Posts Tagged ‘Safety’

Michael Green Contact Tile

New AAA Foundation Research Also Shows that Legal Limits for Marijuana and Driving are Meaningless

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 10, 2016) – Fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana doubled in Washington after the state legalized the drug, according to the latest research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. New research also shows that legal limits for marijuana and driving are arbitrary and unsupported by science, which could result in unsafe motorists going free and others being wrongfully convicted for impaired driving. Washington was one of the first two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, and these findings raise serious concerns about drug-impaired driving with at least 20 states considering marijuana legalization this year.

The Foundation examined drug tests and fatal crashes among drivers in Washington, a state that legalized marijuana in December 2012. The researchers found:

  • The percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who recently used marijuana more than doubled from eight to 17 percent between 2013 and 2014.
  • One in six drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 had recently used marijuana, which is the most recent data available.

“The significant increase in fatal crashes involving marijuana is alarming,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Washington serves as an eye-opening case study for what other states may experience with road safety after legalizing the drug.”

In an attempt to enforce drug-impaired driving, some states have created legal limits, also known as per se limits, which specify the maximum amount of active THC that drivers can have in their system based on a blood test. THC is the main chemical component in marijuana that can impair driver performance and affect the mind, and the presence of active THC is generally suggestive of recent marijuana use. These limits are similar in concept to the .08 BAC limit for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Researchers examined the lab results of drivers arrested for impaired driving, and the results suggest that legal limits for marijuana and driving are problematic because:

  • There is no science showing that drivers reliably become impaired at a specific level of marijuana in the blood. Depending on the individual, drivers with relatively high levels of marijuana in their system might not be impaired, while others with low levels may be unsafe behind the wheel. This finding is very different from alcohol, where it is clear that crash risk increases significantly at higher BAC levels.
  • High THC levels may drop below legal thresholds before a test is administered to a suspected impaired driver. The average time to collect blood from a suspected driver is often more than two hours because taking a blood sample typically requires a warrant and transport to a facility. Active THC blood levels may decline significantly and could drop below legal limits during that time.
  • Marijuana can affect people differently, making it challenging to develop consistent and fair guidelines. For example, frequent users of marijuana can exhibit persistent levels of the drug long after use, while drug levels can decline more rapidly among occasional users.

“There is understandably a strong desire by both lawmakers and the public to create legal limits for marijuana impairment, in the same manner as we do with alcohol,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s President and CEO. “In the case of marijuana, this approach is flawed and not supported by scientific research. It’s simply not possible today to determine whether a driver is impaired based solely on the amount of the drug in their body.”

AAA is urging states to use more comprehensive enforcement measures to improve road safety. Rather than relying on arbitrary legal limits, states should use a two-component system that requires (1) a positive test for recent marijuana use, and most importantly, (2) behavioral and physiological evidence of driver impairment. This system would rely heavily on two current law-enforcement training programs: Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and the 50-state Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) program. These programs train law enforcement officers around the country to more effectively recognize drug-impaired driving.

“Marijuana can affect driver safety by impairing vehicle control and judgment,” continued Doney. “States need consistent, strong and fair enforcement measures to ensure that the increased use of marijuana does not impact road safety.”

Whether the use of marijuana is legal or not, all motorists should avoid driving while impaired. Just because a drug is legal does not mean it is safe to use while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers who get behind the wheel while impaired put themselves and others on the road at risk.

Four states, including Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C., have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and 20 states have legalized it for therapeutic and medicinal use. Montana and Washington have implemented a per se limit for marijuana at 5 ng/mL; Nevada and Ohio have set a limit at 2 ng/mL; and Pennsylvania’s is set at 1 ng/mL. Twelve states have strict per se laws that forbid the presence of any levels of marijuana. In Colorado, a blood concentration of 5 ng/mL or more gives rise to permissible inference that a person was driving under the influence of the drug.

