How Gender Affects Teen Driving Habits

April 4, 2014

2526405832_a8d9f9059b_o.jpgParents of high school drivers are well aware of the heightened risk younger people pose on the roads, and recent research details what precise habits are most associated with crash risks. The studies outline the usual suspects: eating, texting, dialing a phone, but one of the most dangerous distractions was merely having another teen in the vehicle. Car accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins take a closer look at these studies and what influences teen driving.

According to the CDC, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for American teens; drivers aged 16 to 19 are three times more likely than drivers 20 and older to be killed in a car accident. Federal data also suggests that males are much more likely to be involved in serious crashes - nearly two times that of females, in fact.

Researchers and experts assert that teen drivers in the presence of their peers failed to consider the long-term consequences of their driving habits, such as engaging in texting and other distractions. Somewhat surprisingly, researchers found large difference between the habits of male and female young drivers.

One study that specifically analyzed these differences was recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health and was conducted by researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. They looked at data from nearly 5,500 crashes involving drivers between the ages of 16 and 18, who were either driving alone or with a passenger who was between 14 and 20 years old.

Among their findings, Philadelphia researchers concluded that there were five types of actions that often caused the crashes:

• Aggressive acts, such as speeding or tailgating

• Inattention, focusing on internal thoughts rather than the road

• Illegal maneuvers, like disobeying standard traffic laws

• "Interior non-driving activity," referring to things like texting, eating, and talking to other passengers

• Exterior factors, or being distracted by something outside the vehicle

For girls, the most common habit associated with crashes was "interior non-driving activity" while driving with a boy in the vehicle. Female driving with males in the car were also more likely to perform illegal maneuvers and be inattentive. Girls were far less likely to drive illegally when there was another female passenger. It is also worth noting that female drivers were not likely to drive aggressively regardless of other passengers.

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Lives Lost in the GM Recall

April 1, 2014

8068946883_e20fec9b88.jpgTo date, General Motors has recalled over 2.6 million vehicles due to faulty ignition switches, and a total of 6.3 million since February. The defective cars have caused at least 13 deaths throughout the country, which is expected to raise as more and more connections are made. GM recall lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are currently investigating cases of serious injury or death from defective GM vehicles.

There is much speculation surrounding the recent recalls, most poignantly whether or not the company knew about the extensive defects years before recalls were initiated. In 2005, a 16-year-old girl was driving her Chevy Cobalt when she crashed into a tree. The airbag failed to deploy due to an ignition shutoff, killing her on impact. That same year, a GM engineering manager recommended against fixing the ignition problems because of high costs (the issue could have been solved for about $2 per vehicle).

There are eight other deaths directly linked to Chevy Cobalts, most of which were due to airbag deployment failure. If an ignition switch turns off, which is the problem that prompted the large-scale GM recall, it shuts off the entire engine along with other parts of the cars, including the airbags.

GM executives are now facing federal investigations and fines, and many of its executives are currently in Washington D.C. to testify before Congress about the defects. Preliminary documents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) state that GM knew about the defects and non-deploying airbags but failed to inform consumers until February 2014.

Congressional members will request information from both GM and the NHTSA over why neither tried to recall the defective vehicles sooner, as initial reports indicate GM was aware of the defects as early as 2001. The CEO of GM stated that the company is determined to get to the bottom of this massive, negligent, and fatal oversight.
Many family members of those killed in GM car crashes plan to attend the hearings, wearing blue shirts reading "Protect Our Children." Dozens have already met with GM executives and attorneys to tell their stories of lost loved ones.

For its part, Congress is likely planning to strengthen a pre-existing law that regulates how automakers and government agencies communicate. In the late 1990s, automakers were required to report more information to the federal government about potential vehicle defects, however, the NHTSA is also responsible for managing the tens of thousands of complaints consumers report every year.

Congress is now concerned that the NHTSA is too overburdened with this influx of information, and is considering passing a bill that will require more transparency between automakers and traffic and safety government agencies. GM is also in the midst of conducting an internal review to determine precisely when, why and how the defects were overlooked, and whether or not it was intentionally concealed.

Not one of these remedial actions will bring back the lives lost in crashes caused by the defects. Their families are most alarmed that GM is not recommending consumers immediately stop driving the defective cars, which include certain models of the: Chevrolet Cobalt, HHR, Malibu, and Maxx; Saturn Auron and Ion; and Pontiac G6. Instead, GM officials are simply suggesting that drivers take all extra materials off key chains to avoid triggering an ignition shutoff. The company has also stopped all sales of the Chevrolet Cruz, though it has not yet indicated why.

