Careless Driving – Not Design – Responsible For Bridge Crashes
August 3, 2015
After several horrible crashes on Jacksonville Florida’s Buckman bridge, the Florida DOT conducted a study that found that careless driving and speed were responsible for crashes on the bridge, not the bridge design.
The call for the study came after two crashes in the past year made people question the safety of the large span across the St. John’s River. In the first crash, a small truck was sent over the guardrail and into the river. A Navy and police diver search located the driver’s body several hours later. In another crash in March of this year, a disabled SUV was struck by a semi and burst into flames, killing a mother and her three children.
The pickup crash into the river was not the first time a vehicle had gone over the railing into the river and the latest crash caused local residents and officials to question whether the railings on the bridge were high enough. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) was tasked with conducting the study.
In the study, released by FDOT last week, the researchers looked at the previous five year history of crashes, both on the bridge and stretches of I-295 approaching each end. The researchers concluded that the structure of the eight-lane, three mile long double span met all safety requirements and didn’t contribute to the crashes, either on or adjacent to the bridge.
Instead, the researchers blamed careless driving and high speeds for the crashes. In their study, the researchers monitored average speeds throughout the day. In spite of the posted 65 mph speed limit, the researchers said that drivers drive at an average of 72 mph on the bridge.
Careless driving and distracted drivers also play a big part in the crashes on the bridge. In the crash that sent the pickup truck into the river, police reported that a distracted driver swerved to avoid hitting the car ahead and clipped the pickup truck sending it spinning over the bridge railing.
In the crash involving the family, as a driver behind the stalled SUV slowed to a stop, it was hit from behind by the driver of a large truck. As the first vehicle spun out of the lane, the truck plowed ahead and hit the SUV sending it into the guardrail where it burst into flames.
We have written before that there is no such thing as a motor vehicle “accident.” Accidents are something we have no control over. Motor vehicle crashes are caused by drivers who make a fatal error, such as; speeding, driving under the influence, or not paying attention to the road ahead.
Speed causes problems because a speeding driver has very little time to react when encountering a problem in the road ahead. Speeding also increases the impact forces in a crash.
A bridge like the Buckman carries a tremendous amount of traffic and, along with speeding drivers, there are slow drivers (probably on a cell phone) and drivers weaving in and out of lanes. The bridge has a high hump in the middle to allow for boat traffic and, if there’s an obstruction or problem ahead, a speeding, distracted driver won’t realize it until it’s too late. If ever there was a time to ignore the distractions and concentrate on the road ahead, it’s on a bridge like this one.
Speeding and distracted drivers, along with all the other drivers are trapped within the confines of the bridge and, should a problem occur ahead, there’s no room to escape. Drivers need to maintain a safe following distance of at least two seconds and watch, not only at what’s directly in front, but also as far down the road as possible. When driving over the hump, drivers should anticipate the possibility of problems ahead and give themselves extra room to maneuver or stop.
The only recommendations made by the researchers were for greater enforcement of the speed limit and for electric signs ahead of the bridge to warn of crashes or stalled vehicles on the bridge.
Read more: FDOT releases findings on Buckman Bridge crashes
Photo credit: First Coast News
Rural Roads More Dangerous Than Urban Roads
July 31, 2015
When thinking of rural or country areas, most people imagine a laid back, slower lifestyle but, while that stereotype might work for the local country diner, it doesn’t hold true for rural roads. The latest data is out from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the 2013 calendar year and it shows that, just like in years past, more people die in in motor vehicle crashes in rural areas than urban areas.
While most people may think that interstate highways are the most dangerous type of road, it’s actually rural roads where the majority of fatal crashes happen.
Type of road
Number of fatal crashes
Number of deaths
According to the 2013 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 19 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas. However, rural fatalities accounted for 54 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2013.
