Keyless Ignitions Pose Hazards For Users
January 11, 2016
Keyless ignitions can be a convenience for drivers but, in some cases, they’re proving to be deadly and vehicle owners and safety organizations are pressuring the federal government to address the issue.
With keyless ignitions or “smart keys,” drivers don’t have to take the key fob out of their pocket or purse to start the vehicle; as long as the smart key is in the vehicle, the driver can push the start button and start the car. The problem comes when shutting off the vehicle.
For the past several years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received multiple complaints from vehicle owners regarding issues with the keyless ignitions:
No shut off
Some drivers have been unable to shut off the vehicle in on-road emergency situations.
Shut off in gear
Some drivers inadvertently shut off the engine without first putting the transmission in “park” allowing the vehicle to roll away.
Vehicle didn’t shut off
Some drivers placed their vehicle in park but inadvertently left the engine running. When a vehicle is left running inside a garage, poisonous carbon monoxide can quickly build up and spread throughout the home. At least 18 people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning under these circumstances.
How do you not know the engine is still running?
For those who wonder how can someone not notice that the engine is still running, hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius are silent when running on battery power alone. When a vehicle is left running in a garage, the gasoline motor will turn on periodically to recharge the battery. This cycle will continue (while pumping out poisonous carbon monoxide gas) until the vehicle runs out of gas.
NHTSA has proposed adding an audible alarm to remind drivers that the vehicle is still running when the doors are opened. This fix may work for some but, for the deaf or hard of hearing driver, the alarm will be useless.
Consumer and safety organizations are pushing for regulations that will require the manufacturers to add a feature to shut off the engine if the vehicle has been idling for more than a half hour. According to experts, this fix will only require a computer update that can be accomplished quickly and at very little cost.
What should the owner do?
While manufacturers and the federal government sort out who is responsible and what sort of fix should be necessary, owners of vehicles with keyless ignitions should be aware of the hazards and remember to place the vehicle in park and shut off the vehicle using the off button. If necessary, some sort of visual reminder such as a post-it note on the dash might be helpful. Owners of keyless ignitions should also consider installing one or more carbon monoxide detectors in their homes.
Read more: http://www.wcpo.com/news/national/number-of-deaths-linked-to-keyless-ignition-jumps-senator-pushes-nhtsa-to-act
Night Shift Workers At High Risk Driving Home
December 29, 2015
Night shift workers are at greater risk of a crash when driving home from work than day shift workers according to new research conducted by Brigham and Women’s (B&W) Hospital in Boston. The study’s results were published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It has long been known that shift workers, especially those whose shifts rotate between day and night are at greater risk for health problems, including heart attacks. The researchers at B&W felt that night shift workers might suffer a greater risk of involvement in a motor vehicle crash because, no matter how long they had worked the night shift, their natural circadian rhythms were disrupted, preventing them from getting adequate sleep.
Driving drowsy is a major problem among American drivers. According to an American Automobile Association (AAA) study published last year, approximately 6,400 people are killed in 328,000 crashes per year due to drowsy driving. According to the AAA study, drowsy driving was responsible for 21 percent of crashes in which a person was killed and 13 percent of crashes in which a person was hospitalized.
To conduct the research, the researchers recruited night shift workers to drive over a two hour period during daytime immediately following their night shift. The same workers were tested again after getting an adequate night’s sleep. The tests were conducted on a closed test track at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety.
- During the tests conducted after a night shift, track safety observers had to step in and use emergency braking procedures to prevent a crash in 37.5 percent or one-third of the test drives.
- In 43.8 percent of the test drives, safety observers had to halt the drive prematurely because the test subjects were too sleepy to maintain adequate control of their vehicle.
- Episodes of microsleep (nodding off for three or more seconds) increased with each half hour of the drive.
- Instead of making multiple small-scale steering corrections, subjects made infrequent large-scale steering maneuvers to avoid crossing over into other lanes.
- When tests were conducted after subjects had slept all night, there were no emergency braking interventions or test terminations by the safety observers.
Most of the near crashes and inability to maintain control happened after more than 45 minutes into the two hour drive. The researchers realized that that was a long time but noted that many night shift workers routinely commute more than an hour each way to and from work.
The researchers felt that the safest way to resolve the problem is for employers to provide transportation from the workplace to a central area where night shift workers can get public transportation for the remainder of the trip home.
Read more: High drowsy driving crash risk on daytime commute after night work
A Christmas Gift For Safer Driving
December 8, 2015
If you’re looking for Christmas gift for someone who’s hard to buy for, you may want to consider a gift that’ll contribute to their safety on the road. It’s a gift that says “I love and care about you” and it’s practical at the same time. Here are some gifts you might want to consider, especially for those who have small children.
Backup cameras are a great gift for someone who has small children or may drive and park in areas, such as schools, where small children may be present. Backup cameras eliminate blind spots in the rear and give the driver a full view of the area directly behind the vehicle where small children are easily missed. Backup cameras are very economical and can be easily installed by someone with minimal mechanical skills. For more info visit: https://youtu.be/Z2DEanjr7ZE?t=145
If you know someone who’s expecting or whose child may be outgrowing their car seat, this can be an excellent gift. Remember that child seats have an expiration date and parents should avoid getting a used car seat for their child. Exposure to the sun and heat in a car over time can cause the synthetic fabrics used in the belts to wear down and become weak.
For newborns, get a rear-facing car seat.
Convertible seats can be used as rear-facing seats for newborns and can then be shifted to face forward for toddlers.
