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Articles Posted in Driver Safety

Automobile accidents have occurred since the invention of the automobile. Humans are imperfect creatures, and when they get behind two-plus tons of quickly-moving metal there are bound to be mistakes that cause serious damage both to the driver and to others.

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, on average, there is an accident in some part of the world every single minute, and an estimated 5.25 million accidents worldwide every year. Anywhere between 37,000 and 43,000 people die every year in the United States from automobile accidents.

According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, accidents in just the United States account for over $230 billion in damage. According to the Insurance Information Institute, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance wrote nearly $60 million in direct premiums in 2015, accounting for a whopping 10 percent of the property/casualty insurance market share.

Point being? Auto accidents are alarmingly common and the insurance industry that services these accidents is a constantly booming business.

As with any other business, it is vital for insurance companies to develop and evolve with the advancing of time and technology. As a result, there is a movement growing within insurance companies that is pushing towards making auto insurance claims more “touchless.”

Essentially, a touchless auto claim is a technology-based claims process that enables a victim of an automobile crash to take a picture of the damage to their car, instantly upload it to their insurance company and get a response with an estimate for repair costs within one or two days. The appeal to this methodology is simple; it’s faster, more efficient and less of a hassle for the customer.

Whereas more traditional claims processes involve either an insurance agent physically going to the location of a crash to inspect damage and create an estimate, or an auto body shop inspecting the damage and preparing an estimate, a touchless claims process only involves those who were involved in the accident. Every other aspect – from inspecting the wreck, to estimating damages, to communicating with the customer and paying claims – would be automated.

Potential drawbacks

Although there is support growing amongst insurance executives for such a system, and it is generally agreed upon that this is the direction auto claims processing is headed in the future, there is no rush to get there and plenty of concerns. Hypothetically the system sounds simply ideal, however the actual implementation and utilization of such a system is bound to be trickier.

For one, a picture can only tell so much about the degree of damage that has been incurred by a vehicle. While a crash might appear to have only caused external damage, resulting in a smaller claim, more serous internal damage could have occurred that would only be found by a more extensive, thorough inspection.

Also, a touchless claims system would, by necessity, operate on a huge amount of trust. A picture doesn’t give context into how an accident occurred. How would an insurance company know who was at fault in an accident? Or if the accident had occurred years prior and the customer is attempting to defraud them? An automated system might be convenient, but it lacks the attention to detail of a real person. Continue reading

Eight months after new high-tech traffic signals were installed in Quincy Center, there have been no pedestrian accidents. That’s a significant achievement, considering that there were 88 accidents involving pedestrians in this area between 2004 and 2013. Of those accidents, 58 resulted in injury and one pedestrian was killed. Despite this success, not everyone loves the new, odd-looking traffic signals.

How to Read the New Signals

The new signals in Quincy Center are known as “high-intensity activated crosswalks”. They are more conveniently referred to as HAWK beacons. Unfortunately, some people find the strange new lights more confusing than helpful. Below are some tips to help you safely navigate HAWK beacon signals when you come across them.

  • Drive through normally if no lights are on.
  • A steady or blinking yellow light means that, while vehicles still have the right-of-way, the light will soon turn red.
  • When both lights are on, the signal should be treated as a red light. Even if no one is using the crosswalk, you must still stop and wait.
  • You should treat the signal like a train crossing when the two red lights are blinking alternatively. Stop, check for people in the crosswalk, then proceed when it is safe to do so.

As you can see from the above instructions, HAWK beacons are not as straightforward as standard traffic signals, at least not until we get used to them. But it’s hard to argue with the fact that since their installation, there have been zero pedestrian accidents in what was once considered one of the most dangerous intersections in all of Massachusetts.  According to Chris Walker, a spokesman for the city’s Mayor Thomas Koch, the new signals are helping drivers and pedestrians alike use the busy intersections in a safer, more responsible manner.

