Articles Posted in Automobile Accidents

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car-harmed-300x199We recently posted a series about several motor vehicle technologies that are now, and will be in the future, helping to avoid accidents. These technologies provide information to drivers about potential dangers and can even control the vehicle to avoid a crash and injury. Some technologies are being developed based on the data that has been collected over the past decade about why car and truck crashes happen in the first place. There are varied circumstances that can be involved in a vehicle crash, and particularly a multiple vehicle crash. While we wait for these technologies to become more standard in our vehicles, we hope readers will be mindful of the things they can do to help avoid accidents.

The federal government has engaged in several studies to determine what happens just before a collision and to identify the critical reasons for motor vehicle collisions. In a large National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS) which took place over a two-year period, data was collected about factors leading up to collisions. The study looked at what the experts called the “critical reason” or the last link in the chain that results in a crash. The study was not assigning fault, but rather looking at the final snapshot before an accident. Many factors can lead to an accident and the “critical reason” is not the same as who is at fault for the event. Literally millions of incidents were studied and experts found that the critical reason or the final piece of the “crash causal chain” turned out to be what the driver did or did not do in response to the situation.

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In our last post, we shared innovations involving braking systems and how those systems can help avoid crashes. In this post we continue with tech innovations for motor vehicles with support systems that can help avoid rear-end and side-collisions. In most of these systems, the driver must still maintain control of the vehicle, but can get some assistance when a crash is imminent.

Our federal agencies, including the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) and vehicle manufacturers continue to be at the forefront of promoting technologies that will work to protect us while driving. From vehicle to vehicle communications to advance braking systems, these vehicle crash technologies are, and will continue to be, a part of our driving experience as technology integrates into our vehicles. This could not only lower the number of accidents we see every day, but help to save lives and avoid injuries. A few technologies are being tested now that are of great interest and provide promise for the future of motoring safety. From braking systems to video systems, we share some of the technologies that will be integrated into our cars and trucks now and in the future.

Forward Collision Systems, Lane Departure and Blind Spot Guides

Most drivers have experienced cars and trucks that follow too closely behind them. But what if drivers can be warned they are tailgating, a reminder that they are too close to the vehicle in front of them. This is how forward collision systems can help. Although the driver must maintain control of the vehicle, these systems can let the driver know that their speed is too high, they are too close to another car or truck in front or that a crash is about to happen. The driver still must do something to avoid the accident from happening. But both audible and video warnings could help.

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Tech Aids in Crash Avoidance 

Georgia drivers, get ready for big innovations in cars and trucks. Highway accidents are an everyday occurrence. We know that the vast majority of accidents, and the injuries that can result, are caused by driver choices or driver mistakes. In fact, statistics show that almost 95 percent of all accidents are caused by these human factors. So one of the big ways to avoid accidents is taking the human error out of the equation and letting technology help. Some of these technologies are a by-product of the driverless car research and others have been around for some time. In this two-part series, we will bring our readers some of the latest innovations that are available now and in the future.

New Braking Systems Anticipate Collisions

First up are braking systems that anticipate what is in front of the driver. These systems provide warnings to the driver that an accident is imminent. If the driver doesn’t brake sufficiently, the braking system will apply the brakes to avoid the accident. Some cars already having city braking systems that will stop a car before it hits another in front of it. This system warns the driver and then takes evasive action if there is no response or an inadequate response. The experts say these systems are still being made smarter and the technology will continue to develop. But one thing is fairly certain, eventually all vehicles will have some sort of warning braking system that is intended to avoid collision.

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iStock_000017099921XSmall-300x199Here in Atlanta we have had our share of big traffic news. The I-85 overpass bridge collapse this past March brought our city into the national headlines, but also brought it to a slower pace. Drivers maneuvered around the collapse using detours. The cooperation of drivers and efforts by the Georgia Department of Transportation led to the recent reopening of this part of I-85 in time for the Memorial Day holiday. At the recent ribbon cutting ceremony, Governor Deal and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and others celebrated the opening of the 700-foot section of our highway that caused so much disruption in Atlanta. The rebuild included the removal of millions of pounds of debris, The rebuild took an impressive 54,000 hours of human construction time.

