USA: Police Chief Attacks Proposed Increase in Size of Big Rigs

Excerpt: [A chief of police in Wisconsin] has serious concerns with proposals in Congress that would allow heavier and longer rigs on  highways because these proposals would dramatically increase the danger faced by everyday drivers.

Photo looking down on a fast-moving semi-tractor-trailer.
Semi-tractor-trailer. Copyright image.

The proposal calls for increasing trucks weights nationwide from 80,000 to 91,000 pounds, and another calls for increasing the length of double-trailer trucks by 10 feet, to 91 feet in length.

…Bigger trucks may mean increased profit margins for the handful of companies that would benefit, they also pose substantial safety risks to motorists…

Read the full opinion-piece from the Gazette Extra on this important topic.

ADoNA Comments

Already more than 4,000 people are killed each year in the USA in crashes involving large trucks.  One factor in this bad scenario is the long hours that drivers are allowed to work, behind the wheel, each week — far more than in other countries that have much lower road-death rates than does America.  Making trucks larger and therefor even harder to stop should be seen as an extra factor that is likely to increase the number of deaths even further.

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America

Top-10 Safest *Used* Cars, on a Budget — UK & USA

Buying a safe second-hand car at a reasonable price is always a challenge; the very fact that they aren’t the latest models immediately mitigates against them, and of course the older a car is, the more this typically counts against it.

Volvo V40 XC  (Photo Volvo Cars)

In Britain, safety experts Thatcham Research have collated the results for cars which cost under £15,000 to buy second hand, have a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and CO2 emissions below 120g/km.

One thing of great interest is how much safety can be added by means of extra ‘packages’ at the time the car is first purchased.  See Nos. 1 and 10, below.

In all countries, it is immensely wise to consult the relevant NCAP safety ratings, which in Britain is Euro-NCAP.  Here in the USA, check these links, and make sure to check the correct year of manufacture for any used-car purchase you might be interested in:

Top 10 safest used cars in the UK now

  1. Volvo V40 with IntelliSafe safety pack (2012-)
  2. Mazda 3 (2016-)
  3. Toyota Auris (2015-)
  4. Volkswagen Golf SV (2014-)
  5. BMW 2 Series Active Tourer (2014-)
  6. Volkswagen Touran (2015-)
  7. Volkswagen Golf (2013-)
  8. Nissan Qashqai (2014-)
  9. Peugeot 308 (2014-)
  10. Volvo V40 (2012-)

Full UK source article, from Auto Express

Autonomous Vehicles Sound Promising but What About Hacking?

I, for one, am very concerned that the approaching era of autonomous vehicles, together with “Vehicle-to-Vehicle” [V2V] and “Vehicle-to-Infrastructure” [V2I] wireless technology is quite likely to end in tears.  It is already possible to hack the computerized systems of available cars — and it has been done, experimentally, to one car which was subsequently forced to crash — so the additional hacking possibilities in the future may be nearly endless.

If another country wants to inflict economic harm on the USA, or terrorists & blackmailers want to do harm or extort people, or teenage geeks in their bedrooms simply want to prove to themselves that they can cause serious mischief, then rush-hour traffic around a major city would appear to make a highly-tempting target!

I am keen to see what truly viable defence the US DOT, NHTSA, FHWA and NTSB, amongst others, are planning in order to protect us from this serious and looming threat.

Here’s a current article about a relatively trivial incident with a road safety camera network in the Australian state of Victoria, but much worse will soon be possible:  http://www.caradvice.com.au/561518/victorian-road-safety-camera-network-under-investigation-following-virus-infection/

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America

Odometer Fraud in the USA — a half million cases a year!

Overview

It’s a crime to alter a vehicle’s odometer. NHTSA estimates that more than 450,000 vehicles are sold each year with false odometer (i.e. mileage) readings, which costs American used-car buyers more than $1 billion annually. We want consumers to know what odometer fraud is, how to spot it, and who to contact if you think you’re a victim of this illegal behavior.