“You can see the benefit of the dedicated signal,” he said. “It’s slowing traffic down through the area.” In addition to the complete absence of pedestrian accidents in the area, there has been a significant drop in motor vehicle accidents since the installation of the signals. A Boston injury attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been involved in a pedestrian-motor vehicle accident.

Not Everyone’s Feeling the Love

So, why doesn’t everyone love the HAWK beacons in Quincy Center?  Shanayta Carmody would prefer that the city bring back signs instructing vehicles and pedestrians on how to safely deal with the crosswalk. ”It’s very confusing and chaotic since they put this new crosswalk in,” said Carmody. And the new signals may impede the flow of traffic. An observation of the intersection during busy traffic hours revealed backed up traffic from Hancock all the way to the Granite Street intersection. In one instance, cars blocked a crosswalk instead of leaving space for pedestrians. According to Rob Keyworth, who uses the crosswalk on his daily commute to Boston, people don’t know what to do with the new lights. “Nobody has ever seen a setup like that,” he said. A MA injury lawyer can help you determine if you have a successful injury claim following a pedestrian-motor vehicle accident.

Quincy Center isn’t the only area in MA to install HAWK beacons. Several towns across the state have installed similar systems. The federal government considers the HAWK systems to be a “proven safety countermeasure,” and recommends their installation in busy pedestrian crossings. The design, which was developed in the 1990s in Tucson, resulted in a 69 percent decrease in pedestrian accidents following their installation in that city. Continue reading

In the wake of a lawsuit against Apple for a fatal accident involving a FaceTime-ing driver, a new lawsuit has been filed against the tech giant. The class action lawsuit alleges that the company put profits before the safety of its customers and the general public. The FaceTime-ing accident resulted in the tragic death of five-year-old Moriah Modisette. The new lawsuit alleges that Julio Ceja was rear ended because a distracted driver was texting on an iPhone.

Should the irresponsible behavior of a driver be Apple’s fault? Well, the class action is not seeking damages for Ceja’s back injury. Rather, it wants to hold the tech company accountable for failure to implement a “lock-out” feature for drivers. Apparently, the company holds a patent for this feature. Both lawsuits claim that implementing the feature would prevent iPhone-related distractions. If you’ve been injured in an auto accident due to a distracted driver, contact a Boston personal injury lawyer today.

What is Driver Lock Out?

The hypothetical scenario is frightening. You’re enjoying a relaxing ride in your automated car. Windows down, soft rock on the radio, chowing on a cheeseburger without a care in the world. Your smart car has safely navigated you to and from work a thousand times, and you trust it implicitly.

But one day, something in the car’s CPU goes haywire, and it doesn’t recognize a detoured area until it’s far too late. The car suddenly computes that it will have to sharply turn left or right since braking hard would cause a rear-end accident. The only problem is that to the left is a crowd of tourists taking pictures of a statue, and to the right is a single mother carrying her child.

What does the car do? How can a car choose between endangering the lives of people behind you, or choosing to veer into the path of pedestrians? When there is no avoiding a potentially-deadly accident, what implications does that have for an automated vehicles?

A child’s sixteenth birthday can be both exhilarating and anxiety-inducing for parents. On one hand, mom and dad get a much-needed break from driving to soccer practices. On the other hand, parents become understandably concerned about car accidents, drunk driving, and other dangerous behaviors. And that’s not all; parents are often shocked when they find out how much their auto insurance rates are going to increase. It may seem unfair, but teen accident statistics support high rate increases. Read on for more information about how to keep your kids safe and your insurance costs low.

The average insurance increase when a teen driver is added to a married couple’s policy is a whopping 79 percent. If the teen is a boy, it’s even higher at an average of 92 percent. Although these rate increases seem high, they are actually down from previous years. In 2013, for example, the average rate increase was 85 percent. If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, contact a Boston injury lawyer today.

