Texting & Driving Worse Than We Thought

According to a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety report released Wednesday, the dangers and outcomes of texting and driving (by teens) are worse than many have come to believe. The study found that 12% of all teen crashes are due to use of a cell phone while driving; however, coupled with interacting with passengers, looking for things, or looking away, distracted driving accounts for a whopping 58% of all teen motor vehicle accidents.

These figures, collected by a study of the last six seconds (before impact) of 1,691 crash videos, blow previous National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates out of the water. The NHSTA has the distraction factor at 14% in the cause of teen accidents. This new study has it at 6 in 10–much more serious than 1 in 10.

As of today, there is no national ban on texting while driving, but a number of states have passed laws banning texting or use of wireless phones. Some states have even passed laws requiring hands-free use of wireless phones while driving, including California. It will be interesting to see the effects of this law and whether other states will follow the hands-free trend.

Here is a scary statistic: 11 teens die every day as a result of texting while driving (Edgar Synder & Associates).  Even if texting was banned, teens would still text and drive; according to another AAA poll, 35% of teens who acknowledged the dangers of texting and driving said they would continue to do it anyway. While texting and driving will not soon be eliminated, it is of extreme importance that teens (AND DRIVERS OF ALL AGES) be made aware of the dangers.

Laws and fines may only go so far…here is a very controversial (and graphic) European video ad aimed at teens who text and drive: 





Cheap Not So Cheap?

I recently read an article on edmunds.com where their authors posed a very important question to automakers: is cheap gas going to damage a car’s engine? So while one may think that they are saving at the pump by choosing the cheapest fuel, they may actually be inhibiting future damage to their car’s engine.

The article states: “A key difference is that the major brands put more additives in their gas and claim to have some secret ingredients. This extra shot of additives provides an additional level of cleaning and protection for your engine.”

So, while one might think that they are saving pennies, dollars, or even more over time, as well as easing the strain on their wallet when filling up is necessary, the hidden damage may cost them much more than those marginal savings at the pump. It is unfortunate, however, that these “beneficial” additives are actually costing the stations (and the consumer) more. The more powerful, useful, and mperative additives, though, are even more expensive.

So what is the bottomn line when it comes to fuels and which petroleum you should be putting in your tank? Well, according to Randy Stephens, chief engineer for Toyota’s Avalon, the claims of engine protection afforded by higher-priced gas do not necessarily convince him. However, he and many other car experts agree that putting some kind of additive to one’s fuel can greatly improve engine quality and life. So if one’s pockets aren’t quite deep enough to afford premium (91 or other) gasoline, one can purchase am additive such as a bottle of Chevron U.S.A. Inc.’s Techron — the same additive that’s in Chevron gasoline (once or twice a year).

These less expensive alternatives greatly help the consumer and the manufacturer: if a car is not needing service every 10,000 miles, the consumer gains trust with the manufacturer, and the msnufacturer maintains a loyal consumer base. I guess the only party out of luck in this theoretical situation are those that specialize (and shirk, but not always) in fixing the problems created by cheap gasoline.

Source: http://www.edmunds.com/car-care/is-cheap-gas-bad-for-your-car.html

GM & Ford, World of Hurt

Based on the sales for January and February, 2015 is not looking like a good year for GM and Ford. Nick Bunkley of Automotive News reported that Ford was one of the only car manufacturers to report a “year-over-year decline,” even after it has been tirelessly working to revamp and renew its car lineup over the recent decade. GM has also been in a state of renewal, establishing new designs for some of its best-sellers: the Cruze and the Malibu (both Chevrolet models). While these new designs have proven to be more attractive to consumers, overall sales for the company are still down.

Despite the nasty weather of January and late February, Ford executive Mark LeNeve (chief of marketing and sales in the US) envisions: “‘big opportunity’ for cars such as the Ford Focus, which posted a 12 percent drop in February, and the Fiesta, which was down 24 percent” (automotive news.com). He has higher hopes for car traffic in March and April, despite the apparent drought of January and February. GM also has reason to keep its hopes up for the year of 2015: truck sales, especially those in the light-duty category, were apparently up a whopping 21% in the month of February; however, their overall car volume numbers are down 21% (LeNeve).

