Category Archives: Highway Safety

Deer season creates road hazards

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Insurance Information Institute

Deer season—which usually runs from October through December—can be a dangerous time for motorists. During this period, deer are moving frequently and often cross over dangerous areas, like highways and other heavily-trafficked areas.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are more than 1.5 million accidents related to deer every year, which result in over $1 billion in vehicle damages. And these accidents aren’t merely expensive: 211 people died in collisions with animals in 2017.

Indeed, between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019 one out of every 116 drivers had an insurance claim from hitting an animal, according to State Farm. These claims were most likely in West Virginia, with one in 38 people making an insurance claim based on this kind of accident.

With this in mind, it’s important to take precautions when driving during this period of the year. Deer often travel in groups, so it’s vital to slow down with even one deer on the side of the road. Additionally, try to brake instead of swerving if faced with a crash. Above all, be alert—there’s no substitute for prudence during deer season.

The Insurance Information Institute has Facts & Statistics on deer vehicle collisions here.

Boise, Idaho has the nation’s safest drivers, according to Allstate city rankings

It’s no wonder that Boise, Idaho is one of the nation’s fastest growing cities: It boasts a thriving job market, breathtaking natural vistas and a buzzing brewery scene. Boise can also claim to have the nation’s safest drivers. According to Allstate’s America’s Best Drivers Report, released earlier this year, the average driver in the U.S. will experience a collision every 10.7 years, compared to every 13.7 years in Boise.

Allstate standardizes their rankings to level the playing field between drivers in densely populated areas and those in smaller cities. Allstate also determines safe cities to drive in by how weather affects road conditions, utilizing data to standardize average annual precipitation. However, many factors contribute to car crashes, including the number of cars on the road.

“Things like the layout of a city, its transportation network, traffic signs and lights, and law enforcement can all impact driving safety,” said Saat Alety, Allstate’s Director of Federal Legislative and Regulatory Affairs. “Different levels and types of traffic, noise, activity and varying road conditions and rules can make big-city driving different than driving in smaller or more suburban areas.”

The cities that landed on the bottom of the list are Los Angeles, Glendale, Worcester, Boston, Washington D.C. and Baltimore. In cities that rank lowest in safest drivers, there are roads that have been identified in the reports as particularly treacherous.

“America’s infrastructure is in dire need of an overhaul,” Alety said.

Allstate is offering $150,000 in grants that can be used for safety improvement projects on the 15 “Risky Roads.” The company is working with local safety experts to determine which projects will have a positive effect for motorists driving on these crash-prone streets.

“When you consider the impact a daily commute has on a person, it’s not hard to imagine how one small traffic improvement can be a positive change for many,” Alety added. “Our grants signal Allstate’s commitment to reduce risky conditions on America’s roads in communities across the country, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. We need Congress to pass comprehensive infrastructure reform so we can rebuild a transportation network that ensures a safer future on the roads for everyone.”

 

 

Memorial Day weekend road safety tips

The Memorial Day weekend brings masses of holiday travelers out on the road, and that unfortunately means more accidents. One recent study found that Memorial Day is the deadliest of all holidays, with drivers and passengers four times as likely to die in a traffic accident over the holiday weekend as over a regular weekend. And while these grim statistics should not dissuade you from traveling by car this weekend, here are some driving safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t drive if you’re drunk or high; that’s a no-brainer. But also ask yourself if you are tired, sick or drowsy. If you’re impaired in any way, do not hit the road.
  • Make sure your car is in good condition. Are you up-to-date on maintenance, are your tires inflated properly and does your windshield give you a clear view?
  • Practice defensive, safe driving tactics including: buckling your seatbelt; stay aware of other drivers; maintain a safe distance from the car in front of you; and observe speed limits and traffic signals.
  • Be ready to focus on driving.  Distracted driving accounts for an increasing number of crashes.  Whether it’s talking to passengers, switching radio stations or texting, anything that takes your concentration from the task at hand can lead to an accident.
  • Be prepared. What is the weather like? Is a storm likely? Do you have emergency supplies in the car like water, a first-aid kit, flashlight, blanket, map and a roadside safety kit? Here is a checklist of items you should keep in your car.

Have a safe holiday weekend, all!

 

What will legal marijuana mean for Canada’s road safety?

don’t drive stoned.

As you’ve probably heard, recreational marijuana will be legal across Canada come October 17, 2018. Will stoned driving increase? Will this lead to more accidents and fatalities?