This news release promotes two new studies by the AAA Foundation into marijuana and driving:

  • Prevalence of Marijuana Involvement in Fatal Crashes: Washington, 2010-2014
  • An Evaluation of Data from Drivers Arrested for Driving Under the Influence in Relation to Per se Limits for Cannabis

The Foundation also is releasing related research into marijuana and driving, including:

  • Cannabis Use among Drivers Suspected of Driving Under the Influence or Involved in Collisions: Analysis of Washington State Patrol Data
  • Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and Marijuana: Beliefs and Behaviors, United States, 2013-2015
  • Advancing Drugged Driving Data at the State Level: Synthesis of Barriers and Expert Panel Recommendations
  • Overview of Major Issues Regarding the Impacts of Alcohol and Marijuana on Driving

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, publicly supported charitable research and educational organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 300 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them and minimize injuries when they do occur.  Visit www.AAAFoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.  Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

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AAA news releases, high-resolution images, broadcast-quality video, fact sheets and podcasts are available on the AAA NewsRoom at NewsRoom.AAA.com

Tamra JohnsonAAA Foundation study suggests that preventing falls for older drivers can make roads safer

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Mar. 24, 2016)- Older drivers with a history of falling are 40 percent more likely to be involved in crashes than their peers, according to a new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Falls limit an older drivers’ ability to function behind the wheel and can make driving risky for themselves and others on the road. These findings are important since annually a record 12 million older adults will experience a fall.

“Drivers age 60 and older are involved in more than 400,000 crashes each year, and it’s important that we find ways to keep them and others safe on the road.” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “This research is critical because it shows that we can now use an older driver’s fall history to identify if they are at greater risk for a crash.”

The report, Associations Between Falls and Driving Outcomes in Older Adults, is the latest research released in the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project. Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus along with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety say that falls can increase crash risk in two ways:

  • Falls can result in a loss of functional ability (i.e. wrist fractures or a broken leg), which can make it difficult for older drivers to steer or brake to avoid a crash.
  • Falls can increase an individual’s fear of falling, which can lead to a decrease in physical activity that weakens driving skills.

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“When it comes to physical health, you either use it or lose it,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s Director of Traffic Safety and Advocacy. “Falls often scare people into being less active, but decreasing physical activity can weaken muscles and coordination and make someone more likely to be in a crash.”

The research suggests that seniors and their families should view falls as a possible early indicator of declining physical fitness.  Addressing the health issues that originally led to the fall such as lower body weakness, poor balance, slow reaction time, certain medications, dizziness, or vision problems, can help older drivers strengthen their functional ability and lower their risk for crashing or experiencing another fall in the future.

“Older drivers should find activities that enhance balance, strengthen muscles and promote flexibility,” continued Nelson.  “Even a low impact fitness training program or driver improvement course can help safely extend an older driver’s years on the road.”

Fall prevention is a great way for older drivers to keep themselves and others safe while on the road.  Those concerned about a parent or other older driver should help them monitor risk factors that address health concerns or household dangers. AAA recommends a series of exercises and stretches to improve neck, shoulder, trunk, back and overall body flexibility, which can help a driver who has suffered from a recent fall.  As a leading advocate for senior driver safety, AAA also offers a variety of programs and resources to help older drivers improve their driving performance and avoid crashes.

For more information on AAA resources for older drivers, such as RoadWise online/classroom courses or other programs that help seniors better “fit” with their vehicles, visit www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com.

Recognizing that lifestyle changes, along with innovative technologies and medical advancements, will have a significant impact on the driving experiences of the baby boomer generation, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has launched a multi-year research program to more fully understand the driving patterns and trends of older drivers in the United States. The LongROAD (Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers) Study is designed to generate the largest and most comprehensive data base about senior drivers in existence and will support in-depth studies of senior driving and mobility to better understand risks and develop effective countermeasures.

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 300 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them and minimize injuries when they do occur.  Visit www.AAAFoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.  Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

ErinSteppDespite fear, AAA survey reveals that experience with vehicle technology leads to trust

ORLANDO, Fla. (March 1, 2016) – Three out of four U.S. drivers report feeling  “afraid” to ride in a self-driving car, according to a new survey from AAA. With today’s heightened focus on autonomous vehicles, this fear poses a potential concern to the automotive industry as consumers may be reluctant to fully embrace the self-driving car. Despite this significant fear, AAA also found that drivers who own vehicles equipped with semi-autonomous features are, on average, 75 percent more likely to trust the technology than those that do not own it, suggesting that gradual experience with these advanced features can ease consumer fears.

