In this Blog category you will find articles about motor vehicle accidents and how to avoid them. Personal Injury suits and insurance claims may require the help of an attorney. A good lawyer can protect your rights under the law.
The recent ban on texting while driving hasn’t eliminated all driver distractions. A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that In-Vehicle Information Systems (IVIS) requiring touch screen and voice interaction are just as distracting, increasing the risk of crashes.
The features of vehicle infotainment systems have expanded, opening up more tasks accessible to motorists while driving. Many of these features are unrelated to driving and divert the eyes and attention of drivers from the road and their hands from the steering wheel, causing them to miss stop signs, pedestrians, and other vehicles.
In 2017, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, formerly known as the American Automobile Association, commissioned the University of Utah to study vehicle infotainment systems, to find the most demanding task, compare the demand required for voice commands vs touchpads, and determine whether the demand varies between makes and models.
Four types of tasks were evaluated in the study, using different modes of interaction:
- Calling or dialing
- Text messaging
- Tuning the radio
- Programming navigation
The study found navigation to be the most demanding task, taking a driver’s eyes off the road for more than 40 seconds to set and navigate the system, and suggested that drivers set the system before beginning a trip and use it only when absolutely necessary.
Depending on the available features, each vehicle offered up to three modes of interaction, including:
- Voice commands
- Center stack display
- Controls in the center console
Although all methods of interacting with an infotainment system were distracting, using the touch screen and knobs and buttons built into the dashboard was less demanding than using voice commands, which was less demanding than using writing pads and dials in the center console.
Two similar studies in 2015 at the University of Utah commissioned by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that, although voice-commands resulted in lower levels of visual demand than touch commands, interaction times were longer, taking up to 27 seconds to regain full attention after issuing voice commands, the time that it takes to cover the length of three football fields traveling at 25 mph.
“The voice-command technology isn’t ready,” said Joel Cooper, a University of Utah research assistant professor of psychology and co-author of the 2015 studies. “It’s in the cars and is billed as a safe alternative to manual interactions with your car, but the voice systems simply don’t
Beginning October first, Oregonians can expect police to pay closer attention to their habits behind the wheel. On that day, the state’s new, fortified distracted driving law will have taken effect. The new law makes it easier for distracted drivers to get pulled over by police, who can now issue citations to anyone holding any electronic device. The new law seeks to address gaping loopholes in the old law, which let people use their digital devices for everything except talking and texting. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce instances of auto accidents caused by distracted driving.
Distracted Driving More Dangerous than DUII?
While tough DUI laws across all 50 states have caused the DUI accident and fatality rates to go down, weak or no laws targeting distracted driving have allowed the rate of distracted driving accidents and fatalities to climb. As technology becomes ever more enthralling and commutes ever more drudging, our inclination to use technology as a distraction strengthens. As a result, more people than ever are driving distractedly by using technology at times that make them a hazard to be on the road.
Distracted driving often manifests in the form of texting while driving, which some claim is as or more dangerous than drunk driving. From 2002 to 2014, drunk driving fatalities dropped by 25%. This decline can be attributed to an increase in awareness of the dangers of drunk driving as well as tough penalties for DUI. In the same time frame, however, fatalities caused by distracted driving accidents shot up from 2,600 deaths in 2002 to 3,331 in 2011.
How does Oregon’s New Law Protect Drivers?
Under Oregon’s old cell phone law, drivers could not communicate via cell phone. As it turned out, it was difficult for cops to know just when someone was texting or placing a call when they saw a driver holding a phone.
At one point, an officer stopped a woman who was using her phone behind the wheel. He smelled alcohol and suspected she was under the influence. He then conducted field sobriety tests and arrested her for DUII. An Oregon Court of Appeals judge ruled that since the officer didn’t see the woman physically communicating on her phone, he did not have probable cause to make the stop. Thus, all the evidence obtained from the stop was suppressed. This made it difficult for police to enforce
New research data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicates that lane departure warning systems lower rates of single-vehicle, sideswipe, and head-on crashes of all severities by 11 percent and lower the rate of injury crashes of the same type by 21 percent. While encouraging, several limitations currently exist preventing this life-saving technology from reaching its full potential.
The latest data in this ongoing study, led by IIHS vice president for research Jennifer Cicchino, is based on 2015 police crash reports, which includes information on the circumstances of the crash, allowing researchers to examine the types of crashes that lane departure warning systems are designed to prevent.
“This is the first evidence that lane departure warning is working to prevent crashes of passenger vehicles on U.S. roads,” said Cicchino. “Given the large number of fatal crashes that involve unintentional lane departures, technology aimed at preventing them has the potential to save a lot of lives.”
