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Drowsy Driving Statistics Reveal a Widespread Problem

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is encouraging people to avoid driving when they are fatigued. The NHTSA recently wrapped up National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week and is looking at ways to put a stop to a widespread problem. The head of the NHTSA estimated that somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 deaths per year are caused by drowsy driving. He pointed to statistics gathered by the National Transportation Safety Board showing that fatigue was a contributing factor to nearly 40 percent of major NTSB highway investigations from 2001 to 2012.

The AAA released the results of a survey on tired driving. The group asked drivers if they had ever fallen asleep or nodded off while driving. Among U.S. drivers, 43 percent admitted that they had. The survey results indicate that these are not isolated incidents. Among drivers in the 19-24 age group, nearly 40 percent acknowledged driving while drowsy in the past month. Among all drivers surveyed, the percentage who admitted driving drowsy in the past month was 31.5. 

Semi Truck Configuration and Weight Restrictions

The design of a tractor trailer is the result of many things. Federal regulations require certain safety equipment. Fuel efficiency and driver comfort play a role in the design of truck cabs. The basic structure, however, is the result of a standardization method known as containerization.

The idea behind containerization is to create containers of a specific length and width, which can be transferred from cargo ships to trucks more conveniently. The current containerization standards were set decades ago and restrict the size, weight and length of containers. The weight of the containers, combined with Department of Transportation limits on weight per axle is what results in tractor trailers having 18 wheels. If the standards were changed, trucks could have 14 wheels, or even 22. In fact, a group of trucking and shipping companies has been pushing for an increase in the weight limit for trucks that would cause 22 wheels to become the new standard. 

Teen Driver Safety Week Emphasizes Household Rules

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is sponsoring Teen Driver Safety Week this week (October 18-24). The NHTSA is calling on parents and guardians to do their part in keeping young drivers safe. The agency is pushing the slogan "5 to Drive" to help parents set guidelines for the teen drivers in their homes.

The five things the NHTSA would like parents to emphasize are as follows:

  • No cell phones while driving
  • No extra passengers
  • No speeding
  • No alcohol
  • No driving or riding without a seat belt

While most states already have laws against each of these behaviors, the NHTSA is reminding people that the law is not the primary influencer of teen driver behavior, parents are. 

Recreational Drones and Aviation Safety

A growing number of safety incidents involving remote-controlled aircraft has led the Department of Transportation to push for mandatory registration of the devices. Drones have grown rapidly in popularity and are expected to become even more common in the near future. This growth has led to an increase in the number of recreational drones impinging on national airspace. In addition, drones have caused injury and created a nuisance when operated improperly. According to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, registration of drones would aid in education efforts and make it easier to match drones with their owners in situations where safety became an issue.

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, drone sales will create more than $100 million in revenue in 2015. By the end of the year, nearly 700,000 new drones will have been sold. That represents an increase of more than 60 percent over 2014 sales. The rapid expansion has led the DOT to push for new regulations before Christmas, when many more drones are expected to be sold.

NHTSA to Consider New Truck Safety Technology

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently announced a plan to evaluate forward collision avoidance and mitigation (FCAM) technology. Depending on the result of that evaluation, the NHTSA may move to require FCAM devices on commercial trucks. The Truck Safety Coalition, Center for Auto Safety, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and Road Safe America joined together to petition the NHTSA for such a rule last February. The Department of Transportation granted the petition this week.

The National Transportation Safety Board has already recommended that forward collision avoidance systems be made standard equipment for all new passenger and commercial vehicles. The NHTSA has conducted significant research on FCAM technology. That research has confirmed that the technology has the potential to reduce or mitigate rear-end crashes. Even without a mandate, some trucking companies have moved to incorporate FCAM technology into their fleets, according to an executive at Benedix Commercial Vehicle Systems. 

When Safety Fits, Part Three

The Proper Fit

According to the CPSC, bicycle helmets "should be both comfortable and snug." When the helmet is strapped on your head, it should not move much back to front or side to side. It should sit straight on your head, parallel to the ground. You should not be able to pull the helmet off your head, even with vigorous effort.

