The following is a guest blog post by Tom Everson. Tom's organization Keep Kids Alive Drive 25is dedicated to keeping our country's streets safe for children.
Drive to Keep Everyone Alive!
What is one gift we can give everyone while on the road during the holidays? The gift of safe driving behaviors. All we have to do to keep everyone alive is:
• Hang up and drive
• Don't drink and drive
• Buckle up everyone every trip - no matter the distance
• Observe speed limits, and slow down according to weather/road conditions
• Remember, it's not a race, so create space - give yourself time to react to what goes on around you.
• Observe traffic signals and signs. Stop! Take 3 to See at stop signs.
With a steady rise in cell phone related car accidents, distracted driving is becoming more and more of a hot button issue among legislators and drivers alike. On Tuesday December 13, 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) urged states to put forth efforts to ban all cell phone use among motor vehicle drivers.
We recently reported on NTSB’s push for cell phone bans among commercial truck drivers following a devastating trucking accident which claimed the lives of 11 people in Munford, Kentucky. But an August 5, 2010 four-vehicle crash which resulted in two deaths and 38 injuries has motivated the board to urge a ban on all non-emergency cell phone use for all drivers.
Although the NTSB does not have the authority to legislate, the board’s unanimous recommendation promises to spark much debate on the issue of distracted driving. Members of the NTSB are calling for a ban not only on the use of hand-held cell phones but on hands-free devices as well. NTSB member Robert Sumwalt is being widely quoted, by CNN for example, after referring to distracted driving as “the new DUI.”
The problem: While more and more states are implementing bans on cell phone use in motor vehicles, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety makes the claim that these bans result in little to no change in traffic crashes. Whether banned or not, many people will continue to use their cell phones while they drive. In response to this issue, many car manufacturers are developing new technologies which promise to make in-car communication safer and more productive.
The video below, provided by CNN, features Ford researcher Jim Buczkowski discussing the voice-activated Sync system. The goal for Sync and similar systems is to enable drivers to make phone calls while keeping their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. Take a look:
In addition to hands-free capabilities, CNN’s Peter Valdes-Dapena reports that these technologies include "systems that alert drivers to stopped or slow-moving cars or pedestrians ahead of them" and "systems that warn when a vehicle is drifting out of its lane.” And even though this technology remains a work-in-progress, we can hope that these systems will help to reduce the number of car accidents caused by distracted driving.
Drivers throughout Pennsylvania can now report potholes to local agencies (ie: Penndot, Streets Department of the City of Philadelphia) by utilizing apps on their smartphones which send current locations of potholes via GPS. As reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer article by Reid Kanaley (12/1/11):
Your smartphone must have GPS function for the app to work. When you load it for the first time, the app asks for your e-mail address. After that, if you spot a pothole, just open the app and tap the screen twice to generate a pothole report.After your double tap, you'll be instructed to check your e-mail for a message from SaveMyTire.com. The "pothole report" message will ask you to preview a map showing your pothole location, and then to either tap a link to confirm your report or, if the map is not correct, tap a different link to cancel your report and start over.Confirmed reports go into the SaveMyTire.com database and are e-mailed to the local city, county, or state road department.
This could also prove helpful in establishing notice to municipalities and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania of potholes that cause injury to drivers and passengers who hit them. These types of accidents are usually very difficult to prove despite the fact that hitting a pothole at high speeds while not expecting it can result in serious injuries to the driver and occupant of any car, bus or motorcycle. The laws in Pennsylvania generally require prior written notice of a roadway defect before a successful suit for damages can be brought.
If you feel that they have been wronged by the government because the car you were in hit a pothole, you may be able to seek redress in the courts. However, you should be aware that recovering damages against the government is even more difficult than recovering against a non governmental party. Notice of the pothole by the government if always of particular concern. These new apps will place an interesting twist on the issue of whether a governmental agency was made aware of the pothole and whether anything was done in a reasonable time period to try and fill the pothole or otherwise warn drivers of the danger. Trial lawyers representing victims who sustained injuries when in a vehicle that hit a pothole will now be able to retrieve data sent to SaveMyTire.com and other sites that will prove useful as evidence at trial and at the pretrial stage.
The American Association for Justice (AAJ) recently published Do As I Say, Not As I Sue, a white paper which reports on the duplicitous nature of the Institute for Legal Reform and the corporations which finance the advocacy group. The report focuses on corporate America’s big push to limit the ability of individuals to get to the courthouse steps while simultaneously making use of the courthouse to further its own agendas.
In 1998, the Institute for Legal Reform was founded by the United States Chamber of Commerce, a largely conservative group made up mostly of lobbyists and lawyers. The AAJ report indicates ten major American corporations that currently hold seats in the Institute of Legal Reform, and outlines how each corporation has misused the litigious power at its disposal.
For example: State Farm
Board member of the Institute for Legal Reform since 2003, State Farm has a history of attacking individuals in a court of law even after their suits have been proved fallacious. The AAJ reports that the insurance company mistakenly filed a lawsuit against an S. Calderon, whom they believed caused a three-car accident in Fresno, California. The company pursued the lawsuit long after it was recognized by the California Department of Motor Vehicles that S. Calderon was not at fault, nor was she even involved in the accident. In the end, Calderon had to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees just to fight a false accusation.
Furthermore, the AAJ report submits that State Farm “has gone to extreme lengths to avoid paying claims, including forging signatures on earthquake waivers after the deadly Northridge earthquake, and altering engineering reports regarding damage after Hurricane Katrina.” Having members on the board for the Institute for Legal Reform makes it much easier for State Farm to weather these kinds of scandals.
But State Farm is just one of ten corporations listed in the AAJ’s report. The report demonstrates that US corporations and insurance companies will go out of their way to push on the public and the press the need for “tort reform” when really what is needed is “corporate reform.” Talk about frivolous lawsuits! Just read AAJ’s white paper and you will get a clear picture of what corporate America is filing lawsuits for and how they are simultaneously closing the courtroom steps to the the average Joe through their successful political lobbying efforts.
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Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer & attorney Stuart Carpey of Carpey Law, offering services related to automobile accidents, premises liability, construction accidents, medical malpractice, products liability, work related incidents,, federal civil rights claims & insurance bad faith, serving Bucks, Berks, Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Lancaster and Schuylkill counties, and across Eastern PA.