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The hypothetical scenario is frightening. You’re enjoying a relaxing ride in your automated car. Windows down, soft rock on the radio, chowing on a cheeseburger without a care in the world. Your smart car has safely navigated you to and from work a thousand times, and you trust it implicitly.

But one day, something in the car’s CPU goes haywire, and it doesn’t recognize a detoured area until it’s far too late. The car suddenly computes that it will have to sharply turn left or right since braking hard would cause a rear-end accident. The only problem is that to the left is a crowd of tourists taking pictures of a statue, and to the right is a single mother carrying her child.

What does the car do? How can a car choose between endangering the lives of people behind you, or choosing to veer into the path of pedestrians? When there is no avoiding a potentially-deadly accident, what implications does that have for an automated vehicles?

A child’s sixteenth birthday can be both exhilarating and anxiety-inducing for parents. On one hand, mom and dad get a much-needed break from driving to soccer practices. On the other hand, parents become understandably concerned about car accidents, drunk driving, and other dangerous behaviors. And that’s not all; parents are often shocked when they find out how much their auto insurance rates are going to increase. It may seem unfair, but teen accident statistics support high rate increases. Read on for more information about how to keep your kids safe and your insurance costs low.

The average insurance increase when a teen driver is added to a married couple’s policy is a whopping 79 percent. If the teen is a boy, it’s even higher at an average of 92 percent. Although these rate increases seem high, they are actually down from previous years. In 2013, for example, the average rate increase was 85 percent. If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, contact a Boston injury lawyer today.

Tips to Keep Insurance Costs Down

If it’s time to add your teen driver to your insurance policy, there’s no way to avoid a rate increase. But there are some steps you can take to reduce the damage to your wallet. The following advice may help keep your costs down:

  • Have your teen driver take a driver safety training course. Most insurance carriers provide discounts for young people who have completed these programs. If you’re not sure, call your insurance company beforehand to determine what discounts apply and how to ensure you receive them.
  • Encourage your teen driver to keep his or her grades in good standing. Some policies provide up to a 15 percent discount for students who maintain a B average or better. Similarly, if your child is on the dean’s list or has received comparable honors, this may equate to money in your pocket.
  • The car matters. High performance vehicles, such as sports cars, will typically result in a greater increase than a basic, four-door sedan. Insurance companies like safe, family vehicles (warning: your teen driver will likely disagree with this logic).
  • Shop around. The best insurance company for your family when it was just mom and dad may not be the best insurance company when it’s mom, dad, and a teenage son.
  • Consider your deductible. If your low premiums encouraged you to get a low deductible, it might make sense to increase your deductible with your rate increase. By increasing your comprehensive and / or collision deductibles by even $500, you may see a significant drop in your overall rate.
  • Teach your teen the importance of utilizing safe driving practices at all times. Make sure he or she gets plenty of practice with you in the car, and on back roads, before driving alone or on highways. Model good behavior; put your cellphone in the glove box when you’re driving, obey the speed limit, pay attention to the road, and buckle up. Once your teen driver develops a history of good driving habits, the rates will begin to drop.

The reality is, there’s a very good chance your teen driver will be involved in a fender bender at some point. Accidents happen. But teaching and modeling good driving behaviors can dramatically reduce your child’s chances of being seriously injured or killed in a motor vehicle collision. If you’ve been injured in any type of auto accident, contact a Boston personal injury lawyer today. Continue reading

Motor vehicle accidents can be a physically, emotionally, and financially stressful experience. In addition to injuries and property damage, the need to deal with insurance companies can be equally stressful and intimidating. Most of us don’t talk to our insurance agents on a very frequent basis, which can make post-accident discussions impersonal and confusing. Further, there’s a common misconception that an accident drives up insurance rates. That’s simply not always the case. If you’ve been involved in an auto accident, contact a Boston motor vehicle accident lawyer.

So, what does impact your insurance rates? Following an accident, the insurance company will consider multiple factors to determine whether to increase rates and if so, by how much. The following factors will likely impact whether or not your insurance rates will rise.

