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These Simple Road Changes Can Save Lives

By Alex Perdikis

The year 2015 was a landmark year, but not in a good way.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), approximately 38,300 people were killed in on U.S. roads in 2015. Another 4.4 million were injured. That’s the largest one-year percentage increase in 50 years.

The reasons for the upsurge in traffic deaths include a better economy, lowered gas prices and lowered unemployment – all increasing the numbers of people on the roadways. Let’s look at what’s being done to stem the rising tide of deaths and injuries.

Improving Roads and Highways

In the 1990s, Sweden came up with a concept that proved to be a lifesaver: Roads with two wide lanes were redesigned and revamped into roads with three narrow lanes. The middle lane became a dedicated passing lane with allowed passing alternating between each side. Dedicated passing lanes made it easier for drivers to both pass and be aware of what other drivers were doing. In the first 10 years, an estimated 145 lives were saved.

The U.S. Transportation Research Board took note and recommended redesigning highways to the 2+1 road model, particularly on two-lane rural highways. An added plus is that the highways are already built. Increasing safety is simply a matter of reducing lane widths and adding a dedicated passing only lane. Lives saved!

Crosswalks and Intersections

When a pedestrian and car collide, the pedestrian always loses. Pedestrians usually have the right of way but does that matter when a two-ton machine hits a human body? Not really. Fortunately for pedestrians and drivers, crosswalk and intersection redesigns are becoming more common to make driving and walking safer.

Particularly useful in large cities, diagonal crosswalks are being developed to reduce pedestrian risk. In a diagonal crosswalk, traffic on all sides stops. Pedestrians walk from any direction, including diagonally, and safely arrive on the other side.

Another simple way to increase pedestrian safety is lengthening traffic light “walk” time. Additional time to cross the street gives elderly and disabled pedestrians the time they need. Longer waits may leave some drivers irritated, but isn’t saving lives worth a few extra seconds?

Slowing It Down

You don’t want to hear it, but lowering your driving speed is safer. Lowered speeds, particularly where pedestrians and traffic are both present, result in fewer injuries and fatalities. It may take a couple of extra minutes to get to work in the morning, but at least you’ll get there.

Safer Cars

Automakers are working hard to build safer vehicles. Many new cars have collision alarms, alert monitoring and backup cameras to name just a few innovative safety options. Many of these optional features will become standard in the near future, much as seatbelts and airbags did in the past.

The pursuit of safety doesn’t stop there, of course. Novel ideas such as Terreform’s “Soft Car” and Google’s self-driving vehicles incorporate safety, economy and energy efficiency. Clearly, technology is taking us toward a future where safety truly does come first.

5 New Car Safety Features That Can Save Your Life

By Alex Perdikis

Driving is so much a part of everyday life you probably don’t give it a second thought. But, every time you hop in your car, you risk your life and those of your passengers. And, if your family includes young or senior drivers, you have even more to worry about. The good news is that there are exciting new car safety innovations that make that trip to the store safer for everyone. Here are five safety features either already available or coming soon to new car near you.

Forward Collision Warning

Consumer Reports puts forward collision warning systems at the top of its list of must-have safety features. Why? Because forward collision warnings save countless lives.

The systems not only help drivers avoid accidents, but they lessen the impact when accidents do occur. Basic systems send audible or steering wheel vibration alerts to drivers, letting them know they’re closing in too fast on the vehicle in front of them.

A higher end option, forward collision warning with auto-braking systems, do more than alert. If you fail to react after the audible alert, the system auto-brakes to avoid a crash.

Features like forward collision warning systems are typically optional and somewhat pricey. However, Joe Wiesenfelder, Cars.com executive editor, says that “Among all the active-safety features out there — blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, lane departure prevention — this is the one that matters most.”

Backup Cameras

By May 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will require car manufacturers to make backup cameras standard. Many automakers are already on the bandwagon, however. And, that’s a very good thing. The Center for Effective Government reports that annually 50 children under the age of 15 are injured or killed because of back-over collisions with vehicles. Backup cameras, also known as rearview cameras, provide an instant view of what is directly behind the car. If you’re purchasing a new car before cameras become standardized and you have children, they’re worth the extra money.

Lane Monitoring

Lane monitoring and departure warning systems are a great feature if you do a lot of highway driving. Depending on the car make and model, systems range from basic with flashing lights, vibrations or alarm sounds when your car drifts, to more advanced systems that automatically correct steering or apply the brakes.

Blind Spot Detection

You now have a weapon against the infamous blind spot – the cause of countless accidents, injuries and deaths. A simple but effective tool, the blind spot safety alarm appears in your side view mirror as a flashing light whenever a vehicle, motorcycle, pedestrian or bicyclist is in your blind spot. Typically bundled with rear-cross traffic alerts, blind spot detection systems provide an additional layer of safety.

Alertness Monitoring

Those long road trips, late night drives and slow-moving bumper-to-bumper traffic have one thing in common – they make it easy for you to fall asleep at the wheel. Alertness monitoring detects erratic driving, such as drifting or sudden deceleration, and emits a loud acoustical warning that will wake you up in no time.

