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New Haven Connecticut Personal Injury Law Blog

Software could be the key to combating driver distraction

Proponents of autonomous vehicle technology claim that self-driving cars could virtually eliminate human error on the roads, but questions about the reliability of these systems have been raised in Connecticut and around the country after a self-driving vehicle was involved in an accident that claimed the life of a pedestrian. An SUV that was being used by the ride-hailing company Uber to test autonomous systems struck and killed a woman as she stepped into the road, and video footage taken from inside the SUV suggests that the person behind the wheel may have been distracted at the time.

Police have found evidence of driver complacency when investigating other accidents involving vehicles with autonomous systems. The Boston-based technology startup Affectiva develops software and artificial intelligence algorithms that monitor and interpret facial gestures and eye movements, and the company is working with major auto manufacturers like Daimler AG and BMW to adopt this technology for use in vehicles. A representative of Affectiva says additional hardware will not be required as the software being developed could be installed in the cameras used by self-driving cars.

Autonomous vehicles suffer from human influence

For many people in Connecticut and across the United States, one of the most appealing factors of autonomous vehicle technology is the way that it could help improve safety and reduce the number of traffic accidents. Since interest in these technologies is so safety focused, there is a high level of interest and publicity when accidents do happen involving driverless vehicles. In March 2018, a pedestrian fatality in Arizona involving a self-driving car received widespread news coverage. One professor believes that it is the influence of humans themselves that limits the safety of autonomous vehicles.

A professor of engineering at Arizona State University noted that the companies working to develop autonomous vehicles, like Uber and Google, are seeking to replicate a humanlike driving experience to the greatest extent possible. Of course, car accidents and driver errors are also a major part of the human driving experience. Since humans are creating these self-driving vehicles, the cars remain susceptible to human error.

Hard enforcement of the ELD mandate is just around the corner

Some Connecticut residents are seriously injured when they are involved in accidents with large trucks. Because some of these accidents are caused by truck driver fatigue, the federal government issued the electronic logging device mandate.

The ELD mandate is a regulation that requires truck drivers to use electronic logging devices instead of the handwritten logbooks that they used to use. The Department of Transportation mandated the use of the electronic logging devices in an effort to keep drivers from skirting their hours of service rules. Because these devices automatically record the miles that truck drivers travel and when they are driving, they should help to prevent drivers from lying about their hours.

Soft tissue damage and its common symptoms

Drivers in Connecticut who were involved in an accident have been suffering from aches and pains ever since will want to know more about soft tissue damage because this may be to blame. Soft tissue refers to the muscles, tendons and ligaments. When these non-bony parts of the body are strained, sprained or torn through any sudden, uncontrolled movement, they can lead to chronic pain and swelling. In serious cases, these injuries lead to bleeding and the loss of motor functions in the limbs.

Soft tissue injuries are common in auto accidents because the impact, swerving and braking of an accident jolt the body back and forth. Unfortunately, soft tissue damage cannot be detected by X-ray and is therefore difficult for doctors to diagnose. The symptoms may appear soon after the accident, or it may take days until they appear. In the meanwhile, victims may choose to delay treatment, negatively affecting the healing process.

OOIDA petitions for more service hour flexibility

Commercial truck drivers in Connecticut and across the U.S. are aware that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration currently regulates service hours around a 14-hour daily clock. The agency requires all truck drivers to take a 30-minute break within the first eight hours and does not allow the 14-hour clock to stop.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association hasfiled a petition asking for the FMCSA to allow breaks of up to three consecutive hours in the 14-hour clock. Under the petition, the rule requiring drivers to take 10 consecutive off-duty hours before their next shift will be maintained. The OOIDA is, above all, asking for the 30-minute break rule to be abolished and for service hours to be more flexible as a way to improve highway safety. This comes at a time when the FMCSA is studying the feasibility of letting drivers split up that 14-hour duty time into "split-sleeper" options. While the consecutive 14-hour clock may be said to jeopardize drivers, it could take years before studies prompt the agency to enact changes.

