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Articles Posted in Driving Hazards

According to a recent national study, Massachusetts has the 10th highest distracted driving rate in the nation, and deadly crashes skyrocket at this time of year, specifically between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Distracted driving has been a problem since Henry Ford’s Model T first rambled down American roadways, but distracted driving-related crashes have spiked in recent years, as handheld and vehicle technologies compete for our already divided attention.

Distracted driving is especially prevalent among young people, who are more inclined to engage in texting while driving. In fact, teens are four times more likely to text or talk on a cell phone while driving than their adult counterparts. Considering that one out of every four U.S. car accidents is caused by texting and driving, and that 11 teens die—every day—due to texting and driving, something must be done. A Boston car accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another driver’s negligence.

One Father’s Fight

In 2007, Jerry Cibley of Foxboro MA was on the phone with his son when Jordan crashed into a tree and died. The young man was only 18. Since the tragedy, the distraught father has campaigned endlessly to end distracted driving nationwide.

“I talk to children all of the time,” said Cibley. “I talk to teens. I talk to parents. I tell them my story and I say, ‘Look at me. I died on May 13, 2007, along with my child.”

A total of 16 states have already legislated a ban against texting or dialing while driving. Is Massachusetts one of them? Although the Bay State has one of the highest incidences of distracted driving in the country, an official ban on hand-held devices has not yet taken effect. And the reason has nothing to do with public opposition. In fact, a recent poll revealed that a whopping 80 percent of those registered to vote in MA support a ban on hand-held mobile devices when behind the wheel.

Concerns About Racial Profiling

The MA Senate is in agreement with voters. Although the Senate passed a ban about a year ago, the bill hasn’t yet made it out of the Massachusetts House. State Rep. Byron Rushing is the biggest critic of the bill, saying he refuses to support it without an official provision that ensures it won’t lead to an increase in traffic stops involving persons of color. Although this is an important issue to consider, the Senate bill already addresses this potential problem; data must be collected on all traffic stops related to the use of hand-held devices to measure whether racial profiling is occurring. A MA car accident attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been injured by another driver’s negligence.

Obviously, the best way to reduce the growing risk of distracted driving-related fatalities is for drivers to take the issue into their own hands. In addition to teaching our children (and reminding them every day) that texting or talking while driving is deadly, we should practice what we preach. Adults are far from innocent when it comes to texting and driving. We can also utilize any of a number of apps that specifically address the issue of distracted driving. For example, iPhones can self-lock when the user is driving, and send notification text messages to anyone trying to contact the driver. Continue reading

According to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), failing to properly use turn signals contributes to nearly two million car accidents annually. To further emphasize the severity of this problem, the SAE study compared improper turn signal use to distracted driving, which receives significantly more attention. Only 950,000 crashes are caused by distracted driving each year; that’s less than half of those involving turn signal errors.

The SAE study, which observed 12,000 cars, revealed that 48 percent of drivers failed to properly use their turn signal when changing lanes, or to turn the signal off after the lane change had been completed. In addition, about 25 percent of the drivers observed didn’t use a signal at all when making a right or left-hand turn. Based on this research, the SAE estimates that signal errors occur approximately two billion times every day—750 billion times each year—and that these errors significantly contribute to multi-vehicle accidents.

In addition to warning to drivers to be certain that they are using their turn signals properly, the SAE report also recommends that law enforcement officials put more resources into penalizing drivers who neglect to use turn signals, and to equip new vehicles with a system that warns drivers when turns signals are being used improperly. A Boston motor vehicle accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Why are Turn Signals So Important?

Turn signals are one of the most important, and basic, types of vehicle-to-vehicle communication. Proper use of turn signals is an extremely effective way to reduce collisions, as turn signals give other drivers ample time to decrease their speed so that you can safely turn or change lanes.

“[A]ll drivers have an ongoing duty to use [their turn signal], just as they have a duty to stop at a stop sign or at a red light,” said Richard Ponziani, one of the SAE report’s authors.

