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Distracted Driving

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Distracted Driving Federal Grant Program

By | Distracted Driving | No Comments

The risks and dangers associated with distracted driving has become a growing safety concern among drivers everywhere. Deemed as an epidemic, this issue has certainly been recognized by the federal government.

A national summit on the issue held in September 2010 led to the development of safety-driven federal grant program aimed at helping make roads throughout the nation safer. The program is an incentive for state governments because it provides additional subsidies to effectively enact and enforce texting and cell phone restrictions. The program allocates federal dollars to states that ban texting and place restrictions on hand-held cell phone use, with increased restrictions on drivers under the age of 18.

More than half of US states have a primary ban on texting for all drivers and hand-held device restrictions for drivers under the age of 18. Florida is not one of these states, as the texting ban is currently only a secondary offense for all drivers with no other restrictions in place.

The federal grant program was initiated in 2011 and will distribute funds to help defray the states’ costs of educating drivers, spreading awareness and paying law enforcement for the expansion and extra man-hours needed to enforce the bans. In a time where tax dollar spending is always under high scrutiny, many are stumped of Florida’s failure to implement bans in a timely manner in order to qualify for federal assistance geared towards driver safety and easing the burden on the state budget.

Grant Program Origins – MAP-21

According to the grant’s Background narrative:

“In 2010, there were nearly 33,000 motor-vehicle related deaths on our Nation’s highways. Driving while distracted is a deadly habit that contributes to a significant portion of that total, with 3,000 lives lost in crashes where distraction was a factor. The epidemic of distracted driving is one of our greatest highway safety challenges.

On July 6, 2012, the President signed into law the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” (MAP-21), Public Law 112-141, which created a new distracted driving grant program. MAP-21 authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to provide incentive grants to States that enact and enforce laws prohibiting distracted driving. MAP-21 authorizes funding beginning in fiscal year (FY) 2013.”

Grant Eligibility

In order to qualify for a Distracted Driving Grant:

“A state must have enacted and be enforcing a statute that meets all the requirements set out in Section 405(e), as outlined below:

(1) Prohibition on texting while driving. The State statute must ­

(a) Prohibit drivers from texting through a personal wireless communications device while driving;

(b) Make violation of the statute a primary offense; and

(c) Establish­ (i) a minimum fine for a first violation of the statute; and (ii) increased fines for repeat violations.

(2) Prohibition on youth cell phone use while driving.”

Use of Funds

The grant terms stipulate:

“That each State that receives a Section 405(e) grant must use at least 50 percent of the grant funds:

(1) To educate the public through advertising containing information about the dangers of texting or using a cell phone while driving;

(2) For traffic signs that notify drivers about the distracted driving law of the State; or

(3) For law enforcement costs related to the enforcement of the distracted driving law.

The remaining grant funds, but no more than 50 percent, may be used for any eligible project or activity.”

The grant program appears notably simple and non-restrictive. Drivers in Florida can only hope that federal funds are still available once state legislators are able to strengthen the existing laws to eventually meet the eligibility requirements.

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Commercial Motor Vehicle Terms and Common Truck Accident Statistics

By | Distracted Driving, Truck Accident | No Comments

In Florida and throughout the U.S., state roads, highways, and interstates are commonly populated by large commercial trucks, also known as semi-trucks or tractor trailers. A commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is defined as any large truck or vehicle with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of more than 26,000 pounds or any bus designed to carry 16 or more passengers. Commercial motor vehicles require an active Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) for lawful operation in any state.

Types of Commercial Trucks

Commercial trucks and commercial motor vehicles may include, but are not necessarily limited to, any of the following specific types of vehicles:

  • 18-wheelers (tractor trailers / semi-trucks / big rigs)
  • Car Haulers
  • Buses
  • Stake Trucks
  • Flatbeds/Straight Trucks
  • Cement Trucks
  • Box trucks/Parcel-Delivery Vans
  • Dump Trucks/Tandems
  • Special Equipment (cranes, earth movers, utility trucks)

Tractor trailers and other types of mobile heavy equipment can weigh in excess of 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. When any truck or other type of commercial motor vehicle is involved in a traffic accident with a smaller automobile, the damage done to the smaller vehicle and its occupants can be catastrophic or even deadly. Truck drivers and trucking companies are responsible for the safety of their equipment and their actions on the open road at all times.