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Chicago Taxi Drivers File Lawsuit over Wages

March 28, 2014

5216524_eab81c8a30.jpgWage, hour and overtime lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report on a recent class action lawsuit filed by a group of Chicago cab drivers. The group is filing suit against four of the city's main taxi companies: Yellow Cab, Chicago Carriage Cab, Flash Cab, and Dispatch Taxi Affiliation.

The drivers claim that the companies misclassify them as independent contractors, which exempts them from receiving overtime or minimum wage pay. Just two years ago, a similar group called Cabdrivers for Justice filed a similar lawsuit without any success.

This time around, the cabbies are saying cab companies are violating the state's Wage Payment and Collection Act by classifying drivers as independent contractors, forcing them to pay fees in order to drive, failing to reimburse them for necessary expenses, taking shares of their pay, and not paying the $8.25 minimum wage or any overtime pay.

In addition, they claim that the companies do not pay any Social Security contributions, workers' compensation coverage, disability, and unemployment benefits. They are seeking millions of dollars in compensation for any taxi driver who worked in Chicago over the past decade. Cabbies are typically charged about $90 per day and $500 per week to lease their vehicles, and are intensely regulated by the city itself.

There are currently five individual plaintiffs named in the suit, one of whom recently spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times saying that he is seeking back-pay for the wage theft. He further stated that, since he started in the industry he has been working for less than the state minimum wage, and that the cab companies have been unjustly enriched.

Ride-Sharing Companies Facing Litigation

Cab companies in Chicago have been involved in litigation on their own recently as well, arguing that ride-sharing companies like Uber, Lyft and SideCar need to be more strictly regulated. In February 2014, ride-sharing companies were immensely criticized at a Chicago City Council hearing; one month later, the companies got a chance for rebuttal.

To defend themselves, Lyft, UberX, and SideCar assert that they provide insurance to drivers, conduct extensive criminal background checks, and provide service to customers throughout the city, not just in affluent areas. They argue that their services are thriving in the city because residents are dissatisfied with the current options.

The Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke, perhaps the loudest critic of ride-sharing, is demanding the city shut down the companies because he believes they siphon business from taxicabs and inflate prices. Taxi companies are concerned over the lack of a level playing field: ride-sharing companies do not have to pay airport departure or ground transportation taxes, nor do are they required to hold city medallions.

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Blue Line Derails, Dozens Injured

March 24, 2014

Train accident injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report on the recent train derailment on Chicago's Blue Line, which injured over 30 passengers, including the conductor. Fortunately, none of the injuries are critical, and no bystanders at O'Hare were seriously injured.

Thumbnail image for 4432354964_c0abd9c681.jpgThe derailment occurred just before 3 a.m. at the O'Hare International Airport station. The train reportedly jumped the tracks and rammed into an escalator, nearly reaching the top. Due to the odd hour, no one was on the escalator at the time of the crash, however there was still much panic in the minutes after the accident.

About 32 people were taken to local hospitals, all of whom in fair to good condition. It is too soon to determine the cause of the derailment, however, a spokesperson for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) stated that the train was traveling at an unusually high speed when it pulled into the station at O'Hare, which is the last stop on the Blue Line.
The CTA is in the midst of investigating the crash, including equipment maintenance, possible signal error, human factors, and all other extenuating circumstances.

Investigators have cut the train apart in order to remove the cars and debris from the escalator. The station is expected to re-open by tonight, though bus shuttles are available between Rosemont and O'Hare for commuters.

Second Blue Line Crash in Five Months

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was also called in to investigate the derailment, which is common in incidents like this. The federal agency was in Chicago just a few months ago, in October 2013, looking into yet another Blue Line crash. During that incident, a runaway train - without a conductor or passengers - somehow slipped away from the Forest Park service yard, traveled over safety barriers, and crashed into another Blue Line train at the Harlem station.

That accident occurred during morning rush hour, though thankfully no one was critically injured. Dozens of passengers were sent to the hospital, however, and many were trampled by panicked commuters trying to get out of the train. The runaway train struck the back of the stationed train at about 20 miles per hour.

In the general scheme of things, however, these two Blue Line crashes were relatively minor, and all passengers and bystanders were incredibly lucky. Luckier, at least, than the four passengers who were killed in a Metro-North Railroad train derailment, which occurred in the Bronx last December. About a dozen other passengers were left critically injured.

