1.  Seat Belts
2.  Drowsy Driving
3.  Distracted Driving
4.  Aggressive Driving/Road Rage
5.  Motorcycle Safety
6.  Impaired Driving
7.  Novice Drivers
8.  School Bus Safety
9.  Airbags
10.  Railway Safety
11.  Trucks
12.  Motor Vehicles
  1. Are Pickup Drivers Different?
  2. CDC Looks at Challenges for Motor Vehicle Safety in 21st Century
  3. Developments and Decisions: ARTBA
  4. Diabetes Sufferers Can Misjudge When It's Safe To Drive
  5. DOT Y2K guide to help localities, travel tips for year 2000
  6. Emergency Vehicles: The Rules Of The Road for Motorists
  7. AAA Michigan Warns Higher Speeds Lead to Increased Fatalities
  8. NHTSA on Commercials Depicting Graphic Crashes & Safety Issues
  9. NHTSA Researches Effectiveness Of Occupant Protection Systems

Are Pickup Drivers Different?

Pickup truck owners are more likely to drink a beverage while driving than are automobile owners, but they're also less likely to change lanes frequently, a recent study reports. The study, published in Accident Analysis and Prevention magazine by Dr. Craig Anderson, Dr. Diane Winn, and Dr. Phylilis Agran, examined differences between pickup truck owners and car owners.

The study found that nearly all other differ-ences between pickup truck owners and car owners are attributable to differences in age and gender. While pickup trucks do have higher crash and fatality rates than automobiles, that difference is caused by driver demographics, not some unique trait of pickup truck owners or a problem with the vehicles themselves. In other words, the reason pickup trucks are high-risk vehicles is that they're more often driven by young adult males, a high-risk population.

There are a few other differences. Pickup truck owners are less likely to have gone to college than car owners, but are more likely to have high incomes. Pickup truck owners are also more likely than car owners to be married. Maybe country musician Joe Diffie was right when he sang, "There's something women like about a pickup man."

This document was posted on January 6, 1999.

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CDC Looks at Challenges for Motor Vehicle Safety in 21st Century

Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States, and although motor vehicle-related death rates have been gradually decreasing through the 1900's, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention views the 21st Century as a time to sustain and improve motor vehicle safety.

According to CDC, in 1997, motor vehicle crashes resulted in 41,967 deaths and 3.4 million injuries. Cost estimates are $200 billion.

To improve safety, future success will be dependent on expanded surveillance to better monitor nonfatal injuries, detect new problems, and set priorities. In addition, direct research will be needed for emerging and priority problems, effective programs and policies will need to be implemented, and interagency and multidisciplinary partnerships will need to be strengthened. CDC says key public health activities will be intended to:

  • continue efforts to reduce alcohol-impaired driving and related fatalities and injuries. Promote graduated licensing and discourage teenage drinking and other risky driving behaviors.
  • Enhance pedestrian safety through engineering solutions, encouraging safer pedestrian behaviors, and increasing visibility to drivers.
  • Accommodate mobility needs of persons over age 65 through alternative modes of transportation; develop strategies to reduce driving hazards
  • Encourage the 30 percent of the population who don't wear safety belts to use them routinely
  • Conduct biomechanics research to better understand the causes of nonfatal disabling injuries, particularly brain and spinal cord injuries
  • Develop a surveillance system at the federal, state, and local levels that tracks fatal and nonfatal motor vehicle-related injuries as a basis for setting prevention and research priorities

The annual death rate in motor vehicle crashes has declined from 18 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 1925 to 1.7 per 100 million VMT in 1997-a 90 percent decrease, according to CDC. Six times as many people drive today as in 1925, and the number of motor vehicles in the country has increased 11-fold to approximately 215 million.

According to CDC, the decrease in motor vehicle-related deaths can be attributed to the establishment of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 1966 passage of the Highway Safety Act and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, changes in driver and passenger behavior, and government and community recognition

This document was last updated on June 21, 1999.

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Developments and Decisions: ARTBA

American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) has issued a warning to all drivers who travel through construction zones. The group notes that vehicle crashes in work areas "are a serious public health problem," averaging more than 700 fatalities and 37,000 injuries per year.

Since Congress last year authorized more than $200 billion in federal funding to improve roads and bridges through 2003, there could be an estimated 66 percent increase in construction sites throughout the nation, according to ARTBA. To assist drivers in navigating safely through construction zones, ARTBA has issued the following recommendations:

  • look for and pay attention to orange diamond-shaped warning signs and/or electronic message boards in advance of construction zones
  • obey posted speed limits since workers could be very close to traffic and most states double fines in work zones
  • use extra caution when traveling through a work zone at night
  • be aware that work zone traffic patterns can change daily
  • watch for detours, lane diversions, or closures
  • prepare for workers or vehicles entering traffic
  • don't speed even if there is no activity-work zones remain marked to alert drivers to potential danger

For information,
call toll-free (888) 447-5556;
fax (409) 845-0568;
e-mail workzone@tamu.edu;
website: http://wzsafety.tamu.edu

This document was last updated on July 28, 1999.

