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Signs that a driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs

If you were injured in a crash caused by a drunk driver or one under the influence of drugs, it may seem like they came out of nowhere. Indeed, they may have. We don't expect someone to run a red light or stop sign or to suddenly swerve into our lane, for example.

However, as you venture back out on to the roads, probably a little (or a lot) more anxious about other drivers than you used to be, there are ways to spot an impaired driver. Some signs of impairment include:

  • Weaving, drifting or swerving (within their lane or in to another lane)
  • Slow reactions at traffic signals
  • Tailgating
  • Not having headlights on at night
  • Braking erratically
  • Driving too slowly
  • Turning too widely

Drowsy driving, and what can be done about it

As the National Sleep Foundation has announced its annual Drowsy Driving Prevention Week for Nov.1 to 8, 2020, drivers across Nevada may want to take a second look at the impact that drowsiness can have on their behavior behind the wheel. In its effect, drowsiness is similar to alcohol intoxication as it impairs drivers' attention, ability to assess risks and reaction times. Being awake for over 20 consecutive hours is like having a BAC of .08.

Drowsy drivers are three times as likely to crash as other drivers are. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that some 100,000 police-reported crashes every year in the U.S. involve drowsy driving. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says the number is more like 328,000. Not all drowsy driving crashes are reported as such, after all. AAA goes on to state that 109,000 of those crashes end in injury and 6,400 in death.

AAA survey: self-driving cars are far from public acceptance

Nevada residents who are excited about the advent of self-driving cars should know that there are several concerns that keep the majority of the U.S. public from accepting them. AAA conducted a survey in January 2020 asking consumers if they would feel safe riding in a self-driving car, and only 12% answered in the affirmative. Twenty-eight percent admitted they don't know what to think about self-driving cars in the first place.

The survey clarified what sort of tangible information consumers want about self-driving cars. For example, 57% want to know how liability would work in the case of accidents with self-driving cars, 51% are interested in the laws that would protect self-driving cars, and 49% are concerned about the cars being hacked.

Easy ways to stay safe while riding

Riding a motorcycle can be an exciting hobby for Nevada residents to take up. However, it is important that those who do understand how to do so safely. New riders are encouraged to take safety courses that will help them learn important riding skills. In some cases, these courses can be taken online, and individuals might be entitled to a discount on their motorcycle insurance by taking part in them.

Riders should be alert for other drivers and changes in road conditions. A pothole, a patch of sand or other debris on the road could enhance the risk of getting into an accident. It is also important to pay attention to the actions of other motorcyclists while riding on a road or highway. Those who are planning on riding a motorcycle should not do so while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Bill to allow interstate travel to all truckers meets opposition

Nevada and all other states with the exception of Hawaii allow individuals as young as 18 to obtain a CDL for intrastate travel, opening the possibility for interstate travel when they turn 21. Now, a bipartisan bill introduced in February 2019 is proposing that even truckers under 21 be allowed to travel interstate.

In February 2020, the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety held a hearing to explore the concerns arising from the bill. Though the bill would set up a probationary period where CDL holders under 21 complete 400 hours of driving, at least 240 of them with another driver 21 or older, this may not be enough to ensure safety.

Car accident fatalities decline in 2019

According to national statistics, the traffic safety picture in Nevada and across the country is on a positive trend. The National Safety Council said that while 38,800 people were killed in traffic accidents across the country in 2019, this marked a decline in deaths for the second year in a row. This number marks a 2% drop from the 2018 numbers and a 4% decline from 2017. Overall, traffic deaths have been on a long-term decline since the 1970s, with the introduction of seatbelts, airbags and a wide range of safety technologies. However, in 2015 and 2016, there were significant increases in the number of deaths on the roadways.

While this is a sign of a positive direction, it also means that tens of thousands of people lose their lives in motor vehicle accidents every year, while many more are seriously injured. Some areas raise special concerns. For example, distracted driving continues to be a serious concern. Widespread public awareness campaigns have highlighted the dangers of texting while behind the wheel, but many people continue to do so. Thousands of accidents are caused each year by this reckless behavior.

Ways that CMV drivers can avoid fatigue

According to the FMCSA's Large Truck Crash Causation Study, 13% of commercial motor vehicle drivers were found to be fatigued at the time of their accidents. Fatigue can result from several things, including lack of sleep and extended work hours. Truckers in Nevada should consider the following tips for avoiding fatigue behind the wheel.

The first tip, and one of the more obvious, is to get adequate sleep and avoid driving during the "lulls" when the body is naturally drowsy. These lulls usually go from midnight to 6 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Next, truckers should eat well and regularly. Both a lack of food and a heavy meal can hinder sleep while a light snack beforehand can improve sleep. Truckers should avoid drowsiness-inducing medications, including allergy and cold medicines.

NHTSA car safety rating system needs updating, says report

Nevada residents may be aware that new vehicles come with a crash test safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This 5-star rating system was developed in the 1990s from an earlier program, and vehicles are rated after a series of laboratory crash tests with dummies. While the system has had a positive impact on the automotive industry, it may need updating in light of recent advances in vehicle technology.

This is the conclusion of a report published in October 2019 by a former leader in NHTSA's development of a crash testing program. The author says in particular that NHTSA's crash testing needs to cover vehicle safety features like pedestrian detection. The agency, for its part, has promised that it would add test procedures, rate safety features and even create new crash dummies. But the changes are still forthcoming.

Sleep apnea a cause of concern for many truckers

Long-haul truck drivers in Nevada should be aware that 35% of truckers suffer from sleep apnea. The most common form of this disorder is obstructive sleep apnea where the mouth palate and throat muscles collapse and block the upper airway while a person is sleeping. OSA interrupts sleep and actually prevents someone from achieving deep sleep, which repairs physical fatigue, and dream sleep, which is necessary for repairing mental fatigue.

As a result, those with untreated OSA will feel drowsy all day. OSA can contribute to diabetes and depression, and in serious cases, individuals may suffer heart attack or stroke. The important thing for truckers to remember is that sleep disorders put themselves and other drivers at risk. Drowsy driving is one of the leading causes of accidents involving trucks.

CVSA plans International Roadcheck for May 5 to 7

From May 5 to 7, 2020, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance will be holding its annual International Roadcheck, so CMV drivers in Nevada should take note. During this time, police officers and inspectors will be out to enforce federal truck safety regulations. Most trucks will be put through the most comprehensive inspection possible, the 37-point North American Standard Level I inspection.

The special focus of the 2020 International Roadcheck is on driver qualifications. All too often, truckers will be driving with the wrong class license; in fact, this violation made up 22.5% of driver-related out-of-service violations in the 2019 roadcheck. Drivers may also fail to have records of duty status or carry a medical card for their conditions. Inspectors will check for these in addition to failure to wear a seat belt or comply with ELD regulations.

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