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How drivers can avoid or deal with drowsiness

Drivers in New York may feel compelled in some cases to drive even when they are tired. It should be kept in mind, though, that drowsy driving is a serious issue and can lead to crashes. According to a 2018 AAA study, some 9.5% of all crashes are caused by drowsy drivers.

Not getting the minimum seven hours of sleep can affect drivers in much the same way that alcohol does. The National Sleep Foundation says that being awake for 24 straight hours is like having a blood alcohol content of .10. Remember that the legal limit is .08. In addition to sleep deprivation, prescription sleep aids can play a role in drowsy driving with some ignoring the direction to sleep seven to eight hours before going out.

Pedestrian deaths on the rise in New York

Pedestrian fatalities in New York and across the country spiked in 2018 according to data from the Governor's Highway Safety Association. The organization reports that New York had the sixth highest number of pedestrian deaths last year.

More than 6,200 pedestrians were killed on and around U.S. roads in 2018, which is the highest total since 1990. According to traffic safety experts, two of the major reasons for the increase are smartphones and in-vehicle infotainment systems, which distract both drivers and pedestrians. For example, a police officer in Colonie told a media outlet that he routinely tickets drivers for texting behind the wheel, and he frequently issues citations to pedestrians who fail to use crosswalks because they are texting and walking. There were 33 pedestrian accidents in the town last year, and one person was killed.

Car crash injury rate higher among women than men

As early as 2011, automotive safety advocates began noting a worrisome trend that drivers in New York should be aware of -- women are more likely than men to be seriously injured in a car crash. At that time, advocates put the blame on seat belts. It turns out that most women harmed in crashes are short in statute and that other factors, including seating posture, prevent them from getting the best protection from their seat belts.

However, a new study from the University of Virginia has pinpointed another cause for the trend: skewed crash test data and a resulting lack of safety measures and devices that take women's biological and physiological distinctions into account. Researchers calculated that women are 73% more likely than men to be seriously injured or die in a crash.

Cyclist, pedestrian fatalities on the rise

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released estimates indicating that the number of bicyclist deaths increased by 10% in 2018. Cyclist and pedestrian deaths are on the rise in New York and across the country, with each of those statistics likely to hit its highest total in decades. Meanwhile, cars and trucks are getting safer thanks to new technologies.

When the statistics are finalized, the number of cyclist deaths in 2018 is likely to be the highest it has been since 1988. The number of pedestrian fatalities rose by 4% and is likely to be the highest it has been since 1990. The number of traffic fatalities overall dropped by 1%. Several automakers have introduced bicycle and pedestrian detection systems tied to their automatic braking technologies. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has said it will require car makers beginning in 2020 to include pedestrian detection systems as standard features in order to be considered for the ranking of Top Safety Pick Plus.

New technology could prevent drunk driving

According to the NHTSA, drunk driving accidents account for 29% of all traffic fatalities. In 2017, 11,000 people were killed and a further 200,000 were injured in New York and throughout the country by drunk drivers. However, there may be technology available that could help prevent those who are impaired by alcohol from operating a motor vehicle. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that implementing this type of technology could prevent 7,000 deaths per year.

In the future, there could be auto systems that use both touch and a person's breath to measure blood alcohol content. If a person's blood alcohol content is more than .08%, the car would not be able to start. Systems using breath monitoring tools are being tested in Virginia and could be available for wider use starting in 2020. Volvo has plans to use sensors and cameras in an effort to prevent drunk driving.

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.

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