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Diabetes Sufferers Can Misjudge When It's Safe To Drive

An article in the August Journal of the American Medical Association (AMA) revealed that some people with type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes) would drive motor vehicles even though their blood sugar levels were in a range associated with declining driver performance.

William Clark, M.D., and colleagues from the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center questioned 65 people with type 1 diabetes. Two years later, they repeated the same study with 93 different individuals with the same health problem and found similar results. The study participants decided to drive nearly 45 percent of the time when they estimated their blood sugar levels were in a range that could affect their driving.

Type 1 Driving Concerns

The report contends that individuals with type 1 diabetes should be cautious before driving motor vehicles. "Given the relatively low level of low BG (blood glucose) among these subjects, the suggestion that individuals measure their BG level and raise potentially low BG levels prior to driving does not seem unreasonable," the authors state. "In addition, drivers with diabetes should always carry rapid-acting glucose with them and plan their journeys to ensure that they will not be late for a meal."

During the research, participants were asked questions about symptoms they were experiencing related to low blood sugar, including jitteriness, pounding heart, trembling, sweatiness, difficulty concentrating, lightheadedness, and lack of coordination. The participants then took a math test and a reaction time test.

The participants were asked whether their insulin, food, and exercise was more, less, or the same as usual. Then they estimated their current blood sugar levels and answered the question "Based on your estimate of your current BG, would you drive now?"

When their BG measured between 60 mg/dL and 70 mg/dL, group 1 participants said they would drive 60 percent of the time; group 2 participants, 64 percent of the time.

When their BG was measured to be less than 40 mg/dL, group 1 participants said they would drive 38 percent of the time; group 2 participants, 47 percent of the time.

"Our data suggest that persons with type 1 diabetes may not judge correctly when their BG level is too low to permit safe driving, and many consider driving with a low BG level even when they are aware of the low level," wrote the authors.

For more information about the study, contact Brian Pace at AMA, (312) 464-4311; e-mail: Pace@ama-assn.org

This document was last updated on October 6, 1999.

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DOT Issues Y2K Guide To Help Localities, Travel Tips for Year 2000

The Department of Transportation has published a Year 2000 (Y2K) resource guide to help state and local transportation agencies prepare for the Y2K transition weekend.

"The U.S. Department of Transportation is giving our partners who are on the front lines technical guidance and access to the resources they need so that their transportation systems will work as well on Jan. 1, 2000, as they did on the day before," said DOT deputy secretary Mortimer Downey.

The guide, Are you Ready? Managing Transportation Resources Through the Y2K Weekend, includes findings of a workshop sponsored by DOT and Public Technology Inc. It contains contingency plans to help localities, regions, and states address and manage the Y2K problem.

For a copy of the guide, call the Federal Highway Administration (202) 366-8033, or visit the website www.fhwa.dot.gov/y2k/y2kread.htm.

This document was posted on January 2, 2000.

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Emergency Vehicles: The Rules Of The Road for Motorists

A review of 1997 statistics by the auto club of Southern California found that, in California alone, emergency vehicles were involved in 21 fatal and 1,839 injury traffic collisions. Motorists were at fault in 75 percent of fatal collisions and 63 percent of injury collisions.

Eight keys when meeting emergency vehicles:

  • If the emergency vehicle is close behind you, don't stop.
  • Put your right turn signal on to let the emergency vehicle know that you see it. Pull over to the right and stop. If you are in the center lane, move as far to the right as possible.
  • Don't block an intersection. If you are already in an intersection, proceed through, then move right.
  • If your vehicle is in the left turn lane, you may be directed by emergency personnel to make a U-turn or a sharp right turn in front of other traffic lanes and then pull to the right.
  • On freeways, always pull over to the right, not left or center median, if an emergency vehicle has its headlights on. If patrol cars are flashing their lights and cutting across lanes, they are trying to clear the way.
  • Don't play the radio so loudly that you can't hear approaching sirens. Consider driving with the driver-side window down one-quarter inch to make it easier to hear emergency vehicles.
  • Pay attention to what other vehicles are doing-they may have detected an emergency vehicle you can't yet see or hear.
  • It's illegal to follow emergency vehicles to see where they are headed.
  • All motorists should remember that emergency vehicles are exempted from certain rules of the road-they are allowed to cross red lights, exceed the speed limit, and use any lane if safe to do so.

    This document was last updated on June 23, 1999.

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    AAA Michigan Warns Higher Speeds Lead to Increased Fatalities

    Higher speed limits continue to threaten safety, according to AAA (American Automobile Association) Michigan. Even though better roads and safer cars may reduce fatalities in some states, that does not mean motorists should drive faster.

    "To leave the driving public with the impression that speed is not a major contributing factor in the number of fatalities on our roads is inaccurate and irresponsible," said Larry Givens, vice president of corporate relations for AAA Michigan.

    Givens also noted that nearly one-third of all crashes nationwide are related to speed, coming second only to alcohol. A 1998 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that road deaths in 32 states with higher speed limits in creased 10.4 percent during 1995-96, and interstate deaths rose 8.2 percent.

