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Staying safe by driving without distractions

From smartphones and in-vehicle technology to everyday activities like eating and drinking, a driver can be distracted by a number of things while behind the wheel. Distracted driving crashes result in thousands of deaths every year in Arizona and across the U.S. with 3,166 fatalities reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2017. Avoiding distractions will reduce the risk for an accident.

The first thing drivers will want to strive for is zero phone use, even when the phone is a hands-free device. When they must call in an emergency, drivers should safely pull over before doing so. Next, drivers could consider limiting the number of passengers in their car to keep conversations from becoming too distracting. A third recommendation is to institute a no-eating policy in the car to prevent spills or arguments over food.

Worst states for senior car accidents

Senior care website The Senior List has compiled a list of the best and worst states when it comes to car crashes involving drivers 65 and older. Arizona residents should know that their state fell into neither the top 10 nor the bottom 10. All the same, it is important to know the danger that senior drivers can pose, especially if they choose to ignore the signs that they are unfit to be behind the wheel.

These signs can include experiencing diminished hearing and vision, having trouble keeping up with what people say, reacting slowly and having motor impairment. Seniors, understandably, can be reluctant to let go of the freedom that a license gives them. There are nearly 42 million seniors with a driver's license in the U.S., which comes to nearly a fifth of the total driving population. This represents a 60% jump compared to 1999.

Increased dangers feared if trucking regulations loosened

Drivers in Arizona may be concerned about an escalating risk of truck crashes if the rules that limit the number of hours truckers can remain behind the wheel are relaxed. Under current law, truck drivers can operate their vehicles for only 11 hours of each 14-hour shift. They also must spend 10 hours off duty before returning to their next shift. However, the Department of Transportation appears to be responding to demands by the trucking industry to increase the hours-of-service limits.

The Department of Transportation is reportedly planning to loosen the regulations even though fatal trucking crashes have gone up in recent years. In 2017 alone, there were 4,237 fatal accidents involving large trucks while there were 344,000 non-fatal injury crashes. This marked a 10% upswing from the 2016 numbers. Truck driver fatigue was noted as a serious concern with 60 of the drivers involved in fatal truck accidents recorded as fatigued or even asleep at the time of the crash. In addition, 83% of deadly trucking accidents took place in the 12-hour period between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. The National Transportation Safety Board also noted that it believes truck driver fatigue is often underreported.

NHTSA report estimates fewer traffic deaths in 2018

Arizona residents should know that 2015 and 2016 saw a spike in the number of motor vehicle crash fatalities: the highest, in fact, since the 1960s. It is a good thing, then, that 2017 and 2018 have both seen a decline in fatalities, slight though they may be. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 37,133 roadway fatalities in 2017: a 2% decrease from 2016. Now, it has predicted a similar dip in its 2018 preliminary report.

Specifically, it estimates 36,750 fatalities for that year: about a 1% decline from 2017. Again, the decline may seem slight, but it is good news considering what has come before. The overall level of road safety has also improved compared to the years prior to 2009. Yet there are still some relatively new trends that must continue to be addressed, such as drivers' distracting use of smartphones and in-vehicle technology.

Riding in the back may not be as safe as people think

Historically, the back of a car has been seen as safer than the front of a car to ride in. However, advances in car safety technology have largely focused on those who sit in the front. This is partially because it is easier to design features when those who sit in the driver and passenger seat are typically adults. Conversely, those who sit in the back may be adults or children.

In some cases, individuals may allow a pet to sit in the rear of the vehicle or use that space for their luggage. Research has shown that passengers are less likely to use a safety belt when they ride in the back of a vehicle. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that roughly 75% of those who sit in a rear seat buckle up. This is compared to 90% of individuals who ride in the front.

How to know if drowsy driving affects you

A lot of recent state driving campaigns have focused on the dangers of driving while intoxicated or high. However, there is another major danger on the roadways that does not get as much attention. Every day, hundreds of Arizona drivers operate vehicles while drowsy, and they pose a significant threat to other drivers and pedestrians. 

It only takes one person to start falling asleep behind the wheel to end up in an auto accident. All people need to be aware of how much sleep they have gotten and whether it will significantly affect them while driving. By being smarter drivers, everyone can do their part in reducing the number of car crashes in Arizona.

Defining negligence in motor vehicle accidents

When a motor vehicle accident happens in Arizona, it may be necessary to establish whether it is the result of negligence in a legal sense. Negligence as a legal concept rests on the assumption that the driver of a vehicle has an obligation to operate it in a way that is safe.

A number of different actions may constitute negligence. Driving above the speed limit is generally considered negligent, but a driver could also be negligent while driving under the speed limit. This might be the case in inclement weather when a driver needs to further reduce speed for safety. Similarly, cars need to leave more distance between other vehicles when roads are slick and visibility is poor. In general, drivers are supposed to obey all traffic laws. They should also remain aware of their surroundings, avoid distraction and stay in control of their vehicles. Failing to maintain certain features, such as brakes, could be negligent as could other behaviors, such as failing to wear needed glasses while driving.

Operation Safe Driver Week to target speeding truckers

In an effort to reduce speed-related truck accidents, law enforcement officers in Arizona and across the United States will soon participate in Operation Safe Driver Week, which is sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. The annual event, which is slated for July 14-20 this year, will target drivers of commercial and passenger vehicles who are speeding or committing other types of traffic violations.

Statistics from several agencies show that speeding is a significant problem on U.S. roads. For instance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that speed was a contributing factor in 94 percent of all motor vehicle accidents in 2015. Meanwhile, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that speeding was the top cause of driver-related accidents for both large commercial trucks and passenger vehicles in 2016. Finally, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute says that speed has played a role in more than 25 percent of traffic fatalities since 2008.

Volvo to add in-car cameras to monitor for drunk driving

By the early 2020s, all vehicles made by Volvo will include technology that can monitor drivers for signs of drunk or distracted driving and potentially intervene, according to an announcement by the company. The move is intended to reduce traffic-related injuries and deaths in Arizona and around the world.

According to data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10,874 Americans were killed in drunk driving accidents across the United States in 2017. In an effort to reduce those numbers, Volvo will start installing technology that uses onboard cameras and sensors to assess drivers' actions and determine if they are showing signs of impairment or distraction. For example, if a driver fails to steer a vehicle for extended periods of time, has his or her eyes closed, demonstrates very slow reaction times or weaves across traffic lanes, the vehicle will issue warning signals. If the driver fails to respond, the vehicle will slow down and find a safe place to park.

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