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Roundabouts can help avoid fatal car crashes

Road design can have a major impact on the severity of car accidents in New York. For example, some road crossings are marked only by stop signs, especially in rural areas. This can even be true when each road has a high speed limit of 55 mph. While these roads receive relatively low traffic volume, these types of crossings may mean that the car accidents that do occur are far more likely to lead to severe injuries or fatalities. Cars and trucks on rural, sparsely populated roads may be more likely to run stop signs or even miss them due to brush or other obstructions in the way.

One of the methods that can help cities and towns reduce the risk of severe car crashes is the installation of roundabouts. When drivers approach traffic circles, they are forced to slow down. In some ways, they can even be more effective than the traditional approach to reducing dangerous crashes by installing traffic lights. There are fewer accidents at intersections with posted traffic lights. However, the crashes that do take place are often serious and involve catastrophic injuries. On the other hand, roundabouts do not decrease the number of accidents as significantly, but car accidents are far less likely to be severe.

New Tesla lane changing feature may pose a danger

Tesla introduced its Navigate on Autopilot feature in 2018 and has since made several updates to it. Anyone in New York who is interested in the development of semi-autonomous cars likely knows what this feature is. It is able to control a vehicle's speed while keeping the vehicle centered in its lane, and if the driver tries to change lanes with no hands on the wheel, it will flash a warning. It can even pull a car back into its lane if it senses a collision.

There is, however, one new feature that has been criticized by Consumer Reports as being inconvenient and unsafe: the feature that allows the vehicle to change lanes without the driver's confirmation. Testers found that the feature can lead a vehicle to cut off speeding cars too closely and to automatically brake during merges, giving drivers an unpleasant surprise. Some of the maneuvers can also constitute a violation of traffic laws.

Teens with permit less dangerous than licensed teens

The National Institutes for Health and Virginia Tech University have conducted a study on the driving habits of teens with a learner's permit and those who have been newly licensed. New York motorists may be interested to hear the results.

Researchers monitored the driving of 90 teen participants, starting from the time they obtained their permit to the first year they were licensed. Dash cams observed the driver and the road, and software recorded speed and braking data. Researchers concluded that participants, in the first three months of having a license, were eight times more likely to crash than during their last three months with a permit.

Volvo to put cameras, sensors in cars to prevent drunk driving

Volvo Cars has announced a couple plans to reduce the risk of car crashes with its vehicles. Volvo owners in New York may have already heard that the automaker will set the maximum speed limit on its vehicles to 112 mph starting in 2020. The second plan is to install cameras and sensors in the vehicles that monitor drivers for any signs of intoxication or distraction.

Drunk driving is a widespread trend. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that nearly 30 people die each day in the U.S. in drunk driving crashes. There were 10,874 such deaths in 2017. Volvo's aim is to avoid crashes altogether rather than to mitigate the severity of unavoidable crashes as other automakers focus on.

Autonomous cars may not solve roadway safety issues

Many experts in New York have raised hopes about the future presented by autonomous vehicle technologies. Self-driving cars could help to minimize traffic congestion and reduce or even eliminate dangerous car accidents. However, to date, the technologies have lagged behind the dream of the self-driving vehicle. In addition, once safe systems have been developed, serious testing will be necessary to determine that autonomous vehicles are truly safe for American roadways. If the cars are allowed to enter the market before safety testing is completed, the results could be disastrous.

Doubters about the technology raise questions about incidents that have taken place as part of testing programs or by using semi-autonomous technologies available on current vehicles. For example, in May 2016, the potential dangers of over-reliance on automation were highlighted when a Tesla driver lost his life after a collision with an articulated truck. Relying on the braking provided by Tesla's semi-autonomous system called Autopilot, the driver did not stop his car, and the system did not detect the truck on the road. At the same time, Tesla warns that its systems are only to be used to assist an active driver.

2019 Travelers Risk Index sheds light on distracted driving

After surveying more than 2,000 consumers and executives on the subject of distracted driving, the Travelers Companies gathered its findings in its 2019 Travelers Risk Index. Those findings, a sample of which is given below, may interest drivers in New York.

Texting and sending emails was the most frequently cited activity that distracted drivers with 44 percent of the respondents admitting to doing it. This was followed by social media use, taking pictures and shopping online. Thirteen percent of respondents said they would find it hard to quit reading texts or emails behind the wheel while 19 percent said they would continue to drive distracted even if that meant breaking the law.

Helping drivers appreciate the dangers of driving while tired

Most New York drivers understand how dangerous it is to drive while sleepy. It can impede a person's ability to react quickly and make good decisions when behind the wheel. March 15, 2019 was designated as World Sleep Day. Its purpose is to bring awareness to the dangers a person faces when they get behind the wheel while tired.

Many experts agree that if a person is awake for more than 18 hours straight, their impairment is equivalent to a person who exceeds the blood alcohol limit for drunk driving. An automotive manufacturer is using the 'Sleep Suit" to help drivers understand the impact that tiredness can have on them when they are behind the wheel.

SUVs and smartphones contributing to rise in pedestrian deaths

The Vision Zero program in New York City that began in 2014 appears to have reduced pedestrian deaths even while the problem has ballooned throughout much of the nation. The city was among 10 large urban areas that experienced a collective drop of 15 percent in the number of pedestrians killed by vehicles in 2017. The program reduced speed limits in the city to improve safety, but people on foot continue to face a dangerous landscape. A report from the Governors Highway Safety Association calculated that pedestrian deaths nationwide have jumped 51.5 percent since 2009. The report blamed multiple factors on the deadly trend.

The increasing number of sport utility vehicles on the road have contributed to the loss of life. SUVs have a higher front-end, and this design doubles the risk that the vehicles will kill a pedestrian compared to lower-profile sedans. Since 2013, pedestrian deaths that involved SUVs increased by 50 percent.

NSC: 2018 exceeds 40,000 traffic deaths for third straight year

The National Safety Council has reported that 2018 saw a 1 percent decrease in traffic deaths from 2017, which saw 40,231 deaths, but that the number still exceeded 40,000. It is the third year in a row to do so and represents a startling 14 percent jump from traffic death rates in 2014. Also, about 4.5 million people were seriously injured in crashes in 2018. New York residents should know that driver behavior is one factor in this trend.

Specifically, distracted driving contributed to an estimated 8 percent of crashes in 2018, and drowsy driving was involved in 2 percent of crashes. Compared to a decade ago, more drivers are using smartphones or in-dash infotainment systems in the car. However, traffic death rates varied from state to state and from year to year. Maine, Kansas, New Jersey, Wyoming and Rhode Island saw a decline of more than 9.4 percent in traffic deaths in 2018.

GHSA: no progress made in reducing speeding crashes

The Governors Highway Safety Association has reported on the lack of progress in efforts to reduce speeding-related crashes. New York residents should know that speeding is to blame for nearly one-third of all motor vehicle-related fatalities with many of these being pedestrians and bicyclists. Speeding increases the chances of an accident as well as the severity of one, while decreasing speed even a little bit does the opposite.

The GHSA's report is entitled "Speeding Away from Zero: Rethinking a Forgotten Traffic Safety Challenge," and it focuses on ways to create a more safety-minded culture among drivers, many of whom are convinced that speeding is acceptable. The GHSA stresses the need for better education and stricter enforcement of speeding laws.

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