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As truck crashes rise, some push for rule on crash avoidance tech

More and more people in West Virginia and across the U.S. are dying in large truck crashes. Federal data shows a 28 percent rise in such fatalities from 2009 to 2016. This has led many groups to call for a federal ruling mandating the use of crash avoidance systems on all heavy trucks. The National Transportation Safety Board has been making similar recommendations since the late 1990s.

However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to propose any regulations along those lines. The NTSB criticizes NHTSA for ignoring its recommendations and thus doing nothing about truck crash trends. Only a small percentage of trucking companies implement crash avoidance tech, but those that do say that it can prevent more than 7 out of 10 rear-end collisions as well as reduce the severity of any that occur.

2017 saw rise in fatal large truck crashes, says NHTSA

Large trucks continue to be a danger to other drivers in West Virginia. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that in 2017, all types of traffic fatalities declined in number except large truck crash fatalities. Whether or not truckers or the other side are to blame for most of these accidents is another matter, though one worthy of consideration.

NHTSA's report on car crashes in 2017 simply lays out the statistics. Altogether, the number of people killed in traffic crashes went down by 1.8 percent from 37,806 in 2016 to 37,133 in 2017. Passenger vehicle, motorcycle and pedestrian fatalities saw a 1.4, 3.1 and 1.7 percent decrease, respectively. Bicyclist deaths saw the most difference with an 8.1 percent drop. Fatal crashes due to speeding or distracted driving also declined.

AAA finds drivers overestimate the power of car safety tech

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that many drivers in West Virginia and across the U.S. are relying too heavily on their car safety features like blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. While car safety features can, according to federal estimates, reduce the number of car crashes by 40 percent and crash-related deaths by 30 percent, they can still backfire when drivers do not understand their limitations.

For example, blind-spot monitoring has a limited ability to detect fast-approaching vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. Yet, according to a AAA study, 80 percent of drivers with the system overestimate this ability. 20 percent go so far as to never check for oncoming vehicles when changing lanes.

The problem with overconfidence behind the wheel

As a general rule, motorists in West Virginia and throughout the country feel as if they are good drivers. In fact, Americans tend to be even more confident about their abilities than those in other countries. One study found that about 90 percent of Americans thought that they were above average in terms of driving safely. The same study found that a little more than 75 percent of Swedes felt the same way.

Being too confident behind the wheel could lead to dangerous decisions that increase a person's chances of getting into a serious accident. Compared to the Americans, the Swedes have roughly half as many traffic fatalities. There are many other variables that determine whether a person may be in a fatal accident. For instance, South Carolina sees more fatalities per mile driven than New York despite the reputation that drivers in the latter state have developed.

Slip-and-fall injuries can yank the rug out from under you

Within the next hour, an average of over 1,000 people in the United States will slip or trip and fall. While many of these accidents will occur in the homes of the victims, others will happen in public areas as the result of someone's negligent actions. Most falls happen on same-level walking surfaces.

You may think of same-level slip-and-fall injuries as scraped knees, a bruised tailbone or, in the worst case, a broken arm. However, victims and insurance companies spend over $60 billion each year in treatment forĀ injuries resulting from slip-and-fall accidents. This does not include the end-of-life expenses for those whose injuries are fatal. If you have fallen because of a hazardous condition on someone else's property, you understand the seriousness of the issue.

CVSA orders 11,897 vehicles out of service in Roadcheck spree

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance performed its International Roadcheck blitz of inspections. The blitz, which was held between June 5 and June 7, led to 67,502 inspections conducted on roadsides throughout West Virginia and the rest of North America. The majority of the inspections, 45,400, were categorized as Level I inspections.

According to the CVSA, 21.6 percent of trucks that went through Level I inspections were taken out of service, and 3.9 percent of drivers who went through Level I, II or III inspections were taken out of service. In total, 2,664 truck drivers were told to come off the road. The most common reason for truck driver out-of-service orders, responsible for 43.7 percent, was violation of hours of service limits. Having the wrong class license accounted for 21.4 percent of violations among drivers and having a false duty status record accounted for 10.1 percent.

FMCSA publishes proposed hours of service revisions

The amount of time that commercial vehicle drivers in West Virginia and around the country can spend behind the wheel is strictly controlled by federal hours of service rules. However, trade groups such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have branded the regulations burdensome and overly restrictive. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration appears to have taken these criticisms seriously as it published a series of proposed hours of service revisions on Aug. 23 in the Federal Register.

The revisions would bring the hours of service requirements for short-haul truck drivers into line with the regulations covering long-haul drivers and allow the 14-hour maximum shift to be increased by two hours during periods of adverse weather. The proposals also call for revisions to the rule requiring truck drivers to take a mandatory 30-minute break after eight hours behind the wheel.

Traffic circles can reduce injury crash numbers

When people in West Virginia drive on rural roads, they could encounter some very dangerous intersections. Despite the fact that these roads see relatively little traffic, the crashes that occur there can be serious for a number of reasons. These roads are commonly joined by only stop signs. However, they can have speed limits as high as 55 mph.

In an attempt to reduce the number of crashes that occur in these locations, traffic authorities often install traffic lights. Lights are shown to reduce the likelihood of a crash, but the car accidents that do occur can still be severe. Because of this, many localities are installing roundabouts at rural intersections in an attempt to reduce the seriousness of motor vehicle accidents. Crashes at roundabouts are less likely to involve serious injuries and fatalities, even if the overall number of accidents is less likely to decrease substantially.

Study suggests distracted driving is a multigenerational problem

Millennials and Gen Zers in West Virginia and other parts of the country routinely are accused of being the group of drivers most likely to be distracted while behind the wheel. However, a Harris Poll study conducted with a leading car manufacturer suggests drivers in other generations may be just as likely to not be entirely focused on the road when driving. The results, based on two separate 2,000-subject studies, show that 90 percent of all individuals surveyed agree that there are more possible driver distractions today than what was common just five years ago.

As far as what generations are more likely to take the kind of risks that may contribute to a traffic accident, 81 percent of both Millennials and Generation Xers admit to using their smartphones while driving. Roughly 70 percent of younger Baby Boomers and individuals in the Generation Z age group admit to the same thing. Nearly 65 percent of older Boomers and more than half of the older Silent Generation have also used their phones while behind the wheel.

Study shows safety issues with assisted driving systems

According to a report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, cars and trucks with electronic driver assist systems could potentially steer into parked vehicles or other hazards on the road. The report, which looked at vehicles manufactured by Tesla, BMW, Volvo and Mercedes, showed that assisted driving systems could both save lives and cause accidents. The chief research officer of the study stated that it's imperative for drivers in West Virginia using these systems to pay attention to the road at all times.

One type of test involving two Tesla vehicles showed that the automatic braking system failed to stop in front of a stationary object unless the adaptive cruise control was activated. During road tests, however, the study found that every single vehicle tested failed to avoid hitting a stopped vehicle except for the Tesla Model 3. Despite these problems, the report ultimately showed that the automatic systems did increase vehicle safety overall.

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