research, traffic fatalities, Traffic Safety, Victims of DUI

4/20 = a DUI will hit your wallet

marijuana_USA_March_2019

April 20th is known to many as 4/20, or “Weed Day”.  People around the world are celebrating the unofficial marijuana holiday by gathering for rallies, smoke-outs, policy discussions and thousands of other weed-centric events. The legal US cannabis market is currently valued at over $10 billion; “green stocks” are publicly traded, reporting strong sales since Canada legalized pot and several US states voted to approve recreational and medical marijuana use.

Cannabis has also gone mainstream thanks to big investments and partnerships between marijuana sellers and blue chip consumer companies. Experts are projecting it could grow to $100 billion in the US, and $1 trillion globally in the next five years. although prices have been dropping as competition has increased now that more states are legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use.  These include the overall prices for products such as ingestibles, topical creams, vaporizers/vape pens and pre-rolled joints.

The ‘‘Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018″, referred to as the 2018 Farm Bill,  legalized the production of hemp as an agricultural commodity while removing it from the list of controlled substances.  Industrial hemp is not marijuana, although it is a different variety of the same species. The bill listed hemp as a covered commodity under crop insurance and directed the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation board to streamline the process for developing hemp policies, and requires the secretary of agriculture to conduct a study of the hemp-related agricultural pilot programs and other agricultural and academic research on the subject, to determine the economic viability of a domestic hemp market.

Starting with Oregon in 1973, individual states began to liberalize cannabis laws through decriminalization. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, sparking a trend that spread to over 30 states by 2017. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use. There still are no laws written specifically to address driving impaired while under the influence of cannabis and its associated products:

  • Marijuana is figuring into more fatal crashes overall. In 2013, drivers tested positive for the drug in about 10 percent of all fatal crashes. By 2016, it was 20 percent.
  • More drivers are testing positive for marijuana and nothing else. Of the drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 who tested positive for cannabinoids, more than 52 percent had no alcohol in their system. By 2016, it had grown to 69 percent.
  • The average age of drivers in deadly crashes in 2015 who tested positive for marijuana was nearly 35, with a quarter of them over 40.
  • In 2016, of the 115 drivers in fatal wrecks who tested positive for marijuana use, 71 were found to have Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in their blood, indicating use within hours, according to state data. Of those, 63 percent were over 5 nanograms per milliliter, the state’s limit for driving.

Both alcohol and marijuana can affect a driver’s ability to think and solve problems, coordination, reaction time, judgment, memory and mood. While science has figured out just exactly how alcohol impacts the body’s organs, systems and functions, the same cannot be said of cannabis. Results of field sobriety tests, including blood and urine sampling as well as breathalyzers, can tell if a driver’s blood alcohol level is over the legal limit. No test can tell whether a driver is too high to drive because of smoking or inhaling, popping pills, eating or vaporizing cannabis products. Unlike alcohol, the active ingredients that cause the cannabis high can remain detectable in the blood stream for days or weeks; unlike alcohol, the impairment does not wears off in a matter of hours, and no amount of food intake will change the effects. Law enforcement officials, prosecutors and public policy makers concede there’s still too little information about marijuana and how it is detected to understand just how much the drug is affecting traffic fatalities.

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.

____________________________________________

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

3_distractions

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.

 

blood alcohol concentration - BAC, blood alcohol levels - BAL, Car insurance, Crashes and Collisions, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, DUID, DWAI, Holiday Travel, Victims of DUI

Happy Birthday America – Avoiding a DUI

Happy_4th.jpg

Are you prepared for the biggest birthday bash of the entire year? Fourth of July holiday means picnics and beach parties where drinks are readily available – so know your limit and avoid going over the point where you are impaired to drive.

Lots of road trips are planned over the Independence Day holiday – kids are out of school, the weather is great, and the road conditions are optimal. According to AAA, a record-breaking 107 Million Americans to Celebrate Holidays Away From Home

This includes 97.4 million Americans traveling by automobile – so be prepared to experience travel times during the holidays as much as three times longer than the normal trip.

Last year, Americans spent an estimated $1 billion on beer to celebrate Independence Day, and beer will be served to many of the 64% of Americans of legal drinking age who are planning to attend a cookout of barbecue this weekend. According to WalletHub, a growing portion of that is craft beer, which continues to make impressive gains despite its higher cost.  More beer is sold on Uncle Sam’s birthday than on any other holiday,  including New Year’s Eve.

This beehive of activity means more drunk drivers on the road. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that the Fourth of July is the worst day of the year for fatal car crashes – there are nearly 200 traffic deaths over the usual 4-day holiday across the country.

