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Texas Has Fastest Highways in America – Alaska, D.C. the Slowest

Most states pick up the pace.

by on Aug.25, 2014

Texas opened the country's fastest highway, a stretch of toll road from Austin to San Antonio, in 2012..

While U.S. motorists don’t have an Autobahn, with its lack of speed limits, there’s been a significant increase in the allowable pace in much of the country since the national 55 mph restriction was lifted nearly two decades ago.

Despite the objections of safety advocates, Texas now has both the single fastest highway in the country — a toll road with an 85 mph speed limit – as well as the fastest average allowable speeds when you factor in all its various limited-access roads. Those drivers looking to get somewhere fast might steer clear of the District of Columbia and Alaska, however, the two states having the nation’s lowest top and average speeds, according to a new study by the Governors Highway Safety Association, or GHSA.

Fast Track!

Those two states have become the exception, rather than the rule, more and more allowing drivers to put the pedal to the metal. In fact, four states now have top speeds of at least 80 mph, with another dozen pushing their limits up to 75.


Death-Free Highways Have Become a Real Possibility

New study will show it is already starting to happen.

by on Aug.22, 2014

Volvo's near AstaZero safety proving grounds.

With the opening of its new proving grounds in western Sweden, the Volvo Car Group says it is moving “a step closer” to its goal of having no one killed or seriously injured in one of its cars by 2020.

Not long ago, such claims might have seemed the stuff of fantasy, or worse, cynical over-promise. While there’s no question that, in the U.S., highway fatalities have fallen nearly 40% from their peak, more than 30,000 Americans are still being killed each year. Nonetheless, we may very well be approaching an era when the highway death toll sinks to zero, industry experts believe.

The Last Word!

A sign of that possibility will come with the release of a new study next month by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety which will show a record number of vehicles experienced no deaths during the four-year study period from 2009 through the end of 2012.

“It’s a tall order,” says IIHS Senior Vice President Russ Rader, “But the goal is definitely feasible. We’re already seeing this happen.”


Pedestrian Deaths Drop Sharply

Reverses recent upward trend.

by on Mar.05, 2014

Efforts to reduce pedestrian deaths are working as the number in 2013 dropped. Honda's pedestrian detection system is one more attempt to improve safety.

The number of pedestrians killed on U.S. roads dropped sharply during the first half of 2013, according to a new report, reversing a three-year upward trend.

The decline was a notable 8.7%, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, or GHSA, for a total of 1,985 pedestrians killed in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. By comparison, 2,175 were killed during the first half of 2012. After dipping between 2006 and 2009, pedestrian fatalities had risen by 15% between 2010 and 2012.

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“The preliminary findings are good news, but it’s too soon to celebrate,” said Kendell Poole, GHSA chairman and director of the Tennessee Office of Highway Safety. “With distraction an increasing issue for both pedestrians and motorists, pedestrian safety continues to be a priority in many areas of the country.” (more…)

Daimler Debuts Alert System for Wrong-Way Drivers

Will be introduced on new Mercedes S- and E-Class models.

by on Feb.06, 2013

The new system will alert a driver who might be entering a one-way street or highway heading the wrong way.

Head-on collisions are often among the most deadly highway accidents, and some of the most tragic involve vehicles that inadvertently get on a freeway or one-way street heading the wrong direction.

But a new system developed by Daimler AG could alert drivers who’re heading the wrong way. The technology is planned to debut on the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class and E-Class models later this year.

“’There’s a vehicle driving the wrong way on the A1, the A2, the A5, the A46…’ – over the last three months, this type of report has been worrying Germany almost weekly,” observed Thomas Weber, member of the Daimler board of management responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.

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During this short period, he noted, “more than 25 people died through no fault of their own because they collided with a vehicle travelling the wrong way on motorways or dual carriageways” in Germany alone. And the situation has been repeated in the U.S., Britain, China and just about everywhere else.


DOT Launches Largest Test of “Connected” Cars

Goal of reducing crashes, easing highway congestion.

by on Aug.21, 2012

"Connected" cars travel down the highway.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, or UMTRI, are getting ready to launch the largest experiment ever involving connected vehicles that use wireless signals to talk to one another in an effort to improve highway safety while also easing traffic.