The train was going nearly three times the permissible speed when it derailed - traveling at 82 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone. It was the deadliest train accident in New York City in over two decades.

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Seattle News Helicopter Crashes, Two Killed

March 19, 2014

13250591583_6fb9ebd0a4.jpgAviation accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins report that a news helicopter recently crashed in downtown Seattle near the city's famed Space Needle. The crash occurred around 7:40 a.m., killing two people on the scene and sending at least one other to the hospital.

There were three people inside the helicopter, which is used by local TV networks KOMO and KING5. The crash sent large plumes of fire and smoke into the air and surrounding area, igniting three cars. One 37-year-old man was inside one of the cars at the time, managed to pull himself from the vehicle and was taken to a nearby medical center.

The helicopter was taking off from a downtown helipad when it crashed onto the 400 block of Broad Street next to Fisher Plaza. Bystanders were overwhelmed by the smell of burning rubber and helicopter debris. Emergency responders quickly poured sand on the ground to soak up leaking fuel and prevent any further devastation.

Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are now on the scene. We will be sure to report back on their findings into the cause of the crash when that information is available.

Problems with Medical Helicopters

The NTSB frequently issues reports on the frequency of helicopter crashes and their causes. In 2011, the federal agency noted that safety records for one type of helicopter - medical helicopters - were unacceptable. In fact, being a crew member on a medical helicopter is frequently cited as one of the most dangerous professions in the country.

The past few years have been extremely difficult for medical helicopters and their operation companies. In 2013 alone about a dozen people were killed in these crashes, also causing millions of dollars in property damage. Over the past 17 years, the annual fatalities for medical helicopters stay around 10.5 per year, the highest number being in 2008 with 28 people killed.

The NTSB has made several recommendations to the industry to try to bolster safety and save lives. Among their suggestions, the FAA is urged to create some kind of scenario-based training guidelines, such as simulators, and train pilots on how to operate the helicopter when visibility is low. The FAA is also encouraged to create a technology system that would tell pilots about the terrain conditions and night-imaging.

What Rights to Victims Have?

Anyone injured or killed in an aviation accident, meaning in a crash involving any size plane or helicopter, can file a lawsuit against those responsible for the crash. Responsible parties can include the owner of the aircraft, the pilot, manufacturers of the aircraft's key parts, maintenance companies, airport operators, or several other entities.

In most cases, the person who is injured and their spouse can file the claim. In cases of wrongful death, the next of kin or estate representative of the person killed can file the claim. Others who could potentially bring a lawsuit against those responsible for the crash are anyone who suffered emotional or financial damage from the accident, such as someone whose home or property was destroyed in a crash.

Continue reading "Seattle News Helicopter Crashes, Two Killed" »

Three Dead in SXSW Hit-and-Run

March 17, 2014

6370807801_4b979a785a.jpgThe South by Southwest (SXSW) festival recently concluded in Austin, Texas, and three people will never come home. The man responsible for their deaths, 21-year-old Rashad Owens, is charged with capital murder and aggravated assault after her intentionally ran his car into a crowd of festival-goers. Overall, 25 people were injured, and six remain in the hospital. Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins offer some safety tips to anyone planning to attend a similar event this summer.

The crash occurred outside at about 12:30 a.m. outside Mohawk nightclub on Thursday, March 13th 2014. Owens was in Austin to perform, had a criminal history, was likely inebriated, and was fleeing from police. Festivals like SXSW, Lollapalooza, and Electric Daisy Carnival attracted tens of thousands of people in some of the country's most populated urban centers. After this tragedy and several overdose deaths last year at the New York City's Electric Zoo festival, many are wondering if urban festivals have become too big and rowdy to be safe.

Cities like Austin, New Orleans and Chicago have had to learn how to manage massive crowds of inebriated or otherwise reckless people, and have, overall, done a good job doing so. Safety experts always voice concern about the potential of serious accidents like the crash at SXSW, due to the size and nature of the crowds.

Over 30,000 people attend SXSW every year, which closes many roads in Austin. Police also set up several sobriety checkpoints to catch impaired drivers who could cause harm. In this recent tragedy, Owens was stopped at a police sobriety checkpoint and tried to flee, went the wrong way down a one-way, barreled through a police barricades, and ended up plowing through a crowd of pedestrians.

