December 11, 2023
By some accounts, driving today is safer than ever before because of new technology and improved driver attitudes and behaviors. According to the National Safety Council, the mileage-death rate since 1923 has decreased 92 percent, to 1.46 deaths per 100 million miles driven.
But an anomalous uptick in fatalities over the past several years serves as a reminder that driving still is one of the more dangerous everyday things we do, more likely to kill us than falling or choking on a sandwich. In 2021, almost 43,000 people died in roadway crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s more than 2020’s near-39,000 fatalities, which were more than 2019’s 36,096.
The spike in fatalities may be related to a rise in distracted driving, and the tank-like size and build of many newer SUVs and pickup trucks. Speed can affect the severity of an accident. A pedestrian has a 10 percent chance of dying when hit by a car at 23 mph, a 25 percent chance at 32 mph, and a 75 percent chance at 50 mph.
Many traffic accidents are caused by human error. Just how many is a matter of debate; some say 94 percent are a driver’s fault while others argue that many accidents attributed to human error are caused by poor road or vehicle design.
There’s little disagreement, however, that enough crashes are caused by human error to expect that technology designed to correct driver mistakes can, and ultimately will, prevent many crashes.
How advanced is safety technology?
The science of safety is nothing new. Swedish engineer Nils Bohlin debuted his three-point seatbelt in Volvos in 1959.
The first safety improvement after that was unexciting compared to 21st century driver-assistance technology: manufacturers switched to weaving seatbelts out of polyester when nylon proved stretchy and wear prone. But the attention to detail evident in the quest for a tougher seatbelt led to restraints that today can handle the stress of up to 6,000 pounds and foretold in a sense the pageant of safety advances we continue to see.
After seatbelts came airbags. Then came adaptive cruise control, safety glass, lane-departure warning systems, automatic braking, and many other advances. Driver-assistance technology has made tremendous strides and is still making them.
Today’s motorists are protected by a range of features, including some capable of correcting for the kinds of human error that figured into many of 2020’s 39,000 motor-vehicle fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driver-assistance technology saves thousands of motorists every year, and this is only the beginning.
Critics of cruise control say it can make drivers complacent and unalert. Others say that cruise control can help drivers stay alert.
To understand this debate, you must understand what cruise control is. Generally speaking, it allows the driver to set and maintain a certain speed without having to keep a foot on the pedal. While some motorists may find using cruise control makes driving easier and less tiring and thereby keeps their minds sharp, others may feel it frees them to focus on other things, which can lead to distracted driving.
When using cruise control, motorists must stay attentive to driving, focus on the road, and keep their hands on the steering wheel. They must also be aware of the speed limit and notice when it changes. And they must promptly adjust to changing traffic patterns and road or weather conditions.
Used correctly, cruise control is helpful, especially on long drives. But a driver must constantly be aware of the issues that can arise when the feature is engaged.
According to some reports, most drivers spend less than one percent of their time driving in reverse, yet may car collision happen when backing up.
Advancements in technology and safety features may reduce the number of accidents that happen while a motorist is backing up, but the maneuver will likely remain a safety concern in the future.
Unsafe driving practices are to blame for many backing accidents. Long truck beds can limit rear vision, and auto bodies themselves can sometimes block drivers’ views, preventing them from seeing other vehicles, pedestrians, coworkers, or obstacles. New York drivers must always follow the Vehicle and Traffic Law, which provides, among other things, that the driver of a vehicle “shall not back the same unless such movement can be made with safety and without interfering with other traffic” and such driver “shall not back the same upon any shoulder or roadway of any controlled access highway.”
This is one of many Vehicle and Traffic Laws that apply when a New York motorist tries to back up. In its driver’s manual, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles provides helpful information about how to “back up” when parallel parking, considered by some to be one of the more difficult maneuvers. In fact, the DMV says that “many motorists consider parallel parking the most difficult part of driving.”
When backing into the spot, the second step in the process, the DMV instructs that a parallel-parking driver should look behind over both shoulders to make sure that the driver will not interfere with pedestrians or oncoming traffic, then “[b]ack the vehicle slowly and begin to turn the steering wheel completely toward the near cub.” Then the driver should “look through the rear window, not the mirrors, when you back up” and “look to the side and front occasionally to make sure you will not touch the vehicle ahead,” according to the DMV.
The driver’s manual is an excellent resource for those looking to review driving practices. Another great resource is New York’s Point & Insurance Reduction Program, which includes approved courses that can help to refresh driving knowledge.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that back-over/backup accidents are responsible for injuring or killing people every year in the United States. Tragically, some fatalities involve children struck by vehicles backing out of driveways. Syracuse also has its fair share of injuries and fatalities due to drivers neglecting to look behind their vehicles before backing up.
Sometimes, backing-up accidents in Syracuse involve one car backing into another, which can result in property damage. In cases where the driver of the car is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the damage caused can be more than just property damage, especially if the driver is backing up at a high rate of speed.
Safe drivers tend to look out for obstacles and potential accident situations. The vast majority of drivers manage to avoid any real problems and get home safely. But there are some drivers who come across dangers that are not very common at all. Some common street features can become dangerous to even the most careful drivers.
