What if your sunroof exploded?

Source: What if your sunroof exploded?, clarionledger.com

It’s a cool, sunny day, and you and your family are taking a nice leisurely drive up the Natchez Trace to see the spectacle of the changing leaves. You’ve retracted your car’s sunroof shade to let the sunshine fill the car with its warming rays, when suddenly you hear loud popping sounds, like gunshots, and you and your kids are covered in a shower of glass fragments.

Sound far-fetched? It’s not.

Since 1995, nearly 900 reports of exploding sunroofs have been filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about three-quarters of those since 2011 and peaking in 2015. No deaths have been reported, but there have been at least 36 reports of injuries, according to an extensive report released Oct. 12 by consumer watchdog Consumer Reports. And, the authors discovered, the number of incidents reported to the NHTSA is likely a small fraction of the actual incidents.

“These incidents have happened in every month of the year in every part of the country, in vehicles from all over the world,” Consumer Reports noted in its report. “They have occurred on interstates, on country roads, and even while parked in driveways.”

Consumer Reports listed Hyundai and Ford as the brands from which sunroof failures were most reported, and covered the spectrum of car brands, but some specific models such as the Scion tC and Hyundai Veloster had the highest rates of reports. The magazine reported that the government is investigating only the Kia Sorento for sunroof issues. It must be stated (as Consumer Reports acknowledged) that the odds of an exploding sunroof are pretty low, but it becomes a big deal when it happens to you.

Vehicle owners report that automakers have in some cases been reluctant to acknowledge the failures of the sunroofs as a design flaw, leaving vehicle owners to pay for the damage themselves in many cases.

As to what causes the sunroofs to shatter, Consumers’ Union scientists quoted in the article say it’s still an open question, but they suspect it has to do with the ever-increasing demands for larger sunroofs, leading automakers to use under-engineered sunroof designs. Many of the newer designs use tempered glass (the same as those in car windows), but also require glass to be more curved, which places stress on the glass that standard tempered glass may be unable to withstand. As heat causes the materials surrounding the glass (and the glass itself) to expand at different rates, it can stress the sunroof to the breaking point.

As for a remedy, Consumer Reports suggests that — if the curving and large areas of newer sunroofs are to blame — the solution could be to use laminated glass to make sunroofs stronger, or a hybrid glass that blends the best characteristics of both.

So, if you’re in the market for a vehicle with a sunroof, Consumer Reports recommends you ask the dealer if the sunroof is made of laminated glass. (It should be stamped in an inconspicuous place on the glass.) Ask about whether the warranty covers sunroof failures, and contact your insurance agent to see if your policy covers such an incident. If you hear unexplained popping sounds, which often precede a sunroof failure, ask your dealer to take a look at it.

And if you experience a sunroof failure, don’t panic; stop as safely as possible and make sure you’re not injured by falling glass. Document the damage by taking photos, and file a report immediately. More details are in Consumer Reports’ report at http://www.consumerreports.org/car-safety/exploding-sunroofs-danger-overhead/.

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Road rage? Blame those stress hormones … and chill

Source: Road rage? Blame those stress hormones … and chill, clarionledger.com

Something happens to us when we get behind the wheel. Even mild-mannered people seem to turn into vengeful agents of doom when we close the drivers-side door and crank our engines. This Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation occurs without warning but can lead to serious — even deadly — consequences in the form of road rage.

According to an American Automobile Association study released in 2016, nearly 80 percent of drivers admitted to aggressive behavior behind the wheel at least once during the previous year. Such behaviors included purposefully tailgating (104 million drivers, or more than half of all drivers); yelling at another driver (95 million); honking to show annoyance or anger (91 million) and making angry gestures (67 million). Others have tried to prevent other drivers from passing or changing lanes or cutting off another vehicle on purpose. And a few have resorted to more extreme measures, including getting out to confront another driver, ramming another vehicle or even brandishing or using a weapon.

