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Riverside County Personal Injury Law Blog

Modern features that keep drivers safe

Many drivers in California are probably eager for a future of self-driving cars. Tech leaders like Nvidia are producing cutting-edge components, and parts suppliers like Harman International are creating their own futuristic car prototypes. However, it may be years before these become widely available. Moreover, the news can focus so much on the future that it can neglect all the technology that's available here and now.

Advanced driver assistance systems have especially seen a few important developments that are already making an impact. For example, most automakers offer collision avoidance systems, such as blind spot alerts and lane departure warning systems. These systems utilize cameras or other sensors to spot dangerous situations and alert the driver; if the driver does not react in time, the system automatically engages the brakes.

4/20 marijuana holiday linked to increased car crash deaths

With recreational marijuana legalized in California, people need to be more aware than ever that the drug impairs driving abilities, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The same agency, however, notes that it can be hard to pinpoint the number of car crashes that were caused by marijuana use as drivers tend to combine the drug with alcohol consumption.

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine has recently shown that car crash fatality rates increase in most states every April 20, which was designated as a holiday for marijuana users over 25 years ago. While the study could not determine how many of the accidents are caused by marijuana use, the authors believe the drug is responsible for some of them.

Drowsiness a major cause of crashes, says AAA study

In California and the rest of the U.S., drowsy driving is a major hazard. A CDC study reports that more than a third of adults in America get less than the typically recommended seven hours of sleep a night. U.S. government statistics say that only 1 to 2 percent of crashes are caused by drowsy driving, making it considerably less dangerous than DUI or distracted driving. However, a new study says the percentage may actually be higher.

The study was conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and involved over 3,500 drivers across the country. Over several months between October 2010 and December 2013, researchers monitored drivers' actions through in-vehicle cameras and other equipment. They also determined levels of drowsiness using the PERCLOS measure, which is based on the percentage of eye closure. Authors state that this study is the first ever to utilize PERCLOS.

Murder charges follow suicide attempt

A California woman is being held on a $1.5 million bond and has been charged with second-degree murder after reportedly attempting to commit suicide by driving head-on into freeway traffic. Her actions killed a 29-year-old medical student, but a broken leg was her most serious injury. The woman went to jail after being released from the hospital and remains behind bars in Shasta County.

Prosecutors say that the 28-year-old woman was driving north on Interstate 5 near Redding when she crossed the median and drove into oncoming traffic in an attempt to end her own life. Three vehicles were able to avoid her before she hit the car driven by a native of Medford, Oregon. The man, a medical student, was en route to interview for a residency position at a hospital in Sacramento when struck by the woman's vehicle.

Protect your pet from another dog’s bite

You do your best to protect your loved ones from harm, including your family members that have fur and claws. Most of us think of our pets as members of the family. It can be just as devastating to have another dog attack a beloved cat or dog as it would be for a dog to attack one of our human family members. What can Californians do to keep their pets from suffering harm from someone else’s dog?

As we have explained in other posts on our blog, dog owners in California may be liable if their pet bites, whether or not it was the first time the dog had bitten or if the dog had been on a leash or running free. The following tips may help you keep your pets safe from an attack:

  • When you are out with your dog, have it on a leash. This can keep your dog under your control. Even a well-trained dog might unexpectedly run off toward a strange dog.
  • Be aware that there may be unpredictable dogs in dog parks, and proceed with caution. Learn to recognize the signs of a distressed or agitated dog, including your own. Be ready to remove your dog from the situation quickly, and do let your phone or other things distract you when your dog is playing with others.
  • If your dog is timid, suspicious or aggressive around other dogs, take it across the street or make room if you see another dog on your walk. You may also want to do this if your dog is friendly or neutral toward others, as you never know how another dog might react to yours.
  • Stay calm when you encounter another dog, as your pet can pick up on your nonverbal signals and might become nervous or panicky.
  • Try to keep your cats indoors if there are dogs in the neighborhood. If someone visits your home with a dog, put your cat in a separate room with the door closed.

Distracted driving could soon be even more expensive.

Texting and driving in California and elsewhere has always been dangerous, but now insurance companies are gathering data to use in setting premiums. Insurance giant Allstate, through its Arity subdivision, is monitoring smartphones while cars are moving and may soon seek to implement that data into underwriting decisions.

Almost every smartphone is equipped with an accelerometer, which measures speed, and a gyroscope, which measures movement and orientation of the device. These built-in measures make the use of navigation apps simple and convenient but also give enormous amounts of data about users who download apps like Allstate's Drivewise. Allstate markets the app as a tool to reward safe drivers and offers premium discounts to some policyholders agreeing to have their driving habits monitored. In addition to monitoring vehicle speed, braking patterns and general patterns of use, the app monitors the position of the phone inside the vehicle and whether it is moved during transit.

NHTSA announces summit to combat drug-related DUIs

For many California residents, alcohol is the main culprit for driving under the influence. However, drugged driving has skyrocketed recently due to the national opioid epidemic and increased legalization of marijuana. This surge has led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to take additional steps to combat DUI by controlled substances.

It is the goal of the NHTSA to foster a discussion that can lead to a reduction of deaths and injuries caused by traffic accidents. The NHTSA's first effort in leading this discussion about drugged driving is to host a summit on March 15. The summit will cover topics including the best practices for educating the public, ways to consistently collect data related to drug-related collisions and researching new methods in testing and benchmarking the level of a driver's impairment.

New report recommends ways to reduce speeding deaths

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a report on the danger of speeding and what can be done to eliminate it. Drivers in California, as elsewhere, may be aware that traffic deaths have increased over the past few years. The trend isn't due to drunk drivers or drivers playing with their smartphones; rather, the blame is entirely on speeders.

NTSB found that from 2005 to 2014, there were 112,580 speeding-related deaths on America's roads. This composed 31 percent of all traffic deaths. Compare that with the number of drunk driving deaths in the same period of time: 112,948. And yet, the NTSB notes, speeding does not come with the same heavy penalties or the same social stigma as DUI does.

Boat accident leads to multiple injuries and a death

California residents may have heard about a casino boat fire in Florida that resulted in the death of a 42-year-old woman. While she and 49 other people on board made it back to shore, the woman eventually sought treatment at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point where she later died. Authorities say that she was one of 15 people who sought treatment in the aftermath of the fire.

To get off the boat, travelers had to jump into waist-deep water on a chilly day. A representative of Tropical Breeze Casino said that it was not clear what caused the fire. The statement also claimed that there had never been an issue with the boat previously. An officer with the Coast Guard said that an investigation was ongoing and that the cause of the blaze was unclear. However, police said that the boat was having engine problems shortly after it left Port Richey.

Timeliness is important when reporting a car accident

California motorists often have to worry about their safety when they get behind the wheel. Car accidents are unfortunately all too common, whether due to distracted drivers or other kinds of negligence. When a car accident has taken place, it's never convenient. More than that, it can be devastating, causing severe injuries. However, when a driver is involved in a crash, it can be unclear about how the followup needs to be handled in order to meet the requirements of law and insurance policies.

After a motor vehicle accident, the first priority is medical care. However, after the immediate emergency is dealt with, people might wonder how much time they have to report the accident or file a lawsuit. It can be important to report a car accident to the insurance company, regardless of whose fault the accident was.