Five Vehicles, Including Two Hit-and-Run Drivers, Strike Florida Pedestrian

A tragic auto accident in Brandon, Fla., resulted in the death of a pedestrian.

In the predawn hours of a recent Friday, Ronald J. Sandalic, a 57-year-old homeless man, was struck by a car on East Bloomingdale Avenue. Madison A. Dvorak, 19, was behind the wheel of the 2005 Ford Focus. Sandalic was thrown some distance and landed in the middle of the road.

Ricky Polk, 56, of Temple Terrace, reports seeing Dvorak jumping up and down and crying on the road’s shoulder before his car hit Sandalic as he lay in the roadway. Polk also pulled over and tried warning other drivers. But he couldn’t stop a third car, driven by John Gallagher, 57, from hitting the man. Gallagher also stopped and tried to help.

Then the story takes an even worse turn. The witnesses say the man was struck by two more pickup trucks. But those drivers did not stop. Instead, they simply sped away.

Sandalic was almost certainly dead before the hit-and-run drivers ran over him, and those drivers would likely not have faced any charges. But simple human compassion and responsibility says those drivers should have stopped, tried to help and given a statement to the police.

If you or a loved one are injured or killed in an auto accident, consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

Auto Safety Institute Tests Frontal Crash Prevention Technology

Historically, vehicle safety technology has focused almost exclusively on preventing or minimizing injury or death in the event of a collision. Technologies such as antilock brakes and electronic stability control allow vehicles to automatically adjust braking and throttle in order to help drivers maintain control of the vehicle in the event of a loss of traction. Now, some models offer systems that can automatically apply the brakes if a collision is imminent.

The industry calls these systems “front crash prevention systems,” and in a big step forward for the technology, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has begun rating their performance, much the same way as they rate how well cars protect occupants during various types of collisions.

The key part of the technology is a radar system incorporated into the front of the car that detects other vehicles or pedestrians in the car’s path. The system will then provide audible and visible warnings to the driver if there is a danger of collision. Many models with the warning technology also offer a component called Autobrake. Autobrake enables a car to apply the brakes without any driver input if a collision is imminent. Depending on a number of variables, any given collision may either be avoided completely or occur at a dramatically reduced speed.

Models earned an “advanced” or “superior” rating based on the performance of their Autobrake capabilities. Those vehicles equipped with warning systems but no Autobrake earned a “basic” rating. The best performing system came from Subaru. The other manufacturers to earn a superior rating were Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo.

High-Tech Safety Systems Promise to Cut Auto Accident Rates

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced a plan to advance vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology. The technology would enhance safety by enabling vehicles’ onboard computers to communicate with each other in order to help drivers avoid collisions. The systems give drivers visible and audible warning signals when they perceive threats based on data gathered from other vehicles.

The potential of V2V communication to reduce accidents by warning drivers of safety hazards has already been demonstrated in tests both in controlled conditions and real-world roads.

V2V communication can help a driver know whether it is safe to pass on a two-lane road or make a left turn across the path of oncoming traffic. By enabling cars to communicate from distances of several hundred yards, it warns of potential threats that neither drivers nor onboard sensors can reliably detect.

In August 2012, the Department of Transportation (DOT) launched a year-long pilot program in Ann Arbor, Mich., deploying some 3,000 vehicles with V2V technology. The test demonstrated the ability of vehicles and communication systems from various manufacturers to operate together successfully. The NHTSA is working to finalize its report on the study, which will cover feasibility and a preliminary cost/benefit analysis. The agency will then start working on a regulatory proposal to require V2V technology in new vehicles at some point in the future.

The applications of V2V currently in development do not automatically operate any vehicle systems, unlike features currently available on some models that apply the brakes if a collision is imminent. However, V2V communication is one key to enabling a future of self-driving cars.

That nascent technology is being advanced under a separate ongoing study here in Florida. The Tampa Bay Times reported that a stretch of Interstate 4 between Tampa and Orlando has been outfitted with radio devices that feed the cars information about road and traffic conditions.

Companies including Google, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan all have working prototype vehicles that can operate without any driver input under some conditions.

Florida has become a hotbed of activity in the burgeoning self-driving car industry. It is one of only four states to explicitly permit the use of experimental self-driving cars on public roads. Advocates of the technology say it could dramatically cut accident rates – eventually by 90 percent or more, some claim.