A 2015 study of lane departure warning on trucks in U.S. fleets found lane departure warning systems cut the rate of relevant crashes nearly in half, a reduction greater than the new data. A similar study of Volvo cars in Sweden found a reduction of relevant injury crashes of 53 percent.
AAA believes that lane departure warning could totally eliminate almost 50 percent of all head-on collisions. Why hasn’t current test data shown those results? Greg Brannon, the Automobile Association of America’s director of automotive engineering, called IIHS’ studies “encouraging,” but said that drivers need to understand the limitations as well as the capabilities of the safety technology in their vehicle.
Limitations within Lane Departure Warning Technology
There are two types of lane departure warning systems, activated by unintended lane departure:
- Lane departure warning systems (LDW) which give the driver visual, audible, and/or vibrating warnings when the vehicle is leaving its lane
- Lane keeping systems (LKS) which automatically take steps to ensure the vehicle stays in its lane
Lane warning and lane keeping systems are based on:
- Video sensors mounted behind the windshield, typically beside the rear mirror
- Laser sensors mounted on the front of the vehicle
- Infrared sensors mounted either behind the windshield or under the vehicle
Because they rely on visible lane markings, lane departure warning systems typically cannot decipher faded, missing, or incorrect lane markings or markings covered in snow or obscured by rain or excessive glare from the sun.
Few Vehicles on the Road with Lane Departure Warning Systems
In 2000, the United States company Iteris developed the first lane departure warning system in Europe for Mercedes Actros commercial trucks.
In 2002, the Iteris system became available on Freightliner Truck’s North American vehicles. With this system, the driver is warned of unintentional lane departure by an audible rumble strip sound on the side of the vehicle drifting out of the lane, but the warning is not generated if the driver gives an active turn signal before crossing the lane.
Honda was the first U.S. passenger vehicle automaker to introduce this feature, with its Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS) on the 2003 Inspire.
Nissan followed in 2004 with its Infiniti FX and in 2005 on the M vehicles, which issues a warning tone to alert the driver when the vehicle begins to drift over lane markings.
Also in 2004, Toyota added a Lane Keeping Assist feature to the Crown Majesta, which applies a small counter-steering force to aid in keeping the vehicle in its lane.
In 2006, Lexus introduced a multi-mode Lane Keeping Assist system on the LS 460. The LS 460’s LKA system issues an audiovisual warning, steers the vehicle to hold its lane, and applies counter-steering torque to ensure the driver does not over-correct the steering wheel while attempting to return the vehicle to its proper lane.
Audi began offering its Audi Lane Assist feature in 2007 on the Q7. This system will not intervene, but will vibrate the electric power-steering system when it detects an unintended lane departure. The electric power-steering system will then introduce a gentle torque that will help guide the driver back toward the center of the lane. However, a driver engaging the turn signal or accidently leaving it on will prevent the Lane Assist feature from functioning.
IMPORTANT SAFETY RECALL…
The defect in these vehicles could kill or injure you or other people in your vehicle.
Tens of millions of drivers around the country have received alarming safety recall notices clearly stating how defective airbag inflators under pressure could cause the airbags to rupture and kill them. From owners of reliable Asian brands to owners of luxury European machines, almost no one is safe from these ticking time bombs. The recalls started showing up in people’s mailboxes back in 2008, with Honda issuing the first round for four thousand 2001 Honda and Civic models. Since then, recalls have continued expanding, affecting over a quarter of all vehicles on U.S. roads.
Over 42 million vehicles across 34 manufacturers have been fitted with faulty airbags since as early as 2004, killing 12 and injuring over 200 in the U.S. alone. From Honda to Ferrari, drivers still have no way of knowing if the airbags in their vehicles might be waiting to burst. Currently, just 35% of affected vehicles have had their inflators replaced. The full scope of the recall could take until 2023 to complete.
Japanese auto supplier Takata Corp lies at the heart of history’s greatest auto recall. The company is hanging by a thread, having just recently filed for reorganization bankruptcy for debts of over $9 billion. It also plans to sell a vast portion of its operations that have not been affected by the scandal to Chinese-owned Key Safety Systems Inc. for $1.6 billion. With nearly worthless shares, the company faces its downfall in its third generation of operation.
Takata Timeline of Events
Four thousand Honda Accord and Civic models recalled from the year 2001.
In 2009, two women were killed by the airbags of their 2001 Honda Accords, one in Oklahoma and one in Virginia. The family of Gurjit Rathore of Virginia sued Takata and Honda for $75 million, claiming the companies were aware of safety issues since 2004. A $3 million settlement was reached in 2013.
