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Distracted driving cellphone interactions up 57 percent in last 4 years in Virginia

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Based on the latest research, that fatal crash risk is 66 percent higher when manipulating a phone, then more than 800 of the estimated crash deaths in 2017 could be attributed to phone manipulation. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Virginia drivers observed in a 2018 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) roadside survey were 57 percent more likely to be manipulating a cellphone than drivers in a similar 2014 survey.

The percentage of drivers observed manipulating a phone rose from 2.3 percent in 2014 to 3.4 percent in 2018, the IIHS said.

At the same time, drivers were less likely to be seen simply holding a cellphone or talking on a hand-held phone than in the prior survey. The finding is consistent with research indicating that drivers are talking on hand-held phones less and fiddling with them more often than in recent years.

In 2018, 3.7 percent of drivers in Northern Virginia were observed talking on a hand-held cellphone, compared with 4.1 percent of drivers in 2014, while 2.8 percent of drivers in 2018 were seen holding a cellphone, compared with 4.9 percent in the prior survey.

The problem of distracted driving, especially cellphone use, continues to raise concerns, not just in Virginia but the entire nation, the IIHS said.

A 2018 national survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 64 percent of respondents consider distracted driving a much bigger problem today than it was three years ago.

About 37,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, the most recent year of data available. Assuming the prevalence of phone manipulation nationwide rose as it did in Northern Virginia to 3.4 percent, and assuming, based on the latest research, that fatal crash risk is 66 percent higher when manipulating a phone, then more than 800 of the estimated crash deaths in 2017 could be attributed to phone manipulation.

This estimate is based on work by IIHS and other researchers describing how the estimated risk and prevalence of phone use can be combined to estimate the number of crash deaths that could be attributed to phone use in a given year.

The 66 percent increase in fatal crash risk associated with manipulating a cellphone relative to driving when other secondary behaviors were present is a finding of a 2018 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

“The latest data suggest that drivers are using their phones in riskier ways,” said David Kidd, who co-authored the study and is a senior research scientist with Highway Loss Data Institute. “The observed shift in phone use is concerning because studies consistently link manipulating a cellphone while driving to increased crash risk.”

Cellphone use affects how drivers scan and process information from the roadway, the IIHS study said.

Drivers generally take their eyes off the road to dial, send texts and browse the web on a hand-held phone — all activities that fall under the rubric of manipulating the phone. Drivers engaged in cellphone conversations tend to concentrate their gaze toward the center of the roadway, but their attention still may be diverted from driving and make it difficult for them to process what they are looking at.

Procedures for the 2018 update followed those used in 2014.

IIHS stationed observers at 12 locations across four Northern Virginia communities, on straight stretches of roads, at signalized intersections and at roundabouts in March 2018.

Observers noted nearly 12,000 drivers in the 2018 survey and more than 14,000 drivers in 2014 during the morning, afternoon or early evening on weekdays. Researchers noted if drivers were engaging in one or more of 12 visible secondary behaviors while moving or stopped at red lights.

About 23 percent of drivers were engaged in one or more distracting activities:

  • Talking on hand-held cellphone
  • Manipulating hand-held cellphone (excludes looking at phone in mount)
  • Simply holding hand-held cellphone (i.e. not obviously manipulating or talking)
  • Wearing Bluetooth earpiece or headset with mic
  • Wearing headphones or ear buds
  • Manipulating in-vehicle system (touching radio, climate control, touchscreen display or other controls; excludes operating stalks or buttons on steering wheel)
  • Manipulating or holding mobile electronic device other than cellphone
  • Talking or singing
  • Eating or drinking
  • Smoking
  • Grooming
  • Other (reaching for object, reading print material, adjusting sun visor, putting on glasses, holding another object)

“When people talk about distracted driving, most often cellphones are the focus, but drivers are distracted by other secondary behaviors more often than cellphones,” Kidd said. “Things as simple as drinking coffee or talking to your kids can take your attention away from the road.”

About 14 percent of drivers were engaged in nonphone-related secondary behaviors in 2014 and 2018, which exceeded the proportion of drivers seen using phones in both years.

Relative to 2014, drivers were more likely to be observed manipulating an in-vehicle system, grooming themselves, or manipulating or holding an electronic device other than a phone after researchers adjusted for community, perceived driver gender and age, time of day and roadway situation.

Drivers in 2018 were less likely to be talking or singing while driving alone, smoking, or wearing headphones or earbuds. The prevalence of eating or drinking, talking or singing with a passenger present, wearing a Bluetooth device, or engaging in some other visible secondary behavior wasn’t significantly different between 2014 and 2018.

