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)

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.
Read more of this article »

Study Shows Texting While Driving Leads to Increased Insurance Rates

Posted by Benji Riggins on March 21, 2012 under Safety | Be the First to Comment

Online auto insurance quotes provider released a study which reveals that insurance rates are rising due to the increase in texting while driving. The study found that both texting while driving traffic citations and cell phone related accidents can cause monthly premiums to go up.

As part of the study, found that fatal traffic accidents caused by drivers distracted by their cell phones have almost doubled since 2005. According to the company, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that distracted driving accidents saw a marked increase in 2008, when texting found its way into the mainstream. The following year, distracted drivers were at fault in 24,000 injury accidents and caused 1,000 fatalities.

When conducting this study, the company found that those who text and drive place themselves and others in danger due to three specific factors. First, drivers are visually distracted, as they remove their eyes from the road in order to read incoming texts. Secondly, drivers are cognitively distracted, as they are thinking about the content of the text message rather than their surroundings. Lastly, drivers are limited in their ability to drive safely and to react quickly when they remove their hands from the wheel.

Though the risks of texting and driving are apparent, many drivers admit to continuing with this practice. During the study, learned that nearly 10 percent of the driving population in the United States text and drive on a regular basis. According to the CDC, drivers who fall between the ages of 18 to 29 admit to texting while behind the wheel at least once per month, while a full 25 percent of those in that age group state that they habitually text and drive.

The study found that because of the high incidence of accidents caused by distracted drivers, as many as 35 states as well as the District of Columbia and Guam have enforced strict regulations related to texting and driving. In many states, it is now illegal for drivers to text while behind the wheel and law enforcement officials may cite any driver that is visibly seen conducting this practice. In some states, law enforcement agents may stop drivers who are texting even if no other offenses are being committed.

Because texting and driving causes serious accidents every year, being issued a ticket for this offense can cause the driver to be viewed as an insurance risk. Thus, the monthly premium can escalate very quickly. has learned that the insurance industry is not only raising premiums for those drivers who text behind the wheel, but the industry as a whole is attempting to curb the practice altogether. The industry suggests blocking text messaging services while driving by installing text-blocking apps on phones or installing sensor devices in cars that block signals on cell phones.

Read the full story at


(c) 2012 PRWEB.COM Newswire


PR Web

The Safest Cars for Teen Drivers

Posted by Benji Riggins on March 15, 2012 under Safety | Be the First to Comment

When I started driving six months before turning 16 years old — with a learner’s permit — I was terrified of the roadways.

Remember that scene in Clueless when Dionne accidentally exits onto the freeway and she, Cher, and Murray freak out? That was me. In fact, until I was about 19 years old, I had to turn off the radio when merging into moving traffic, and for the first year I avoided highways all together.

It didn’t help that I owned a beater of a car — and that’s an understatement. This vehicle was so terrible that one of my best friend’s fathers refused to let her in it. And in hindsight, I don’t blame him. It looked like it might break down or blow up at any minute. Eventually it did — break down, that is. Luckily it was in my own neighborhood, so I did what any self-respecting teen boy would do in that situation — I called my dad to pick me up and left the car where it died for someone else to scavenge.

So your kid doesn’t suffer the same fate, conduct research into a vehicle’s safety before you buy. I know that not everyone can afford a new car or even a great used car when their kid reaches driving age, but safety is never a poor investment.

To help you make the most informed decision, I’ve asked a few experts for their insight on how to choose the safest car for your new driver. Here’s what they had to say.

Q: Overall, what’s the safest type of car for teens?

A: “Teens are safest in a mid-sized, four-door sedan with four cylinders. This type of vehicle does not have too much power, but still allows the inexperienced driver to maneuver safely through traffic,” says LeeAnn Shattuck, co-owner of Women’s Automotive Solutions, a consulting firm that helps women (and men) buy cars. “It’s big enough to protect them sufficiently in an accident, but not so big that it is difficult to control. They also can’t stuff too many of their friends into a mid-sized sedan, which can be a significant distraction for teens. My insurance agent partners all say that this type of vehicle is also the cheapest to insure for a teen.”

Q: What about SUVs? They seem safe, especially since there’s a higher center of gravity. Are they good for teen drivers?

A: “Many parents think their teen is safest in an SUV because it will protect them in an accident,” Shattuck says. “But statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) show that teens are more likely to get into an accident in an SUV (vs. a sedan) because those larger vehicles (with a higher center of gravity) are much more difficult to control if they have to take evasive action. Because the SUVs also tend to cause more damage in an accident, insurance rates are higher.”

Q: Besides safety in accidents, what are some other concerns parents should think about when buying a car for the teen?

A: “I advise parents to avoid Hondas for their teens, especially for teen girls, since Honda Civics and Accords are the most stolen cars in America. You don’t want your 16-year-old daughter getting car jacked on her way home from soccer practice or work,” says Shattuck. “I tend to steer parents more towards the Toyota Camry or even Corolla, the Nissans, and the Hyundais. Even the Ford Focus or Fusion (or an older Taurus) are safe and reasonably reliable. If they really want an SUV (to be higher up for better visibility), I highly recommend the Ford Escape. It’s a decently reliable little SUV, easy to drive, used ones are in the $6,000 to $10,000 range, and they have relatively low maintenance costs.

