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Entries in Driving Safety (35)


Technology Aside, Driver Safety is Top Priority for NHTSA

Kevin Jones
Technical Analyst

With so many telematics and smart phone technologies built into today’s automobile, what’s possible seems limitless. More and more, it looks like we’re closing the gap between what Hanna-Barbera’s The Jetsons envisioned in the 1960s and where we are now.

Nevertheless, all of this technology is not as openly welcomed as you might think. While there is a lot of excitement about new technologies and their being incorporated into automobiles, some safety advocates would like to see more restraint.

On June 9, 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Administrator, David L. Strickland, spoke at the 2011 Detroit Diesel conference in Novi, Michigan. Mr. Strickland praised the use of vehicle technology that supports such functions as vehicle maintenance and also the use of navigation systems to help first-responders in the event of vehicle crashes. However, he made it clear that he does not support technologies that are distracting to drivers. In Mr. Strickland’s presentation, titled "USDOT Sheds Lights on Driver Distraction Issues (Crucial Session)," he expresses that while drivers’ connecting to all the new technologies in their vehicle is not necessary, some vehicle owners still very much embrace the technologies being added to vehicles.

In May 2011, at the Association for Safer International Road Travel Annual Gala Fundraiser, in Washington, D.C., Mr. Strickland spoke about the need for crash avoidance technologies. In his remarks, Mr. Strickland says, “Crash avoidance technologies provide an opportunity to save lives and reduce injuries by supporting the driver and preventing crashes from occurring in the first place.” He also puts forth that vehicle to-vehicle communication and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication are two possible ways to help reduce the number of automobile crashes.

However, at the same time that these safety applications are making a positive difference in reducing crashes, and while their use is being encouraged, NHTSA is simultaneously “taking a hard look at these systems” and challenging both the auto industry and cell phone industry to work hand-in-hand with federal transportation officials “to keep the driver on their required task: driving.”


Photo Enforcement Helping Bring Red Light Runners to a Stop

Kelly Messerschmidt
Technical Communications Manager

Because police can’t be everywhere at once, red light cameras are being used more and more to enforce motorists’ coming to a stop at red lights. In fact, studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and others have found a 40-96% reduction in the number of people running red lights at intersections using this type of photo enforcement. Watch a YouTube video about red light cameras. 

The IIHS reports that in 2009, crashes caused by red light runners resulted in 676 deaths and an estimated 130,000 injuries. Obviously, enforcing drivers’ stopping at red lights has great ramifications for public safety.

You might be surprised at just how common red light runners are. In a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety telephone survey conducted in 2010, one-third of the drivers reported having run a red light in the past 30 days—even though 93% of them said they thought doing so was unacceptable if stopping safely was an option. Other studies cited by the IIHS report that about three drivers per hour run red lights at intersections lacking the red light cameras.
See how your state’s automatic enforcement laws measure up.

Contrary to what some think, red light cameras do not actually take a photo of every car driving through a particular intersection. Instead, the camera automatically photographs any car whose driver runs the red light. Red light cameras have been used for decades and have proven to be extremely accurate and reliable.

What constitutes one’s running a red light? It’s pretty simple. Running a red light is defined as the driver entering the intersection after the light has turned red. However, those who inadvertently find themselves in an intersection when the light changes to red are not considered red light runners. Who are the most likely to run a red light? An IIHS study conducted in 2009 found that red light runners were more likely to be younger (under 30), male, and have poor driving records with incidents of prior crashes, alcohol-related driving convictions, and speeding and other moving violations.

Read Q&As from IIHS about red light cameras. 


Senators Pryor (D-AR) and Alexander (R-TN) Introduce New Electronic On-board Recorder (EOBR) Legislation

Benjamin Smith
Principal Technical Analyst, MSC of MS

US Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced new legislation on March 31, 2011 that would require the installation of Electronic On-board Recorders (EOBRs) in commercial vehicles to document drivers' compliance with Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules.

The March 31 press release indicates that the Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act will require the EOBRs to be tamper-resistant, identify the vehicle's operator and record driving time, communicate with the Engine Control Module (ECM), provide real-time location recording, and allow for the data to be accessed by law enforcement in roadside inspections.

Senators Pryor and Alexander's new legislation aims at enforcing HOS rules more effectively and accurately. In the press release, Pryor said, "The trucking industry faces the constant balancing act of keeping fatigued drivers off the road while ensuring stores are full of merchandise. After several meetings with the trucking industry and Senate hearings on highway safety, I believe the most effective solution is to require the use of electronic on-board recorders." 


New Anti-Distracted Driving Rules Announced at the 2010 Distracted Driving Summit

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced at yesterday’s second national Distracted Driving Summit that the federal government is initiating a new rulemaking to limit commercial truck drivers’ use of all electronic devices while hauling hazardous materials, as well as seeking to ban text messaging by all drivers hauling hazardous materials.

These announcements came on the heels of last week’s proposed rulemaking submitted to the White House for final review, which would prohibit all truck drivers from texting while driving. It is likely that this rule will be published in the Federal Register as early as next week, in which case the rule would take effect in late October.

Read more about LaHood's announcements during yesterday's Distracted Driving Summit.

Learn about distracted driving and the summit at DOT's site.


National Two-Second Turnoff Day: Sept. 17, 2010

A lot can happen in two seconds. For example, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, taking your eyes off the road for two seconds doubles your chances of being in a car crash. However, it only takes two seconds to turn off your cell phone before you get behind the wheel.

National Two-Second Turnoff Day takes place tomorrow. The campaign, sponsored by AAA, Seventeen Magazine, and the US Department of Transportation (DOT), urges teens to pay special attention to the risks of distracted driving. Research conducted by AAA and Seventeen found that 86% of male and female teens have driven while distracted, even though 84% admitted they know it's dangerous.

Seventeen Magazine's "Viral Video Challenge,” part of National Two-Second Turnoff Day, is actively helping teens spread the news of the dangers of distracted driving. Winner Emily Langston's anti-distracted driving video, "It Can Wait," will be featured at DOT's 2010 Distracted Driving Summit, in Washington, D.C., on September 21, 2010.

Congratulations to Ms. Langston, AAA, Seventeen Magazine, and DOT for working hard to promote safe driving.

Visit the official US Government website for distracted driving.