While psychologists list a number of reasons why we turn loose our inner Hulk while driving, the most likely is something called “amygdala hijacking”, in which our bodies are taken over by stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol when we feel threatened. We’ve all experienced this during times of extreme stress when our bodies are poised to defend against real or perceived enemies. Unfortunately, for many of us, being cut off in traffic or having another driver drive aggressively around us can trigger us, prompting us to make decisions we may regret later.

Recently, the website InsuranceQuotes.com published a study about the phenomenon. They took an interesting approach by looking at more than 65,000 Instagram posts with the hashtag #RoadRage and compiled the posts by time, date and location. When they analyzed the data, they found that the highest number of road rage-related posts occurred on Friday afternoons, and in August.
“Inconsiderate driving, bad traffic and the daily stresses of life can transform minor frustrations into dangerous road rage,” says Jurek Grabowski, former director of research for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.”
As to why incidents seem to peak in summer, we can only guess, but (at least here in the South, with our sweltering summers) we know that tempers flare with the rising heat. (Incidents are lowest in April and May). Other possibilities, the study authors suggest, could be that summer is a time for family vacations, with families stressed after traveling together on crowded highways.

And it’s not hard to imagine that, on Fridays, people are ready to get home and relax from their busy work weeks, making them impatient to get home. It appears that the number of incidents rises steadily during the week, with the least activity on Sunday. And, although you’d think that road-rage incidents would swell during the morning commute, then taper off until the afternoon, incidents steadily rise during the day.

 Finally, the study looked at which states had the most road-rage incidents, and — perhaps surprisingly — found that drivers in Hawaii appeared the angriest. Contrary to the popular relaxed image of Hawaiians, their highways are notoriously congested and full of tourists who are unfamiliar with the island and cause frustration for the locals.

Road rage incidents can cause your insurance premium to rise, notes Insurance.com’s Laura Adams. “Auto insurers charge drivers with a history of moving violations or at-fault accidents higher rates than those with clean records,” Adams notes. “So, getting a ticket due to a road rage incident typically causes your auto premium to rise. Also, drivers who live in urban areas with heavy traffic typically pay higher rates because accidents happen more frequently.”

As to how to prevent and deal with road rage, Psychology Today’s Steve Albrecht suggests a few strategies. I’ll summarize a few of his excellent points here:

Drive carefully. This means putting down (or turning off) your phone or not letting your attention be distracted. Driving carefully will make you less likely to trigger another driver into road rage.

Don’t engage. “This means no eye contact, no retaliatory finger-flipping, lane change swerves, mutual tailgating, or slamming on your brakes to ‘teach him a lesson,’” Albrecht advises. “Tint your surrounding rear and passenger windows to give yourself some privacy. Many road ragers seem to go after people they think they can fight and win. Don’t allow them to target you.”

Report them. Call 911 if a driver is behaving dangerously, taking care to get their tag number. If you have a passenger, ask them to video the behavior.

Save your life. If you’re targeted by a “rager,” get off the road as soon as safely possible and go to an occupied police or fire station in the area. Call 911, and don’t get out of your car until help arrives. If the other driver gets out and approaches, don’t open the windows or doors. Be prepared to drive away if necessary if you feel you may be attacked.

Deer crashes costly and potentially life threatening

Source: Deer crashes costly and potentially life threatening, clarionledger.com

If you drive in Mississippi, it’s likely that you’ve hit a deer, witnessed a deer-vehicle collision or had a near-miss with one of these hoofed highway hazards. A drive down any country lane or highway at night in the fall will reveal whole herds of deer grazing near the roadway, their eyes reflecting in your headlights. If you’re lucky, they will just ignore you and keep on munching; if not, you could find yourself in a potentially life-threatening situation.

Mississippi’s deer population has exploded in recent years, and while that’s great news for hunters or those of us who like deer sausage, it’s not so good if you hit one with your vehicle. The MSU Extension Service estimates there are about 1.75 million whitetail deer in the state, the highest population density in the nation. Therefore, the possibility of hitting a deer is pretty high. Often, deer are hit while they’re trying to cross the road or highway, with little ones trailing closely behind. As a vehicle approaches, they’ll often panic and dart in front of oncoming traffic.