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“With the rapid advancement towards autonomous vehicles, American drivers may be hesitant to give up full control,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “What Americans may not realize is that the building blocks towards self-driving cars are already in today’s vehicles and the technology is constantly improving and well-trusted by those who have experienced it.”

While only one-in-five Americans say they would trust an autonomous vehicle to drive itself, AAA’s survey revealed that consumer demand for semi-autonomous vehicle technology is high. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of American drivers report wanting at least one of the following technologies on their next vehicle: automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, self-parking technology or lane-keeping assist.

Among drivers who want these features on their next vehicle, AAA found their primary motivation to be safety (84 percent), followed by convenience (64 percent), reducing stress (46 percent) and wanting the latest technology (30 percent).

  • Baby Boomers are more likely to cite safety as a reason they want semi-autonomous features on their next vehicle (89 percent) than Millennials (78 percent).
  • Millennials are more likely to cite convenience (75 percent) and wanting the latest technology (36 percent) compared to older generations.
  • Women are more likely to cite reducing stress as a reason for wanting the technology (50 percent) than men (42 percent)

AAA’s survey also offered insights into why many Americans shy away from advanced vehicle technology.  Among those who do not want semi-autonomous features on their next vehicle, drivers cite trusting their driving skills more than the technology (84 percent), feeling the technology is too new and unproven (60 percent), not wanting to pay extra for it (57 percent), not knowing enough about the technology (50 percent) and finding it annoying (45 percent) as the top reasons.

  • Millennials (63 percent) and Gen-Xers (62 percent) are more likely to cite not wanting to pay extra for semi-autonomous technology, compared to Baby Boomers (49 percent).
  • One-in-four female drivers (23 percent) cite feeling the technology is too complicated to use as a reason for not wanting the technology in their next vehicle, compared to 12 percent of male drivers.

“While six-in-10 drivers want semi-autonomous technology in their next vehicle, there are still 40 percent of Americans that are either undecided or reluctant to purchase these features,” continued Nielsen. “It’s clear that education is the key to addressing consumer hesitation towards these features and AAA’s on-going effort to evaluate vehicle technologies, highlighting both the benefits and limitations, is designed to help drivers make informed choices.”

Full survey results, including consumer trust and purchase intentions of individual features and infographics can be found at NewsRoom.AAA.com. AAA provides free vehicle reviews and localized pricing information at AAA.com/AutoBuying.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Michael Green Contact TileBad Weather a Factor in More than 2,000 Road Deaths Every Winter According to New Research

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 21, 2016) – Dangerous winter storms and bad weather are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than two thousand road deaths every winter, according to the latest research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. As a potentially historic winter storm approaches the East Coast this weekend, AAA is urging motorists to be prepared and to remain cautious if driving.

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“There are a disproportionate number of crashes this time of year involving bad weather and winter storms,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Snow and sleet can cause significant safety problems by reducing visibility and making it difficult to maneuver or stop.”

About 46 percent of crashes involving bad weather take place in the winter, making this the worst time of year for driving in treacherous conditions. The highest proportion of crashes involving bad weather happen overnight from 6:00 PM until 5:59 AM, when visibility is limited and roads are most likely to freeze. Previous research also has found that the rates of fatal crashes are higher during the first snowfall of the year than on subsequent days with snow.

“This weekend’s winter storm has great potential to create havoc on major roads used by millions of drivers every day,” said William Van Tassel, AAA’s manager of driver training programs. “Drivers braving the bad weather should remain cautious and slow down to keep from being in a crash.”