The costs of a DUI

Besides the criminal charges and possible victim impact an impaired driver might face, there are other costs that cannot be overlooked, starting with insurance.  A DUI can triple your car insurance premium for as long as five years. That extra money adds up fast, into the thousands of dollars. Once you have a DUI on your record, your car insurance company considers you a high-risk driver and will charge you a higher rate to offset the added risk.

Let’s add up the average costs associated with a first time DUI Arrest, which averages over $6000, not included lost wages:
– Court fines? Varies from state to state, but an offender can expect fines starting from an average $400 for a first DUI to $5,000-$8,000 for a third DUI
– Attorney – $1000+ for public defenders, much more for a privately-hired attorney.
– Alcohol and Drug Education – Again, these charges vary from state to state, but you’ll probably not find a DUI course for under $100, to a high of $360 for a Level 1 DUi course
– Victim Impact Panel – $50 average
– Drivers License reinstatement fee at the DMV – $100-$250
– Victim Compensation Civil Penalty – Depends on the jurisdiction
– SR-22 Certificate of Insurance – $150 – $250 for three years on top of increased insurance premiums averaging $800 per year
– A BAL of .18 at the time of arrest results in a mandatory alcohol evaluation that costs approximately $200Of course, the numbers vary by state and circumstance, but after you add in fines, court costs, and DMV fees, the average DUI costs between $5,000 and $25,000. Compound all that needless expense with the inherent dangers of drinking and driving — along with the fact that you could lose your life, take someone else’s, or wind up spending time in jail — and the reasons for staying smart and safe this weekend become more than evident.

Is that drink or drug before driving really worth it?

blood alcohol concentration - BAC, blood alcohol levels - BAL, cannabis, Crashes and Collisions, Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, DUID, DWAI, FARS, fatalities, Field Sobriety Tests, Legislative Affairs, marajuana, medical marijuana, NHTSA, Road Safety Research, traffic fatalities, Traffic Safety, Victims of DUI

Happy 4/20, Prepare for DUIs

420

Today, April  20th (4/20 or 420), is marjuana’s high holiday for the eight states and the District of Columbia that now allow recreational use of marijuana, and 30+ states that  allow its use for medical purposes.  There is even talk from Democrats about introducing a bill in Washington to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances. But today, cannabis is still a controlled illegal substance at the Federal level, it is still illegal to transport cannabis products across state lines, still produces effects on driving that can lead to a DUI or DUID arrest, and it still incredibly difficult to standardize for safety and quality controls. Cannabis is the most phyto-chemically complex plant on the planet. It is an impossible task trying to ensure all plants, even of the same cannabis genotype, have all the same chemical profile.

Some might make the comparison between alcohol prohibition and cannabis, both Federal legislative measures prohibiting the production, importation, transportation and sale of related products on a national level. History has shown that lifting alcohol prohibition has not eliminated the abuse – and resulting consequences – that leads to impaired driving. According to the NHTSA, in 2016 there were 10,497 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentration of .08 g/dL, the minimum legal limit for DUI nationwide for adults over 21. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System,  the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes testing positive for marijuana rose 88 percent from 2013 to 2015. A Denver Post  analysis of data and coroner briefings report the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana had risen sharply each year since 2013, more than doubling in that time; state law, however, does not require coroners to test deceased drivers specifically for marijuana use in fatal crashes.

Starting with Oregon in 1973, individual states began to liberalize cannabis laws through decriminalization. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, sparking a trend that spread to over 30 states by 2017. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Have roads in these states become more dangerous since the drug’s legalization in its various forms? The Post’s findings include:

  • Marijuana is figuring into more fatal crashes overall. In 2013, drivers tested positive for the drug in about 10 percent of all fatal crashes. By 2016, it was 20 percent.
  • More drivers are testing positive for marijuana and nothing else. Of the drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 who tested positive for cannabinoids, more than 52 percent had no alcohol in their system. By 2016, it had grown to 69 percent.
  • The average age of drivers in deadly crashes in 2015 who tested positive for marijuana was nearly 35, with a quarter of them over 40.
  • In 2016, of the 115 drivers in fatal wrecks who tested positive for marijuana use, 71 were found to have Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in their blood, indicating use within hours, according to state data. Of those, 63 percent were over 5 nanograms per milliliter, the state’s limit for driving.

