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New Haven Connecticut Personal Injury Law Blog

New tech may be linked to rise in distracted driving

Smartphones, built-in infotainment systems and automated features are changing the way people in Connecticut drive, so it's no wonder that distracted driving is such a widespread issue. At the same time, the number of fatal car accidents is going up, and though the two trends have not been definitely linked, they are clearly not coincidental.

The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that 37,150 people died on America's roads in 2017. This is a more than 10 percent increase from 2014. On the other side, numerous studies have shown just how prevalent distracted driving is. Nauto, a maker of smart cameras for vehicle fleets, has been collecting data on road incidents and found that, over a single four-month period, 67 percent of severe collisions were caused by distracted driving.

CVSA's Brake Safety Week scheduled for September

Commercial truck drivers in Connecticut should know that inspectors nationwide will be out enforcing brake safety guidelines from September 16 to 22. This is part of Brake Safety Week, an annual event held by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance as a way to ensure that truck drivers routinely inspect and maintain their brakes.

Few things are more dangerous to public safety on the roadways than defective truck brakes. Bad brakes can, for example, decrease braking efficiency. During last year's brake inspection spree (which was pared down from one week to one day), 14 percent of truck drivers who were stopped were put out of service for brake violations. During the annual International Roadcheck, a three-day CVSA inspection spree, brake violations usually top the list of out-of-service violations.

Trucker fatigue the focus of annual roadcheck

From June 5 to 7, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance held the International Roadcheck where traffic safety organizations and police officers across the nation ramped up enforcement of bus and commercial truck safety guidelines. Drivers in Connecticut, even if they don't operate buses or trucks, may want to know what the most common safety violations were.

While the numbers are still unclear for 2018, data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows that there were 33,000 violations of hours-of-service regulations last year. In other words, those truckers were found working over the prescribed 14-hour limit for each day. This was the number one offense; however, it only accounted for 33 percent of the citations issued in 2017.

Truck injury and fatality accidents increased in 2016

In Connecticut, accidents that involve large trucks have the potential to be especially catastrophic. A recent report by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows that these types of accidents increased in 2016 over the number of truck accidents that occurred in 2015.

According to the FMCSA, the number of fatal large truck crashes increased from 4,074 in 2015 that killed 4,094 people to 4,213 in 2016 that killed 4,317 people. Large truck accidents that resulted in injuries increased from 83,000 accidents that injured 116,000 people in 2015 to 104,000 accidents that injured 145,000 people in 2016. A majority of the fatal large truck crashes happened in rural areas at 61 percent.

Using technology to prevent distracted driving truck accidents

Distracted driving accidents in Connecticut and around the country are often blamed on cellphone use or the sophisticated entertainment and navigation systems offered by many auto manufacturers, but studies suggest that a disturbing number of motorists crash while lost in thought. Accidents involving distracted drivers are especially dangerous when commercial vehicles weighing up to 40 tons are involved, but technology is being developed by several fleet management firms to reduce these risks.

In addition to watching truck drivers for signs of distraction or fatigue, these systems use hours of service data and work schedules to identify drivers that may be a danger to other road users. They are also extremely sophisticated. A driver monitoring system being developed by a Texas-based fleet management company that evaluates risks based on more than 1,000 different variables.

Safety group looks to eliminate traffic deaths entirely

The Road to Zero coalition believes that traffic deaths can be completely eliminated by the year 2050. While the safety advocacy group acknowledges that this sounds like an ambitious goal, it offers several ways to make Connecticut roads safer. Among the recommendations in its April 22 report is an increased effort on seat belt compliance.

Currently, 90 percent of drivers wear their seat belts. Of those who die in traffic fatalities, however, half are not buckled up. Simply reaching 100 percent in seat belt compliance could make a big difference.

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.


Mark H. Pearson, Attorney at Law
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