The new AAA Foundation research report (Motor Vehicle Crashes, Injuries and Deaths in Relation to Weather Conditions), analyzed bad weather and crashes throughout the year. The study found that rain, snow, sleet and fog are a factor in more than 1.1 million police-reported crashes, 425,000 injuries and 5,100 traffic deaths per year. The average crash data for various types of bad weather includes:

Crashes Injuries Deaths
Rain 518,303 206,474 2,239
Snow 189,416 51,267 523
Sleet 36,491 11,644 143
Fog 21,616 8,167 374

 

The study did uncover surprising news. Crashes in bad weather are generally less severe than crashes taking place in clear weather. For example, crashes that occur on snow-covered roads result in 31 percent fewer injuries per crash and 47 percent fewer fatalities per crash than on dry roads. While the new study was unable to examine the impact of bad weather on the risk of being involved in a crash in the first place, other studies have found that rates of all types of crashes generally increase in bad weather, but that the increases in minor crashes are larger than the increases in more severe crashes.

AAA recommends the following eight tips to remain safe while driving in snowy and icy conditions:

  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning –  give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry and take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Increase your following distance to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill slowly.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.

Far too many drivers become stranded on the roadside this time of year. AAA handles an average of 600,000 emergency roadside assistance calls per week in the winter with the most common problems being dead batteries, extractions, towing and flat tires. AAA recommends keeping the following items in your “emergency kit” for winter driving:

  • Bag of abrasive materials such as sand, salt or cat litter for gaining traction in snow and ice
  • Snow shovel
  • Flashlight
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Jumper cables
  • Blanket
  • Warning flare or triangles
  • Cellular phone and emergency charger
  • Food and water
  • First aid kit

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 300 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them and minimize injuries when they do occur.  Visit www.AAAFoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Keeping Older Adults Driving Safely

December 8th, 2015 by AAA

 

New AAA Foundation Research Reveals Effective Ways to Extend the Driving Age
 
Michael Green Contact Tile

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 8, 2015) – Advanced automotive technologies and safe driving habits can help older motorists remain behind the wheel longer into their lives, according to two new studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. These findings are important because a record 36 million adults ages 65 and older drive in the United States, and this number is expected to increase substantially over the next decade. Recent Foundation research has found that seniors who give up driving are almost two times more likely to experience depression and nearly five times as likely to enter a long-term care facility.

“Permanently giving up the keys can have severe consequences for the health and mental well-being of older adults,” said Peter Kissinger, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s President and CEO. “New technologies and a focus on safe driving can help seniors remain behind the wheel for years to come.”

The researchers examined 16 advanced vehicle technologies and determined that six of these can provide high value for older adults by potentially reducing crashes and improving the ease and comfort of driving:

  • Forward collision warning / mitigation: These systems can help prevent crashes by warning drivers of a potential collision or by automatically applying the brakes. For older drivers, this technology can improve reaction times and reduce crashes by up to 20 percent.
  • Automatic crash notification: These systems automatically alert emergency services in the event of a crash. Older drivers are more likely to suffer from the serious effects of a crash because of their age, which means these systems can provide a greater safety benefit to seniors.
  • Park assist with rearview display: This technology includes backup cameras and obstacle-detection warning systems, which can help prevent crashes when pulling out of a parking space. About 95 percent of seniors want these systems in their next vehicle, while 55 percent reported that it can help reduce driver stress and workload.
  • Parking assist with cross-traffic warning: These systems utilize radar sensor technology to notify drivers of crossing vehicles when backing out of a parking space, and on some vehicles, the systems automatically can apply the brakes to prevent a collision.
  • Semi-autonomous parking assistance: These systems take over steering while moving into a parallel parking space, which can reduce stress and make parking easier for older drivers.
  • Navigation assistance: Turn-by-turn GPS navigation systems can provide older drivers with increased feelings of safety, confidence, attentiveness and relaxation, which can help seniors remain focused on the road and comfortable behind the wheel.

“Seniors in the market for a new car may want to consider the potential long-term benefits of choosing a vehicle with advanced safety technologies,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s Director of Traffic Safety & Advocacy. “Equipping a new car with the right features can help an aging driver remain confident behind the wheel and out of crashes.”

Older adults also can extend their driving years by adopting strategies that reduce their risk on the road. The research finds that many seniors can improve their safety by avoiding challenging situations, such as driving at night, in bad weather, during rush-hour traffic, in unfamiliar areas or on the highway. In addition, seniors who successfully continue to drive are less likely to engage in potentially distracting behaviors, such as talking on a cell phone, texting, eating, smoking or grooming in the car.  Many older drivers also are less likely to speed or frequently change lanes, which can further reduce crash risks.

