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October 3, 2014

Brookline Police Gauge Interest in New Bicycle Law

Bicycle safety continues to draw the attention of city officials as the number of cyclists grows across the city. With increasing attention to the environmental and health advantages of opting for bicycles instead of motor vehicles and public transportation, and the advent of bike share programs like Hubway, the volume of bicyclists has increased dramatically. With this movement towards cycling, bicycle laws may need to be reconsidered to ensure that cycling remains an attractive option for Bostonians, while ensuring the safety of cyclists, pedestrians, and motor vehicle drivers.

Boston.com reported that on September 17th, the Brookline Police Department solicited comments via Twitter regarding the adoption of a new bicycle law commonly known as the Idaho Stop. The law would allow cyclists to treat red lights as stop signs, and treat stop signs as yield signs, thereby letting cyclists move more quickly and have more freedom on roadways. In Idaho, bicycle injuries declined by 14.5% in the year following the implementation of the law.

Existing bike laws in Brookline follow a “same roads, same rules” approach, which requires cyclists to adhere to the same road rules as drivers of motor vehicles. Steve Sidman, Executive Director of the Boston Cyclists Union criticized this approach, noting that the rules applicable to motor vehicles cannot logically be applied wholesale to bicycles. Stidman also recommended the construction of a separate bicycle path on Commonwealth Avenue to reduce bicycle accidents.

Brookline Police Lieutenant Philip Harrington noted that there are no definite plans to adopt the new rule and the department is merely opening the topic for discussion at this point.

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September 30, 2014

Research Shows Danger of Texting While Driving Using Google Glass

Head-up displays like Google Glass were made to assist drivers in multitasking. Rather than reaching for a phone to manually send or receive a text, a driver using Google Glass would be able to read projected messages and dictate replies without ever having to take their hands off the wheel. The concept seems logical to most, yet groups like the Consumers Union and the National Safety Council have cautioned that hands-free, voice-based interfaces can still pose as a dangerous distraction to drivers.

According to a Forbes article published yesterday, a peer-reviewed study conducted by the University of Central Florida in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory compared 40-something drivers in a car simulator while wearing the Google Glasses, and their responses to when the vehicle driving in front of them suddenly slammed on the brakes. Researchers found that subjects who had been exchanging messages using Google Glass or a smartphone were just as equally slow to respond. Wearers of the Google Glass did appear to recover more quickly after the near crash, but they also left less distance between the car they were operating, and the car in front of them. This data suggested that the Google Glass reduced participants’ perception to risk.

In a similar study conducted at Wichita State University, researchers found while comparing speech-based texting to handheld texting, there was no significant difference in driver performance. “In fact, the researchers found that both methods of texting significantly impaired driver performance and caused variation in speed and lane position.”

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September 30, 2014

Walmart Responds to Tracy Morgan’s Lawsuit: "Morgan Should Have Worn a Seatbelt"

Retail supergiant Walmart has finally responded to a lawsuit filed by actor and comedian Tracy Morgan over a deadly car crash that left Morgan in critical condition. Its response: Morgan should have worn a seatbelt.

According to CNN and court documents, Walmart filed a 28-page response to a complaint by lawyers representing Morgan and three others who were injured in the accident, which occurred when Walmart semi-truck driver Kevin Roper collided with the rear end of the Mercedes Sprinter van in which Morgan was riding. Photos released of the incident show the Mercedes was hit with enough force for it to land on its roof and cause a chain reaction crash with four other vehicles. Roper pleaded not guilty in June to criminal charges that included vehicular homicide and assault by auto.

Morgan’s lawsuit claims that Walmart was careless and negligent in the operation of the vehicle that caused the accident, and that it should have known that Roper was not fit to be driving and that it violated Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations enacted to combat the dangers of driver fatigue. Already, it was discerned by officials that Roper was potentially drowsy while he was driving (Roper had been awake for 24 hours prior), and it was speculated that his fatigue was ultimately what caused the tragic accident. Roper has denied that fatigue played a role in the crash.

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September 10, 2014

New Ordinance Could Protect Boston Bicyclists By Requiring Protective Side Guards, Convex Mirrors on City Trucks

A new ordinance, The Act to Protect Vulnerable Road Users, could make the roads safer for local cyclists, especially during a Boston bicycle accident. If approved, all trucks over 10,000 pounds that are owned or contracted by the city would be obligated to install new safety features on their vehicles.