These numbers do not seem encouraging for Ford and GM, but their executives remain confident that the business will take a turn for the better as Spring nears. As gas prices stay relatively low, the economy improves, and more people find work, the aforementioned automakers believe that people will choose to buy what they really want. What do they really want? SUV’s and crossovers. What do these manufacturers specialize in? SUV’s and crossovers.

As of today, Ford and GM should not necessarily be fretting over the current downturn; LeNeve states: “automakers and analysts expressed confidence that the industry remains on track toward a potential 17 million unit year” (automotive news.com). Who knows, maybe Ford (and GM) will see an increase in profit and not need to report yet another year-over-year decline; then again, maybe they will…only time (and the weather?) will tell.

Volvo First?

Will Volvo be the first to release a self-driving car? Despite my dislike for self-driving cars, the idea of Volvo being the first to release one is exciting to say the least; however, I still would never drive one…

As of 2015, Volvo claims that it will have “production-ready autonomous vehicles” on the road by 2017. Justin Hyde (Yahoo Autos) explains the technology involved: “far more than 28 cameras, sensors and lasers…a complex set of software rules, multiple types of radars, several cameras, a multiple-beam laser scanner in the front bumper and 12 ultrasonic sensors” (Motoramic). As with the Google self-driving car, the Volvo version will also be permanently linked to an HD, 3D mapping system. Volvo goes one step further, though, in connecting their autonomous vehicles to local traffic control offices. In theory, their autonomous vehicle software should be able to react to nearly all driving situations.

Of all the car manufacturers attempting this kind of feat, I would bet on Volvo’s success over any other. The kind of ingenuity and attention to detail on Volvo’s part just follows with their mission to reduce and eventually eliminate all driver deaths and vehicular injuries. Unlike many other manufacturers, Volvo puts driver and passenger safety above all else. Despite the tremendously increased safety of the driver-less car, Volvo is also constantly at work developing new technologies for when their cars ARE involved in accidents. They are putting more high-strength steel into the frames of their vehicles than ever before, as well as developing new safety measures such as shock absorbent seats that compress upon impact (reducing spinal injury), auto-brake functionality, and pre-tensioners in all seats.

This article is one of many that remind us of Volvo’s top status among car companies. They continue to prove that driver and passenger safety will never be compromised — nor will luxury and style. It will be exciting to see what their technology will look like in 2017 — and if they will indeed be the first to release a driver-less car.

Link: https://autos.yahoo.com/blogs/motoramic/volvo-vows-the-first-self-driving-car-in-customers–hands-by-2017-202033465.html

Reaching ZERO

Within the last decade, car manufacturers have made significant improvements in the areas of driver/passenger safety and fatality/death reduction. According to the Status Report, “The chances of dying in a crash in a late-model vehicle have fallen by more than a third in three years…” (iihs.org). Amazingly, as of 2015 there are currently nine vehicles with driver death rates of ZERO—eight years ago, there were NONE.

Of these nine vehicles, six belong to the SUV class. The Status Report also mentions, “A decade ago, SUVs had some of the highest [death] rates, due to their propensity to roll over” (iihs.org). New technologies such as ESC (Electronic Stability Control), however, have been created to reduce the amount of SUV rollovers, as well as improve the way in which the SUV actually rolls over (to ensure passenger safety).

One of the nine 2015 zero death vehicles (which also happens to be both a luxury brand and an SUV), the Volvo XC90 4D SUV, is my personal favorite. If not for new technologies such as ESC, an SUV like the Volvo XC90 may not have saved my life. Here is a video of a Volvo XC90 crash test. At 1 min, side-impact is tested; I was in this exact position when my XC90 was “T-boned” by a Chevy Silverado going 45 mph.

Thanks to the tremendous effort made by car manufacturers and organizations that push for the zero-death goal in cars, countless lives have been saved (and will continue to be saved); however, even as cars become safer, drivers are still putting lives in danger by engaging in risky behaviors. These include: not wearing a seatbelt, texting and driving, distracted driving, and driving while under the influence of a mind-altering substance. If drivers were to eliminate these behaviors from their driving repertoire, that zero-death statistic could become an accomplishable goal for ALL makes and models.

Here is a link to the Status Report article: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/50/1/1

“Death Rates Fall as Vehicles Improve.” Death Rates Fall as Vehicles Improve. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 25 Jan. 2015. Web. 6 Feb. 2015. <http://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/50/1/1&gt;.