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New Orleans Personal Injury Law Blog

Ford "Sleep Suit" simulates effects of drowsy driving

Drowsy driving is behind one in five road accidents. Lack of sleep affects concentration, and remaining awake for 18 hours or more can impair one to the same extent as a driver who exceeds the legal limit for alcohol. Louisiana residents should know that Ford has created a special Sleep Suit to give drivers a first-hand impression of how dangerous it is to drive drowsy. This coincided with the designation of March 15 as "World Sleep Day."

The suit consists of goggles, a specially designed cap, a vest, and arm and ankle bands. The goggles, which are connected to a smartphone app, simulate the effect of microsleep, which is where the brain shuts down involuntary due to fatigue. These microsleep episodes can leave drivers blind to the road for 10 seconds or more.

Mild brain injuries could lead to mental health issues

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry links mild traumatic brain injuries with an increased chance of mental health issues. Doctors in Louisiana, as elsewhere, may want to ensure that their patients are monitored for many months after incurring mTBIs as this can ensure the best recovery possible.

Researchers at the University of California in San Diego analyzed 1,155 patients who went to the emergency department for mTBIs to see how prevalent were post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorders. They then compared the results to those of 230 patients with non-head orthopedic trauma injuries. All the patients, who were 17 or older, were treated in 11 U.S. hospitals with level 1 trauma centers.

Strong cellphone laws for drivers linked to fewer accidents

Louisiana partially restricts cellphone use by drivers. Novice drivers must forgo the use of cellphones behind the wheel entirely, and texting while driving is prohibited for everyone. The state had the 15th highest rate in the nation for distracted driving deaths, according to a study by an online financial advice company. Overall, the study found that strong policies against using cellphones in vehicles correlated on average with lower numbers of accidents due to distraction.

Researchers examined data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Highway Administration to tally traffic fatalities attributed to distracted drivers between 2015 and 2017. During this period, distracted drivers were the probable source of over 1,400 deaths. Louisiana has a death rate of 1.76 victims per 10 billion vehicle miles driven. By comparison, the worst state for distracted driving deaths, Tennessee, had a rate of 7.2 per 10 billion vehicle miles driven.

Highway traffic deaths remain over 40,000 in the past year

While traffic deaths in the U.S. declined slightly in 2018, the overall number remains much higher than it was four years ago. For the past three years, the figure has risen to over 40,000 per year. A few reasons have been given for the increase. By taking the necessary precautions, drivers in Louisiana could help reverse the tide.

A number of nonprofit organizations dealing with the issue of highway safety have reported the statistics. Data is compiled annually by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The upward trend began several years ago. Though deaths dropped 1 percent last year, the annual figure is higher than at the beginning of the decade. In particular, deaths among pedestrians showed a significant increase.

What truckers can do about the rise in truck fatalities

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has reported that the number of large truck crash fatalities has increased each year from 2015 to 2017 (the latest year for which statistics are available). It revealed other disturbing news at the 2019 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, so truckers and fleet owners in Louisiana may be interested.

Each of the three years mentioned above also saw an increase in fatal work zone crashes involving at least one large truck. Specifically, the percentage went up from 26.8 in 2015 to 30.4 in 2017. The percentage of fatal large truck crashes rose as well during each year. From 2016 to 2017, there was an increase in both the percentage and the number of deaths in large truck and/or bus crashes.

NTSB releases list of safety improvements for trucking industry

On Feb. 4, the National Transportation Safety Board released its biannual list of safety improvement recommendations for all modes of transportation in Louisiana and the rest of the U.S. Most of the recommendations are aimed at the trucking industry, which has experienced a spike in fatal accidents over the last few years.

While the NTSB does not have the authority to create regulations, it can push federal regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, to enact safety improvements. The new list of recommendations, entitled the 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, offers six improvements that could make commercial trucking safer. These improvements include the elimination of alcohol and drug impairment, elimination of distracted driving, implementation of speed reduction strategies, increased use of collision avoidance systems and reduction of drowsy driving crashes.

GHSA recommends ways to reduce speeding-related crashes

Speeding is behind nearly one-third of all motor vehicle-related fatalities in Louisiana and the rest of the U.S. This major topic has been analyzed anew in a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association. Entitled, "Speeding Away from Zero: Rethinking a Forgotten Traffic Safety Challenge," it outlines some of the latest data and research on speeding as well as ways to reduce it.

Speeding is known for endangering pedestrians and bicyclists in particular. It has been shown that even a slight decrease in travel speed can drastically reduce the severity of crashes and injuries, thus saving lives. Despite the existence of state and federal policies and speeding reduction programs, speeding is still considered culturally acceptable among many drivers.

More drivers are texting while behind the wheel

According to a study, drivers in Louisiana and around the country are talking on their cellphones less often while behind the wheel. However, they are increasingly using their cellphones to send texts and emails.

For the study, which was released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, researchers compared observational surveys conducted in 2014 with surveys conducted in 2018. The surveys monitored the phone activities of drivers stopped at red lights in four areas of Northern Virginia. The study found that drivers in 2018 were 57 percent more likely to be observed sending texts or emails with their cellphones than drivers in 2014 were.

New study aims to help doctors reduce brain injury deaths

Physicians in Louisiana face many challenges when treating brain injury victims, especially since traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) affect each patient differently. This is why the National Science Foundation (NSF) is planning to launch a four-year study to increase efforts to predict short- and long-term outcomes of patients with serious brain-related injuries. Researchers also hope to utilize machine-learning technology to better categorize TBI patients and present patient-specific interventions.

Serious or traumatic brain injuries are the leading cause of death in the United States for adults under 44 years of age and children. While researchers are aware there's nothing they can do on their end to prevent TBIs from happening in the first place, they believe there is room to prevent additional damage once initial treatment begins. Specifically, the study's researchers plan to use computational algorithms to help doctors detect and prevent secondary brain injuries that could further impact TBI patients.

Ridesharing industry marked by high risk for drowsy driving

Louisiana residents who drive for extended periods could become drowsy on the road. This is the issue facing many drivers in the ridesharing industry. Unfortunately, low fare and salary incentives compel many to work past their safety limit, thus endangering themselves and others. Early mornings and nights are the times when sleepiness tends to peak.

Another problem is that many ridesharing drivers, being independent contractors, are not screened for medical conditions like obstructive sleep apnea, which can affect their alertness behind the wheel. These are just some of the issues brought to the public attention in a position statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. The AASM calls for collaborative efforts between ridesharing companies, law enforcement, government officials and medical experts to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes.

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The Law Offices of W.A. “Chip” Forstall, Jr.

The Law Offices of W.A. “Chip” Forstall, Jr.
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