The increasing popularity of smart phones has had a noticeable impact on driver behavior, according to a new study from State Farm. Annual surveys conducted by the insurance company demonstrate that smart phone-specific behaviors such as surfing the Internet, checking email and accessing social media sites have risen steadily over the past six years. The impact on the total amount of distracted driving is somewhat offset by a reduction in being using cell phones for actual calls while behind the wheel. The survey shows that cell phone use of one type or another has continued to rise among drivers.
The compensation expert chosen by General Motors has increased the number of deaths attributed to defective ignition switches to 21. The number is expected to rise higher. The victim's compensation fund has now received 143 claims involving a traffic fatality and a total of 675 claims involving injuries caused by the defective switches. The fund manager, Kenneth Feinberg, plans to provide weekly updates concerning claims tied to the defect.
General Motors is investing in new technology designed to track the eyes and face of the people driving their vehicles. The information gathered is used to determine whether a driver is succumbing to fatigue or distraction. If a driver turns his or her attention away from the road for too long, such devices could trigger a warning tone or other form of correction.
Recent research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health analyzed the impact of texting bans and found that they have been effective. Illinois was one of 24 states to ban texting by drivers of any age during the period analyzed in the study, 2000 to 2010. An additional seven states banned texting by young drivers with provisional licenses. Illinois was also among the states that allowed primary enforcement of the texting ban. That means that police officers here can stop and cite a driver solely for the act of texting behind the wheel. States with secondary enforcement statutes only allow drivers to be cited for texting after they have been stopped for some other offense.
The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has announced his intention to propose new auto safety legislation later this year or early next year. The announcement joined several other proposals intended to combat the problems demonstrated by the General Motors ignition switch failures and subsequent recall. The proposal would overhaul the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act, passed in 2000. The TREAD act was originally passed as part of the response to nearly 300 fatalities linked to defective Firestone tires on Ford SUVs.
Chicago city officials have set a goal to reduce serious pedestrian injuries by 50 percent over the next five years. The goal is eliminate such accidents completely in the five years following that. According to the executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, 7-8 pedestrian injuries occur each day in Chicago. Pedestrian-vehicle collisions cause more than 3,000 injuries and 30 deaths per year in the city. The problem is substantial.
Recent polls conducted by CNN and CBS indicate that the American public supports the legalization of marijuana for the first time. According to a study conducted by Columbia University researchers, pot use is increasingly a factor in deadly car accidents. Over the past 10 years, the number of fatal crashes in which a driver had marijuana in his or her system tripled. The study co-author indicated that one-ninth of the drivers in fatal car accidents would test positive for marijuana. If that rate continues to increase as it has over the past decade, substances other than alcohol would quickly take over as the leading cause of fatal impaired driving accidents.
A national survey comparing drivers from all 50 states ranked Illinois drivers number 22, in terms of safety. The survey used several different factors, including car accident fatalities per 100 million miles driven, to identify which drivers were the worst. Louisiana drivers ranked as the least safe in the country while the safest drivers were found in Vermont. Illinois finished with the same composite safety score as drivers from New York and Wisconsin.
Frustration is not an aid to safe driving. Along with bad weather and an increased incidence of drinking and driving, the holiday season brings out highly frustrated drivers who are more prone to car accidents. Recent studies have identified a sharp increase in car accidents in the days immediately preceding Christmas. Large numbers of people converge on shopping areas and tensions run high. Crowded parking lots and long lines can try the patience of even the safest drivers. The result is drivers who are both distracted and aggressive. It is a recipe for disaster.
Studies into the impact of sleep apnea on those who suffer the condition revealed a substantial connection to motor vehicle accidents. An Australian study demonstrated that the victims of sleep apnea have car accident rates roughly three times that of the general population. Sleep apnea is far from the only cause of exhaustion among drivers, but it does serve to demonstrate the point that a tired driver is an unsafe driver. The study analyzed more than 2,600 hundred people who were believed to suffer from "sleep disordered breathing." This condition has come to be referred to as sleep apnea by many.