Tips to Keep Insurance Costs Down

If it’s time to add your teen driver to your insurance policy, there’s no way to avoid a rate increase. But there are some steps you can take to reduce the damage to your wallet. The following advice may help keep your costs down:

  • Have your teen driver take a driver safety training course. Most insurance carriers provide discounts for young people who have completed these programs. If you’re not sure, call your insurance company beforehand to determine what discounts apply and how to ensure you receive them.
  • Encourage your teen driver to keep his or her grades in good standing. Some policies provide up to a 15 percent discount for students who maintain a B average or better. Similarly, if your child is on the dean’s list or has received comparable honors, this may equate to money in your pocket.
  • The car matters. High performance vehicles, such as sports cars, will typically result in a greater increase than a basic, four-door sedan. Insurance companies like safe, family vehicles (warning: your teen driver will likely disagree with this logic).
  • Shop around. The best insurance company for your family when it was just mom and dad may not be the best insurance company when it’s mom, dad, and a teenage son.
  • Consider your deductible. If your low premiums encouraged you to get a low deductible, it might make sense to increase your deductible with your rate increase. By increasing your comprehensive and / or collision deductibles by even $500, you may see a significant drop in your overall rate.
  • Teach your teen the importance of utilizing safe driving practices at all times. Make sure he or she gets plenty of practice with you in the car, and on back roads, before driving alone or on highways. Model good behavior; put your cellphone in the glove box when you’re driving, obey the speed limit, pay attention to the road, and buckle up. Once your teen driver develops a history of good driving habits, the rates will begin to drop.

The reality is, there’s a very good chance your teen driver will be involved in a fender bender at some point. Accidents happen. But teaching and modeling good driving behaviors can dramatically reduce your child’s chances of being seriously injured or killed in a motor vehicle collision. If you’ve been injured in any type of auto accident, contact a Boston personal injury lawyer today. Continue reading

Motor vehicle accidents resulting in serious injuries and death have been declining in recent years. Much of this decline is directly related to improved vehicle safety features. From back-up cameras and sensors to lane-keep assist, advanced safety technologies have had a positive impact on American roadways. Toyota recently patented one of the newest technologies, an “augmented-reality windshield”. The smart windshield has the potential to alert drivers to road hazards and provide enhanced information throughout the driving process.

Vehicle Safety Features

Although Toyota’s new windshield is still in planning stages, it is just one many emerging technologies aimed at improving road safety. Other popular safety features include:

  • Lane-keep assist: When a vehicle drifts out of its intended lane, this feature will gently steer the vehicle back into the original lane.
  • Collision warning system: If a collision seems imminent, this feature will alert the driver.
  • Advanced park assist: This system allows a driver to parallel park without touching the steering wheel.
  • Adaptive headlights: Instead of relying on a fixed setting, advanced headlights adapt to changing road conditions.
  • Adaptive cruise control: This feature maintains the driver-set speed but adjusts based on changing distance of the vehicle ahead.
  • Drowsiness alert: Using a combination of driver and vehicle data, this system alerts the driver when he or she needs to pull over and rest.

Does Eliminating Human Error = Safer Roads?

Most of the above features were born out of a trend toward self-driving vehicles.  “The movement toward autonomous vehicles — self-driving cars — has brought high-tech safety features to today’s cars, too,” says the vice president of property and casualty loss prevention and safety programs for USAA, Jim Salek. “Many of the groundbreaking advances in the area of car safety have come from these efforts.” Human error is almost always involved in motor vehicle accidents, so it stands to reason that autonomous – or at least partially-autonomous cars would be safer.

Toyota’s smart windshield has multiple features aimed at improving the driving experience and reducing serious injuries and death. For example, information such as navigation and speed are displayed on the windshield, preventing the driver from having to take his or her eyes off the road at regular intervals. If you have been injured, contact a Boston injury lawyer today.

