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New Orleans Personal Injury Law Blog

Trade group wants hours of service regualtions revised

Truck drivers in Louisiana and around the country would be able to break up their journeys into segments without affecting strict hours of service regulations under a petition to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration made by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Hours of service rules are designed to prevent accidents caused by drowsy truck drivers, but they could actually be making the nation's roads more dangerous, according to the OOIDA.

The present hours of service regulations limit truck driver shifts to 14 hours including breaks, and the OOIDA says that this encourages drivers to remain behind the wheel even when they become dangerously tired. The group wants the FMCSA to revise the rules to stop the 14-hour clock when tractor-trailer drivers to take breaks lasting up to three hours. They have also asked the federal agency to scrap a rule that mandates a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a truck driver's shift.

Autonomous car technology is already paying safety dividends

Much has been written in recent years about the advent of autonomous vehicle technology and the road safety dividends that self-driving cars could provide. While vehicles lacking a steering wheel and pedals may still be several years away, the technology that has been developed by the scientists and engineers working on autonomous vehicle systems is already preventing accidents and saving lives in Louisiana and around the country.

The race between auto makers to bring the first self-driving car to market has produced electronic systems that can prevent vehicles from straying out of their lanes, detect dangers lurking in blind spots and take over the driving duties completely in emergency situations. Motor vehicle accident fatality rates are soaring due to a number of factors, including higher traffic levels and an epidemic of distracted driving, and many road safety experts believe that the figures would be even worse if autonomous safety systems had not been developed.

How to avoid distracted driving

Distracted driving is widespread in Louisiana and around the country. Many experts believe that distractions, especially smartphones, are the cause behind the rise in traffic deaths. In a Consumer Reports survey, 52 percent of drivers with smartphones admitted that they text, send emails, play music, watch videos, and surf the web on them while behind the wheel.

Many companies have introduced safety measures for smartphone users. For example, Apple operating systems now come with a mode that blocks all alerts for incoming calls and texts. iPhones and Androids also allow for automatic replies to incoming calls and texts while users are driving. Consumer Reports advises that drivers keep their phones out of sight, for good measure. Many states have texting bans to further dissuade drivers.

Even mild trauma can cause major brain injuries

Louisiana residents should know that traumatic brain injuries are a leading cause of accident-related deaths in the United States. In fact, there are nearly 138 TBI-related fatalities every day. Losing consciousness after a blow to the head is a surefire indicator of brain injury; however, TBIs can be caused by much more subtle events and have long-lasting consequences. Roughly 3 million people are treated in emergency rooms annually for brain injuries.

Automobile accidents are a major cause of brain injuries, comprising roughly 14 percent of all TBI cases. Not surprisingly, pedestrians hit by cars are at very high risk for traumatic brain injuries. Auto passengers or drivers in side-impact collisions are more likely to experience brain injures than those in head-on collisions. Seat belts reduce the risk of brain injury, but the violent shaking of the head during whiplash events can cause concussions as the brain impacts the hard shell of the cranium. Accidental falls are another leading cause of brain injuries. These often occur in retail establishments when shoppers are carrying objects and unable to use their hands to break a fall.

Speed remains a major factor in traffic fatalities

Louisiana motorists may want to think twice if they're tempted to speed when they're driving. Speeding-related deaths on the nation's highways are on the increase, according to a recent study.

The new report by the National Transportation Safety Board claimed that 112,580 people died in car accidents caused by speeding from 2005 to 2014. The board said 31 percent of all traffic fatalities were linked to speeding. During that same time frame, nearly 113,000 people died in drunk driving car accidents. Most speed limit parameters were set at a time when there weren't as many drivers on the roads. These limits were often based on the speed that a majority of drivers were going in an area. Officials today say the policy needs to be updated.

Time limits for reporting a car accident

Car accidents are a common occurrence on Louisiana roadways. While the first priority after a car accident should be to obtain medical attention for any injured drivers or passengers, drivers should also contact the police to make a report and exchange contact information and insurance information.

A car accident should almost always be reported to the insurance companies for all parties involved as soon as possible. There are few exceptions. For example, if the accident only involved one vehicle and the damage was minor, it may not be necessary to contact an insurance company. This is especially true if the cost of repair is less than the insurance deductible.

How teen motorcyclists can prepare for the road

Teens in Louisiana and across the U.S. who have obtained their motorcycle license will want to take a few precautions before heading out on the road. Teen motorcyclists file 5.7 more accident claims than those between the ages of 35 and 50, and motorcyclists in general are 35 times more likely to get into accidents than automobile drivers.

Teens should first take a training course if they haven't yet; the DMV can provide a list of approved courses. It's worth keeping in mind that 90 percent of motorcyclists who are involved in a crash had no formal training. Teens should then purchase the proper safety gear including gloves, boots that go over the ankles, shatterproof goggles, etc. Pants and jackets should be durable; reflective clothing is also recommended.

Brain injuries and colon changes

Motor vehicle accidents are a common cause of brain injuries in Louisiana. Researchers at the University of Maryland have found a link between traumatic brain injuries and changes in the colon that could lead to infection.

The researchers examined mice with brain injuries and discovered chronic intestinal changes which were also linked to increased risk of brain inflammation resulting in further damage. They found that after a brain injury, the colon became more permeable, making it easier for harmful bacteria to enter.

Rising crash rates highlight what can go wrong on the road

There may be a correlation between the measured increase of human intelligence and the increasing number of deadly car accidents in Louisiana and across the country, and scientists are working to find out why. Improvement in this area came to an abrupt halt in 2015 when the largest increase in fatalities in 50 years was recorded. The death rate rose even higher in 2016. That year, more than 40,000 people lost their lives in U.S. car collisions.

Research suggests that the most common car crash scenarios are the result of simple human misunderstandings of what can go wrong. Accounting for 6 percent of all pedestrian fatalities, rolling right on red requires drivers to look in one direction while traveling in another. An estimated 21 percent of all deadly car crashes are related to drowsy driving. Drivers are terrible at gauging their own level of sleepiness and possibly oblivious to episodes of microsleep, according to a past administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Intersection dangers can be cut by roundabout creation

Drivers and traffic specialists in Louisiana are often concerned about improving safety at roadway intersections. These junction points can be some of the most dangerous places on the road. As two or more streets come together, cars are at risk of hitting one another even with the use of traffic signals and other technology to manage the flow of cars. Intersections can frequently be site of fatal crashes or those that lead to serious injuries, posing a problem both for individuals on the road and for state authorities.

One popular solution to dangerous intersections has been the creation of roundabouts, or traffic circles, in place of traditional perpendicular intersections. One study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation found stunning results for the roundabouts' success in cutting down on bodily injuries, as fatal car accidents fell by 86 percent at 144 intersections following the construction of roundabouts. It wasn't only deaths that dropped as serious injury accidents also declined by 83 percent, and all injury crashes fell by 61 percent.