Nationally, the statistics are grim. The Insurance Industry Institute estimates there are about 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in about 150 occupant deaths, thousands of injuries and more than a billion dollars in damage. (And it doesn’t usually work out too well for the deer, either.)

“Mississippi averages over 3,000 deer-related crashes per year,” MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath said in a news release. “Hitting a deer can be a very costly expense and sometimes it can be a life-threatening accident.”

McGrath notes the increase in vehicle-deer crashes in the fall and winter months is partially a result of higher traffic volumes, higher vehicle speed and shorter daylight hours, coupled with the fact deer move around a lot more during the fall. Insurance claims for deer collisions increase dramatically from October through November each year, note industry experts. According to a 2014 Insurance Industry Institute study, most damage claims (87 percent) submitted to insurance companies are for damage to the front of the vehicle, followed by the driver’s side, passenger side and rear.

 While there is little you can do to avoid a collision, technology may have some answers in the future. For example, Swedish automaker Volvo is testing a Large Animal Detection System that will scan the scene in front of the vehicle and hit the brakes if a deer (or horse, cow, or other large critter) is in the roadway. Similar systems have been available for years in other brands, but they work mainly at night, since they use infrared technology.

So, until your car is smart enough to figure out if you’re about to hit a deer and make you safe, the job is up to you and me. MDOT has these tips for avoiding crashes:

  • Don’t swerve. “Swerving can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicle, causing an even more serious accident,” MDOT notes.
  • Remember that deer are herd animals that live in families, so if you see one, watch for others.
  • Pay attention when driving at dawn and dusk. About 20 percent of crashes occur in early morning, while more than half occur between 5 p.m. and midnight, MDOT advises.
  • Wear your seat belts and drive at a safe, sensible speed.
  • If possible, use high beams at night when no traffic is approaching. This will illuminate deer eyes better.

“No matter if a driver is traveling rural roads or busy highways, the threat of hitting a deer while driving is very real,” McGrath noted. “All motorists should take extra precautions during deer season to ensure their safety while traveling.”

 For tips, visit GoMDOT.com/drivesmartms or follow @MississippiDOT on Twitter.

States passing laws to save kids, pets trapped in cars

130723-Hot-Car

motortorque.com

via States pass laws to save kids, pets trapped in hot cars, clarionledger.com

PDF: Kids and Pets in Cars

Every year, with the hot weather comes tragic stories of how someone left a child in a hot vehicle, leading to death or serious injuries. Especially here in the Sun Belt, where we’re used to long, hot summers, cars can be a death trap if a child is left inside.

In the past three decades, nationally more than 800 children have died after being left in hot vehicles, and the organization Kidsandcars.org has documented 23 cases so far this year.

In one of the latest cases, a Tennessee couple was charged with murder after their 2-year-old son died. The couple allegedly left the child in a vehicle overnight and into the next day in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Cases abound, as an internet search will attest.

While the outside temperature can be tolerable, inside a vehicle it’s a different story. An enclosed vehicle acts as a greenhouse, with the sun’s rays warming the interior as their energy is trapped inside. The website heatkills.org reports that, even on a mild 70-degree day, temperatures inside a car can easily reach 104 degrees in 30 minutes. And at 90 degrees (we’ve seen those temperatures in the last week in central Mississippi), temperatures inside the car can soar to 109 degrees in 10 minutes, and after a half-hour to 124 degrees. Some studies have reported temperatures as high as 172 degrees when it’s 100 degrees outside.

Even at the lower end of that scale, heat-related deaths can easily occur. And although many people continue to believe that cracking the window for your pet helps, most experts disagree. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study in 2005 that opening a window a few inches does little to alleviate the temperature rise.

The spate of child deaths has rightly led to increased calls for action, as well as additional laws and demands for new technologies to keep these tragedies from occurring. According to kidsandcars.org, about half of the states have laws specifically making it a crime to leave a child or pet in a hot vehicle (Mississippi, regrettably, does not.) Hopefully, as states around the nation take legislative action, these laws will also include language to protect pets.