Other Considerations

Safety rating and fit are not the only concerns in choosing a bike helmet. Darker helmets may be both harder to see and hotter to wear. Helmets with too many vents can be noisy or detract from crash performance. Helmets with too few vents can leave you hot and sweaty, and potentially deter you from wearing them. The straps on the helmet should be comfortable, strong and reasonably easy to use.

There is undeniably an element of fashion to bike helmets. While personal style is certainly a consideration, it should be secondary to the safety of the helmet. When choosing between two equally safe options, style is a fine tiebreaker.

Many bike shops can assist you in selecting a helmet that will serve your interests. If you have the chance, ask for help in finding the best fitting option. Anything that encourages you to wear the helmet every time you get on your bike is a good thing.

Source:, "A Buyer's Guide to Bicycle Helmets"
Source: United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, "Which Helmet for Which Activity?

Agenda for NTSB Aviation Forum Released

When a pilot loses control of an aircraft in flight, the results can be catastrophic. Preventing loss of control in flight in general aviation is on the 2015 Most Wanted List of safety improvements for the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB recently released the agenda for its upcoming general aviation safety forum, to be held on October 14 in Washington D.C. The forum is titled, Humans and Hardware: Preventing General Aviation In Flight Loss of Control. The NTSB is specifically requesting that pilots and others in the aviation community submit questions related to in flight loss of control for consideration at the forum.

Four panels have been arranged to cover GA topics. The panels will cover industry and government perspectives and actions; human performance and medical issues; pilot training solutions; and equipment and technology solutions. Each panel discussion will be free and open to the public and the entire event is available live by webcast. 

A Call for Tighter Regulation

A scandal uncovered by one agency has led another to consider cracking down on the auto industry. The Environmental Protection Agency recently discovered that Volkwagen carefully engineered software to skirt U.S. emissions standards. VW diesel vehicles were programmed to run differently when being tested than during normal operation. After an EPA investigation, Volkswagen could be fined billions of dollars for its actions. The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggested that the actions of VW's executives demonstrate the need for tighter regulation in the realm of safety.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind indicated that the agency has room to carry out an investigation into VW based on its duplicitous actions. The EPA investigation will naturally target fuel economy and emissions. An NHTSA investigation would target the potential safety implications of the actions and culture at VW. 

The Push for Automatic Brakes

Automatic emergency braking systems are a technological solution to a common type of car accident, the rear-end collision. Distracted, fatigued, impaired or infirm drivers may apply brakes too late or too softly to avoid an accident. AEB systems provide automatic braking or supplemental braking to reduce the severity of a crash or avoid it altogether. These systems are not standard features on new vehicles at this time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently took steps to encourage the technology, without going through the process of making it a federal requirement.

According to the NHTSA, there are roughly 1.7 million rear-end accidents per year. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety claims that AEB technology could reduce insurance industry claims by as much as 35 percent by helping drivers avoid or mitigate the damage related to these collisions. While AEB systems are promising, they are not common. Only 1 percent of new cars sold in 2015 came with automatic braking as a standard feature. It was an available option on 26 percent of 2015 vehicles. 

Focus on Rail Safety

Illinois Rail Safety Week runs from Sept. 13-19. During the week, safety agencies, railroads, law enforcement agencies and private corporations will coordinate to emphasize the importance of rail safety. Illinois is among the nation's leaders in rail injuries and fatalities. In 2013, Illinois saw the third most grade grossing deaths and the second most trespasser fatalities. In 2014, Illinois saw the second most vehicle collision fatalities and maintained its position in third for trespasser fatalities. The hope is that by emphasizing rail safety awareness and education, the number of deaths and injuries can be reduced.

Law enforcement officers will make a point to enforce the laws concerning railroad tracks and crossings. Many drivers and pedestrians who violate these laws will be cited. In Illinois, it is illegal to stop a vehicle on railroad tracks or within the highway-rail grade crossing. Despite the laws against stopping in these areas, more than two-thirds of all collisions take place at crossings equipped with protective gate arms and other active warning devices, according to Illinois Operation Lifesaver. 

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