Archive for May, 2013

West Virginia Traffic Accidents & The Risks of Summer Distractions

May 2013

According to a new NHTSA study, when a driver is engaged in visual-manual activities, such as using a cell phone or inserting a CD into the CD player, the chance of being involved in an accident increases threefold. Visual-manual activities put the driver of a vehicle at greatest risk, and include anything that takes the driver’s hand off the wheel or eyes off the road.

Our West Virginia car accident attorneys know that text messaging and using a handheld cell phone is illegal in West Virginia. These laws are important in protecting drivers since even a few seconds of distraction can lead to disastrous consequences. Now, however, there are some new guidelines that are intended to improve safety by addressing in-car distractions that aren’t illegal but that still increase the car accident risk.

US DOT Guidelines to Reduce Distracted Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released guidelines aimed at reducing the risk of distracted driving accidents. These guidelines are directed toward car manufacturers and aim to limit distractions by making changes in the automobile’s electronic devices, such as the navigation system, entertainment and communications systems.

The guidelines are meant to reduce the amount of time a driver takes his eyes off the road to two seconds or less. The new guidelines address the design of various in-car systems as well as recommending that certain operations are disabled while driving.

NHTSA issued the guidelines after studying how people use passenger cars, so the new guidelines will apply only to light vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,000 pounds or less.  The design guidelines were based on the principles that:

  • The driver’s eyes should be focused on the road ahead.
  • The driver should be able to perform secondary tasks in the car without having to take both hands off of the steering wheel.
  • The driver should control interactions or tasks, not the system or device.
  • All displays should be easy for drivers to see.

NHTSA also uses a two-test system to determine the impact of performing a task while driving. NHTSA considers the time that it takes to complete the task as well as the level of interference the task creates with the driver’s ability to pay attention to the road.

After evaluating these criteria, NHTSA either recommends design changes to cut the task time down and make the task easier or recommends that certain in-vehicle devices are designed so the driver is not able to do the task while driving. For example, the guidelines recommend that manual text messaging, video-based entertainment and displays of text messages and social media content are disabled while the car is operational and while the driver is driving.

The new NHTSA guidelines are voluntary so NHTSA will not be monitoring car manufacturers to ensure that they comply with the new recommendations. However, if carmakers do comply, then the simple changes made to in-car controls to follow the guidelines could save lives by reducing the number of distracted driving accidents significantly.

If you’ve been in an auto accident in Ohio, Pennsylvania or West Virginia, contact the personal injury attorneys at Recht Law Office. Call us today at 1-800-HURTLINE.

Missing Barriers Blamed for West Virginia Accident

May 2013

On May 2, 2013, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reported that a car crossed the median on Interstate 77 and hit a Fed Ex semi head on. As a result of the accident, a passenger in the car was airlifted to a hospital in Charleston and the drivers of the Honda Civic and the Fed Ex semi truck were transported to a local hospital.

Unfortunately, the Fed Ex semi truck involved in the accident caught fire, which could have been dangerous because of the hazardous chemicals it was carrying. As a 59 News update later reported, the hazardous chemicals in the truck were lithium and disodium trioxalate. The chemicals were fortunately only dangerous if they came into contact with water, which did not occur in this particular case.

Our West Virginia injury attorneys know that this fiery crash could have led to serious problems involving a chemical spill. While it is lucky that the crash didn’t have this outcome, people were still hurt and the accident should have been prevented. As the Daily Telegram suggests, something as simple as traffic barriers could potentially have prevented this accident from happening.

Traffic Barriers Prevent Accidents

Channel 59 posed the question regarding whether a barrier on the median would have stopped the Honda from crossing into oncoming traffic. A spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Transportation told 59 News that barriers are put up on stretches of highways that see the most accidents, particularly crossover accidents. That particular section of Interstate 77 had not been deemed dangerous enough for a barrier.

The spokesperson also also explained that there are two types of barriers. A cable barrier is best at keeping a car from crossing over and a concrete barrier would make the car bounce off after contact. In this case, either type of barrier may have minimized both the risks of a crash.