Effective Turn Signal Use

It may seem like a no-brainer, but not everyone knows the correct way to use turn signals. Follow the tips below to help reduce the risk of collisions, and to ensure that you don’t get stopped by police for improper turn signal use.

  • Approximately 100-200 feet before your intended turn or lane change, use your turn signal to warn other drivers.
  • Before making a maneuver, first check for pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles. Don’t just expect that everyone sees your signal.
  • Once your maneuver is complete, turn off your signal. A signal that remains on after a turn or lane change can be confusing to other drivers.

With proper turn signal use, we can reduce the risk of motor vehicle accidents on our roadways, while simultaneously protecting our selves and our families. A MA car accident lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence. Continue reading

The City of Boston is making its streets smart with technology – such as cameras and sensors – to learn how people interact on, and with, Boston’s streets. The Vision Zero initiative, which is being implemented in multiple cities across the country – aims to put an end to serious motor vehicle crashes. Through the data collected via camera and sensor technology, Boston can re-imagine its streets, improving design and overall safety.

 

Working with Verizon, the City of Boston is gathering data at city intersections, including the one at Massachusetts Avenue and Beacon Street. This data will be used to determine what, if any, changes need to be made. To gather necessary data, this pilot program is using video cameras, LED lights, and sensors placed under the road. Possible changes may include:

  • increased enforcement of traffic rules,
  • better public education about traffic rules,
  • improved sidewalks, streets, and signage.

Once acquired, the data is uploaded into a web-based platform for analysis and reporting. A Boston motor vehicle accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

What Type of Data is Being Gathered?

  • How different types of vehicles – including bicycles – move during green, yellow, and red traffic signals
  • Whether vehicles tend to remain in the intersection for an extended period of time
  • Where pedestrians are using crosswalks
  • How pedestrians respond to “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” traffic signals
  • The frequency with which motor vehicles and cyclists yield to pedestrians in crosswalks
  • Use of bike lanes by cyclists
  • Situations that result in cyclists riding outside those lanes

What About Privacy?

There has been some concern about privacy as records of vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians are collected, and video data is analyzed. According to the City of Boston, the data is anonymous. No specific personal information is attached to any records. Additionally, the City will not have access to any video footage. Rather, Verizon – who owns the data – provides basic information to the City, such as the number of pedestrians on a given day. Neither Verizon nor the City will use biometric software to read license plates or perform facial recognition analysis. Further, the video will not track specific individuals or issue traffic tickets.

Smart Streets, Smart City

Vision Zero’s “Smart Streets” are just one part of the overall “Smart City” technology, with which the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics is experimenting. Other smart city technology includes self-driving vehicles and smart parking sensors, “Internet of all Things” devices, and interactive public art. A MA personal injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Considering that there are more than five million car accidents annually, and about 80 people die in car accidents every day, Boston’s initiative to reduce serious and fatal accidents to zero is both encouraging and challenging. As technology continues to advance, however, the rate of fatal accidents is likely to drop. This is good news for all. In the meantime, always wear your seat belt, don’t speed, don’t text and drive, and never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Continue reading

Driverless cars will likely be the main mode of transportation in the future, but that future may be a bit more distant than expected. A self-driving taxi pilot project in Las Vegas ended with less-than-desirable results last week. After only a few hours of shuttling people around the city, the driverless van collided with a delivery truck as it was backing into an alley to make a delivery. According to the initial investigation, the human driver did something that the robot car couldn’t have anticipated.

Last Wednesday, the pod-like shuttle was on day one of offering complimentary rides around a small loop in Vegas. No one was injured in the collision, but it is cause for concern. It also brings to light a glaring issue that designers of driverless vehicles have yet to figure out – how can self-driving vehicles effectively interact with those driven by humans?

“This is exactly the kind of real-world scenario that this pilot is attempting to learn from,” said John Moreno, AAA spokesman. “This is one of the most advanced pieces of technology on the planet, and it’s just now learning how to interact with humans and human driving.”