Q: What are the benefits of a used car over a new car?

A: “Buying used for a young driver makes more sense than buying new since overall vehicle costs on used cars are typically lower,” says Max Katsarelas, marketing strategist for Mojo Motors. “Plus, with the rapid depreciation of a new car once it drives off the lot, buying used can save some major coin, especially when considering the accident rate of young drivers. Auto repair costs for young drivers total about $19 billion, so buying a new car doesn’t make financial sense when taking into consideration the resale value after an accident. Since a vehicle’s crash history can be seen with a Carfax report and any sign of an accident, even ‘fender benders’ drop a vehicle’s resale value considerably. Ultimately, the best bet for parents looking at cars for young drivers should buy used. For example, a new 2012 Ford Focus starts at around $18,000. A gently used 2008 Ford Focus with under 60,000 miles can be had for under $10,000. Both boast the highest safety rating, ‘Good’ from IIHS, but a used Focus can cost up to $10,000 less.

Q. If parents want to buy their new driver a new car for under $15,000, what are some of the best options?

A: Money Crashers recently compiled a list of the “10 Best Affordable Cars for College Students.” Of course, the choices are great for teen drivers in high school, too, since their parents are likely covering at least part of the vehicle’s cost. As it turns out, most of the cars on the list, as mentioned by the experts, are four-door sedans with modest sticker prices and a history of safety. While these selections and prices are based on new cars, feel free to use this guide to help identify economical used cars with good safety ratings.

Written by Mikey Rox and published on Wise Bread.

Buckle Up Bowzer

Posted by Benji Riggins on March 5, 2012 under Insurance News | Be the First to Comment

It’s long been said that “dog is man’s best friend,” and many people feel that way about their family pets. They are so attached to their pets, in fact, that they frequently take them along with them in the car—and it’s not just a ride to the vet. They’re taking dogs to dog parks, day care and even play dates with other dogs. This is all well and good, until one thinks about the distraction that having a dog in the car brings.

A survey of drivers who travel with their dogs showed that drivers admit to petting their dogs; using hands or arms to hold dogs in place while braking; using hands to keep dogs from climbing into the front seat; allowing dogs to sit on their lap; and feeding dogs treats while driving.

In addition to the driving distraction that Bowzer presents when he is a passenger in the car is the safety hazard. In an accident, Bowzer becomes a flying missile, injuring himself and others as he bounces around the car. In an abrupt stop, Bowzer will keep moving at the speed the car was traveling. Take a 40-pound dog moving at 60 miles an hour, and the physics of the situation get ugly. The driver, passengers and Bowzer may all be injured.

Remember that as far as insurance is concerned, Bowzer is personal property, so the Auto policy med pay doesn’t cover injuries to Bowzer, and the Homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover animals. Some carriers are now offering coverage for animals traveling in cars. One carrier’s limit is $2,000; however, if you’ve ever taken an animal to an emergency vet, you know that $2,000 may not be enough to treat all of Bowzer’s injuries.

But all is not lost. A visit to most pet stores will provide you with a safety harness for your furry friend. While there aren’t any laws that Bowzer must be buckled up, if you buckle up yourself and your family, you may as well buckle up Bowzer.

About the Author

Christine G. Barlow

Christine G. Barlow is an associate editor with FC&S Online. She has an extensive background in insurance underwriting. She may be reached at

Auto Crashes Cost Almost $300B A Year

Posted by Benji Riggins on February 20, 2012 under Insurance News | Be the First to Comment

Lost Earnings, Medical Costs Add Up

The economic impact of traffic crashes on the nation is both overwhelming and far-reaching.

The annual societal cost of traffic crashes is $299.5 billion, more than three times the $97.7 billion cost of congestion, according AAA’s recent “Crashes vs. Congestion–What’s the Cost to Society?” report.

The overall cost of crashes equals to $1,522 per person annually, compared to an annual cost of $590 per person for congestion.

The costs of crashes are based on the Federal Highway Administration’s comprehensive costs for traffic fatalities and injuries that assign a dollar value to a variety of components. These components include medical and emergency services, lost earnings and household production, property damage, and diminished quality of life, among other things.

The report also calculates the costs of crashes for the same metropolitan areas covered by the annual Urban Mobility Report conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute. The results indicate that crash costs exceed congestion in every metropolitan area studied, from very large to small.

For example, crash costs are nearly doubled than those of congestion in very large urban areas with populations more than three million. Those costs rise to nearly six times congestion costs in small urban areas where populations are less than 500,000 and motorists face less congested conditions.

The study, conducted for AAA by Cambridge Systematics, further underscores the importance of a long-term, multi-year federal transportation bill that will provide the necessary and sustained investments that lead to better and safer roads.