Children are often graduated to seat belts way too early and that’s dangerous for them. For toddlers who’ve outgrown their car seat, get a booster seat that will allow the child’s seat belt and shoulder harness to fit properly. Kids should stay in booster seats until they’re at least 4’9” tall.
For info on the best car seats, visit: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/car-seats.htm
For info on the best booster seats, visit: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/50/9/1
Everyone needs a new set of tires now and then. If you’re wondering whether or not it’s time to get a new set of tires, do the Abe Lincoln test. Take a penny and with Abe Lincoln’s head showing, stick it head-first between the treads. If you can see the top of Abe’s head, the tires are worn too low and need to be replaced.
While they don’t really directly contribute to driving safety, a dash cam can help a driver prove who was at fault in a crash. That can save a lot of money and heartache over the long run. Dash cams have come way down in price and are easy to install. Make sure you get one with enough memory capacity to cover a long period. Get one with an impact detector that will save the file after it feels an impact. You can also get a combination dash cam and backup camera that uses the rearview mirror as a screen. For more info, visit: http://www.cnet.com/videos/car-tech-101-dashcams/
Rear Seat Adult Passengers Fail To Use Seat Belts
November 23, 2015
In February of this year, 60 Minutes correspondent and CBS newsman Bob Simon, was riding as a rear seat passenger in a livery cab when it was involved in a crash. Simon, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt, received massive head and torso injuries and died shortly after being taken to a hospital.
The Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) says that too many adults riding in the rear seat fail to wear a seat belt and almost half of those who were killed in crashes could have survived had they been wearing a seat belt. According to a report by the GHSA, in 2013, 883 unrestrained rear seat passengers age eight and older were killed in crashes. The GHSA estimates that more than 400 of them would have survived if they had been wearing a seat belt.
The GHSA report places a lot of the blame for the lack of seat belt use among rear seat passengers on the states for failing to pass strict seat belt laws that require all occupants of a motor vehicle to use seat belts; no matter where they are seated. Only sixteen states and the District of Columbia currently have primary seat belt laws that require everyone in the vehicle in both the front and rear seat to be buckled up at all times. Ten states have secondary laws requiring rear seat seat belt use but those laws can only be enforced if the driver is stopped for another “primary” traffic offense. Some states have a mix of primary front seat and secondary rear seat laws. Twenty-two states, including Florida, have no laws at all requiring the use of seat belts by adults in the rear seat.
Among the states with stricter rear seat seat belt laws, seat belts are used by approximately 83 percent of adults in the rear seat while in states with no rear seat laws, only 74 percent of adults use seat belts. There is a direct correlation between state seat belt laws and use of seat belts by adults in the rear seat.
Even if they have primary seat belt laws for all seating positions, some states, including New York, don’t require rear seat passengers in taxis or cars-for-hire to wear seat belts. In the case of Bob Simon, he wasn’t required by law to wear a seat belt but many feel he would have survived the crash if he had been wearing one.
Adults who don’t use seat belts in the rear seat often aren’t the only ones killed or injured in a crash. Even those in the front seat who are using seat belts can be killed in a crash when they’re struck by the rear seat adult’s body as it flies forward and bounces around the interior of the vehicle.
The GHSA calls on states to enact strict, primary seat belt laws requiring all passengers, including those in the rear seat to wear a seat belt at all times. Even if your state doesn’t require the use of seat belts by adults in the rear seat, it’s always a good idea to wear one. Seat belts save lives.
Read more: http://www.ghsa.org/html/publications/spotlight/rearbelts2015.html
Hands Free Distracts Drivers Long After Hanging Up
November 6, 2015
We’ve written before on the fact that hands free communication devices are no safer or any less distracting for drivers than hand held devices; now there’s evidence that shows they’re still distracting, even after hanging up.
A new study conducted by the University of Utah for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA) shows that it can take up to 27 seconds before the brain can refocus on the task of driving after hanging up on a hands free call or text message. To put that into context, over a period of 27 seconds, a vehicle traveling at just 25 mph will cover approximately 992 feet or the length of three football fields before the driver is able to fully concentrate on the mental task of driving.
The University of Utah conducted two different studies for AAA. The first studied the distraction level of using hands free voice commands to dial phone numbers, call contacts, select music, and send voice texts with Microsoft Cortana, Apple Siri and Google Now. The study showed that, while Google Now was a bit less distracting, all three systems were highly distracting to the drivers.
The second study looked at voice dialing, contact calling, and music selection using in-vehicle “infotainment” systems installed in ten different 2015 model year cars. The study found that three of the systems were moderately distracting, six were rated as highly distracting, and the system installed in the Mazda 6 was found to be very highly distracting.
The tests were conducted using volunteers ranging in age from 21 to 70. The volunteers were accompanied by a researcher as they drove at 25 mph on a 2.7 mile route in a Salt Lake City neighborhood. Each volunteer wore a head mounted device that flashed a red LED light every three to five seconds just to the left of the driver’s vision. Each time they saw the light, drivers would note it using a thumb mounted button. Cameras and other sensors mounted in the vehicle recorded how much time the driver’s eyes were on the road, mirrors, or dashboard. Drivers also participated in a survey to record their perceived attention span during and after the hands free activities. Before conducting the tests, the drivers were allowed to take the car home for a five day period to learn and try to become proficient with the systems.
Most people felt that their full attention was restored after hanging up but the data showed that wasn’t the case. The researchers feel that high tech manufacturers are rolling out the systems too early. There hasn’t been enough time devoted to perfecting the systems and verifying their safety.
Read more: Up to 27 seconds of inattention after talking to your car or smartphone
Photo and graph credits: AAA Foundation for Highway Safety