Loose manhole covers
Manholes are used by a variety of city departments to cover access to features such as underground phone lines, sewers, and underground water lines. Manhole covers are thick, metal discs that cover the manholes and safely allow traffic to pass. A manhole can become loose due to the vibration of traffic. It can be left open by a forgetful work crew. When a car hits a loose or unsecured manhole cover, it can result in a very serious car accident.
Sunken manholes and drains
When cities install storm drains or manholes, they are generally supposed to make those features flush with the street. But sometimes a manhole or drain winds up several inches below street level. An improperly placed manhole cover can create a danger for drivers. It can be very frustrating for a driver to be trapped in their lane by traffic on both sides as they drive straight at a manhole below street level. It can be even more frustrating when that driver tries to avoid the sunken manhole and winds up driving through a sunken storm drain instead.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) drunk driving claims one person’s life approximately every 39 minutes—which adds up to 13,000 lives lost in a given year. These incidents are preventable but still happen. Motorists decide to get behind the wheel while drunk and cause serious accidents with other motorists, motorcycle riders, and pedestrians.
There are no excuses for drunk driving, which can have severe consequences and endanger others’ lives on the road. Keep reading to learn more about why drunk driving leads to devastating motor vehicle accidents.
Drunk driving and impairment
Drunk driving causes accidents because of alcohol’s effect on the function of the brain. Alcohol can impair thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination, which are necessary to safely operate a motor vehicle.
As a result of alcohol impairment, motorists may make mistakes that they would not otherwise, including speeding, failing to obey traffic laws, not using turn signals or headlights at night, or failing to see pedestrians in crossing areas.
Types of drunk-driving accidents
Drunk driving can contribute to several different types of crashes, including rear-end accidents, T-bone accidents, head-on collisions, and vehicle rollovers. Alcohol impairment can also combine with other road hazards to increase the risk of a motor vehicle accident. For instance, a drunk driver traveling in inclement weather (such as rain, snow, and ice) may fail to take safety precautions and drive recklessly.
Drivers of passenger cars, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, and even bicycles can cause drunk driving accidents.
Alcohol impairment is a leading factor in accidents that result in pedestrian deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017 49 percent of accidents resulting in a pedestrian death involved alcohol for the driver and/or the pedestrian.
What happens after a drunk-driving accident?
After a drunk driving accident, law enforcement may administer a field sobriety test to the driver who is presumed to be alcohol impaired. A field sobriety test, which may include a breathalyzer, helps determine a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) and intoxication level.
Drunk drivers can cause injury to others on the road, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists. Because of the danger of drinking and driving, those who choose to drink and drive can face various consequences, including punitive damages.
If a drunk driver has injured you, you may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering. Contact an accident attorney as soon as possible to get started on your case.
Fatigued driving poses a risk of danger on our roads. A fatigued driver can cause a severe accident, roll off the road, and cause injuries to themselves and others. That is because fatigue can reduce driver alertness. If you have been injured in a car accident caused by a fatigued or drowsy driver, William Mattar, P.C., can help.
How fatigue affects driver alertness
Fatigue can affect alertness, our reaction times, and the ability to respond to a dangerous situation on the road. It can also result in the driver losing consciousness altogether while behind the wheel.
Driver fatigue has effects like driving drunk. A driver who’s slept only four or five hours instead of the recommended seven is estimated to pose the same crash risk as one with a blood-alcohol level of .08, the legal limit in New York, according to a study performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
What can cause driver fatigue?
Driver fatigue can be caused by anything that makes you exhausted or sleepy. Not enough sleep one night, or insufficient sleep several days in a row, can cause more than just weariness, and the driver could potentially fall asleep at the wheel. Exhausting daily activities, whether strenuous physical activity or recent emotional upset, can also potentially cause driver drowsiness on the road.
How to avoid drowsy driving
Life is challenging and schedules can be tight. Motorists, however, can potentially reduce the risk of driver fatigue by taking certain steps.
Maintain sleep quality
According to the CDC, sleepiness can affect driving because it makes the motorist less attentive, slows reaction time, and can affect a driver’s ability to make decisions. Under these circumstances, motorists should try to get sufficient sleep to ensure maximum alertness when behind the wheel. Interestingly, the NHTSA says that “sleep fragmentation” and “circadian factors” can also contribute to roadway drowsiness. Sleep fragmentation refers to “fragmented sleep patterns” that can result from noise, children, lights, or job-related duties.
Don’t drive drowsy
Motorists should also be on the lookout for signs of drowsiness. The CDC says that warning signs of drowsy driving include yawning or blinking frequently, difficulty remembering earlier parts of the ride, missing an exit, striking a rumble strip, and drifting from the lane. Motorists who show any of these warning signs are at an increased risk of drowsy driving, and even loss of consciousness.
Safety is always the right choice
Drowsy driving is dangerous driving. Motorists should never get behind the wheel when at risk because it puts others at risk. It is always better to make the safe choice than risk falling asleep at the wheel or even being fatigued and reaction-delayed if an accident-causing situation occurs.
Hurt in a car? Call William Mattar, P.C..
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by a fatigued or drowsy driver, William Mattar, P.C. would be honored to review your case to see if we can help. Please do not hesitate to contact our offices any time.