Robots Don’t Understand Nonverbal Communication

The reality is, humans use nonverbal communication signals when driving every day. The truck, which was backing up when it shouldn’t have been, collided into the driverless pod stopped behind it. Had a human been driving the pod, he or she would have likely given in to the truck’s nonverbal request to “get out of my way,” by backing up. Had there not been another vehicle behind the pod, it may have done the same. However, the pod appeared to freeze in place, unable to determine how to react – can’t move forward, can’t back up.

According to a reporter who was on board at the time of the incident, a human would have probably responded differently. “We had about 20 feet of empty street behind us (I looked) and most human drivers would have thrown the car into reverse and used some of that space to get away from the truck,” wrote Jeff Zurschmeide, a reporter for Digitaltrends.com. “Or at least leaned on the horn and made our presence harder to miss. The shuttle didn’t have those responses in its program.”

Police arrived at the scene, issuing a ticket to the truck driver.

The purpose the the AAA-sponsored pilot program is to expose riders to driverless technology and determine how these vehicles perform in real-world situations. There is a human operator on board during the pilot rides, but the incident simply happened too quickly for the operator to react. A Boston car accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

The Las Vegas pilot project incident isn’t the first crash involving a driverless car. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) criticized Tesla Inc.’s semi-autonomous systems in September, referencing a fatal 2016 accident involving the Tesla Model S. The Model S allows the driver to go “hands-free” for an extended period. Basically, it can steer itself. Unfortunately, a driver in Florida was killed when his Model S, which was steering itself at the time, crashed into a truck. NTSB ruled that, although the human drivers were the main cause of the accident, the autopilot design was a contributing factor.

This recent self-driving accident in Las Vegas shows the difficulties that driverless vehicles have when it comes to nonverbal communication. This type of communication occurs with great frequency between human drivers every day. The truck driver may not have seen the pod, but it’s more likely that he expected it to move.

“He probably had an expectation that the shuttle would back off and allow him to do his thing,” said Duke University robotics professor Missy Cummings. “Obviously that doesn’t work. There wasn’t the logic inside this little shuttle to anticipate this.” A MA auto accident attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence. Continue reading

Harsh winters and less-than-ideal driving conditions are a fact of life in New England. If we could all avoid driving when roadways are covered with snow and ice, winterizing our vehicles wouldn’t be so important. But the reality is, most of us can’t avoid driving when the weather outside is frightful. The need to commute to work, shuttle the kids to and from school and sports practices, and run errands doesn’t go away during the winter months. Read on for more information about how to dramatically reduce your risk of being involved in a winter weather-related motor vehicle accident.

Don’t Get Left Out in the Cold

Follow the tips below to ensure that your vehicle is ready for winter driving conditions.

  • Check your windshield wipers. The life cycle of a wiper blade is not particularly long; they generally need replaced every year. Get new wipers if you’re due, and make sure that your wiper fluid is full while you’re at it.
  • Get an oil change and ensure that you use the right type of oil for the season. Oil thickens when the temperatures drop, so you may need a thinner oil than you would use during summer months.
  • Keep your gas tank as close to full as possible during winter months. If you get stranded, you can’t run the heat if your car runs out of gas. A Boston auto accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a car accident.
  • Take your vehicle in for a check up. Winter weather can take a toll on batteries, belts, and hoses. To give your car a chance, it’s a good idea to ensure that these parts are in solid, working order at the start of the season. Repair shops can determine if your battery is strong enough to hold a charge, and that your belts and hoses don’t have excessive wear and tear. If you have four-wheel drive, your mechanic can also make sure that it’s working properly.
  • Good tires are essential during winter months. Poor inflation and / or tread can result in poor traction, a situation which is only made worse when roads are covered in snow, slush, or ice. Tire pressure generally drops with outside temps. Consult your owner’s manual to determine what your tire pressure should be, and fill it to that level. Keep in mind that over-inflated tires can be just as dangerous as under-inflated tires. Also ensure that your tires have adequate tread. “Bald” tires can be deadly any time of year, but especially in winter. If it’s time to invest in new tires, consider getting snow tires.
  • Put an “emergency kit” in your truck. If you have an accident or break down on a less-traveled roadway or late at night, you may be stranded for a few hours or more. Keep yourself safe and comfortable by storing the following items in your car during winter months:
  • Blankets
  • Boots, gloves, and scarf
  • Set of warm clothes, including socks
  • Bottles of water and non-perishable snacks
  • Flashlight
  • Snow shovel
  • Ice scraper
  • Flares
  • Spare tire
  • Jumper cables
  • Tools to change a tire
  • First-aid kit
  • A bag of sand or kitty litter for traction if stuck in snow
  • If you do get stranded, stay with your vehicle unless you know exactly where you are and how to quickly walk to safety. If you have cell reception, call for help. Light your flares and place at both ends of your vehicle. A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a car accident.