Both alcohol and marijuana can affect a driver’s ability to think and solve problems, coordination, reaction time, judgment, memory and mood. While science has figured out just exactly how alcohol impacts the body’s organs, systems and functions, the same cannot be said of cannabis. Results of field sobriety tests, including blood and urine sampling as well as breathalyzers, can tell if a driver’s blood alcohol level is over the legal limit. No test can tell whether a driver is too high to drive because of smoking or inhaling, popping pills, eating or vaporizing cannabis products. Unlike alcohol, the active ingredients that cause the cannabis high can remain detectable in the blood stream for days or weeks; unlike alcohol, the impairment does not wears off in a matter of hours, and no amount of food intake will change the effects. Law enforcement officials, prosecutors and public policy makers concede there’s still too little information about marijuana and how it is detected to understand just how much the drug is affecting traffic fatalities.

Crashes and Collisions, Drowsy Driving, fatalities, Fatigue, Uncategorized

Summer – Worst Season For Car Crashes

Summer has arrived – no snow, ice or other weather-related factors infamous for contributing to road hazards. Summer, however, is the worst time of the year for car crashes.  Summertime means vacation time, where more people are on the road. campingvan_vacationtimeWhether travelling across the country in a travelvan or camper, jumping in your car for a road trip, or just escaping for a staycation around town, people have places to go when the weather gets warm. According to the National Highway & Traffic Safety Administration,  there were 35,092 traffic fatalities in 2015, the latest year for which statistics are available for the entire year. Most (9,708) occurred during the third quarter, July through September, followed by fourth quarter fatalities (9,284) during October through December, second quarter fatalities (8,765) during April through June and first quarter fatalities (7,335) during January through March.

Perhaps more traffic fatalities happen during warm weather months because people tend to stay at home during the cold weather months – it’s not a pleasant ordeal to hit the road when it is freezing outside, not to mention the weather-related factors serving as road hazards. Plus, more people save their vacation time for summer, when the kids are out of school and the weather is great. What can you do to prepare for the warm weather road travel? First and foremost, plan
your trip. Driving for long stretches can cause fatigue and drowsy driving. Beware of the symptoms that should tell a driver to stop and rest.

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids.
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs.
  • Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes.
  • Trouble keeping your head up.

Yawning while drivingAccording to the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll, 60% of Americans have driven while feeling sleepy and 37% admit to actually having fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year. However, many people cannot tell if or when they are about to fall asleep. Studies show that sleepiness can impair driving performance as much or more so than alcohol. The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that one out of every six (16.5%) deadly traffic accidents, and one out of eight (12.5%) crashes requiring hospitalization of car drivers or passengers is due to drowsy driving. (AAA, 2010). One analysis estimated the cost of automobile accidents attributed to sleepiness to be between $29.2 to $37.9 billion.

Research has revealed a few indicators of drowsiness and drowsy driving. that include:

  • Frequent blinking, longer duration blinks and head nodding
  • Having trouble keeping one’s eyes open and focused
  • Memory lapses or daydreaming
  • Drifting from one’s driving lane or off the road

Currently, there is no definitive physiologic test or detection system for drowsiness equivalent to the breath analyzers used to detect drunk driving.

The National Sleep Foundation has published a White Paper on Drowsy Driving, containing more details about Drowsy Driving being a prevalent and serious public health issue that deserves more attention, education, and policy initiatives. Their aim is to avert drowsy driving crashes so a substantial amount of lives can be saved.

Bodily Injury, Car insurance, Crashes and Collisions, Head-on Collisions, Hit and Run, Lane Crossovers, Multi-Vehicle Crashes, Property Damage, Rear-End Crashes, Recalls, Road Hazards, Rollovers, Sideswipe Crashes, T-bone collisions, Tort, Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists

Get the details of a car crash

2men_accident

Car crashes can be life changing, especially when you or your loved ones are the victims. Watch the various Victim Impact Panel stories on YouTube and you’ll hear the recurring theme – “it happened in a flash”, “we never saw it coming”, “we were driving one minute and the next minute we were hit”…..

Vehicle crashes are usually classified by attorneys as falling into distinct categories: Head-on Collisions, Hit-and-Run, Lane Crossover, Multi-Vehicle Crash, Rear-End Crashes, Rollovers,  Sideswipe or T-Bone Collisions, and Single-Vehicle Crashes. These are descriptive enough for an attorney to follow an established procedure for discovery. It’s a good idea to write down the basics –
          *  When – What was the date of your car accident?
          *  Where – Where did your accident occur?
          *  Who – Who were the other drivers involved?
Were you hurt in the collision? You are not alone. Over 37,000 people die in road crashes each year with an additional 2.35 million injured or disabled. Road crashes cost the U.S. $230.6 billion per year, or an average of $820 per person. Regardless the details, car crashes inflict pain and suffering from injuries, in addition to causing frustration, stress and confusion. Are you properly insured? All states require that automobile liability insurance policies carry minimum coverage, with the average minimum being:
$15,000 for bodily injury or death of one person in any one accident;
$30,000 for bodily injury or death of two or more persons in any one accident;
$10,000 for damage or destruction of other’s property in any one crash.

