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Truck accident fatalities up in 2017

Many California drivers feel uneasy sharing the road with tractor-trailers and other large trucks, fearing what would happen if a truck collided with them. Unfortunately, newly released federal statistics show that uneasiness could be justified.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 4,762 people were killed in traffic accidents involving large trucks in 2017, which is a 9 percent increase over the 4,370 who lost their lives in 2016. Meanwhile, multi-vehicle accidents involving large trucks jumped by 8.8 percent, and the number of truck drivers and truck passengers killed in accidents spiked by 16 percent. The NHTSA classifies large trucks as those that weigh 10,000 or more pounds.

Driver safety technologies misunderstood

Drivers on California roads are likely to overestimate the capabilities of their vehicles' safety features, according to research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The AAA study found that drivers think blind spot monitoring and other safety technologies are more advanced than they are. It may indicate that more driver education is necessary before American drivers are ready to adopt self-driving and other motor vehicle technology.

Overestimating the abilities of vehicle safety technologies can lead to accidents. With regard to blind spot monitoring, the AAA study found that almost 80 percent of drivers didn't understand the ways in which the system was limited. They thought it had a greater capacity to detect pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles in the blind spot than it actually had. Because they relied too heavily on blind spot monitoring, roughly 25 percent of the drivers studied didn't check their blind spots when they were changing lanes.

Collision avoidance systems may prevent truck crashes

According to data published by the federal government, there were more than 4,300 traffic fatalities in large truck crashes during the year 2016. That represents a 28 percent increase since 2009. Since the late 1990s, the National Transportation Safety Board has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at least 10 times to require crash avoidance systems in large trucks operating in California and across the U.S.

The NTSB has said that many serious truck crashes could have been prevented if the trucks had been equipped with rear-end collision avoidance systems. Based on statements by companies that have installed the systems, rear-end collision avoidance technologies might prevent more than 70 percent of semi-truck rear-end crashes. When crashes occur despite the avoidance technology, they cause less damage to people and property.

Touring emergency rooms, morgue may improve teen driving

Across California and the United States, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of accidental death in teenagers. A recent study found that seeing the extreme consequences of vehicular accidents may improve teenage driving statistics. The study, which was done by researchers at Baylor University, found that teenage drivers who entered into a supplemental drivers' education program had an increased awareness of the consequences of risky driving practices.

The supplemental drivers' education program took the teenage drivers on a tour that included intensive care units, the emergency room and the morgue. The program also included videos, lectures and discussions and lasted approximately six hours. Though teenage drivers were found to have an increased awareness of how to avoid dangerous driving scenarios immediately following the visits, a follow-up study was inconclusive if the supplemental education made a difference when the teenage drivers were behind the wheel two months after the program concluded.

Revisions pending for FMCSA's hours-of-service rules

Truckers in California as well as the owners of truck fleets may be interested to hear that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed revisions to its hours-of-service rules. The advance notice of proposed rulemaking was published in August 2018, and the FMCSA is welcoming comments on it until September 24. It is holding public listening sessions at various locations.

The proposed rule changes are as follows. The agency may expand the 100 air-mile short-haul exemption from 12 hours on duty to 14. This will result in consistent rules for both short-haul and long-haul drivers. The FMCSA may also allow truckers an extra two hours on top of their 14 on-duty hour limitation when they face bad driving conditions.

Study shows distracted driving common to all generations

Drivers in California may be surprised by the results of a distracted driving study that was conducted by Volvo and the Harris Poll. The study, which involved 2,000 participants of varying ages, found that distracted driving is common among all generations. Approximately 81 percent of millennials and Gen Xers admitted to phone use behind wheel, followed by 71 percent of Gen Xers, 64 percent of baby boomers and 50 percent of the Silent Generation.

Texting was the most common action that distracted drivers engaged in: 60 percent admitted to it. About 35 percent admitted to reading emails, 25 percent to surfing the web and 20 percent to posting on social media. At the same time, participants across the board expressed their belief that other drivers were engaging in more distracting behavior than they were. For instance, they believed that 90 percent of other drivers text and send emails while driving.

Experts say roundabouts can save lives

Anyone who has driven in California in recent years may have encountered roundabouts. The state is one of many that have replaced some traffic signals at intersections with roundabouts; traffic circles can help reduce fatalities and serious injuries. Roundabouts are common in Europe and some other parts of the world, but the United States has been slow to adopt them. However, one state is now installing more roundabouts even in rural areas.

After a fatal accident in 2011 at an intersection in Robeson County, North Carolina, a stop sign was installed at the intersection. Serious accidents continued, however, with the county having the highest rate of traffic fatalities per 1,000 vehicles in the state for several years. The stop sign was replaced with a roundabout in June. Though the work was expensive for the rural county, engineers estimate that the roundabout will save twice as much in the cost of accidents and injuries and reduce the traffic injury rate in the county by 89 percent.

Avoiding car accidents during the school year

While safe driving is a must for every time of the year, it becomes even more critical when school is in session and the holidays are around the corner. California drivers will therefore want to consider the following tips, which can allow them to share the road safely with school buses and other vehicles.

School zones, bus stops and crosswalks are three areas where drivers are advised to exercise caution. Children can dart out from the streets without warning and without using a crosswalk, so drivers should try to scan a block or two ahead and never engage in distracting activities like calling, texting, adjusting the radio and eating.

Drowsy driving just as dangerous as drunk driving

Drowsy driving is prevalent in California and across the U.S. In fact, a study by the American Sleep Foundation found that around 50 percent of adult drivers engage in drowsy driving. Worse, 40 percent of drivers admit they've fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point in their lives, and 20 percent admit they've fallen asleep while driving within the last 12 months.

There is some dispute over the exact amount of drowsy driving crashes that occur on U.S. roads each year. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that there are approximately 100,000 drowsy driving car accidents reported by the police annually, which resulted in 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries. However, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that there are 328,000 drowsy driving accidents each year. Of those accidents, 109,000 caused an injury, and 6,400 involved a fatality. No matter which set of numbers is most accurate, it's clear that drowsy driving poses a major danger to American motorists.

Teenage drivers, licenses and safety

California parents who have teenagers who have just begun driving should be aware that there is a high chance of their offspring being responsible for a motor vehicle accident during their first months of having a driver's license. According to a study that was conducted jointly by the National Institutes for Health and Virginia Tech University, the likelihood that teenagers will experience a collision or a near miss with another vehicle during their first three months of driving by themselves is eight times more than during the last three months in which they have a driver's permit and are driving with an adult.

For the study, the researchers obtained the participation of 131 parents and 90 teenagers. The subjects were monitored from the moment they obtained a learner's permit to the end of the first year in which they had a driver's license. The vehicles of the teenage drivers were equipped with dash cams so that both the driver and road could be observed. The vehicles also had software installed that was used to record braking and speed. The results of the study indicated that teenagers are more likely to brake too sharply, accelerate too fast and make turns too hard, all of which can result in accidents and near-misses.

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