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Minneapolis Motor Vehicle Accidents Law Blog

5 steps for preventing car crashes

Minnesota drivers should be aware that there were about 40,000 car crash fatalities and 4.5 million car crash injuries in the U.S. in 2018. Every seven seconds, someone in this country is injured in an auto accident. To avoid becoming a statistic, and to keep others from becoming one as well, drivers may want to consider the following tips.

The first is very basic: to keep at least one hand on the steering wheel at all times and to know when both hands are necessary (for example, for sharp turns). This is tied to the second tip, which is to avoid all phone use unless one is talking on a hands-free device. All it takes is for a driver to look down a few seconds for an accident to happen. Phone use can lead drivers to unconsciously take their hands off the wheel.

Road rage incidents are on the rise

Road rage incidents are becoming worryingly common in Minnesota and around the country, and experts do not believe much can be done to solve the problem. Data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that the number of deadly crashes caused by enraged drivers rose precipitously between 2006 and 2015, and another study indicates that an average of two American motorists point a gun at another road user every day.

It may be easy to blame road rage incidents on a tiny minority of drivers with serious anger management problems, but an American Automobile Association driver survey suggests that the problem is far more widespread. Eight out of 10 of the motorists polled admitted to succumbing to serious anger while behind the wheel on at least one occasion during the preceding 12 months, and more than half of them told researchers that they deliberately tailgate vehicles to intimidate their drivers.

Automated technologies reduce car accidents

Many drivers in Minnesota are interested in how the growing slate of technologies aiming to improve roadway safety through automation might enhance their daily commutes. While not yet fully autonomous, vehicles with these technologies point to the potential for self-driving cars. Many drivers wonder how much of an impact the features actually have on reducing car accidents. According to one study released by GM, these technologies can have a significant effect. That effect is magnified when multiple autonomous technologies are combined on one vehicle.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute analyzed police car crash data from 10 states. They were provided with over 3.8 million VINs from GM, corresponding to vehicles produced between 2013 and 2017. By comparing GM's VIN data to that in the police reports, researchers were able to identify which cars had advanced driver assistance systems installed. They were also able to compare those numbers to the total number of equipped and unequipped cars sold.

The effects of alcohol on traffic accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 30 traffic fatalities every day are caused by drunk driving in Minnesota and throughout the country. Alcohol intoxication causes serious accidents for a variety of reasons, including reduced judgment, loss of motor control, impaired thinking and other negative effects on the mind and body. While the legal limit for driving is a BAC of .08, even smaller amounts of intoxication can cause problems.

Car crashes involving drunk drivers are a particularly big problem for young people. In 2017, 42% of drunk driving-related fatalities were caused by drivers between the ages of 18 and 24. Incidents of intoxicated driving go down as drivers age, which is partly why all states have adopted a drinking age of 21. Men are also more likely to get behind the wheel drunk than women.

What happens when the other driver doesn't have insurance?

You carry motor vehicle insurance to protect yourself from liability in a collision where you are at fault. When another driver causes a motor vehicle crash, their insurance policy is the one that is supposed to pay for your property damage, lost wages and medical expenses. Sometimes, your policy will pay up front and then subrogate the claims to the other company. Other times, they will insist you bill the other driver's insurance.

Unfortunately, not everyone who drives on the Minnesota public roads will have the necessary insurance to protect you when they cause a collision.

Avoiding drowsiness behind the wheel

Minnesota drivers will want to make sure they avoid being drowsy behind the wheel. Sometimes, when there is a lack of comprehensive public transportation, drivers cannot help but travel drowsy. Other times, though, drivers are more clearly negligent.

For example, those who take prescription sleep aids know that they must sleep seven to eight hours before driving to overcome the grogginess. But one 2018 Consumer Reports survey, which involved 1,767 adult drivers in the U.S., found that one in five who take sleep aids head out within seven hours.

Distracted driving is an avoidable risk

Accidents involving distracted drivers claimed 3,166 lives around the country in 2017 according to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, many road safety groups think that distraction is under-reported and the true death toll is actually much higher. This kind of crash is often blamed on mobile electronic devices, but Minnesota drivers can be distracted by far more than their cellphones.

Simply holding a conversation with passengers can be extremely distracting for drivers. Road safety experts say drivers should put their cellphones into silent mode and keep interaction with other vehicle occupants to a minimum. One way passengers can be put to good use is enlisting their help to operate navigation systems or change audio settings. Eating or drinking behind the wheel can also be extremely dangerous, and motorists should plan their journeys to allow time for eating either before they set off or after they have reached their destinations.

Flaws with seat belt tests may increase accident risks for women

Women in Minnesota and other states are more likely to be injured in car crashes than men. It's commonly thought that a main reason for this fact is because seat belts aren't designed with women in mind. However, a University of Virginia suggests that part of the problem may also involve crash test dummies.

The study suggests that little effort is made to accurately represent the bulk of the average human woman when crash test dummies are used to simulate auto accidents and the injuries that could result from them. Researchers also note that most crash tests are done on average male-type dummies. Introduced in 2003, the average female-type dummy is 5 feet in height and weighs 110 pounds. These stats are outside the actual dimensions of the average woman.

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.

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