  • Your driving history: This is a big one. If you’ve previously been involved in multiple accidents, the likelihood of a rate increase is much greater than if this is your first fender bender. In addition to previous accidents, insurance companies will consider traffic citations and speeding tickets. If you have a clean driving history, the chances of a rate increase are low.
  • How serious was the accident? A fender bender is less likely to result in a rate increase than an accident involving multiple vehicles, serious injuries, and extensive property damage. In most cases, the greater the claim, the higher the rate increase.
  • Who’s to blame? If the accident wasn’t your fault, your rates probably won’t see an increase. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will likely pay the claim, so if the accident isn’t your fault, your insurance company should be off the hook. Even if you have to make an uninsured or underinsured claim against your policy, your low insurance rates may be safe. In these more complicated cases, having an accident report can be immensely beneficial to the outcome of your case. Alternatively, if you are the at-fault driver, you are almost guaranteed to see a rate increase. If fault is due to reckless driving or OUI, your insurer may actually drop your policy.
  • Accident forgiveness. Your insurance policy may have an add-on called accident forgiveness which allows you to file small claims without the fear of a rate increase. But buyer beware. Most of these products are subject to certain conditions, so review your policy thoroughly to determine if an accident forgiveness add-on is worth it. If you need help reviewing this product or any other type of auto insurance policy or add-on, contact a skilled Boston injury lawyer today.

The bottom line is this – an auto accident does not guarantee an insurance rate increase. Don’t let your fear of a rate increase keep you from pursuing a claim. If you’ve been involved in any type of motor vehicle accident, you should seek legal representation immediately. Continue reading

Motor vehicle accidents resulting in serious injuries and death have been declining in recent years. Much of this decline is directly related to improved vehicle safety features. From back-up cameras and sensors to lane-keep assist, advanced safety technologies have had a positive impact on American roadways. Toyota recently patented one of the newest technologies, an “augmented-reality windshield”. The smart windshield has the potential to alert drivers to road hazards and provide enhanced information throughout the driving process.

Vehicle Safety Features

Although Toyota’s new windshield is still in planning stages, it is just one many emerging technologies aimed at improving road safety. Other popular safety features include:

  • Lane-keep assist: When a vehicle drifts out of its intended lane, this feature will gently steer the vehicle back into the original lane.
  • Collision warning system: If a collision seems imminent, this feature will alert the driver.
  • Advanced park assist: This system allows a driver to parallel park without touching the steering wheel.
  • Adaptive headlights: Instead of relying on a fixed setting, advanced headlights adapt to changing road conditions.
  • Adaptive cruise control: This feature maintains the driver-set speed but adjusts based on changing distance of the vehicle ahead.
  • Drowsiness alert: Using a combination of driver and vehicle data, this system alerts the driver when he or she needs to pull over and rest.

Does Eliminating Human Error = Safer Roads?

Most of the above features were born out of a trend toward self-driving vehicles.  “The movement toward autonomous vehicles — self-driving cars — has brought high-tech safety features to today’s cars, too,” says the vice president of property and casualty loss prevention and safety programs for USAA, Jim Salek. “Many of the groundbreaking advances in the area of car safety have come from these efforts.” Human error is almost always involved in motor vehicle accidents, so it stands to reason that autonomous – or at least partially-autonomous cars would be safer.

Toyota’s smart windshield has multiple features aimed at improving the driving experience and reducing serious injuries and death. For example, information such as navigation and speed are displayed on the windshield, preventing the driver from having to take his or her eyes off the road at regular intervals. If you have been injured, contact a Boston injury lawyer today.