Among the added features are protective side guards, which should prevent a cyclist from getting pulled under a truck’s wheels during a Boston truck accident. Trucks would also have to install convex mirrors, which would make it easier for truckers to see more of the road. Meantime, reflective, bright stickers notifying of a truck’s blind spots would let pedestrians and bicyclists know that the driver might not be able to see them.

According to the Boston’s Cyclist Safety Report, between the Summer and Fall of ’12 alone, five Boston area bicyclists were killed. One reason for this is that there has been an increase in the number of bicyclists, which is even more of a reason to make sure that cyclists are getting the protections they need in the event of any kind of Massachusetts traffic crash. The rise in bicycle riders has definitely been enhanced by the New Balance Hubway, which is a bicycle sharing system that gives members access to bicycles located at more than 100 stations throughout the Greater Boston area. Councilor-at-Large Ayanna Pressley, who is one of the lawmakers spearheading the act, called the problem of inadequate bicyclist safety a “public health issue,” said The Globe.

Also according to the safety report, between ’10 and ’12, the Boston Police Department noted 1,446 bicycle accidents, including nine fatalities. There was reportedly an increase in bicycle accidents involving younger riders. Between ’09 and ’12, motor vehicles were involved in 91% of bicycle incidents. Just this Friday a cyclist died in a Medford, Massachusetts traffic crash involving a motorcycle. The bicyclist was a 29-year-old Somerville man. The 52-year-old motorcyclist, from Topsfield, was also injured.

More data from the study:
• Cyclists make up 98% of all injured parties in Boston bicycle accidents.
• The highest number of Boston bicycle crashes happened in the Fenway/Kenmore Allston/Brighton, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury areas, as well as on Commonwealth Avenue, Boylston Street, Mass Avenue, Beacon Street and Dorchester Avenue.

Bicyclists don’t have much protection, even with their protective gear (including their helmets), so the chances of injury in a Massachusetts bicycle accident is high—especially when a large truck is involved.

At Altman & Altman, our Boston truck collisions lawyers have worked with victims and their families in recouping their losses for Massachusetts personal injury and wrongful death. Contact our Boston bicycle crash attorneys today to request your free case consultation.

*The Act, defines vulnerable road users as bicyclists, wheelchair users, pedestrians, and others on the road that are non-motorized.

Proposed Legislation Would Protect Boston Bicyclists, Boston.com, September 10, 2014

Somerfield Bicyclist Killed in Medford Collision with Motorcycle, Boston/CBS Local, September 6, 2014

Hubway

Cyclist Safety Report (PDF)


More Blog Posts:
A Reminder for Safer Summer Biking, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, July 27, 2014

Actor Tracy Morgan Sues Wal-Mart Over Catastrophic Truck Accident, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, July 16, 2014

No Charges for Driver of Fatal Hit-and-Run Bike Accident, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog, June 30, 2014

August 29, 2014

Motorcyclists Fatally Injured in Easthampton, MA Crash

Police from Easthampton, MA are reporting that two individuals were fatally injured while traveling north on their motorcycle. The motorcycle, which had been traveling north, was struck by an oncoming car heading southbound.

According to police reports, 45-year-old James Ainsworth of Springfield, MA crossed the center line on Route 5 yesterday and struck the couple on their bike. News reports indicate that Ainsworth was scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon at the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENTS

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that approximately 81,000 people were injured and 4,612 were killed in motorcycle accidents in 2011 in the United States; a 2% increase from the number in 2010 and a 41% increase from 2002. Motorcycle accidents make up an estimated 14% of the total number of motor-vehicle crashes in the United States each year. The United States watchdog estimates that per every vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclist and motorcycle passengers are 30 times more likely than passenger car occupants to be killed in an accident, and 5 times more likely to be injured during an accident.

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August 29, 2014

Boston Drivers the Worst in the Country & Tips to Stay Safe While Traveling this Holiday Weekend

A new study published by Allstate Insurance has confirmed what many already know: Boston drivers are some of the worst in the entire country. The study, published this week, reported that the city’s drivers were the second-riskiest in the country based on the average number of reported crashes and the average years between car accidents—roughly 4.4 years.

Places like New York, Chicago, and even Los Angeles (surprisingly) ranked lower than Boston, among another 195 cities. Chicago’s drivers got in an accident roughly every 8.2 years; and New York City 7.8. While the data seems a bit surprising, given the higher volume of traffic in both the Windy City and the Big Apple, one thing cannot be disputed: the “unique” (for lack of a better word) road system in our city which many attribute to why there are so many accidents.