Why so many deaths in such sparsely populated areas? There are several factors that contribute to the high death toll on rural roads:
Most rural roads are generally two-lane, narrow roads. In the east and far west, they tend to be hilly, winding roads with narrow shoulders that limit a driver’s view ahead and give the driver very limited room to escape in case of a hazard on the road.
The combination of those hilly, winding roads and high speed can be deadly. Thirty percent of those killed in rural crashes were speeding at the time of the crash. Speeding drivers may not be able to maintain control of the vehicle in a curve or stop in time if they encounter an object or other vehicle in the road. In rural fatal crashes, 69 percent of drivers involved were on roadways where the posted speed limit was 55 mph or higher.
Of all the alcohol involved fatal crashes in 2013, 54 percent occurred in rural areas.
Fifty-one percent of all rural passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in traffic crashes weren’t wearing a seat belt. The numbers go even higher depending on the type of vehicle driven;
- In light trucks, 60 percent of rural fatalities weren’t wearing a seat belt.
- In pickup trucks, 64 percent of rural fatalities weren’t wearing a seat belt.
- In SUV’s 58 percent of rural fatalities weren’t wearing a seat belt.
- Sixty-nine percent of rural passenger vehicle occupants killed in roll-over crashes weren’t wearing a seat belt.
When driving in rural areas, drivers should be aware that rural roads can be deadlier than urban interstates and they should gauge their speed by road conditions – not the speed limit and always wear a seat belt.
For more information, read: Traffic Safety Facts – Rural/Urban Comparison
My Car Does What Offers Info On New Car Safety Technology
July 22, 2015
For those with a new car or those considering the purchase of a new car, My Car Does What.org offers an explanation of new car safety technologies available in new vehicles, including some that buyers may not have been aware were available.
Funded by the Toyota Safety Research and Education Program Settlement the site was developed by the National Safety Council and the University of Iowa. With new car safety technologies entering the market at a rapid pace and older technologies being updated, the website is designed to inform vehicle owners about the different technologies and teach drivers how to use them.
A lot of new car safety technology is getting a lot of press such as crash avoidance and lane departure systems but some new safety systems may be surprising to drivers including:
- Terrain management – adjusts speed and suspension systems when moving from paved to unpaved roads.
- Hill descent assist – aids drivers balance the need between braking and speed depending on the degree of the downhill grade.
- Hill start assist – When stopped facing uphill, keeps the car from rolling back by holding the brake until the gas pedal is activated.
- Health and workload monitoring – Monitors a driver’s vital signs and can alter car functions during a health emergency.
- Cornering braking control – Adjusts the brakes independently to keep the car on the road if a driver is approaching a sharp curve or corner too fast.
Other explanations of new and updated car safety systems include:
- Anti-lock braking
- Forward collision warning
- Adaptive and active suspension
- Adaptive headlights
- Automatic emergency braking
- Electronic braking assistance
- Obstacle detection
- Pedestrian detection
- High speed alert
- Adaptive headlights
- Night vision
- Adaptive cruise control
- Tire pressure monitoring
- Road surface warning
- Back-up cameras
- Lane departure warning
The actual list of features is much longer and the website includes both written explanations and videos on each car safety system. It also includes information on auto safety research.
Read more: My Car Does What.org
Driving Dehydrated And Without Rest Like Driving Drunk
July 21, 2015
Two studies from researchers in Great Britain show that driving while dehydrated and driving too long without a break on long trips can be dangerous.
The first study conducted by researchers at Loughborough University in England looked at the effects dehydration had on drivers. The researchers conducted a two-day experiment to compare driving abilities when drivers were hydrated and dehydrated. On the first day subjects who were properly hydrated were observed while driving on a simulated driving course. According to the researchers, the hydrated drivers had 47 driving incidents. On the second day, when the subjects were dehydrated, the number of incidents more than doubled to 101 incidents.
According to the researchers, the number of driving incidents recorded by those subjects that were dehydrated were equivalent to someone operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08, the legal limit in both the UK and the US. The incidents recorded included, lane weaving, braking late, and not stopping at the stop line at intersections.