Primary Causes of Trucking Accidents

There are a few common causes of truck accidents in the US. In addition to inspecting their equipment and negotiating challenging road conditions on a daily basis, truckers are among the groups of drivers most susceptible to driver fatigue, also referred to as “drowsy driving”. Studies have proven that driver fatigue is the number one cause of trucking accidents and truck accident fatalities in the US. Commercial truck accidents commonly result from any one or more of the following factors:

  • Driver Fatigue / Drowsy Driving
  • Driver Distraction (Cell phones)
  • Inexperienced or Improperly Trained Operators
  • Inadequate Equipment Maintenance / Lax Safety Inspections
  • Improperly Secured Cargo / Loads
  • Excessive Speed
  • Poor Road / Weather Conditions

10 Common Truck Accident Statistics

  1. Cognitive impairment after approximately 18 hours awake is similar to that of someone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.05% – after being awake for 24 hours, a driver’s impairment is similar to a BAC of 0.10%, which is over the legal limit in all 50 states.
  2. Semi-trucks are involved in nearly 500,000 motor vehicle accidents each year.
  3. Approximately 20,000 accident-related injuries are officially linked to truck driver fatigue each year, but experts feel that many more cases go unreported or unconfirmed.
  4. On average, a trucking accident occurs at least every 16 minutes in the US
  5. A fully-loaded tractor trailer travelling at 55mph requires 300 ft. (length of a football field) to come to a complete stop.
  6. About 65% of fatal commercial truck accidents occur in the hours just after sunrise.
  7. Almost 70% of Americans surveyed strongly feel that automated data recorders on large trucks should be mandatory.
  8. The total number of accidents resulting in injuries for 2009, 2010, and 2011 were 60,000, 67,000, and 73,000, respectively.
  9. There were 4,018 fatalities and 112,000 total injuries in 2011 related to large truck and bus accidents.
  10. 2% of trucking accident fatalities are drivers/operators, 98% are occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, or cyclists.

References:

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

US DOT FMCSA

CDC

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Common Causes of Car Crashes

By | Car Accident, Distracted Driving, Drunk Driving | No Comments

Automobile accidents happen every day. Fortunately, most car accidents are relatively minor and do not cause injury to the occupants. However, other car accidents can be more severe and sometimes result in catastrophic injury or even death. Both fatal and non-fatal traffic accidents are commonly caused by some form of driver error, such as driver distraction. Although rare, automobile crashes can also be the result of inclement weather or defective road conditions.

Traffic accidents sometimes involve a single vehicle, particularly in cases of collisions with fixed objects and vehicle rollovers. Other crashes involve collisions between two or more motor vehicles. Studies have proven that driver distraction, inclusive of cell phone use and texting, is the leading cause of all car crashes. As of July 2013, Florida drivers are prohibited from texting while a vehicle is in motion.

Driver Distraction – The #1 Cause of Automobile Accidents

“Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety,” according distraction.gov. More specifically, the following are a few more causes of driver distraction:

  • Reading or composing text messages
  • Talking on a cell phone
  • Reading, including paper maps
  • Typing or making selections with a navigation system (GPS)
  • Checking emails or browsing the internet
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
  • Eating and drinking
  • Conversations with passengers
  • Personal grooming / applying makeup
  • Exterior visual distraction

Other Common Causes of Auto Accidents

Driver distraction accounts for considerable majority of the primary causes of fatal and non-fatal traffic accidents. Aside from the many forms of driver distraction, the following include a few other major causes of car crashes.

Drunk Driving: Another major cause of fatal car crashes is driving under the influence (DUI). Alcohol impaired drivers are linked to some of the most severe automobile crashes that occur on US roads.

  • In 2011, 226 children were killed in DUI-related crashes. Of those, 122were riding as passengers with the drunk driver /
  • Almost every 90 seconds, somebody is injured in an alcohol-related car crash.
  • Every day in the US, an average of 28 people die as a result of drunk driving accidents.
  • The rate of drunk driving is highest among 21-25 year olds (23.4 percent).
  • Adults drink too much and drive about 112 million times per year – nearly 300,000 incidences of drinking and driving each day.