We can’t divine the future, of course.  But perhaps we can learn something from the past. Did roads become more dangerous after states began legalizing recreational pot in the U.S.?

The short answer: probably, to some degree.

  • The more stoned a driver is, the more likely she is to be involved in an accident. Motor and cognitive skills are important for safe driving. Getting stoned makes both these skills worse – and the more stoned a person is, the more these skills deteriorate.
  • The number of “THC-positive” drivers on the road increased after legalization. In Washington state, at least. There’s evidence that the percentage of stoned drivers went up noticeably after the state legalized recreational pot.
  • Fatal crashes involving drivers who tested positive for THC increased. Some studies indicate that more people with “detectible” levels of THC in their bloodstreams were involved in fatal accidents after legalization.
  • Collision claim frequency appears to have increased. Early analysis suggests that states with legal marijuana have higher rates of car collisions than they would have had without legalization.

There is an important caveat to all this. You’d think that figuring out when someone is stoned would be easy. It’s not. Unlike alcohol, measuring marijuana impairment is complicated. THC can remain in a user’s bloodstream for days, even weeks, after getting high. Having THC in her bloodstream at the site of an accident does not automatically mean a driver was stoned at the time of a crash.

To make matters worse, to what degree marijuana impacts one person’s driving skills is also not so clear-cut as you’d think. Marijuana impacts different people differently. Researchers are currently trying to figure out how to account for things like THC tolerance when they measure how much marijuana increases crash risks.

But despite these complications, most evidence suggests that stoned driving is a bad idea – it endangers the driver, passengers, and other drivers. For this reason, Canadian provinces have begun revising their impaired driving laws to come down harder on stoned driving.

So what does this mean for road safety in Canada? It’s still too early to tell, but marijuana legalization in the U.S. should serve as a warning.

Teen crash risk spikes in first 3 months after getting license

Teen drivers are a lot more likely to get into a car crash or near crash during the first three months after getting a driver’s license, compared to the previous three months with a learner’s permit.

A new study, led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that teens were eight times more likely to have a crash or near crash during this period, and four times more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as rapid acceleration, sudden braking and hard turns.

Teens with learner’s permits drove more safely, with their crash/near crash and risky driving rates akin to those of adults.

“During the learner’s permit period, parents are present, so there are some skills that teenagers cannot learn until they are on their own,” said Pnina Gershon, Ph.D., the study’s lead author. “We need a better understanding of how to help teenagers learn safe driving skills when parents or other adults are not present.”

The I.I.I. has a backgrounder on teen drivers here.

44% of Drivers Killed in Crashes Test Positive for Drugs, Study Shows

Evidence continues to pour in about the increase in drug use by drivers.

From behind The Wall Street Journal paywall:

Drug tests of car drivers killed in crashes in 2016 found more drivers had marijuana, opioids or other substances in their system than a decade ago, a report shows.

The report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway-safety offices, found that 44% of drivers who died and were tested had positive results for drugs in 2016, up from 28% in 2006.

By contrast, the percentage of fatally injured drivers who were tested fell slightly. In 2016 37.9 percent of all drivers with known test results were alcohol-positive, compared with 41.0 percent a decade earlier.

Marijuana was the most commonly detected drug; 38 percent of those testing positive had marijuana in their system. Sixteen percent tested positive for opioids. Another 4 percent had marijuana and opioids. (The rest tested positive for other drugs.)

The report calls for a series of actions to combat driving while under the influence of opioids and alcohol, including:

  • Adding drug-impaired driving messages to impaired-driving campaigns.
  • Training patrol officers to spot impaired drivers and Drug Recognition Experts (remember there is no commonly accepted breath test for drugs other than alcohol).
  • Monitoring the development of marijuana breath test instruments.

Reminder: Highway Loss Data Institute research shows that states that legalized recreational marijuana sales see a significant increase in accident rates. And here at Triple-I we have presentations discussing the science of driving while high as well as the disconnect between what people know (don’t ride with a high driver) and what they do (too often they say they will).

Update: A webinar discussing the report will be held on June 5 at 1 p.m. EDT. Register at bit.ly/GHSA-DUIDwebinar.

Are SUV’s causing the crisis of pedestrian fatalities?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a study yesterday examining the sudden and precipitous increase in pedestrian fatalities in the past seven years. Pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. have risen by 46 percent since 2009. Approximately 6,000 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles on or along the nation’s roads in 2016, the latest year for which data is available. The rate of increase is far greater than those for all other traffic-related deaths.

