Category Archives: Highway Safety

Deer-Vehicle Collisions by State

For the second year in a row a State Farm study of annual deer claims has found that the vehicles most likely to collide with deer are in West Virginia. State Farm estimates the chance of a West Virginia vehicle colliding with a deer in the next 12 months at 1 in 45. That’s roughly two times greater than the possibility that you will be audited by the Internal Revenue Service in 2009 and 1,100 times greater than your chance of winning a state lottery grand prize if you buy one ticket per day for the next year, according to State Farm. Michigan (1 in 78) remains second on the list of states where deer-vehicle collisions are most frequent, followed by Pennsylvania (1 in 97), Iowa (1 in 105) and Arkansas (1 in 108). The state in which deer-vehicle collisions are least likely is still Hawaii (1 in 10,962). The average property damage cost of these incidents was just over $2,950, up 2.5 percent from a year ago. State Farm used its deer claims data from the last half of 2007 and the first half of 2008 and motor vehicle registration counts by state from the Federal Highway Administration. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that there are more than 1.6 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in over $3.6 billion in vehicle damage. Check out I.I.I. tips for avoiding deer-related collisions.  

Texting Risk

The dangers of text-messaging while driving a vehicle, at work, even crossing the street are making the headlines both in the U.S. and overseas. A September 19, 2008 New York Times article by Jennifer Steinhauer and Laura M Holson, focuses on the danger texting can pose by distracting users. The issue has been receiving widespread attention following the September 12 train collision in California that left 25 dead. Last week the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed it is investigating how text messaging by the Metrolink train’s engineer may have affected his operation of the train.

Meanwhile, new research conducted by the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory for the Royal Automobile Club Foundation has found that texting behind the wheel impairs driving skills more than being drunk or high. Reaction times deteriorated by over one-third (35 percent). This was worse than alcohol at the legal limit (12 percent slower) and driving under the influence of cannabis (21 percent slower). In addition, drivers drifted out of their lane more often, with steering control 91 percent worse, compared to 35 percent worse when under the influence of cannabis. The ability to maintain a safe following distance also fell. Despite the danger, 48 percent of UK drivers aged 18-24 admit to using short message services (SMS) while driving. Check out I.I.I. information on auto crashes.

Traffic Safety Update

Latest crash statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) highlight two contrasting tales. The good news is that safer vehicles and aggressive law enforcement appear to be paying off, with the overall number of traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2007 declining by 3.9 percent to 41,059. This reduction is the largest in terms of both number and percentage since 1992. In addition, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled fell to a historic low of 1.37. However, motorcycle safety continues to be a problem. According to NHTSA, motorcycle fatalities now account for 13 percent of all fatalities. In 2007 alone, the number of motorcycle riders or passengers killed on the nation’s roads increased 6.6 percent over the previous year while the number of injured increased by 17 percent. Check out further I.I.I. info on motorcycle crashes.  

Driving While Distracted (DWD)

Even though 98 percent of Americans claim to be safe drivers, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) admit to engaging in some kind of distracting behavior while driving, from cell phone use to eating. The apparently contradictory finding comes in the second annual DWD study from Nationwide Insurance. While technological advances have improved driving safety in many areas, this is one where too much technology can be a bad thing. According to Nationwide, nearly half (48 percent) of drivers consider cell phone use and other technology to be the most dangerous distraction. Availability of technology was cited by 35 percent as the reason DWD is so common today. Texting while driving is also a growing problem. It’s also a question of mindset, according to Nationwide. Almost two-thirds of drivers who own cell phones said their colleagues, friends and families expect them to be available by cell or other electronic communication devices at all times. Check out further I.I.I. info on auto crashes.  

Auto Future

This week has been an interesting one in the auto manufacturing world. First we had General Motors announcement that driverless cars will be on the roads within the decade. Then, yesterday Tata Motors of India unveiled the world’s cheapest car, the Nano, which will go on sale in India later this year for 100,000 rupees (that’s around $2,500). Apparently GM plans to test its driverless car technology by 2015 and have cars in production by 2018. Imagine being able to switch to driverless mode on highways and instead send that email? GM claims the technology could improve congestion and safety, as well as addressing energy and emissions.

Tata’s Nano is more of a no-frills concept, with no trunk, airbag or passenger-side mirror. The cheapest versions of the vehicle will forego air-conditioning and power steering. Such technological developments could transform our driving future, but obviously they raise issues related to regulations, liability laws, privacy, the environment and insurance. What do you think?  

Holiday Travel

A record 38.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home over the Thanksgiving holiday period beginning tomorrow, up 1.5 percent on last year, according to the AAA. Despite record high gas prices, some 31.2 million motorists are expected to hit the road for Thanksgiving, a 1.3 percent increase on last year. Another 4.7 million will travel by air and the remainder by train, bus or other transportation. With that in mind, we note a study just completed by Farmers Insurance. Once again, it finds that seat belts remain the most important protection for drivers. Based on 2006 fatal crash data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Farmers found that when a driver used a seat belt, the odds of fatality dropped nearly 70 percent compared to a driver who did not. Its analysis incorporates a logistic econometric model with 41 variables, accounting for factors such as road and traffic conditions at the time of the accident, location and time, accident events, vehicle specifics, driver demographics, and safety features. So as you head out for the holiday, remember to buckle up! Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Top Auto Safety Picks

Safer cars are just one of the factors contributing to a downward trend in auto insurance premiums. Awards announced this week by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) confirm a continuing trend of safer vehicle designs. A total of 34 vehicles earned the IIHS top safety pick award for 2008, close to triple the 13 models that qualified at the start of the 2007 model year. IIHS noted that 10 additional vehicles qualified during the year as manufacturers made changes and introduced new designs. Another 11 vehicles have been added to the list for 2008. The award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side and rear crashes based on ratings in the Institute’s test. Winners also have to be equipped with electronic stability control (ESC). IIHS research indicates that ESC reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle crashes by 56 percent and fatal multiple-vehicle crashes by 32 percent. Many single-vehicle crashes involve rolling over, and ESC reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle rollovers by 80 percent (SUVs) and 77 percent (cars). Check out I.I.I. facts & stats on highway safety.