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Consumer Reports harshly critical of Tesla's Autopilot system

More and more car buyers in West Virginia and around the country are choosing electric vehicles, and many of the sedans and SUVs they purchase come equipped with sophisticated electronic systems as well as electric motors and lithium batteries. Tesla's Autopilot feature is touted by the Palo Alto-based carmaker as the most advanced autonomous system currently available, but those claims were questioned recently by Consumer Reports magazine.

A team of Consumer Reports researchers put Tesla vehicles equipped with the Autopilot system through a series of tests, and they concluded that using the feature was more taxing to drivers than taking the wheel themselves. The magazine compared using Autopilot to watching an untrained teenager as they learned to drive. The system uses sensors, LiDAR and radar to monitor traffic and is designed to change lanes, accelerate and brake automatically. According to consumer reports, it often performs these tasks in an unpredictable and dangerous manner.

House bill calls for mandatory ignition interlock devices

Individuals convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in West Virginia must enter the state's Alcohol Test and Lock Program. This involves fitting a device to their vehicles that checks their breath and prevents its operation when alcohol is detected. More than 25 states have passed similar drunk driving laws, but a bill introduced recently in the U.S. House of Representatives would go much further. The Abbas Stop Drunk Driving Act would require auto manufacturers to fit interlock devices to all new passenger vehicles offered for sale in America.

The bill is sponsored by a Michigan lawmaker who was prompted to act when five members of a family lost their lives in early January in a drunk driving accident. A truck driver who was later determined to be intoxicated crossed the center line and struck the family's car head-on as they returned home after vacationing in Florida. Accidents caused by drunk drivers claim about 10,000 lives each year in the United States according to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Outdoor tripping hazards in warmer weather

After the miserable winter weather, West Virginia residents are happy to feel warmer temperatures and see brighter skies. Boots, heavy coats and mittens may be packed in the back of your closet until next winter, and your wardrobe may now include lighter clothing, sandals or flip-flops.

You may be like many in this part of the country who tread carefully during the winter for fear of slipping and falling. Even a light snow can leave sidewalks and parking lots slick, and you may think those days are at least temporarily over as summer weather gets closer. However, don't be too quick to let down your guard. The ice may have melted, but you are still at risk of falling if property owners neglect to remove hazards from your paths.

CVSA to intensify traffic law enforcement July 14 to 20

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance will be holding its annual Operation Safe Driver Week event from July 14 to 20, during which police in West Virginia and the rest of the U.S. will be ramping up the enforcement of traffic laws. Both passenger vehicle and commercial vehicle drivers can be stopped during these events and issued a warning or citation for unsafe behaviors.

To give an idea of the scope of this event, 2018's Operation Safe Driver Week involved 51,000 law enforcement officials who stopped a total of 113,331 drivers across all of North America. Police gave out 57,405 citations and 87,907 warnings.

As truck crash numbers rise, companies look to truck safety tech

Truckers in West Virginia should know that the number of crashes between trucks and passenger vehicles is rising. About 72% of fatalities in these crashes are the occupants of passenger vehicles, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Some trucking companies are thus turning to vehicle safety technology to respond to this deadly trend.

The fact is that many truckers become negligent behind the wheel. Federal law mandates a digital work log, and truckers, most of whom are paid by the mile and not by the hour, might speed to make up for lost miles. The Florida DoT is one organization that has determined that speeding is a leading factor in the truck crash increase.

Fatal car crash risk goes up even in light rain

West Virginia motorists know that driving in heavy rain or snow can be dangerous, but what they may not know is that even driving in light rain can raise their risk for a fatal car crash. This was the conclusion of a study from the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies. Researchers looked at 125,012 fatal car crashes that occurred between 2006 and 2011 in the lower 48 states, taking into account the number of cars on the road when calculating crash risk.

What's more, though, is that this study is the first to utilize weather radar data in determining if it was raining or snowing at the time of a crash and how heavily. Previous studies on weather-related crashes have had to rely on the less precise information gathered in police reports and from weather stations nearest to the crash location.

Car company aims to fight drunk driving with tech

Many people in West Virginia have been the victim of a drunk driver or know someone who was. Drunk driving presents a serious threat on American roadways and has spawned a series of initiatives to tackle the problem, from public awareness advertisements to intensified police activity and sobriety checkpoints. Still, in 2017, 10,874 people were killed in crashes linked to drunk driving, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Many more people were seriously injured or permanently disabled.

One car manufacturer is taking a new spin on the battle against drunk driving. Volvo Cars announced that it will begin to install systems on its vehicles in the early 2020s that could prevent car accidents linked to driving under the influence. According to the automaker, the systems would use sensors, cameras and other devices to monitor driver behavior and navigate in an unsafe situation. If the system noted signs that could be linked to intoxication or severe distraction, like a driver with his or her eyes closed and hands off the steering wheel, it would send off a warning alarm.

Steps after a divorce

Couples in West Virginia who are going through a divorce are likely to find the experience exhausting. It's understandable to look forward to when the process is over. However, once the divorce is finalized, there are still some actions that they may have to take.

The first thing exes should do is straighten out their medical insurance situations. Someone who was on a spouse's medical insurance will have to obtain their own medical insurance. For those individuals who carried their spouse on their medical insurance, they should advise their insurance carrier of their new marital status and have their ex removed from the policy.

Risk Institute provides insight into distracted driving trends

The National Safety Council has designated April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. In that regard, The Risk Institute at The Ohio State University has released some data on the growing trend of distracted driving that should be of interest to West Virginia residents.

For example, researchers have studied and tried to predict driver behaviors in the effort to reduce those that are risky. They analyzed how incentives like insurance discounts might encourage drivers to be safer. They found that drivers who are especially confident are more likely to be distracted or dangerous behind the wheel.

If the driver next to you is a teen, your life may be at risk

A lot of West Virginia teens can't wait to get their driver's licenses and get onto the road. Their parents probably support them, but also express concern for their safety.

That concern should also extend to those sharing the roads with them. Some of the risk associated with teen drivers isn't their fault. They are new to it and a lack of experience makes them more dangerous. The rest of the risk comes from a false sense of security and too much faith in their abilities that makes them do things behind the wheel that they shouldn't.

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