Displaying information on the windshield is not particularly new. However, in addition to simply displaying the info, it is placed in the best spot for the driver’s viewing needs.  “An [engine control module] analyzes the steering angle and speed, a front-mounted camera identifies the lane markings, and an interior camera finds the driver’s viewpoint,” claims a report on the Autoblog website. “By combining this data, the system moves the information around the windshield to be in the best location.” For example, when speeds increase, the display will move up on the windshield and the information will get smaller as the driver’s gaze moves up. The Autoblog report went on to say, “Toyota’s patent seems both incredibly useful and quite realistic.The individual components for this tech already exist, but [Toyota’s] idea employs them in new ways. We hope the company licenses the idea out for other HUDs because the applications could be a lot of fun.” Continue reading

Global warming has had a significant impact on our planet, including winter weather patterns. But up here in New England, we still have at least a few years – fingers crossed – before winters become a thing of the past. As we prepare for the holidays, let’s also prepare our vehicles for winter travel. In addition to saving money and wear-and-tear on our cars, preparation can also save lives. If you’ve been injured in any type of motor vehicle accident, contact a Boston injury lawyer today.

Winter-Travel Safety Tips

The tips below will help protect you, and everyone you share the road with, this winter season.

The winter supply box: Sliding off the road late at night can leave you stranded for hours, especially if you’re traveling on back roads. You may find yourself cold, hungry, thirsty, and vulnerable to a host of other situations. Having a box of emergency supplies in your trunk can save your life. At the very least, it will make you a lot more comfortable as you await rescue. What should you put in the box? The below items will help keep you safe and happy in an emergency:

  • Blankets
  • Hat, gloves, and warm socks
  • Winter boots
  • Road flares
  • Flashlight
  • Charged cell phone and / or a two-way radio
  • Bag of sand and a shovel (you may be able to shovel away excess snow and use the sand for traction)
  • Ice scraper
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Bottled water

You can put all of these items in a Rubbermaid container and store them in your trunk. You may never need them, but if you do, you will be eternally grateful to yourself. And if you find yourself with medical bills and vehicle damage due to another’s negligence, contact a MA injury lawyer today.

Monitor antifreeze and engine coolant levels: If antifreeze or coolant is low, you could find yourself stranded when the temperatures drop. Most auto supply stores carry kits that allow you to check these levels, and adding antifreeze is cheap and easy to do.

Tires: Possibly the most important component of safe winter travel, good tires are a non-negotiable. Check tires for appropriate pressure – not too full, not too low – and ensure that tread is a good depth. You can check pressure with a gauge (also easy to find at auto supply stores). If your tires are in need of air, most gas stations have air pumps that will do the trick. The best way to test for proper tread depth is the “Lincoln test”. Stick a penny between your tire’s tread with the former-president’s head pointing downward. If his entire head is visible, it’s time to replace the tires.

Winter wiper fluid: Not all wiper fluids are created equal. Standard wiper fluid can freeze in the winter, whereas winter fluid can actually loosen ice and snow from the windshield, and it doesn’t freeze. And while you’re at it, ask for a winter-grade oil when you go in for your next oil change. Continue reading

Today we have wearable fitness trackers, sensors that detect a drop in blood sugar for people with diabetes, and sweat patches to monitor drug use in people on probation. It seems logical to assume that we could also detect the amount of alcohol in our bloodstream without the need for a blood test or traditional breathalyzer. With this type of technology, individuals could monitor their blood alcohol content (BAC) prior to getting behind the wheel to determine if they are under the legal limit. But it would also law enforcement to monitor individuals with OUI convictions. If you’ve been charged with OUI, contact a Boston defense attorney today.

Less Embarrassing Than an IID

If you are convicted of OUI, you may be permitted to continue driving with the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID). By blowing into the device, you allow the system to measure your BAC; if alcohol is detected, the engine won’t start. Unfortunately, IIDs are expensive to install (a cost the offender must absorb), and they can be embarrassing. Can you imagine a first date where you have to blow into a device to start your car after dinner? For these reasons, as well as to allow individuals to check their BAC before getting behind the wheel, engineers have been working on a more efficient method of detection.

