Automatic braking

Automatic Braking On NHTSA Wish List

Automatic braking systems are being recommended by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) for new cars under its New Car Assessment Program. The  announcement of this recommendation was made by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on January 22.

NHTSA is recommending two different types of automatic braking systems that go beyond crash avoidance systems, currently available in some car models, that only warn the driver of an imminent crash. The systems that  NHTSA recommends including in all new cars are known as Crash Imminent Braking (CIB) and Dynamic Brake Support (DBS).

If the driver has not already applied the brakes the CIB system automatically applies the brakes if the vehicle detects that a crash is imminent. The DBS system takes over and applies more braking force if it detects that the driver is not applying enough force to stop in time.

According to Foxx’s announcement, approximately one-third of collisions in 2013 were rear-end collisions with another vehicle. The evidence showed that many drivers in those crashes either didn’t apply the brakes at all or didn’t apply enough braking force to avoid the crash. It’s hoped that these two braking systems can help avoid those crashes.

The automatic braking systems being recommended by NHTSA aren’t new technology, they already exist in some higher end model vehicles. In 2013, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) added automatic braking systems to the requirements for a vehicle to earn the  designation as a “Top Safety Pick +” in its annual list of safest cars. Auto manufacturers are adding them to more and more vehicles in order to earn the top safety plus designation. IIHS announced that, for the 2015 model year, a record 33 vehicle models won the top safety pick plus designation.

It’s unclear, as of now, if the NHTSA recommendations will become mandatory for new vehicles in the near future.

Read more: Transportation Secretary Foxx Announces Plan to Add Two Automatic Emergency Braking Systems to Recommended Vehicle Advanced Technology Features

Losing home team

If The Home Team Loses, You May Lose Too

When the home team loses, auto collision rates increase around NFL stadiums. This finding is the result of a study by the Highway Loss Data Institute. The Institute looked at insurance collision claims in zip codes for 31 NFL stadiums and zip codes nearby.

The researchers found that claims went up on days when home games were played. This may make sense due to the large amount of traffic around an NFL stadium on game days but reasons behind these crash claims go deeper than that.

Not only did claims go up on game days, there were big differences based on whether the home team won or lost. When the home team won, the crash rate increased by 3.2 percent compared to days when the team was out of town. When the home team lost, the crash rate was 9.4 percent higher.

What would explain the higher crash rate when the home team loses? Driving safety experts have long known that driver emotions are the driving force behind car crashes. No matter the emotion, any emotion, whether good or bad, that can take your mind off the road can lead to a crash.

Drivers, who may be elated by a win and in a celebratory mood, may not be devoting their full concentration to the road ahead. Drivers who are upset or angry by the loss may also be giving less attention than needed to the road ahead but their anger can also make them impatient with other drivers. Their anger and frustration may also lead them to take chances they might not otherwise take.

With the Super Bowl approaching, no matter where they live, fans all over the nation will be attending Super Bowl parties, either at private homes or sports bars. Even though the teams involved may not be the home team, ardent football fans will root for one team or another and passions will be high. Alcohol, which is a depressant, may be involved, adding to the anger and frustration for fans of the losing team.

Drivers need to be aware of these emotions and the effect they may have on their driving. If you bet on a team and lose, your anger will most likely be even greater. Spouses or partners of rabid football fans may want to take over the driving duties after the game regardless of who wins or loses.

If alcohol is involved in your Super Bowl plans, make sure you have a plan for getting home either with a designated driver or by calling a cab.

One team has to lose and that means, unless fans can put the game behind them and concentrate on the road, other drivers who aren’t invested in the game will be in danger too.

Read more: Home team loss boosts collision claim rates around NFL stadiums

Japanese driving courtesy

Can Courtesy Keep You Safe On The Road?

Courtesy is a hallmark of Japanese culture. It’s hard to think of Japan without the vision of hyper-polite citizens bowing to each other. One theory of Japanese etiquette is that it developed long ago to deal with the problems of a very large population living and working in a very small country. Along with courtesy, there’s also a strict adherence to society’s rules. This led me to wonder if Japanese courtesy and adherence to the rules extended to the roadways and how Japanese drivers compare with those in the US.

Japan is a tiny country. Japan’s 145,925 square miles – slightly smaller than Montana – make up less than four percent of the total land area in the US. In order to compare the two countries, we have to look at population density. The US with its wide open spaces has a population density of only 88.6 people per square mile. Japan’s population density, by contrast, is 873.1 people per square mile. That makes for very crowded conditions.

