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May 2012 

The 2012 National Triad Conference date has been confirmed

Older driver safety issues? Yep. We cover that!

Please mark your calendars for October 8th through the 10th to join us at the 2012 NATI Conference to be held in Indianapolis, Indiana in conjunction with the Indiana Attorney General's Office. Registration details can be found on our website!


Returning Troops Face Traffic Safety Risks, USAA Study Shows


SAN ANTONIO--April 24, 2012: America's military troops who are surviving the hazards of foreign battlefields are returning only to face new risks on domestic roadways, according to a just-released study by USAA, a leading financial services and insurance provider for military families.  


"Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line when they deploy in service of this country, but they can face new threats to their safety when they come home and get behind the wheel."


According to USAA's "Returning Warriors" study, troops coming back from deployment had 13 percent more at-fault accidents within the first six months of returning when compared to the six months prior to deployment. Enlisted ranks were more prone to such accidents than officers, and those in the Army and Marines had much higher crash rates than those in the Navy or Air Force.  


"Returning Warriors" study highlights

  • Enlisted personnel (E1-E4) had 22 percent more at-fault accidents, noncommissioned officers (E5-E9) 10 percent more and officers 3.5 percent more.
  • Losing control of the vehicle was the most common cause of at-fault accidents.
  • "Objects in the road" as the reported cause of accidents increased dramatically -- more than any other cause.
  • Younger (under 22) drivers' crash rates were more than three times the crash rates for older drivers.
  • Multiple deployments led to higher crash rates, and individuals with longer deployments were generally more likely to be involved in at-fault accidents.

"Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line when they deploy in service of this country, but they can face new threats to their safety when they come home and get behind the wheel," said retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, president of USAA Property and Casualty Insurance Group. "We care deeply about all of our returning warriors and we want to do what we can to keep them safe. We've made it our mission to serve the military community since 1922, so we hope this study can help shine a light on this challenge and bring people together so we can understand the risks returning warriors face and work toward solutions."  


USAA conducted a study focusing on private passenger vehicle driving experiences of USAA-member military personnel over a three-year period, which included 171,000 deployments to various overseas locations.

"Like other traffic safety issues that require behavioral changes, there are no easy solutions with this one," Bergner said. "One thing we can all do is encourage a dialogue about it. Knowing the military as well as we do, USAA is uniquely positioned to help draw attention to this challenge and join with others to see what can be done to address it."  


USAA has shared its research with each military branch's safety centers. USAA has also shared the study with academics and traffic safety experts and has taken steps to make USAA members aware of the behind-the-wheel risks for returning troops.  


Professor Erica Stern of the University of Minnesota has also studied the driving experiences of returning soldiers and has found "carryover" driving behaviors that may help explain some of this increase. Troops' driving maneuvers were useful in deployment but may add risk on American roadways. For example, soldiers commonly describe driving at inappropriate speeds and reluctance to stop at intersections.  


Driving behaviors potentially carried home from deployment

  • Reluctance to stop at intersections.
  • Driving at inappropriate speeds (too fast or too slow).
  • Changing lanes while traveling under bridges.
  • Reluctance to use seat belts.
  • Driving in the center of roads.

Source: Erica Stern, PhD, OTR/L


"Depending on their military assignment and time of deployment, troops may have driven slowly to be vigilant for explosives or attacks, or they may have driven very quickly to reduce their time at risk in transit. When they come home, they report problems speeding or being unable to drive on highways comfortably. Soldiers also had to keep their convoy intact, and therefore did not yield to people or traffic," Professor Stern said. "These are potentially lifesaving habits during deployment but may put them in harm's way when soldiers bring them home."  


Report Summary: A report summary can be found at USAA.


Jaywalking, speeding targeted by police in pedestrian-safety mission 

by Daniel J. Gross

Staff Writer  


As the Prince George's County executive this week stressed the need for sidewalk and street lighting fixes as key to preventing pedestrian fatalities, county police did their part Wednesday afternoon, taking to busy streets to issue citations and educate drivers and pedestrians alike on how to stay safe when traveling.

The county police department is participating for the first year in Street Smart, a public education and enforcement campaign coordinated by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board to create safer streets and sidewalks and limit the number of traffic-related fatalities.