Frequently, an endangered pet is discovered by passersby. Bystanders who see a potentially deadly situation have a decision to make. While many courageous people have risked lawsuits and even personal harm by breaking into an unattended vehicle to rescue a trapped pet, others might fear the repercussions of taking action.

Recently, several states have passed laws to protect people who must break into a vehicle to save a pet trapped inside. For example, in Colorado and other states, would-be rescuers must take a number of other steps before they start breaking windows, including making “every reasonable effort” to locate the vehicle’s owner and call law enforcement. They must also be able to demonstrate the pet is clearly in danger of suffocation or extreme heat or cold. Many state laws specifically limit the term “animal” or “pet” to cats and dogs and specifically prohibit the law from referring to livestock.

Most state laws, according to a study earlier this year by Michigan State University, require that the rescuer be a first-responder (such as a police officer, EMT or firefighter), or a representative of a humane society. Ordinary citizens in most states are not offered any protection or immunity. Of course, many pet lovers will take action anyway, disregarding the potential risk of a nasty confrontation or being charged with destruction of property.

But until we have better laws protecting kids — and pets — left in vehicles, perhaps the best response is to leave your pets at home if possible. And if you see an animal in obvious distress in a vehicle, the Humane Society of the United States suggests you try to locate the owner, and if that fails, call the non-emergency number for the police to report the situation.

Drivers say automated car systems prevented crashes

automation1

360.here.com

via Drivers say automated car systems prevented crashes, clarionledger.com

PDF: Automation1Automation2

A few months ago, I wrote in this column about how pedestrian deaths are becoming increasingly common on our roadways, with some of the alarming increases blamed on our being distracted by the ever-present devices we have with us constantly. While reading through on the findings of a study of the phenomenon, one statement, in particular, caught my eye: The number of pedestrian deaths might be higher still, if not for the installation of automated collision-avoidance systems now on many vehicles.

Our cars and trucks are steadily becoming self-thinking robots. Today’s cars can automatically apply the brakes if the vehicle in front of you suddenly slows or stops; sound an alarm if you’re nodding off at the wheel; alert you if you’re about to hit a vehicle in your blind spot; keep you from backing into an object, animal or person behind you; enable your vehicle to parallel-park itself and many others.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of the 35,092 people who died in vehicle crashes on American roads in 2015, the vast majority (94 percent) were at least partially caused by human error or poor decisions.

All these technologies are paving the way toward a future in which the vehicles will be doing much — if not all — of the driving. Depending on your point of view, that could be comforting or alarming. It’s an established fact that humans are just not very good at making decisions all the time, and we can suffer from fatigue, distraction, poor judgment and lack of impulse control. On the other hand, we know computerized systems are subject to security flaws, equipment failure, and poor programming.

But in labs and research facilities around the world, engineers are working towards a more automated future, and are watching as these features are tested on a massive scale on today’s roads. The results, Consumer Reports noted recently, can be found in saved lives and happier drivers. Consumer Reports asked its subscribers to report on their experiences with some of these technologies and found most of them reported they were not only satisfied with these systems but also, in some cases, credited those systems with avoiding crashes.

More than 57,000 vehicle owners responded to the magazine’s request to provide information, reporting that their vehicles included such features as automated emergency braking, forward-collision warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning and lane-departure warning. Consumer Reports noted that drivers were most appreciative of blind-spot warnings and rear cross-traffic warnings (although these systems have been panned in the past; the American Automobile Association in 2015 cited high error rates for RCTA systems).

In particular, for vehicle owners who said these features had saved them from accidents, blind-spot warnings were cited for preventing 35 percent of potential crashes. Even experienced drivers can fail to see a car that’s in their own vehicle’s blind spot and sideswipe neighboring vehicles when changing lanes. A blind-spot warning system sounds an alarm when it senses you’re about to change lanes into another vehicle.

While many of these features simply give you a visual, auditory or even tactile warning that a collision is imminent, others actually take control of the vehicle if the system senses a dangerous situation. For example, lane-keeping systems use cameras to detect lane markings and will steer your vehicle back to its lane if you’re drifting out of the lane. AEB will automatically apply the brakes if it senses you’re about to rear-end the vehicle in front of you.