In Chicago every August, about 300,000 people jam in to Grant Park over a three-day weekend to watch live music acts. Many are wondering how to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring this year, either by adding surveillance cameras or putting up new barriers to make sidewalks safer from out-of-control vehicles.

As always, the weather in Chicago can be more ominous than its people. In 2012, the entire festival had to be evacuated when a powerful storm hit downtown. Crowd safety is of utmost importance at every event, regardless of venue. In 2012, a stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair, killing seven people and injuring dozens more.

As festival season approaches, our tem of injury attorneys outline a few tips to keep safe:

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Dangerous Drivers out of Luck This St. Patrick's Weekend

March 14, 2014

Along with New Year's Eve, March 17th is popular as one of the most alcohol-celebrated days of the year. Americans of all nationalities love St. Patrick's Day because it give us an excuse to ring in spring with a green beer and friends. Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins highlight a few ways for you to safely enjoy the holiday weekend without needing a lawyer come Monday.

st-patricks-day-ride-along-2_l.jpg In 2012, one person died every 51 minutes in an alcohol-impaired driving crash. That number spikes around St. Patrick's Day weekend, as partygoers get behind the wheel to wear green, eat corned beef, drink Irish car bombs, and forget to plan ahead to get home safely. In fact, between 2006 and 2010, two out of every five crash fatalities involved a drunk driver over St. Patrick's Day weekend.

Most local police departments significantly increase the number of DUI check points over the weekend to prevent dangerous drivers from causing harm. Throughout the country, local cab companies or public transportation systems are also teaming up with services like AAA to make sure drinkers do not get behind the wheel. Check out what's going on in your city to help reduce St. Patrick's Day DUIs.

Some people may not understand the actual repercussions of driving under the influence. Not only will your license be suspended, but experts estimate that, between increased insurance premium and legal fees, a DUI can cost about $5,000 or more, just for a first offense. Second or third offenses carry much higher fines, and could result in jail time.

Many states now also require ignition interlock devices even for first time DUIs. This means that, for a period of time, every time you want to start your car you will have to blow into a Breathalyzer to make sure you have not been drinking. These devices are also expensive, costing about $100 for initial installation and between $50 and $100 per month thereafter.

You've heard them all before, but it is worth restating. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy a safe, happy and enjoyable holiday weekend:

• Before you start drinking, plan a way home. This can be a person, an Uber, a taxi, train, whatever you need to get home safely.

• If you see a drunken driver on the road, do not hesitate to call the police. This could save lives.

• If your friend is about to get behind the wheel and is clearly over the legal limit, take their keys and call them a cab.

• Eat enough during the day and drink a glass of water between drinks. You will thank yourself the next day.

On another note, you do not want to be that guy or girl coming into the office Monday morning smelling of stale alcohol. Everyone can tell. Experts estimate that absenteeism and hung-over employees costs the U.S. economy about $160 billion in worker productivity. Your employer will likely be on the lookout for those employees who still can't see straight, and they will take note.

You also don't want to be known as the guy or girl who gets arrested for trying to steal a bottle of Goose from a bar and smashing it over someone's head. In 2011, in Hoboken, New Jersey, 34 people were arrested and 136 others were taken to the hospital in an ambulance during the annual St. Patrick's Parade. The parade was then canceled.

Continue reading "Dangerous Drivers out of Luck This St. Patrick's Weekend" »

Injured Bicyclist Sues Citi Bike

March 6, 2014

9014924711_baa42b0b39.jpgA man in Connecticut recently filed a lawsuit against New York City bike-sharing system Citi Bike after he was severely injured while riding one of its bicycles. As a result of the bike accident he now suffers from traumatic nerve palsy and is seeking $15 million in damages. Bicycle accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins examine this case and whether claims against bike-sharing companies will be permitted in court.

Bike-sharing programs, such as Divvy in Chicago and Citi Bike in New York, are becoming more and more prevalent throughout the country. These programs allow people of all ages to rent bicycles, typically for short periods of time, to run errands or just enjoy a nice day. Bicycles are available to rent from docking stations in every nook and cranny of the city.

The plaintiff in this case, a 73-year-old Ronald Corwin, flipped over the handlebars of a Citi Bike when the front wheel struck a low barrier near the docking station in the fall of 2013. Corwin suffered traumatic nerve palsy from the accident, leaving him unable to taste or smell. Nerve palsy occurs as a result of direct or indirect damage to the cranial nerve, and is often associated with birth injuries.

