How The Auto Industry Changed America’s Roads

Dashboard of an antique carThough it seems hard to believe in 2017, there once was a time when you found more people walking than driving – particularly in Connecticut’s cities. Trolley service was also a part of urban life – moving thousands efficiently every day.

Enter the Ford Motor Company and the Model T in 1908. Suddenly the automobile became a central part of American life – and changed the way we lived forever.

It’s interesting to note that for many Americans living in cities in the U.S., the arrival of the automobile was unwelcome. Streets, once the domain of pedestrians and an occasional trolley car, increasingly became the domain of the motorcar.

And with an increase in motorcar traffic came an ever steeper rise in accidents involving cars and pedestrians.

In the first four years after World War I, more Americans died in automobile accidents than had been killed during battle in Europe.

In the early years of the automobile, there were no crosswalks and few if any street signs – and few if any laws governing the use of cars. In that period, drivers were not even required to be licensed.

By the end of the 1920s, more than 200,000 Americans had been killed by automobiles. Most of the fatalities involved pedestrians in cities…the majority of those killed were children.

The crisis actually grew so grave that Herbert Hoover launched the National Conference on Street and Highway Safety as Commerce Secretary under President Coolidge.   Organizations interested in the topic of road safety were invited to attend, with the mission to establish standardized traffic regulations for the nation.

Sadly, the conference’s biggest players were all representatives of the auto industry.   As a result, the group’s recommendations prioritized private motor vehicles over all other transit modes.

Does this story have a familiar ring?

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Teenagers laughing and driving a car

The 100 Deadliest Days of the Year for Teen Drivers

Teenagers laughing and driving a carThe teenage years… exhilarating and dangerous.

They’re particularly dangerous for teen drivers.

According to new data from AAA, for every mile traveled, 16-17-year-old drivers are four times more likely than drivers 18 and older to be involved in a crash and three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.

In just the last five years, over 5,000 people have been killed in car crashes involving a teen driver.

Another sobering fact… according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of fatal car crashes involving teen drivers has risen 10% in just the last year alone.

The data also reveals that the roughly 100 days from Memorial Day to Labor Day are the most treacherous for these young drivers.

Why are these 100 days so dangerous?

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Drug Abuse and Driving

As we and others have previously reported – Connecticut is in the midst of a drug abuse crisis. It’s a crisis that the Centers for Disease Control characterize as an epidemic.

Did you know approximately 52,000 Americans are dying every year from drug overdoses? That total almost equals the total number of U.S. servicemen and women killed during the entire Vietnam War.

People are not only dying at high rates, millions more are hopelessly trapped by addiction to a wide range of illicit drugs.

Think about it. Millions of Americans and tens of thousands of Connecticut’s citizens addicted to drugs.

Among other things – that means that millions are driving under the influence across the U.S.

Some experts put the number of drivers driving impaired by drugs at 10 million, though that estimate is believed to grossly understate the problem.

Why do we suspect the data?

The National Highway Safety Administration recently reported that the percentage of drivers testing positive for drugs in a 2014 survey was a whopping 20 percent.

Translation?

As many as one out of every five drivers you pass on the road may be impaired. One in five…

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Can Technology Help Protect Drowsy Drivers?

We’ve written often about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Interestingly, research now shows that drivers who are sleep deprived are as dangerous as drivers who have had three or four drinks before getting behind the wheel.

Put another way – a drowsy driver is essentially a drunk driver.

How is that possible? Continue reading “Can Technology Help Protect Drowsy Drivers?” »

What Tired Drivers Have In Common with Drunk Drivers

Photo credit: CountyLemonade via Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: CountyLemonade via Foter.com / CC BY

Much has been written about the dangers of drinking and driving – and for good reason. Alcohol dramatically affects a driver’s ability to operate a car or truck. Those effects include:

  • Reduced reaction time
  • Impaired vision
  • Feeling relaxed and drowsy
  • Reduced concentration
  • Difficulty doing several tasks at once

Interestingly, researchers now report that drivers who are sleep deprived are as dangerous as drivers who have had three or four drinks before getting behind the wheel.