Of course, with all of these technologies comes the potential for errors, which can annoy drivers and cause them to lose faith in the technology. For example, owners of vehicles equipped with forward-collision warning reported the highest number of false alerts. About 45 percent of these drivers reported getting at least one false alert.

Still, Consumer Reports (and many consumer advocates and regulatory bodies) think these technologies are a great idea (even with the occasional error) and recommend more of these technologies become standard equipment in the future. “Consumer Reports believes that FCW and AEB should be standard equipment, even with occasional false alerts,” noted the survey authors. “The latest study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety supports this: Rear-end crashes are cut by 27 percent when a vehicle has FCW and by 50 percent when it’s also equipped with AEB.”

To read Consumer Reports’ full article, which includes more results about each of the technologies covered, visit http://bit.ly/2twfCBc. For more on each type of feature and videos to explain them, visit the NHTSA’s site at http://bit.ly/2oCBSVM.

Getting the most from your car’s A/C

edmunds ac

edmunds.com

via How to get the most out of your vehicle’s AC, clarionledger.com

PDF: ACTips1ACTips2

If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember the old “4/40” system for keeping cool while driving in the summer months. Driving around at around 40 miles per hour with all four windows down got the air moving in the torrid heat of a Southern summer, and provided a welcome escape for generations of Mississippians.

While most of us consider air conditioning to be a necessity in our vehicles, it wasn’t always so. Early automobiles were uncooled, even as the new air-conditioning systems (if you could afford them) made homes and businesses feel like a crisp March morning even in the dog days of August. In 1933, Popular Science reported that a New York company had installed an air conditioning unit in a commercially available vehicle for the first time.

Although not commercially successful at first because of the unwieldy equipment required, cost and danger of carbon monoxide poisoning, the idea took off, and the technology made steady improvements. In the years after, Packard and Cadillac experimented with various technologies. But in 1953, the new Chrysler Imperial featured an optional air conditioning that would be recognizable as a modern system.

Since then, many more innovations have made air conditioning a staple on most vehicles. But many drivers still are probably not getting the most effective use of it. Recently, Consumer Reports’ Patrick Olsen wrote a great column with five tips:

Don’t pre-cool. Olsen explains that your car’s air conditioning works much better when you’re actually driving, because the faster the engine turns, the faster the compressor runs, which lets the system cool more effectively. Don’t waste time and gas by letting your car run before you go.

“If the interior is really hot, crank up the fan when you start driving, and open just the rear windows for 10 to 20 seconds,” Olsen advises. “This forces all the hot air out of the cabin. Don’t open the front windows — that only moves the heat out of the front of the car, and it will leave the air in the back of the cabin hot and stagnant.”

Go low. Since most vehicle air-conditioning systems cool the air to about 38 degrees, if you set the temperature higher, you can be making the system work harder since it must re-heat the air. Olsen advises setting the temp to the lowest setting, then using the fans to adjust the temperature.

Don’t recirculate. Most cars have a “recirculate” button, which takes air from the front of the cabin and pulls it back through the system. But while using this feature might make the driver and front-seat passengers comfortable, it can make rear-seat passengers hotter.

Turn off stop/start mode. Some newer vehicles have a system that stops the engine when idling, to cut down on fuel use and emissions. Olsen suggests turning it off, because it can make the compressor stop running, making your car hotter when stopped or in stop-and-go traffic.

Clean the filter. A dirty cabin air filter (just like the one in your house) can reduce the efficiency of your system and make it work harder. If your filter is easily accessible, clean it often.

And as for the age-old debate about whether using the air conditioner uses more gas than riding with the windows open, most expert sites I consulted noted, “it depends.”

Conventional wisdom says the air conditioner uses more gas, and that’s usually true. Car and Driver did a study in 2008 in which they tested this theory and recommended turning the air conditioner off and opening the windows (at lower speeds) to save a few miles per gallon. But at higher speeds, the engine is running faster, making the air-conditioning system use less fuel. Automotive site Edmunds.com notes, “in our experience, it’s not worth the argument because you won’t save a lot of gas either way. So just do what’s comfortable.”

