Traffic fatalities at their highest since 2007

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The U.S. Department of Transportation has released its statistics on traffic fatalities for 2016, and they’re not good. Overall fatalities increased by 5.6 percent from 35,485 in 2015 to 37,461 in 2016. This means 2016 was the deadliest year on the road since 2007, when fatalities totaled 41,259. Some of the increase may be due in part to the greater number of miles driven, which jumped 2.2 percent from 2015 to 2016. But even with the increase in travel, 2016 came out worse with an increased number of deaths per million miles traveled, from 1.15 in 2015 to 1.18 in 2016.

The increase in fatalities was generally across the board. All types of light-duty passenger vehicles, including motorcycles saw increases in deaths from as little as a 1.5-percent increase for pickup trucks to as high as 8.4 percent for vans. More pedestrians and cyclists died, too, with increases of 9 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively. Drunk driving-related deaths also rose by 1.7 percent, while fatal accidents involving senior drivers over the age of 65 increased by 8.2 percent.

There is some good news, though. Seat belt usage is at its highest ever, with 90.1 percent of vehicle occupants using them. And although drunk driving fatalities were up, distracted and drowsy driving deaths were down. The distracted driving number dropped by 2.2 percent while the drowsy driving number dipped 3.5 percent. Also, the increase in traffic deaths between 2015 and 2016 was notably less than the increase between 2014 and 2015, which was a jump of 8.6 percent For additional details from the DOT’s study, check out its official page where more documents breaking down all the statistics can be found.

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Honda Odyssey gets top safety ratings in insurance, government crash tests

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Honda’s redesigned 2018 Odyssey minivan picked up a Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a five-star Overall Vehicle Score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Odyssey joins the Chrysler Pacifica as the only minivans to receive the IIHS’s coveted award.

Honda won the Top Safety Pick+ designation via the addition of its Sensing braking system and improved LED headlights to the 2018 model, its fifth generation. The Odyssey won “good” ratings across the five crashworthiness tests, including small overlap front, moderate overlap front and side impact. It also won a superior rating for front crash prevention and an acceptable rating for the LED reflector headlights that feature on Elite and Touring trim lines, which automatically switch between high and low beams, depending on the presence of other vehicles.

Honda has been integrating its Sensing advanced safety and driver-assist technologies, part of its quest to develop highly autonomous vehicles, into many of its new models. In IIHS track tests at 12 mph and 25 mph, the system helped the vehicle avoid collisions. The 2017 Odyssey earned a basic rating for front crash prevention because it came only with an optional forward collision warning.

The Odyssey also notched a 5-star Overall Vehicle Score in NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program by getting 5 stars in the frontal crash test for driver and passenger, 5 stars for side crash tests for both front and rear seats and pole, and 4 stars in the rollover test.

The IIHS also awarded a Top Safety Pick to the 2017 Kia Sedona, which missed out on the top award because of its “poor” headlights rating. The Sedona got a 5-star crash rating from NHTSA.

Senate bill would secure the ‘internet of things,’ from cars to fridges

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A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Tuesday is introducing legislation to address vulnerabilities in computing devices embedded in everyday objects — known in the tech industry as the “internet of things” — which experts have long warned poses a threat to global cybersecurity and which has made several recent hacking events all too easy.

Reports of thieves using laptops to steal cars have persisted for years, and white-hat research into hacking cars goes back at least to a 2010 study at the University of Washington. The biggest real-world example surfaced last year when a pair of hackers in Houston were accused of using FCA software on a laptop to steal vehicles, mostly Jeeps, that were spirited away across the Mexican border. Possibly 100 vehicles were stolen this way.

Nissan had to suspend its Leaf smartphone app for a time, as did GM with its OnStar app, which got some notoriety when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) used the app to hack a Chevy Impala for 60 MInutes.

In 2015, cybersecurity researchers Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller accessed critical vehicle controls on a 2014 Jeep Cherokee via the infotainment system. This allowed the pair, without physical access to the vehicle, to remotely disable the brakes, turn the radio volume up, engage the windshield wipers, and tamper with the transmission, measure its speed and track its location. The hack prompted Fiat Chrysler to recall 1.4 million vehicles.

Security researchers say the ballooning array of online devices including vehicles, household appliances, and medical equipment are not adequately protected from hackers. A 2016 cyberattack was facilitated when hackers conscripted the “internet of things” into a “zombie army” of devices that flooded servers with web traffic in what’s known as a “distributed denial of service.”

The new bill would require vendors who provide internet-connected equipment to the U.S. government to ensure their products are patchable and conform to industry security standards. It would also prohibit vendors from supplying devices that have unchangeable passwords or possess known security vulnerabilities.