Amidst “I survived” parties, we are all grateful to have this portion of Interstate 85 open to traffic. Weather cooperated as the rebuilding process went forward. Patience has its virtues and Atlantans pulled together to get through this big inconvenience. Safety in the rebuilding process was top of mind for the contractor in charge of the project. Many safety inspections later, we are all relieved that the collapse is now part of Atlanta history.

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iStock_000017099921XSmallAs the holiday season approaches, we want to focus on two important things: your family’s safety and the kindness in our country and how these sometimes merge together when we least expect it. Rather than focusing on our divides, we want to focus on what makes us great as a nation — our community spirit. We work very hard to bring information to our readers about vehicle safety and staying safe on our roads. We have written recently that some of the news is not good — our fatality rates are on the rise in America. When accidents do happen and injury occurs, we find ways to cope. One of those ways is to focus on the good things that happen every day in America and how we help one another.

One recent story has not only warmed our hearts, but is a testament to the kindness of our first responders. In Hall County, Georgia earlier this week, a story emerged about firefighters who calmed the fear of a child by singing to her. The story which first appeared on MyAtlantaMomsClub.com is now going viral. Earlier this month, a mom lost control of her car. After her vehicle struck a tree, her hand was severely injured and she was taken to the hospital by ambulance. Her autistic daughter was frightened and crying. Her daughter is not able to speak. The injured mom asked the firefighters to sing the children’s song Wheels on the Bus to her daughter. They did, for the entire 20 minutes on the way to the hospital. The mom said as long as they were singing and her child was not crying, she knew that her daughter would be ok. Stories like this of kindness and caring are important. They remind us that we need one another and at times of crisis, we often find the kindness we need in unexpected places.

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6d15d15970fbc3199681f82df666c287The federal government is preparing. Georgia Tech is preparing. When will Georgia and Atlanta see driverless cars on our roads and highways? The headlines are consistent: driverless cars seem to be inevitable. In our last post, we updated our readers on the guidelines published in September 2016 by the federal government on research areas and safety issues with driverless vehicles. Right here in Georgia, our renown Georgia Tech, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering is hard at work looking at what appears to inevitable — cars and trucks driving themselves. In other words, get ready Georgians, we may one day be sharing the road with robots … also known as autonomous cars and trucks.

The researchers at Georgia Tech are looking at the way our future roads will look. Despite the claims that driverless vehicles will make our roads safer, researchers are looking at many potentially problematic aspects of their widespread use. For example, the researchers are looking into whether autonomous vehicles could actually cause more traffic nightmares by disrupting traffic flow that could lead to surface-street bottlenecks. While research currently underway and while we believe a world with driverless vehicles as the norm is a while off, the first driverless truck delivered beer in Colorado this week. Yes, that’s right, a driverless truck delivering beer. Continue reading →

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6d15d15970fbc3199681f82df666c287The great driverless driving experiment is in full force now and is moving from experimental to reality. Driverless cars, or what the industry calls, autonomous cars, are headed to American roadways. There is no stopping this now. The prediction, as reported in TechCrunch, is that cars without drivers will be the norm by around 2020. This will no doubt begin to have a major impact on the way we commute and travel. Without drivers, not only will the consumer’s driving experience change, but the transportation industry will also be transformed. As dire predictions continue about loss of jobs due to technological advances, driverless vehicles will mean a loss of jobs. It will also bring other challenges.

Recently, the Department of Transportation and the National Economic Council issued a preliminary plan for regulating safety of these vehicles. The federal plans are meant to begin to set standards for regulating the technology of driverless cars. In addition to the need for companies developing this technology to share information with the DOT, the federal agency is putting safety as a priority.

Safety is top of mind for all of us … advocates of autonomous vehicles argue that the roads will be safer because human error is the cause of most vehicle crashes. It stands to reason that eliminating human error will make driving safer. But how much safer and the what ifs are a concern because we have seen major unprecedented recalls in the car manufacturing and related industries in the recent past. From failing airbags to ignition switches, the list is long and painful for those whose loved ones have lost their lives or been injured by technology that was supposed to keep them safer.