The first-of-its-kind, large-scale experiment will test a Wi-Fi-like technology that allows vehicles and highway infrastructure to communicate with each other. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, such technology could help prevent as many as three out of every four highway deaths.

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UMTRI will conduct the year-long project in Ann Arbor, Michigan where nearly 3,000 cars, trucks and buses equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication devices will “talk” to each other and to highway infrastructure systems.


Highway Deaths Plummet to 60-Year Low

Technology, better drunk driving enforcement play role.

by on Sep.10, 2010

Government data reveals another sharp decline in highway fatalities.

Whether you credit cracking down on drunk drivers, the use of new technology or simply better-behaved drivers, highway fatalities have fallen to a half-century low, according to newly-released government data.

Any way you look at the numbers they’re good news.  Total roadway deaths plunged 9.7%, last year, to 33,808, compared with 37,423 fatalities in 2008.  The latest figures, according to the Department of Transportation, are the lowest since 1950.  The highway death rate peaked in 1988 at 47,087.

And it’s significant to note that there were a lot fewer drivers on the road, six decades ago, clocking far fewer miles each year.  Significantly, the 2009 DoT data show the highway death rate dipped to just 1.13 per 100 million miles driven. That’s down from 1.26 in 2009.

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The news was received with a mix of optimism and caution.  Consider it a “landmark achievement,” proclaimed Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, but he went on to stress “We have a long way to travel” before achieving a goal laid out by the government – and a small but growing number of automakers – to achieve zero highway deaths.


Feds May Step Up Auto Safety Efforts – But Buyers Could Face New Fees

Congressional proposal would charge $9 per new car to bankroll program.

by on Apr.30, 2010

The recall of millions of Toyota products, plus evidence the maker concealed problems from federal regulators, is likely to result in the expansion of NHTSA's power to order recalls.

The recent rash of recalls at Toyota has federal regulators and lawmakers racing to find ways to improve safety oversight, and a new proposal could stick buyers, rather than consumers, in general, with the costs of the expanded effort.

A new draft bill, sponsored by Congressmen Henry Waxman and Bobby Rush, would reform existing safety measures among other things requiring that automakers begin equipping their vehicles with event data recorders, or EDRs, similar to the so-called black boxes used on commercial aircraft.  Along with a similar measure introduced in the Senate, the draft legislation would increase the size and powers of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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NHTSA has come under fire, in recent months, for getting too cozy with carmakers, Toyota in particular.  A document leaked from a Congressional committee, last February, showed Toyota officials celebrating a successful effort to convince the Washington-based safety agency to downsize a recall related to the maker’s products – saving Toyota hundreds of millions of dollars.

The proposal by Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rush, head of a subcommittee overseeing NHTSA, would also raise the funds for the additional manpower and resources required – by charging new car buyers a fee that would start at $3 and climb to $9 by the third year of the new law.  At that figure, that would amount to about .03% of the price for the typical vehicle sold in the U.S.

This year, most analysts expect to see the American auto market rebound slightly from last year’s low to about 11 million new cars, trucks and crossovers.  Most expect that figure to grow only slightly in the coming years, but would still generate at least $100 million in new fees.  Under the proposals, NHTSA would see its budget doubled to $100 million, next year, and increased to $280 million by 2013.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, an outspoken Democrat from West Virginia, is sponsoring a Senate measure that would step up NHTSA oversight – and give the agency more power to order a recall where it perceives “an imminent hazard of death or injury.”

Currently, the recall process can stretch out – sometimes for a year or more — as regulators and automakers debate the merits of a potential safety problem.  NHTSA chief David Strickland said the process “needs to be much faster” than the current system.

It’s clear that the Toyota safety scandal is a significant factor in the debate over expanded auto safety regulations.  Though most makers now equip their vehicles with some form of black box, the Japanese maker has repeatedly denied it can use its own system to help investigators understand the surge in complaints about “runaway” vehicles.

(Toyota empowers independent panel to study its safety problems. Click Here.)

Future EDRs would provide extensive information about what was happening in a vehicle before, during and immediately after a crash.

Earlier this month, Toyota agreed to pay a $16.4 million fine for failing to notify NHTSA of a problem with sticky accelerators in the timely manner required by law.  That is a record penalty, but it was also the maximum fine under current law – and Congress may lift that cap, which would mean a similar infraction could cost a maker $13.8 billion.