In order to further help seniors chose the right vehicle, AAA has updated its Smart Features for Older Drivers tool to include 2015 makes and models. This resource can help seniors identify vehicles with features that optimize their comfort and safety. AAA provides comprehensive information on senior driving at SeniorDriving.AAA.com.

Driving is a skill that can and should be continually improved. AAA’s RoadWise online or RoadWise Driver classroom courses can help seniors get the most out of their vehicle, while reducing risk to them, their passengers and others on the road.  A comprehensive driving improvement course can help older drivers learn the most up-to-date driving techniques and understand the latest vehicle technologies.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is releasing this research during Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, which runs from Dec. 7-11, 2015.

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 300 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them and minimize injuries when they do occur.  Visit www.AAAFoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Michael Green Contact Tile(WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2015) AAA’s President and CEO, Marshall Doney, has released the following statement in response to Congressional passage of a five-year transportation bill today.

“AAA is pleased to see Congress finally pass a multi-year transportation bill to ease congestion, improve safety and modernize our roads and bridges. Drivers have waited years for needed highway improvements, and there is now hope that we are on a path towards easing many of the problems that commuters face every day.

“The legislation is not perfect and long-term funding will remain a problem for Congress to address in the future. Despite those ongoing challenges, the current bill should help state transportation departments to make long-overdue improvements across the country.

“It is encouraging to see Congress come together make the compromises necessary to pass legislation of this magnitude.  Millions of Americans drive every day, and they deserve a highway system that safely moves people and goods as quickly as possible.  The passage of this bill should help make safe and efficient transportation a reality, and AAA is proud to have helped to make this happen.”

Since its founding in 1902, AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers, and it is North America’s largest motoring and travel organization with more than 55 million members.

Michael Green Contact TileSurprising Research Finds that Mental Distractions Can Persist Long after Completing a Task

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 22, 2015) – Potentially unsafe mental distractions can persist for as long as 27 seconds after dialing, changing music or sending a text using voice commands, according to surprising new research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The results raise new and unexpected concerns regarding the use of phones and vehicle information systems while driving. This research represents the third phase of the Foundation’s comprehensive investigation into cognitive distraction, which shows that new hands-free technologies can mentally distract drivers even if their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel.

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“The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving.”

Researchers found that potentially unsafe levels of mental distraction can last for as long as 27 seconds after completing a distracting task in the worst-performing systems studied. At the 25 MPH speed limit in the study, drivers traveled the length of nearly three football fields during this time. When using the least distracting systems, drivers remained impaired for more than 15 seconds after completing a task.

“Drivers should use caution while using voice-activated systems, even at seemingly safe moments when there is a lull in traffic or the car is stopped at an intersection,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s President and CEO. “The reality is that mental distractions persist and can affect driver attention even after the light turns green.”

The researchers discovered the residual effects of mental distraction while comparing new hands-free technologies in ten 2015 vehicles and three types of smart phones. The analysis found that all systems studied increased mental distraction to potentially unsafe levels. The systems that performed best generally had fewer errors, required less time on task and were relatively easy to use.

Phase-III-Rankings-Chart

The researchers rated mental distraction on a five-point scale. Category one represents a mild level of distraction and category five represents the maximum.  AAA considers a mental distraction rating of two and higher to be potentially dangerous while driving.

The best performing system was the Chevy Equinox with a cognitive distraction rating of 2.4, while the worst performing system was the Mazda 6 with a cognitive distraction rating of 4.6. Among phone systems, Google Now performed best with a distraction rating of 3.0, while Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana earned ratings of 3.4 and 3.8. Using the phones to send texts significantly increased the level of mental distraction. While sending voice-activated texts, Google Now rated as a category 3.3 distraction, while Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana rated as category 3.7 and category 4.1 distractions.