Auto Repair Task Force releases guide for consumers

via Auto Repair Task Force releases guide for consumers, clarionledger.com

PDF: Auto Repair Task Force

March 18, 2013, was a date many Mississippians are unlikely to forget. That day, a cold front rolled through the state, bringing with it severe thunderstorms and hail as large as baseballs.

Roofs throughout the region sustained heavy damage, and vehicles parked outside faced a merciless pummeling which resulted in shattered windshields and severe body damage. The Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers Training Academy in Pearl reported that 87 vehicles were destroyed in its parking lot, with many buildings heavily damaged as well. Auto dealers across the region reported catastrophic damage to their inventories. Within a couple of weeks, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney noted at the time, vehicle owners had filed more than 31,000 insurance claims. Local body shops found themselves inundated with repair jobs, with consumers often facing long backlogs for repairs.

The crisis illustrated the often-complex landscape of the auto repair industry, often the subject of myths and miscommunications resulting in frustration for all involved.

Over the past several years, the auto repair and insurance providers have been taking a look at ways the two industries can make the process better. Last August, Attorney General Jim Hood convened the Mississippi Auto Repair Task Force, bringing together representatives from the Mississippi Insurance Department, body shops, insurers, auto manufacturers, aftermarket parts manufacturers and others to “find common ground on best practices for the future and discuss concerns and desires to better meet the needs of consumers.”

Their work has resulted in a publication called the Consumer’s Guide to Insurance and Auto Body Repair. Hood released the publication last week, noting that new technologies have made getting your car repaired more complicated than ever.

“Our Consumer Protection Division receives complaints from consumers about disputes between insurance companies and collision repair shops,” Hood noted. “Our goal is to help consumers be aware of issues and understand their rights in the repair process.”

“To say this is a monumental day would be an understatement,” noted the Mississippi Collision Repair Association on its Facebook page following the release of the guide and urging its members to download and distribute it. “…This is a testament to the good that can come when shops, insurance companies, parts makers, and regulators come to the table for the good of consumers.”

To place a vehicle back in its pre-accident condition, some body shops must buy expensive machines or tools and have their technicians trained and certified on the repair procedures for certain makes of vehicles, Hood noted. “Some collision repair shops which do not obtain these certifications and tools,” Hood said, “may offer to do a repair cheaper.”

The tug-of-war among consumers who want top-notch repairs, body shops trying to keep costs low and insurance companies in the middle can result in conflict.

The guide covers a wide variety of topics, including what consumers should know when selecting a body repair shop; understanding the difference between original equipment and other types of parts and the implications of that choice; and what to do after the repairs are completed.

Although the guide’s publication received general support from the industry, some dissented. In a statement on its website, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America said it could potentially cause confusion and “mislead” consumers.

“Because of the likelihood of confusion for consumers, PCI cannot sign on to or otherwise support the Guide,” said the statement, attributed to Joe Woods, PCI vice president for state government relations. “While PCI generally appreciates all efforts to educate consumers on auto body repairs, we are disappointed with the Consumer Guide to Auto Body Repair recently issued by Attorney General Hood. Principally, PCI is concerned that the Guide may confuse and mislead consumers and body shops because it differs significantly from repair requirements proscribed by Mississippi law and from directives issued by the Mississippi Department of Insurance.”

To download a copy of the guide, visit http://bit.ly/2rjLTLl.

Watch where you’re going! Pedestrian deaths reach 20-year high

the-traffic-light-2157162_960_720Source: Watch where you’re going! Pedestrian deaths reach 20-year high

PDF: The_Clarion-Ledger_State_20170403_A004_2

Recently, as my son and I were walking across the grocery store parking lot to get some groceries, we were nearly hit by a car whose driver seemed oblivious to our presence as she turned the corner. Luckily, we were paying attention and had time to get out of the way. As we continued into the store, a store employee who was collecting shopping carts and saw the incident shook his head sympathetically and said, “it happens all the time.” It’s actually the second time in a year we’ve been nearly mowed down in the grocery store parking lot.

