Video: AAA tests texting drivers on closed course

Distracted driving has become a big problem on our nation’s roadways, and text messaging while behind the wheel has been targeted as one of the biggest issues. Ray LaHood and the Department of Transportation has made this issue a top safety priority, even writing an op-ed on Autoblog to spread the word.

AAA is is following in LaHood’s footsteps, using YouTube to spread awareness that our growing fascination with our phones shouldn’t mix with driving time. The post-jump video demonstrates how poorly drivers handled a not-so-tricky cone course in a Nissan Altima while texting and driving.

Those poor, poor orange cones… they never stood a chance.

Hit the jump to watch for yourself, and if you have any young drivers in the house, you may want to have them watch along.

[Source: YouTube]

2011 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 earn Top Safety Pick awards

2011 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 earn TOP SAFETY PICK award

The redesigned Dodge Charger and twin Chrysler 300 earn the Institute’s top safety accolade for the first time after achieving good ratings for front, side, rollover, and rear impact protection. The TOP SAFETY PICK designation recognizes the vehicles that afford the best overall crash protection. In addition to good crash test ratings, winners must have electronic stability control (ESC), an important crash-avoidance feature, which is standard on the Charger and 300.

Chrysler significantly improved the safety performance of these vehicles for 2011. The previous generation Charger and 300 earned the second lowest rating of marginal for side impact protection, even when equipped with head-protecting side curtain airbags. The previous cars were also rated marginal for rear impact protection. This is the first time that these cars have been rated in the Institute’s roof strength test for rollover protection. The roof of the Charger withstood a force equal to 5.37 times the car’s weight. By comparison, the current federal standard is 1.5 times weight. ESC, which was optional on the previous generation models, is now standard.

The new ratings bring to 7 the number of Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep models earning the Institute’s highest safety designation.

IIHS uses NHTSA data to show its crash test results are right on

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been testing side-impact crashes since 2003. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been collecting traffic fatality information a lot longer than that. Yet it took until 2011 for IIHS to compare its considerable crash data against NHTSA’s crash mortality data.

As a result, IIHS can now underscore the importance of its crash test scores with credible outside data. Bloomberg reports that the Institute found that drivers of vehicles with an IIHS rating of “Good” for side-impact crashes were 70 percent less likely to die in an accident. That’s the exact type of statistic that can sway shoppers’ purchasing decisions. Further bolstering IIHS’s findings is this nugget: 27 percent of all fatal accidents involved a side-impact collision. For 2011, the Hyundai Accent, two-door Jeep Wrangler and Chevy Colorado all receive “Poor” side impact ratings.

Meanwhile, NHTSA will further regulate vehicle standards beginning in 2018 to include more protection against side impacts as well as occupant ejection in the event of a rollover. Stronger side glass and side-impact airbags are among the available solutions.

[Source: Bloomberg]

Toyota launches Collaborative Safety Research Center in Michigan

Toyota Launches New Collaborative Safety Research Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Industry-Wide Safety Projects to Focus on Children, Teens and Seniors in Collaboration with Leading U.S. Institutions

ANN ARBOR, Michigan – January 9, 2011 – Toyota announced today that it is launching a new, advanced safety research center that will collaborate with leading North American universities, hospitals, research institutions, federal agencies and other organizations on projects aimed at reducing the number of traffic fatalities and injuries on America’s roads.

Toyota’s new Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) will be based at the Toyota Technical Center (TTC) in Ann Arbor, Michigan and will involve Toyota researchers and engineers from North America and Japan. The new initiative builds on Toyota’s ongoing commitment to safety and quality leadership. The company estimates that it will commit approximately $50 million over the next five years to fund CSRC.

The collaborative research will pursue integrated ways to enhance safety, involving the vehicle, driver and traffic environment. Initial areas of focus will include reducing the risk of driver distraction – a growing cause of accidents – and helping to protect the most vulnerable traffic populations, including children, teens and seniors. These populations account for approximately 30% of U.S. traffic fatalities.

In addition, CSRC will conduct in-depth analyses of available accident and human behavior data to support stakeholders’ efforts to evaluate and speed deployment of active safety systems.

Announcing the new safety initiative, Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda said, “Toyota’s new safety research center will work with leading North American universities and other partners on safety projects that benefit the entire industry. Our investment will support collaborative research aiming to reduce driver distraction and increase the safety of vehicles, drivers, passengers and pedestrians.”