“The massive increase in voice-activated technologies in cars and phones represents a growing safety problem for drivers,” continued Doney. “We are concerned that these new systems may invite driver distraction, even as overwhelming scientific evidence concludes that hands-free is not risk free.”

Previous AAA Foundation research established that a category 1 mental distraction is about the same as listening to the radio or an audio book. A category 2 distraction is about the same as talking on the phone, while category 3 is equivalent to sending voice-activated texts on a perfect, error-free system. Category 4 is similar to updating social media while driving, while category 5 corresponds to a highly-challenging, scientific test designed to overload a driver’s attention.
“Developers should aim to reduce mental distractions by designing systems that are no more demanding than listening to the radio or an audiobook,” continued Doney. “Given that the impairing effects of distraction may last much longer than people realize, AAA advises consumers to use caution when interacting with these technologies while behind the wheel.”

Select b-roll video of the research is available to download and for news media purposes. The previous findings from Phase I and Phase II of the Foundation’s research into cognitive distraction also are available.

Dr. David Strayer and Dr. Joel Cooper of the University of Utah conducted the research. A total of 257 drivers ages 21-70 participated in the study of 2015 model-year vehicles, while 65 additional drivers ages 21-68 tested the three phone systems.

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them and minimize injuries when they do occur.  Visit www.AAAFoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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Heather HunterORLANDO, Fla., (May 19, 2015) – “AAA supports the over-due announcement that Takata has agreed to a national recall of driver and passenger side air bag inflators. Since late last year AAA has fully supported NHTSA’s call for a national recall of affected Takata air bags beyond the limited high-humidity areas where a recall has focused until today.”

“Given the historic nature of this recall in size and reach, it is important for Congress to reinforce NHTSA’s authority to act swiftly to compel a nationwide recall when appropriate and expand the agency’s authority to levy more significant penalties on those who refuse to comply.”

“With the summer season approaching, we are reminded that 33 million Americans will be hitting the roads in their vehicles for Memorial Day travel and as time passes more motorists remain at risk from the faulty air bags that have been linked to at least 6 deaths. Motorists’ safety is a national issue that is not confined by regional boundaries and should take precedence over profits. ”

“As an advocate for motorists, AAA believes this recall is a step in the right direction to ensure motorist safety on America’s roadways. Vehicles are increasingly bought and sold across state lines and may move long distances across the country so AAA believes that it is in the best interest of consumers to expand this recall to all states.”

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Erin SteppTests show headlights lights may fail to safely illuminate dark roadways

ORLANDO, Fla., (May 13, 2015) – New test results from AAA reveal the potential for significant headlight shortcomings when traveling on roadways that lack overhead lighting, typically America’s rural roads, which account for 40 percent of vehicle miles traveled annually. To assess headlight capabilities and limitations and learn what, if any, advantage advanced headlight technologies offer, AAA compared the performance of halogen, high intensity discharge (HID) and light emitting diode (LED) headlights. AAA’s test results suggest that halogen headlights, found in over 80 percent of vehicles on the road today, may fail to safely illuminate unlit roadways at speeds as low as 40 mph.

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The testing, conducted with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, measured the distances at which modern headlights illuminate non-reflective objects on both low-beam and high-beam settings. These findings, paired with guidelines issued by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, indicate that when traveling on unlit roadways, today’s headlights fail to light the full distance necessary for a driver to detect an object or obstacle in the roadway, react and come to a complete stop.

“AAA’s test results reveal that headlights found in U.S. vehicles fall short on safety,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. “By failing to properly light roadways at moderate speeds, a pedestrian or animal may not become visible to a driver until it’s too late to stop.”

While high-beam settings on halogen headlights improved sight distances by 28 percent at the testing facility, in real-world conditions they may only provide enough light to safely stop at speeds of up to 48 mph, leaving drivers vulnerable at highway speeds. Despite the clear need for the additional visibility that high-beams offer, particularly on unlit roads, a recent AAA survey found that only a third of Americans admit to using these settings regularly.

