Charles Town And Martinsburg West Virginia Legal Blog

Study finds vehicle infotainment systems distracting to drivers

New cars and trucks come with an array of safety features designed to reduce traffic accidents on roads in West Virginia and elsewhere. Unfortunately, many new vehicles are also stocked with distracting electronic gadgets, including infotainment and GPS systems, that could increase the risk of car crashes.

For example, a recent AAA study conducted by researchers from the University of Utah examined 30 different dashboard systems on 2017 vehicles and found that all of them required moderate or high levels of driver interaction. Specifically, seven of the studied systems required moderate levels of interaction, 11 required high levels of interaction and 12 required very high levels of interaction. None of the systems required low levels of interaction. The study also found that using GPS systems and sending texts were the most distracting interactions.

What's behind most drunk driving deaths

West Virginia residents 21 and older who are caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher will be guilty of drunk driving. This is the legal limit through most of the U.S., though it is considered the highest limit in the world. Some countries, such as Brazil and Russia, have a zero-tolerance policy where no one can drive with alcohol in the blood.

What's clear is that a 0.08 percent BAC is enough to impair drivers' reaction times and raise their risk for a crash. Many drunk driving crashes are fatal crashes; in fact, drunk driving fatalities compose about one-third of all traffic-related fatalities. The ones who are most at risk are drivers under the age of 24, motorcyclists, those with prior DUI convictions and those who mix drugs or medications with their alcohol consumption.

External air bags could increase passenger safety by 40 percent

West Virginia drivers may be interested in learning how external airbags could make passengers safer. The idea of external airbags is not something new. In fact, technology is reaching the point where the concept is feasible. Testing has shown that external airbags may reduce the severity of passenger injuries by up to 40 percent.

The technology is designed to protect the sides of the vehicle. A split second before an automobile crash, the airbag will deploy and act like a large pillow, absorbing some of the collision force. One of the biggest challenges automobile manufacturers face is making the airbags deploy properly.

How Breathalyzer tests work

When police stop a suspected drunk driver, standard protocol is to have the driver complete a set of field sobriety tests and take a breath test to determine their blood alcohol content. Each time a person with alcohol in their system breathes out, they expel a small amount of vaporized alcohol. Breathalyzer machines are calculated to detect the infrared radiation, or IR, of ethanol, the chemical in alcoholic beverages that causes intoxication. Different organic compounds have different IR wavelengths.

Most Breathalyzer machines require a person to blow into the machine for several seconds. This is so the air that enters the machine comes from the deepest part of the lungs. Otherwise, the machine could pick up mouth alcohol that is on a person's breath right after they have taken a drink. Most machines will not register unless a person has blown a sufficient sample of air into the machine.

CVSA sidelines almost 5,000 trucks in brake inspection spree

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance held its annual Brake Safety Week from Sept. 16 to 22, inspecting trucks and other commercial vehicles at random to check for compliance with brake safety rules. Truckers in West Virginia may remember it, but even if their vehicles were not checked, they will want to know the results of the spree.

In all, 35,080 commercial vehicles were inspected in the U.S. and Canada. Inspectors placed 4,955 of those vehicles out of service for brakes violations; that comes to 14.1 percent. The 2017 brake inspection spree, though it lasted only one day, saw 14 percent of vehicles sidelined. Brakes violations continue to be an issue; in June, when the CVSA held its annual 72-hour International Roadcheck, poorly maintained brakes formed the majority of violations at 28.4 percent.

Distracted driving, an overlooked threat among truckers

Distracted driving is on the rise throughout West Virginia and across the U.S., but it's a threat that many trucking companies are ignoring. Truckers are especially prone to distracted driving not only because of increased smartphone use but also because of a "productivity culture" that forces them to stay awake longer. Texting and fatigue are frequently behind trucking accidents.

Experts say that texting constitutes a visual, manual and cognitive distraction. It can take a driver's eyes off the road for up to five seconds, which means that one driving at 55 mph could travel the entire length of a football field without once looking up from the phone. Inattentive driving leads to truckers swerving or drifting into other lanes and compromises reaction times.

How alcohol impacts a driver

If a driver in West Virginia or any other state drives with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher, he or she is committing a crime. It is usually labeled as either driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence. Drivers should know that driving after consuming any amount of alcohol can be dangerous. They should also be aware that they can be impaired without showing any symptoms.

Those who drive after drinking alcohol could experience a slower reaction time and a lack of coordination. It can also reduce the level of concentration that a person has while behind the wheel. A lack of concentration could cause a driver to swerve into another lane or drive faster than the speed limit. Alcohol can also lower a person's inhibitions, which can make it harder to properly deal with others on the road.

AAA: most drivers depend too much on safety tech

There's a good chance that many West Virginia residents with driver assistance systems in their vehicles are relying too much on them to stay safe. As a result, they may be putting themselves and others at risk. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has called attention to this fact in a report, and some of its statistics are alarming.

A total of 29 percent of drivers with adaptive cruise control, for instance, say that they are comfortable engaging in other activities behind the wheel. More than 40 percent of those with automatic emergency braking and forward-collision warnings cannot differentiate the two technologies.

Inspection spree sidelines thousands of trucks

West Virginia drivers often have to share the road with large commercial vehicles. This is one of the reasons why the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance periodically performs roadside inspections to identify possible safety violations. During an inspection blitz that took place in early June, more than 11,800 trucks and buses and 2,664 drivers were placed out-of-service. The primary focus of this round of vehicle assessments was hours-of-service violations, which ended up being responsible for more than 40 percent of the problems that affected drivers.

The purpose of these CVSA inspections is to minimize big rig accidents as much as possible by keeping drivers and vehicles with violations off the road. Over three days, approximately 67,000 roadside inspections were conducted. Of the 45,000-plus vehicles subjected to level I inspections, just under 22 percent ended up being placed out-of-service. Results from level I, II, and III inspections kept approximately 4 percent of drivers from immediately getting back behind the wheel.

Reducing backup crashes with advanced safety features

West Virginia residents may want to learn more about rear automatic braking because a new report has shown how effective it is in preventing backup crashes. In fact, it can reduce the number of backup crashes by 62 percent, and that number jumps up to 78 percent when the tech is combined with rearview cameras and sensors. This is important because backup crashes often result in extensive property damage and serious injuries. Many young children have died in backup crashes, too.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested the combination of rear automatic brakes, rearview cameras and sensors in several recent vehicle models, giving superior ratings to the 2017 Subaru Outback and Cadillac XT5 SUV and advanced ratings to four other models. One vehicle, however, failed to brake automatically as it approached a dummy car parked at an angle, so the technology is not perfect. Rear automatic brakes are meant to primarily avoid obstacles, but they could develop to the point where they avoid pedestrians.

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Charles Town, WV 25414

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