According to WebMD.com. some of the symptoms of dehydration can include:
- Palpitations (feeling that the heart is jumping or pounding)
All symptoms similar to alcohol intoxication.
Another poll conducted by IAM, a British highway safety organization, shows that drivers tend to drive too far between breaks on long trips. According to the drivers polled, 65 percent didn’t stop for breaks on long trips because they didn’t feel they needed to. Seventy- nine percent of the drivers polled said they wouldn’t stop unless there was a rest stop conveniently located on the highway.
The stresses of dealing with highway traffic along with what’s known as “highway hypnosis” can cause a driver to become fatigued and lose his or her focus on the whole driving picture. Without those refreshing breaks, fatigue can easily set in and, as shown by the research mentioned above, becoming dehydrated can lead to driver errors.
Whether they feel the need or not, drivers should stop at least every two hours or 100 miles to rest and refresh themselves. stopping for a short break to relax and have a drink can help a driver avoid fatigue and the problems caused by dehydration.
Drinking caffeinated drinks are fine if you want to fight off fatigue but caffeine has a diuretic effect that causes the body to lose fluids. To make the most of your rest breaks, alternate drinks between caffeinated drinks such as coffee or cola and non-caffeinated drinks such as water or fruit juice. Avoid highly caffeinated “energy drinks” at all costs.
Read more: Dehydrated drivers make the same number of mistakes as drink drivers
Two-thirds of drivers won’t take rest breaks on any long journey, IAM finds
Older Drivers Can Be Aided By Technology
July 17, 2015
When it comes to older drivers, stereotypes aren’t necessarily true. Years ago, safety experts predicted a traffic nightmare as baby boomers reached old age but that hasn’t turned out to be the case. In fact, traffic data from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety shows that traffic deaths among drivers 70 and older have been on a steady decline since the high point in 1997.
There are fewer drivers over the age of 70 and they tend to drive fewer miles. Safety experts feel that many older drivers “self regulate”; that is they tend to restrict driving to less busy times of the day and they avoid driving at night. Another reason for the decline in deaths of older drivers is that older drivers tend to be healthier and have better medical care than drivers in the past.
It’s impossible to tell at what age a driver is too old to drive. It depends on the individual driver and everyone ages at a different rate. A new study published recently tracked 1000 people born in 1972-73. Using a range of biomarkers, they found that the biological age of the one-thousand 38 year olds ranged from 30 to 60 years apart. Some were aging rapidly while others aged very slowly.
Still, it’s undeniable that most people will reach an age when they’ll no longer be able to drive and many families will face the difficult decision of when to take away the keys.
However, for those drivers reaching their 70’s and still driving safely, technology has the answer to help them to continue to drive safely and, hopefully, reduce the fears that any family members may have. If they can afford it, a new car with the following features can help to keep them and any other driver, regardless of their age, safer on the road. While these packages may cost a bit more, their price may be offset by a reduction in insurance costs.
- Collision Avoidance – Collision avoidance technology uses a combination of either radar, lasers, and cameras to keep an eye on vehicles and pedestrians ahead. Those systems work together to warn a drivers if they’re approaching too closely to another vehicle or object. If the driver doesn’t heed the warnings, the system will apply the brakes and stop the car.
- Lane Departure Warning and Prevention – This system warns a driver if the vehicle is drifting out of the lane and uses the dynamic braking system to steer the car back into the lane if the driver doesn’t take action.
- Adaptive Headlights – This system turns the headlights in the direction of the wheels to illuminate the road more clearly on curves.
- Blind Spot Detection – This system uses sensors to detect other vehicles in a driver’s blind spot to warn a driver who’s about to move into another lane or who may be drifting over the line. These systems can either warn the driver or work together with the lane departure system to prevent a driver from moving over.
To find a list of vehicle manufacturers who offer these technologies, visit: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – Crash avoidance features by make and model