“Almost 33,000 people–635 per week–die on U.S. roadways each year and that’s unacceptable,” says AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “While the decline in traffic fatalities in recent years signifies a positive trend, our work is far from over. Continued progress will require active and focused leadership, improved communication and collaboration, and an investment in data collection and evaluation to make sure we’re addressing the nation’s most serious safety challenges.”


By Melissa Stewart

The Problem with Tired Tires

Posted by Benji Riggins on February 16, 2012 under Safety | Be the First to Comment

Addressing Lax Regulations and Auto Accident Liability

Back in the day, tires typically would wear out before they got too old. Thinning treads is the consumer indicator that a tire needed to be replaced and, 30 to 40 years ago, that was probably around the 20 to 30,000-mile usage marker.

Nowadays, tires are more durable and can last upwards of 60 to 100,000 miles. The downside, however, is consumers are unaware that steel-belted radial ply tires, despite their toughness, face aging challenges because they are made of rubber, a product that oxidizes and hardens over time.

Older tires are vulnerable to catastrophic failures since excessive brittleness from oxidation can trigger tread and belt separations. Should those tires be attached to vehicles that travel roads in hot, dry climates, then those tires will deteriorate even faster.

The challenge with aging tires is they can hide their decrepitude, unlike a mature actor relying on injectables and plastic surgery for youthfulness. Unused new tires may be stored for years before installation and look pristine, but climate, handling, and storage can exact a toll indiscernible to visual examination.

William J. Woehrle, tire group leader at Peter R. Thom and Associates Inc. and a 45-year tire industry veteran, describes the impact of current tire use and purchase habits on the problem of aging tires:

“The used tire market in online venues like eBay is thriving in part because of a resale trade in full-sized spare tires that have been salvaged and sold as new or nearly new,” he explains. “Unfortunately, these ‘forgotten’ tires probably have been mounted, inflated, and stowed in vehicles and almost certainly never rotated into service. Instead, the spare tire’s inflation pressure has been slowly oxidizing the internal rubber between the belts and increasing the tire’s susceptibility to tread and belt separations—diffusing air through the tire at a monthly rate of one to two PSI.”

Currently, there is no U.S. industry standard for when tires should be removed from service. To compound matters, manufacturers do not plan to stamp expiration dates on their wares. European countries recommend 6 years of usage. In contrast, U.S. tire manufacturers either do not offer guidance as to tire shelf life or simply suggest removal or regular inspections of 6 to 10-year-old tires. As long as a tire does not show signs of checking or cracking (the only visual traces of tire aging) and was kept in climate-controlled storage, then it may be okay to use despite its age.

Enterprising policyholders can, however, decipher a date code marked on the tire’s sidewall to determine a tire’s age. That date code is contained within the tire’s serial number and is commonly imprinted on the inward-facing side of the tire, but chances are the figures noted will be somewhat cryptic. Unfortunately, as many retail tire shop employees do not know how to read date codes, consumer ignorance is not altogether unexpected as well.

Gregory J. Quan is a Managing Engineer at Peter R. Thom and Associates Inc., a national firm of consulting automotive engineers. He can be reached at (800) 874-1664 ;

Top 10 Excuses From Drivers Caught Using Phones

Posted by Benji Riggins on January 28, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, a Canadian auto insurer, released last week a list of top excuses from local motorists when they were caught using handheld cellphones while driving.

The insurer compiled the information with help from the local police department, which went on a month-long crackdown in September on distracted driving. Police estimate they issued more than 3,500 tickets.

Motorists getting distracted by holding a cellphone in one hand and making or receiving calls while driving is also a common problem in the United States.

Since the first law was passed in New York in 2001 banning handheld cellphone use while driving, there has been debate as to the degree of hazard, according to the New York-based Insurance Information Institute.

A survey conducted by State Farm in November 2010 found that 74 percent reported making or receiving calls at least once a week while driving.

Here are the top 10 excuses the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia compiled of local drivers who were caught using handheld phone devices while driving:

1. This is a bogus law.

2. It was my boss on the phone – I had to answer it.

3. I wasn’t using it – I just like to hold it.

4. Sorry officer, I didn’t see you trying to pull me over because I was on my phone.

5. But it was an emergency call to my wedding planner.

6. My Bluetooth died.

7. Driver: I’m using my speakerphone. Police officer: No, you’re holding your phone in one hand and steering with the other.

8. I’m not driving; I was stopped at a red light.

9. I wasn’t talking, I was checking my messages.

10. I was just checking the time.

Government Study: Texting by Drivers Up by Half in 2010

Posted by Benji Riggins on January 17, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

New federal safety data shows texting while driving increased 50 percent last year, despite a rush by states to ban the practice.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does an annual survey that watches drivers’ behavior at selected intersections. The latest study caught less than 1 percent texting or manipulating hand-held devices. But it shows that activity increased to 0.9 percent last year, up from 0.6 percent the year before.

The share of drivers speaking in headsets also increased, although hand-held cellphone use remained flat.

The increase in texting while driving came despite bans on the practice in many states. Last month, Pennsylvania became the 35th state to impose a ban.