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Minneapolis Motor Vehicle Accidents Law Blog

Drowsy driving: how to recognize it and what to do about it

According to the Sleep in America poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of adults admit to driving drowsy, and 37 percent admit to falling asleep behind the wheel. The same foundation put out a Sleep Health Index revealing that around 7 million Americans admitted to falling asleep at the wheel within a two-week period. Minnesota residents who have experienced drowsiness on the road will want to know what its effects are.

Most importantly, sleepiness leads to poor judgment and slower reaction times. Drowsy driving becomes more prominent in the summer when people are more likely to take long road trips. The National Sleep Foundation warns drivers that the effects of drowsiness are comparable to those of alcohol intoxication. Drivers who have been awake for 24 straight hours will act like someone with a .10 BAC, which is well above the legal limit of .08.

SUV design and smartphones blamed for rising pedestrian deaths

Walking across a street in Minnesota has become more dangerous. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has reported that fatal pedestrian accidents involving SUVs have spiked by 81 percent over the past 10 years. IIHS researchers noted that the increasing number of SUVs on the road and their designs could at least partially explain the surge in pedestrian deaths.

The IIHS president said that the high front ends and vertical design of SUVs hit people on foot more completely than passenger cars. People cannot roll off vehicles and potentially limit their injuries. At the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the widespread use of smartphones by both drivers and pedestrians has come under scrutiny. The agency estimates that about 10 percent of all traffic deaths now arise from distracted driving. Other safety advocates have placed blame on recreational marijuana and malfunctioning traffic signals.

Automated vehicle technology may soon be applied to motorcycles

Car owners aren't the only drivers in Minnesota who may benefit from automated technology. Some companies are exploring the possibilities of using driver-assistance innovations to make the road safer for riders on two wheels. Motorcycle fatalities routinely exceed fatal car crashes several times over per mile traveled according to U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures. Part of the reason for this is because of direct exposure the elements and having very few defensive options.

One auto parts supplier is hoping to cut down on motorcycle accidents with driver-assistance systems for motorcycles. One of the features being developed is adaptive cruise control that speeds up and slows down to avoid possible accidents. Another company is working on an alert system that would give motorcycle drivers a 360-degree view of what's around them. The system consists of front- and rear-view cameras and lights on the rear-view mirrors that alert the driver of potential collision risks.

Common accidents during Fourth of July weekend

Minnesota residents will want to be careful on the roads when the Fourth of July weekend comes up. There are approximately 200 highway deaths each year from June 30 to July 4; in fact, 40 percent of all highway deaths between 2007 and 2011 take place during this five-day period, according to Esurance and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. The common factor in these deaths is alcohol intoxication.

That's not the only hazard, though. AAA estimates that 37.5 million Americans will be traveling 50 miles or more from their home this Fourth of July weekend, which means more drivers on the road who are perhaps traveling on unfamiliar routes. Other safety risks present themselves at home.

Experts say harsh punishments needed for distracted driving

Minnesota readers may be shocked to learn that approximately 9 people are killed and 1,000 people are hurt in distracted driving car accidents each day across the United States. This is happening despite state campaigns intended to educate the public on the dangers of texting and driving. As a result, some safety advocates are pushing for stronger punishments for those who engage in the behavior.

According to researchers, punishment is the most effective way to change dangerous health behaviors. For example, drunk driving and smoking were both reduced by increasing the punishments associated with them, and seat belt use was greatly increased by the introduction of "Click-It-Or-Ticket" laws. Meanwhile, studies show that trucking companies that have rules and punishments in place regarding dangerous driving behaviors have significantly safer traffic records than companies without rules and punishments.

Drunk driving statistics paint a picture of extreme risk

You refuse to ever drive drunk. You plan ahead. You get a designated driver, call a cab or use ride-sharing apps. If you start drinking at home, you stay home. If you drink at a friend's house and cannot get home, you stay the night.

However, you know that other people do not hold themselves to such a strict code of conduct. You have watched people leave those parties, clearly too drunk to drive. You have seen stories of drunk wrong-way drivers on the interstate. You know the risks you face, even when you remain sober.

Distractions, drugs behind rise in pedestrian deaths

Distractions and drug use are causing an increase in pedestrian fatalities in Minnesota and across the U.S., according to a recent report by the Governors Highway Safety Administration. The GHSA report, which was released in February, states that 5,984 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles in 2017.

It is the second year in a row that pedestrian deaths have hovered around 6,000. In 2015 and 2016, pedestrian deaths spiked by 9 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively. Analysts have yet to prove the causes of this deadly trend, but traffic safety experts believe two factors are likely involved.

Seat belts help protect liver in car crashes

Many people are treated for crash-related injuries in Minnesota emergency rooms every year. Many of those injuries involve the liver, an organ that humans cannot survive without. According to a study, seat belts do not completely prevent liver injuries, but they can help reduce their severity.

For the study, researchers analyzed federal crash data to find people who suffered liver injuries in car accidents. They identified over 50,000 patients who suffered such injuries between 2010 and 2015. All the patients were 18 years old or older, and all were either admitted to a hospital or died en route or while in the emergency room.

There isn't a safe way to text and drive

While Minnesota residents may be less distracted using a wearable device to send or receive text messages while driving, it doesn't make the endeavor any safer. This is among the findings of a study that had 20 people send and receive text messages with either a smartphone or a Google Glass device while in a driving simulator.

Those who receive a text message are advised to pull to the side of the road to read it. While using a tool like Google Glass allowed a driver to keep both hands on the wheel, it also resulted in drivers focusing more on the conversation as opposed to the road. Therefore, it may not be possible for a driver to send or receive text messages while in a moving car until driverless technology is adopted. However, that may still be a long ways off.

Experts suggest driver monitoring for safer self-driving cars

Some Minnesota motorists might own a Cadillac that tracks the alertness of drivers when it is in semi-autonomous mode. Some experts say this kind of tracking software could be installed in all autonomous vehicles to make sure the backup driver is paying attention to the road, and this could prevent accidents such as the one in which a self-driving Uber hit and killed a pedestrian. The video camera in that car indicated that the driver's attention had lapsed.

In the Cadillac, a steering wheel camera tracks the movement of a person's eyes and head. An alert goes off if the car determines that the person's attention has wandered. If the alert is not successful, the car will stop, turn on hazards and call for emergency help. At higher speeds, this happens in a matter of three or four seconds while it will unfold more slowly at lower speeds.

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