Corwin argues that he was unable to see the concrete barrier because it was the exact same color as the road. According to the Daily News, the barrier, located in Midtown, is now painted bright orange. The paper also asserts that Corwin is the first person to file a personal injury suit against Citi Bike.

In New York City's contract with Citi Bike, it is Citi's insurance company that would be responsible for any lawsuits involving bicycle accidents or mishaps, so the city is protected. Corwin asserts, that, since the accident, his life has turned inside out, having to go from one medical specialists to another to find relief from his head trauma. His physicians say his inability to taste and smell is likely permanent.

He believes the barrier, otherwise referred to as a wheelstop, was negligently placed in the path of Citi Bike riders. The wheelstop at East 56th Street and Madison Avenue is directly in front of the docking station and blends in with the pavement and nearby crosswalk. It is about six feet long and six inches high. Although now the barrier is painted orange and has cones around it, Corwin argues that at the time of his accident there was no indication warning bicyclists that the wheelstop was there.

Divvy Injuries Also Prompt Lawsuits

A similar lawsuit was recently filed in Chicago after a pregnant woman riding a Divvy bicycle was struck by a motorist. The 34-year-old woman was cycling down Augusta Boulevard in the bike lane in September 2013 when she was struck at the intersection of Ashland Avenue. The person who hit her was driving a Ford pickup truck and is an employee of the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Continue reading "Injured Bicyclist Sues Citi Bike " »

Pedestrian Hit by Truck Awarded $22 Million

March 3, 2014

6842732022_1353b1e901.jpgA lawsuit filed on behalf of a 37-year-old woman who was struck by a truck in Brooklyn recently settled for $22 million, the largest in state history. The woman, Shirley Miller, suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident and is now blind and largely unable to speak. Truck accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins report on this case and the circumstances surrounding it.

The accident occurred in Brooklyn, New York City, in 2008. Shirley Miller, a healthy veterinarian, was crossing the street at Ninth and 48th, in the crosswalk, when a truck driving for Duane Reade struck her head-on. It was her 32nd birthday.

Miller suffered devastating head injuries that left her immobile, blind, and mentally handicapped. Her family filed a traumatic brain injury lawsuit, naming the truck driver and Duane Reade, seeking $100 million for the medical care she will need for the rest of her life.

During trial, Duane Reade, a pharmaceutical company, attempted to argue that Miller slipped on a patch of ice and fell under the truck's rear wheel. Miller's lawyers were able to prove that scenario was impossible through eyewitnesses and medical expert testimony.

Also revealed during trial were the truck's drivers' negligent, even malicious actions immediately after the accident. Instead of calling 911, the driver first called his union and bosses at Duane Reade.

This was the second trial concerning this particular accident; the first ended in 2012 because jurors had to be excused. The judge was also asked to excuse himself from the case after he was overheard saying negative comments about Duane Reade's defense attorney. The judge went so far as to hang "Wanted" posters with the attorney's head on it and a bulls-eye.

The second, final trial began in November 2013. Duane Reade ultimately agreed to settle for $22 million. The details of the settlement remain confidential, however, as stated, it remains the single largest dollar amount awarded to a single plaintiff in New York history.

Involved in a Trucking Accident? We Can Help

Trucking accidents, more than most other types of vehicle crashes, often result in devastating, life-changing injuries. These types of accidents often involve hit-and-runs, intoxicated drivers, rollovers, overloaded or unsafe trucking equipment, or distracted or sleep-deprived drivers.

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GM Recalls Millions of Vehicles after Driver Deaths

February 28, 2014

3985305487_af59e1479b.jpgAuto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins announce a recent recall by General Motors, concerning several of its Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Saturn models. About 1.6 million vehicles have been recalled after over a dozen deaths were linked to defective ignitions in these vehicles. The auto giant is also facing a $35 million federal fine for its negligence in this recall.

About 800,000 Chevy Cobalts and Pontiac G5s were recalled in early February 2014, which was quickly expanded to include Saturn Ion compact cars, Chevy HHR mid-size cars, Pontiac Solictices and Saturn Sky sports cars. A full list of the recalled vehicles, including specific models and years, can be found here.

The problem with these vehicles concerns the ignition switch, which could cause the engine and other parts of the car, like the airbags, to unexpectedly turn off. GM detailed an array of situations that might cause an electrical shut-off, including weight on the key ring or uneven road conditions. GM, along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), urges drivers to have only the ignition key and nothing else on the key ring and seek repairs as soon as possible, which is expected to be in early April 2014.