Republicans Cory Gardner and Steve Daines and Democrats Mark Warner and Ron Wyden are sponsoring the legislation, which was drafted with input from technology experts at the Atlantic Council and Harvard University. A Senate aide who helped write the bill said that companion legislation in the House was expected soon.

“We’re trying to take the lightest touch possible,” Warner said. He added that the legislation was intended to remedy an “obvious market failure” that has left device manufacturers with little incentive to build with security in mind.

The legislation would allow federal agencies to ask the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for permission to buy some non-compliant devices if other controls, such as network segmentation, are in place.

It would also expand legal protections for cyber researchers working in “good faith” to hack equipment to find vulnerabilities so manufacturers can patch previously unknown flaws.

Between 20 billion and 30 billion devices are expected to be connected to the internet by 2020, researchers estimate, with a large percentage of them insecure.

Though security for the internet of things has been a known problem for years, some manufacturers say they are not well equipped to produce cyber secure devices.

Hundreds of thousands of insecure webcams, digital records and other everyday devices were hijacked last October to support a major attack on internet infrastructure that temporarily knocked some web services offline, including Twitter, PayPal and Spotify.

The new legislation includes “reasonable security recommendations” that would be important to improve protection of federal government networks, said Ray O’Farrell, chief technology officer at cloud computing firm VMware.

Reporting by Dustin Volz. Background information from Autoblog was included.

Speed kills – and now we know it kills as much as drunk driving

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its findings on a study regarding the effects of speeding on car crashes, and what can be done to mitigate those effects. It found that from 2005 to 2014, speeding was a factor in 112,580 traffic fatalities. Drunk driving, the organization found, was a factor in just 368 more fatalities at a total of 112,948. The speeding-related fatalities also represents 31 percent of all traffic deaths over that period.

The NTSB also concluded that speeding greatly increases the chance of severe injuries or death, which makes sense, because higher speeds means greater forces that can harm people when the car comes to a stop, or hits a pedestrian. In addition, the agency said speeding increases the chance of a crash, but it admits that accident causes are a complex topic, and reporting is inconsistent.

It is then understandable that the NTSB would like to reduce fatalities due to speeding, and it has a number of ideas of what might and might not help. The first thing it highlights is that raising speed limits to match the 85th percentile of what speeds people actually drive, a typical practice by traffic engineers, wouldn’t be very helpful. It notes there is little to support its effectiveness, and in general it would increase speeds and therefore crashes, which would obviously be counterproductive.

But areas where the NTSB sees potential for improvement are in greater enforcement and additional safety equipment. It encourages more speed enforcement, and making sure it’s done visibly (i.e. people see people pulled over). It also recommends automated enforcement via speed cameras, and it cites the success of speed cameras in other countries. Using such cameras may require changing laws in some states to allow this type of enforcement. For safety equipment, the NTSB wants to see more car dashboards display speed limits based on navigation systems, and it suggests that including the feature into consumer safety ratings would help the feature proliferate as those ratings influence car purchases. What are your thoughts?

[Source: Autoblog]

6 ways to make roads safer: Roundabouts top AAA’s list

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With traffic fatalities on the rise, AAA has produced a list of highway infrastructure changes that could save 63,700 lives and avoid 353,560 injuries over 20 years. In the organization’s list, six key areas account for 95 percent of the safety gains AAA predicts. Chief among them is the implementation of roundabouts.

According to AAA, converting traditional intersections to roundabouts covers 30 percent of the fatality and injury reductions. They do this by drastically reducing the number of ways and locations cars can collide with other cars or pedestrians. What points of collision remain for cars are also less severe, since T-bone or head-on collisions are unlikely.

The other areas of improvement AAA lists are fairly commonsense. Adding roadside barriers and removing roadside objects comprise another 20 percent of safety gains, as do adding sidewalks and pedestrian crosswalks with signals. The remaining safety improvements would come from additional median barriers on highways, shoulder and centerline rumble strips, and wider highway shoulders.

AAA estimates the cost of these infrastructure changes at $146 billion. That includes an upfront cost of $134 billion, and the rest of the money would be used for maintaining the upgrades over the following years. If you’re interested in digging deep into the AAA report, you can view it here.

Pedestrian deaths spike: Distracted driving – and walking – blamed

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Pedestrian deaths rose a projected 11 percent in 2016, reaching a total of nearly 6,000 people killed. That is the highest total in more than two decades, according to data out Thursday.

If it helps to think of that increase in terms of real people, it means about 620 more pedestrians were killed by vehicles last year than the year before.

