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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.

The dangers of sleep-deprived driving

Sleep deprivation affects many drivers in New York on a daily basis. The National Sleep Foundation has compared it to alcohol intoxication, saying that being awake 24 hours is similar to having a blood alcohol content of .10 (a BAC of .08 means one is legally drunk). Since drowsiness raises the risk for car crashes, drivers will want to consider the following information.

First, the CDC recommends at least seven hours of rest every night. Adequate sleep is the best prevention against drowsy driving. Those who get a decent amount of rest and still feel drowsy may have a condition like obstructive sleep apnea, which generally requires being evaluated by a doctor.

Autos with the latest technology can pose safety risks

Safety risks with vehicles are typically associated with some sort of defect inherent in the vehicle in question. Some part or system does not function as designed and causes a potential safety issue, and the driver, despite operating the vehicle in an otherwise safe manner and as intended, is placed at risk. Today's automobiles sold in New York are manufactured with varying inclusions of the latest technology available, but not all of these are aimed at enhancing or improving the functionality or safety of the driving experience. In fact, the issue arises whether some of these technologies should be placed in a vehicle at all.

Initially, it should be noted that what is called distracted driving has become a leading cause of injury crashes. In a AAA-sponsored study, researchers observed that the even a seemingly benign activity such as listening to the radio can, on some level, be distracting. Activities that require a combination of cognitive focus, the use of the hands and visual activity are the most distracting and cause the driver to lose focus on the task of driving for the longest period of time.

Why drunk driving is responsible for too many deaths

New York residents should know that only a few countries in the world, including the U.S. and Mexico, allow drivers a blood alcohol limit as high as 0.08 percent. There are some countries such as Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Russia where it is illegal to drive under the influence of any alcohol at all.

The fact is, drunk driving is blamed for about one-third of all motor vehicle crash fatalities. Young adults, bikers and drivers with a prior DUI record are among the riskiest groups for this behavior. It takes a healthy liver an average of about one hour to process each ounce of alcohol, but an unhealthy liver can take even more time.

External airbags: their role in side impact crashes

ZF is a car parts manufacturer that is currently developing external airbags. The safety data that it has presented may prompt other manufacturers to consider this technology. Drivers in New York who are interested in vehicle safety tech will also want to take note although it will probably be a while before external airbags become standard features on vehicles.

ZF is focusing on external airbags that protect occupants in the event of a side-impact crash. Its model goes on both sides of a vehicle and is meant to provide an additional crumple zone to absorb the shock of the collision. According to ZF, external airbags can reduce the severity of occupants' injuries by up to 40 percent.

4 city bills to regulate e-scooters and e-bikes

Proposed legislation under consideration by the City Council would legalize motorized e-scooters and e-bikes in New York City. If the four bills pass and become law, they would make it easier for people to take advantage of emerging transportation options that are environmentally friendly. They would also put more scooters on the road.

The first of the bills, sponsored by a councilman from the Bronx, would make e-scooters legal and cap their top speed at 15 mph. This is similar to the ways in which e-scooters are regulated in other parts of the country, such as San Francisco and Washington, D.C. A second bill would make e-bikes with throttles legal and cap their top speed at 20 mph. This bill would also lower the fines levied for use of unauthorized bikes to $100 from $500.

Nighttime commutes put pedestrians in danger

The end of Daylight Saving Time means that many residents of New York will be making their evening commute in the dark. The diminished visibility puts both drivers and pedestrians at a higher risk for injury. Pedestrians are especially in danger in the early stages when they are trying to adjust to distractions like the glare from headlights and streetlamps.

This comes at a time when some states are seeing a jump in pedestrian fatalities. California, for example, saw 74 deaths in 2015 but 134 in 2017. The Governors Highway Safety Association even stated in a preliminary report that L.A. County has the most pedestrian deaths in the nation.

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