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NTSB: New Technology Can Help Avoid Worcester Car Accidents

The National Transportation Safety Board is calling for all auto manufacturers to make the newest crash prevention technologies standard in all new model cars and trucks, holding that such a move would halve the number of fatal wrecks.

Our Worcester car accident lawyers believe this is a timely message, as we all prepare for travel this Thanksgiving weekend.

In fact, the National Safety Council is projecting that at least 450 people throughout the country will die on our nation's roads throughout the holiday weekend. That's a rate of 10 percent higher than an average November weekend. Additionally, between 41,100 and 56,500 will be seriously injured.

We don't know exactly how many of those will be in Massachusetts, but given that we account for two percent of the nation's population, we can estimated somewhere around 9 or 10 deaths and approximately 1,130 serious injuries statewide that weekend.

The NTSB chairwoman has been quoted by the Boston Globe as saying that the advanced technologies that help prevent crashes should be available to everyone - not just those who can afford it.

We agree.

Those technologies include:

  • Forward collision warnings;
  • Adaptive cruise control;
  • Automatic braking;
  • Lane departure warnings;
  • Electronic stability control.

These features are already available on consumer vehicles, but they are primarily limited mostly to vehicles on the higher-end. The auto industry has complained that such a move could literally mean thousands of extra dollars added to the cost of each new car. However, the NTSB states that most of those technologies should only cost a few dollars more to each new car.

The board estimates that well over half of all fatal accidents on our highways happen when vehicles either careen off the roadway, are changing lanes or rear-end another. In fact, crashes in these categories accounted for some 32,000 fatalities throughout the country in 2011. The board maintains that the above-mentioned technologies could be instrumental in slashing these numbers.

For example, lane departure technology would warn a driver when his or her vehicle drifts into another lane without turning on the blinker. Then there's adaptive cruise control, which employs sensors to detect traffic conditions and adjusts the brakes and throttle in order to keep the car at a safe distance from the one in front of it. Then there are forward collision warning systems that watch the roadway in front of the vehicle and signal if the driver is at risk of an impending crash. With some forward collision warning systems, the car will actually brake if the driver doesn't do anything to steer clear of a crash. Automatic brakes are similar in that they will activate when the sensor detects an impending collision with another vehicle, object or person.

The board is also recommending that the auto industry install tire pressure monitoring systems and speed-limiting technology for commercial trucks.

This list is part of the organization's "10 Most Wanted" improvements to safety. Of course, this isn't an organization that has any actual authority to implement these changes or regulations but the recommendations it makes can have significant sway in Congress, as well as with state and federal agencies.

Hopefully, in the interest of everyone on the road, they'll get everything on their holiday wish list.

If you've been injured in a Worcester car accident, call 1-900-WIN-WIN-1 for a free consultation with one of the personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone.

Massachusetts Distracted Driving Accidents Target of Pilot Enforcement Effort

New England will be the testing ground for distracted-driving enforcement as Massachusetts and Connecticut each receive $550,000 to conduct high-visibility, anti-texting enforcement programs, thanks to a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Boston injury lawyers understand the accident risks as well as the challenges of enforcing a myriad of laws hitting the books in nearly all 50 states. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports 39 states now ban texting by drivers. Ten states have banned all hand-held cell phone use by drivers. Most states also have separate restrictions for novice drivers and school bus drivers. Bans for federal employees driving government vehicles and for commercial truckers also exist. In Massachusetts, novice drivers and school bus drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone. All motorists are prohibited from text messaging while behind the wheel.

But enforcement is frustrated by the fact that police often don't know whether a driver is texting illegally, or legally dialing a phone. Determining whether a driver is 17 and a minor or 18 and legally an adult is a challenge. The end result is often lack of enforcement of these laws after they hit the books. Meanwhile, distracted drivers were blamed for accident causing more than 3,000 deaths and 416,000 injuries in 2010.

The U.S. Department of Transportation hopes the two grants -- $275,000 to each state -- will help identify enforcement solutions.

"We have come a long way in our fight against distracted driving, but there is still much work to be done," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Texting behind the wheel is especially dangerous, which is why we're working with states like Connecticut and Massachusetts to address this important safety issue."

Goals include developing and training police officers in strategies to spot texting drivers, as well as media efforts to continue to educate the public about the perils of texting and driving. Drivers using a hand-held device are 4 times more likely to be involved in an injury accident. Text messaging puts you at 23 times greater risk for an accident.

Still, only about 5 percent of violators are cited for texting while driving. The majority of citations issued occurred in areas with a hand-held cell phone ban, which makes any use illegal.

The two states will work to develop anti-texting enforcement protocols, which may include spotters on overpasses, roving patrols and stationary patrols. Effectiveness and success of the various efforts will be monitored over a 24-month period.  The results will be documents and shared with other states facing such challenges.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the weather has likely made a turn for the worse. As we head into the busy holiday travel season, we encourage you to make a commitment to put the phone down and drive. And we urge you to keep safety a part of the conversation with your young driver. The government also spent a week in October highlighting the risks faced by teenagers as this is also the deadliest time of year for accident involving young drivers.

"Immaturity, inexperience, and a penchant for risk-taking are the major reasons for high crash and fatality rates among teen drivers," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

Distracted driving, speeding, drunk driving, disobeying traffic control devices and driving with too many passengers are all factors that increase the risk of a teen driver being involved in a serious or fatal accident.

If you've been injured, call 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 for a free consultation with one of the personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone.