Mar 04, 15
More than 30,000 people are killed in car accidents every year in the United States. Typical causes range from speeding to drunk driving and vehicle malfunction. But, another cause of car accidents has steadily risen, not so coincidentally right along with the popularity of social media – distracted driving. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter are the social center of many people’s lives, even when they’re on the go. But, when someone is behind the wheel, checking in online can be a death sentence.
In 2012, there were 3,328 people killed in car accidents in the United States as a result of distracted driving, and more than 1,100 people are injured every day. Of course, social media isn’t to blame for all of the deaths, because distracted driving covers a number of behaviors, including eating, changing the radio, and talking on the phone. However, the desire to remain constantly connected to family and friends causes many people to develop a habit of impulsively checking their social media accounts for updates and messages, even while they are driving.
While no exact figure can be attributed to the number of accidents, injuries and deaths caused by driver’s interacting on social media, the number of drivers who are actively using their cell phones or other electronic devices at any given time has remained fairly steady (at about 660,000) since 2010. That is an indication that social media must play a part in at least some of the distracted driving accidents.
The reason why it is so dangerous to access social media while driving is because the act involves all three primary types of distraction: visual (eyes off the road), manual (hands off the wheel), and cognitive (mind off driving). During that time, the driver’s reaction time is impaired to the point that it’s as if he were driving while intoxicated. When a driver travelling 55 mph looks down at his electronic device for just five seconds, it is the equivalent of driving blindfold for the length of a football field.
The habit of accessing social media while driving is a deadly one, to be sure. State governments have taken notice of it, too. Currently, 14 states, along with Washington D.C., prohibit any use of a hand held cell phone while driving, and 38 states and Washington D.C. prohibit all forms of cell phone use by new drivers. Penalties range from state to state, but the goal is to avoid engaging in the dangerous behavior in the first place.
Clearly, the responsibility to affect change is in the hands of all drivers who must make a personal commitment not to engage in such irresponsible behavior. If you are one of the millions of people who enjoy participating in and connecting through social media sites, and you find yourself falling into the pattern of checking in online when you drive, put your phone away. When you’re on the road, secure your cell phone in the glove compartment, the back seat, or even the trunk of your car, and don’t use it for any reason other than an emergency. Updating your social status shouldn’t be a matter of life and death.
Feb 27, 15
The consumer’s need to stay connected is a contributing factor in one out of five car accidents every year. Distracted driving, which includes activities such as texting, talking on the phone and checking in on social media accounts, accounts for more than 1,150 injuries and 9 deaths every day in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Auto manufacturers have taken notice, and are adding technological safety features to their cars with an eye on preventing people from driving while distracted. But, adding enhanced safety features isn’t the only way manufacturers are improving the driving experience. Here are three of the most innovative changes being made to vehicles.
It’s obviously important to know what to do if you’re involved in a car accident, but avoiding one in the first place is the real goal. To that end, some manufacturers will soon begin adding a gesture control feature to select vehicle models.
In an apparent effort to confront the inherent dangers of so many gadgets in our vehicles, BMW presented a futuristic concept at the 2015 Consumer electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Indicating that they have plans to integrate gesture control into their next-generation iDrive interface, BMW presented trade show visitors with a concept vehicle that had headliner-mounted sensors which will be able to detect and interpret specific movements. The new interface system, dubbed BMW Gesture Recognition, will allow drivers to control many features of their vehicle without having to touch anything. For example, if the driver wants to accept an incoming call, he will simply point at the screen, and if he wants to reject it, he just sweeps his hand to the right, in effect ‘shooing away’ the call. Touchscreen controls will still be available, though.
Gesture control technology could make a significant difference relative to common commands, such as turning music up or down, and managing calls. But, with smartphone integration, drivers will be able to tap into many facet of their cellphones without the danger that comes with looking down to focus on such a small screen. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay allow drivers to connect their phones to the vehicle, after which the built-in dashboard screen will display the options most used by drivers, such as navigation, music, phone, and messaging. The technology is already available in select 2015 models, but manufacturers like Audi, Hyundai and BMW will be adding smartphone integration to even more vehicles over the next year.
For those who don’t want to drive, much less use vehicle gadgets, there is good news. Manufacturers have been working to create self-driving cars. Of course, there will always be a driver behind the wheel, but if Audi and BMW have anything to say about it, those drivers will be able to simply sit back and enjoy the ride.
In an effort to demonstrate just how far they’ve come in development, Audi recently sent its RS 7 to drive a lap at racing speed on a Grand Prix track. The vehicle was without a driver for the duration. The company also sent an A7 model from Palo Alto, California to Las Vegas, Nevada. The 550 mile trip was made with someone behind the wheel, of course, but the vehicle was able to negotiate lane changes and turns with no assistance.
Vehicles of the future certainly won’t look anything like those of our parents, both inside and out. The technology is developing at a breakneck pace and, while driving has dangerous elements to it regardless of the type of vehicle begin driven, auto manufacturers are doing their part to make the roads safer for those of us who simply must stay connected.
Feb 24, 15
The smallest digital devices have traditionally had the most dated-looking fonts, and are often difficult to read. The future of mobile may have just taken a giant step with advances from the 100-year-old font company Monotype, with a new program called “Spark.” The types of fonts used on smaller mobile displays have been very limited in the past, as the font must use the least amount of computing power to get fast loading and best utilize device space.
This new program gives the ability to use more legible and more attractive fonts in smaller digital displays such as watches, allowing for more readable rendered fonts such as Times New Roman to appear on the screen. A low quality screen display can make a valuable product look cheap, and Spark offers an answer for digital product developers that could be a game-changer.
Digital devices such as watches used by medical professionals for alerts and transfer of information could be more common in upcoming years, and readability and clarity are exceptionally important in this environment. Watches that alert surgeons and other medical professional of urgent data could save a life. The least one could hope to get with such an advanced device would be easily readable fonts that reflect the high quality of the device, rather than what was available in the past in these devices.
A smartphone, tablet or other digital device pulls information from various sources, and the outcome can be unpredictable and very low quality in appearance. The flagship product from Monotype brings a solution to this problem. The program makes fonts on small screens look as clear and defined as on an iPhone, desktop or laptop. The fonts displayed now look less dated and jagged in appearance, offering new opportunities for companies who want to deliver a luxury item experience but don’t have the resources in programmers such as big companies like Apple. User interface (UI) designers have a new tool that could level the playing field.
Feb 17, 15
Every year in the United States, an average of 33,000 people are killed and more than two million people are injured in car accidents. Driver’s error is the number one cause of car accidents, but since that is such a general term, www.myinjurycase.com offers a more specific list, including speeding and drowsy driving. Distracted driving is also on the list because it is equally dangerous. In fact, distracted driving (texting, eating) is the cause of more than 3,000 vehicle fatalities every year in the United States.
In an effort to prevent themselves from looking down at their phones while they drive, and therefore avoid a distracted driving accident, some people have taken to wearing Google Glass behind the wheel. But, does Google Glass really help prevent distracted driving accidents, and is it even legal to wear them while driving?
What is Google Glass?
Google Glass is, as the name suggests, a pair of glasses that are worn the same way as prescription lenses. But, on the lens of the Google Glass is a small screen that acts as a computer monitor of sorts. Using specific voice prompts, the wearer can use Google Glass to take pictures or video, read Gmail messages and incoming text messages, and reply to them. The user can also get directions, check the weather, and do myriad other things through Google. With all of the features available with Google Glass, and considering the additional incentive of being able to control them using only your voice, Google Glass is a connected driver’s dream, right? Not so fast.
Can You Wear Them While Driving?
The concern over the safety issues revolving around driving while wearing Google Glass has led at least eight states to consider a ban on the practice. In response, Google has begun to lobby in earnest against such efforts, rightly believing that such laws could negatively impact sales. As it stands now, the vast majority of states have not yet considered enacting laws that would specifically prohibit the use of Google Glass while driving. But, does that mean the glasses are safe to wear? Not necessarily.
Distracted Driving and Google Glass
Just because there isn’t a law specifically forbidding the use of Google Glass while driving does not mean that a driver won’t face sanctions if he is caught wearing them. As with all electronic devices, law enforcement discourages the active use of Google Glass because, regardless of someone’s ability to maintain control of his vehicle, interfacing with the eyewear requires the driver to focus on something other than the road. Given that, it is possible that a driver could be ticketed for wearing the glasses if he is found to be driving recklessly, or worse, was the cause of an accident because he was checking his email instead of paying attention to the road.
Google Glass is not available for sale to the general population yet, and Google hasn’t given a firm date for their release. However, some employees and a small handful of consumers have been able to purchase them, and interested consumers can find them on websites such as Ebay. If you do plan to purchase a pair, though, consider the implications of distracted driving before you decide to wear them behind the wheel.
Feb 13, 15
Every day, the men and women of the United States armed forces help protect our borders against terrorism and other threats. The inherent risk involved in such a critical task requires the best resources available, starting with transport vehicles and ships. While every effort is made to ensure that our soldiers are provided with the safest and most structurally sound equipment available, relative to vehicles and ships, there are sometimes unforeseen risks at play that threaten their lives and well-being – risks that have nothing to do with the enemy.
Diesel Exhaust Exposure
Diesel is the fuel of choice for most military vehicles. Comprised of two main components, gas and soot, diesel fuel creates an exhaust that can wreak havoc on a person’s lungs. The more prolonged and sustained the exposure, the more damage the exhaust can cause to the human body. When toxic diesel exhaust is breathed in by someone, he may experience short term dizziness, irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and nausea.
Unlike most civilians, military personnel do not have a choice about whether or not they are directly exposed to the harmful exhaust. To make it worse, many soldiers are exposed to the toxic fumes in varying degrees for hours on end every day. As such, their health issues can take a more drastic turn, resulting in lifelong respiratory illness, or worse.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has reported that prolonged exposure to diesel exhaust can increase the risk of lung cancer, as well as increase the risk of dying from lung cancer. As a result, diesel exhaust is now classified as carcinogenic to humans. Some of the substances that are known to, or are suspected of, causing cancer that can be found in diesel exhaust include formaldehyde, arsenic and benzene.
Military vehicles aren’t the only mode of transportation that endangers our military men and women. Prior to the dangers of asbestos becoming common knowledge, the Navy used the toxic material as insulation on its ships. Until the 1980s, when the dangers of asbestos were made public, military personnel had no idea that they were being directly exposed to a deadly carcinogen. The Mesothelioma From The Navy website offers a detailed picture of the history of asbestos use in Navy ships.
Sadly, exposure to asbestos leads to a particularly vicious form of cancer called mesothelioma. The asbestos particles become embedded in the lungs where they can cause inflammation. Often, cancer from asbestos exposure won’t develop for decades, so the victim won’t have any idea the source of his cancer was the Navy ship he was assigned to all those years ago.
Also, symptoms of mesothelioma include some of the same signs of a common cold, such as shortness of breath, loss of appetite and a nagging cough. So, it may not be obvious at first that a retired veteran is suffering from anything worse than a cold. However, mesothelioma is literally a matter of life or death, so any veteran who experiences these seemingly benign symptoms, and was exposed to asbestos while enlisted, is strongly encouraged to seek medical attention.
Our military personnel put their lives on the line for us every day. Some of the hidden dangers they face, including exposure to asbestos and diesel exhaust, can pose just as great a risk as the obvious dangers. Changes have been made and are continuing to be made, but for many soldiers it’s too little too late. We owe it to do our part to protect our soldier’s health while they’re on duty by continuing to pursue healthier, safer transportation alternatives. It’s the least we can do for those who are protecting us.
Feb 01, 15
Electric vehicles have a surprisingly long history, but they didn’t begin to surge in popularity until the first mass market all-electric units began rolling off the assembly line in 2008. Amounting to much more than just a fad, electric cars have become the vehicle of choice for environmentally-conscious consumers, and those who wish to save money on gas in the long run. Manufacturers have taken notice, too. The market for plug in electric cars now consists of about two dozen models offered by 12 manufacturers. While the popularity of electric vehicles is increasing, questions about their safety linger. Consumers wonder if, in their bid to corner the market, vehicle manufacturers are giving enough attention to issues of safety. Are those concerns valid? Let’s take a look.
Are They Too Quiet?
The number one cause of car accidents is driver’s error, but relative to electric vehicles, the silence of their engines has also been a contributing factor. How can silence cause a car accident? Pedestrians and cyclists who may not be paying attention won’t be able to hear the vehicle approach, and that can spell disaster. The fact that electric vehicles accelerate faster than gas-powered vehicles makes the potential for a collision even higher.
Legitimate concern has been expressed by the National Federation for the Blind, among other groups, and the federal government has taken notice. The U.S. Department of Transportation has set rules requiring that all electric and hybrid vehicles come equipped with noise alerts on all models manufactured in 2016 and beyond. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the change will result in 2,800 fewer pedestrian and bicyclist-related accidents annually.
Are the Batteries Safe?
