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Minnesota House backs hands-free cellphone rule for driving

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Assuming the bill becomes law, Minnesota would become one of 18 states plus the District of Columbia that require drivers to use hands-free devices while phoning. (FOTOSEARCH)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota motorists would be required to use hands-free devices when talking on the phone while driving under a bill that passed the state House on Monday night, after sponsors said the measure will cut down on distracted driving and save lives.

The House approved the bill 106-21 with bipartisan support, though a few critics said it doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t include tougher penalties for texting while driving, which is already illegal in Minnesota.

“There’s clear evidence from other states that these types of laws save lives,” Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman said at a news conference earlier in the day. “We’ve heard so many heart-wrenching stories from Minnesotans about family members they’ve lost because people are on their smartphones instead of focusing on the road.”

A similar bill working its way through the Senate exempts the manual use of GPS navigation systems. The House bill would limit GPS use while moving to one-touch, voice-activated apps such as Google Maps. The bill’s chief House sponsor, Rep. Frank Hornstein, said he’s confident the differences will get worked out in conference committee, adding that Gov. Tim Walz has indicated that will sign the bill.

Drivers would not need vehicles with built-in Bluetooth wireless systems, Hornstein said. For older cars, he said, hands-free mounts that comply are available online for as little as $9.

The Department of Public Safety says that at least 27 of Minnesota’s approximately 380 traffic deaths last year were related to distractions of all kinds. Experts testified during committee hearings that cellphone use is the fastest-growing distraction, causing a rising number of deaths and injuries.

Assuming the bill becomes law, Minnesota would become one of 18 states plus the District of Columbia that require drivers to use hands-free devices while phoning. A separate bill to toughen the state’s existing penalties for texting while driving is working its way through the committee process in the Senate. Hornstein said that bill may get heard in the House later.

Hornstein, a Minneapolis Democrat who chairs the House transportation committee, acknowledged that hands-free does not make phoning while driving completely distraction-free. But he said it would be a “major step forward.”

He sponsored a similar hands-free bill last year, but Hortman said Republican leaders who controlled the House back then would not allow a floor vote because it didn’t have enough GOP support. Democrats won control of the House with the November elections and Hortman became speaker in January.

Karin Ilg, of New Prague, recalled to reporters how her husband, Phil Ilg, was killed when he was struck on his bicycle from behind by a 16-year-old driver who was focused more on her phone than on the road. Ilg said she has been cutting up his bike and handing out small pieces — like one that she held up — to every 16-year-old she can “as a reminder not to text and drive. … The time is now for us to get this going and to have this as law.”

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Volvo to introduce next iteration of Volvo Active Driver Assist in VNR, VNL, VNX

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Volvo Active Driver Assist 2.0 is a comprehensive, camera- and radar-based collision mitigation system and is now standard equipment on the new Volvo VNR and VNL series, and an option on the VNX model. Volvo is the first heavy-duty truck OEM to offer Bendix Wingman Fusion collision mitigation system as standard equipment, improving safety not only for truck drivers, but all motorists. (Courtesy: VOLVO TRUCKS NORTH AMERICA)

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Volvo Active Driver Assist (VADA) 2.0, a comprehensive collision mitigation system, will be made standard in the new Volvo VNR and VNL models, and available on VNX models, later this year.

The system enhances the original VADA platform by integrating radar and camera capabilities to help drivers maintain a safe following distance through alerts and improved traffic awareness, as well as emergency braking to reduce the risk of collisions, according to Johan Agebrand, product marketing director, Volvo Trucks North America.

“The Volvo Active Driver Assist technology we first introduced with Bendix Wingman Fusion in 2017 was a groundbreaking achievement for increased efficiency and safety through automation,” Agebrand said. “Continuing that partnership, we have improved the capabilities of this collision mitigation technology across the board and are confident that VADA 2.0 will further enhance safety for all motorists.”

Agebrand said VADA is a comprehensive collision mitigation system launched by Volvo Trucks North America in 2017 that uses camera and radar sensors to detect motorized vehicles within the vehicle’s proximity.

The technology enables a series of features to activate driver alerts and foundation braking according to information detected by these advanced sensors. Available in the third quarter this year, with improvements scheduled to roll out through late 2020, VADA 2.0 offers enhancements to many features including:

  • Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) uses camera and radar sensors to determine how traffic is behaving around the truck. When a vehicle is detected, audible and visual warnings alert the driver to take action. If the driver does not respond, AEB engages to mitigate potential collisions. VADA 2.0 expands the capability of AEB beyond the current VADA, allowing it to operate across multiple lanes of traffic.
  • Lane Departure Warning (LDW) alerts the driver when an unintentional lane departure occurs. VADA 2.0 allows for adjustable volume and audio mute override options and enables drivers to turn off the system momentarily (10 minutes) for select functions.
  • Highway Departure Warning and Braking (HDB) automatically activates if the driver does not take corrective action after a Lane Departure Warning and the system detects that the vehicle may leave the drivable roadway, slowing the vehicle by a pre-defined MPH.
  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Cruise Auto Resume enables the truck to revert back to cruising speed with Cruise Auto Resume (also known as “Slow & Go”) at speeds above 10 mph, an improved feature in VADA 2.0.
  • Driver Awareness Support offers an in-cab windshield-mounted camera with data capture support to enhance driver coaching and data availability.

