Study: Some Older Drivers More Susceptible to Making Errors When Distracted

Posted by Benji Riggins on June 22, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

When you hear the phrase “distracted driver,” what comes to mind: a teen texting while behind the wheel, or an older driver? According to researchers, certain older drivers might be particularly susceptible to making driving errors when distracted.

New research suggests that older drivers who show limitations on a Useful Field of View (UFOV) test make more driving errors when distracted. Useful field of view is defined as “the area over which a person can extract information in a single glance without moving his or her head or eye.” Drivers with limitations in UFOV are more likely to have problems in demanding driving situations and have an increased risk of crashes.

The study, led by Joanne M. Wood, Ph.D., FAAO, of Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, included 92 drivers who averaged 74 years old and who underwent the computerized UFOV test. Drivers then performed a closed-course driving test three times. On two occasions, they did the driving test with in-car visual or auditory distracters, consisting of simple math problems presented on a video screen or audio speaker.

Drivers who had limitations in UFOV were most likely to have problems on the driving test related to both visual and auditory distracters. They also took longer to complete the driving test – possibly reflecting slower driving speeds, which are common among older drivers. In particular, drivers who scored lower on the “selective attention” subtest of the UFOV had decreased performance in the presence of distracters. These drivers also were more likely to be rated at high crash risk on the UFOV.

In contrast, older drivers who did better on the selective attention subtest had better overall performance on the driving test, even with distracters. The selective attention subtest was a better predictor of performance on the driving test than the other two UFOV subtests (visual processing speed and selective attention).

Minimizing Distractions

Previous research has shown that the UFOV test is highly effective in predicting crash risk among older adults, with or without vision problems. The new study suggests that distractibility is an important contributor to problems in driving performance and to crash risk predicted by the UFOV test.

“Our results have important implications for the design of in-vehicle devices, such as satellite navigation devices and mobile phones (even when hands free),” Wood and coauthors wrote. “The effects of distracters are likely to be exacerbated as the driving environment becomes increasingly complex.”

The researchers believe that older drivers with “more extensive constriction” of their UFOV should be warned of their possible increased risk of driving errors – and especially should minimize distractions while driving.

“The result is consistent with the observation that many have made that as you age you find in-vehicle distractions (like a radio or noisy conversation) to be more annoying,” said Anthony Adams, OD, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of Optometry and Vision Science. “It certainly raises even more questions about the wisdom of in-vehicle screen displays and cell phone use!”

The study appeared in the April issue of Optometry and Vision Science, the official journal of the American Academy of Optometry.

By Laura Walter

Transportation Chief Calls for National Ban on Cell Phone Use While Driving

Posted by Benji Riggins on June 19, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called on Thursday for a federal law to ban talking on a cell phone or texting while driving any type of vehicle on any road in the country.

Tough federal legislation is the only way to deal with what he called a “national epidemic,” he said at a distracted-driving summit in San Antonio, Texas, that drew doctors, advocates and government officials.

LaHood said it is important for the police to have “the opportunity to write tickets when people are foolishly thinking they can drive safely or use a cell phone and text and drive.”

LaHood has previously criticized behind-the-wheel use of cell phones and other devices, but calling for a federal law prohibiting the practice takes his effort to a new level.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 3,000 fatal traffic accidents nationwide last year were the result of distracted driving. Using a cell phone while driving delays reaction time the same amount as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08, the legal limit, the highway agency said.

But Gary Biller, president of the National Motorists Association, said laws banning specific actions like talking on a phone or texting are not necessary because those actions are already covered by existing distracted-driving laws. It would be more productive, he said, to invest resources in campaigns that discourage inattentive driving in general.

“It shouldn’t matter if the driver is distracted by a conversation with another vehicle passenger, tuning the radio, eating a snack, or talking on a cell phone,” Biller said in a statement. “Existing laws cover all those distractions and more.”

LaHood said, however, he was not as concerned about people who eat, apply makeup, or perform other distracting activities in cars because “not everyone does that.”

“But everyone has a cell phone and too many of us think it is OK to talk on our phones while we are driving,” he said at the summit, sponsored by insurance company USAA, the Texas Department of Transportation and Shriners Hospitals for Children.

