A safety group is suing Ford Motor Co. on behalf of vehicle owners due to defects in the so-called "infotainment" systems installed in certain vehicles. The Center for Defensive Driving is a non-profit driver safety group that believes Ford's failure to correct defects in the MyFord Touch, MyLincoln Touch and MyMercury Touch systems represents a safety hazard for drivers. Infotainment systems have drawn increasing scrutiny from safety experts as the number of car accidents attributed to distracted driving has grown.
A promising new technology got a boost this week as the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that all new vehicles be equipped with connected-vehicle capability. The NTSB has estimated that such technology could reduce car accidents not involving impaired drivers by as much as 80 percent. It would do so by allowing vehicles to talk to one another and alert a driver to impending danger. The nature of that warning would be decided by carmakers, but could take the form of an audible alarm, a flashing light or a vibrating steering wheel.
Warm weather and the Fourth of July Weekend contribute to making July the deadliest month of the year in terms of traffic fatalities. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration motor vehicle accident numbers from 2005 to 2011 show that more fatalities occur in July than in any other month. The data shows that July, August and September combine to form the deadliest time of year in terms of total car accident fatalities. A study by Driving-Tests.org compiled the NHTSA data to demonstrate that summer months are a dangerous time to be on the roads, particularly for teen drivers.
Summer holidays offer a chance for people to enjoy the weather and get together with friends and family. Unfortunately, they also come with a spike in car accidents and other personal injury incidents. Police throughout Illinois are preparing for an enforcement push meant to cut down on drinking and driving, failure to wear a seatbelt and other safety concerns. The Illinois Department of Transportation has provided funding to allow law enforcement officials a greater opportunity to catch those who violate traffic laws. Lake County Sheriff Mark C. Curran Jr. was quoted as saying "our officers will be out in full force this Fourth of July showing zero tolerance for drunk drivers and seat-belt law violators."
A study conducted by Ohio State University researchers showed, among other things, that 33 percent of people do not put down their cell phones before crossing a busy street. Overall, the study concluded that pedestrians suffer even more injuries due to distraction than drivers. The data analyzed in the study came from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and included all cell phone related emergency room visits for bikers, pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers from 2004 to 2010. The distraction caused by cell phones has led to substantial legislation all across the nation aimed at combating the problem of distracted driving. Distracted walking may be an even greater problem.
Legislation designed to ban the use of handheld devices has the potential to reduce distracted driving incidents. Critics contend that it also has the potential to encourage the use of hands-free devices, which may be even more distracting than their handheld counterparts leading to additional car and truck accidents. A recent study conducted by AAA found that voice activated devices, including those increasingly used in dashboard technology, are a greater distraction than conducting a phone call on a handheld device. The Illinois House and Senate have passed a measure to ban the use of handheld devices. It is currently awaiting the signature of Governor Quinn.
During the 1970s, many states lowered the legal drinking age from 21 to 18. In 1984, the federal government passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act which required states to make 21 the legal purchasing age or risk losing millions of dollars in federal highway funding. Needless to say, all 50 states and the District of Columbia complied with that demand relatively quickly. Drunk driving accidents were considered a major problem and the federal government felt compelled to try to reduce them. In many ways, distracted driving has taken the place of drunk driving as the major safety concern on American roads. The federal government is once again turning to a financial incentive to resolve the problem.
Allergies are a common problem during warmer months. Pollen, ragweed and other allergens fill the air during allergy season. The use of many allergy medications can lead to drowsiness. This raises the problem of drowsy driving if a person takes allergy medication and gets behind the wheel. The Food and Drug Administration has released a reminder to people who take antihistamines that they need to be careful to avoid the potential for drowsy driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drowsy driving caused more than 11,000 fatalities from 2000 to 2010. Unlike car accidents caused by drunk drivers, drowsy driving accidents can be difficult to identify and punish. How tired is too tired to drive? Unless a driver admits to falling asleep behind the wheel, how can authorities prove that is what caused an accident? Many people who would never consider driving drunk may feel free to drive through exhaustion. The results can be devastating.
At present, every state in the nation counts a blood alcohol rate above .08 as illegally impaired. Some states have additional laws with a zero alcohol tolerance level for underage drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the year 2000 saw an estimated 69,400 crashes caused by drivers with blood alcohol levels above 0, but below .08. In that year, alcohol related crashes claimed an estimated 16,792 lives and led to 513,000 injuries.