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Minneapolis Motor Vehicle Accidents Law Blog

Pedestrian and cyclist deaths soar in 2018

The number of cyclists and pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in Minnesota and around the country rose sharply in 2018 according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Pedestrian deaths rose by 4% and cyclist fatalities surged by an alarming 10%. This is the highest pedestrian death toll since 1990 and the most cyclists killed since 1988. Road safety experts say rising pedestrian and cyclist fatalities are most likely caused by cellphone use and a worrying increase in distracted driving.

Technology has been developed in recent years that could protect vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists, but it is currently offered on fewer than half of the cars sold in the United States. Another problem is the popularity of vehicles like SUVs and pickup trucks that do not feature angled front ends that would lift cyclists or pedestrians up over the hood in a crash. Instead, they feature blunt front ends that studies have found cause far more serious injuries in pedestrian accidents.

NHTSA estimates decline in roadway fatalities for 2018

In a preliminary report for 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that there was about a 1% decline in roadway fatalities. Whereas 37,133 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, 2018 saw 36,750 deaths. Minnesota should know that this is good news, considering the spike in crash fatalities that occurred in 2015 and 2016.

Prior to 2015, crash fatalities had been gradually declining. Many believe that 2015 marks the beginning of a new and more dangerous era in driving, one characterized by the increasing use of smartphones and other technology behind the wheel. While this may be true, drivers are still safer when compared to previous times. One expert said drivers were safer in 2016 than they were before 2009.

More safety support needed for rear seat passengers

Passengers who frequently ride in the rear seat of the car may have more to worry about in case of a car accident in Minnesota. Of course, the rear seat area is generally safer than the front seat of a vehicle. This is one reason why so many advanced safety technologies are packed into the front seat where the driver and one passenger sit. Cars are safer than at any point in the past as new technologies have provided a number of options that help people to protect themselves in case of a collision. However, protections for rear seat passengers have lagged behind even as technology has developed significantly for people sitting up front.

Airbags and automatically locking seat belts are usually available only in the front seats, for example, even though these are some of the most effective technologies in preventing severe injuries in case of a car crash. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that the increased protections of the rear seat area are not sufficient, and the organization is urging automakers to add more technologies to protect people in the back seat.

Tesla's latest autopilot feature raises new safety concerns

Minnesota residents should know that Tesla has recently released a new version of its Navigate on Autopilot feature. This is part of the automaker's efforts to create a safer semi-automated vehicle. However, a Consumer Reports study found that the feature actually creates new risks for drivers.

Navigate on Autopilot was introduced back in 2018 for highway driving and has already seen updates in April 2019. It's meant to partially take control over the vehicle and keep it from weaving out of a lane. The newest optional feature allows the vehicle to change lanes on its own without driver input. This was the feature that Consumer Reports analyzed and found wanting.

Busy parents can become very dangerous drivers

Parenting is no joke. Some days, it takes everything that you have. It's basically a full-time job with no days off.

If that sounds exhausting, remember that parents often have jobs, social lives, doctors' appointments and many other things going on in their lives. It feels like life just hurdles on non-stop for years on end.

CVSA sets Operation Safe Driver Week for July 14 to 20

Every year, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance holds an event called Operation Safe Driver Week as a way to deter both motor vehicle and CMV drivers from engaging in unsafe behaviors. Minnesota residents should know that this year's event will be held from July 14 to 20 and will have a special focus on speeding.

Police will, of course, be on the lookout for any kind of unsafe driving, be it driving without a seat belt, making improper lane changes, ignoring traffic signals or texting behind the wheel. However, speeding is the top driver-related factor in all car and truck crashes, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's 2016 Large Truck and Bus Facts report. The CVSA says speeding has factored into nearly one-third of all car crash deaths for over the last 20 years.

Memes and other social media are distracting drivers

Market research firm Wakefield Research conducted an online study on distracted driving, and nearly 2,000 drivers in Minnesota and across the U.S. contributed their responses to it. The results, some of them eye-opening, were shared recently by Root Insurance, which provides insurance discounts to drivers who avoid phone use.

Almost half of the respondents said that distracted driving is their top concern on the road, and 99% said that phone use is one of the most frequent distractions. Yet these same respondents admitting to using their phone behind the wheel for an average of 13 minutes every day. Nearly two in five drivers say they don't feel compelled to put down their phones when police are around.

Automaker introduces technology to stop drunk drivers

Drunk driving continues to pose a major danger on roadways throughout Minnesota and the rest of America. In 2017 alone, 10,874 people lost their lives as a result of car crashes caused by drunk driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Volvo is planning to take action by using technology that could stop drunk drivers before they cause an accident. This advanced in-car technology would become available by the early 2020s, the automaker asserted.

According to Volvo, its system would make use of sensors and cameras inside the car to monitor the driver for signs of drunkenness or even distraction. The car itself would have autonomous technology installed that could take over if a driver did not respond to a warning system. The carmaker noted that the system is specifically designed to avert dangerous motor vehicle accidents. It is not the only technological safety enhancement pursued by Volvo; in March 2019, the company announced that it would soon start building its cars with a 112 mph speed limit cap.

Distracted driving continues in Minnesota and throughout the US

According to the 2019 Travelers Risk Index, distracted driving continues to be a major problem in America. The Travelers survey data shows that roughly 80% of consumers talk on the phone while driving. While distracted driving presents a number of potential liability risks for enterprises, researchers say that management often encourages workers to stay connected via cellphone technology.

The Travelers Companies obtained the statistics by surveying over 2,000 consumers and executives about driving while distracted and why they engaged in such behaviors. The most common driving distractions included typing an email or text, accessing social media, taking photos/recording videos and shopping online.

Private track testing to improve driverless cars

Self-driving cars may soon become common on roadways across Minnesota. Developers and manufacturers are working to make the technology that operates self-driving cars safer by using virtual pedestrians to test software.

Test tracks are being used to make the technology in driverless cars safer after several high-profile accidents caused public concern. Auto manufacturers are in a race to bring these cars to public roadways, but their efforts were stalled after a car accident killed a pedestrian last year. The vehicle was part of Uber's driverless car testing program.

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