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Articles Posted in Driving Hazards

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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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

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:

The dangers of distracted driving are well known. In fact, 46 states currently have laws against texting while driving. Most major highways are now equipped with “text stops”, designated pull-offs where drivers can safely, and easily, exit the road and read or send text messages. But despite the risks, millions of Americans still use their cell phones while driving every day. And texting is no longer the only phone-related concern. Apps, including Snapchat and Instagram – and even driving-related Apps, such as Waze – are taking our attention from the road.  Anyone driving in and around the Greater Boston area can see this problem on a daily basis – whether driving to or from work or just to the local market – if you look around you will see drivers  constantly looking down at their phones – and it’s very dangerous. Very dangerous. How dangerous you ask, look at the statistics below…

70% of Teens Report Using Apps While Behind the Wheel

All ages are guilty of talking, texting, or otherwise using cell phones while driving, but teens are the biggest offenders. Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) recently partnered with Liberty Mutual Insurance to conduct a survey of 2,500 teen drivers. Of those surveyed, about 70 percent reported using apps while driving. This is a scary statistic, but it gets even worse. When 2,400 drivers of all ages were surveyed by the National Safety Council (NSC), 74 percent reported using Facebook while driving.

Distracted Driving May be to Blame for 25% of Auto Accidents

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of deadly auto accidents in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than eight people are killed and 1,000 people are injured due to distracted driving, every single day. However, because distracted driving is rarely reported and hard to prove, these figures are likely much higher. The NSC estimates that approximately 25 percent of all auto accidents are a direct result of cell phone use while driving.

The average driver has traveled the length of a football field in the time it takes to read a single text. That is far too long to have your eyes off the road. If anything unexpected happens – an animal runs in front of your car, another car swerves, the car in front of you slams on its brakes – the results could be deadly. Continue reading

 

Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report emphasizing the importance of properly maintaining guardrails and other hardware to road safety.  Roadside safety “hardware” most often refers to guardrails and median barriers, but the GAO report also includes several other groups of road safety hardware, such as:

  1. “Longitudinal barriers, which include items such as guardrails and cable barriers and are intended to reduce the probability of a vehicle’s striking an object or terrain feature off the roadway that is less forgiving than the barrier;
  2. bridge barriers, which function as longitudinal barriers but are specific to bridge design;
  3. barrier terminals/crash cushions, which include items like guardrail end terminals that are intended to absorb or divert the energy of a crash into the end of a longitudinal barrier;
  4. support structures, such as sign supports, which are designed to break or yield when struck by a vehicle;
  5. work zone devices, which include a variety of items used in a work zone that are temporary in nature.”

In the report, the GAO explicitly states the objective of all kinds of roadside safety hardware, that goal being “when the hardware contains, redirects, or decelerates the vehicle to a safe stop without causing serious injury to the vehicle’s occupants or other people.”  The GAO report also noted the discrepancies shown in a state by state survey.  The survey demonstrated the inconsistencies in the crash testing results of such road safety equipment across different states.  This is likely due to the lack of a monitoring program by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), a program that the GAO insists should be implemented to provide additional support on scheduled safety upgrades.  Continue reading

An underride crash occurs when a passenger vehicle goes under a truck, trailer, or other large vehicle. Unfortunately, these crashes often result in serious injuries and are significantly more likely to be fatal. The same is true of ‘side underride crashes’, which often involve bicyclists or pedestrians and are particularly dangerous in urban areas. Underride crashes and side underride crashes have been a hot button issue in the Boston area in recent weeks. Contact a Boston Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer Today.

Earlier this month, a young woman on a scooter was killed by one of Boston’s iconic ‘duck boats’ when the driver failed to see her. The amphibious vehicles have been surrounded by controversy in recent years, as accidents in Philadelphia and the state of Washington have resulted in multiple deaths. The duck boats, which were not designed for recreational use on land, can be quite dangerous, especially for pedestrians and cyclists.

In response to a surge in underride and side underride crashes, the City of Boston was represented earlier this month at the Institute for Highway Safety’s roundtable on underride crashes. Beyond duck boats, other large vehicles, such as 18-wheelers, need adequate room to make turns. When they don’t have enough space, the consequences can be disastrous. Another dangerous situations occurs when a passenger vehicle attempts to pass a tractor-trailer on the right as the larger vehicle makes a right-hand turn. Certain modifications, such as rear and side underride guards, can help reduce serious injury and death.

“The one thing I hope everyone takes away from this session is that there has been a lot of progress in recent years on underride crashes,” said David Zuby, chief research officer for IIHS, “and there will be more ahead.” Of the eight major manufacturers of trailers, four have voluntarily improved the rear underride guard design of their vehicles, based on updated IIHS standards. The manufacturers who have made these improvements are Wabash, Vanguard, Stoughton, and Manac.

Rear and Side Underride Guards Save Lives

To test the design improvements on the trailers, the IIHS conducted tests during the May 5 roundtable. In one test, they crashed a 2016 Chevy Malibu into the rear underride guard at 35 mph. The guard successfully stopped the car, and the Malibu’s test dummy ‘survived’ the crash. Although this is a significant step in the right direction, pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers must remember that not all trucks, trailers, and large vehicles currently have side or rear guards. Use caution around large vehicles, and always remember, if you can’t see a truck’s mirrors, the driver can’t see you. Continue reading

With winter over, the risk of driving on icy and snowy roads is coming to an end. But it’s easy to underestimate the dangers of driving in heavy rain and fog. Not to mention, early spring in New England still has its fair share of snow flurries and black ice, especially at night. In the dark, these rapidly changing conditions can be difficult to see. You don’t have to be exceeding the speed limit to be driving too fast for adverse road conditions. Contact a Boston Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer Today.