The latest figures from the Prince George's County Traffic Safety Facts report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show the county had 23 pedestrian fatalities and 98 overall traffic fatalities in 2009.



There were 81 pedestrian fatalities in Prince George's County from 2008 to 2011, according to a county crash trends report from the Maryland State Highway Administration.


In his proposed budget for fiscal 2013, which starts July 1, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) attributes the amount of pedestrian fatalities to a lack of sidewalks, insufficient street lighting and several other roadway issues, and noted that infrastructure repairs cannot be further delayed.


He said improvements to U.S. Route 1 from Laurel to Mount Rainier, Indian Head Highway and Silver Hill Road are some examples of what is needed.


SHA spends roughly $19 million annually to maintain 1,900 lane-miles in Prince George's County, said SHA spokesman Charlie Gischler.


The Street Smart enforcement campaigns are done twice in the fall and spring, although Officer 1st Class Iris Borrero, a county police spokeswoman, said there are no current plans for another targeted enforcement day in the near future.


Police issued roughly 350 warnings to drivers and pedestrians and issued 41 citations for jaywalking throughout the county Wednesday.


Cpl. Mike Rodriguez, a county police spokesman, said the department chose to take part in the program to limit the number of traffic and pedestrian-related crashes and improve public safety.


"We want to prevent something from happening. We want to be preventive and not reactionary," he said

County police officers were stationed at 10 different locations throughout the county Wednesday at intersections and roads such as Marlboro Pike and Silver Hill Road in District Heights, the 8800 block of Greenbelt Road in Greenbelt and the 6100 block of Oxon Hill Road in Oxon Hill.


On March 21, county police conducted the first phase of the Street Smart campaign, which was to only distribute educational materials to violators, rather than issue citations.


By Wednesday, police efforts transitioned more into traffic enforcement of related violations such as reckless driving, speeding and jaywalking.


"The PGPD is working to reduce the number of accidents. We're ramping up our presence on our streets and highways to not only inform residents of the pedestrian rules of the roads, but to also enforce those rules," said county Police Chief Mark A. Magaw during a Wednesday news conference at Marlboro Pike and Silver Hill Road in District Heights.


The county's fire/EMS department was also present at the conference to show their support for the Street Smart campaign and encourage residents to use caution when traveling.


"Pedestrian accidents consume not only our responders' physical presence, but also the psychological edge for the rest of their shift, and certainly that of the victims' families," said Fire Chief Marc Bashoor during the conference. "Fortunately we have a very robust trauma care network in the state of Maryland, but it is a network filled with traumas like pedestrian events that should never happen."


Staff Writer Jeffrey K. Lyles contributed to this report.

NHTSA Launches Campaign to Prevent Child Heatstroke in Cars


Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14, with at least 33 fatalities reported in 2011.


With unseasonably warm temperatures already striking many areas around the country, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced its first-ever national campaign to prevent child heatstroke deaths in cars, urging parents and caregivers to think "Where's baby? Look before you lock." Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14, with at least 33 fatalities reported in 2011.


"This campaign is a call-to-action for parents and families, but also for everyone in every community that cares about the safety of children," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "It is hope that the simple tips from this campaign will save lives and help families avoid unnecessary heartache."


In the coming weeks, the agency will launch a series of radio and online advertisements centered around the theme "Where's baby? Look before you lock," as well as a tool kit for parents and grassroots organizations to use in local outreach on the issue. Later this summer, NHTSA will release its findings on the effectiveness of after-market products that are intended to prevent a child from being unintentionally left behind in an enclosed parked vehicle.


Data from the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences show that 33 children died last year due to heatstroke-medically termed hyperthermia-while there were at least 49 deaths in 2010. An unknown number of children are also injured each year due to heatstroke in hot cars, suffering ailments including permanent brain injury, blindness, and the loss of hearing, among others. Often heatstroke deaths and injuries occur after a child gets into an unlocked vehicle to play while unknown to the parent. Other incidents can occur when a caregiver transporting a child as part of a change in their daily routine inadvertently forgets a sleeping infant in a rear-facing car seat in the back of the vehicle.