Put another way – a drowsy driver is essentially a drunk driver.

What’s more, sleep deprivation is considered a serious public health problem in Connecticut and around the country. It’s estimated that 35% of the adult population in the U.S. gets fewer than seven hours of sleep a night and that 12% get less than five.

Why do we think driving when tired is a problem?

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Are Phone Makers Enabling Distracted Drivers?

Phone companies enabling distracted driving?A recent fatal car accident between a passenger car and pick-up truck, led the family of those killed in the accident to sue Apple Corporation.

Why?

The plaintiff’s are arguing that Apple has the technology to block cell phone use while driving but does not deploy it.

Does the case against Apple have a chance in Court?

Most legal experts seem to think not, citing the difficulty in claiming the phone itself was to blame for the accident.

But do Apple and the other phone companies actually have the technology to block phone use during the act of driving?

Yes.

Apple does have a patent for such technology. The patent, granted in 2008, would create technology to “lock out” a driver’s phone by using sensors to determine if the phone was moving and in use by a driver. If so, it would prevent certain functions, like texting.

So why hasn’t this technology been deployed?

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Car Sunroof Warning…

Photo credit: JoeInSouthernCA via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Photo credit: JoeInSouthernCA via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Imagine driving down I-84 in Hartford on a bright sunny day when all of a sudden your sunroof explodes violently.

Sound far-fetched?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is actually investigating hundreds of complaints from consumers on this very issue.

The exploding glass has caused both serious car accidents as well as injuries to passengers – according the traffic safety agency.

One woman in Indiana reports that she was recently driving her Chrysler Town & Country minivan, with her three children in the car on a local interstate at 60 mph, when her sunroof exploded.

She said it sounded like a bomb had gone off.   After pulling over on the highway shoulder, she pulled the partition on the sunroof back to look at the window and found a gaping hole and shards of glass everywhere.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently investigating Kia, Nissan, Chrysler, and as many as three other car companies on a dozen different models with similar sunroof designs.

What is causing these sunroofs to explode?

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Tesla Auto-piloted Car Crashes, Killing Driver

Tesla Car Crash on Auto-PilotWill truly auto-piloted cars – vehicles driven by computers – ever completely replace human drivers?

That’s a question we have pondered often on these pages.

Last week – the topic received increased scrutiny when a Tesla Model S crashed with a tractor-trailer truck, killing the Tesla driver. It is believed to be the first fatal car accident involving a self-driving vehicle.

Investigators are trying to understand what caused the accident. Was it caused by auto-pilot system malfunction or by errors made by both drivers? It appears the latter may be the case.

Even if the system functioned perfectly – the car accident does point to the limitations of driverless cars – at least in the short term.

The accident is also raising questions among ethicists about just how these systems can be perfected.

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Auto Software Related Recalls on the Rise

Anyone who owns a car has grown accustomed to news of recalls tied to air bags, tires, breaking systems, exhaust systems and more.

So recalls are not new to most of us.

What is new is that safety experts are now seeing a rise in recalls tied to a new category of car parts – software related to vehicle safety.

According to J.D. Power and Associates, “software-related problems have become much more prevalent and, if not addressed, could begin to erode consumer trust in new automotive technology.”

So just what are these software systems – and what do they control? Continue reading “Auto Software Related Recalls on the Rise” »

Are Car Accidents Really Accidents?

car accidents are not accidentsWith the number of car accidents climbing at rates not seen in 50 years – some traffic safety experts are calling for a change.

A change in what we call these events.

Why?

Many in traffic safety think the word “accident” is a cop-out. After all, accidents are tied to fate – perhaps even the will of God – right?

So what do they have in mind?

The recommendation is that consumers and law enforcement start calling these events what they are – car crashes. And properly identify the causes – human error.

Did you know that virtually all crashes are tied to driver behavior/mistakes – distracted driving and intoxicated driving being among the top causes? It’s estimated that a mere 6% are caused by vehicle mechanical failures.

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