Category Archives: Highway Safety

Are We Ready for Self Driving Tractor Trailers?

By | Highway Safety | No Comments

Transport Topics reports that Starsky Robotics, an automated truck technology startup, successfully completed its first unmanned test drive of a tractor-trailer on a public highway June 16, 2019 in Orlando, Florida.  The Class 8 Volvo sleeper berth tractor-trailer traveled at 55 mph down a 9.4-mile stretch of Florida’s Turnpike.  Click here for a link to the article.

“Traffic was not stopped while the truck navigated the roads, merged onto the highway, entered a rest area and changed lanes. The operation was closely watched by the company from a remote location to ensure all maneuvers were executed properly. Last month, the company had a successful test at 55 mph on a closed section of Selmon Expressway outside Tampa, Fla., setting a record for the fastest unmanned road-legal vehicle.”

Starsky CEO and co-founder Stefan Seltz-Axmacher has reportedly said that, “ . . . humans are better at navigating many of the nuances of driving than even the most advanced computer systems, which is why we use remote drivers to help our trucks at their most contextually complex junctures.”

So, where is the technology headed, and what will the future look like?  Will tractor-trailers drive themselves?  Or, will they be operated remotely like military drones?  Will truck platooning allow driverless tractor-trailers to follow one another using automated speed and spacing controls along our highways?

In October 2016, now defunct Otto, a company that was focused on retrofitting tractor trailer with radars, cameras and laser sensors to make them capable of driving themselves, had one of their trucks travel 132 miles from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins, Colorado autonomously without any lead vehicle, teleoperation, or any other human intervention. Uber acquired Otto that same year, but has now shut it down to focus on self-driving automobiles.

Robotic, self-driving or remotely operated trucking raises all sorts of thorny legal, regulatory, compliance and insurance issues which the state and federal governments are just beginning to deal with. The State of Tennessee passed new legislation in 2017 that allows self-driving cars in Tennessee, provided a human being is actually in the car, and that the vehicle is covered by $5,000,000 in liability insurance!  See our post, entitled: “Is Tennessee Ready for Self-Driving Cars?

But what about self-driving tractor trailers in Tennessee?

Georgia and Alabama have also passed legislation related to autonomous vehicles.

And, how will self-driving vehicles ultimately affect the insurance industry? A Bloomberg article published earlier this year suggests that autonomous vehicles may one day kill the car insurance industry as we know it!


How to Comply With Georgia’s New Hands-Free Law

By | Highway Safety | No Comments

Effective July 1, 2018, Georgia became the sixteenth state in the nation to adopt a hands-free law for cell phone use while driving. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(c) now provides that:

“(c)  While operating a motor vehicle on any highway of this state, no individual shall:

(1)  Physically hold or support, with any part of his or her body a:

(A)  Wireless telecommunications device, provided that such exclusion shall not prohibit the use of an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice based communication; or

(B)  Stand-alone electronic device;

(2)  Write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device; provided, however, that such prohibition shall not apply to:

(A)  A voice based communication which is automatically converted by such device to be sent as a message in a written form; or

(B)  The use of such device for navigation of such vehicle or for global positioning system purposes.”

In our area, thousands of Tennessee drivers cross back and forth between Tennessee and Georgia each day, often several times per day.  Everyone must comply with the new law.  While driving a motor vehicle in Georgia, do not hold your smartphone or cell phone, and do not support such a device with other parts of your body, such as resting it on your leg or in your lap.  You can talk using a hands-free device, however.

Using a phone while “lawfully parked” is okay, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(g)(4).

Texting continues to be prohibited, including writing, reading or sending any “text based communication”, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(c)(2).

Watching videos or movies, or recording or broadcasting video from wireless telecommunications devices is also prohibited, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(c)(3) and (4).