Displaying information on the windshield is not particularly new. However, in addition to simply displaying the info, it is placed in the best spot for the driver’s viewing needs.  “An [engine control module] analyzes the steering angle and speed, a front-mounted camera identifies the lane markings, and an interior camera finds the driver’s viewpoint,” claims a report on the Autoblog website. “By combining this data, the system moves the information around the windshield to be in the best location.” For example, when speeds increase, the display will move up on the windshield and the information will get smaller as the driver’s gaze moves up. The Autoblog report went on to say, “Toyota’s patent seems both incredibly useful and quite realistic.The individual components for this tech already exist, but [Toyota’s] idea employs them in new ways. We hope the company licenses the idea out for other HUDs because the applications could be a lot of fun.” Continue reading

Holiday shopping before Christmas and holiday returns after Christmas can make parking lots a chaotic, crowded mess. Especially when New England winters add a healthy serving of snow, ice, and slush. It’s also an opportune time for thieves to stake out parked cars for gifts and gadgets. Extra traffic and adverse weather conditions can result in parking lot injuries and property damage. So, who’s liable for damages if you have an accident in a parking lot? Read on for more information about parking lot-related slip and fall accidents, collisions and theft, and who is responsible for any damages incurred.

Premises Liability

Whether in the parking lot or in the store, premises liability holds property owners legally responsible for maintaining their property at all times. Therefore, if a poorly-maintained parking lot causes injuries or property damage, the property owner will likely be liable for those damages. Management may be responsible if they knew, or should have known, that parking lot conditions were poor but failed to correct the problem. For example, if an area of a parking lot is covered in a sheet of ice, that area may be roped off to caution drivers against parking there. Alternatively, the icy-spots could be covered with ice melt to improve traction. If these steps are not taken, management has failed to take reasonable precautions and can be liable for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and costs to fix property damage.

In 2010, the Supreme Court updated its application of the “reasonable person” standard, saying,“If a property owner knows or reasonably should know of a dangerous condition on its property, whether arising from an accumulation of snow or ice, or rust on a railing, or a discarded banana peel, the property owner owes a duty to lawful visitors to make reasonable efforts to protect against the danger.”  If you’ve been injured in a parking lot-related accident, contact a Boston injury lawyer today.

Parking Lot Collisions

At this time of year parking lots are filled throughout Massachusetts, people are shopping for post Christmas deals or returning items from the holiday.  That combined with cold wet and slippery weather is a recipe for trouble. The same rules that apply on the road generally apply in parking lots. Always use caution, pedestrians always have the right of way, drive on the proper side, and of course drive with caution. If you are involved in a parking lot accident it’s important to treat it the same as if were on a city street.   As with all motor vehicle accidents, it’s wise to document as much information as possible. If you are able to do so, photograph injuries and property damage from multiple angles, exchange insurance and contact information with other drivers involved, and ask witnesses for statements and contact information. You should also call the police. An official police report can be immensely helpful in a lawsuit. If you’ve been involved in a parking lot collision, contact a MA injury lawyer today. Continue reading

Global warming has had a significant impact on our planet, including winter weather patterns. But up here in New England, we still have at least a few years – fingers crossed – before winters become a thing of the past. As we prepare for the holidays, let’s also prepare our vehicles for winter travel. In addition to saving money and wear-and-tear on our cars, preparation can also save lives. If you’ve been injured in any type of motor vehicle accident, contact a Boston injury lawyer today.

Winter-Travel Safety Tips

The tips below will help protect you, and everyone you share the road with, this winter season.

The winter supply box: Sliding off the road late at night can leave you stranded for hours, especially if you’re traveling on back roads. You may find yourself cold, hungry, thirsty, and vulnerable to a host of other situations. Having a box of emergency supplies in your trunk can save your life. At the very least, it will make you a lot more comfortable as you await rescue. What should you put in the box? The below items will help keep you safe and happy in an emergency:

  • Blankets
  • Hat, gloves, and warm socks
  • Winter boots
  • Road flares
  • Flashlight
  • Charged cell phone and / or a two-way radio
  • Bag of sand and a shovel (you may be able to shovel away excess snow and use the sand for traction)
  • Ice scraper
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Bottled water

You can put all of these items in a Rubbermaid container and store them in your trunk. You may never need them, but if you do, you will be eternally grateful to yourself. And if you find yourself with medical bills and vehicle damage due to another’s negligence, contact a MA injury lawyer today.

Monitor antifreeze and engine coolant levels: If antifreeze or coolant is low, you could find yourself stranded when the temperatures drop. Most auto supply stores carry kits that allow you to check these levels, and adding antifreeze is cheap and easy to do.