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The dangers of driving drunk are well known. But what about driving tired? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatigued or drowsy driving leads to more than 100,000 reported accidents annually in the United States.

When it comes to driving, fatigue is an impairment, much like alcohol. One major difference between fatigued driving and drunk driving, however, is that fatigue cannot be easily measured with a breath or blood test. If you think a fatigued driver is responsible for your injuries, a Boston personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages.

Symptoms of Fatigued Driving

If you think you are too tired to drive safely, don’t get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, people often don’t realize they are fatigued until it’s too late. Below are some common symptoms of driver fatigue. If you notice yourself doing any of these things, pull over.

  • Repeated yawning
  • Difficulty focusing, both visually and cognitively
  • Head nodding
  • Daydreaming
  • Drifting in and out of your lane
  • Rubbing your eyes
  • Frequent blinking
  • Hallucinating

Risk Factors for Fatigued Driving

Most of us have had at least one or two experiences with fatigued driving, but some people drive while drowsy on a daily basis. This is of special concern for long-haul truck drivers, late shift workers, and medical professionals who put in 12 and 14-hour shifts. Driver fatigue is also common among people with obesity, certain health problems, and those who smoke. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs are also notorious for causing driver fatigue. Talk to your health care provider about these risks if you are currently taking any type of medication. You may have a high risk of driver fatigue if you:

  • are between the ages of 16 and 29.
  • are a shift worker who works irregular hours, or at night.
  • have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, such as narcolepsy.

Fatigued driving can be just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. In both scenarios, our reaction time is slower, our judgment is impaired, and our overall awareness is significantly decreased. We may also develop aggressive behaviors and become moody or irritable when fatigued, none of which support safe driving practices. When we are unfocused and agitated, the chance for a collision increases dramatically. Not to mention, fatigued driving can lead to falling asleep behind the wheel, which rarely ends well.

Fatigued Driving Statistics

The statistics below provide a deeper look into the problem of fatigued driving, and how you can avoid becoming a statistic.

  • Approximately one in 25 adults say they have fallen asleep behind the wheel in the previous 30 days.
  • Individuals who snore are more likely to fall asleep while driving.
  • More than 6,000 traffic fatalities annually are caused by fatigued or drowsy driving.
  • Men are nearly twice as likely as women to fall asleep behind the wheel.
  • Fatigued driving is more common among adults with young children in the household.
  • An Australian study revealed that being awake for 24 hours produces a level of impairment equal to that of an intoxicated person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .10, which is well above the legal limit.
  • A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) revealed that only about one in five drivers pulls over to nap when fatigued.
  • Younger adults are less likely to pull over when tired than their older counterparts.