The batteries in electric cars are heavier than the batteries in gas powered vehicles, and the weight and location of the batteries in electric cars helps prevent rollovers. But are the batteries themselves safe? It’s a fair question considering that the lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles contain from hundreds to thousands of battery cells. Each of those cells contains a liquid electrolyte that is flammable. So, battery safety in electric vehicles comes down to preventing the electrolytes from catching fire and, in the event of an engine fire, ensuring that it doesn’t spread to the passenger compartment.
Advanced cooling systems, strategic battery placement, driver warning systems, and firewalls all work in concert to prevent fires from starting and spreading. But, no design is perfect, and electric vehicle batteries have been responsible for starting fires, but the numbers are not nearly as high as the critics would have us believe. In the last handful of years, there have only been about 20 vehicle fires blamed on lithium-ion car batteries (many caused by road debris puncturing the engine), compared to about one fire reported every four minutes in gas-powered vehicles. Of course, the number of gas-powered vehicles on the road far outweighs the number of electric vehicles. Even so, the lithium-ion batteries used to power electric vehicles are not inherently unsafe.
All-electric vehicles are fairly new to the auto industry and, as such, manufacturers are still working out the kinks. But, are they unsafe? No. Thanks to changes in the law, as well as the auto industry’s focus on safety features, electric vehicles are just as safe to drive as their gas-powered counterparts. In fact, some people feel safer driving a vehicle containing a large, heavy battery than they did when they were driving a vehicle containing a tank of flammable liquid.
Jan 23, 15
Most drivers know the helpless feeling of their vehicle hitting black ice or snow and suddenly starting to slide after losing traction. A momentary skid, however, doesn’t have to mean a collision. If you know how to react, there are a number of ways to regain control of your car before it skids off the road or hits another vehicle.
About 2 percent of traffic fatalities nationwide are caused by winter weather, according to a carinsurance.com article. Many more wintertime accidents involve fender benders or sliding off the road.
Many drivers wisely choose to stay off the roads during icy conditions. Those who do brave the weather should drive more slowly. Some motorists wind up in collisions or a ditch because they drive too fast for road conditions and lose control. Drivers who disregard safety and drive too fast for road and weather conditions pose a danger to other motorists and pedestrians.
How to Stop When Sliding
- Avoid panicking: One of the most important things to understand is that you often can regain control of a sliding vehicle.
- Take your foot off the gas: Slowly accelerating and decelerating in snowy and ice weather helps you control the vehicle. Once you’ve started sliding, though, the best way to cut speed and regain control is to remove your foot from the gas pedal.
- Release the brakes: Antilock brakes (ABS) are not made for top performance on ice and are likely to lock up the vehicle’s wheels, icyroadsafety.com reports. Wheels that are sliding can’t be controlled and steering won’t change the direction the vehicle is traveling if the wheels continue to slide.
- Turn into the slide: Steer the vehicle in the direction the back end of the vehicle is sliding. This is called turning into the slide. Once the tires regain traction, focus your eyes in the direction you want to travel and turn the steering wheel in that direction.
- Don’t white knuckle it: Instead of putting a vice like grip on the steering wheel, handle it loosely and avoid overcorrection in your steering. If you turn too far, start steering in the opposite direction.
- Understand how the brakes work: Threshold braking, in which you keep the heel of the foot on the floorboard and use the ball of the foot to put firm, steady pressure on the brakes can help you regain control, according to the American Automobile Association. Once you feel the brakes begin to lock, however, you should release them. Do this rather than pump the brakes.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly: Easing onto the gas pedal can help you get traction and stay away from skids, but never try to make a rabbit start. When slowing for a stop light, take your time because you’ll need more distance to come to a complete stop on a snowy or icy road.
- Drive slower than normal: Allow plenty of time for maneuvering because acceleration, stopping, and turning all take longer on snow and ice.
- Keep more distance between your car and the car in front: In normal conditions, you need three or four seconds to stop, but that increases to eight to 10 seconds in winter weather.
- Avoid stops: When approaching a red light, try to slow the vehicle down so you can keep rolling through an intersection when the light turns green.
- Avoid trying to overpower hills: Giving the car too much gas while going up a hill will make your wheels spin. Let inertia work for you and carry you to the top, then as you reach the hill’s crest, slow down and go over the other side as slowly as possible.
- Never stop on hills: Once you lose momentum while going up a hill, you won’t be able to make it to the top.
- Don’t go out: Unless it is an absolutely necessity to drive, stay at home. You might be an excellent winter weather driver, but others probably don’t have the same skills. Enjoy the wintry scene from the warmth of your home rather than at a crash scene.
Guest post provided by Sansone & Lauber