"Everything we know about this terrible danger to children indicates heatstroke in hot cars can happen to any caregiver from any walk of life-and the majority of these cases are accidental tragedies that can strike even the most loving and conscientious parents," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "We hope our campaign not only helps caregivers avoid accidentally harming a child but also clears up some of the misconceptions about the causes of child heatstroke in cars."


NHTSA's "Where's baby? Look before you lock" campaign urges parents and caregivers to take important precautions to prevent inadvertent incidents from occurring:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle-even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running and the air conditioning is on.
  • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle-front and back-before locking the door and walking away.
  • Ask the childcare provider to call if the child does not show up for care as expected.
  • Do things that serve as a reminder a child is in the vehicle, such as placing a purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure no child is accidently left in the vehicle, writing a note, or using a stuffed animal placed in the driver's view to indicate a child is in the car seat.
  • Teach children a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child's reach.
In addition, NHTSA urges community members who see a child alone in a hot vehicle to immediately call 911 or the local emergency number. If the child is in distress due to heat they should be removed from the vehicle as quickly as possible and rapidly cooled.

NHTSA announces conference on electric vehicle safety


Auto companies, battery makers and government officials will examine the safety of electric vehicles at a May 18 symposium organized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The agency, which is studying the safety performance and durability of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, announced the Washington, D.C., event earlier this week on a government website. The presenters will include NHTSA, the Department of Energy, automakers and battery companies.
The event comes after a prolonged period of scrutiny for vehicles like General Motors' extended-range electric Chevrolet Volt, which drew a NHTSA investigation after a Volt ignited in the laboratory three weeks after a May 2011 crash test. The government, which did not follow standard safety protocols laid out by the GM, later determined that the Volt was safe to drive.

But other concerns about lithium-ion batteries remain. Massachusetts-based battery maker A123 Systems was recently forced to replace defective battery packs after discovering a problem with a welding machine. And earlier this month a GM employee was seriously injured in a battery lab explosion reportedly tied to an A123 battery that was subject to intense testing.

"Electric vehicles show great promise as an innovative and fuel-efficient option for American drivers," NHTSA said in a statement. "The purpose of this symposium is to bring together relevant stakeholders to share information on the status of safety activities related to the use of Li-ion batteries in vehicles designed for on-road use."

Most major automakers are planning battery-powered vehicles. Ford recently released the Focus Electric, while the Nissan Leaf has been available for more than a year.

Contact: Nathan Bomey at 313-223-4743 or  


Alcohol-testing cars less than a decade away


By Chris Davies  


Vehicles that refuse to start unless the driver passes an alcohol breathalyzer test are closer than previously believed, with cars that check for intoxication tipped to hit the market within the next decade. Systems using both traditional "breath tubes" and new fingertip sensors are already in the pipeline, the WSJ reports, with manufacturers working with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) having "made more progress, faster, than we expected," according to Rob Strassburger, vice president for vehicle safety at the AAM. Yet while driver and passenger safety is the obvious concern, not everyone is keen on their car playing watchdog.


One group, representing Washington D.C. restaurants, argues that caution over liability around drink-driving accidents may prompt manufacturers to set lower limits to the locks than legally mandated. Since alcohol can take some time to enter the bloodstream, they argue, car companies or those behind the scanning systems themselves may be tempted to configure the blood alcohol limit below 0.08-percent, the current legal threshold in every US state.


That, it's suggested, could have the effect of leaving those drivers who do stick to recommended limits - such as a single glass of wine with dinner - falling foul of their in-car system while still actually legally "safe" to drive.


The NHTSA is not looking to push mandatory inclusion of alcohol lock systems in future cars, it claims, leaving adoption something that individual manufacturers or organizations are left to decide upon. One suggestion is that it will be car rental firms and fleet management that opt-in first, adding a discrete sensor to the dashboard that drivers must touch or blow into in order to meet all the criteria for rental.


Still, given some are still reluctant to even use safety belts, the idea of a car telling them that they're not in a fit condition to drive is unlikely to go down well. We may need to wait until cars can not only stop us from leaving the parking lot, but drive us home themselves - using technology such as Google's driverless cars - before such systems gain broader acceptance.

'Click It or Ticket' Mobilization


Check out the  Strategic Media Work Plan for the 2012 Mobilization (May 21-June 3)