 One of the most dangerous wet weather conditions is heavy fog. Reduced visibility can instantly create a hazardous condition. Avoid driving in heavy fog whenever possible, but if you must drive in fog, let the painted road markings guide you. Although this won’t help to avoid crashing into vehicles or other obstructions in front of you, it will ensure that you remain in your lane.

Rain

Every year, rain is blamed for thousands of accidents nationwide. Driving on wet roads always comes with a risk, but this is especially true within the first few hours of the onset of rain. Before heavy rains wash away oil and engine fluids that accumulate on the roads, water mixes with these substances, creating a slick, greasy surface. Skidding, hydroplaning, and reduced visibility are common rain-related dangers. When roads are wet, slow down. Excessive speeds are a factor in most weather-related car accidents.

Snow and Ice

Yes, spring in New England often means snow and ice. The normal risks involved with driving on snowy or icy roads still exist, but with an added danger – the element of surprise. In Massachusetts, rain can quickly turn to snow and wet roads can become icy. This is most common after dark, when the change in conditions is difficult to see. Drivers may think the road is just wet, when it’s actually covered in black ice. Once again, slow down. Speeding kills, especially on wet or icy roads.

Skidding

If you start to skid on wet or icy roads, do not slam on the brakes. Instead, steer in the direction of your skid and lightly pump the brakes. If you have antilock brakes, do not pump them. Apply even, steady pressure.

 Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning occurs when all 4 wheels simultaneously lose contact with the road due to a film of water getting between the tires and the road. Do not turn the wheel or brake hard. Take your foot off the gas pedal, apply light, steady pressure to the brake pedal, and straighten the wheel. Continue reading

According to Carfax, an online service providing information on vehicle history, about 47 million vehicles on American roadways have one or more outstanding safety recalls. Many of the outstanding recalls are for vehicles that have been bought, sold, and traded multiple times. In these cases, it may be difficult to obtain recall information about a specific car or truck. Although one might think that dealerships are morally obligated to clear recalls before selling a used car, that is unfortunately not the case. At least not yet. Contact a Boston Motor Vehicle Accident Attorney Today.

With the advancement of technology becoming more rapid every year, the production cycles for vehicle models are getting shorter. New models used to hit the market every four or five years. Now it’s every two to three. Shorter production cycles mean less time for safety testing. The result is an onslaught of issues, with safety and with customer satisfaction. Last year saw a recall increase of about one million from the previous year.

How Do I Protect Myself?

For starters, if your vehicle is recalled, make sure you have the work done as soon as possible. The issue may seem insignificant, but even minor defects can turn into major problems if left unresolved. Don’t let the perceived inconvenience of taking your vehicle in for repairs put you and your family in harm’s way.

Check Your Vehicle’s History. If you are purchasing a car or truck from a dealership, request that a recall report is included as part of the purchase. If they are unwilling or unable, you should be able to find recall history by visiting nhtsa.gov. Once on the site, go to ‘vehicle safety’ on the pull-down menu, then click on ‘recalls and defects.’ You can also enter the vehicle’s WIN (vehicle identification number). If you do find outstanding recall information, demand that the work is completed before you will complete the purchase.

In most cases, recall information is easy to find. However, tracking down recall information on very old cars and trucks may be difficult. Typically, once you locate open recalls, you can get the work completed with relative speed and ease. But you may find it a bit more challenging if you have an off-brand vehicle. Either way, it’s important to get repair work done when you discover an open recall. “Many people are still unnecessarily risking their lives by not staying informed or taking action when their vehicle is under a recall,” says Larry Gamache, a Carfax spokesman. “It’s one of the many reasons family-oriented vehicles, including one in four minivans, are the most highly impacted.” Continue reading

In Boston and Cambridge, taxi drivers must purchase a permit in order to legally operate as a taxi. These “medallions,” as they’re called, used to fetch a hefty price. In fact, as recently as 2014, some taxi drivers were paying nearly $700,000 for the privilege to pick up and transport customers. Many cabbies actually took out mortgages to finance the high cost of the medallions. The high price may come as a surprise, but up until recently it was well worth it. The permits exist in order to cap the amount of cabbies working in one particular city. The cap on medallions provided an opportunity for many cabbies to make serious money. But all that is changing.

As apps such as Uber and Lyft begin to dominate the ride-hailing industry, Boston’s taxi drivers are having trouble making payments on their mortgaged medallions. Banks have started foreclosing on delinquent loans, and Boston’s last four medallions sold were auctioned off at nearly half last year’s price.

According to a spokeswoman for the Boston Taxi Drivers Association, Donna Blythe-Shaw, this is just the beginning of an onslaught of foreclosure sales. “I’m surprised there’s not more,” said Blythe-Shaw. “They’re all drowning in these mortgages on these valueless medallions. They’re drowning and no one cares.”

This Year’s Medallions Selling for Half of Last Year’s Market Price

Voluntary sales of medallions have plummeted compared to last year. In the first quarter of this year, only 10 medallions were sold, and one of those was a foreclosure sale. Then the sales stagnated entirely until late August when another foreclosure was auctioned off for $310,000. Just last year, the average medallion sold for $666,547.

In addition to the inability of many cabbies to make mortgage payments on their medallions, their sudden loss of value is just pouring salt on the wound. Hundreds of cabbies are saddled with hefty mortgages on almost valueless medallions. And it seems to have happened almost overnight.

State lawmakers are discussing various methods to regulate the ride-hailing business while simultaneously stabilizing the taxi business. However, progress has been slow. A new bill from Gov. Charlie Baker seeks to allow companies like Uber and Lyft to operate with even more freedom and less oversight. On the other side of the spectrum, cabbies and some lawmakers would like to see the ride-hailing app drivers treated the same as cab drivers. Continue reading

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