If you feel fatigue coming on while driving, protect yourself and anyone with whom you share the road. Pull over. A 20-minute nap may just save your life. A MA auto accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another driver’s negligence. Continue reading

It should be obvious, shouldn’t it? Using Facebook or Instagram while driving is a bad idea. But knowing what’s right and doing what’s right are two entirely different things. Unfortunately, statistics show that although we may know the dangers of using social media while driving, we’re still doing it. A recent survey sponsored by the National Safety Council revealed that 74% of those surveyed use Facebook while driving, and 37% use Twitter. YouTube and Instagram came in close behind. People are even playing video games while driving. Last year, a Maryland man crashed into a parked police car while playing “Pokemon Go.”

In 2008, Jennifer Smith’s mother was killed when a 20-year-old who was using her cell phone drove through a red light. “As I’m talking to new families, more and more of them are telling me, ‘It’s Snapchat,’ ” said Smith. “It’s Snapchat today, but then what is it tomorrow? You know, we’ve got the ‘Pokemon Go’ coming, and then it’s the next thing.” Smith works full time to lobby for legislation that will prevent accidents like the one that killed her mother. “Social networking while driving is not necessary and should not be done by anyone, in any way, who’s driving. Period. And somehow we’ve got to make the whole country understand that.” A MA auto accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by a distracted driver.

Distracted Driving Likely a Factor in One-Quarter of all Crashes in Massachusetts and Around the Country

Unfortunately, it looks like we have a long way to go before drivers – especially young drivers – change their distracted-driving habits. In a recent survey of 2,500 teens, nearly 70 percent admitted to using apps while they drive. Only six percent of those surveyed said they think that social media is the most distracting behavior while driving. But distracted driving kills an average of eight people every day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And that is likely a massive underestimation. Proving that an accident was caused by distracted driving isn’t an easy thing to do. The National Safety Council estimates that distracted driving is actually responsible for about 25 percent of all crashes.

Social Media Slows Reaction Time More than Alcohol

In fact, according to a study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory and the Institute of Advanced Motorists, the reaction time for a driver who has been drinking is reduced by 12 percent; for someone on their smart phone, it’s a 38 percent reduction. And the use of social media is making things even worse. Kids are growing up in a society where it’s socially acceptable to post a picture of the congested traffic they’re sitting in on their drive home. Distracted driving is never ok. A Boston auto accident attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by a distracted driver. Continue reading

Summer is the most popular season for day trips, road trips, and trips to the lake or beach. Although the more obvious hazards of winter, such as snow and ice, have vanished for the foreseeable future, summer driving carries its own set of risks. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), July and August are the two deadliest months for car accidents. What makes summer driving so dangerous, and how can you avoid becoming a statistic?

Common Hazards

There are multiple factors that increase the risk of driving in summer, but the main issue is the significant uptick in traffic. More people on the road equals more opportunities for accidents. Summer driving hazards include:

 

  • Novice drivers: Suddenly, millions of teens who were previously in school Monday through Friday are now on the open road, with little to do but celebrate. In addition to their lack of experience, young drivers often have a sense of invincibility and adventure that can result in dangerous driving behaviors, such as speeding. You can reduce this risk by traveling at off-peak hours, always driving defensively, and teaching your teen child about the risks of speeding, and reckless or distracted driving.

 

  • Heavy traffic: As stated above, there are more people on the road in summer than during any other season. In addition to school vacation and trips to the beach, there are also festivals, fairs and concerts just about every night of the week. Traffic can be especially heavy in tourist areas and around cities. Use caution; always leave ample space between your car and the car in front of you, drive defensively, and never allow yourself to be distracted when driving on a congested roadway. A Boston auto accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a car accident.

 

  • Construction: Summer is construction season. The sight of orange traffic cones is a good indicator that warmer weather is on the horizon. Construction zones are inherently dangerous. Lane changes can be confusing, and not everyone slows down to the required speed. And to make things even more harrowing, men and women working in the construction zone may be difficult to see. When approaching a construction zone, reduce your speed immediately, and avoid any type of distraction; don’t even adjust the air conditioning.

 

  • Cyclists and motorcycles: Cycling and riding are synonymous with summer. These environmentally-sound and economical modes of transportation are a good thing, but it may be difficult to see riders and cyclists due to their small size. Before switching lanes, always double check for motorcycles and cyclists in your blind spots. A MA motor vehicle accident lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in an accident involving a motorcycle.