Executives would also face stiff penalties for giving false or misleading statements on safety-related matters.

Such steps as the removal of the penalty cap could trigger some significant lobbying by the auto industry, though even many Republicans appear willing to make a bipartisan effort to enhance auto safety at a time when it has wide public support.  Meanwhile, the black box proposal is expected to make it into any final bill, what with GM, among key automakers, lending the idea its backing.

National Academy of Sciences and NASA to Study Unintended Acceleration Issues for DOT

Secretary LaHood launches two “major” investigations on a relatively rare but troublesome and controversial safety issue.

by on Mar.30, 2010

What on earth is going on with those Toyotas?

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced two investigations designed to answer questions surrounding the issue of unintended vehicle acceleration.

LaHood also asked the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General to assess whether the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation conducted an “adequate review” of complaints of alleged unintended acceleration reported to NHTSA from 2002 to the present.

The ongoing controversy of the problem in Toyota and other vehicles have led to numerous charges from critics that NHTSA is underfunded and improperly staffed to deal with safety matters. It appears particularly weak in the area of electronic controls and systems, as automakers continue to expand rapidly their use in all vehicles.

There are also charges that former NHTSA employees working for Toyota  prevented thorough investigations and delayed safety recalls.

The independent National Academy of Sciences will examine the subject of unintended acceleration and electronic vehicle controls across the entire automotive industry. A panel of experts will review industry and government efforts to identify possible sources of unintended acceleration, including electronic vehicle controls, human error, mechanical failure and interference with accelerator systems. The study is expected to take 15 months. See The Case for “Black Box” Electronic Data Recorders

NAS experts will look at software, computer hardware design, electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic interference. The panel will make recommendations to NHTSA on how its rulemaking, research and defect investigation activities may help ensure the safety of electronic control systems in motor vehicles.

NASA Specifically on Toyota Issues


Separately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT’s vehicle safety agency, has enlisted NASA engineers with expertise in areas such as computer controlled electronic systems, electromagnetic interference and software integrity to help tackle the issue of unintended vehicle acceleration in Toyotas.   At least 52 deaths are allegedly the result of  the well-publicized problems and an ongoing series of recalls for Lexus and Toyota models. (more…)

The Case for “Black Box” Electronic Data Recorders

Roadway safety boils down to just two real issues: what caused the crash, and how to correct the problem? EDRs can help.

by on Mar.15, 2010

Auto accident fatalities are heading downward, and EDRs can help move them toward zero.

More than 50 years ago, the director of a Florida police academy told me the entire rationale for police traffic enforcement was supposed to be safety and only safety. Enforcement should be keyed to specific “accident” causes.

Nevertheless, as any motorist can attest, almost universally the object of traffic enforcement at the local level  always has been revenue enhancement, with rare exceptions and sometimes harassment, which takes several forms, including DWB or driving while black.

Thought Provoking!

This practice flies in the face of the responsibilities of the public safety officials charged with reducing crashes and their resulting injuries and deaths.

At the local level, these are the police accident investigators, whether beat cops or specially trained crash experts.

At the national level since 1970, this has been the mission of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is currently enmeshed in a controversy about its effectiveness arising from its handling of Toyota pedal entrapment and unintended acceleration matters, where as many as 60 fatalities are alleged. (Click Here for: Is NHTSA Underfunded?) (more…)

Gems in the Death Stats

Data show sizable decline in 2008 traffic deaths, as America drives less, cracks down on DUIs.

by on Apr.01, 2009

While there are still too many fatalities on American highways, the 2008 numbers contained some surprises and some good news.

While there are still too many fatalities on American highways, the 2008 numbers contained some surprises and some good news.

It’s all still preliminary, but there’s significant news in some  details dribbling out here and there about 2008 highway deaths.

As reported in TheDetroitBureau on March 13, estimates of traffic deaths last  year based on records through October indicate a significant decline  nationwide in both total deaths and the rate of deaths per 100,000  vehicle miles traveled.

Some interesting details are emerging as individual states report  separately from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  (NHTSA).   The Governors Highway Safety Association surveyed its  members in January and got responses from 44 states and the District of Columbia.  The organization revealed that only four states – Vermont, Wyoming, New Hampshire and Delaware – reported increases in highway deaths in 2008.