“Use of such device for navigation . . . or for global positioning system purposes” and “watching data related to the navigation” of the vehicle is okay, however, as spelled out by O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(c)(2)(B) and (3).  It is not entirely clear whether holding a smartphone for navigation purposes is acceptable or not, but the basic principle of the new law is stated in O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(b):

“A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle.”

In a signing ceremony earlier this year in at Georgia Southern University, Governor Deal mentioned one of many tragic events that motivated passage of the new law, House Bill 673:  “Here at the home of Georgia Southern, I think is an appropriate place to sign this legislation,” he said, with pictures of five Georgia Southern nursing students beside him who died because of distracted driving.

2018 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws

By | Highway Safety | No Comments

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, and safety groups and insurance companies and agents, recently released its 15th annual Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, detailing which states have optimal traffic safety laws and which laws need to be enacted.  The organization’s stated mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs. According to the report, more than 400 additional laws are needed across all states and D.C. to fully meet recommended optimal safety laws.

The report grades states and the District of Columbia in five categories: occupant protection, child passenger safety, teen driving (graduated driver licensing programs), impaired driving and distracted driving. States received an overall score combining the five categories.

Occupant protection

Three optimal laws regarding occupant protection are recommended: primary enforcement front seat belt law, primary enforcement rear seat belt law and all-rider motorcycle helmet law.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 15,000 lives of passengers ages 5 and older were saved in 2016. An addition 2,456 could have been saved with 100 percent participation of safety belts.

Child passenger safety

Two optimal laws in this category are recommended – rear facing through age 2 and booster seats. Booster seat laws “require that children who have outgrown the height and weight limit of a forward-facing safety seat be placed in a booster seat that should be used until the child can properly use the vehicle’s seat belt, when the child reaches 57 inches in height and age 8.”

 Teen driving

Advocates recommends six laws:

  • Minimum age of 16 for learner’s permit
  • Six-month holding period provision
  • 50 hours of supervised driving provision
  • Nighttime driving restriction provision
  • Passenger restriction provision
  • Age 18 for unrestricted license

Impaired driving

Three optimal laws for impaired driving are recommended: ignition interlock devices for all offenders, child endangerment laws, and open container laws.

According to MADD, ignition interlock laws have stopped more than 1.77 million attempts to drive while drunk. A University of Pennsylvania study reveals that ignition interlock laws reduced alcohol-involved crash fatalities by 15 percent.

Child endangerment laws increase DUI penalties when a minor child is in the vehicle. Every state except New Mexico, South Dakota and Vermont has adopted a child endangerment law.

Distracted driving

Advocates recommends that states adopt driver text messaging restrictions and graduated driver licensing (GDL) cellphone restriction laws to meet optimal distracted driving safety.

Only seven states have not banned text messaging for all drivers. But to date, only 19 states have yet to install a GDL cellphone restriction.

Overall scores

Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina fell in the middle of the pack, with a yellow rating as given to 31 states. A yellow rating required six to 10 of the 16 optimal laws,. Only six states and D.C. qualified for a green rating: California, Delaware, Louisiana, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.

No state got a green rating without a primary enforcement seat belt law covering passengers in all seating positions (front and rear), and no state got a green rating if it had repealed an existing all-rider motorcycle helmet law within the previous 10 years.

Thirteen states received a red rating, which indicates fewer than seven of the 16 optimal safety laws.


Tractor trailer safety

Although states were not graded on large truck safety laws, a small section in the beginning of the report addressing such laws was included.

“Available safety technologies such as speed limiting devices and automatic emergency braking (AEB) could already be preventing crashes and mitigating severity if they were required on the entire fleet,” the reports suggests. “Further, trucks should be equipped with underride guards to prevent horrific and violent crashes when a vehicle goes under the rear or side of a truck.”

Advocates also encourages the use of lane departure warning systems and advanced driving assistance systems in large trucks. Many of those technologies are already in place in newer trucks. However, they are not required and are often add-ons for an additional cost.

Click Here to View the Full Report


What should you look for when choosing a lawyer? How to Choose a Lawyer
Nav Map