Tires: Possibly the most important component of safe winter travel, good tires are a non-negotiable. Check tires for appropriate pressure – not too full, not too low – and ensure that tread is a good depth. You can check pressure with a gauge (also easy to find at auto supply stores). If your tires are in need of air, most gas stations have air pumps that will do the trick. The best way to test for proper tread depth is the “Lincoln test”. Stick a penny between your tire’s tread with the former-president’s head pointing downward. If his entire head is visible, it’s time to replace the tires.

Winter wiper fluid: Not all wiper fluids are created equal. Standard wiper fluid can freeze in the winter, whereas winter fluid can actually loosen ice and snow from the windshield, and it doesn’t freeze. And while you’re at it, ask for a winter-grade oil when you go in for your next oil change. Continue reading

Today we have wearable fitness trackers, sensors that detect a drop in blood sugar for people with diabetes, and sweat patches to monitor drug use in people on probation. It seems logical to assume that we could also detect the amount of alcohol in our bloodstream without the need for a blood test or traditional breathalyzer. With this type of technology, individuals could monitor their blood alcohol content (BAC) prior to getting behind the wheel to determine if they are under the legal limit. But it would also law enforcement to monitor individuals with OUI convictions. If you’ve been charged with OUI, contact a Boston defense attorney today.

Less Embarrassing Than an IID

If you are convicted of OUI, you may be permitted to continue driving with the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID). By blowing into the device, you allow the system to measure your BAC; if alcohol is detected, the engine won’t start. Unfortunately, IIDs are expensive to install (a cost the offender must absorb), and they can be embarrassing. Can you imagine a first date where you have to blow into a device to start your car after dinner? For these reasons, as well as to allow individuals to check their BAC before getting behind the wheel, engineers have been working on a more efficient method of detection.

Researchers from the University of California San Diego have developed a wearable device that can effectively measure BAC. The “temporary tattoo” adheres to the skin, induces sweat production, measures the individual’s BAC, and sends that data to a smartphone, laptop, or IID, eliminating the need to blow into a device to start your car. The alcohol sensor communicates the information via Bluetooth. Although BAC is most accurately measured with blood tests, breath and perspiration also provide reliable results. Sweat-reliant devices have been in the works for years, but they haven’t been particularly reliable until now. There was a dangerous delay in results; it could take hours for the sweat’s measurements to match the actual BAC. That problems has been resolved; the new sensor can “accurately monitor alcohol level in sweat within 15 minutes.” Contact a Massachusetts OUI lawyer today.

Sweat Sensors May Allow Drinkers to Self-Monitor

In addition to providing an alternative to IIDs, PhD Student Jayoung Kim, one of the sensor’s creators, hopes that it can help drinkers monitor their ability to drive safely. “”When you’re out at a party or at a bar,” said Kim, “this sensor could send alerts to your phone to let you know how much you’ve been drinking.” Beyond self-monitoring and allowing those convicted of OUIs to resume driving, sweat patches may also one day be used to monitor a person’s BAC even when not driving. This could be useful in certain situations, such as probation cases, but certainly has the potential to be highly invasive. Then again, information sharing, across the board, has been moving in that direction. From social media to face scanning software, the idea of privacy has been undergoing a significant shift in recent years, for better or for worse. Continue reading

Tractor-trailers, also called 18-wheelers and big rigs, are frequently involved in accidents. And an accident with a large truck often results in serious injuries or death. Due to the nature of the business, trucks are on the road for longer hours than other vehicles. During the consumer-driven holiday season, they often clock more hours than normal. All motor vehicle accidents can be deadly, but those involving large trucks are typically more serious due to their massive size and weight. To avoid being involved in a deadly accident with a large truck, learn about the most common causes of tractor-trailer accidents. Contact a Boston personal injury lawyer today if you’ve been injured in a trucking accident.

