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

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

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.

The Science Behind Stopping Power

Posted by Benji Riggins on January 4, 2012 under Safety | Be the First to Comment

Brake Failure Investigations

Many drivers can recall a near miss saved by the quick application of brakes, while a smaller number remembers pounding the brake pedal too late and crashing. What does this subset have in common? Significant numbers of them will blame their accidents on brake failure. Most of them will be wrong.

The reality is drivers judge distances poorly, especially when traveling at freeway speeds. Typically, they have no idea how their brakes behave in critical situations and consequently believe crashes result from mechanical malfunction, when in truth their brakes performed as designed, but their following distances were too short for their speeds. The standardization of electronically controlled antilock braking systems (ABS), which prevent wheel lockup and skidding during heavy braking, has compounded the problem because ABS can make strange grinding noises when it activates, leading untutored drivers to suspect braking issues. When coupled with a human tendency to avoid blame, brake failure becomes the commonplace excuse for many crashes.

As a result, a significant percentage of the workload for forensic automotive investigators is brake-failure examinations. Despite the frequency of the claims, actual malfunctions in these complex systems are rare, although they can happen. Investigation requires the input of a trained automotive specialist who knows where to look for problems in braking components to find the telltale evidence of failure. Often issues associated with neglectful maintenance by owners impede brake function, especially when optimal performance is required.

Brake Physiology

In a typical automotive disc-brake system, when the driver depresses the brake pedal, that pressure is transferred to a system of fluid-filled brake lines. The fluid then transmits the pressure to the calipers, clamping the brake pads against the brake rotors, which are attached to the wheels. The friction generated between the pad and the rotor provides the force that stops the vehicle. Loud squeaking from the brakes when applied usually signals brake pads that are reaching the end of expected use.

Wear and Tear

Pad or shoe wear from normal usage is the most common brake maintenance issue, and examining the parts of the braking system is typically the first step for a forensic investigator. He or she will look for unusual wear in the pads or shoes. That effort entails removing the vehicle’s wheels to access the brake pads and may require removing the pads for more precise measurement.

When an investigator removes the brake pads, he can also inspect the pad surface. A smooth, reflective quality may indicate “glazing” caused by overheating, which decreases stopping power. Overheating may also result in brake rotor discoloration, and is usually caused by excessive brake “riding” by the driver.

Less commonly, brake failures may be caused by excessive rotor or drum wear. With the wheels removed for the pad inspection, the brake rotors or drums can then be checked for thickness, diameter, and warping to ensure that they are within manufacturer specifications. Rotors and drums need replacement less frequently than pads and shoes, but excessive wear can contribute to brake failure, especially if the pads or shoes are similarly worn.

Examining Fluid Issues

In a typical hydraulic brake system, a brake fluid leak can result in complete brake failure if the fluid level drops too low. Such leaks can develop from excessive wear because of vibration or age, or from collision or roadway hazard damage. For example, an investigation of a suspected brake failure in a medium-duty truck that sustained significant crash damage in a freeway accident revealed that the truck had a brake-line design that allowed the primary fluid lines to rub against one another. The constant friction of the rubbing lines culminated in a sudden fluid leak and a complete loss of braking power.

Inspection for fluid leaks is simple and should be done by mechanics as part of routine maintenance. A forensic investigator examining a crashed vehicle will have little trouble spotting a leak, but determining its cause may be more complex, sometimes requiring laboratory examination with advanced equipment.

Another fluid-related cause of brake failure is the introduction of small air bubbles into the brake lines. Air bubbles occur when overheating brake fluid reaches the boiling point (brake fluid ages and has a limited usage life) or a slow leak allows air into the system. (A boiling point or other chemical test can determine if the vehicle’s brake fluid has exceeded its useful life.) The resulting bubbles interfere with the brake system’s ability to transmit braking force to the wheels, causing the brake pedal to feel softer than normal and making it very difficult to apply maximum braking effort.

Such a condition can contribute to an accident if a driver does not have sufficient stopping distance when facing a hazard. Once again, the way to avoid failures because of tainted or deficient fluid brake failures is proper preventative maintenance practices by the vehicle owner. This may include changing the brake fluid in accordance with manufacturer recommendations and regular brake bleeding to eliminate any air introduced into the system.

Potential Mechanical Problems

The most unexpected cause of brake failure that investigators may encounter is a mechanical failure in the brake pedal assembly. In rare cases it is possible for the master cylinder (the component that distributes the brake pedal force to the wheels) to become detached from the pedal linkage. This condition is immediately obvious to an inspecting investigator, so the real item of interest will be pinpointing the cause of the linkage failure, whether it is rust, tampering, or metal fatigue.

Tapping Accident Data

Increasingly, crash data retrieved from a damaged vehicle’s event data recorder (EDR) is providing useful insight to accident investigators. If the module is accessible in a brake failure examination and has collected the crash event data, then the forensic investigator can gain insight about driver actions in the seconds that preceded and followed impact. A brake failure allegation could wither away if that data reveals that the driver never engaged the brakes prior to a collision. More likely, the data will deliver the context that will guide the further investigation of a brake failure allegation.

Perhaps the record will show that the driver was not speeding and applied the brakes suitably, but did not stop quickly enough to avert disaster. That could open the possibility of a brake problem that should be identified in the claims resolution process.

A brake failure from a maintenance issue could implicate a repair shop, thus identifying a subrogation opportunity, whereas an original equipment failure could result in a product liability action.

Managing Brake Failure Claims

While brake failure is probably the most common excuse for a crash, cumulative experience shows that driver error probably trumps actual brake malfunctions as the primary cause of accidents because of braking issues. Although it is easy to be swayed by a dramatic recitation of the crash story, if there is any doubt about the logic or sense of the event sequence, consult an automotive expert.