Traffic Accidents Due to Road Design

There are many things that can cause accidents, and the way a road is designed is often a factor in a crash. When roadways are not properly built or maintained, driver safety can be affected not just by missing guardrails or barriers but also by many other issues as well. Some contributing factors, for example, include:

  • Poor placement of traffic signals
  • Limited visibility
  • Lack of proper drainage that leads to puddles or ice
  • Pinch points
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Visibility of road markings
  • Problems with road surfaces, such as potholes
  • Missing, poorly placed or damaged barriers
  • Lack of guardrails along embankments or dangerous curves
  • Insufficient barriers along medians

Barriers that are placed on medians reduce the number of crossover accidents by capturing or redirecting cars that would otherwise run into oncoming traffic. Cable barriers, made of steel wire ropes, are very effective at preventing cars from crossing the median. They are also cost effective and are predominantly used on divided highways. Concrete barriers also minimize damage to the vehicle by redirecting the car.

Unfortunately, sometimes a road is lacking barriers when it would clearly make sense for barriers to be present. While it is more difficult to bring litigation against a state government, knowing all of the factors and contributing causes of a collision makes for the best starting point.

If you’ve been in an auto accident in Ohio, Pennsylvania or West Virginia, contact the personal injury attorneys at Recht Law Office. Call us today at 1-800-HURTLINE.

Bicycle Safety Month Aims to Prevent Accidents

May 2013

According to the Detroit Free Press, West Virginia ranks 45th out of 50 states when it comes to being bike friendly. Obviously, with these statistics, the state has a long way to go in improving conditions for bicycle riders. This includes not just adding more bike paths and more bike friendly areas, but also making sure that drivers are educated about how to keep bike riders safe on the roads.

While bike safety should always be a priority, the month of May is dedicated to helping to make bike riders safer. Our West Virginia accident attorneys know that the number of bicycle accidents increases in the summer months as the weather gets warmer and as kids are out of school and doing outdoor activities. As the warm weather starts to arrive, Bicycle Safety Month comes at a perfect time to remind you to make safe biking decisions and to keep your kids safe while riding.

Bicycle Safety Month Tips

While everyone is at risk from a bicycle accident, kids are especially likely to be involved in a crash over the summer months. Kids offers a number of different tips for helping to ensure that the risk of injury is minimized for kids riding bikes. Some of the tips include:

  • Ensuring kids have a helmet on. Since 1996, West Virginia state law has required children younger than 15 years old to wear helmets while bicycling on public roads, public bicycle pathways or other public rights-of-way. Helmet use is important as a study of bike accidents from 2008 to 2010 revealed that 91.6 percent of kids in a bicycle crash had no helmet on at the time. Those without helmets had twice the risk of concussion and were more likely to be admitted to an emergency room. Further, all bike accident deaths that occurred over this time involved kids without helmets.
  • Restricting where kids can ride. A child should only bicycle on sidewalks and paths until the age of 10 and should not be allowed to cycle with traffic until he is a competent cyclist and has good traffic skills and judgment.
  • Using caution for night riding. If cycling after dark or low visibility conditions, the bike should have reflectors and a light and the cyclist’s clothes should have reflective materials.
  • Properly maintaining the bicycle. Bikes should be checked at least once a year to ensure they are in good working order. The tires should be checked before each ride. The bike should also be appropriately sized, with one inch of clearance between the rider and top bar while the rider is standing flat-footed over the bicycle.
  • Using traffic hand signals. When making a left turn, the left arm should be extended straight out to the side.  When making a right turn, the left arm should be bent in an upward motion. The left arm should be extended downward to stop.

By following these tips, hopefully kids and adults can both be safer when it comes to biking this summer season. Bike Safety Month focuses on education and awareness and everyone in West Virginia should pay attention to safety tips as part of efforts to help improve West Virginia’s rating as a bike friendly state.

If you or a family member has been injured in a bicycle accident in Ohio, Pennsylvania or West Virginia, contact the personal injury attorneys at Recht Law Office. Call us today at 1-800-HURTLINE.