“We are excited to introduce Volvo Active Driver Assist 2.0 as standard in our truck models, representing the next generation of active safety products,” said Ashraf Makki, product marketing manager – technology, Volvo Trucks North America. “Every feature included in this new technology enables our products to run more efficiently and offers additional safety benefits for our customers and professional drivers.”

Future updates to VADA 2.0 will include Adaptive Cruise Control with Traffic Stop & Driver Go, Lane Change Support with audible alert adjustment, and standalone data capture options without the need for Lane Departure Warning.

“VADA 2.0 complements safe driving practices and is not intended to enable or encourage aggressive driving. No commercial vehicle safety technology replaces proactive, comprehensive driver training and a skilled, alert driver exercising safe driving techniques,” Makki said. “Responsibility for the safe operation of the vehicle remains with the driver at all times.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Drivewyze adds 4 locations for weigh station bypass in Pennsylvania

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The activation of the Pennsylvania bypass program gives Drivewyze equipped carriers with continuing service from the bordering states of Maryland, West Virginia and New York. (Courtesy: DRIVEWYZE)

DALLAS — Drivewyze has expanded its weigh station bypass service with four new locations in Pennsylvania.

The new sites are part of a 12-month pilot program that will allow data to be gathered to demonstrate the effectiveness of weigh station bypass, while providing bypass opportunities for Drivewyze customers.

The sites, south and northbound on Interstate 83 in Newberry (York County), and south and northbound on I-79 near Hadley (Mercer County), represent the major arteries for truck traffic in Pennsylvania. I-83 is a major lane from the south up to the New England states, while I-79 is a major thoroughfare for truckers coming down from Ontario to go through Pennsylvania for southern-bound deliveries.

According to Brian Heath, president and CEO of Drivewyze, the activation of the Pennsylvania bypass program gives Drivewyze equipped carriers with continuing service from the bordering states of Maryland, West Virginia and New York.

“With I-83 and I-79 being main passageways, customers with top safety scores will have the opportunity to get bypass service through several states,” Heath said. “This then allows law enforcement to concentrate its inspection efforts on at-risk carriers. We all want unsafe trucks off the road, along with a more efficient transportation system. By working together with the agencies in Pennsylvania we can help accomplish this goal.”

With the Drivewyze PreClear weigh station bypass service on their Drivewyze-enabled electronic logging devices, telematics devices, smartphones and tablets, customers can now receive bypass opportunities at more than 800 locations, in 45 states and provinces.

The Drivewyze PreClear weigh station bypass application is available on a number of Drivewyze partner platforms, including ISAAC Systems, Omnitracs, Orbcomm, Platform Science, Rand McNally, Switchboard, Transflo, and Trimble. The application is also available for drivers to download on Android and iOS-based smartphones or tablets.

Fleets can request a free weigh station activity report to help them determine how much time and money they could save by using Drivewyze PreClear.

Drivewyze comes with a free Weigh Station Heads-Up service for real-time notifications at more than 1,200 weigh stations and inspection sites nationwide, and Drivewyze subscribed fleets also receive the valuable Insights Safety Reporting service.

To learn more about Drivewyze, please visit www.drivewyze.com.

 

 

 

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Technology expected to help drivers in Arizona dust storms

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In this August 10, 2016, file photo, lightning streaks across the night sky as a monsoon storm sweeps through the Phoenix metro area. Arizona's monsoon season is quickly approaching. ADOT plans to begin installing the new dust-detection system early this fall 2019. (Associated Press: ROSS D. FRANKLIN)

PHOENIX  — With Arizona’s monsoon season quickly approaching, state transportation planners intend to begin installing a new long-range dust-detection system on Interstate 10.

The Arizona Department of Transportation is set to use a $54 million federal grant to widen sections of I-10 and implement a project that would reduce dust-related crashes, the Arizona Republic reported .

“We are taking an aggressive approach,” said Tom Herrmann, a spokesman for the state transportation department, told the newspaper. “We recognize we can’t necessarily control the dust, but we can predict it better.”

The project includes long-range radar set near Picacho Peak that can detect approaching dust storms from 50 miles (80 kilometers) away.

Short-range radar will be used to detect dust particles every mile between areas where most dust-related I-10 crashes occur.

Also planned are electronic billboards to display warning messages readable in both traffic directions and variable speed limit signs where speed can drop as low as 35 mph based on reduced visibility.

“The dust comes upon you very quickly and you go from seeing half a mile in front of you to barely seeing a car in front of you,” Hermann said.

More advanced warning of dust conditions can reduce the likelihood of a crash and if a crash does happen, the impact can be less severe if drivers are going 35 mph rather than 75 mph, Hermann said.

The department recorded 85 dust-related crashes along the busy freeway from Phoenix to Tucson from 2010 to 2015.

According to a 2016 report by the National Weather Service and the University of Arizona, dust is the third-leading cause of weather-related deaths behind extreme temperatures and flash floods.

Dust storms are common during Arizona’s mid-June to end-of-September monsoon season.

Although there are still challenges in predicting when a dust storm will form, technology can help relay safety messages quickly when it does happen.

Hermann said the agency plans to finish widening a 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) section of I-10 by the end of this summer before the dust-detection project begins.

Hermann said the system will be the first of its kind in Arizona.

More than a decade ago, a system was installed along I-10 from Benson to New Mexico that used wind speed to set off flashing signs that alerted drivers to the possibility of blowing dust.

 

 

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