By Ryan L. Devine, Gregory J. Quan

December 16, 2011

Why Should I Bother With Turning Signals?

Posted by Benji Riggins on December 29, 2011 under Safety | Be the First to Comment

If you’ve ever turned a corner without a signal only to be blasted by a honking horn – and maybe an obscene gesture from the driver behind you – you’ve set off a driver for whom not signaling is a pet peeve. That’s most drivers. When surveyed on their pet peeves, many drivers first mention others who don’t use turn signals when turning or making lane changes.

While signaling a lane change on a deserted stretch of highway at 3 a.m. may seem unnecessary, that’s a situation that few people find themselves in regularly. Most people drive where their actions on the road have a direct effect on the other drivers sharing that same stretch of highway as well as on pedestrians.

The safe, thoughtful driver always signals lane changes and builds that habit. When other drivers can predict your behavior, everyone on the road is safer.

Think before you signal: You’re planning to turn right into the bank that’s on the opposite corner of the intersection. So when should you signal your right turn? Don’t confuse the drivers coming at you by putting your signal on too soon. They might just make a left turn in front of you. But do get that signal on before you turn. Some drivers deliberately don’t signal a lane change because they fear that the drivers in that lane will speed up and close the gap, shutting out their move. That might happen occasionally, but usually if you do signal other drivers are courteous and let you in. Not signaling is dangerous and could cause an accident.

The danger at intersections: Dangers abound at intersections. An estimated 80 percent of fatal city collisions happen at intersections that have stoplights. Why are they so deadly? Because many motorists travel at speeds approaching 50 miles per hour at intersections and crashes are often t-bone hits where one car is hit either on the driver or passenger door. As you enter an intersection on a green light, look left, then right, then left again. Make sure it’s visually clear before you enter it.

Yellow means slow down, not speed up to beat the red light: Red means stop whether it’s a sign or a signal. If it’s a signal, yellow means slow down and stop! It’s pretty simple. Running stop signs and lights cause many fatalities every year. And remember, a rolling stop is not a stop in the eyes of the law. Would you rather spend your hard earned cash on a ticket or on something enjoyable?

Backing up: Many people back up without looking and that causes many accidents each year. If you don’t believe it, next time you’re walking through a parking lot (don’t do this when driving, it will distract you) check out the back ends of the cars for damage that comes from accidents caused by backing up without looking. Sadly, each year children are run over at home when cars are backed over them. Backing down a roadway is never a good idea either and on limited access highways it’s illegal. Even if it was, it wouldn’t be safe.

Freeway and expressway driving: Freeways and expressways have their own set of driving rules. Closed access highways forbid many things: stopping unless for an emergency, backing up and staying out of emergency vehicle crossover lanes are typical. Because limited access highways usually have higher speed limits, it’s critical that drivers pay attention and follow the rules of the road. One of the most important things to learn as a driver is to properly use the acceleration and deceleration lanes for entering and exiting a freeway.

When you drive safely and courteously, whether you’re on a country road, a city street or a limited access highway you’ll find that most other drivers will be courteous as well. So drive safely and enjoy your trip and consider talking to Statewide Insurance (704)821-7630 if you’re in the market for auto insurance.

Renee KolzowDecember 6, 2011 11:15 amAuto, Featured Articles, On The Road, Safety on the Road

Myself, the Car: Aggressive Driving Linked to Personality

Posted by Benji Riggins on November 7, 2011 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

Those who view their car as an extension of themselves have stronger aggressive driving tendencies, a new study finds.

The study “Aggressive Driving: A Consumption Experience,” by a Temple University Fox School of Business professor, is thought to be the first to comprehensively examine how personality, attitude and values contribute to aggressive driving behaviors.

Driving is one of the most common consumptive behaviors, and aggressive driving causes a third of all accidents that involve personal injuries and two thirds of all fatal accidents in the United States.

“It explains much of the phenomenon we knew existed,” said Ayalla Ruvio, lead author and an assistant professor of marketing at the Philadelphia university. For instance, “we know men tend to be more aggressive drivers and we know men tend to see their cars as an extension of themselves more than women.”

Ruvio’s article, published online in the Journal of Psychology & Marketing, takes a consumer behavior perspective of this phenomenon and features two studies conducted in Israel. One took a holistic look at the influence of personality, attitudes and values gathered from 134 surveys of men and women with an average age of 23.5. The second study, of 298 people, built from the first and added the factors of risk attraction, impulsivity, driving as a hedonistic activity and perceptions about time pressures.

The studies found:
•People who perceive their car as a reflection of their self-identity are more likely to behave aggressively on the road and break the law.
•People with compulsive tendencies are more likely to drive aggressively with disregard for potential consequences.
•Increased materialism, or the importance of one’s possessions, is linked to increased aggressive driving tendencies.
•Young people who are in the early stages of forming their self-identity might feel the need to show off their car and driving skills more than others. They may also be overconfident and underestimate the risks involved in reckless driving.
•Those who admit to aggressive driving also admit to engaging in more incidents of breaking the law.
•A sense of being under time and pressure leads to more aggressive driving.

The study findings “suggest that the perception of the car as an extension of the self leads to more aggressive behavior on the road rather than increased driving cautiousness,” the authors wrote, adding that “individuals may view cars and the road space they occupy as their territory and will seek to maintain control over it and defend it as necessary.”

Ruvio said the implications of this study can be seen in numerous cultural contexts because of the strong link between cars and identity. She points to the “soccer-mom” stigma of minivans, the Thelma and Louise personas, and songs such as Shania Twain’s “You Don’t Impress Me Much,” with its line, “I can’t believe you kiss your car goodnight.”

Source: Temple University, Philadelphia