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b2ap3_thumbnail_blog-sleep.jpgSome California drivers may have experienced falling asleep while driving. In a 2015 survey conducted by the American Automobile Association, around 43 percent of drivers said that they had fallen asleep at the wheel at least once in their lives. Among drivers aged 19 to 24, 39.6 percent said that they had dropped off while behind the wheel in the past month, and in all age groups, almost one-third admitted to having done so.

A representative of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spoke during National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week at the Asleep at the Wheel forum in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 4. He said it is estimated that 5,000 to 7,000 fatalities happen annually due to drowsy driving.

He also stated that one in five major investigations conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board between 2001 and 2012 listed fatigue as a contributing cause. When limited to major highway investigations during that period, it was a contributing factor in nearly 40 percent of the accidents. Furthermore, in a 2010 study, AAA found that drowsy driving causes 16.5 percent of all fatal accidents.

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More crashes are the result of red-light running than drivers may realize, and it is a serious safety problem across the United States. California residents may be surprised to learn that about 165,000 people suffer injuries in such accidents each year around the country, and in 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recorded 762 related fatalities.

In 1999, Old Dominion University in Virginia conducted a survey to generalize the type of drivers who are most likely to run red lights. The survey found that red-light runners are not necessarily frustrated at the time. They are generally young, are in a hurry, are driving alone and either have no children or have children who are younger than 20. They are also frequently unemployed or work jobs that require relatively little education, such as lower technology and blue collar jobs. Additionally, they often run red lights more than 2 miles from home and are more likely to have previously received a ticket for running a red light.

In May 2004, the NHTSA also conducted a survey that found that 97 percent of drivers think that people who run red lights are a major threat to traffic safety. Four years later, the agency found that an average seven deadly and 1,000 injury car accidents occur every day at intersections that have traffic lights. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that, in 2007, about 50 percent of the people who died in crashes that involved red-light runners were not the ones who violated traffic laws.

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Drivers in California and around the country have access to vehicles that contain several technological advances that have helped to reduce the frequency of fatal car accidents. However, such incidents still are one of the significant causes of death to U.S. residents.

Every day the news is filled with stories about people being killed in car accidents, leading readers to believe motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in this country. That just isn't so. Deaths from car accidents have decreased by approximately a third over the past three years, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. According to 2013 data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four people in the United States died from heart attacks that year, while one in 34 people died from alcohol or drug problems. Only one in 77 people died in car accidents, the same rate as those who were killed by firearms. Fire had the lowest death rate, with only one out of 821 people dying in fires.

Statistics are also available to show the jurisdictions that have the highest and lowest traffic death rates on a per capita basis. The three states that have the highest such rates are Montana, Mississippi and Oklahoma, while the District of Columbia has the lowest rate.

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Although roundabouts are meant to slow traffic down and prevent accidents, many people believe that they are not right for California. In Berkeley, a roundabout that was constructed on Gilman Street near Interstate 80 is thought to be causing accidents rather than preventing them. However, proponents of roundabouts argue that they just take getting used to and ultimately cause traffic to flow better.

According to traffic studies, roundabouts can prevent accidents in an area by up to 47 percent. Roundabouts have also been shown to reduce traffic delays by 23 percent. Cars going through roundabouts do not always need to come to a complete stop, and the time that is saved can result in a less clogged intersection. Pedestrians may be safer crossing the street near roundabouts because they only have to look out for cars traveling in one direction.

People who are opposed to roundabouts say that they should not be installed in areas where drivers travel at high speeds. When drivers approach a roundabout at 60 to 70 mph, they may come across signage that they do not understand and end up causing an accident. In areas with heavy traffic, it may be difficult for drivers in a roundabout to find a break in traffic so that they can make a turn.

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California drivers who find themselves in situations where visibility has dropped due to fog might be unaware of the dangers posed by these conditions. Because visibility can drop rapidly and because drivers often do not have enough time to react correctly, fog has been a factor in a number of serious crashes around the country over the years.

While research focusing on the role that foggy weather can play in a motor vehicle accident is limited, there have been studies that have addressed the issue. One found that drivers tend to approach foggy conditions in two ways. The study labeled drivers 'laggers" and 'non-laggers" and suggested that the majority of drivers fall into the non-lagger category, which posed its own set of dangers as non-laggers attempt to stay within view of lead cars ahead of them, which sometimes cause them to drive at unsafe speeds. Additionally, another study found that fog can make drivers underestimate just how closely they are following another vehicle, which means that in the event they have to brake to avoid a collision, they might not have enough time to do so.

One study also focused on identifying the location and time when accidents involving foggy weather were more likely to take place. The study found that incidents under these conditions tended to happen in the early hours of the day, in rural areas and during the winter months from December to February. These accidents also tended to be multi-vehicle accidents resulting in more serious injuries than crashes where visibility was not an issue.

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