LaHood was joined by people who have been hurt in accidents caused by motorists talking on cell phones, including children in wheelchairs who were paralyzed. Such accidents are “100 percent preventable,” he said.

He compared the situation facing the United States today with the problem of drunk driving 20-30 years ago.

“It used to be that if an officer pulled you over for drunk driving, he would pat you on the back, maybe call you a cab or take you home, but he wouldn’t arrest you,” LaHood said. “Now that has changed, and the same enforcement can work for people who talk on cell phones while driving.”

Thirty-eight states have laws restricting or outlawing the use of electronic devices while driving, LaHood said.

LaHood said his department was researching the effect that hands-free devices and new systems like Ford Motor Company’s Sync have on distracting drivers. He said he has called the CEOs of major car companies and encouraged them to “think twice” before placing too many Internet-based systems into new cars.

By Jim Forsyth
(Editing By Corrie MacLaggan and Philip Barbara)

15 Most Family-Friendly Cars

Posted by Benji Riggins on June 11, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

There are more than just minivans for today’s mobile family.

Need a car that’s family-friendly? There’s a surprisingly broad range of offerings available and that doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck picking from a pile of minivans.

In fact, there were only two of those classic family-movers among the list of the 15 most family-friendly cars compiled by Parents magazine and online research firm Edmunds.com. The list also included a mix of midsize sedans, crossovers and SUVs, a pair of hybrids and even some downsized economy models sized for various-sized families and budgets.

Of the 15 vehicles on the list, 14 of them have already earned a coveted “Top Safety Pick” designations from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and, Parents and Edmunds noted, every model comes with a mix of safety features including, at a minimum, antilock brakes, electronic stability control and a minimum of six airbags.

Only two minivans, including the Honda Odyssey shown here, made this year’s list.

Japanese makers dominate the list, with seven individual models, followed by four Detroit offerings. But Korean makers Hyundai and Kia landed three products with Germany’s Volkswagen rounding out the tally.

Curiously, some of the prices quoted were out-of-date, however, and did not include destination charges, typically adding about $800. The revised figures for base models – in this case gathered from Edmunds’ competitor, TrueCar.com, are shown, below, however, and include those delivery fees. TheDetroitBureau.com also adds the EPA fuel economy numbers for the models in the high-mileage category, listed as City/Highway/Combined miles per gallon.

HIGH MILEAGE CARS
•Toyota Prius V, starts at $27,310, 44/40/42
•Honda Civic Hybrid, starts at $24,990, 44/44/44
•Chevrolet Cruze Eco, starts at $20,120, 28/42/33 (with Manual Transmission), 26/39/31 (with Automatic)

BUDGET
•Chevrolet Sonic, starts at $14,660
•Ford Focus, starts at $17,295
•Hyundai Elantra, starts at $16,120

CROSSOVERS
•Mazda 5, starts at $20,420
•Kia Sorento, starts at $23,950
•Honda CR-V, starts at $23,325

SEDANS
•Volkswagen Passat, starts at $21,360
•Toyota Camry, starts at $22,815
•Kia Optima, starts at $20,250

LARGE VEHICLES
•Dodge Durango, starts at $29,990
•Toyota Sienna, starts at $25,870
•Honda Odyssey, starts at $29,205

To compile the list, Parents and Edmunds say they consider prices and features, conducted their own tests and then “consulted parents who own and drive these vehicles every day.”

by Paul A. Eisenstein

Corvettes Still Hot: NICB Reports More Than 1 in 10 Stolen

Posted by Benji Riggins on June 8, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

New “Classics” Supplement Tallies Thefts from 1981-2011

When the first Chevrolet Corvette rolled off a makeshift assembly line in Flint, Mich. on June 30, 1953, it penetrated a sports car market dominated by European models.

As quintessentially American as apple pie, the Corvette soon became a shiny symbol of U.S. performance and craftsmanship.

However, as the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) illustrates in its second Hot Wheels Classics report, the road for America’s oldest continuously produced sports car has not always been smooth.

Like other popular objects of significant beauty and value, the Corvette is highly coveted—and apparently frequently targeted by thieves.

In reviewing Corvette theft data ranging from 1953 to 2011, the NICB identified an alarming 134,731 theft records.