Three Most Common Causes of Tractor-Trailer Accidents

  • Distracted driving: The risk of distracted driving isn’t exclusive to truck drivers. With today’s technology, millions of drivers, from teens to the elderly, engage in texting or talking while driving at least occasionally. Although distracted driving is always dangerous, it’s especially so when operating an 80,000 pound vehicle. To avoid being injured in an accident involving a distracted truck driver, always drive defensively.
  • Fatigued driving: Due to the nature of the business, truck drivers are often expected to drive for hours on end to meet delivery requirements. Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has implemented “hours of service” rules to limit the number of consecutive hours a truck driver can be behind the wheel, excessively long shifts are still a problem. Sometimes, drivers or trucking companies lie in their driving logs. Other times, even the capped hours are too long for that particular driver. Fatigued driving and driver exhaustion are a very real problem. Again, defensive driving is key. Fatigued driving can be a problem at any hour of the day, but it’s most prevalent late at night or in the early morning hours.
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol: For some truck drivers, the open road is a lonely place to be. Many truckers spend 60 to 80 hours behind the wheel every week. In addition to prescription medications for everything from depression to anxiety, more and more truck drivers are turning to illicit drugs to help them deal. Some truckers use drugs such as speed or cocaine to keep them from falling asleep during long shifts. Let’s be clear – the vast majority of truck drivers do not engage in these types of behaviors. However, it has become enough of a problem in recent years that it’s worth discussing. According to experts, there are about 200,000 truck drivers with substance abuse problems on the road today. Recent studies revealed that more than 12 percent of truck drivers tested positive for alcohol abuse and eight percent of truckers use amphetamines while driving.

Continue reading

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,179 Americans died as the result of distracted driving in 2014. The total number of traffic deaths have risen more than 10 percent from the first half of 2015 to the first half of 2016.  According to AAA, 58 percent of the 963,000 automobile accidents involving teens aged 16-19 in 2013 were linked in some way to distracted driving. Approximately 10 percent of the 2,865 teen driving fatalities in 2013 were also linked to distracted driving.

When most people think of distracted driving, they think of people that are behind the wheel doing their makeup, checking their hair, eating a hamburger or updating their Facebook page about how annoying it is to sit in traffic. However, a lesser-discussed element of distracted driving is driving when you’re tired, or “drowsy driving.”  Driving while tired can affect anybody, from 16-year-olds headed to school after staying up too late the night before to professional truck drivers who have stringent schedules to keep that don’t allow for proper resting. But as much as we think it is sufficient enough to guzzle a coffee or open a window to feel a cold breeze, the dangers of driving while drowsy are very real.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that:

Reuters reported in late October that Toyota had invested around $10 million in Getaround, a ride-sharing service based out of San Francisco that was founded in 2009. Getaround is different from services like Uber, as users of Getaround can search their local area for available privately-owned rental cars that they can rent and use personally for as little at $5.  Users have access to these rental vehicles for a certain amount of time, rather than simply being ferried from one location to the next like with Lyft or Uber. Automotive speculative analysts have reasoned that Toyota’s investment in a ride-sharing entity indicates they are stacking their chips for the upcoming industrial boom of driverless taxi services. Some project that the first fully-automated driving services will be enacted by 2020.

The potential benefits of driverless taxi services are multiple, and are enough for more than 18 large companies to invest resources into at least studying its practicality. In theory, they can create less traffic, lessen pollution, and increase the efficiency and safety of roads. Of course, on the other hand, a world filled with driverless taxis means millions of taxi drivers and drivers who work for companies like Uber will be out of a job.  While the technology is essentially ready for implementation, the legal framework surrounding driverless cars and taxis is a continuously-developing headache. There is no telling how legislation will translate between federal, state, and local lines, or if it will be possible to form any solid ground rules anytime soon.

After all, who is at fault when an accident inevitably occurs between a human driver and a driverless car? How about an accident that occurs between two autonomous vehicles? There are hundreds of possible factors in play and dozens of parties that could be at fault. Taking into consideration these uncertainties, most analysts don’t foresee driverless taxis making a significant impact on the world for at least a decade or two.  No matter how this industry, plucked straight from the pages of science fiction, pans out in the future, the fact that huge companies such as Toyota are entering the driverless car game proves that this is no fad or silly pie-in-the-sky fantasy. Driverless cars, and taxis, are coming sooner rather than later.

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