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candlesGwinnett County was the scene of a tragic car accident on 1-85 earlier this week. Dee Dowis, a Georgia native, respected NCAA player and Heisman Trophy finalist, lost his life when, in the early morning hours Monday, his vehicle was hit by another car. For some reason, he had pulled his vehicle into the center median and was driving in reverse, perhaps trying to move off the median. His car was then hit by a driver traveling in the opposite direction and lost his life at the scene of the accident. That driver was taken to the hospital, but apparently survived the impact to his vehicle. At this time there are no reports as to why Dowis’ vehicle had entered the median strip. And it is unlikely that the other driver will be charged by authorities for the accident as he was apparently driving in his lane of traffic when this tragedy occurred.

Dowis’ former coach had glowing words for a man who was sixth in the Heisman Trophy vote in his final year in college. The AJC reported that in recent years, this college star had been working as a pharmaceutical representative and was said by many to be beloved as a person and respected as a player. ESPN reported on his stellar career. As a quarterback he set a record for rushing yards that wasn’t touched for over a decade. As a gifted player, he also set many records in his senior year for passing, completions and rushing. Several coaches around the country not only praised his accomplishments on the playing field, they also praised his accomplishments in life. Calling him humble and kind, his loss is felt by his community and beyond.

What is the lesson of this very sad Georgia car accident? The National Safety Council (NSC) states that a preventable collision is one in which a driver does not take all steps possible to avoid it. The NSC provides defensive driving courses for drivers around the country. In this accident, the driver whose vehicle struck Mr. Dowis’ car may well have been driving within his own lane or he might have been stunned by suddenly seeing a vehicle in the median. If he was driving at an accelerated rate or over the speed limit, he may not have been able to avoid hitting the car in the median. We might never know whether this collision was preventable by the other driver slowing down or moving over to the right.

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car-1209912_960_720We have posted previously about Georgia’s cautious lead up to driverless vehicles. As technology moves forward, what are the possibilities that manufacturers will be held responsible if and when something goes wrong? If you are the driver of a vehicle that is being driven by a computer, and you are seriously or fatally injured in a car crash or you injure another person who will be held responsible? In a recent tragic situation, a man lost his life when his Tesla vehicle collided with a truck. The vehicle’s Autopilot system was engaged at the time of the accident. Autopilot is found in  certain Tesla vehicles. This technology assists drivers in steering and in maintaining their lane. This is called semi-autonomous technology because the vehicle is not completely driverless. Reuters reports that it has not found any current legal actions filed against Tesla for this crash, but it seems clear that eventually there will be litigation that involves this technology.

The federal government has opened an investigation regarding the Florida fatal crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into “the design and performance of any driving aids” that were being used when the crash occurred. If the technology is found to be unsafe, the feds could order a recall these vehicles. Some legal experts are suggesting that the Tesla vehicle itself may have gathered information that could defend its safety. Tesla does advise owners that it reserves the right to use vehicle data to defend itself in litigation. Whether the Tesla vehicle collected data that can help defend the car maker, remains to be seen.

The type of information that could help clarify the cause of an accident might be found in the car’s event data recorders (EDR’s). Car makers are looking more and more to use of high tech in their vehicles. But are these technologies safer? Or will they prove to be more dangerous that the old way of driving … with a driver who is controlling the vehicle continuously.

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iStock_000017099921XSmallTwenty years ago, we barely knew the phrase “road rage.” American drivers once were generally courteous and the normal thing to do when someone was changing lanes, getting into a parking space or passing, was to give that driver time and space. Many of us remember when basic driving “normal” did not include struggling to make simple moves on the road. The new normal includes the worry that someone might cut us off, tailgate or become enraged for our slightest move on the road. The new normal also turns out to be that more of us are becoming upset and angry behind the wheel — perhaps for good reason, as other drivers are less and less courteous. What we are noticing is actually happening. A new study tells us just how out of control Americans have become.

The study was completed by a source that knows a bit about American driving. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety issued this study last week and it is stunning. Only 20 percent of drivers say they did not become angry or upset behind the wheel this past year. We are tired, frustrated and impatient with congestion. In other words, 80 percent of us did experience some level of anger or aggression on the road. This behavior is bound to cause accident or injury … and it is increasing. Extreme road rage is less common, but it is also a reality. Ramming another vehicle or exiting a vehicle to confront the “offending” driver are considered to fall into the extreme category. As Americans work long hours, confront road congestion and deal with other stresses, we are more and more impatient. Other drivers behaving badly get us more and more angry and even the calmest of us, can react to it.

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