Out of all the nations in the world, the US has the greatest number of registered vehicles on the road. That may not come as a great surprise but the country with the second greatest number of registered vehicles is Japan. The US has 846.2 registered vehicles per 1,000 people followed by Japan with 650.9 vehicles per 1,000 people. Not only is Japan a crowded country, their roads are crowded too.

With that many vehicles in such a small space, you might think that Japan would have a high roadway death rate but that isn’t the case. When comparing the highway fatality rate of the two nations, the figures look like this:


Fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants

Fatalities per 10,000 vehicles







According to The International Transportation Forum, in 2012, the total highway fatality rate in  each country was:


Total fatalities

Percent change from 2011







*Out of all the highway deaths in Japan, 36% were pedestrians.

When you think of the US, you tend to think of a fast paced life style but Japan’s society is every bit as fast paced, if not more so.

When comparing speeding between the two countries:

  • In the US in 2012 speeding was responsible for 30% of all fatalities with 10,219 lives lost in speed related crashes; an increase of two percent over 2011.
  • In Japan, between 2002 and 2012, the number of crashes outside the motorway network involving speeds above 100 km/h (62 mph) decreased by 82%.

Could it be that the Japanese sense of courtesy and adherence to societal rules is responsible for the large difference in highway death rates? If Americans were just as courteous and law abiding on the roads, could we drastically reduce our highway death rates? There’s only one way to find out.

UK DUI Limit Test

DUI Limit Lowered By Scotland and Lithuania

The DUI limit has been lowered in Scotland and Lithuania in conformance with the DUI laws in most of the rest of western Europe. Scotland lowered its DUI limit from .08 down to .05. Lithuania, which already had a general DUI limit of .04, lowered its DUI limit down to .02 for novice and commercial drivers.

A lot of Americans view Europe as having a lax attitude toward alcohol and that may be the case in certain countries but when it comes to drinking and driving, Europe has a low tolerance level. In fact, some of the old Eastern Bloc nations, including Russia, have a DUI limit of .00 or .01.

Most of the western European nations have long since adopted a DUI limit of .05. When Switzerland lowered its DUI limits from .08 to .05 in 2005, they experienced a 44% drop in alcohol related highway deaths. England and Wales remain the only western European nations with a DUI limit of .08 and their governments are being pressured to lower their DUI limits to at least .05.

Many safety advocates in the US are calling for a lower DUI limit to at least .05. Studies have shown that a driver’s abilities can be affected by just one drink. Safe driving advocates in the US have long been spreading the word that “buzzed driving is impaired driving.”

Even with the US DUI limit of .08, many drivers are surprised to learn that they can still be arrested for DUI with a lower limit if field sobriety tests show that their abilities are impaired.

Read more: Scotland and Lithuania lower drink drive limit


Ants Can Do It, Why Can’t We?

Ants, even when moving in large swarms seem to handle traffic, prevent traffic jams, and keep traffic flowing smoothly much better than humans can.

Physicist Apoorva Nagar at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology working on previous work by a group of German and Indian scientists has written a soon to be published paper on this phenomenon. The German and Indian scientist’s work showed that ants traveling in a line were able to move steadily and at a constant speed without bunching up. Nagar was able to show mathematically why large groups of ants seem to be able to move so steadily without causing a traffic jam.

According to Nagar, the reasons ants don’t jam up are:

  • They don’t have egos; they don’t feel the need to pass everyone else.
  • If there is a blockage, they don’t stop to rubberneck; they just keep moving steadily around the blockage.
  • They seem to become more disciplined when the path narrows; they move in a straighter line and vary their speed less.

These are basic concepts in traffic flow management that many humans seem incapable of grasping. It’s hard to convince drivers that maintaining a longer following distance and traveling at a steady speed, even if that means going slower than the speed limit, will keep traffic moving smoothly and actually get them to their destination faster. It’s for this reason that advocates of self driving cars are hoping that, when the cars take over driving, traffic jams will be a thing of the past.

We have written on this issue before and have posted videos that explain why traffic jams occur and how to avoid them but they bear repeating.

Read more: Why Ants Handle Traffic Better Than You Do

Traffic Jam without bottleneck – experimental evidence

Traffic Waves