 

  • Heavy rain: Heavy storms, and even light rain, can make roadways dangerous. Hydroplaning occurs when tires lose traction with the road. Anyone who has ever hydroplaned knows how scary it can be; you temporarily lose control of the vehicle, much like on icy roads. To avoid hydroplaning, reduce speeds during rainfall, avoid driving during heavy rains if possible, and make sure your tires have adequate traction.

 

  • Blowouts: Hot roads and hot air during summer months can cause the air inside of tires to expand. If a tire is excessively worn, air expansion can result in a tire blowout. Blowouts, especially at high speeds, can be disastrous. To prevent this type of accident, you should replace your tires at least once every five years, and check them regularly for proper traction and inflation.

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On March 1, 2017, the Safety Institute released its quarterly Vehicle Safety Watch List to identify those vehicles with a higher-than-average risk of dangerous defects. The report uses statistics from Early Warning Reports, including injury and death claims. Although the list does not include automobile defects that have already been made official, it does take into account consumer reports that warn of potential dangers. Nearly half of the vehicles on the list are GM vehicles.

The March 2017 Vehicle Safety Watch List identifies 15 vehicles that may have dangerous defects. These include:

  • 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4×4 – Powertrain

A 45-year old Dennisport woman was struck and killed earlier this week when she stopped to check on a flat tire. The woman was traveling westbound on Route 6 when she pulled onto the shoulder of the Cape Cod highway. According to police, this area of the highway does not have a breakdown lane. As the woman exited her vehicle, she was struck by a pickup truck driven by a 22-year old Dennis man. The victim, whose name has not been released, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

Safety Tips for Roadside Breakdowns

This tragedy is a stark reminder of the dangers of roadside breakdowns, especially when they occur at night, and on highways or other busy stretches of road. Obviously, if a tire blows or your vehicle breaks down, you have little choice about when and where to pull over. If the area isn’t safe, what do you do? According to the National Safety Council, the tips below can help prevent serious injury and death in the event of a roadside breakdown.

  • The moment you notice a problem, gently remove your foot from the gas pedal. Avoid braking hard or fast. Slowly and carefully move your vehicle to the breakdown lane (if available) or to the side of the road. If you are on a highway and believe you can make it to an exit, try to reach the nearest exit before pulling off the road. Don’t forget to signal your turns to the drivers behind you.
  • Once you have pulled off the road, it’s important to make your car highly visible to other drivers. Preemptively stashing reflective triangles in your trunk is a good idea. If you have these, place them behind your vehicle. Turn on your car’s emergency flashers, and turn on the interior light if it’s dark outside.
  • If you must change a flat tire, make sure that you can do it away from traffic. If this is possible, proceed with changing the tire. If it is not, however, call for professional help. Even if the added delay will create schedule conflicts or other problems, don’t attempt to change a tire yourself in a dangerous location. A MA injury lawyer can help you obtain compensation if you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident.
  • If the car is beyond repair or you are stopped on a dangerous stretch of roadway, get professional help. Do not attempt to wave down other motorists. If you have a cellphone, call for help. If you don’t, raise your hood and tie something – preferably white – to the antennae to signal that you need help. Stand far away from the vehicle and wait for help.
  • If your car is beyond repair and stopped in a safe location, you can remain in the vehicle. Keep your doors locked and use your cell phone to call for help. If someone stops to offer help, crack the window slightly and politely ask the person to contact the police. A Boston car accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident.
  • Interstate highways and busy roadways are patrolled frequently by police and other emergency personnel. Many highways also have “call for help” phones; if you can reach one safely, use it. However, walking along a stretch of highway is rarely a good idea. Unless you are sure that you can safely reach a call box or other source of help, do not walk. If you do walk, use the right side of the roadway and never attempt to cross a multi-lane highway.

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