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Minneapolis Motor Vehicle Accidents Law Blog

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.

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.

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