But are these amounts really enough? Insurance is meant to protect a driver’s current and future assets. If the policy does not provide enough car insurance to cover damages caused by a driver to people or property, there could be legal action to sue for the additional costs. If you think about it, $15,000 for bodily injury may not even cover the cost of an ambulance, emergency room, pharmacy, etc. for a person injured in a traffic crash. If the injured person has medical expenses that exceed $15,000, as is usually the case, it is entirely possible for that individual to bring a lawsuit against you to recover the additional medical expenses not covered by your automobile insurance.

Additionally, most states do not mandate medical insurance for the driver be covered by car insurance. Therefore, if you are injured in a motor vehicle crash and you have inadequate or no private medical insurance, you will be held responsible for all costs of medical care provided to you. Check with your insurance agent to determine whether you should consider adding Medical Payments (Medpay) for treating injuries to you and your passengers without regard to fault. It also pays for treating injuries resulting from being struck as a pedestrian by a motor vehicle.

Knowing the extent of the injuries resulting from the crash will be helpful for the attorney guiding you through the claims process. Any medical documentation is good to have. Consider the aftermath of a car crash – piles of medical bills, missed work, the insurance paperwork – all very time-consuming and costly. Auto insurance in itself is quite complicated. All states regulate the insurance industry, and many offer policyholders coverage options, for example, choosing full tort or limited tort. What is the difference? Full Tort allows a person to sue for pain and suffering. With Limited Tort, an insured forfeits the right to compensation for pain and suffering. Typically, Limited Tort offers you a small discount on your monthly premium. But buyer beware – when you are injured in a car crash, saving a few dollars a month on car insurance doesn’t come near to being sufficiently compensated for the emotional and physical suffering of a crash, which can be life-changing and stay with you for a long time after the incident.

Don’t forget the police report. Most states require a police report for traffic collisions, especially those involving injury or death. These types of police reports are public records, so request a copy. Were there any witnesses? If so, try to collect their contact information. What about auto defects? Every year, vehicle safety features get more advanced in their design to prevent injuries. But these products often fail — consider the recent recall of 85 million Takata air bags. The problem was centered on aluminum nitrate, the chemical compound used to inflate air bags. When exposed to moisture, drastic temperature changes, or age, aluminum nitrate can break down and become unstable, leading air bags to explode, sending pieces of metal into cars, injuring their drivers and passengers. Those explosions led to significant injuries including bone fractures, lacerations, traumatic brain injuries and blindness. Vehicles made by 19 different automakers have been recalled to replace frontal airbags on the driver’s side or passenger’s side, or both in what NHTSA has called “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.”

Other factors to consider when documenting a vehicle crash include road defects.  There are many road conditions that could cause you to lose control of your vehicle and crash, including objects on the road, ice/snow/black ice, confusing signs or lack thereof, potholes, steep shoulders (drop-offs), unsafe work zones, pooling water that can lead to hydroplaning, windy roads with no lines, and wheel ruts. Documenting these defects can be time-sensitive, as evidence might disappear with a change in the weather or repairs being completed.

Review Your Auto Insurance Coverageinsurancepolicy_edited-1

Buying a new policy? Updating an existing one? There are recommended minimum coverage for auto insurance that covers Tort (pain & suffering), Bodily Injury Liability, Property Damage Liability, Medical Expense Benefits, Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists Coverage (UM/UIM), Roadside Assistance, Missed Work and Funeral Benefits. Having the proper insurance coverage might result in a slightly higher premium, but it will save you thousands when you need it most. Speak with your insurance agent about adjusting your deductibles if you are worried that your monthly premium will be too high.

Of particular importance is the UM/UIM coverage that applies to the driver, as well as family members living in the same household, in the event of a car crash. UM/UIM coverage will help pay for the costs related to accidents with uninsured or underinsured drivers whether you are a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or the victim of a hit-and-run. According to a 2014 study by the Insurance Information Institute, 12.6% percent of American drivers had no insurance. The most recent data from the Insurance Research Council show higher estimates – a little over14% percent of the driving population is uninsured. Nationwide, there’s about a 1-in-8 chance a crash will involve an uninsured driver, with a 1 in 5 chance of finding an uninsured motorist on the road in six states. Recommended minimum coverage limits are $100,000 per person / $300,000 per occurrence. With these limits, UM/UIM can help pay for medical bills, pain and suffering and property damage.

Remember, you can change your car insurance policy at any time – just call your insurance agency or agent – before the unexpected happens.