The study looked at pedestrian crash trends to identify the circumstances under which the largest increases occurred. Roadway, environmental, personal and vehicle factors were examined to see how they changed over the study period.

One of the factors leading to more pedestrian deaths, is the increasing presence of SUVs on roads in the U.S. The number of SUVs involved in single-vehicle pedestrian deaths increased 81 percent between 2009 and 2016.

SUVs and other light trucks and vans provide more protection to their occupants, but increase the risk of severely injuring or killing pedestrians in an impact when compared with cars. Changes in the front-end design of these vehicles would help reduce the severity of pedestrian injuries in an impact.

Other improvements the report recommends include: adding safe and convenient crossing locations to roads, reducing speed limits, and improved headlights and street lights.

 

Fatal crashes increase 12 percent on National Weed Day

Marijuana retailers are expected to see a spike in sales on this 4/20 National Weed Day, but on a less high note, car crashes are also expected to increase today. A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that traffic fatalities were 12 percent more likely on April 20 after 4:20 pm, the time the  celebration traditionally begins, than on the same day one week before or one week after.

The marijuana related increase in accidents has not yet been perceived by most Americans.  A new survey by Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), found that over two thirds of Americans (68 percent) see no difference in road safety on April 20.

National Weed Day is particularly dangerous for young people according to the JAMA study. Fatal crashes were 38 percent more likely for drivers under the age of 21 years old. But the PCI survey found that over 50 percent of parents with teenagers at home said they have not spoken to their children about the dangers of driving high in the days leading up to April 20.

Americans rank marijuana use at near the bottom of potentially dangerous driving activity, the PCI poll found. However, 70 percent think the government should establish driving impairment standards for marijuana, and the same percentage support a field sobriety test for law enforcement to determine marijuana use.

The I.I.I.’s chief actuary, James Lynch gave a talk on public attitudes towards driving while high. The presentation can be found here.

 

Distracted Driving Tops List of Road Safety Concerns

By Brent Carris, Research Assistant, Insurance Information Institute

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and according to a new AAA survey, more people than ever are aware of the danger distracted drivers pose on the road.

The AAA Traffic Safety Culture Index, found that most drivers (87.5 percent) believe that distracted driving has outpaced all other traffic related issues as a growing safety concern. It was followed by traffic congestion at 74.5 percent and aggressive drivers at 68.1 percent. Distracted driving has been amplified by the rapid increase of cellphone usage in the car. Most drivers (96.8 percent) view texting or emailing while driving as a serious threat – however, in the past 30 days, 44.9 percent of drivers read a text message or email while driving.

The AAA survey reveals that people in the United States value safe travel and perceive unsafe driving practices as a serious threat to personal safety. However, despite these strongly held concerns, many individuals admit engaging in unsafe driving practices, demonstrating a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.

Risky/aggressive driving, drowsy driving, and impaired driving are also a growing concern. More than half of drivers (54.9 percent) believe that drugs pose a significantly bigger problem today than in the past three years; while about 43.4 percent believe that drunk driving is either a much bigger problem today or a somewhat bigger problem today than three years ago. Most respondents supported required alcohol-ignition interlocks for drivers convicted of a DWI.

More than one-in-five drivers or 21.4 percent report having been in a motor vehicle crash in which at least one party involved was hospitalized. Between 2006 and 2015, almost 58 million crashes occurred on U.S. highways, resulting in 355,562 fatalities and an estimated 23.5 million injuries.

 

A new report sheds light on increasing auto loss costs

In the second half of 2013 personal auto insurers began noticing an increase in auto collision losses. Crash rates had been falling for more than 25 years due to improvements in safety awareness, technology and enforcement, and the reasons for the sudden uptick were subject to much speculation.

In response, the Casualty Actuarial Society, the Society of Actuaries and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America joined forces to analyze these trends.  The product is a paper containing some of the findings around collision frequency. Further analysis is being conducted on frequency trends for other coverages and for severity.

Findings include:

  • Increase in congestion, as measured by drivers per lane mile and commute times among others, positively correlates to collision frequency.
  • Mobile broadband access (used as a proxy for the likelihood that a driver may have a mobile device while driving) appears to have no impact on collision frequency.
  • The system (no-fault vs. tort) doesn’t appear to impact the expected collision frequency, but has a big impact on the variance of the frequency.

The group’s goal is to provide an analytical basis for discussing and understanding auto insurance loss cost drivers that ultimately affect premiums. Subsequent reports are expected to be released.

Source: Auto Loss Costs Trends Report, January 2018