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October 2019 Traffic Safety Newsletter

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AAA Carolinas Warns of Heavier Deer Presence on the Roads

With more deer active around roads this time of year, AAA Carolinas is urging motorists to take precaution to avoid collisions.

 

The mating season of a deer typically runs from mid-October through mid-November. This, coupled with the loss of daylight during most motorists’ commutes, makes October, November and December the worst months of the year for motor vehicle collisions with animals.

 

In North Carolina in 2018, there were 17,895 crashes reported from collisions with an animal (of which, 90% are assumed to be deer) – with the months of Oct-Dec accounting for 49.5 percent of those crashes, according to the NCDOT.

 

In addition to being a danger, hitting a deer can be quite expensive for motorists. Last year, the average deer-related claim in the Carolinas totaled $2,500 in damages.

 

AAA Carolinas encourages motorists to adhere to the following tips this deer season:

  • Be especially attentive in the early morning and evening hours as many animals (especially deer) are most active from 5-8 a.m. and 5-8 p.m. – prime commuting times for most drivers.
  • Use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic – your lights will often reflect off the animal’s eyes and reveal their location.
  • Watch for water on the side of the road as it often attracts deer.
  • If you spot a deer, slow down and watch for other deer to appear – as they rarely travel alone.
  • As you slow down, blast your horn to frighten the animal away from the road.
  • Brake firmly. Do not swerve or leave your lane as many crashes from deer are a result of hitting other cars
  • Check with your insurance agent to make sure you have comprehensive coverage that includes animal collision.

 

In the event of a collision with a deer:

  • Avoid making contact with the deer as a frightened or wounded animal can hurt you or further injure itself.
  • Put your vehicle’s hazard lights on whether it is light or dark out.
  • If possible, move the vehicle to a safe location, out of the road, as you wait for help to arrive.
  • For insurance purposes, call your local law enforcement or highway patrol.
  • To report an injured deer in North Carolina call the NCDNR’s Wildlife Enforcement Division at (800)-662-7137. To report an injured deer in South Carolina call the SCDNR office at (803) 734-3886 to locate a rehabilitator near you.
  • When in North Carolina, vehicle-deer crashes should be reported to the NC Department of Transportation. When in South Carolina, vehicle-deer crashes should be reported to the SC Department of Transportation.

 

Electric Vehicles Equipped with Sound

As electric vehicles are gaining in popularity for their energy efficiency and low fuel costs, we are seeing more and more of them on the roads. With this increase in electric vehicles comes a decrease in something we didn’t think we’d miss, but maybe we do: sound.

 

Because they run electrically, these vehicles emit almost no sound. While this was once considered a positive to reduce noise pollution, it is now becoming a safety issue as people do not hear them approaching until often times it’s too late.

 

In an effort to combat this issue, Congress passed a law to enhance pedestrian safety in 2010, instructing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to create a rule that mandates hybrid/electric vehicles emit some kind of sound. In 2016, the rule was finalized and it states that the noise must be produced every time a vehicle drives at a speed of 18.6 mph or higher. Automakers have until September of 2020 to make it happen.

 

NHTSA says the alert will help prevent 2,400 injuries annually.

 

Now, major producers of electric vehicles are crafting sounds that fit the requirements to install in the newest models of their cars. The Agency has agreed to allow owners to choose from a range of sounds to equip their silent vehicles with.

 

Nissan, for example, is working with the studio Man Made Music, to design a sound that rises in pitch as the car accelerates that will accurately represent Nissan and the vehicle owner all in one. Chevy has gotten to work as well, creating a sound to represent its Bolt, as has Harley Davidson, because the law applies to motorcycles too.

 

As companies continue to develop these safety sounds, keep an eye out – or an ear out – for a new jingle on the road.

 

AAA Warns Pedestrian Detection Systems Don’t Work When Needed Most

New research from AAA reveals that automatic emergency braking systems with pedestrian detection perform inconsistently, and proved to be completely ineffective at night. An alarming result, considering 75% of pedestrian fatalities occur after dark. The systems were also challenged by real-world situations, like a vehicle turning right into the path of an adult. AAA’s testing found that in this simulated scenario, the systems did not react at all, colliding with the adult pedestrian target every time. For the safety of everyone on the road, AAA supports the continued development of pedestrian detection systems, specifically when it comes to improving functionality at night and in circumstances where drivers are most likely to encounter pedestrians.

 

On average, nearly 6,000 pedestrians lose their lives each year, accounting for 16% of all traffic deaths, a percentage that has steadily grown since 2010.

 

So far this year, 156 pedestrians have died as a result of vehicle strikes in North Carolina, compared to 150 in 2018. To date in 2019, 116 pedestrians have died as a result of vehicle collisions in South Carolina, compared to 116 in 2018 as well.

 

While time of day and location are contributing factors to pedestrian fatalities, vehicle speed also plays a major role. Previous research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that pedestrians are at greater risk for severe injury or death the faster a car is traveling at the time of impact. For example, a pedestrian hit by a vehicle traveling at 20 mph has an 18% risk of severe injury or death. Increase that by just 10 mph to 30 mph and the risk more than doubles to 47%. AAA’s latest study found that speed impacted system performance as well, with results varying between testing performed at 20 mph and 30 mph.

 

AAA evaluated the performance of four midsize sedans equipped with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection to determine the effectiveness of these systems. Testing was conducted on a closed course using simulated pedestrian targets for the following scenarios:

  • An adult crossing in front of a vehicle traveling at 20 mph and 30 mph during the day and at 25 mph at night.
  • A child darting out from between two parked cars in front of a vehicle traveling at 20 mph and 30 mph.
  • A vehicle turning right onto an adjacent road with an adult crossing at the same time.
  • Two adults standing along the side of the road with their backs to traffic, with a vehicle approaching at 20 mph and 30 mph.