It’s a dangerous time to be a pedestrian in the United States. The Governors Highway Safety Administration just released its annual study of pedestrian deaths, which examines the problem of people getting killed after being struck by vehicles. The grim statistic: nearly 6,000 pedestrians died in 2016, the highest in 20 years.

That’s a 25 percent increase from 2010, making pedestrians the largest portion of all traffic deaths recorded in the past 25 years. And the 2016 spike marks an 11 percent increase from 2015 (the previous record-holder). The GHSA, a nonprofit made up of state highway safety offices, notes that the numbers could be higher, owing to the under-reporting of incidents. All told, 34 states had increases, and Mississippi ranked 20th in the nation for deaths as a percentage of total population for the first six months of 2016 (that’s actually an improvement from the previous year, but the second-half 2016 statistics haven’t come in yet.)

So, what’s causing all this mayhem? The authors of the study note the rapid increase in the use of smartphones could help explain at least part of the phenomenon because these devices present a “significant source of distraction for both pedestrians and motorists.”

We’ve all seen them, and maybe you’ve been one of them: people whose attention is focused on their smartphone while walking carelessly. Videos abound of people falling headlong into fountains, disappearing into open manholes or tripping on the curb while checking their email, posting to Facebook or looking for that elusive “Pokemon Go” character. Others fail to pay attention to oncoming traffic while crossing the street, leading to their being struck and often killed.

Drivers, too, are distracted. It’s been well-established that phone use while driving can present a serious attention deficit for drivers, becoming more serious the faster they drive. Unsurprisingly, alcohol also plays a role here, as it does in auto crashes in general. Thirty-four percent of pedestrians and 15 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes were intoxicated at the time of the crash, noted the study.

And although vehicles are getting better about avoiding crashing into things through collision-avoidance technologies, and local cities and states are taking measures to make things safer, the numbers continue to rise. It could be, the study’s authors note, more people are walking for fitness and economic reasons at the same time the numbers of vehicles on the road has risen because of the improving economy.

“This latest data shows that the U.S. isn’t meeting the mark on keeping pedestrians safe on our roadways,” Jonathan Adkins, GHSA executive director, told PBS Newshour. “Every one of these lives represents a loved one not coming home tonight, which is absolutely unacceptable.”

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (pedbikeinfo.org) has some helpful tips to make your walk or run safer. Here are a few:

  • Wear brightly colored clothing and reflective tape at night. These can help increase your visibility to motorists.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk if one is available; if not, walk facing traffic so you can see approaching vehicles.
  • Don’t assume drivers will stop. Try to make eye contact with the driver and be prepared to move if he or she doesn’t appear to notice you.
  • Cross streets only at crosswalks, if possible.
  • Don’t wear earbuds or use your phone while walking.

And finally, if you’re a driver in the grocery store parking lot, please … slow down, put down your phone and pay attention. You might save a life.

Millennials differ from parents on car choices

millennial-cars

autoblog.com

Source: Millennials differ from parents on car choices, clarionledger.com

PDF: millennialcars

Remember back to when you were just starting out and considered getting your first car? While most of us probably had a vehicle in high school and college, and a lucky few were presented with a new vehicle upon graduation, the vast majority of us started out with a banged-up beater that had seen better days.

For me, it was a 1972 Ford Gran Torino. My mom and dad had bought the car used; by the time I got it, the car was 8 years old and had high mileage. But that didn’t stop me from falling in love with it. I took great care of it all through high school, until I said a wistful goodbye a few years — and many miles — later.

There is a special relationship between young people and their first car, and when they finally get the chance to buy a vehicle on their own, they usually know what they want. But a new study from Autolist.com indicates car-shopping millennials (loosely defined as those born from the early 1980s through the late 1990s, or ages 25-34), have wildly different preferences than their parents (Generation Xers) when it comes to buying those first vehicles.

