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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.

2019 International Roadcheck set for June 4-6

Commercial vehicle drivers in West Virginia, including truck and bus drivers, should know that the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance will be holding its 2019 International Roadcheck from June 4 to 6. During this annual event, CMV drivers across the U.S. will be subject to random inspections. Most of the inspections this time will be Level I inspections, which are the most comprehensive.

The CVSA is focusing on steering and suspension safety because these, if properly maintained, are what help maintain stability and control when a commercial vehicle brakes and accelerates. They keep the tires in alignment, which in turn reduces the amount of uneven tire wear and the chances of tire failure.

Deadly truck crashes spark calls for change

West Virginia motorists might very well be concerned about the rise in fatalities linked to trucking crashes. Due to the size and weight of semi trucks, a collision involving an 18-wheeler poses a severe threat to the lives and well-being of others in smaller passenger vehicles. While drowsy, drunk or distracted driving pose a threat in any vehicle, a negligent truck driver can do significant damage. Of course, truck accidents are caused by a range of factors. However, regardless of the reason, it is clear that the number of deaths is growing across the country.

In 2017, over 4,100 people died in truck accidents. Of those, 17 percent were occupants of the truck, while 68 percent were occupants of other vehicles. Another 14 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. This number marks a 28 percent increase in fatal trucking crashes since 2009. Safety advocates warn that this is a dangerous trend that requires a response. They say that if similar accident figures were connected to another form of transportation like airline or railway services, there would be a public outcry for change and serious attention to the crisis.

Driving while tired can lead to serious accidents

Most West Virginia residents readily accept that sleep deprivation has a negative effect on mood, attitude and efficiency. People often comment that when they are tired, they are grumpy and find it difficult to concentrate. Unfortunately, many people do not appreciate how seriously fatigue can affect their driving abilities.

To make this point clear on World Sleep Day in 2019, Ford invited young drivers to try its 'Sleep Suit" in a controlled environment. This suit is meant to help drivers experience the debilitating effects of sleep loss. When a person has remained awake for more than 18 hours, their senses may be impaired to the point that they could be compared to a drunk driver.

The right course of action after a car accident

A car accident can change your life in an instant. One moment you may be driving to a restaurant or to the grocery store, and the next you may find yourself with serious injuries and extensive property damage. There are things you can do to protect your interests as you seek to recover and move forward after this type of traumatic event. 

One of the most important factors to remember if involved in an accident is that you must stop. Every person involved in a crash has a legal obligation to do so. In addition to stopping, there are specific actions you can take and things you can avoid that will give you a better chance of a successful potential personal injury claim. Above all, it may help you to know that you do not have to walk through the aftermath of a collision alone.

Daylight saving time may boost car crash risk

Changing clocks ahead each year can mean more for people living in West Virginia than simply missing out on an hour of sleep. The American Automobile Association (AAA) points out that missing a few hours of sleep or more nearly doubles a driver's risk of experiencing a crash. The motor club association further asserts motorists need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night to drive safely, which is why they urge drivers to give themselves time to adjust to daylight saving time before getting back behind the wheel.

The National Sleep Foundation believes individuals running on less than 2 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period are unfit to drive. AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety research goes further by suggesting that drivers who get less than 5 hours of sleep are just as likely to be involved with a collision as someone driving while impaired by alcohol. Insufficient sleep may also affect a driver's heart health enough to contribute to an accident.

Cellphone bans result in fewer distracted driving deaths

West Virginia has strict laws regarding cellphone use by drivers. As a result, the state is among those with significantly fewer distracted driving deaths, according to a study by ValuePenguin.com.

Between 2015 and 2017, over 1,400 people across the country were killed in car accidents attributed to cellphone-related distracted driving. For the study, which was released on Feb. 27, researchers analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration to determine which states recorded the greatest number of cellphone-related crash fatalities. They found that Tennessee, Delaware, Wyoming, Texas and Montana had the highest number of deaths, reporting 31 percent of all U.S. distracted driving fatalities over the study period. Interestingly, all but one of those states have lax cellphone regulations.

Drugs are a factor in a growing number of car crashes

While many people are already concerned about the effects of the opioid epidemic in West Virginia and around the country, studies indicate that those effects could extend to car accidents. According to one nationwide study, drivers in fatal two-car collisions held to be at fault for crashes were nearly twice as likely to test positive for opioids as those that were found not at fault. Regardless of the presence of opioids, other drugs, or alcohol, the most common cause of these fatal crashes was one driver veering out of his or her lane.

The study's authors noted that the research did not indicate that the at-fault drivers were taking illegal drugs; in many cases, they were taking prescribed opiates available by prescription only. Still, the researchers noted that the results indicated that the opiate epidemic was a risk to highway safety. The researchers used information from a national database containing detailed information about deadly car accidents across the country.

Defensive driving can avoid a drunk driver.

Few people in West Virginia desire to share the road with an impaired driver. Everyone now knows the danger a driver under the influence is to every other vehicle on the roadway. To avoid a potentially fatal situation, defensive driving techniques are in order.

There are several signs of a person driving under the influence. Some are obvious and others are more subtle. A person weaving on the road or driving on the wrong side of the road are obvious signs. A person continuously crossing a center stripe is another sign.

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