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Why fatal motor vehicle accidents are on the rise

Texas drivers may be a bit more anxious when they get into their vehicles these days, especially if they're aware of the latest statistics from the National Safety Council. The NSC reports that car accident fatalities increased nearly 15 percent over a two-year span. This marks the sharpest increase in more than 50 years. There are several factors that likely contributed to this alarming trend.

Some government officials attribute to spike in deadly crashes to a failure to fully enforce drunk driving, speeding and seat belt laws. Since many fatal accident victims are found not wearing seat belts and nearly a third of all deadly vehicle-related accidents involve an impaired driver, there may be a valid connection between lax law enforcement efforts and the NSC's accident stats.

Speeding and truck accident fatalities

Federal data shows that in all but six states, there was an increase in the number of large truck crash deaths from 2009 to 2017 (the latest year for which statistics are available). Texas saw the greatest increase, followed by California, Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania. In all, 35,882 people died in large truck collisions during that eight-year period.

Referring to this data, the highway safety non-profit Road Safe America is calling for truck fleet owners to utilize vehicle safety technology like automatic emergency braking and speed limiters. The former is a device that can alert drivers to stationary or slow-moving objects and, in the last resort, brake in the drivers' stead.

Good driving habits that can keep you safe

Good driving habits are not just about keeping the roads safe for other people, they can also go a long way to help you avoid accidents caused by other drivers' bad habits. By practicing defensive driving techniques, you can substantially decrease your chances of becoming involved in a motor vehicle collision.

Whether you have recently completed a driving course or you have years of experience, it is always a good idea to evaluate your driving habits and make adjustments where necessary. Here are some safe driving techniques to practice next time you are on the road.

How can you and your kids avoid dog bite attacks?

It's common to see people with canine companions all over Texas. People bring their dogs with them to the park and the beach. Other individuals may have emotional support or assistance animals that go into public businesses with them. It's also likely that you have friends or family members who have dogs living in their homes.

You probably rarely stop to think about how dangerous dogs can actually be. If you are fortunate enough to have only had positive experiences with dogs, you might not worry about the potential for a dog bite. However, dog bite attacks are relatively common. Their consequences can be severe, especially if a dog bites vulnerable areas like the neck, hands or face.

Avoiding distraction as a pedestrian can help you stay safe

When people walk close to moving motor vehicles, there is always some degree of risk. Vehicles can cause catastrophic or even fatal injuries if they come into contact with nearby pedestrians. There are certain things you do as a pedestrian that can increase or decrease your risk of an accident.

People who frequently walk places would benefit from learning about how to safely share roads and intersections with vehicles of all sizes and shapes. One of the most important rules for walking safely is to avoid distraction.

Daydreaming a common cause of distracted driving crashes

Distracted driving has received a great deal of attention from safety advocates, police and the public in Texas. Many people equate the problem of distraction on the road with the use of cell phones while driving. People may be tempted to text, talk or surf the internet on their mobile devices while in traffic, and the practice has been linked to a number of severe car accidents. However, research indicates that other types of distracted driving may be even more dangerous. Despite the rush of developments aimed to curb mobile phone use behind the wheel, relatively little has been done to address boredom, daydreaming and general inattentiveness.

One study examined five years of statistics on traffic deaths collected nationwide. Between 2013 and 2018, 172,000 people lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents. The system includes data reported by police as to the cause of the crashes in question. Researchers found that 10 percent of these deaths were linked to distracted driving. Of those, however, the majority did not point to mobile phone usage or texting while driving. A full 61 percent of these fatal crashes involved a driver who was daydreaming or lost in thought.

Lawsuit - theme parks should post warnings signs in Spanish

In order to prevent injuries and deaths, theme parks in Texas and elsewhere are expected to post warning signs regarding a ride's potential risks. However, a lawsuit filed in Florida alleges that such signs should be posted in multiple languages to accommodate international visitors.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed by a Guatemalan family, a 38-year-old father suffered a fatal heart attack after riding Universal Studio's Orlando Resort's "Skull Island: Reign of Kong" attraction in 2017. The victim, who spoke Spanish, had a history of heart problems but could not read English-language signs warning visitors with cardiac issues to avoid the ride. After going on the ride, which advertises "sudden" and "dramatic" movements, the victim said he didn't feel well. Thinking he simply had an upset stomach, his wife left him resting on a bench while she took their son on another ride. However, he collapsed while they were gone and later died at a local hospital.

Drunk driving fatalities and their causes

Drunk driving crashes are an all too frequent occurrence in Texas. In fact, drunk driving fatalities make up about a third of all roadway crash fatalities in the country. The Lone Star State's legal limit is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, and though this may seem like a small amount, it's actually enough to impair a driver's reaction times.

The liver can process an ounce of alcohol consumed in approximately one hour, after which the alcohol leaves the blood. However, a compromised liver will take longer. Younger drivers, especially those under 24, are at a greater risk for fatal crashes than older adults. This is because younger drivers are less experienced behind the wheel and tend to travel in groups, making them more easily distracted.

How to protect yourself from distracted driving

Even if safety is always on your mind when driving, it doesn't mean you'll never fall prey to a distraction. There are many things that can take your eyes off the road and your hands away from the steering wheel.

There are many ways to protect yourself from distracted driving, with these five tips among the most useful:

  • Never use your cellphone: As tempting as it may be to call someone, send a text message or check the score of the big game, don't do so while driving. Pull to safety if you need to use your cellphone.
  • Don't drive drowsy: When you're too tired to drive, you're more likely to become distracted. For example, you may turn up the radio in an attempt to keep yourself awake. Or maybe you spend more time chatting with passengers.
  • Limit activity inside your vehicle: It's, obviously, okay to drive with passengers, but they must realize that your attention should be on the road at all times. If your children are a distraction in the backseat, pull to the side of the road to see what's happening behind you. If your front seat passenger is distracting you with conversation, let them know that you need to pay attention to the road.
  • Don't multi-task: When operating a motor vehicle, you shouldn't attempt to do anything else. Don't grab for anything in your glove box. Don't stare at someone or something on the side of the road. Make it your goal to focus 100 percent of your effort on safe driving.
  • Don't eat and drink while driving: It's something many people do as a means of saving time. For example, you may drink your morning coffee while driving to work. Or maybe you like to eat your lunch while driving, all so you're on time for your next appointment. Eating or drinking means you're taking at least one hand off the wheel.

Experimental external air bags could reduce car accident injuries

Most vehicle owners in Texas already have the benefit of internal airbags in their vehicles that deploy during crashes. Developers at ZF are now testing the potential of external airbags to cut down on injuries. Their initial tests of air bags positioned along the sides of cars showed that injuries among vehicle occupants could go down by 40 percent with the additional safety technology.

The demonstration airbag revealed by ZF measured 80 inches long, 21 inches high and 15 inches wide. The unit weighed 13 pounds and featured the ability to inflate fully in 15 milliseconds. The external airbag expands upon the protective crumple zones engineered into the structure of vehicles. It serves, essentially, as a large pillow that absorbs the force of an impact and reduces its effect on vehicle occupants.

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