NTSB Holds Forum On Elderly Drivers

The New York Times reported last week that the National Traffic Safety Board (NTS would be holding a forum on the state of elderly drivers.

“This is the first time we’re spotlighting aging drivers,” said Bridget Serchak, a spokeswoman for the board. “We’re looking to see what can be done with highway design, vehicle design, state programs and policies — things that affect all of us as we age.”

The driving summit will include academic and medical researchers, industry leaders, law enforcement officials, safety experts and advocacy groups like AARP.  

This is an important subject that garners this type of attention. It will be interesting to see if any new legislation will be proposed from these meetings, including stricter testing requirements for aging drivers.

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Toyota Announces Another Recall

I have reported several times the past year about numerous Toyota vehicle recalls regarding unintended acceleration problems. Toyota was back in the news last month when The New York Times reported that Toyota was announcing another recall, this time for break and fuel pump problems.

Toyota announced that they are recalling 750,000 cars in North America, including Lexus and Avalon models, and 599,000 cars in Japan.  About 140,000 cars in the rest of Asia and Australia, and 50,000 cars in Europe, also are being recalled.

Most of the vehicles in Thursday’s recall need to be fixed for a problem in the brakes’ master cylinder. The cylinder, which contains brake fluid, could leak if filled with a third-party fluid, causing a loss in braking power, he said. Toyota has also found an electrical fault with the fuel pump that could cause the engine to stall. That defect was concentrated in models sold in Japan.

The automaker has not reported any car accidents  linked to these problems,

Models affected in the United States include the 2005-6 Avalon; the 2004-6 nonhybrid Highlander and Lexus RX 330; and 2006 Lexus GS 300, IS 250 and IS 350 vehicles, according to a company release.

Owners will be notified by mailings beginning early next month, and dealers will replace part of the brake’s master cylinder free of charge, Toyota said.

In Japan, the recall includes the Crown, Crown Majesta, Harrier, Mark X, Alphard, Kluger, Lexus GX 350, Lexus IS 250 and Lexus IS 350.

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The Silent Driving Hazard: Sleeping At The Wheel

I have written in the past about numerous driving hazards such as texting and cell phone use, drinking and driving and the weather. Drowsy driving is another cause that is often ignored until this week, when a new study was released detailing the dangers of sleeping and driving.

AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety released a report on Monday that reported that falling asleep while driving results in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and more than 100,000 accidents each year. The report states that these numbers may actually be light as the official 1,550 die in the United States because of driver fatigue. Such data rely on admissions from the driver, who may be unsure what caused the crash or who may not be forthcoming.

Not all drowsiness comes late at night. More than one in four drivers told AAA they had fallen asleep during the afternoon within the past year. And more than two-thirds of drivers who said they dozed off said they were unaware when they got into the vehicle that they might have a hard time staying awake.

We will have to see if any new legislation will be introduced to help prevent this problem as has been done by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA this year proposed stricter regulations on airline pilots including a rule that would enable pilots to get more sleep.

Click here to view the entire AAA report.

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Parent Teen Contracts Aimed At Promoting Safe Driving

Driving contracts are a new trend among parents and their teenage children, which they hope will lead to safer driving. USA Today reported last week that the contracts, which have two key components: restrictions are modified as drivers gain experience and demonstrate responsibility, and penalties for violations are spelled out clearly. “It’s a way for parents and teens to engage with each other and agree on what the consequences are,” says Arlene Greenspan, a senior scientist with the Injury Center at CDC. “Writing it down clarifies for everybody what the rules are.”

Sample contracts are available through AAA and The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Sunday marked the start of National Teen Driver Safety Week and a push by many traffic safety advocates to stress the importance of parental involvement for novices. The CDC, for example, this week is launching a “Parents are the Key” education campaign.

The contracts are often used as part of states’ graduated-driver-licensing programs, in which young drivers gain privileges as they gain experience.

Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of youths 16-19, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s sobering news for the parents of young drivers.

This is positive step towards promoting safe driving for teens. I believe this is helpful not just because it promotes safe driving, but also requires young people to gain more driving experience before they are given more responsibilities and driving privileges.

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