“We didn’t find evidence of an increase in distracted driving overall between the 2014 and 2018 roadside surveys,” Kidd says. “For cellphone-related distraction in general, we expect a continued shift in the way people interact with the devices as the technology evolves.”

The percentage of crash deaths related to distraction in recent years has hovered at about 8–10 percent of all crash deaths, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show. During the past three years, distraction-affected crash deaths have trended downward. The number of fatalities in distraction-affected crashes fell 9.3 percent from 3,490 in 2016 to 3,166 in 2017, representing 8.5 percent of total fatalities for the year. In 2015, 3,526 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes.

The IIHS said fatality data likely underestimate the number of deaths caused by distracted drivers.

Despite efforts to determine cellphone use by drivers in crashes, such data continue to be difficult to collect as they largely depend on people truthfully telling law enforcement officers what they were doing or voluntarily handing over their phones for inspection, the IIHS said.

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Bendix Spicer Bowling Green brake plant receives platinum wellness award

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Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake recently received a Platinum Award from the Worksite Wellness Council of Louisville. Left to right are Andria Keating, BSFB health and wellness coordinator; award presenter Jim Frazier, vice president of medical affairs for Norton Healthcare; and Matt Schwartz, chair of the Worksite Wellness Council of Louisville. (Courtesy: BENDIX SPICER FOUNDATION BRAKE)

ELYRIA, Ohio — Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake (BSFB) has always been committed to helping employees and families improve their health and wellness at work, at home and in retirement.

Through its efforts to continually improve its resources for employee health, the BSFB Manufacturing Plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, recently received a Platinum Award from the Worksite Wellness Council of Louisville for exceptional commitment to employee well-being, integration of wellness into the workplace culture, and exemplary leadership in managing employee benefits.

The council’s annual conference, which took place last month, recognizes organizations in Kentucky that strive to create cultures of health through wellness policies and programs. Each employer is assessed according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Worksite Health ScoreCard, which helps organizations review their health promotion programs to find gaps and prioritize the prevention of chronic conditions.

To earn a Platinum Award, the highest distinction, employers must meet stringent requirements, such as demonstrating management support, program variety, and community engagement, and reaching targeted improvement levels. The recognition is often given to previous award recipients honored earlier at the bronze, silver or gold levels.

Thanks to its inventive health efforts, Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake received the top award as a first-time honoree, according to .

Among its contributing efforts, Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake was recognized for partnering with the Kentucky Cancer Program and the University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center in an innovative workplace health initiative. The partnership received a grant to cover the cost of qualified employees’ lung health screenings and participation in the Kentucky Cancer Registry. In addition, the grant helped to provide educational posters, classes on screenings, and radon prevention programs.

“We are proud to continue Bendix’s long-standing commitment to the well-being of our employees,” said Andria Keating, health and wellness coordinator at the Bowling Green facility. “The rate of lung cancer in Kentucky is one of the highest in the United States. Through our partnerships with distinguished cancer centers in the state, we hope to give our employees the resources and education they need for early detection and prevention.”

In earning a Platinum Award, the company also scored with distinction on the CDC Worksite Health ScoreCard, based on the success of its well-rounded wellness efforts. Those efforts are driven by the Bendix Be Healthy program, aimed at making healthy living easier and more convenient for employees and their families by emphasizing prevention and early detection of health issues, and support of employees seeking care. Bendix Be Healthy focuses on biometric screenings, preventative screenings, health fairs, tobacco cessation, weight management, lifestyle changes, emotional well-being, and financial wellness.

The vibrant wellness program in place at the Bowling Green facility is part of an active, multifaceted, employee-focused company culture that combines opportunities to learn, grow, and participate in health and wellness, community volunteerism, and employee team-building activities.

 

 

 

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Woman charged with attempted murder after truck-driver fiancé fired

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Natalie Williams, 32, is facing attempted murder charges, police say, after allegedly shooting several times at her fiancé’s former employer and his family at a truck stop parking lot. (Photo courtesy: SLIDELL POLICE DEPARTMENT)

SLIDELL, La. — A 32-year-old woman was charged with attempted murder after a shooting incident at a truck stop on Friday that is believed to have occurred in reaction to the woman’s fiancé being fired from his job as a professional truck driver.

The incident occurred at a TravelCenters of America truck stop just off Interstate 10 in Slidell, about 3 miles northeast of Lake Pontchartrain.