The defects are linked to at least 13 deaths from frontal crashes, the majority of which were directly caused by airbags failing to deploy. The automaker stated that all crashes occurred off-highway and at high speeds, and that alcohol and lack of seatbelt usage were also factors in a few crashes.

What makes this recall so egregious and disconcerting is that GM knew of the defective ignition parts as far back as 2004. In that year, the company received reports that a new Cobalt had suddenly lost power after the key shifted from the run position. By 2005, one Cobalt passenger had died in a crash when the airbags failed to deploy.

For reasons unknown, the company did not launch an investigation into this issue until six years later, in 2011. The NHTSA is now opening its own probe into how and why GM handled this the way it did. As stated, the agency is considering fining GM $35 million for its shortcomings.

GM Facing Federal Fines, Consumer Lawsuits

The federal investigation aims to uncover whether GM followed the proper legal process and requirements for reporting defects and potential recalls. Since it has become clear the automaker first learned of the engine defects - and its potential to cause fatal accidents - since 2004, it is looking like they will have to pay the $35 million.

Through several statements, GM admitted that its review of the ignition defects was not as "robust" as it expected of it. Automakers that sell vehicles in the United States are required to report all incidents to the NHTSA that could cause harmful or fatal injuries, however, they are not required to hand over any specific source documents.

Continue reading "GM Recalls Millions of Vehicles after Driver Deaths" »

National Data Confirms Motorcycle Deaths Continue to Increase

February 19, 2014

8719429436_e481315f8b.jpgThe Department of Transportation recently released statistics and data on motorcycle safety through 2011. That year, more than 4,500 motorcyclists were killed in traffic accidents, which is an increase from 2010. Motorcycle crash lawyers at Pintas & Mullins dive deeper into this report and the factors behind the steady increase in motorcycle death.

All data was compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which included information from 2002 to 2011 in the publication. The NHTSA considers several types of vehicles "motorcycles," including mopeds, scooters, pocket bikes, off-road motorcycles, mini bikes,and two- or three-wheeled motorcycles.

Among its findings, the NHTSA reported a significant increase in registered motorcycles in the nine years between 2002 and 2011. As suspected, this correlated to increases in injuries and fatalities throughout the country. Finalized data indicate that, per mile traveled, motorcyclists were more than 30 times more likely to die in an accident than those in cars.

Overall, motorcyclists account for nearly 15% of all traffic fatalities, which is considerable because motorcycles make up only 3% of all vehicles on American roadways. In crashes involving two vehicles, a large majority (three-quarters) occurred when the other vehicle struck the motorcycle from the front, rather than rear-ending it.

Facts of the Crash

Among the nearly 2,000 two-vehicle crashes in 2011, nearly 40% of them occurred when the motorcycle was going straight and the other car was turning left. Additionally, about 35% of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time. This is substantially higher than the percentage of car drivers who were cited for speeding at the time of a fatal crash.

Interestingly, the NHTSA also divided up motorcycle fatality data according to age, year, and day of the week the crash occurred. Somewhat surprisingly, the most fatalities occurred in people aged 40 and up, on the weekdays, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. One would suspect and is usually correct in guessing that drivers under the age of 30 are the most dangerous on the road. This may be true for cars and trucks, however, on motorcycles, people over the age of 40 are significantly more at risk.

For example, more than 1,300 motorcyclists aged 40 and up died in traffic crashes on a weekday between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. in 2011. This can be compared to just 654 motorcyclists under the age of 30 suffering the same fate, and only 411 motorcyclists between 30 and 39.

Motorcyclists riding a bike with an engine size of 1001cc or higher were also significantly more likely to be killed in accidents. In fact, these types of riders showed a 60% increase in fatalities between 2002 and 2011, compared to 30% for riders using smaller engines. Overall, a large number of fatalities were riding the motorcycle without a valid license at the time of the crash.

Motorcyclists have a tendency to engage in other risky behavior as well. Data shows that motorcyclists have the highest percentage of previous driving offenses, such as DUI and license revocation, of all other vehicle drivers. Alcohol also plays a bigger factor in motorcycle crashes than in other vehicle accidents.

