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Butler Personal Injury Law Blog

IIHS studies rear automatic braking and other safety tech

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has recently tested the effect of collision avoidance systems on several new vehicle models. These systems included rear automatic braking and rear-view cameras and sensors. Their findings should interest drivers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the U.S. due to the frequency of backup collisions.

The IIHS found that backup crashes were reduced by 62 percent in vehicles with rear automatic braking systems. When this technology was combined with rearview cameras and sensors, the figure jumped to 78 percent. Out of the vehicle models they tested, researchers gave the highest ratings to the 2017 Subaru Outback and Cadillac XT5 SUV. While the test results were overwhelmingly positive, there were some hiccups. One car, for instance, failed to detect a car parked at an angle behind it.

OOIDA calls for revised hours of service rules

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's hours of service regulations are designed to prevent accidents caused by fatigued truck drivers and protect motorists in Pennsylvania and around the country. The current rules were put into place in 2013, but they have been widely criticized by trade groups including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. According to the OOIDA, the present 14-hour regulation compels drivers to remain behind the wheel even when they are tired and forces them onto the roads in poor weather and when traffic is at its heaviest.

To abide by the FMCSA hours of service rules, truck drivers may not drive after they have been on duty for 14 hours, and off-duty periods do not extend this time limit. According to the OOIDA, this encourages drivers to cover as many miles as possible before their 14-hour clocks run out and may deter them from taking breaks when they feel drowsy.

Drowsy driving may factor into nearly 10 percent of crashes

Pennsylvania drivers may be interested to learn that drowsing driving could be a factor in as many as 9.5 percent of car accidents. These figures, which come from a new study, are much higher than U.S. government statistics, which have indicated that drowsy driving is only a factor in about 1 to 2 percent of car accidents.

Part of the problem is that many drivers are not aware of the risks associated with drowsy driving. According to a 2012 study, the hazards of drowsy driving are similar to driving after ingesting alcohol. For example, studies have shown that after about 17 hours without sleep, drivers will function similarly to those who have an alcohol concentration of .05. After 20 to 25 hours without sleep, drivers may function similarly to those who have a blood alcohol concentration of .1 percent, which is over the legal limit.

Why drivers may pay more for texting and driving

Pennsylvania drivers may find that smartphone use could eventually play a role in determining their insurance premiums. Those in the insurance industry believe that drivers can be "coached out" of using their phones while driving. Therefore, basing premiums on smartphone use could lead to safer roads. A company called Arity tracks how smartphones are used in a vehicle.

For instance, it can provide evidence as to whether a smartphone is moving or resting on a flat surface. Arity is affiliated with insurance company Allstate, and its data shows that drivers who are distracted tend to be more expensive than those who aren't. This was the conclusion reached after analyzing 160 million Allstate claims. Overall, the most distracted drivers cost 160 percent more than the least distracted motorists.

The perils of drugged driving

Thanks to a decades-long campaign to get drunk drivers off the road, people living in Pennsylvania are well aware of the perils of drinking and driving. Sometimes, however, people are not as aware of the very real problem of drugged driving, which is getting behind the wheel after using legal or illegal drugs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has initiated efforts to raise awareness of this problem. The agency called for a summit in March 2018 and is hoping to work with local and state officials on tracking the problem of impaired driving, educating the public and developing workable solutions.

Don't be afraid to report unsafe work conditions

Everyone expects safe working environments; places and spaces where you don't have to worry about job hazards that may put you and your co-workers at risk of injury.

Federal and state laws support all workers in this fact. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is a federal law requiring employers to maintain a workplace free of dangerous health and safety conditions that cause illness, injury and death.

Senate bill would mandate tractor-trailer side underride guards

More than 200 road users in Pennsylvania and around the country are killed each year when the passenger vehicles they are traveling in strike the side of a semi-tractor trailer. The National Transportation Safety Board urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to mandate the fitting of side guards to all new tractor-trailers in 2014, but the recommendation was nonbinding and no regulation was introduced.

However, Congress has now taken an interest in the issue, and a bipartisan bill introduced on Dec. 12 would require commercial vehicle operators to fit both rear and side underride protection to all of their trucks. NHTSA introduced a regulation requiring the fitting of rear underride guards, which are also known as Mansfield bars, in 1998. The bars are named after the actress Jane Mansfield who was killed in an underride accident in 1967.

Road rage: defusing it in others and avoiding it in oneself

Aggressive and bullying drivers are as much a fact of life in Pennsylvania as they are anywhere else. They cut off other drivers, ride people's bumpers to make them move out of the way and steal parking spots. The question is not how to make such drivers kinder. Instead, the issue is how to keep them from getting angrier and to not make moves that can compromise everyone's safety. Like with many other things, the process begins with one's self.

Drivers should never give in to road rage themselves. Instead, people should stay calm and think reasonable thoughts while behind the wheel. Activities like listening to classical music may also help some individuals as it has been proven to relieve stress. People should never make eye contact with offending drivers, make inflammatory gestures, honk the horn for a prolonged time or flash the headlights at them.

Keeping teens safe on their motorcycles

Teen motorcyclists in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the U.S. will want to know how they can keep themselves safe. After all, motorcyclists are 35 times more likely than automobile drivers to get in a fatal crash, and 90 percent of all motorcyclists who are involved in a crash had no previous formal training. What makes matters worse is that over half of all teen motorcyclists opt for sports bikes, which are responsible for more collisions than any other model.

The first tip that experts give is to take a training course on motorcycle riding. Teens should then purchase the required protective gear. Helmets in particular can decrease the chance for a fatal head injury by 40 percent. It must be one that's approved by the Department of Transportation, however. Approved helmets come with foam padding and tend to be heavy. Other important gear includes gloves, shatterproof goggles, and reflective clothing.

Car crashes are often preventable, research indicates

Auto accidents are always a concern when drivers take to the roads in Pennsylvania and across the United States. There are over 6 million car crashes that take place across the country every year, and the number of collisions increased in both 2015 and 2016. These crashes not only lead to significant property damage but also major bodily injuries. This means that researchers are looking into the causes of auto accidents in order to develop more understanding about why the crashes occur and help to prevent future crashes, lowering the annual toll of injuries and fatalities.

These studies have used both detailed analyses of prior collisions as well as tracking technology to examine trends in auto accidents. Addressing the causes of car accidents can help to cut down on preventable collisions and keep pedestrians, drivers and passengers safer. One major risk on the roadway can come from the danger of rear-end accidents. This common type of accident can happen whenever people drive too closely to the car in front of them and are unable to come to a stop without hitting the vehicle. These accidents are numerous but can be easily avoided if drivers maintain a proper following distance behind the cars in front of them.

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