Unfortunately, car accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the United States according to the CDC; with more than 2 million adult drivers and passengers treated in emergency departments annually. The economic and lifetime impacts of car accidents is also substantial; with crash-related deaths and injuries among drivers and passengers costing around $70 billion.

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August 19, 2014

Motorcyclist Awarded $1.15M Settlement in Right of Way Violation Case

A motorcyclist in California was awarded more than one million dollars in a settlement against a woman who collided with him when she drove into his path and violated his right of way.

The motorcycle accident took place in Santa Barbara, California on May 24, 2010. The 55-year-old motorcyclists and construction worker was severely injured during the accident and suffered trauma to both his neck and ankle. According to reports, the woman’s car blocked the man’s path; the man struck the female driver’s car and was catapulted over the top.

Because of his injuries, the motorcyclist was forced to undergo ankle surgery and cervical fusion after months of unsuccessful treatment for his neck pain. Since undergoing surgery, the man has made an excellent recovery. According to court documents, the defending insurance company Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., argued that the motorcyclist had been speeding prior to the accident. The defense also obtained a video of the cyclist picking up and moving items to a storage building within a week of the mediation.

Despite the defense’s claims, the plaintiff claimed speed was not a factor, and it was determined by a life care planner that the man would require future medical treatment due to the severity of the injuries he sustained. The entire process took a year of litigation and was spearheaded by plaintiff attorney Steve Andrade of Andrade Law Offices in Santa Barbara, California.

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August 13, 2014

New Overlap Front Crash Testing Shows Range of Safety Issues with Small Cars

In a recent series of overlap front crash tests involving small vehicles, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that of the 12 cars studied, only the Mini Cooper Countryman earned a good rating.

The small overlap test, which was introduced in 2012, mimics what happens when the corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or stationary object, i.e.; a telephone pole or tree. Since beginning this series of safety testing, the IIHS has observed 32 small cars; the results are staggering. According to the IIHS’s report, only 19 of these small cars earned a good or acceptable rating for their front safety protection, while the remaining 13 earned a rating of marginal or poor.

During the test, 25% of the vehicle’s front end on the driver’s side strikes a rigid barrier while traveling at 40 mph, according to the IIHS’s website. Unlike head-on crash tests, the small overlap test focuses on the bypassing of the vehicles’ front-end crush zone—to test how well the structure can manage crash energy. Often, the occupant compartment collapses during these types of crashes.

By IIHS’s standards, for a vehicle to earn the top rating of good, automakers need to focus on overall crash protection; meaning that an occupant compartment resists intrusion, safety belts prevent a driver from pitching too far forward and side curtain airbags provide enough forward coverage to cushion a head at risk of hitting the dashboard or window frame or things outside the vehicle. Collapsing structures can knock front airbags and seats out of position, exacerbating the problem, the IIHS reports.

In this particular study, only 5 small cars (all 2014 models) were awarded an acceptable rating; two earned marginal; and four earned a poor rating. For a comprehensive list of ratings please click here.

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July 31, 2014

Department of Transportation Proposes New Rules to Protect Motorcoach and Large Bus Passengers in Rollover Crashes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a new federal motor vehicle safety standard yesterday, to protect motor-coach and other large bus passengers in rollover crashes. The proposal seeks to improve the structural design of large buses to ensure that passengers are better protected in the event of a deadly vehicle rollover.

In an article published by the NHTSA, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that, "The consequences for passengers in rollover crashes are severe. I want passengers to know that when this Department sees opportunities to make their travel safer so that they can more confidently visit their families or get to work, we are going to do just that and we believe this proposal is a step in that direction."

The new regulation aims to ensure that performance requirements of large coach busses meet specific and dynamic performance tests in which the bus is tipped over from a raised platform and onto a hard level surface. The most crucial aspect is that the space around passengers remains sufficiently intact and the emergency exits remain operable.

In addition, the new proposed standard would:

- Require space around occupant seating positions to be maintained to afford occupants a survivable space in a crash;
- Require the seats, overhead luggage racks, and window glazing to remain attached to their mountings during and after the test; and
- Require emergency exits to remain closed during the rollover test and operable after the test.
(NHTSA)

The testing procedures and performance requirements are closely modeled after the European regulations for large buses. Separately, the Department is planning on finalizing requirements, scheduled to pass this year, for stability control technologies in these types of vehicles, which would help prevent rollovers from occurring.