 

Overall, the systems performed best in the instance of the adult crossing in front of a vehicle traveling at 20 mph during the day. In this case, the systems avoided a collision 40% of the time. But, at the higher speed of 30 mph, most systems failed to avoid a collision with the simulated pedestrian target. The other scenarios proved to be more challenging for the systems:

  • When encountering a child darting from between two cars, with the vehicle traveling at 20 mph, a collision occurred 89% of the time.
  • Immediately following a right hand turn, all of the test vehicles collided with the adult pedestrian.
  • When approaching two adults standing alongside the road, with the vehicle traveling at 20 mph, a collision occurred 80% of the time.
  • In general, the systems were ineffective in all scenarios where the vehicle was traveling at 30 mph.
  • At night, none of the systems detected or reacted to the adult pedestrian.

 

It is a driver’s responsibility to yield to pedestrians, but those traveling by foot should be diligent as well. Pedestrians should use caution by staying on sidewalks and using crosswalks as often as possible. Always obey traffic signals, look both ways before crossing the street and do not walk and text.

 

Pet Passenger Safety

It is common for motorists to bring their pets along for road trips and even daily errands, but just like child passengers, unrestrained pets are a distraction to the driver and are at risk of injury in the event of even a small collision.

 

According to a study done by AAA and Kurgo Pet products, 65% of drivers say they participate in distracting behavior behind the wheel while driving with their dog. Additionally:

 

  • More than half (52%) pet their dog while driving.
  • 17% allow their dog to sit in their lap.
  • 13% admit to giving food or treats to their dog while driving.

 

Of the 84% of respondents that say they regularly travel with their pets on a variety of car trips, only 16% say they use any form of pet restraint system.

 

AAA recommends that pet owners restrain their pet inside the vehicle (NEVER in the bed of a truck) to avoid distraction and to protect the animal from injury in a crash. When choosing a pet restraint system, consider the following:

 

  • Restraint systems that limit a pet’s ability to distract the driver, restrict movement and mitigate crash forces are best to use.
  • A car’s airbag can prove deadly to a pet so it is best to restrain your pet in the back seat. If space is limited and you have to put your pet in the front seat, be sure to disable the passenger-side airbag and to use a restraint that prevents them from leaning too far forward.
  • Padded harnesses with sturdy connectors and straps are available to connect to a vehicle’s seatbelt system. Both hard and soft-sided crates can be used in vehicles, but should always be strapped down. Pet car seats or basket-style holders can be used with smaller dogs and cats.
  • A wide variety of barrier systems are available to fit various makes and models of vehicles. These can be helpful in reducing doggie distractions, but do not offer protection during a crash.

 

It is common practice for motorists to drive with their dogs in the bed of pick-up trucks. The force of being thrown from the bed is often times deadly to the animal. If your dog survives the crash and is unleashed, it will often be spooked from the event and will run off. Tethering or leashing a dog while in a truck bed can be just as dangerous, and in many cases this has resulted in dogs being dragged along the road. Collisions aside, there are other hazards that can occur, such as being hit by debris or being exposed to dangerous weather.

 

School Bus Safety Week

Next week, October 21-25, is National School Bus Safety Week. The National Association for Pupil Transportation estimates that 25 million students ride school buses every school day and this week serves as a reminder for students, parents, teachers and the community to keep school bus safety in the forefront before and after school.

 

In preparation, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol began a campaign called “Operation Stop Arm” on October 15. During the campaign, troopers will monitor bus routes in unmarked vehicles at the beginning and end of the school day to cite violators for passing a stopped school bus. Some troopers will also ride on school buses to interact with the students while citing motorists for violations.

 

In an effort to draw more attention to stopped busses, some states have added extended stop arms to block vehicles from illegally passing. Rather than the standard 18 inches, these new arms will extend anywhere from 4.5 feet to 6.5 feet.

 

In 2016 in North Carolina there were 930 reported school bus crashes resulting in 781 injuries and 4 fatalities, according to the NCDOT. Additionally, NC Highway Patrol said that 3,100 cars pass stopped school buses in NC each year. In South Carolina, there were 443 collisions resulting in 222 injuries and 4 fatalities, according to the SCDPS.

 

Penalties for passing a stopped school bus include a $500 fine and an additional four insurance points, which could increase insurance rates by 80 percent. It’s vital that drivers also slow down and obey the posted speed limit in a school zone – a child’s life could depend on it.

 

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University have partnered to produce a PSA to raise public awareness on school bus safety.

 

Tips for motorists that encounter a stopped school bus on the roads:

 

  • Two-lane roadway: when school bus stops, all traffic from both directions must stop.
  • Two-lane roadway with a center turning lane: when school bus stops, all traffic from both directions must stop.
  • Four-lane roadway without a median separation: when school bus stops, all traffic from both directions must stop.
  • Any divided highway with a median: when school bus stops, only traffic following the bus must stop.
  • Roadway of four lanes or more with a center turning lane: when school bus stops, only traffic following the bus must stop.

 

Tips for school bus riders:

 

  • Stand at least three giant steps back from the curb as the bus approaches
  • Wait for the school bus to come to a complete stop before boarding.
  • If you must cross in front of the bus to cross the street, make eye contact with the driver and cross only when the driver indicates it’s safe.
  • If you drop something around the bus, let your bus driver know so they do not lose sight of you trying to pick it up.

 

For more information on year-long school bus safety tips, see this informative pamphlet from the National Association for Pupil Transportation.

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