Millennials appear to be thinking more about the environmental impacts of their vehicles and care somewhat more about features, according to the survey. However, they care less about price, reliability and brand than the previous generation. And about half of millennials said they planned to hold on to their vehicles for five years or less, contrasting sharply with their parents’ generation, most of whom said they planned to keep their vehicles much longer.
The generations also differed somewhat in what they considered their favorite makes and models. The Ford Mustang was the only favorite make and model both groups named (when asked what they’d consider their favorite performance car model). For trucks, millennials preferred the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, while Gen Xers preferred Ford F-150s. For a small car, millennials tended to choose the Honda Civic, while Generation X preferred the Honda Accord. When asked about their SUV preferences, millennials chose the Honda CR-V, while the older generation chose the Toyota RAV4.

The study is just the latest in the mixed bag of news for the auto industry. While some of those trends portend well for automakers, others could spell trouble down the road. Last year, the University of Michigan found that just 60 percent of today’s 18-year-olds have driver’s licenses, compared with 80 percent in the 1980s. Many millennials have come to view cars less as a status symbol and more like just a way to get from Point A to Point B. As a result, services like ride-sharing and personal transportation options — such as scooters and electric bikes — are becoming more attractive to millennials. Those trends, however, are more pronounced in densely packed urban areas; preferences of millennials in a largely rural state like Mississippi are probably more like their parents’.

Still, it’s obvious things are changing. Whether all this data mean millennials are truly different from past generations remains to be seen; it could be that they’re just hitting life’s milestones later. However, it’s also possible that how Americans view, purchase and use automobiles is undergoing a major shift. The age of the autonomous vehicle is about to dawn, and together with a generation with changed expectations, the automotive landscape will likely be unrecognizable in just a few years.

Uber settles charges with feds

Source: Drivers taken for a ride: The dark side of Uber

The ride-sharing phenomenon has hit the nation by storm in the past few years. Coming from what was virtually unknown a decade ago, companies like Uber and Lyft have carved a business worth an estimated $40 billion worldwide, according to Reuters.

Ride-sharing companies, though, must depend on the availability of privately owned vehicles and drivers willing to transport passengers. That means being able to convince vehicle owners their efforts will reap financial rewards for driving, and in some cases, enticing drivers to lease a vehicle to be used for ride-sharing services.

But last week, the Federal Trade Commission presented San Francisco-based Uber Technologies with a $20 million invoice to settle charges that the company exaggerated how much money drivers could make, and that the company made false promises to potential vehicle owners. With almost unprecedented speed, Uber paid the FTC on the same day the settlement was announced.

“Many consumers sign up to drive for Uber, but they shouldn’t be taken for a ride about their earnings potential or the cost of financing a car through Uber,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a news release Thursday. “This settlement will put millions of dollars back in Uber drivers’ pockets.”

Specifically, the FTC alleged Uber “exaggerated the yearly and hourly income drivers could make in certain cities and misled prospective drivers about the terms of its vehicle financing options.”

For example, the agency alleged that Uber promised drivers they could average more than $90,000 in New York and more than $74,000 in San Francisco, while the actual median income was closer to $61,000 in New York and $53,000 in San Francisco. “In all, less than 10 percent of all drivers in those cities earned the yearly income Uber touted.” In addition, the FTC alleged that Uber repeated this pattern in a number of cities.

Uber also agreed to settle FTC charges that its Vehicle Solutions Program (through which Uber drivers could purchase vehicles) would provide drivers with the “best financing options available,” regardless of the driver’s credit history, and told consumers they could “own a car for as little as $20/day” ($140/week) or lease a car with “payments as low as $17 per day” ($119/week), and “starting at $119/week.” The agency alleged the actual lease payments exceeded $160 and $200, respectively, well over what consumers with similar credit scores would have to pay.

For its part, Uber admitted no wrongdoing, but in a statement emailed to the Chicago Tribune, a spokesman acknowledged the settlement. “We’re pleased to have reached an agreement with the FTC,” said Uber spokesman Matt Kallman. “We’ve made many improvements to the driver experience over the last year and will continue to focus on ensuring that Uber is the best option for anyone looking to earn money on their own schedule.”