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Murrieta Personal Injury Law Blog

The link between commercial truck drivers and drowsiness

Drowsy driving is a danger that many people in California are familiar with. Drowsiness can impairs judgment, reaction times, cognition and the sense of distance, and if the driver falls asleep, he or she is liable to collide with other vehicles or with pedestrians and even swerve off the road. It's estimated that over 100,000 accidents occur every year in the U.S. because of driver fatigue.

It becomes an even greater issue when the driver in question is behind the wheel of a big rig. On account of the massive size and weight of commercial trucks, any collision will turn out the worse for those in the passenger vehicle; it may lead to catastrophic injuries or death. Incidentally, truck drivers have the highest risk for drowsiness.

Cellphone use may be responsible for spike in pedestrian deaths

The Apple iPhone was first introduced in 2007. Since then, cellphone use in California and the rest of the U.S. has skyrocketed. Over the same period, pedestrian deaths have also sharply increased. Traffic safety experts believe the two phenomena are linked.

In the decade since the iPhone hit the market, cellphone-related emergency room visits in the U.S. jumped 83.5 percent, according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. Between 2010 and 2016, cellphone use across the country spiked by 236 percent, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Meanwhile, pedestrian fatalities have spiked 46 percent since 2009. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says no studies have demonstrated a "direct link" between cellphone use and pedestrian deaths, many experts believe the trends are closely related.

GHSA report reveals alarming rise in drug use by drivers

Police departments in California and around the country use breath testing equipment to reliably determine whether or not a driver is intoxicated by alcohol, but no such test currently exists to identify marijuana impairment. This is a problem because drug tests performed on motorists killed in accidents discovered traces of the drug 38 percent of the time according to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The GHSA report indicates that rates of alcohol impairment among fatally injured drivers has actually fallen slightly to 38 percent in 2016 from 41 percent in 2006. However, marijuana and opioid use by motorists appears to be soaring. More than half of the drug tests performed on fatally injured drivers revealed traces of one or both of these drugs. The problem is made more difficult by a lack of reliable science linking THC levels with impairment.

July 4 worst day of year for fatal car crashes

As is the case throughout the rest of the country, most people in California use the Fourth of July as a time to relax and celebrate their personal freedoms. The annual holiday is also when many individuals take to the roads to do things like visit friends and family or attend fireworks celebrations and other events. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Esurance estimate that it's the worst day of the year for fatal car accidents.

As for the leading auto accident cause, the Institute notes that 40 percent of all highway deaths that occurred from 2007 to 2011 involved driving while intoxicated over the Independence Day weekend. This doesn't include other factors that may contribute to accidents, such as distracted driving and not obeying speed limits.

Brake Safety Week plans full Level I inspections for trucks

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has planned a week-long brake inspection spree for Sept. 16-22. Commercial vehicle operators in California can expect full Level I inspections of their braking systems. The nationwide safety event aims to identify unsafe vehicles and educate all operators about the compliance standards for their brakes.

Last year, the alliance ran a one-day brake inspection spree. That event resulted in inspectors taking 14 percent of inspected vehicles out of service. A news release from the CVSA emphasized the public safety hazards posed by malfunctioning or poorly maintained truck or bus brakes.

How new tech could prevent distractions on the road

Considering the popularity of smartphone use, distracted driving is a major problem in California. That's why several phone providers offer free apps that can silence all incoming communications and keep users from texting when a car is in motion. However, most of these apps do not prevent all outgoing communications. New technology may be able to address this problem more thoroughly.

One device developed by the Colorado-based Katasi can be plugged into a car and link the user's phone to a cloud. Called Groove, the device allows the phone provider to block all incoming communications, including calls, messages and social media updates, as well as prevent the driver from sending such communications. All messages appear once the car is turned off. Unless customized, the device does not block navigation and music streaming.

Report shows increase in fatalities in large-truck crashes

In May, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released its most recent analysis regarding commercial truck and bus crashes, and motorists in California and other states may want to know more. Upon review of the statistical information, an American Trucking Associations statement noted a positive trend spanning two decades and credited the long-term results to the efforts of the American trucking industry. However, the data indicates that the number of fatal trucking accidents actually rose from 4,074 in 2015 to 4,213 in the following year.

According to FMCSA, 1.46 large trucks were involved in fatal wrecks per 100 million trucking miles collectively traveled in both 2015 and 2016. Although this figure remained constant over the two year period, drivers of smaller vehicles may want to consider the number of trucking-related fatalities that occurred during the same time frame. Trucking accidents caused 4,317 fatalities in 2016, up from 4,094 the previous year. The records show that in 2016, only 722 of the lives that were lost belonged to occupants of the commercial trucks. This number was somewhat lower in 2015.

Drowsy driving just as dangerous as DUI

Drivers in California may know that intoxicated driving is unsafe, but they may not be aware that drowsy driving is similar to intoxicated driving in its effects. Drowsy driving is a widespread issue: 60 percent of adults in the U.S. claim to have done it at least once with a third of those even admitting that they fell asleep behind the wheel.

After 18 straight hours of wakefulness, a driver's behavior is comparable to that of a person with .05 blood alcohol content. After 24 consecutive hours, the driver will be acting like one with .10 BAC, which is well over the nation's legal limit of .08. Both drowsy and drunk drivers exhibit inattention, loss of judgment and slower reaction times.

Tesla CEO criticizes media coverage of semi-autonomous car crash

Drivers in California may be interested in the recent spate of accidents involving self-driving vehicles, especially those that operate on Tesla's Autopilot program. In May, a Utah driver collided with a fire truck even though the Autopilot on her Tesla Model S was engaged. She said she was looking down at her phone when the crash took place.

The Tesla CEO, along with supporters of the company, responded with critical comments on social media. These criticisms were aimed at the news media for giving an undue amount of attention to the accident. Some have asked why the media must focus on an accident that resulted in only a broken ankle when hundreds of more serious crashes occur every day.

The link between SUVs and pedestrian fatalities

California residents likely appreciate the efforts being made locally and around the country to minimize, if not completely eliminate, pedestrian deaths. In spite of these efforts, the number of pedestrians killed on American streets is steadily rising. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, since 2009, there's been a 46 percent increase in the number of pedestrian deaths. This leads many to wonder why there has been such a dramatic spike.

Blame has been placed on everything from excessive use of cellphones while driving to the legalization of marijuana to the popularity of SUVs. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a study showing that more than 80 percent of pedestrian deaths from 2009 to 2016 involved SUVs.

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