Defective Roads: Roadway defects refer more specific to problems associated with a road and the surrounding conditions. Dangerous conditions may contribute to a serious accident involving one or more vehicles. Despite a cautious driver’s best efforts, poorly maintained roads or construction zones not properly set up can cause serious automobile crashes and catastrophic accident-related injuries. Defective roadways are often associated with:

  • Uneven or broken pavement
  • Potholes
  • Excessive oil or gravel on the roadway
  • Road debris, tree limbs, garbage, or other obstructions
  • Inadequate or defective street lights
  • Inadequate or missing signage
  • Broken or missing guardrails
  • Malfunctioning traffic signals
  • Overgrown vegetation
  • Poor drainage

Road defects linked to construction zone hazards may also include any of these items in addition to a few inches of gradient, construction trucks/equipment, debris in traffic lanes, confusing signs, or narrow roadways.

References:

Praxim

Insurance Journal

Distraction.gov

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Texting and Driving Statistics

By | Car Accident, Distracted Driving | No Comments

Today, many of the news reports we see involving serious or fatal automobile accidents are caused by driver distraction. More specifically, a growing number of these traffic crashes are caused by texting and driving. While Florida lawmakers work to strengthen the existing secondary ban on texting while driving, it continues to a major contributor to auto accidents. Even in other states where texting while driving has been banned as a primary traffic offense, texting still sometimes contributes to catastrophic automobile accidents.

Texting while driving is among the leading forms of driver distraction which contributes to serious motor vehicle crashes. Texting while driving is now the leading cause of traffic fatalities among teenage drivers and passengers. A recent study has also revealed that teenage girls are more likely to text while driving than boys.

Texting and Driving Statistics – Understanding the Danger

A distracted driver whose focus is away from the road for even a split second faces much greater odds of colliding with another vehicle, a motorcycle, a bicyclist or even a pedestrian. Simply reading a text message takes at least 5 full seconds of a driver’s attention away from the road.

  • Any driver is at least twice as likely to crash if he/she reads or composes a text message while driving.
  • According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an automobile accident than driving when intoxicated.
  • In the 5 seconds it takes to read a short text message, a car covers a distance equal to the length of a football field if it is travelling at 55 miles per hour.
  • Of all cell phone related tasks – including talking, dialing, or reaching for the phone – research has proven that texting while driving exposes drivers to the greatest level of risk.
  • 78% of teens and young adults admit to having read an SMS or text message while driving.
  • Nearly 3,300 drivers are killed each year in texting and driving accidents – teenagers make up the majority of this figure.
  • 48% of young Americans from 12-17 say they’ve been in a car while the driver was texting.
  • 49% of drivers with cell phones under the age of 35 send or read text messages while driving.
  • 20% of teens and 10% of parents admit to holding ongoing, multi-message text conversations while driving.
  • 49% of adults say they have been passengers in a car when the driver was sending or reading text messages on their cell phone.
  • Texting while driving can increase the probability of a crash by as much as 23 times.

Definition of Driver Distraction

According to the CDC, driver distraction is broken down into three different categories:

  • Manual: Taking hands off the steering wheel
  • Visual: Taking eyes off of the road
  • Cognitive: Shifting the mind off of driving (daydreaming)

Alarmingly, texting while driving can potentially involve all three types of distraction at once –making it among the most dangerous types of driver distraction. A driver must take his/her eyes away from the road to read a message, he/she uses cognitive processes to read and process the text message, and the driver may also be manually distracted by clicking a key to read the message or by typing a reply to the text message.

References:

Guard Child

CDC

Don’t Text & Drive

Stop Texts Stop Wrecks

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Female Teen Drivers more Distracted than Males

By | Car Accident, Distracted Driving | No Comments

More than one in three teens die as a result of a motor vehicle accident, making this the leading cause of death for young people in the US. Traffic safety experts cite inexperience behind the wheel, immaturity and a lack of parental involvement as the primary factors behind fatal auto accidents involving teenage drivers. Sadly, smartphone capabilities have added to distracted driving, a rising concern as it contributed to more than 3,000 highway deaths in 2010.

Contrary to previous studies placing teenage males at a higher risk for car crashes, recent research revealed that in this case girls are the more distracted driver. Recent data shows they’re two times as likely to use cell phones or other electronics while driving. Angela Patterson of Bridgestone Americas, which helped conduct the study, said:

“There’s a remarkable difference between boys and girls when it comes to distracting driving habits. In almost every category we surveyed … girls are more likely to engage in dangerous or distracting behaviors by almost 15%.”