A How-To Guide for Odometer Fraud Detection

It can be difficult, but not impossible, to detect when a vehicle’s odometer has been altered. The following is a list of tips to help used car buyers detect odometer fraud:
  • Ask to see the title and compare the mileage on it with the vehicle’s odometer. Be sure to examine the title closely if the mileage notation seems obscured or is not easy to read.
  • Compare the mileage on the odometer with the mileage indicated on the vehicle’s maintenance or inspection records. Also, search for oil change and maintenance stickers on windows or door frames, in the glove box or under the hood.
  • Check that the numbers on the odometer gauge are aligned correctly. If they’re crooked, contain gaps or jiggle when you bang on the dash with your hand, walk away from the purchase.
  • Examine the tires. If the odometer on your car shows 20,000 or less, it should have the original tires.
  • Look at the wear and tear on the vehicle — especially the gas, brake and clutch pedals — to be sure it seems consistent with and appropriate for the number of miles displayed on the odometer.
  • Request a CARFAX Vehicle History Report to check for odometer discrepancies in the vehicle’s history. If the seller does not have a vehicle history report, use the car’s VIN to order a CARFAX vehicle history report online.

Odometer Fraud Law

Committing odometer fraud is a crime. The federal government passed a law that requires a written disclosure of the mileage registered on an odometer be provided by the seller to the purchaser on the title to the vehicle when the ownership of a vehicle is transferred. If the odometer mileage is incorrect, the law requires a statement to that effect to be furnished on the title to the buyer. However, vehicles ten years and older are exempt from the written disclosure requirements.

Digital Odometers

Digital odometers that have been tampered with are even harder to detect than traditional mechanical odometers (since they have no visible moving parts). A vehicle’s condition and a detailed history report are the best clues a buyer has for determining whether clocking has occurred.

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Source:  NHTSA

American Vehicles made in Europe Commonly are Safer &/or have Better Safety Accessories Available than their USA Versions

When American automakers say they are dedicated to the safety of their customers, you might like to ask why the vehicles they make for the European market are commonly safer than their versions made for the U.S. market or have more safety features available, even though those same enhancements are not even available on their American vehicles!

If pressed on the subject, hey will tell you that it is only to comply with tougher legislation in Europe, and that is partially true, but they are being “economical with the truth” to quote a famous expression I once heard from a mealy-mouthed politician, many years ago.

Fact 1:  Over many years, the standards of the ‘European New Car Assessment Programme’ [Euro-NCAP] have often been more demanding than the American ‘New Car Assessment Program’ [NCAP] because, frankly, Europeans have been given more safety advice over the decades and so not only the public but also the politicians tend to be more knowledgeable and more demanding, and thus the standards are higher.

Fact 2:  Following on from this, European people would appear to be a bit more likely to spend extra money on optional safety enhancements.  I’m not pretending this is vast; Europeans still typically spend more on ‘infotainment’ systems than on additional safety  but the automakers still follow the extra profits that are available and so at least the options are open.

But this still doesn’t answer why Americans who value safety can’t always get the same enhancements to help keep their families as safe as can European families.  Do you think that’s fair?

Self-Driving Cars are Not Imminent!

EW:  The title of the article could have been more appropriate but it is: “The Real Problem With Self-Driving Cars: They Actually Follow Traffic Laws

The driver of the nearest car has accelerated hard past our vehicle, on our right-hand side, to race us for the gap to pass the truck. He has started to change lanes but never gave any signal. If we had been in a self-driving car and we were being badly tail-gated, what would the self-driving system have done, and when? This strikes me as being a potentially complex scenario in which I could not trust a computer to inevitably get it right.  In this case, the driver in question is also taking himself into a bad area, ‘blocked’ alongside the large truck, but that is another issue.   (Copyright photo taken by me from the passenger seat!) Eddie Wren.

One quote I really dislike is this:

Excerpt:  “There’s an endless list of these cases where we as humans know the context, we know when to bend the rules and when to break the rules,” a Carnegie Mellon University professor in charge of autonomous car research told the Associated Press.

EW:  Depending on whether the journalist paraphrased or edited the comment, the professor would appear to be endorsing acceptability and even a need to break driver safety rules, but that inference, whoever caused it, is far from good.

Excerpt:  “It’s hard to program in human stupidity or someone who really tries to game the technology,” a spokesman for Toyota’s autonomous driving unit told the AP.  When we hear about autonomous vehicles crashing with human-piloted vehicles, the cause is usually a human error that the software didn’t account for, like when a Google-programmed car didn’t recognize that a human driver had run a red light.

EW:  Google hasn’t thought through the issue of other drivers running red lights?  Really?

Revealingly, though, the article ends with:  “…[E]xperts think that we have at least a decade and a half before cars can safely drive themselves among humans. It might take even longer to safely operate the vehicles in cities with especially chaotic traffic, like Beijing.”

Read the full article, from The Consumerist, here.

Comments added here by Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief Instructor of ADoNA