Honda again expanded recalls.
In April, Honda recalled 896,000 Honda and Acura models from 2001-2003 to discover faulty airbag inflators were used as replacement parts. The recall was again expanded in December.
Although Portland is now the 26th largest city in the U.S., its traffic has quickly outpaced that. A comprehensive study on traffic patterns released by INRIX Inc. places Portland at #12 on a list of the nation’s top 15 cities with the worst traffic congestion. INRIX, a leader in transportation analytics, studied over one thousand cities across 38 countries for the largest traffic congestion study ever conducted. The study looked at 240 cities in the United States, which was deemed the most congested developed country in the world.
It wasn’t INRIX’s first study on global traffic patterns, but it was the first study in which the company performed an economic analysis to include figures showing the direct and indirect costs of congestion. The analysis estimated the total cost to the average driver in a city and the total cost to the city population. Direct costs were considered to be paid by the driver through wasted time and fuel while indirect costs took into account the increased costs to businesses that are then passed onto the consumer through higher prices. At #12, Portland drivers spent an average of $1,358 and lost 47 hours to congestion in just one year. The city lost $1 billion.
Why is there so much traffic?
The study cites “a stable U.S. economy, continued urbanization of major cities, and factors such as employment growth and low gas prices” for reasons that traffic continues to rise. In Portland, the combination of population growth, a robust economy, and cheap gas is a toxic formula.
These days, nearly every hour is considered “rush hour” on the city’s most populated freeways. If you’ve been noticing your daily commute getting longer, it’s not your imagination. With more jobs and more money to buy cars to drive to those jobs, and more freight traffic, there are certainly many more cars on the road slowing you down. Overall, nine key bottlenecks in the Portland metro area conspire to make your daily commute just a little more excruciating, one day at a time.
Portland’s Major Bottlenecks
#9: I-205 SB. Interstate 205 going southbound resembles a parking lot between the hours of 2:30 and 6pm, particularly the 5.3-mile stretch between the Glenn Jackson
After over two years of planning, negotiating, and compromise, the Oregon State legislature has finally passed a transportation bill that will provide funding for needed repairs and upgrades to Oregon’s highway infrastructure and statewide expansion of transit.
Earlier Funding Proposal Lacked Bipartisan Support
In June 2015, Oregon lawmakers revealed a transportation package that would have given new funding each year of $205 million for state and local roads and seismic upgrades to earthquake-vulnerable bridges. Also included in the package was funding for mass transit (not light rail) and bicycle and pedestrian paths.
Funding would have been provided through increased taxes and fees, with a 4-cent per gallon increase in the gas tax, flat fees for new vehicle registration, driver license, and vehicle registration, and a new income tax for transit projects that would have been placed on people who work in Portland and Eugene transit districts.
Oregonians may have accepted increases in taxes and fees for needed highway infrastructure repairs and upgrades, but Republican lawmakers refused to consider a transportation plan that would not repeal the Clean Fuels Bill that Governor Kate Brown had signed into law in March 2015. Environmental groups were unhappy that the carbon reduction plan developed over seven years would be replaced with one written by the Western States Petroleum Association. The transportation package failed to get bipartisan support, and the Clean Fuels Bill remained intact.
Oregon Lawmakers Try Again with a New Transportation Funding Bill
After a year of visioning and public hearings, in February 2017 a House and Senate panel revealed a new transportation funding package that would provide $5 billion a year for transportation work, to fund roads, bridges, and public transit, without listing specific projects that would be funded. The work could be paid for by gas tax hike, highway tolls, or lottery revenue.
In May 2017, the panel presented an $8 billion transportation package with more details to Oregon legislators and the public, with funding coming in over the next decade from increased taxes and fees. Added to a .06 percent higher gas tax, to increase another .02 every other year through 2026, were higher registration fees on vehicles with higher-than-average fuel efficiency, because those drivers pay less in fuel taxes than other drivers. There would also be taxes on new and used car sales and bicycles, a state-wide payroll tax increase of 0.1 percent starting
Nationwide, distracted drivers account for one in ten traffic fatalities and 18 percent of traffic injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Because one life lost is one too many, neighboring Washington and Oregon states have recently expanded their distracted driving laws banning cellphone use.
Washington Adds Any Mobile Electronic Device to its Distracted Driving Law
Beginning July 23, 2017, those driving in Washington who are caught reading, writing, or viewing messages, pictures and data on any handheld electronic device, even while stopped at a red light, stop sign, or in stop-and-go traffic can be ticketed.