Overloading is a major cause of truck accidents

Overloaded trucks can pose a serious safety hazard for people on Connecticut roadways. Every year, overloaded trucks are a major cause of trucking accidents that cause harm and injuries to truck drivers as well as others on the road. This is because the addition of an unbalanced or overweight load increases the chance that the driver will lose control of the truck and be unable to stop it from crashing. Excessive loads can also be more likely to shift during operation, leading to improper distribution and an increased risk of rollover during lane changes or sharp turns.

Even in cases where a truck has an acceptable load weight, improper balancing can mean that the truck is at risk of rolling over. Truck rollover accidents can cause serious injuries, lifelong disabilities and even death to truck drivers and others trapped under a rolling truck. Loads that are not properly secured can also pose a serious risk as cargo could fall out of the truck as it is in motion. Overweight and improperly loaded trucks lose some of their capacity for handling and operation in case of emergency; for example, the braking distance increases, which could cause drivers to underestimate the time necessary to stop. Downhill runs can be particularly dangerous as overweight trucks can speed down a hill much more quickly than expected.

Distracted drivers can cause car accidents

If Connecticut residents think about it, technology advances in the last few decades are mind-boggling. Younger residents probably can't envision a time without cell phones and texting. However, these advancements aren't always a blessing, and sometimes the use of these devices can be hazardous to one's health.

Motorists that talk or text on their handheld cell phones or other electronic devices while driving cause many traffic accidents just waiting to happen. Such usage is termed 'distracted driving" and shouldn't be done. A driver that takes his or her eyes off the road for even a few seconds to answer the phone could cause an accident.

Driving securely around 18-wheelers

On the roads of Connecticut, drivers will find themselves on occasion near an 18-wheeler. Cars can be as much of an inconvenience to truckers as the other way around, so drivers should give truckers space when passing, let them turn into their lane without speeding up, and stay away from them when they make their wide turns.

There are a few things to remember about trucks. The first is that they are the largest vehicles on the road; in 68 percent of fatal crashes involving trucks and cars, the ones who die are in the cars. The second is that underride and override are a distinct possibility. Underride occurs when a car collides into a truck's rear and slides under it; in many cases, underride guards do little to mitigate the impact. Override is where a truck runs into a car and rides over it.

Many car accidents stem from common causes

Drivers in Connecticut always have good reason to be concerned about an auto accident when taking to the roadways. A large number of car crashes happen throughout the United States each year, with numbers exceeding 60 million. More than that, the number of accidents has grown year over year in 2015 and 2016. Because car accidents can cause significant bodily injury or even death, researchers have dedicated themselves to understanding the causes of auto accidents in order to lower the number of accidents and cut down on driving behavior that can lead to preventable injuries.

Research into auto crashes has involved both detailed study of previous accidents and the use of technology to outfit vehicles in order to study driver behavior. This research has pointed to a few key types of accidents that can be prevented with changed behavior. One of the most common types of car accidents is caused by drivers who enter a rolling right turn on a red light, potentially injuring cyclists, pedestrians and others. This type of accident is the cause of 6 percent of passenger deaths. By coming to a complete stop at a red light before making a right turn, this type of accident can be avoided.

Feds want to study truckers' commuting habits

Connecticut truck drivers may be interested in learning about a federal proposal that could force them to live closer to their jobs. The Federal Motor Carrier Administration wants to study the commuting habits of commercial truck drivers as it is worried about excessive commuting by truckers. The agency defines excessive commuting as more than 150 minutes of drive time between home and work.

As proposed, the survey would study the number and percentage of commercial truckers who commute long distances to work, if they cross any time zones, how this commuting impacts their fatigue on the road and carrier policies, if any, on commuting. The survey was mandated by highway legislation adopted in 2015.

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Mark H. Pearson, Attorney at Law
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