Other exciting safety features available now or coming soon include adaptive cruise control and park assist. Many will become standard over time. For now, weigh your driving situation and choose the options that best fit your needs and budget.

How We’re Getting Closer to a Single Blood Test to Detect Cancer

By Alex Perdikis

Cancer is constantly in the news. Every week, headlines announce promising new treatments and tests, along with sobering statistics on cancer’s ravaging effects.

Any advancement in technology and testing that can help patients is another step in the right direction. There are many tests available for genetic cancers, pre-cancerous conditions, cancer that is already full blown, and cancer that is in remission.

But what if there was one single blood test that could look for any cancer, even the smallest amount, located anywhere in the body?

For patients already undergoing so many invasive procedures, this would be a phenomenal advancement in care and and huge measure for proactive treatment. The amazing news it that this is not just an idea, it is already happening.

The problematic issue with cancer and early detection is that all it takes for cancer to start growing is a few cancerous cells. Once they grow and spread enough to provoke symptoms and positive test results, treatment becomes that much more difficult. Early detection is a big key to successful treatment options.

What a Drop of Blood Can Show

SRI Biosciences has developed a test called Fiber-optic Array Scanning Technology (FASTcell) that can rapidly detect a tiny amount of cancerous cells with one blood sample. It is important that testing not even take weeks to provide results, because weeks may be too long when it comes to beginning a treatment regimen.

“What distinguishes FASTcell from other sensors that look for cancer cells is the ability to scan very rapidly,” states the senior director of the Center for Cancer and Metabolism in SRI Biosciences, Lidia Sumbucetti. “We can scan 26 million cells in a minute. That allows us to survey all of the blood cells in the sample. This gives us a high sensitivity to find cancer even when there’s only one or two cells present. We can find one single cell in a whole blood sample. We compare it to trying to find a single star in a whole constellation of stars.”

In addition to extremely fast test results, this test also can determine the genetic makeup of the cancer cells, which leads to treatment that is specifically targeted to the particular cancer. Instead of time spent on treatments that may or may not work, specific treatment can be started from the beginning. This eliminates the difficult, time-consuming trial and error that has hampered treatment attempts in the past.

From Revolutionary to Routine

“It is revolutionary,” says Victor Vesculescu, co-director of cancer biology and professor of oncology and pathology at the Johns Hopkins University Cancer Center. “I think in the next five years, it will become part of an annual physical.” Johns Hopkins University has studied the “liquid biopsies” of hundreds of cancer patients.

Illumina announced in early January 2016 that they are forming a new company called GRAIL. This company will focus on blood based cancer testing and is receiving over than $100 million dollars in funding.

Keep your eyes open for more news on this incredibly exciting and promising research as it continues forward.

Is This Kind of Driving More Dangerous Than DUI?

By Alex Perdikis

For many years, drunk driving was viewed as the paramount cause of unnecessary car crashes. There were advocacy groups such as SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) dedicated to preventing drunk driving, laws being made, and random police check sites.

That was then. Drunk driving is still a major problem, but there’s a new threat among us now: distracted driving. Today’s widespread use of mobile technology means that there is much more distracted driving happening than ever before. What’s more, it is believed that distracted drivers are actually as dangerous — or even more dangerous — than drivers who are under the influence of alcohol. Some studies say that texting while driving is eight times more dangerous than drinking and driving.

What “Distracted Driving” Means

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” Changing the radio station, glancing down at something that fell onto the floor, letting your mind wander: any of these constitute distracted driving.

Using a phone and driving involves every aspect of distraction: using your hands, glancing away, and an unfocused mind. Texting and driving is the most dangerous activity of all, and the statistics are alarming. According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), approximately 660,000 American drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices at any given daylight moment.

From Brushing Teeth to Texting

Erie Insurance did a survey in 2015 which showed that drivers do many dangerous things behind the wheel including brushing their teeth and changing clothes. Moreover, Erie’s survey found that one-third of drivers admit to texting while driving. This is of course only the number of drivers who admitted to texting.

In 2009, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute said that five seconds is the average time a person’s eyes are off the road while texting, which when traveling at 55 miles per hour is enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded. Five seconds may seem to be a very short amount of time, but combined with the speed of a car, it clearly covers a very large distance.

Advocates on the Forefront

There are a growing number of advocacy groups dedicated to focusing on distracted driving and how to keep the statistics from growing. Stop The Texts, Stop The Wrecks, a partnership of the NHTSA and the Ad Council, aims to “show drivers that no matter how safely they think they can engage in distracted driving, the behavior is always dangerous for every driver, all the time.”

The Distracted Driving Foundation wants mobile phone carriers and car manufacturers to put technology in phones and automobiles that block using a phone when drivers are moving. They believe that “for many, the temptation to read a text message or answer a call when it comes in is irresistible.” Texts should be blocked until the car is stopped and phone calls should be directed to a voice prompt informing the caller that the person is driving and to leave a message.

End Distracted Driving (EndDD) is a group that is sending people out into the workforce and to schools to give presentations and real life stories, much like MADD and SADD did in the past.

It is the hope of these groups that, as the dangers of distracted driving and its deadly consequences become better known, the number of distracted drivers will significantly decrease in the years to come.