    High-speed driving increases the likelihood of motor vehicle crashes because higher speeds leave the driver less time to react to changing road and traffic conditions, according to Given. Also, at higher speeds the impacts of collisions are more severe, and the chances of death or serious injury double for every 10 mph over 50 that a vehicle travels.

    According to AAA Michigan, states that have removed speed restrictions are now reinstating them. For example, in Montana speed limits were eliminated but re-imposed after fatalities increased 33 percent. In May 1999, Montana Gov. Marc Racicot said in an open letter to residents that "while the number of highway fatalities in our state fluctuates year to year, the number of fatal accidents with speed as a factor was increasing. This is a warning sign we could not ignore."

    In Michigan, an average of 400 motorists die in speed-related crashes. Ninety percent of fatalities in speed-related crashes occurred on noninterstate highways. Only 19 percent of drivers involved in speed-related fatal crashes were using safety belts, and a driver's risk of crash increases in proportion to the number of times he or she has been cited for speeding.

    This document was last updated on June 19, 2000.

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    NHTSA on Commercials Depicting Graphic Crashes & Safety Issues

    The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says he favors airing television commercials depicting graphic car crashes to bring home the message of vehicle safety. Dr. Ricardo Martinez, NHTSA chief, said his office would like to get commercials out by the end of this year or early next. They would be re-enactments similar to those shown in Australia, not crash footage, he said. " I love the concept, " said Martinez, who acknowledged the idea may face resistance from television stations reluctant to broadcast disturbing messages.

    Martinez also said that fewer than 5,000 people have asked to de-activate their vehicle's air bags since a rule was passed late last year. The rule allows small people and certain other to request that a dealer de-activate the air bag. Martinez called for a minimal safety standard for cars and light trucks - sport-utility vehicles, pickups and mini-vans. " We believe strongly that all these vehicles, if used extensively in transportation of our children and families, should offer a minimum safety standard, " he said. Cars and light trucks meet most of the same safety mandates, such as side-impact requirements, but not all of them, he said. Martinez said NHTSA will be studying weight and safety issues as they relate to crashes between cars and heavier trucks. " We're concerned about the compatibility issues on that, " he said. But he added that data results will not be available before the end of the year.

    Martinez said NHTSA is trying to focus public attention on the fact that driving distractions are becoming more of a concern. But he said the agency is not pushing for federal legislation that would regulate cellular phones or other devices it views as distractions. Martinez also said NHTSA would like to find a way to study rollover standards. And he urged the auto industry to work with crash investigators on vehicle design and view crash data as unbiased feedback.

    This article originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune Transportation Section.

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    NHTSA Researches Effectiveness Of Occupant Protection Systems

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has just released its fourth report to Congress on the effectiveness of occupant protection systems and safety belt use.

    The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) directed the secretary of the Department of Transportation to report on the effectiveness of occupant protection systems based on their actual use and on lap and shoulder belt use by the general public and various groups at both the state and national levels.

    The fourth report contains many findings. It concludes that air bags provide fatality protection in potentially fatal crashes. Drivers protected by air bags had a reduced fatality risk of 31 percent in purely frontal crashes, 19 percent in all frontal crashes, and 11percent in all crashes. Based on 11 percent effectiveness in all crashes, it is estimated that air bags have saved 2,263 lives during 1987-97, including 842 in 1997 alone.

    Driver air bags seem to be as effective in purely frontal crashes for light trucks (36 percent) as they are in passenger cars (31 percent). In purely frontal crashes, passenger air bags appear to be as effective for right-front passengers age 13 and older (32 percent) as driver air bags are for drivers (31 percent).

    Air bags provide about a 9 percent reduction in fatality risk for the belted driver (relative to a belted driver without an air bag) and 14 percent for the unbelted driver in all crashes. The 9 percent effectiveness of air bags for belted drivers, coupled with the 45 percent effectiveness of lap-shoulder belts, yields an estimated 50 percent fatality-reducing effectiveness for the air bag plus lap-shoulder belt system when safety belts are used.

    For right-front passengers less than 13 years old in frontal crashes, there is a higher fatality risk in cars with dual air bags than for children in comparable cars without passenger air bags. In December 1991, NHTSA issued a consumer advisory warning against placing rear-facing child safety seats in front of passenger-side air bags.

    The report also concluded that concerning overall injury reduction for drivers for serious injury, the air bag plus lap-shoulder belt and the manual lap-shoulder belts alone each provided about 64 percent reduction in injury risk. Automatic belts exhibited 49 percent effectiveness. The estimated effectiveness of the air bag alone was 42 percent.

    The combination of air bag plus lap-shoulder belt provides the greatest moderate injury protection (66 percent) followed by manual lap-shoulder belts (53 percent), automatic belts (51 percent), and the air bag alone (10 percent).

    The report also mentions that air bags involve a trade-off among certain types of injury. The addition of an air bag to the lap-shoulder belt increases head injury protection at both the moderate and serious injury levels, as well as chest injury protection at the moderate injury level. At the same time, it increases the risk of arm injury.

    Challenges regarding air bag deployment are also included in the report. The first challenge involves the increased risk of upper extremity injury from air bags. The second, and more challenging issue, involves child-passenger air bag interaction.

    This document was last updated on July 28, 1999.

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