The overwhelming majority of teen girls who responded to the study admitted that changing music on car stereos and playing loud music while driving distracted them. 83% of teen girls also told researchers that driving with more than one passenger in the vehicle caused them to lose focus on the road.

Teen Driver Distraction Statistics

  1. Almost 65% of all teen passenger deaths occurred while another teen was driving
  2. A 2007 national survey found that nearly 3 out of 10 teens said they had driven with a driver who had been drinking within the previous month
  3. 56% of teen traffic accident fatalities occurred Friday, Saturday or Sunday
  4. Girls are 15% more likely to engage in distracting behavior
  5. Only one-third of teen girls say talking on phone is “very dangerous”
  6. People ages 15-24 represent 14% of the U.S. population, but they account for 58% ($26 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries, according to the CDC
  7. At least 3,000 teens are killed each year in auto accidents in the US
  8. Each year, approximately 300,000 teenagers are treated at hospitals for non-fatal injuries from distracted driving accidents
  9. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash
  10. In their first year of driving, 1/5 of 16-year-old drivers has an accident; 16-year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age
  11. Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use – in 2011, only 54% of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else
  12. Teens who text and drive are 50% more likely to crash than teens who drink and drive
  13. 56% of teens admit to talking on the phone while driving. Talking on a cell phone can double the likelihood of an accident
  14. Texting-related accidents are the leading cause of traffic fatalities for teenagers in the US
  15. The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers. This risk increases with the number of teen passengers

References:

USA Today

CDC

Do Something

Holiday Rush Increases Danger on the Road

By | Bicycle Accident, Car Accident, Distracted Driving, Motorcycle Accident | No Comments

that people should be wary of more than just being able to weave their way through the crowds to find a gift.

Researchers at the UA Center for Advanced Public Safety, who analyzed 10 years of Alabama crash data, found that the days just before Christmas can be a more dangerous time to drive than the days surrounding Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

UA researchers found heavy traffic surrounding all three major holidays can increase the chances for automobile accidents. However, in 2012, the six-day period that includes Christmas had 18% more auto accidents than the Thanksgiving period and 27 % more than the days around New Year’s Day.

The main cause for the increase in accidents was heavy traffic. In fact, the actual holidays are generally a safer time to travel than the period leading up to them since there is less traffic, according to the crash data.

Dr. David Brown, a professor of computer science at UA and a research associate with CAPS, explains that the best preventative measure is to avoid late night hours and days in which many people are on the roads.

It is also important to adhere to the following safety tips to avoid a collision:

  • Do not drink and drive or ride as a passenger with someone who has been drinking.
  • Always use your safety restraints, and make sure that everyone in the car uses theirs.
  • Drive with the flow of traffic, and do not exceed the speed limit. A 10-mph reduction in speed doubles your chances of surviving a crash.
  • Don’t use cell phone or other devices that can distract you from driving.
  • Avoid the pre-Christmas rush, especially after dark.
  • Avoid being out in inclement weather. Weather has a great impact on crashes in general, although they tend to be of lower severity.

References:

U A News

Tips to Help Reduce Driver Distraction

By | Car Accident, Distracted Driving | No Comments

An increasing amount of accidents are caused by drivers who are distracted. It only takes a second for a driver to take his/her eyes away from the road and collide with another vehicle, motorcycle or even a pedestrian.

Distracted driving is a major contributor to automobile crashes across the US. Each year, between 4,000 and 8,000 automobile accidents related to distracted driving occur. In the US, distracted driving contributes to nearly 50% of all automobile crashes reported each year

Tips for Avoiding Five Common Driving Distractions

  • Prevent Driver Fatigue: Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night and abstain from driving if you’re sleep deprived.
  • Put Down the Mobile Devices: We recommend that drivers completely refrain from using a cell phone while driving. However, if it is necessary to make a phone call, utilize a hands-free device or headset that allows you to keep your eyes on the road.
  • Don’t Focus on Roadside Distractions: If you happen to pass by an accident scene or other roadside distraction, keep your eyes on the road ahead and refrain from glancing over while your vehicle is in motion.
  • Limit Conversations Inside the Car: A conversation with passengers in the car can also cause distractions while driving. So it is important for drivers to keep talking to a minimum while the vehicle is in motion.
  • Leave Interior Controls Alone: Some vehicles are equipped withautomatic climate controls or redundant climate and sound system controls on the steering wheel which allow drivers to keep his/her hands on the wheel while making adjustments. However, if your car does not have these features, be sure to adjust all settings before driving.