Continue reading "National Data Confirms Motorcycle Deaths Continue to Increase" »

New System will Help Truckers Stay Off Cell Phones

February 6, 2014

truckdriver_l.jpgA new device from a tech start-up in Virginia is designed to prevent manual texting while driving, and trucking companies have started placing orders in large numbers. The device, called the OrigoSafe, docks in to the cab of a semi-truck (or any other motor vehicle) and only allows the cell phone to be used through Bluetooth. Truck accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins are hopeful that this new technology will save lives and reduce serious injuries on American roadways.

On its website, Origo outlined its solution to texting while driving and the devastating consequences it has on American lives. It touts OrigoSafe as a simple, fully-integrated, and hands-free solution to this immediate safety issue. The device still allows drivers to use their cellphones (given they already have hands-free capabilities), using Bluetooth, so drivers can still be productive and available to friends, family and coworkers while on the job.

Due to their large size and heavy cargo, trucks cause extreme amounts of damage when involved in accidents, and crashes can easily become catastrophic for passengers in smaller cars. An estimated 6,000 people die on U.S. roadways ever year in trucking accidents and another half a million are seriously injured. With the popularization of cell phones and texting, the threat of truckers using technology on the road is alarming to say the least. Experts estimate that truckers who text while driving have over 23% increased risk of crashing.

For trucking companies, the monetary losses associated with truck crashes can be devastating as well, particularly if the driver was at-fault due to texting or surfing the web. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the total estimated cost of crashes caused by cell phones is over $50 billion per year. For trucking companies, the average cost of an accident that causes a fatality is $3.8 million per fatality.

The OrigoSafe works much like the Breathalyzer ignition interlocks that are often required for repeated drunk drivers. The device is installed into a vehicle's cab, where the cell phone must be mounted before the vehicle can start. Once it is mounted in the device, drivers may not use any manual functions on the cell phone until the truck is safely parked or turned off.

Bluetooth Does not Guarantee Safety

Although this is a step in the right direction, hands-free texting is not a completely safe alternative. In 2010, for example, a driver was on a cell phone using Bluetooth, which was permissible within her company. The driver was nonetheless distracted by the conversation, struck another vehicle and critically injured the driver. The injured driver subsequently sued the trucker and her company, and the jury ruled the company should pay $21 million in damages.

Of course, every case is different, and jury decisions like this are extremely idiosyncratic. This case does illustrate a larger point, however: any distraction, regardless of its mode or medium, is still a distraction. Several studies have proven this to be true, yet legislators throughout the country continue to enact laws that ban only manual cell phone use. All cell phone use, including the use of Bluetooth and other hands-free technologies, need to be banned before our roads can become any safer.

That being said, attempts by state and local lawmakers are admirable and a step in the right direction. Change does not occur overnight, and it will take many more studies and, unfortunately, many more catastrophic crashes to alter public perception of cell phone usage while driving.

Continue reading "New System will Help Truckers Stay Off Cell Phones" »

Highway Risks for Children Decrease, Though Still Need for Improvement

February 5, 2014

180073045_886106b06d.jpgThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that fewer children are dying in car accidents in the U.S., however there is still room for major improvements on the road. The good news: between 2002 and 2011 the number of children 12 and under dying in car accidents fell by 43%. The bad news: car accidents are still a leading cause of death for children in the U.S. Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins take a closer look at the statistics and what we can do to help.

The most significant factor contributing to adolescent death on American roadways is lack of proper seatbelt and restraint usage. In 2011, for example, one in three children who died in car accidents were not properly restrained in a car seat, booster seat, or using a seatbelt. For black and Hispanic children, nearly half of all fatalities were not buckled at the time of the crash.

Child restraint laws vary state to state, and surprisingly, very few states (Tennessee and Wyoming) require car or booster seats to be used by kids 8 and younger. This puts thousands of children at risk on the roads because they are not buckled up, and many factors contribute to this.

According to the CDC's findings, older children (aged 8-12) are less likely to buckle up than younger kids and infants. Most states legally require children to be restrained in a car or booster seat until age seven, however there are a handful that only require the practice until aged five or even younger. It is no surprise, then, to know that in these states with minimal child restraint laws, deaths and serious injuries are higher.

Among the five states that increased the age requirement to seven or eight years old for booster/car seats, rates of deaths and serious injures decreased by 17%. That is a substantial amount, particularly when considering the severity of what we're discussing. This is not simple damage to property or heightened insurance rates. Children's lives are at stake.

