The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ( FMCSA ) makes new laws and regulations regarding our safety all the time. But, regardless of how many laws and regulations are put in place to keep us safe, if we don’t actively do our part to keep ourselves and others safe, none of those things will matter.
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of avoidable motor vehicle accidents. The most common form of distraction behind the wheel is cell-phone use while driving. This is why so many states have enacted laws to cite those that drive while using their cell phone in a hope to decrease distracted driving accidents.
From 2016 to 2017, distracted driving-related citations increased by 52% in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania law enforcement officials issued 5,054 distracted driving citations in 2017, up from 3,336 citations in 2016. 15,542 citations have been issued in Pennsylvania since 2013.
According to the NHTSA, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015. They estimate that around 660,000 drivers are using an electronic device while driving daily.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on January 25, 2018 that it is launching a new initiative to fight drugged driving. With a national opioid epidemic and numerous states legalizing marijuana, drugged driving is an increasing problem on America’s roadways. The NHTSA, through its initiative, is making it a top priority to improve safety and reduce deaths caused by drug impaired motor vehicle crashes through creative solutions.
“Nobody can solve drugged driving alone, but by sharing best practices we can begin to save lives today – we cannot afford to wait,” said Heidi King, NHTSA Deputy Administrator. “And by advancing the science and the data, we can address this problem for our communities in the future.”
The NHTSA is hosting a summit on March 15 to kick off its initiative. According to the agency, the summit will explore the best practices for educating the public on the overall risk of drug-impaired driving; collecting consistent data; testing and measuring driver impairment levels; and enforcing Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) laws.
The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance with the mission to make America’s roads safer by advocating for the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs to prevent motor vehicle crashes, deaths, and injuries. The Advocates rate all 50 states and the District of Columbia on what they consider the 16 fundamental traffic safety laws divided into 5 different issue sections. On January 22, they released the “2018 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws.” The report is intended to serve as a guidance tool for legislators hoping to reduce preventable motor vehicle accident deaths and injuries. None of the 50 states or the District of Columbia have adopted all 16 of the laws.
The 16 Fundamental Traffic Laws
- Occupant Protection
Most people know the dangers of drinking and driving. However, drowsy driving is not as well-known and can cause equally dangerous levels of impairment.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 846 fatalities recorded that were drowsy-driving related in 2014. NHTSA estimates drowsiness is at least a contributing factor in more than 100,000 crashes across the country each year. The reported drowsy-driving crashes and fatalities have remained mostly consistent across the past decade.
Finding accurate numbers of crashes caused by drowsy driving are not yet possible. Crash investigators can look for certain signs that drowsiness likely contributed to driver error, but these clues are not always recognizable or definite. It is likely the numbers of drowsy driving accidents far exceed the reported numbers.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1 person was killed in an alcohol-impaired vehicle crash every 50 minutes in the United States in 2016. That’s about 29 people a day. Drunk-driving fatalities have fallen by 1/3 in the last 30 years. However, even with campaigns such as Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD) and “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over”, drunk driving crashes still claim over 10,000 lives per year. In 2016, 28% of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States were the result alcohol impairment.
Alcohol impairs thinking, judgment, muscle coordination and reaction time. These abilities are crucial to operating a vehicle safely. After only a few drinks you may feel that you are capable of safely driving. However, even a small amount of alcohol can lead to impairments even slight ones that can endanger your life, your passengers, and anyone else on the road.
When transitioning into the New Year, many people like to make resolutions to start fresh and make smarter decisions to better their lives. This New Year make the resolution that you will never get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or taking any substance that will impair your ability to drive.
The winter season has arrived which means the possibility of snowy and icy weather is always present in Pennsylvania. This snowy and icy weather makes travel on the roadways difficult and dangerous. Motorists should avoid traveling during winter storms if possible. However certain situations make it impossible to avoid driving in bad weather. If you must be on the road during a winter storm you should use caution while driving.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement each year. Additionally, nearly 900 people are killed and nearly 76,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes during snowfall or sleet each year.
Heavy snow can greatly restrict or virtually eliminate a driver’s visibility. With freezing temperatures, roads that look wet may actually be icy which can lead drivers to take less caution then is needed to travel safely. Driving in wintery conditions is hard enough when taking proper care. Don’t add bad decision making and recklessness to the equation or there could be disastrous results for you or the other motorists on the road.
Pennsylvania is ramping up its continuing effort to become the “proving ground” for self-driving vehicles. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania held its first Automated Vehicle Summit. The event was held September 11-12 in State College.
Advocates of automated vehicles are hoping to make the roads safer by removing the human error element that leads to so many car accidents. However, the process of proving to the world that these cars will indeed make the roadways safer is still in the works. The most interesting question is whether there is a need to show that self-driving cars are as close to 100% safe as possible or whether it just needs to be shown that they are simply safer than human controlled vehicles.
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards was the keynote speaker at the Summit. Other officials from PennDOT, state police, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the state departments of Community & Economic Development and Labor & Industry were among those that also participated in the summit.
The odds of getting into a crash increase with the number of cars on the road and Memorial Day weekend is one of the most heavily traveled weekends of the year. The American Automobile Association (AAA) projects 34.6 million people will drive 50 miles (80 km) or more from home during this holiday period, the most since 37.3 million in 2005 and an increase of 2.4 million people from last year.
National Safety Council put out their highest estimate of Memorial Day holiday accident fatalities since 2012. The estimated number of fatalities is 12% higher than the average number of deaths that occurred during the previous six Memorial Day holiday periods. The Council also estimates around 47,000 people may be seriously injured on the roads during the three-day holiday period, beginning Friday, May 26 and ending on Monday, May 29.
“Memorial Day should mark the start of summer – not the start of another deadly driving season,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Paying attention, slowing down and being courteous can ensure you and your fellow travelers make it to picnics, beaches and BBQs rather than emergency rooms.”