Chuck Gulash, a Senior Executive Engineer at the Toyota Technical Center, will serve as Director of CSRC. He will report to Shigeki Terashi, who is a managing officer of Toyota Motor Corporation and the president of TTC.

“Toyota has always tried to take a comprehensive approach to creating a safe, sustainable automotive society through advanced vehicle safety technology, intelligent transport systems and traffic safety education,” Mr. Gulash said. “We have a long history of working closely with North American partners to achieve our safety objectives, and our new collaborative research initiative will build on this tradition. We intend to publish as much of the research as possible so that it is available to federal agencies, the industry and academia.”

Charter Partners: University of Michigan, Virginia Tech, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
The University of Michigan, Virginia Tech and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute will be charter partners in the new Collaborative Safety Research Center. Toyota will also reach out broadly to other universities, hospitals and research institutions in North America to invite proposals for research into advanced automotive safety.

Toyota is supporting the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) on a multidisciplinary project to assess the potential benefits of advanced safety systems in a systematic way, combining their expertise in driver behavior, crash data analysis and driver modeling.

“We at the U-M Transportation Research Institute share Toyota’s enthusiasm for maximizing the societal benefits from leading-edge safety research, and will leverage this generous support with the full range of our research laboratories and databases,” said UMTRI director Peter Sweatman. “This program will allow leading safety researchers to collaborate on complex issues affecting the most important elements in the automotive safety equation – the drivers and passengers who are also our family, friends and colleagues. With Toyota’s continuing support, we will be able to test and disseminate research findings more widely, and to seek a more rapid rate of improvement.”

Toyota’s collaboration with Virginia Tech involves research into the effectiveness of an electronic coaching and monitoring system for newly licensed teenage drivers to help reduce unsafe driving behaviors. Toyota will have an active role in guiding this “Driver Coach” project alongside partners including the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health.

“Given that newly licensed teen drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than their adult counterparts, Toyota’s support of our Driver Coach project is of utmost importance,” said Dr. Tom Dingus, Director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, developer of the Driver Coach system. “Based on our previous teen driving research, we can now determine, with actual video, the kinds of behaviors teens engage in while driving. The next step is to educate the teens and their parents with feedback about unsafe, and safe, driving behaviors with the ultimate goal of helping teens become better drivers.”

Toyota will join The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute in a pilot study to create America’s first publicly available national crash surveillance system focused on child vehicle occupants. Such a system will be used to monitor trends in child passenger safety, assess the performance of new safety technologies for children and serve as a national resource to assist researchers, industry and policy-makers to set the agenda for child passenger safety in the U.S.

“Toyota’s support is critical to allow us to further advance efforts to broadly and accurately measure the burden of motor vehicle crashes on children’s health and well-being on a national level,” said Dennis Durbin, MD, MSCE, Co-Scientific Director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children’s Hospital.

Toyota Technical Center (TTC), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering Manufacturing, North America, is the Research and Development arm of Toyota in North America. TTC is responsible for engineering design, vehicle development, safety and performance evaluation, regulatory affairs and advanced technical research in North America for Toyota and Lexus vehicles assembled or sold here. TTC has helped develop the Avalon, Camry, Sienna, Solara, Tundra and Venza vehicles for the North American market. For more information about Toyota, visit

Should left turns be illegal?

If you sit down and think about it, the notion of making a left turn across oncoming traffic at a stoplight is pretty absurd. All that stands between you and certain oblivion is the hope that other drivers headed your direction are obeying the speed limit and paying enough attention to notice when the light turns red.

Traffic engineers have known for years that hanging a left increases the likelihood of an accident and wastes fuel. The minds at UPS have even gone so far as to design their delivery routes with fewer left turns, and transportation departments all over the country have adopted so-called “superstreets” that force drivers to make a right and then a U-turn in order to go left or straight.

Sound absurd? Think again. According to Smithsonian Magazine, researchers at North Carolina State University have found that the superstreet design is more efficient and safer than allowing drivers to turn across traffic. After examining data from 13 superstreet intersections and comparing them to their traditional counterparts, researchers found that, on average, the superstreets delivered a 20-percent decrease in travel time and caused 46 percent fewer reported traffic collisions. More importantly, the superstreet design caused 63-percent fewer accidents that resulted in personal injury.

There’s some food for thought the next time you’re hanging a left.

[Source: Smithsonian Magazine | Image: North Carolina Department of Transportation]