Using the correct car or booster seat for your child can make all the difference. There is a graphic for parents and caregivers on the CDC's website, located here, which details the age, height, and weight stipulations for each type of seat restraint. Parents should always use the car/booster seat manual before installing the seat. Too many children are seriously hurt and killed because the car seat they were in was not fastened all the way or the child was the improper weight or height.

Other recommendations for parents include:

• Buckling all children aged 12 and under in the back seat

• Using car seats, booster seats, and seat belts, during every trip no matter how short

• Keep up-to-date on how to keep children safe on the road, including how to use each type of booster and car seat

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Midwestern States Ranked Worst in the Nation for Basic Highway Safety

January 31, 2014

136283356_ec80015aac.jpgA recent report on national highway safety patterns concluded that 11 states, most of them in the Midwest and Upper West, showed a dangerous lack of basic safety protections. This points to an immediate need for state legislatures to begin taking the necessary steps toward roadway safety. Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins highlight some of the most relevant, and jarring, statistics from this highway report.

Every year, over 33,000 people die and 2.3 million are injured on American roadways, with an estimated economic cost of over $230 billion. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for citizens aged five to 24, reinforcing the need for new laws and strengthened regulations on our nation's roadways.

The above-mentioned report was compiled by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and explicitly confirms an association between states with the most roadway regulation and lowest automobile fatality rates. The report is based on whether states have adopted 15 lifesaving laws related to distracted, reckless and impaired driving.

Among these 15 laws include texting-while-driving bans, seat belt requirements, helmet requirements for motorcyclists, and requiring booster seats for children. Illinois and Oregon topped the list with the most laws adopted, with 12 each. South Dakota, on the other hand, came in dead last, with two (in that state, at least it is illegal to drive with an open container and to drive at night if you are under 18).

The eleven states with the worst adoption of basic highway safety laws are: Alabama, Arizona, Iowa, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. None of these states have adopted more than seven optimal safety laws. Surprisingly, New Hampshire is the only state in the nation without an existing seat belt law. More than half of all people killed in auto accidents were unrestrained.

Ten states - California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington - received a green rating, the group's highest ranking. States could only gain a Green rating if they had both primary enforcement seat belt laws and an all-rider motorcycle helmet law. The advocacy group notes that only eight states enacted any new laws that met criteria for their report in 2013, and none mandated the use of booster seats in children aged four to seven.

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Honda Fit and Fiat 500 Rank Worst in Crash Test Performance

January 23, 2014

4339364806_3cc0719a4d.jpgThe Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts annual crash tests, which provides performance data for vehicles sold in the United States. The latest IIHS tests found that only one out of 12 minicars earned an acceptable rating, and none were ranked as good. Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins analyze the results of these small car crash tests.

Five minicars (the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio, and Mazda 2) ranked as marginal, and six vehicles were rated poor. The six worst performing cars were the: Fiat 500, Honda Fit, Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius, and Hyundai Accent. The top-performing car, rated as acceptable, was the 2014 Chevrolet Spark, earning it the 2014 Top Safety Pick.

The senior vice president for vehicle research at IIHS told the Chicago Sun-Times that these types of small, lightweight vehicles are characterized by their safety disadvantages. The minicars were the lowest performing vehicles of all groups tested so far.

The crash test replicates what would happen if the vehicle collides with an inanimate object, like a light pole, or another vehicle. About a quarter of the vehicle's driver front end is crashed into barrier at 40 miles per hour. This type of test is somewhat different than how the government conducts its crash tests (head-on at 35 mph).

About half of the minicars were ranked poorly for structural integrity after the test, and six ranked as marginal. Structural integrity is the most critical factor in protecting passengers from serious harm in the event of an accident. If the structure of a vehicle collapses, the frontal airbags and seats can be moved out of position, further exposing passengers to injury

In the IIHS test, the Honda Fit deployed an airbag, however, the steering column was pushed so far into the vehicle that the crash dummy's head hit the instrument panel. The safety group noted that the Honda Fit fared among the worst in potential injuries to the driver. The Fit did earn better marks for roof strength and side impact protection, however.

The Fiat 500 was also ranked among the worst in passenger injury protection; the impact ripped off the Fiat's door hinges and caused the driver's side door to fall completely off the car. This obviously puts the driver in great danger of being ejected from the car and potentially killed.

In both the Fiat and Fit, the car's structure significantly intruded on the driver's space during impact, and both vehicles showed high potential for injury to the driver's legs. The Hyundai Accent was also downgraded for driver left thigh and hip injury.

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