52 Injured in California Tour Bus Rollover Crash

By | Automotive Safety, Car Accident, Distracted Driving | No Comments

A California tour bus carrying casino-bound passengers crashed near Irwindale early on August 22nd on California’s 210 Freeway. The bus overturned following a two-vehicle crash, sending 52 passengers to nearby hospital emergency rooms.

Early investigation results, conducted by California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officers, revealed that the bus driver, a 55-year-old California resident, was at fault for executing an unsafe lane change. The bus was eastbound in the number one lane when it moved right into the number two lane.

However, the driver allegedly failed to properly check his mirrors and did not see a white Hyundai Elantra in the number two lane. Most tour buses are equipped with mirrors allowing the driver to view any vehicle that might be on either side. The bus struck the Elantra from the side and then veered all the way to the right, off of the roadway where it then overturned. The bus landed on its side and slid several feet beside traffic lanes. 51 passengers, along with the driver, were temporarily trapped inside.

All occupants had some form of injury. 32 people had minor cuts and bruises, 11 experienced moderate injuries, and 5 elderly passengers were seriously injured. Traffic was blocked for miles as a total of 7 patients were rushed by helicopter medevac to regional hospitals. All 52 occupants were treated for injuries and at least 12 were transported by ambulance to nearby hospitals.

Initial reports cite the tour bus company, Da Zhen Travel, to be in the 56th percentile. In the past 24 months, a few of its drivers had received traffic citations while operating company buses. Da Zhen is likely to face several personal injury lawsuit claims from many of the passengers aboard the overturned bus.

Reference:

San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Tampa Drivers Ranked Among the Worst

By | Automotive Safety, Car Accident, Distracted Driving | No Comments

A writer for Slate put in words what many people already knew: Tampa drivers aren’t the greatest.

Brian Palmer, Slate’s “chief explainer” who has analyzed other serious issues like: “Hurricane Sandy: How to count the fatalities?” recently examined a completely different topic, America’s worst drivers.

He examined insurance mileage and accident reports, the Huffington Post reported, and he also did what many reporters love to do, he looked at the bottom of the annual “America’s Best Drivers Report,” published by Allstate Insurance Company, to instead find America’s worst drivers.

Tampa drivers were ranked fourth worst. Palmer explained that Tampa achieved this ranking since it was consistently poor in various areas as opposed to doing one specific thing horribly:

  • 5th in traffic fatalities
  • 10th in pedestrian strikes
  • 11th in DWI fatalities
  • 18th worst in years between accidents

The number one ranking city for the worst drivers was Miami, which ranked:

  • First in automotive fatalities
  • First in pedestrian strikes
  • First in obscenity-laced tirades of fellow drivers

Other cities that ranked among the top five for the worst drivers included:

  • Philadelphia, PA – No. 2
  • Hialeah, FL – No. 3, and
  • Baltimore, MD – No. 5.

Distracted Driving Dangers Continue

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For nearly two decades it has been a widely-held belief that talking on cellphones leads to more accidents. A new study suggests it might not be as dangerous as believed, but don’t let this fool you.

It’s important to be aware that the new research from Carnegie Mellon University and the London School of Economics and Political Science did not include drivers that were texting or surfing the web.

Recently released results from a new Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) naturalistic driving study continue to show that distracted driving is a tangible threat. The study, entitled The Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety Critical Event Risk, shows that engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times. The data were collected by VTTI and Westat. The study, which was conducted under a separate contract from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), found:

  • Text messaging, browsing and dialing resulted in the longest duration of drivers taking their eyes off the road.
  • Text messaging increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by two times and resulted in drivers taking their eyes off the road for an average of 23 seconds total.
  • Activities performed when completing a phone call (reaching for a phone, looking up a contact and dialing the number) increased crash risk by three times.
  • There is no direct increased crash risk from the specific act of talking on a cell phone. However, visual-manual tasks (locating the phone, looking at the phone and touching the phone) are always involved when using a hand-held cell phone. This makes the overall use of a hand-held cell phone riskier when driving.
  • Even portable hands-free and vehicle-integrated hands-free cell phone use involved visual-manual tasks at least half of the time, which is associated with a greater crash risk.

To learn more about the VTTI study on cell phone use, view their research publications here.