According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration administrator Anne Ferro, "Approximately 700 million trips are taken on commercial buses each year. Raising the standard for a motor-coach's durability, in the event of a crash, is critical to saving the lives of the passengers inside.”

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July 30, 2014

Low-Speed Collision ends in $3.1 Million Awarded by Jury

According to the entertainment industry, car accidents are always exceedingly dramatic. They seem to only occur at a high rate of speed, culminating in a chaotic spectacle impressing viewers munching on popcorn in their seats. The problem is that entertainment industry is meant to be taken as just that—entertainment. Car accidents do not always end in movie-worthy fashion, but that does not mean serious injuries are not possible from smaller car accidents or those where the physical property damage is not immediately evident.

What happens if I am injured in a slow speed accident?
Am I still entitled to compensation for my injuries?

The aftermath of a car accident can be an incredibly confusing experience for victims recovering from injuries sustained in the crash. Lack of property damage on the vehicles involved can make the process seem even more frustrating. Victims of slow-speed motor vehicle accidents are urged to contact a Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney as soon as possible to explore all legal options available to them.

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July 21, 2014

IIHS Issues Recommendation Report for Safest Used Cars for Teen Drivers

Being a parent with a teenage driver inevitably causes anxiety, especially when it comes to choosing which car will be safest for them to drive. Because of a teen driver’s lack of experience and budget restrictions, many parents opt to purchase cars that are used and older in model year. Often, these vehicles lack adequate and crash protection and safety technology, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

According to the IIHS report, in a national phone survey conducted for IIHS of parents of teen drivers, 83% of those who bought a vehicle for their teenagers said they bought it used. To assist parents in choosing a safe car for their teenagers, the IIHS recently compiled its first-ever list of recommended used vehicles that don’t break the bank.

Some findings from the IIHS’s report:

Among 500 parents who were surveyed, 43 % reported that the vehicle their child currently drives was purchased around the time he or she began driving. Mini-cars or small cars were the most commonly purchased type of vehicle, with 28% buying from this category. More than 50% of newly purchased vehicles were from the 2006 model year or earlier. That's a problem because older vehicles are much less likely to have safety features such as electronic stability control (ESC) and side airbags.

Teenagers who drove a vehicle that the family already owned were even more likely to drive an older vehicle: 2/3 of those parents said the vehicle was from 2006 or earlier.

A separate IIHS study shows that teenagers killed in crashes are more likely than adults to have been behind the wheel of small vehicles and older vehicles. Among fatally injured drivers ages 15-17 in 2008-12, 29% were in mini-cars or small cars, while 20% of fatally injured drivers ages 35-50 were. 82% of the young teen drivers were in vehicles that were at least 6 years old, compared with 77% of those in the adult group.

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July 16, 2014

I’ve Just Been in Uber Accident, What do I do?

You’re late for work on a rainy morning, you miss the bus. Thankfully, you called an Uber and your ride will be at your door within minutes. Problem solved. But what happens if the Ubercar in which you are travelling gets in to an accident? What should you do?

Don’t panic, we’re here to help.

Uber defines itself as “everyone’s private driver.” A ride-sharing program launched in 2009, the company aims to connect those in need of a ride with their drivers through an iPhone or Android app. Passengers have their credit card information saved in the app, which is also connected to their Facebook accounts, allowing a picture to display for drivers to identify the rider. The amazingly simple operation allows a rider to open the app, and using the GPS capabilities on the phone, request a ride from the drivers close by. Within minutes, the map shows the driver’s arrival, along with their name, picture, license plate number, and the make and model of their car. Upon reaching the desired destination, the driver ends the ride and the card on file is automatically charged.

Uber eliminates the need to call a taxi dispatcher or hail one on the street. Bostonians know how difficult and frustrating it is to deal with taxis in the city, and city dwellers are flocking to the ride-sharing start-up in record numbers. Uber offers a few options to riders depending on how cheap or luxurious they want their car to be. Uber Lux is the most expensive option, offering a riders top-of-the-line sedans like Mercedes, BMW, and Audi. Uber Black and Uber SUV are black livery vehicles driven by professional drivers. Customers can request a taxi through the app, which uses the taxi meter plus an additional fee. The cheapest and most popular option is UberX, in which regular drivers in their personal cars can drive customers to their destinations.

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