A decade ago, Washington was the first state with a texting ban. Following a 30 percent increase in distracted driving fatalities in the state between 2014 and 2015, the Washington State House in May approved expanding its “Driving under the Influence of Electronics” law with a 46-13 vote, which bans holding a cellphone or other electronic device while driving or stopped in traffic. After a 21-8 vote of approval in the Senate, the bill returned to the House for concurrence with Senate amendments.
Before, drivers in Washington could only be ticketed for texting and holding a phone to their ear. Now use of any mobile electronic device while driving, except to call 911 or emergency services, is considered a primary offense, subject to a fine of $136 for the first offense and $234 for the second. The violation will then be reported to the driver’s insurance company and will appear on the driver’s record. During the first several months, Washington State Highway Patrol will issue only warnings to educate motorists.
Eating, smoking and grooming, or anything that is not driving will also be a secondary offense (“Driving dangerously distracted”), subject to an extra fine of $99. Drivers engaged in those distracting behaviors will not be stopped unless, at the time, they were committing a separate primary offense, such as speeding or failing to signal.
If you think the law is too strict, think about this: texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 5 seconds, enough time to drive the entire length of a football field at 55 miles per hour while blind-folded.
Oregon’s Driving under the Influence of Electronics Law to Be Enacted in October
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) sees traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving as an epidemic. According to a report from ODOT’s Distracted Driving Task Force, in Oregon a crash caused by distracted driving occurs approximately every three hours. Between 2011 and 2015, distracted drivers caused 8,951 crashes in Oregon that resulted in 54 deaths, with fourteen of those deaths related to the use of a cellphone.
With those grim statistics in mind, in May 2017 the Oregon legislature passed 46-13 “Driving under the Influence of Electronics “ law House bill 2597, imposing a fine of up to $2000 for using a “mobile electronic device” while driving. Fines for a first offense could total $1000, but could be erased if drivers take a state-approved distracted driving avoidance class at their own expense. Following offenses, or a first offense that causes a traffic collision, would result in higher fines that could not be waived. In June 2017, the Senate passed the bill with a 21-8 vote, and sent it back to the House for concurrence with revisions, to be enacted on October 1.
“Portland’s long history of transportation innovation is about to enter a new chapter. My Goal is to have an autonomous vehicle pilot program in Portland, working for Portlanders, by the end of the year. To the inventors, investors, and innovators, I’m here to say that Portland is open for business.” — Mayor Ted Wheeler, Portland Business Alliance April Forum Breakfast.
Anticipating a future in which driverless cars are commonly used to facilitate transportation, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has long been a proponent of getting Portland to adapt to the oncoming technology in its initial stages. His goal of attracting automakers to the city to test their driverless vehicles has overcome significant hurdles and is picking up steam.
On April 19th, the mayor and City Commissioner Dan Saltzman announced the Smart Autonomous Vehicles Initiative (SAVI). The initiative authorized PBOT to develop self-driving vehicle policies and seek proposals from automakers that would like to test these vehicles on the city’s road system.
City officials see the many potential advantages the technology can bring to advance Portland’s transportation goals, including Vision Zero’s arduous quest to eliminate all traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2025. City Council voted unanimously to move forward with the pilot program to attract companies looking to further the technology by testing on public roads.
The Smart Autonomous Vehicle Initiative
SAVI contains four elements that are working in harmony to advance Portland’s top transportation goals. They include:
- A proposition for City Council and the general public to review that includes policies that confirm that autonomous vehicles will serve the city’s safety, equity, climate, and economic goals.
- Publishing a Request for Information that invites autonomous vehicle (AV) testing to advance stated goals.
- Adopting an Interim Administrative Rule that allows AV engineers to apply to test, pilot, or deploy AVs in Portland.
- Getting Portlanders involved in shaping new road rules for AVs.
We are now in the fourth phase of the initiative, as PBOT has invited Portland residents to review its Draft Autonomous Vehicles policy. So, whether you welcome the idea of driverless vehicles taking over the roads or are hesitant to give up the wheel, it seems inevitable that
What driver hasn’t impatiently waited to make a left-hand turn, while anxiously anticipating a quick dash between two oncoming cars? It’s a dangerous move that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says is involved in 61 percent of crashes that take place while turning.
A study by New York’s transportation planners also concluded that left-hand turns were three times as likely to kill pedestrians as right-hand turns, and 36 percent of fatal accidents involving a motorcycle involve a left-hand turn in front of the motorcycle.
