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Springfield Virginia Motor Vehicle Accidents Blog

Sleep apnea a dangerous condition for truckers to have

Many truckers in Virginia and across the U.S. suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. With OSA, the throat muscles and mouth palate relax and collapse during sleep, blocking the airway for 5 to 10 seconds at a time and thus interrupting one's sleep. These interruptions prevent one from achieving deep sleep, which repairs the physical side of fatigue, or REM sleep, which repairs mental fatigue.

The result is continual sleepiness during the day, problems focusing, poor memory and depression. One may even develop diabetes or suffer heart attack or stroke because of untreated OSA. In the meantime, those truckers who travel with undiagnosed OSA are putting themselves and other drivers at risk for a crash. Truckers who snore loudly, gasp for air during sleep and suffer morning headaches may want to see a doctor.

CVSA International Roadcheck set for May 5 to 7

Truckers in Virginia are no doubt familiar with the International Roadcheck, an annual 72-hour inspection spree of commercial motor vehicles. During this period of increased enforcement, inspectors stop trucks at random and typically have them undergo the 37-point Level I inspection, which is the most thorough of the North American Standard inspections.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has scheduled the 2020 International Roadcheck for May 5 to 7. While the roadcheck usually takes place the first week of June, the CVSA has changed the date this year for weather-related reasons. Some jurisdictions will experience more favorable weather in May than in June.

IIHS calls for better rear-seat safety

Virginia motorists are probably aware of the various safety features that protect front-seat car occupants in the event of a crash. One has not only airbags but also crash tensioners, which tighten seat belts upon impact, and force limiters, which can reduce force and prevent chest injuries by unspooling some of the seat belt's webbing. In some newer vehicles, front seat belts even work in coordination with the airbags.

Unfortunately, these advances in front-seat safety technology have left rear-seat safety in the dust. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has developed a series of crash tests to show just how this neglect is affecting rear-seat passengers. In a study of 117 crashes where rear-seat passengers were injured or killed, the IIHS found that one-third suffered chest injuries. Nine of the injured passengers and 18 of those fatally injured incurred heat injuries.

Red light cameras can help keep drivers safe

Virginia motorists typically understand that a yellow light is a signal to slow down. However, some drivers may attempt to go through an intersection before the light turns red. In some U.S. jurisdictions, a traffic camera may take a picture of any vehicles that attempt to run a red light. While these are supposedly meant to keep roads safe, some believe that red light cameras are designed to generate revenue.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), these cameras do help prevent accidents from occurring. Crash fatalities went down by 21% in areas that had cameras, and traffic violations went down 40% in areas that were monitored by cameras. Researchers have noted that other factors could play a role in whether crashes and crash fatalities go up or down in a given year.

Interlocks save lives, but rolling tests can be dangerous

Virginia motorists who are convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol must have ignition interlock devices fitted in their vehicles. An IID prevents the vehicle it is fitted to from starting when alcohol is detected in a breath sample provided by the driver, and subsequent samples are required to keep the car running during what are known as rolling tests. In Virginia, the first rolling test takes place after just five minutes. IIDs are now mandatory for DUI offenders in most states because research shows that they deter drunk driving and prevent accidents, but a New York Times investigation reveals that they could also be causing crashes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that IIDs reduce repeat DUI offenses by as much as 70%, and the results of a study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania suggest that the devices can lower drunk driving deaths by up to 15%. However, performing rolling tests can be risky if drivers do not pull over first.

AASM survey: 45% of U.S. adults have driven drowsy

It's likely that many Virginia residents have driven drowsy at least once in recent days. In a Sleep Prioritization Survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 45% of the 2,003 U.S. adults involved admitted that they have had to struggle to stay awake while on the road.

Drowsiness, much like alcohol, impairs judgment and reaction times, and so drowsy driving is negligent and a public health concern. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, it is the cause of some 328,000 auto accidents every year in the U.S. Of these, 6,400 are fatal.

Many drivers fail to use advanced safety tech properly

Advanced safety technologies are supposed to make cars safer in Virginia and across the U.S. However, according to a new study, these systems are placing some drivers at additional risk.

The study, which was conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, found that advanced safety technologies can reduce accidents and injuries when they are used correctly, but many drivers trust these systems too much, increasing their risk of getting into an accident. For example, lane departure systems use cameras and sensors to determine if a driver is staying in his or her lane. If the vehicle starts to drift from the lane, the system gently steers it back to safety. Meanwhile, adaptive cruise control systems monitor the distance between a driver's vehicle and the one ahead of it. If the vehicle gets too close to the other one, the system applies the brakes to prevent a collision. However, some drivers are failing to remain alert once these systems are activated and are depending on the technology to keep them safe. As a result, the study found that drivers who use the systems are almost twice as likely to engage in distracted driving behaviors than those who don't use them.

Alcohol detection systems on cars may become mandatory

The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone Act of 2019 is a bill that has been introduced in Congress, and if implemented, it would require automakers to equip their vehicles with an alcohol detection device by 2024. Residents of Virginia should know that the device has not been made yet. The bill would fund the research, development and testing. Details on implementation are few, but the benefits of such a device are clear.

Drunk driving crashes result in about 30 deaths every day in the U.S. This comes to one person every 48 minutes. Lawmakers say that the implementation of the RIDE Act could save 7,000 lives every year. Already, many automakers are experimenting with touch sensors and in-car cameras, among other things, to create alcohol detection devices.

New technology may curb drunk driving

If passed, the Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone Act of 2019 would require all vehicles to have alcohol detection equipment installed in all new cars by 2024. According to its sponsors, the legislation could result in 7,000 fewer deaths on Virginia roads and others nationwide per year. The RIDE Act would first require that alcohol detection software be installed on a fleet of vehicles to determine how such a system would work.

Vehicle manufacturers and other stakeholders to develop technology that could minimize or eliminate drunk driving. There is a body of evidence to suggest that using ignition interlock devices (IIDs) on all vehicles could reduce instances of drunk driving. Data produced by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) showed that they prevented drunk drivers from starting their vehicles on three million different occasions since 2006.

Opioids a possible factor in hundreds of fatal two-car crashes

The opioid crisis in Virginia and across the U.S. is putting drivers in danger. Opioids cause cognitive and psychomotor impairment, so those who take them and then head out on the road run the risk of becoming, among other things, drowsy. In 2016, 7.1% of all the drivers who caused a car crash were found with opioids in their system. This is a sharp increase from 1993, when the percentage was 2%.

Now, a study published in JAMA Network Open has explored a possible connection between opioid use and fatal two-car crashes. It turns out that crash initiators are twice as likely as drivers not at fault to test positive for opioids. Researchers analyzed 18,321 fatal two-car crashes and found 1,467 drivers who tested positive for opioids: Of these, 918 were crash initiators.

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