The figures are preliminary, based on data from all states and the District of Columbia for the first six months of 2016 and then extrapolated for the rest of the year. During the first six months, states recorded 2,660 pedestrian fatalities — an increase from 2,486 deaths in the same time period in 2015.
But the preliminary figures would represent the steepest year-to-year increase since record-keeping began, both in number of deaths and percent increase.

The figures were prepared for the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices.

“This is the second year in a row that we have seen unprecedented increases in pedestrian fatalities, which is both sad and alarming,” said Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants, who wrote the report.

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From 2014 to 2015, the number of pedestrian deaths spiked more than 9 percent. “It is critical that the highway safety community understand these disturbing statistics and work to aggressively implement effective countermeasures. The information in this report will help states and localities pursue engineering, enforcement and education solutions to reverse this trend.”

Traffic fatalities overall jumped 6 percent last year, their highest level in nearly a decade and erasing improvements made during the Great Recession and economic recovery, according to data released last month by the National Safety Council. The council estimates there were more than 40,200 traffic deaths in 2016.

But pedestrian deaths vastly outpace fatalities overall, climbing 25 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to Retting’s report. Total traffic deaths increased about 6 percent over the same period.

“This latest data shows that the U.S. isn’t meeting the mark on keeping pedestrians safe on our roadways,” said Jonathan Adkins, the governors safety association’s executive director. “Every one of these lives represents a loved one not coming home tonight, which is absolutely unacceptable.”

Several factors could be behind the grim trend:

  • We’re driving more miles thanks to an improved economy and lower gas prices.
  • We’re walking more for exercise and out of concern for the environment.
  • And the likely biggest factor: We’re distracted by smartphones and other devices, both in our cars and in our hands as pedestrians.
  • Alcohol is a factor. Surprisingly, 34 percent of pedestrians killed were intoxicated, and 15 percent of vehicle occupants.

Distraction as causality is hard to prove, of course. But it sure looks that way based on a process of elimination. Walking and miles driven are up only a few percentage points, said Retting. And alcohol use has not increased. Meanwhile, texting and other uses of wireless devices have exploded, he said.

“It’s the only factor that that seems to indicate a dramatic change in how people behave,” Retting said.

Access the full report, including state-by-state data, at www.ghsa.org/resources/spotlight-peds17.

[Source: Autoblog]

Using your smartphone after a car accident

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You may consider yourself to be a conscientious driver, but unfortunately, that won’t always keep you out of harm’s way while you navigate the roadways. The car insurance industry estimates that the average driver will file a claim for a car accident about every 18 years, meaning that you could be in a fender bender or a serious, injury causing accident. Although the events that occur following an accident can be stressful and even a bit unclear, according to Tim Tate, Dallas, Texas car accident lawyer of Tate Law Offices, PC, there are crucial steps to take immediately after an accident including seeking medical attention to collecting contact information. Fortunately, your smartphone can be a helpful tool in the event of an accident.

When It’s Okay to Use Your Smartphone

We all know that smartphones may actually be one of the many contributing factors in a majority of distracted driving accidents, but despite their bad rep, a smartphone may actually be a valuable tool when you’ve been involved in an accident (just make sure you weren’t looking at or using your phone at the time of your collision). Here some important steps to take when an accident occurs:

Assess the Situation: Before you get out of your car and check on the other people who were involved in the accident. Assess yourself and anyone else in your car. Are you or your passengers injured? Are you able to get out of your car? Is it safe to exit your vehicle? If you are able to, check on the other drivers and/or passengers that were involved. Use your phone to call 911 for the police and/or an ambulance. Even if there are no injuries or the damage is minor, consider calling the police so that an official report can be filed as it can be helpful during an insurance claim.

Document the Scene of the Accident: Many people who have been involved in an accident are sure that they’ll never forget the details of the crash, but even a short amount of time can change how things really went down, that’s why it’s important to take pictures or video as soon as you can. Smartphones have great cameras these days, so there’s no excuse to not take pictures of the accident. Consider taking pictures of any and all damage on your vehicle, the area around the vehicle, the street, the other vehicles, and any visible injuries to your body.

You may also want to consider using your video feature to narrate your side of the story while documenting the accident scene. Remember, the more information the better. You can always delete something you won’t need, later on.

Take Additional Notes: Don’t forget to take notes and collect important contact information, such as license plates and insurance information, of other drivers. It’s also important to collect the names and numbers of any witnesses. If possible (and with permission) it may be a good idea to film an eye witness.

Once you have used your smartphone to collect all the pertinent information surrounding your accident, consider backing up your information to personal computer or making sure your cloud service is on, just in case photos or other information gets accidentally deleted.

[Source: Autoblog]