Even when there is a left-turn lane and traffic signal, if your judgement is off or visibility is poor you are risking a collision. AAA advises drivers to signal a left-hand turn at least 150 feet in advance of the intersection, and yield the right of way to other traffic. To safely complete a left-hand turn, you must consider:
- The speed of oncoming traffic
- The time involved to complete the turn before the light changes
- Whether or not there are other vehicles, bicycles, motorcycles or pedestrians in the path
Whenever possible, it is always better to avoid a left-hand turn by using a different route.
UPS Finds a Way to Eliminate Left-Hand Turns
While considering the danger of left-hand turns, United Parcel Service also was concerned about the time its drivers spent at each left-hand turn intersection. Because idling and waiting to turn left takes time and uses fuel, in 2004 UPS began to require that its drivers avoid turning left whenever possible.
The company later added to its trucks an onboard GPS navigation system called ORION (On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation), that tells drivers the best route to take using right turns. By choosing driver routes that minimize and sometimes eliminate left-hand turns, UPS has been able to save millions of gallons of fuel and decrease driver time in making deliveries.
How do UPS drivers do it? Instead of waiting to make a left turn, a driver continues ahead to the next intersection, turns right, and then makes two more right turns around the block, using the traffic light to go straight across the intersection. While some left-hand turns are unavoidable or not always necessary, such as in residential neighborhoods where traffic is low, when possible this maneuver can help any driver avoid accidents, while saving time and fuel.
Left-hand Turns on and off Highways Are Especially Dangerous
Higher speed limits on many highways across Central and Eastern Oregon went into effect in 2016, pushing the maximum allowable speed limit to 65 mph on U.S. Highway 20, which was a contributing factor in this accident.
On March 24, 2017, Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a report of a fatal two-vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 20E in Brothers, Oregon. An investigation of the accident revealed that a 2005 Nissan Altima, while traveling westbound, was struck by an eastbound 2010 Toyota Rav4 attempting to make a left-hand turn into the Brothers Rest Area. The Toyota’s front passenger side corner impacted the front of the Nissan, causing extensive damage. One of the passengers suffered fatal injuries as a result of the collision.
Diverging Diamond Interchange Replaces Left-hand Turns
In 2009, the State of Missouri constructed the first Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI), also called the Double Crossover Diamond Interchange (DCD) to solve the problem of dangerous freeway left-hand turns. Since then, more than 80 have been built in the U.S. Due to its safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, the DDI has become a popular choice for upgrades to high volume intersections.
A traditional left-turn intersection uses a 3-phase traffic signal with a separate left turn phase and 26 points of conflict between vehicles. With a Diverging Diamond Interchange, through traffic and left turns happen at the same time, eliminating the need for a separate left turn phase, and reducing conflict points to 14, to reduce collisions by 50% and minimize their severity.
A DDI is more efficient with fewer signal cycles and less chance for conflict and accidents because it allows for free-flowing movements that aren’t conflicting with other traffic movements. One direction moves at a time, clearing out all the traffic, while avoiding wait time for a left-turn signal.
Allstate recently released its latest America’s Best Drivers Report and by the looks of it, Portland drivers are getting worse. Allstate reviews its own claim data to rank cities according to various factors that depict their driving abilities. Last year, Portland ranked at the very top — of the very last page — at #181.
The report analyzes the average number of years that take place between insurance claims, the relative claim likelihood, how many hard braking events occurred within 1,000 miles, and also accounts for each city’s rank after controlling for the population density and average annual precipitation. The report also contrasts each city’s suburban metro area to depict how much time passes, on average, between accident claims in traditionally less congested areas. In Portland, the average driver goes just 6.5 years between accident claims. The national average is 10 years. Portland suburbs also rise above the national average, with 8.6 years between claims.
Portland has been steadily dropping in the rankings since 2010 when the city placed at 113th.
How Allstate Collects Data
Allstate’s report is based on collision frequency and evaluates data collected from its own archive of claims. The report also includes data collected by special sensors installed in many of their drivers’ cars that detect the movement of the vehicle. Allstate customers agree to install these devices in exchange for an insurance discount. These devices detected a high rate of hard braking events among Portland drivers. Hard braking events are strong predictors of collisions.
When a hard brake event occurs, a rapidly-moving vehicle experiences a drastic decrease in speed. At times, the vehicle’s anti-lock braking system is activated. Hard brakes often occur when there is significant congestion on the roads but can happen at any time a driver is distracted or following the vehicle ahead too closely. These events are also common on wet roads and are almost always a reaction to an unexpected situation.
“Lead Foot” Syndrome
Allstate and Progressive regularly use data from devices that monitor their customers’ driving habits in order to reward them for good driving. Progressive releases their own annual report evaluating how long it really takes drivers to come to a complete stop. Their first