Additional testing found that while the advanced headlight technology found in HID and LED headlights illuminated dark roadways 25 percent further than their halogen counter parts, they still may fail to fully illuminate roadways at speeds greater than 45 mph. High-beam settings on these advanced headlights offered significant improvement over low-beam settings, lighting distances of up to 500 feet (equal to 55 mph). Despite the increase, even the most advanced headlights fall 60 percent short of the sight distances that the full light of day provides.

“While it’s encouraging to see the safety benefit that newer headlight technology offers to drivers, there’s still room for improvement,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director, Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Unlike the more advanced headlight technology available in European vehicles, current government regulations limit the light output for vehicles sold in the United States. AAA looks forward to working with U.S. policy makers to ensure federal regulations keep up with changing technology.”

In addition to testing low-beam and high-beam headlight performance, AAA tested the effect that deteriorated headlight lenses have on light intensity and glare. The protective coating used on the plastics of modern lenses can slowly deteriorate and cloud after about five years, reducing light output and increasing light scatter which results in glare for other drivers.  The testing found that restoring headlights doubles the maximum light intensity and reduces glare-producing light scatter by up to 60 percent.  Yet, according to a recent AAA survey, only 20 percent of Americans have performed this service.

“Deteriorated or dirty headlight lenses are not just an aesthetic issue,” warned Nielsen. “An annual service on older vehicles will increase your nighttime visibility and minimize distracting glare for fellow drivers.”

To learn more about AAA’s vehicle testing series, designed to educate and inform AAA members, the automotive industry and the general public, visit NewsRoom.AAA.com.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Michael Green Contact TileAAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Survey Provides In-Depth Data on Americans’ Driving Habits

WASHINGTON, D.C., (April 16, 2015) – On average, Americans drive 29.2 miles per day, making two trips with an average total duration of 46 minutes. This and other revealing data are the result of a ground-breaking study currently underway by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Urban Institute.

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The Foundation’s new American Driving Survey offers the most up-to-date, comprehensive look at how much Americans drive on a daily and yearly basis.  First-year data, collected May 2013 through May 2014, is available now from the ongoing study, which will set the benchmark for future data and ultimately reveal trends in Americans’ driving habits.

“This is the first ongoing study that provides a look at when and how much Americans are driving,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Existing federal data with this level of detail was last released in 2009, eight years after the previous release. This substantially limits the extent to which we can use existing data to draw conclusions about Americans’ current driving habits.”

The first-year results of the American Driving Survey revealed that:

  • Motorists age 16 years and older drive, on average, 29.2 miles per day or 10,658 miles per year.
  • Women take more driving trips, but men spend 25 percent more time behind the wheel and drive 35 percent more miles than women.
  • Both teenagers and seniors over the age of 75 drive less than any other age group; motorists 30-49 years old drive an average 13,140 miles annually, more than any other age group.
  • The average distance and time spent driving increase in relation to higher levels of education. A driver with a grade school or some high school education drove an average of 19.9 miles and 32 minutes daily, while a college graduate drove an average of 37.2 miles and 58 minutes.
  • Drivers who reported living “in the country” or “a small town” drive greater distances (12,264 miles annually) and spend a greater amount of time driving than people who described living in a “medium sized town” or city (9,709 miles annually).
  • Motorists in the South drive the most (11,826 miles annually), while those in the Northeast drive the least (8,468 miles annually).
  • On average, Americans drive fewer miles on the weekend than on weekdays.
  • Americans drive, on average, the least during winter months (January through March) at 25.7 miles daily; they drive the most during the summer months (July through September) at 30.6 miles daily.

“This new data, when combined with available crash data, will allow us to conduct unique, timely studies on crash rates for the first time,” continued Kissinger. “This will allow us to identify specific problems and evaluate various safety countermeasures to a degree never before possible.”

Results from the American Driver Survey were based on telephone interviews with a nationwide sample of 3,319 drivers who reported detailed information about all their driving trips taken the day before the interview. Data collection is ongoing; the information reported in the first-year results was collected between May 21, 2013 and May 31, 2014. The full results from the inaugural American Driving Survey are available online at www.aaafoundation.org.

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, publicly supported charitable educational and research organization.  Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded more than 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them, and minimize injuries when they do occur. Visit www.aaafoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the internet at AAA.com.

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