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December 4, 2013

Single-Car Accidents Are the Most Deadly in the DMV

In 2012, 273 lives were lost as results of single-car crashes in Maryland. In 2011 and 2012 combined, there were a total of 1,541 reported deaths due to single-car crashes in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia. This means that 60 percent of all traffic fatalities in these jurisdictions were a result of single-car crashes. One would think that multicar accidents would be the leading cause of deaths in the United States, but surprisingly it isn't. This statistic is even higher when considered on a National level. Nationally, single-car fatalities in Maryland, DC and Virginia make up 65 percent of fatalities.

Single-car accidents are, for the most part, avoidable by drivers. It is suspected that single-car fatalities are a result of unbelted drivers, drunk drivers, distracted drivers, as well as speeding and driving while drowsy. Some research, conducted by the AAA Mid-Atlantic, shows that some factors associated with these single-car fatalities are inattentiveness, over-correction of the vehicle and oddly enough, trying to avoid a crash all together.

It is for these factors, and many more, that in 2012, the overall number of people killed increased, nationally. In the District of Columbia alone, in 2012 there were 157 people killed due to single-car crashes.

In Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia two-thirds of area commuters drive to work and therefore; are most likely victims themselves of single-car accidents and deaths. In order to avoid these accidents and fatalities drivers must pay attention to the road, follow traffic signs and signals, obey all traffic laws, and be alert to their, and, of their surroundings. Drivers should make sure and get enough sleep, be attentive and not get behind the wheel while drunk or intoxicated, in order to avoid these kinds of collisions, and all car collisions in general.

June 18, 2013

Keep Your Eyes On the Road

There is a major disconnect between your eyes and your brain when a person is driving but on the phone. Be it the person is answering a phone call, imputing and address into a GPS or even using a voice-activated application to send text messages or chat. This is called a cognitive distraction, that most drivers are not aware is taking place.

A two-year study conducted by the University of Utah and sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety determined that technology developed to enhance the safety of text messaging while driving is not very effective. The study found that interacting with the speech-to-text system was the most cognitive distraction to drivers on the road, when compared to other forms of distracted driving. Therefore; the voice-based systems intended to keep drivers more safe and less distracted from driving is doing the opposite.

When the study was conducted, over a two year period, driving simulators and on-road testing was done. Test subjects wore a helmet of electrode wires to test how the brain reacts to distractions that arise for drivers and their ability to stay focused on the road. Each distraction caused a change in the brain and these changes were marked through graphs on a computer. The data showed, that the more complicated and absorbing a task, the greater the distraction, to the driver on the road. The longer it took for a driver to complete a conversation, send a message, or set a destination on a GPS, the worse the distraction was on the driver, as graphed by the computer.

Another problem that the study determined was something called "inattention blindness". Inattention blindness is when a person sees something but doesn't register it. It means that when distracted, it takes a driver longer to connect what he or she sees to an appropriate reaction while driving. This means that, it takes a driver, longer to break or swerve to safety.

In 2011, federal data showed that distracted driving was a factor in about 10 percent of the fatal accidents reported, nationwide that year. Nationally, it was also reported, in 2011, that 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.

In other words, anything that distracts a driver from the task of safe driving creates a risk. 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of close calls came about after a driver took their eyes off the road.

Sending and receiving text messages topped the list of driver distractions. Therefore; texting while driving, has been banned in 41 states, including Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. In addition, the District and 11 states, which include Maryland but not Virginia, have also prohibited the use of hand-held cell phones.

In conclusion, it was determined that as distractions increase reaction time slows down, brain function is compromised and drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues more. Minor tasks; such as listening to the radio, are considered minimal risks, while responding to voice activated email features, that are built into vehicles, ranked as the highest distraction.

November 26, 2012

Young Adults More Likely to Drive Drowsy

The AAA Foundation conducted a survey recently which found that young people, between the ages of 16-24, are more likely to drive drowsy than older people. It is estimated that one in seven licensed young drivers admitted to having fallen asleep behind the wheel at least once while driving in the past year, when compared to one in ten of all licensed drivers who confessed to falling asleep during the same time period. The AAA Foundation estimates that one in six deadly automobile crashes involve drowsy/sleepy drivers.

Sleep deprivation can impair drivers by causing slower reaction times, vision impairment, lapses in judgment and delays in processing information. It has been determined that being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of .08%, which is the legal limit in all of the United States.

Therefore; if you are feeling sleepy/drowsy, do not get behind the wheel. Before attempting to drive an automobile, please do the following:

- Make sure and get at least 8 hours of sleep
- Don't be rushed to get to your destination. Make sure and give yourself enough time to arrive at your destination
- Avoid driving long distances alone
- Take a break every 100 miles or 2 hours, whichever comes first
- Take a nap if needed. Find a rest stop and take a 15-20 minute nap. This allows your ssystem to recharge
- Do not use alcohol or medications that may make you drowsy
- Avoid driving at times you normally sleep
- Consume Caffeine. It has been proven that caffeine increases alertness