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November/December 2015 Issue

Safety advocates issue a wake-up call to drowsy drivers

The National Institutes of Health estimates that sleep-related problems affect up to 70 million Americans, which consequently means there are a lot of sleepy people at risk of crashes on the road.

Indeed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drowsy driving caused about 72,000 crashes, 800 fatalities, and 44,000 injuries in 2013. As tragic as those numbers are, they only tell a portion of the story because it is widely recognized that drowsy driving is underreported as a cause of crashes.

Research from the A AA Foundation for Traffic Safety helped to confirm the prevalence of drowsy drivers. The research found that one-in-five fatal crashes from 2009–2013 involved driver fatigue.

With Drowsy Driving Prevention Week being held Nov. 1–8 this year to raise awareness of the issue, safety advocates are urging drivers to recognize the warning signs of driver fatigue and avoid tragedy.

“Drowsy driving is a serious traffic safety problem,” warned Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Unfortunately, drivers often underestimate this risk and overestimate their ability to combat drowsiness behind the wheel.”

Among the warning signs of drowsy driving are:

  • The inability to recall the last few miles traveled
  • Having disconnected or wandering thoughts
  • Having difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open
  • Yawning repeatedly and feeling as though your head is very heavy
  • Drifting out of your driving lane, perhaps driving on the rumble strips
  • Accidentally tailgating other vehicles and missing traffic signs

When faced with fatigue, AAA urges drivers to find a safe place to pull over and rest. To remain alert behind the wheel, AAA suggests that motorists get at least seven hours of sleep each night, especially the night before a long trip. In addition, motorists should:

  • Drive at times when you are normally awake
  • Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles
  • Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving
  • Avoid heavy foods and medications that cause drowsiness or impairment
If you have trouble getting enough rest or are chronically fatigued, consult with your doctor or a sleep specialist.

 


 

Americans steer away from autonomous parking

As automakers increasingly integrate self-parking features into new vehicles, most Americans say they are not ready to give up control and use the systems, which often do perform better than drivers themselves, according to a new report from AAA.

In a AAA survey, 80 percent of American drivers said they are confident in their parallel parking abilities, and only one-in-four reported they would trust this technology to park their vehicle. Despite this, AAA testing found self-parking technology outperformed unassisted drivers in four key areas.

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California's Automotive Research Center, AAA tested self-parking features on five vehicles: a 2015 Lincoln MKC; a 2015 Mercedes-Benz ML400 4Matic; a 2015 Cadillac CTS-V Sport; a 2015 BMW i3; and a 2015 Jeep Cherokee Limited. Compared to drivers who manually parallel parked with the aid of a standard back-up camera, AAA found:

  • Drivers using self-parking systems experienced 81 percent fewer curb strikes.
  • Self-parking systems parallel parked the vehicle using 47 percent fewer maneuvers, with some systems completing the task in just one maneuver.
  • Self-parking systems were able to park a vehicle 10 percent faster.
  • Self-parking systems were able to park 37 percent closer to the curb.

While the tested self-parking systems performed well, the technology is not without flaws. AAA found that some systems parked the vehicles exceedingly close to the curb, leaving wheels and tires vulnerable to scratches and costly repairs.

“AAA recommends that drivers leave six-to-eight inches between the vehicle and the curb when parallel parking,” warned John Nielsen, AAA's managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “With some systems leaving as little as a half-inch buffer, AAA urges automakers to increase this distance to prevent vehicle damage.”

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