According to local reports, Slidell Police said they received several 911 calls at about 2:30 p.m. about a woman shooting at people in the truck stop parking lot. When they arrived they quickly found Natalie Williams, a resident of nearby Mandeville, hiding in a wooded area near the truck stop.

Police also found a couple that told them Williams had shot at them and their 1-year-old son. According to the police report, the man told them that he owned a trucking company and he had met up with Williams and her fiancé in the rear parking lot at the truck stop, where he had fired Williams’ fiancé for poor job performance and informed them that he was evicting them from the 18-wheeler.

The man told police that Williams then went to the truck, got a gun and started shooting at him, then fired several shots into the cab of the truck he arrived in and in which his fiancé and the child were still seated.

Police said no one was injured in the shooting.

According to St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office records, Williams remains behind bars as of Tuesday, with bail set at $150,000.

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Michigan Democrat wants businesses, trucks to pay more for road repair

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Michigan House Minority Leader Christine Greig says new ideas need to be brought to the table for how to fund road repairs in the state. She and her colleagues have introduced a proposal that would increase corporate taxes and institute a 6-cents-a-mile tax on heavy trucks and a bridge toll on tractor trailers. (AP: David Eggert)

LANSING, Mich. — With state Republicans lawmakers firmly opposed to a 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax hike, Democrats want businesses to do more to help fix the state’s roads.

A new $1.2 billion proposal from House Democrats would raise the state’s corporate tax, create a new 6-cents-a-mile tax for heavy trucks and charge bridge tolls to tractor trailers. It also includes portions of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget plan, such as raising taxes on certain businesses so they are taxed the same as traditional corporations and restoring tax breaks for pensioners.

House Minority Leader Christine Greig said Democrats agree with the Democratic governor’s call for $2.5 billion in new revenue and know that a fuel tax increase would likely be part of any final deal.

“We just felt it was important that we brought other ideas in since we haven’t seen anything other than a shell game and shifting around revenue from the Republicans, but yet they’ve said that they’re not going to support a 45-cent gas increase. So let’s put some new ideas on the table to get us to the $2.5 billion,” she said Friday.

By releasing the plan, Democrats risked looking like they oppose Whitmer’s fuel tax hike, which Republicans, who control the Legislature, have said is going nowhere and which Democrats have not introduced as legislation. Greig said Democrats are “100% supportive” of generating new revenue and their proposal is based on feedback from constituents.

“We just think that if you’re really struggling to a negotiation, that implies that you bring a bunch of different ideas and come up with a compromise,” she said.

Some in the business lobby have said raising gasoline and diesel taxes is simple and fair because everyone pays, including companies that move goods or have employees on the roads. But Greig said what they pay is not “proportionate.”

“To attract business, to attract talent, to keep our communities strong that support businesses, we have to have good roads and bridges,” she said, noting that businesses saw a $1 billion-plus tax cut under a 2011 overhaul enacted by Republicans. “Since that happened, we’ve seen our roads and infrastructure deteriorate. We’ve seen our ranking in schools drop nationally. So something is not right. To put this all on the backs of individuals is shortsighted.”

Increasing the 6% corporate income tax to 8.5% and raising taxes on flow-through entities, Greig said, would lead to businesses paying $800 million more annually — but still less than they were before the 2011 change. Assessing a vehicle-miles-traveled tax on the two heaviest classes of trucks would generate $390 million from those who cause the most road damage, she said, while the bridge tolls — based on a unique program in Rhode Island — would raise about $50 million.

Road-funding and budget negotiations are expected to extend into the summer as legislators scale back their voting days starting this coming week.

Greig urged the business community to “come to the table and say, ‘We will accept contributing more directly to the solution.’”

Republicans and business groups oppose raising business taxes, however, saying lower taxes help the economy. To soften the impact of a 45-cent gas tax increase by easing the tax burden on seniors, Whitmer has proposed boosting taxes on 150,000 corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies whose income is passed through to the entities’ owners and taxed at the personal rate of 4.25 percent. The Senate’s Republican leader has called it “stupid.”

So far, the main component to emerge from Republicans’ road-funding work is a budget plan in the House that would ultimately ensure $850 million in sales tax being collected at the pump goes to roads, without raising taxes. The revenue now primarily is dedicated to schools and municipalities.

Greig said it is “confusing” that a portion of fuel taxes funds other priorities and she has no problem “cleaning up revenue streams.” But new revenue should be generated to replace it, she said.

“They’re not doing that. That’s the problem,” she said. “We’re basically doing it on the backs of local governments and kids, frankly.”

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