Researchers from the University of California San Diego have developed a wearable device that can effectively measure BAC. The “temporary tattoo” adheres to the skin, induces sweat production, measures the individual’s BAC, and sends that data to a smartphone, laptop, or IID, eliminating the need to blow into a device to start your car. The alcohol sensor communicates the information via Bluetooth. Although BAC is most accurately measured with blood tests, breath and perspiration also provide reliable results. Sweat-reliant devices have been in the works for years, but they haven’t been particularly reliable until now. There was a dangerous delay in results; it could take hours for the sweat’s measurements to match the actual BAC. That problems has been resolved; the new sensor can “accurately monitor alcohol level in sweat within 15 minutes.” Contact a Massachusetts OUI lawyer today.

Sweat Sensors May Allow Drinkers to Self-Monitor

In addition to providing an alternative to IIDs, PhD Student Jayoung Kim, one of the sensor’s creators, hopes that it can help drinkers monitor their ability to drive safely. “”When you’re out at a party or at a bar,” said Kim, “this sensor could send alerts to your phone to let you know how much you’ve been drinking.” Beyond self-monitoring and allowing those convicted of OUIs to resume driving, sweat patches may also one day be used to monitor a person’s BAC even when not driving. This could be useful in certain situations, such as probation cases, but certainly has the potential to be highly invasive. Then again, information sharing, across the board, has been moving in that direction. From social media to face scanning software, the idea of privacy has been undergoing a significant shift in recent years, for better or for worse. Continue reading

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,179 Americans died as the result of distracted driving in 2014. The total number of traffic deaths have risen more than 10 percent from the first half of 2015 to the first half of 2016.  According to AAA, 58 percent of the 963,000 automobile accidents involving teens aged 16-19 in 2013 were linked in some way to distracted driving. Approximately 10 percent of the 2,865 teen driving fatalities in 2013 were also linked to distracted driving.

When most people think of distracted driving, they think of people that are behind the wheel doing their makeup, checking their hair, eating a hamburger or updating their Facebook page about how annoying it is to sit in traffic. However, a lesser-discussed element of distracted driving is driving when you’re tired, or “drowsy driving.”  Driving while tired can affect anybody, from 16-year-olds headed to school after staying up too late the night before to professional truck drivers who have stringent schedules to keep that don’t allow for proper resting. But as much as we think it is sufficient enough to guzzle a coffee or open a window to feel a cold breeze, the dangers of driving while drowsy are very real.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that:

Reuters reported in late October that Toyota had invested around $10 million in Getaround, a ride-sharing service based out of San Francisco that was founded in 2009. Getaround is different from services like Uber, as users of Getaround can search their local area for available privately-owned rental cars that they can rent and use personally for as little at $5.  Users have access to these rental vehicles for a certain amount of time, rather than simply being ferried from one location to the next like with Lyft or Uber. Automotive speculative analysts have reasoned that Toyota’s investment in a ride-sharing entity indicates they are stacking their chips for the upcoming industrial boom of driverless taxi services. Some project that the first fully-automated driving services will be enacted by 2020.

The potential benefits of driverless taxi services are multiple, and are enough for more than 18 large companies to invest resources into at least studying its practicality. In theory, they can create less traffic, lessen pollution, and increase the efficiency and safety of roads. Of course, on the other hand, a world filled with driverless taxis means millions of taxi drivers and drivers who work for companies like Uber will be out of a job.  While the technology is essentially ready for implementation, the legal framework surrounding driverless cars and taxis is a continuously-developing headache. There is no telling how legislation will translate between federal, state, and local lines, or if it will be possible to form any solid ground rules anytime soon.

After all, who is at fault when an accident inevitably occurs between a human driver and a driverless car? How about an accident that occurs between two autonomous vehicles? There are hundreds of possible factors in play and dozens of parties that could be at fault. Taking into consideration these uncertainties, most analysts don’t foresee driverless taxis making a significant impact on the world for at least a decade or two.  No matter how this industry, plucked straight from the pages of science fiction, pans out in the future, the fact that huge companies such as Toyota are entering the driverless car game proves that this is no fad or silly pie-in-the-sky fantasy. Driverless cars, and taxis, are coming sooner rather than later.

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