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State College, Pennsylvania Legal Blog

Drowsy driving: more dangerous than some think

Though the CDC recommends that everyone sleep at least seven hours each night, many are neglecting this and getting behind the wheel. Residents of Pennsylvania should know that drowsy driving is a widespread trend. Nearly one-third of respondents to a AAA survey admitted that in the past month, they drove in such a tired state that they could hardly open their eyes.

Drowsiness is known to impair judgment and slow down reaction times. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation says that to be awake for 24 hours will lead to the same level of impairment experienced by a drunk driver with a .10 BAC. It has a role to play in 9.5% of all car crashes, according to a 2018 study by AAA that analyzed in-car camera footage of drivers just before they crash.

Parking lot accidents: more common than you might expect

Going home from work is one of the best parts of the day. Getting into your car and pulling out of the parking lot is just the first step towards your relaxing evening.

It may be tempting to text your spouse that you’re leaving or maybe call them to discuss dinner plans. But you are putting yourself and others at risk if you don’t drive safely—even when you’re still in the parking lot.

Trucker charged in November highway deaths

Imagine getting killed on your way to your wedding. That was the fate of a Jersey City, New Jersey, couple, ages 35 and 42, who were traveling through Pennsylvania last November en route to their wedding in Pittsburgh.

The couple were headed west on Interstate 78 and passing through Berks County on Nov. 14 of last year. When they got near Hamburg in Windsor Township, traffic ahead of them came to a standstill.

Speeding truckers put others at risk, but safety tech may help

Pennsylvania residents may not know this, but the number of truck accidents is on the rise. Florida saw an especially steep incline from 23,515 in 2014 to 32,513 in 2018, and the Florida DoT has identified speeding as the number one driver-related factor in these crashes.

Speeding truckers are hurting others more than themselves: The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says that 72% of all fatalities in truck collisions are occupants of the other vehicle. In their effort to improve safety, many trucking companies are now looking to recent technological advances.

Car manufacturer seeks solution for drunk driving

Many Pennsylvania motorists are very concerned about the dangers posed by drunk driving. People who get behind the wheel while intoxicated can pose a severe risk to others on the road, causing severe accidents and often fatalities. In 2017 alone, 10,874 people were killed in car crashes linked to drunk driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Recognizing the threat on the roads has led to a number of responses, from public awareness campaigns to escalated law enforcement activities.

One automaker is trying a different approach based on technology. Volvo has announced that it plans to install a system in its passenger automobiles that could monitor drivers for signs of intoxication and shut the car down if needed. The system, which will be available in the early 2020s, will make use of a range of autonomous vehicle technologies to control the car in case of an emergency. It will include cameras and sensors inside the car that monitor the driver for signs that something is wrong, including drivers whose eyes close for extended periods of time or who show no activity on the steering wheel.

New research unveiled for Distracted Driving Awareness Month

As part of its effort to curb distracted driving, the National Safety Council has designated every April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. In time for its observance in 2019, Ohio State University's The Risk Institute has released some of the findings of its distracted-driving-related studies. Pennsylvania residents should know that The Risk Institute is coordinating a nationwide effort to address what is an epidemic.

According to the NSC, distracted driving crashes cause 9 fatalities and 100 injuries every day in the US. These accidents often involve drivers who were using their cell phones or in-vehicle technologies like voice command features and dashboard touchscreens.

Groups push for safety tech on trucks as fatal crashes rise

Collisions between large trucks and passenger vehicles can end in serious injuries or death. In fact, the number of large truck crash fatalities has gone up 28 percent from 2009 to 2017 with 4,102 fatalities in the latter year. Of those fatalities, 68 percent were car occupants, and 14 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. Truckers in Pennsylvania may know that safety tech has been proposed as an answer to the trend.

In particular, many truck safety groups are pushing for a federal mandate requiring all heavy trucks to have forward collision warning and mitigation technology. These systems, along with automatic emergency braking, can be effective in preventing thousands of rear-end accidents. However, the trucking industry is staggering behind the automobile industry in terms of technological advancements.

AAA: car crash risk goes up following daylight saving time

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety states that car crash risks increase after drivers lose one hour of rest for daylight saving time. Many Pennsylvania residents know that it can be hard enough already to get the recommended seven hours of sleep every night. Nevertheless, they will want to consider adjustments to their sleep schedules whenever the season for "springing forward" comes around.

In a recent AAA survey, 95 percent of drivers acknowledged that drowsy driving is unacceptable and unsafe. However, 30 percent of them also admitted to driving in a significantly fatigued state at least once in the previous month.

Opioids may be an element in some traffic fatalities

Pennsylvania drivers who cause fatal crashes may be more likely to be using opioids than those who do not. According to a study that appeared in the journal JAMA Network Open, people who caused fatal accidents involving two cars were almost twice as likely as the other driver to test positive for opioids. Among all accidents, the most common cause was swerving out of the lane.

Researchers looked at more than 18,000 fatal two-car accidents. More than 1,400 drivers tested positive, and nearly one-third of those positive tests were for hydrocodone. More than one-fourth were for morphine. Others opioids commonly in use included oxycodone and methadone. In 1993, 2 percent of people who caused crashes were positive for opioids while in 2016 it was 7.1 percent.

Determining the cause of a car accident

It is important to know who or what caused a car accident. After all, car accidents can be expensive, costing people in Pennsylvania a lot of money or even their lives. This cost has to be accounted for, which is why the police as well as insurance companies do everything in their power to figure out the entity responsible. Once the correct party has been determined, the police can administer the proper punitive action, and the insurance companies can send said party a claims payment.

Of the many factors that cause car accidents, human error is the most prevalent. For instance, drivers using their phones while on the road might be too distracted to keep their eyes focused on what lies ahead. What's more, given the abundance of new technologies finding their way into modern vehicles, drivers are becoming more distracted today than any other time in history. Alternatively, a driver who had too much to drink before sitting behind the wheel can be a liability for the rest of their fellow motorists. Other factors that can impede with a driver's ability to safely navigate the road include having a medical condition or being lost in a place where the driver is unfamiliar with the local rules of the road.

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