Highway Safety Part 1

The number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes has been falling, according to a report by The National Highway Safety Administration in the United States. The annual tolls for 2010, 2011 and 2012 were the lowest recorded since 1975, when the U. S. Department of Transportation began collecting detailed fatality data.


Airbags are one of the most important safety innovations of recent decades. The devices are normally hidden from view but inflate instantly when a crash begins. Thanks to the advocacy of IIHS and others, frontal airbags have been required in all new passenger vehicles since the 1999 model year. Side airbags are not specifically mandated, but nearly all manufacturers include them as standard equipment in order to meet federal side protection requirements.

Frontal airbags reduce driver fatalities in frontal crashes by 29 percent and fatalities of front-seat passengers age 13 and older by 32 percent. Side airbags that protect the head reduce a car driver’s risk of death in driver-side crashes by 37 percent and an SUV driver’s risk by 52 percent.

Some vehicles now have rear-window curtain airbags to protect people in back seats or front-center airbags to keep drivers and front-seat passengers from hitting each other in a crash. There are also inflatable safety belts aimed at reducing rear-seat injuries.

Researchers have determined that the risk zone for driver airbags is the first 2 to 3 inches of inflation. So, placing yourself 10 inches from your driver airbag gives you a clear margin of safety. Measure this distance from the center of the steering wheel to your breastbone. The rules for children are different. An airbag can seriously injure an unbuckled child who is sitting too close to it or is thrown toward the dash during emergency braking.

Alcohol-impaired driving:

About a third of all drivers who die in road accidents in the U. S. have blood alcohol levels of 0.08 percent or more. Approximately 7, 000 deaths could have been prevented in 2012 if all drivers were below the legal limit. The key to reducing alcohol related driving and therefore promoting highway safety is disincentive. Preventative steps include:

Administrative licence suspension: In most states, this allows the police to deprive a person of his/her licence who fails or refuses to be tested for alcohol levels.

Sobriety checkpoints: Checkpoints which have been upheld by the U. S. Supreme Court, although not always resulting in arrests, do serve as a deterrent to driving under the influence of alcohol.

Minimum drinking age of 21: Setting 21 as the minimum legal age for buying alcohol has helped to reduce drunk driving among teenagers.

Alcohol interlocks: An ignition interlock device is a mechanism installed on a motor vehicle’s dashboard. Should the driver’s breath sample not meet minimum alcohol guidelines, there is an interruption in the signal from the ignition to the starter. Many states require these devices for people with previous records of dui convictions.


Bumpers are supposed to limit damage in minor collisions, but many are ineffective. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a bumper test evaluation program to assess how well bumpers resist damage in fender benders. Better bumpers mean less out-of-pocket costs for consumers and lower insurance costs.

Child Safety:

Children are much safer in vehicle accidents than they used to be. Appropriate child safety seats provide significantly more protection in an auto accident than safety belts alone.
All infants and toddlers should ride rear-facing until they are 2 years old or until they reach the height and weight limit of their child restraints.
Once they outgrow rear-facing restraints, children should ride in harness-equipped forward-facing restraints for as long as possible, up to the height and weight limit of the child restraint. Top tethers should be used whenever a child restraint is installed forward-facing.
When children outgrow child restraints, they should use belt-positioning booster seats until adult safety belts fit properly.

U.S. Regulators plan to require automakers to equip new cars and trucks with technology that allows vehicles to communicate with each other to avoid crashes. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sent a signal to the auto industry that the Obama administration is intent on pushing ahead with so-called vehicle-to-vehicle crash avoidance systems.

Currently many new vehicles offer advanced crash avoidance features. These include front crash prevention, lane departure warning, blind spot detection, adaptive headlights and park assist and backover prevention.

Distracted driving:

Regulatory laws in the United States have placed numerous restrictions on cell phone use by drivers. Individual States have jurisdictional discretion over the use of cell phones and other hand-held devices used by drivers on their roads.

The laws regulating driving may be subject to primary enforcement or secondary enforcement by state, country or local authorities. All state-level cell phone use laws in the United States are of the primary enforcement type, meaning an officer may cite a driver for a cell phone use violation if the driver has committed another primary violation (such as speeding, failure to stop, etc.,) at the same time.

A federal transportation funding law passed in July 2012 known as the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act provided $17.5 million in grants during fiscal year 2013 for states with primary enforcement laws against distracted driving, including laws prohibiting cell phone use while driving. States with secondary enforcement laws or no laws at all are ineligible to receive this grant funding.

Event Data Recorders:

An event data recorder, or EDR, collects information from a vehicle just before and during most serious crashes. Crash investigators can download data from the EDR’s memory to help them better understand what happened to the vehicle and how the safety systems performed, and in some cases, help determine who’s at fault in the crash. Most EDRs are built into a vehicle’s airbag control module and record information about airbags deployment, vehicle speed, engine throttle and driver safety belt use.

EDRs are not required by law, but many vehicles have them. In December of 2012, the National Highway Safety Administration proposed a rule requiring the devices in all 2015 and later models. An estimated 92 percent of new passenger vehicles already have them. Under an earlier rule, EDRs in 2013 and later models must record specific data in a standard format to make the retrieving of information easier.