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New Haven Connecticut Personal Injury Law Blog

CVSA: Operation Safe Driver Week scheduled for July

Passenger vehicle and truck drivers in Connecticut should know about Operation Safe Driver Week, an annual event held by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. It is a period of increased enforcement of traffic laws, and it affects all drivers in North America. Drivers caught engaging in dangerous behaviors will be issued a warning or citation.

This year, the event will be held from July 14 to 20, and its special focus will be on speeding. Speeding is a factor in 94% of traffic crashes, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found back in 2015. NHTSA also found that in 2017, speeding contributed to 26% of traffic fatalities, or a total of 9,717 deaths.

Drivers distracted by phones even when they know it is wrong

Connecticut residents may have heard that the way to reduce distracted driving is to better educate people about the risks and better enforce the laws surrounding it. However, an online study from Wakefield Research, a market research firm, involving nearly 2,000 drivers across the nation shows that ignorance is not really the issue.

Almost half of the survey respondents said that distracted driving was what they worried about the most while on the road, and 99% even named phone use as among the main three driver distractions. However, individuals admitted to using their phones behind the wheel for about 13 minutes each day. Even after spotting law enforcement in the area, approximately two out of every five respondents said they didn't put down their phones.

Volvo hopes new safety technology will reduce drunk driving

Connecticut drivers may be able to purchase Volvos with additional safety features starting in the early 2020s. The company says it hopes to focus its safety efforts on avoiding accidents instead of mitigating the effects of a crash after it happens.

Volvo's new in-car safety technology will monitor drivers with cameras and sensors to detect signs of drunk or distracted driving. The system will note whether drivers are weaving from one lane to another or if they close their eyes. It will also monitor whether the driver has a very slow reaction time or has not touched the steering wheel for a long period.

Why Americans drive while distracted

The 2019 Travelers Risk Index asked over 2,000 people about their driving habits. Among the takeaways from the survey were that nearly 80 percent of consumers who responded said that they talk on the phone while driving. Furthermore, 30 percent admitted that they had nearly been in an accident because they were distracted. While distracted driving can be dangerous in Connecticut and across the U.S., many respondents said that they would have a hard time putting the phone down while driving.

In some cases, individuals didn't feel like they had a choice in the matter. For instance, some said that their bosses would be upset if they missed a call or weren't available after work. Others said that they didn't want to miss a call if an emergency happened after they left for the day. Another common reason for using a phone while driving is that it offered a chance to be productive.

NHTSA still hasn't taken action to prevent truck crashes

Connecticut motorists may be concerned to learn that more than 4,100 people were killed in large truck accidents on U.S. roads in 2017, which represents a 28 percent increase over 2009. Of those deaths, 68 percent were the occupants of passenger vehicles, 14 percent were motorcyclists, bicyclists or pedestrians and 17 percent were truck occupants.

According to truck safety advocates, many large truck crashes are rear-end collisions that could be prevented if certain federal regulations were enacted. Instead, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is accused of ignoring repeated recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board to enact such regulations.At least 10 times over the last three decades, the NTSB has asked the NHTSA to mandate forward crash avoidance and mitigation systems on all large trucks, but the agency has failed to take any action.

Safety advocates urge more truck regulations

For many drivers in Connecticut, the threat of a truck accident can be particularly chilling. Drivers and passengers of smaller vehicles face significantly higher risks in a crash involving a semi-truck or 18-wheeler; they are far more likely to face severe injuries or even fatalities. Therefore, safety advocates are urging Congress to pass new legislation that could toughen safety regulations for large trucks on American highways. Road Safe America and the Truck Safety Coalition are seeking a mandate for all heavy trucks to use speed limiters and automatic emergency braking.

According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, trucks that did not use speed limiters were 200 percent more likely to have a crash at highway speeds than those who did use the limiting devices. However, advocates say that the Department of Transportation has failed to take action on proposed regulations for over a decade, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. They said that rulemaking proposals that would address these issues have been stalled throughout that time. In addition, they argued that automatic emergency braking systems could stop over 2,500 truck accidents every year.

How to handle the aftermath of a car accident

Most Connecticut readers do everything they can to drive safely and avoid car crashes. However, accidents still happen and knowing what to do in the moments following a collision can be very important for insurance claims and any potential legal action.

The first thing that drivers should do after a crash is take a deep breath and try to remain calm. A level-headed mindset will make it easier to help others and gather the information needed by insurance agents, police officers and lawyers. Next, drivers should call 911 and see if anyone is in need of medical assistance. If it is safe to leave the damaged vehicles where they are, drivers should do so. However, if it's unsafe, it's best to move the vehicles to the side of the street.

A surprising increase in big rig accidents

Connecticut residents may be interested in federal data showing that in 44 states, there was an increase in big rig truck crash deaths between 2009 and 2017. This means that only six states saw a decrease in accidents of this type.

Between 2009 and 2017, more than 35,880 people died in accidents involving large trucks. Some believe that many of the deaths could have been avoided if technology designed to limit speeding or employ emergency braking had been required by law. By way of comparison, according to statistics for the period between 2009 and 2016, the number of miles that truck drivers were on the road decreased when compared to previous figures. This gives extra weight to the increase that was seen in large truck accidents during the same time.

Drowsy driving, and how to avoid it

Connecticut drivers who often find themselves drowsy behind the wheel should consider the danger that they pose. Drowsy driving, after all, is responsible for many auto accidents every year. Sleep deprivation, in its effect, is similar to alcohol. Going without sleep for 24 hours is like having a blood alcohol content of .10, well above the legal limit.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people should sleep at least seven hours every night. Those who feel drowsy even after achieving this minimum may have a sleep disorder like obstructive sleep apnea. People who take medications like sleep aids, antidepressants, antihistamines and muscle relaxers are also at a greater risk for drowsiness. A doctor could adjust their regimen, such as by changing the timing of each dose.

Concerns arise over livestock haulers' safety exemptions

Commercial truckers in Connecticut, as elsewhere in the U.S., were mandated back in December 2017 to install electronic logging devices on their trucks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration instituted this move as a way to reduce fatigue-related accidents and save money on paperwork. From that time to Sept. 30, 2018, livestock haulers had a temporary exemption from the ELD mandate.

This is just one of several exemptions that the FMCSA implemented for livestock haulers, largely through the influence of agricultural industry representatives like the National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. These representatives have, for example, fought against certain mandatory breaks, pointing out what that can mean with livestock in the back of the truck.


Mark H. Pearson, Attorney at Law
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