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Santa Barbara Personal Injury Law Blog

Study finds automatic emergency braking systems work well

California drivers who have vehicles with automatic emergency braking systems are much less likely to strike another vehicle from behind, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The study focused on General Motors vehicles, but other studies have focused on Volvos and Subarus and come to similar conclusions.

Automatic emergency braking, or AEB, systems are designed to warn drivers of impending front-end crashes and automatically apply the brakes if the driver fails to take evasive action. In order to see if this technology actually reduces accidents, IIHS researchers asked GM to provide VINs for Buicks, Cadillacs and Chevrolets made between 2013 and 2015. Some of the vehicles had AEB systems, some did not. Researchers then cross-referenced the VIN numbers with police-reported crash data to find out how often vehicles with and without AEB systems were involved in rear-end striking collisions.

California pedestrians need to walk safely

On any given day during any season in every community across the nation pedestrians are out walking. It is important that while pedestrians are out and about that they are safe. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2016 alone, 5,987 pedestrians were killed in accidents with motor vehicles. It is staggering to know that approximately every 90 minutes a pedestrian was involved in a fatal accident in this country.

Children typically spend a lot of time outdoors. They can be impulsive and negligent about their safety when they are running around having fun. A good family rule is that when kids under 10 are walking in traffic areas, they need close watching to help prevent pedestrian accidents. As they grow, kids need repeated discussions about safety while walking. Even older kids benefit from reminders to stay safe and follow the notion to stop and look left-right-left before proceeding. Wearing bright or reflective clothing is another useful practice.

Advanced courses aim to make teens safer motorists

Teenage drivers have always been the riskiest age group on California roads. Not only are they more likely to make impulsive decisions than older drivers, but they also lack the car control experience of other age groups. Meanwhile, cellphones and other distracting gadgets constantly tempt young drivers to take their eyes and minds off the road, making a bad situation even worse.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that auto accidents are the top cause of death for Americans between the ages of 15 and 18. In 2015, nearly 2,000 teen drivers were involved in fatal car crashes and another 99,000 were injured in auto accidents. While the NHTSA doesn't list the cause of each car accident involving a teen driver, research shows that distracted driving, poor decision making, weather and general driving inexperience are frequent contributing factors.

NTSB reports legal marijuana linked to higher car accident rate

Since the use of recreational marijuana in California has been legalized, the rate of traffic accidents could go up if the results in other legal marijuana states are any indication. The National Transportation Safety Board has released a report that concludes that drug-impaired driving has increased nationwide since some states made recreational marijuana legal.

A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety supported the conclusion of the safety board. Legal marijuana states experienced increases in motor vehicle crashes, but fatalities did not rise. A look at three such states produced crash rates that increased by 6 percent since the new laws came into effect.

NHTSA: fatal truck crashes and urban area crashes rise in 2017

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released its 2017 data on fatal car crashes. Overall, crash fatalities decreased from 2016. However, California motorists may be concerned to find out that deaths from large truck collisions and urban area accidents increased. SUV and tractor-trailer crash deaths went up 3 and 5.8 percent, respectively, while deaths in large straight truck wrecks rose a startling 18.7 percent.

By contrast, the total number of people killed in traffic crashes saw a nearly 2 percent decrease. There were decreases in passenger car, van and light pickup truck accidents. The NHTSA also noted significant decreases in bicyclist deaths (8.1 percent) and speeding-related deaths (5.6 percent).

Americans drive 107 billion miles each year while distracted

Drivers in California who are concerned about cellphone distraction may be wise to avoid the roads between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. This is the time that drivers are most likely to be looking at smartphone screens instead of the road according to a recent study from Motus. Researchers from the Boston-based workforce management company say that American motorists drive more than 100 billion miles each year while distracted by electronic devices, and they expect the problem to get even worse in the coming years as smartphones become ever more ubiquitous.

The figures seem to support the theory that the recent alarming rise in road deaths is linked to smartphone use. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of car accidents in the United States increased by more than 700,000. During the same period, smartphone ownership among Americans grew from 55 to 77 percent.

Study reveals need for interactive, realistic drivers' education

Researchers at Baylor University have studied a supplemental drivers' education program meant for risky teen drivers, and they found that its interactive, reality-based elements actually help improve teens' risk awareness and driving behaviors. California residents are most likely unfamiliar with the program, called the Texas Reality Education for Drivers program, but they will be interested to hear what it involves.

The RED program is a one-day, six-hour program set in a hospital. Teen participants are guided by a nurse through the hospital's emergency rooms, ICU and morgue, and they converse with health care staffers there who have had experience dealing with car crash victims. Added to this are the traditional lectures, videos and discussions. The participants also engage in activities like developing a contract with their parents and a safe driving plan.

Distracted driving is a major cause of car accidents

While technology has had many positive safety effects, there can also be some downsides. Not all California motorists are interested in just traveling from point A to point B as quickly as possible. For many, it's often about how much can be accomplished during the journey.

Consequently, distracted driving has become a leading cause of car accidents. Nearly 3,500 people were killed in distracted driving-related accidents in 2015. Distracted driving may be defined as engaging in any activity that takes one's focus away from being behind the wheel. While common examples include conversations with passengers, eating, applying make-up and adjusting the radio, the biggest culprit is cell phone use -- especially texting.

Nationwide gives safety tips for drivers

Nationwide has provided several safety tips that drivers in California may find beneficial. While safe driving will not prevent other drivers from acting in a reckless manner, it can at least reduce the chances of a car crash and lessen a driver's degree of fault if one does occur. The first tip is to remain attentive, never multitasking or doing anything that will take one's eyes from the road. This means no use of cellphones and other electronic devices.

Defensive driving techniques are particularly recommended. Drivers should always expect the unexpected, keep away from drivers who are acting erratically and maintain a two-second gap from the car in front or 4 seconds in bad weather. Next, drivers should consider planning ahead for trips by accounting for phone calls, rest breaks and so on. Eating and drinking should ideally be done on the side of the road.

Considering the most common risks of driving

Before heading out on any road trips, drivers in California will want to stop and evaluate some of the most common risks that they could face on the road. These include distractions, fatigue and aggression. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham say that at least 20 percent of all fatal crashes are caused by drowsy driving. Furthermore, crashes with distracted drivers account for an average of nine deaths and thousands of injuries every day.

Drowsiness, in fact, could be considered a distraction in itself. In either case, the symptoms will be largely similar -- more frequent blinking, slower eye movements, constant drifting into other lanes, poor judgment and slower reaction times. Drivers who recognize the symptoms are encouraged to stop and take a nap. If this is not possible, they should drink caffeinated beverages and or engage in alertness-enhancing activities like talking or adjusting the radio.

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