It is important to note that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required vehicle identification number (VIN) standardization beginning with the 1981 model year, and therefore confidence in pre-1981 records is low because of inconsistency in reporting protocols and VIN systems. Consequently, NICB incorporated information dating from 1981 and later to compile this latest report.

During the 30-year period from 1981 to 2011, a total of 90,427 Corvettes were lifted in the United States and Puerto Rico. During that same period, 862,918 Corvettes were produced in the United States. However, from 1953 through the end of the 2011 model year, a total of 1,526,747 Corvettes have been produced. The year with the most U.S. production was 1984 with 51,547. The year with the fewest Corvettes produced was 1953, when just 300 units were built.

As for the top 10 states where the most Corvette thefts occurred, California leads the nation with 14,002. Of the 30-year total of 90,427 thefts, 63,409 of them—or 70 percent—occurred in the top 10 states.

NICB does point out that total vehicle thefts have been waning in recent years, which is likely little consolation to proud owners.

By Christina Bramlet, PropertyCasualty360.com

North Carolina Maintains Inspections on Newer Cars

Posted by Benji Riggins on June 6, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

North Carolina drivers that own newer cars will still have to undergo an annual vehicle inspection after state lawmakers scuttled a proposal to exempt them from the requirement.

The Joint Transportation Oversight Committee by a 7 to 5 vote agreed to not hear the proposal this year despite arguments from some lawmakers that the inspections are an unnecessary expense to drivers.

Under the proposal, drivers with cars from the three newest model years would not have had to undergo safety and emission inspections. Proponents of the proposal said the inspections are unnecessary due to advances in car safety and technology.

The state’s Division of Program Evaluation found that less than one percent of the newer cars fail to meet state standards.

Committee Chair Jerry Tillman, R.-Randolph, who led the opposition to the proposal, said the proposals would hurt garage owners who perform the inspection and result in a loss of jobs.

The state charges $30 per car inspection and collects roughly $150 million in fees annually

By Michael Adams

Mild winter leads to more car-animal collisions

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 21, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

The mild winter led to at least one unexpected consequence: many more costly collisions between cars and wildlife on American roads.

Insurer Chubb Corp (CB.N) received 35 percent more claims for car-animal collisions in the first three months of 2012 than it did for all of 2011, the company said on Wednesday.

If those figures hold across the industry, they would mark a sharp reversal. State Farm, the country’s largest auto insurer, has reported a decline in car-deer incidents for three years running, through last summer.

In a post on the company’s risk blog, Chubb executives speculated the warm weather may have pushed both people and animals onto the roads.

“It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why the numbers have risen, but I suspect the unusually mild winter may have made for a more active wildlife population,” said Ray Crisci, worldwide auto manager for Chubb’s personal insurance unit, adding that conditions may have led people to drive more, too.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the winter of 2011-2012 was the fourth-warmest ever in the United States.

Car-animal collisions may not seem high-risk, but they account for roughly 4 percent of light vehicle crashes and some 200 deaths annually, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said.

Based on an estimated insured cost of $2,800 per collision, according to the Insurance Information Institute, that represents a cost of nearly $700 million a year.

(Reporting By Ben Berkowitz; editing by John Wallace)

Traffic Deaths At Record Low in U.S. in 2011

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 11, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

Traffic fatalities on U.S. roads in 2011 fell to their lowest level since federal safety regulators started counting in 1949, the regulators said on Monday.
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Young Drivers Know Risks But Text Anyway: Survey

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 9, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

Most young American drivers agree that it is dangerous to text while driving, but nearly a third admit they do it anyway, a survey by Consumer Reports shows.
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Distracted Driving

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 7, 2012 under Safety | Be the First to Comment

Driver distractions or inattentive driving play a part in one out of every four motor vehicle crashes. That is more than 1.5 million collisions a year and 4,300 crashes daily, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Text messaging, changing radio stations, even turning around to talk to passengers can prove deadly.
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Behind the Wheel, Not All Distractions Are Equal

Posted by Benji Riggins on April 30, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

As carmakers and lawmakers draw up plans for combating distracted driving, new research from MIT shows that drivers can lose focus even with their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel. Furthermore, the level of distraction that drivers encounter can best be measured in shades of gray rather than black and white.
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