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Minneapolis Motor Vehicle Accidents Law Blog

ADHD medication could help lower U.S. car crash rates

Thousands of Americans die every year in car crashes, and many of them caused by distracted driving. One small but critical factor in distracted driving is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Minnesota motorists should know about a study published by JAMA Psychiatry that shows the relationship between ADHD-related crashes and medication.

Researchers looked into the health insurance claims filed between 2005 and 2014, identifying over 2.3 million Americans older than 18 with ADHD. The average age of the drivers was 32. Records showed that more than 1.9 million had a prescription filled for ADHD medication, though there was naturally no way of proving that drivers actually took the medication.

Shift work linked with drowsy driving

Although shift work has been linked with weak immune systems, high blood pressure, and conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, it is also leading to more car accidents in Minnesota and across the United States. The reason is that disruptions in the sleep-wake cycle contribute to greater drowsiness during the day.

To investigate the trend, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital conducted a study using 16 night shift workers. These workers were asked to participate in two driving sessions, the first after sleeping overnight and the second after getting off work. It was in the second session that drivers exhibited more signs of drowsiness, which an EEG measured during micro-sleep episodes.

Traffic accident fatalities rise for second consecutive year

The roads in Minnesota and around the country are becoming increasingly dangerous according to a fatal accident report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The federal road safety agency says that traffic accidents in the United States claimed the lives of 37,461 people in 2016, which is an increase of 5.6 percent over 2015 figures and the nation's highest road death toll in nine years.

The latest report may be difficult for road safety advocates to explain. A similar rise in crash deaths in 2015 was put down to the popularity of cellphones and a surge in distracted driving, but the 2016 figures indicate that the number of road users killed in this kind of accident actually fell by 2.2 percent from 2015. However, the decrease in distracted driving deaths was more than offset by sharp increases in the number of pedestrians and motorcyclists who lost their lives.

Pedestrian deaths rise sharply in recent years

In 2016, there were approximately 6,000 pedestrians killed throughout the United States. This was according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, and the number represents a 22 percent increase in the past two years. Minnesota pedestrians are generally more likely to suffer serious injuries in an accident because they have little or nothing to protect themselves from the impact.

In cities such as Los Angeles, there are many highways that have multiple lanes and high levels of traffic. When traffic becomes congested, it may be harder for a driver to see a pedestrian. According to the University of California Transportation Center, pedestrians are at higher risk of getting hurt when a road or highway has more than two lanes. Roads that are designed to help flow of traffic as opposed to keeping pedestrians safe may also play a role in increased pedestrian fatality rates.

Drivers believe texting should be illegal

Although many Minnesota drivers feel that they themselves can safely drive and text at the same time, they are not as confident about the texting and driving abilities of others. For example, even though a survey showed that more than 60 percent of drivers between the ages of 18 and 34 were confident in their skills, 90 percent of all motorists who responded believed that texting and driving should be illegal.

In 2015, there were more than 3,470 car accident fatalities and 391,000 injuries that were attributed to accidents caused by distracted drivers. Teens were the largest group of drivers who were distracted when the accident occurred. However, younger drivers were more likely to be confident in their texting and driving skills.

Collision avoidance systems reduce the number of car crashes

Many Minnesota drivers may have heard about certain warning systems that are being installed in vehicles. However, they may also be interested to learn that less than 9 percent of all new vehicles being sold come with these warning systems as part of their standard equipment, even though they have been shown to reduce the number of car accidents that occur on the nation's roadways.

For example, a study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the rate of head-on collisions, sideswipes and single-vehicle accidents in 2015 were 11 percent lower in cars that had warning systems installed. The number of accidents that resulted in injuries was cut by 21 percent in vehicles that had warning systems. Ultimately, the numbers show that, if all vehicles had lane departure warnings technology, an estimated 55,000 injuries would have been avoided in 2015 alone.

Driver fatigue and other factors in truck crashes

America is a sleep-deprived country.The costs of that, when it comes to increased risk of crashes, are undeniable.

The problem is most acute for truckers who have obstructive sleep apnea. One recent study found, for example, that drivers who have this condition are five times as likely to be involved in crashes.

Self-driving cars get a reality check

It may be a while before Minnesota drivers share the road with fully autonomous vehicles that guide themselves without human assistance. Even as companies such as General Motors, Intel, Google, Tesla, and Uber invest billions of dollars into the research and development of self-driving technology, current forecasts that suggest highways will soon be filled with autonomous vehicles might be a few decades off.

For tech entrepreneurs such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the future of self-driving cars cannot get here fast enough, and the same goes for auto insurance industry executives who praise the safety record of the prototypes tested thus far. Google's autonomous vehicles have driven than 3 million miles with only a couple of accidents. This is certainly promising in a country where 100 people are estimated to die in traffic accidents each day.

Federal agencies cancel potential rule on apnea screening

Minnesota residents may have more concerns after the Trump administration ended a year-long federal rulemaking process aiming at a standardized approach to sleep apnea for truck drivers and railroad workers. Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that prevents sufferers from achieving restful sleep. It can lead to drowsy driving or even sleeping behind the wheel in some cases.

Because of the danger posed by drowsy truck drivers or train engineers responsible for massive vehicles with the potential to cause severe injuries for many people, the Department of Transportation has been considering making a uniform federal screening rule for the disorder. However, in August 2017, the agency announced that it will no longer seek a standard regulation and believes that current programs are appropriate.

Study says increased speed limits cause more deaths

Legal speed limits have increased over the years in Minnesota as well as in many other states over the last few years. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, these higher speeds have contributed to increased traffic accident fatalities.

Researchers at IIHS concluded that between 1993 and 2013, increases in speed limits in 41 states were responsible for 33,000 traffic deaths. Fatality rates overall fell during the period studied, but IIHS says that the rates would have been much lower if not for speed limit increases.

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