Articles Posted in Dangerous Roads And Highways

In an interesting article by Matt Richtel in the March 2, 2010 Business Section of the New York Times, electronic billboards are examined as another possible cause of distracted driving. We are all aware of distracted driving due to speaking on a cell phone and texting while driving, and who hasn’t seen someone driving while eating, drinking, applying makeup or looking at a map? However, what about driving while digital images are flashing at you every six to eight seconds, with headlines, food deals or what song is playing on the radio? In my opinion, the increased prevalence of these electronic billboards will undoubtedly lead to more car crashes and more fatalities on the roadways.

In Michigan, safety groups are attempting to block construction of the billboards, and the executive director of Scenic Michigan called the digital billboards “weapons of mass distraction.” Michigan legislators are considering a two year moratorium on the construction of electronic billboards. According to the article, the Federal Highway Administration is performing a study in which eye-trackers are utilized to determine whether motorists look at these billboards, and if so, for how long. Studies have been performed which indicated that electronic billboards do not change driver behavior, but their accuracy is questionable as they have been sponsored by the billboard industry.

The Federal Highway Administration has prohibited states from having “flashing, intermittent or moving light or lights” for some time, but possibly due to some intense lobbying by the billboard industry, the agency ruled in 2007 that free standing digital billboards did not violate their rules. Instead, the the agency simply recommended that advertisements on the billboards remain in place for at least 4 seconds and not be “unreasonably bright”, which is certainly a vague standard, to say the least.

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In our previous post in this two part series, we examined the causes of motor vehicle accidents and fatal crashes on New York State roadways based on a NYSDOT study called the Strategic Highway Safety Plan 2007. In this article, we look at the State’s finding regarding New York pedestrian accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents. Approximately 25% of the annual New York fatal motor vehicle accidents involve pedestrians. This is more than twice the national average. 70% of pedestrian accidents and one half of the fatalities in New York State occur in the five boroughs of New York City, but interestingly, pedestrians involved in accidents in the suburbs are more likely to die in these accidents than in New York City. It is also significant that almost ¼ of all pedestrians injured or killed in the last year of the study (’05) were under 18 years of age.

Accidents between a car and large truck account for 10% of fatal motor vehicle accidents in New York, and approximately 5% of the serious personal injury accidents. From 2002 through 2005, there was a range of 140-150 deaths per year in New York truck accidents. The Department of Transportation determined that the three main causes of these accidents was: following too closely-10%; driver inattention or distraction-9%; and failing to yield the right of way-7%. The majority of all truck accidents are caused by aggressive driving by one of both of the drivers involved.

Motorcycle fatalities and motorcycle accidents are on an upward trend, due to the steady popularity of motorcycles, inexperienced riders, the attraction of “extreme” motorcycle riding, and the price of gasoline. Motorcycle deaths on New York highways rose from 155 in 2003 to 163 in 2005.

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The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) investigated the causes of New York car crashes on state highways from 2002 through 2005 in the Strategic Highway Safety Plan 2007. The good news coming out of the study is that from 1996 through 2005, fatal accidents on New York roadways have declined 10%. Further, although driving while intoxicated continues to be a significant problem in causing roadway deaths, the number of people killed on New York state roadways from driving while intoxicated has dropped from 979 in 1981 to 382 in 2005. The most significant problems causing serious New York car crashes and fatal accidents are aggressive driving, DWI’s and speeding.

There are 113,000 miles of highway in New York State and 16,000 of those highways are operated by the state. Intersection crashes account for approximately 25% of all highway fatalities in New York. There were 77,161 fatal intersection crashes in 2005. Overall, there were 142,287 fatal and personal injury accidents in 2003; 133,314 in 2004, and 128,581 in 2005. Rear end and left turn accidents are responsible for about ½ of all New York motor vehicle crashes. There were 479 fatal accidents from cars overturning or colliding with fixed objects in 2005, and 203 fatal accidents or injuries from crashes in construction zones.

From 2003-2005, failing to yield the right of way contributed to 16% of New York fatal car accidents; following too closely 13.5%; and unsafe speed was partially responsible for 11% of the deaths on New York highways. These driver behaviors have remained constant despite the reduction in overall accidents between 2003 and 2005.

In Part 2 of this series, we will the DOT’s findings regarding New York motorcycle accidents, large truck accidents and pedestrian accidents.

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