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New Orleans Personal Injury Law Blog

Truck accident fatalities on the rise

Louisiana readers may have heard that there were fewer overall traffic fatalities in 2017 than there were in 2016. However, according to a new government report, there was an increase in the number of traffic deaths caused by large trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that traffic accident deaths dropped by 1.8 percent in 2017 with deaths involving passenger vehicles, vans, motorcycles, light pickup trucks and bicycles all decreasing from the previous year. In contrast, fatalities caused by tractor-trailer crashes spiked by 5.8 percent in 2017 while deaths caused by large straight trucks shot up 18.7 percent.

Researchers link factors to brain injury deaths

When someone in Louisiana sustains a serious brain injury, the road to recovery can be a difficult and unpredictable one. In some cases, patients unexpectedly lose their lives several months or years after sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI). In an effort to find out why this sometimes happens, researchers looked at factors associated with mortality among patients 16 and older a year or more after their initial injury. Researchers evaluated data from more than a thousand decedents with TBIs to identify factors likely linked to their deaths.

When compared with data from more than 10,000 control subjects, the individuals who died from brain injuries had a poorer performance on all key factors considered. These included physical, psychological, and social functioning as determined by the Functional Independence Measure (FIM) assessment tool, patient status, level of disability, and satisfaction with life. A measurement of participation in community and functioning at the societal level was also considered.

Activity may be better than rest following brain injuries

Normally, someone recovering from a brain injury in Louisiana is advised to rest. However, new research suggests it may be better for people to make an effort to get active again as soon as possible. The conventional approach to recovery following some types of brain injury is to give the brain time to heal naturally by resting. However, results from a study involving mice suggest this complex structure responds better to an appropriate level of stimulation as it can help repair damage caused by a stroke or some types of trauma.

The focus of the study on mice with brain injuries was the barrel cortex, a structure in rodents that's similar to the cerebral cortex in humans. It interprets signals from the animals' whiskers via the thalamus. The mice were placed in a dark box and trained to find an object with their whiskers. When they found it, they used a paw to dispense water as a reward. In addition, when researchers turned off the barrel-cortex cells with a laser light, the mice had difficulty performing the desired task.

HOS, brake violations among the findings of CVSA's roadcheck

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance held its annual International Roadcheck from June 5 to 7. The results of that roadcheck are now out, so truckers in Louisiana may want to know what the most frequently cited violations were.

A total of 67,502 roadside inspections were conducted with 45,400 of them being Level I inspections. These inspections are the most comprehensive, covering both driver- and vehicle-related safety standards. The number of inspections was greater than last year, but fewer out-of-service orders were issued.

Reality-based drivers' ed and its effect on teen drivers

Louisiana parents concerned about giving car keys to their teenage children may take a page from the book of neighboring Texas. The Texas Reality Education for Drivers program is a drivers' education supplement aimed at teens who are unsafe drivers. Besides traditional elements like lectures, videos and discussions, the program incorporates more interactive and reality-based components. According to a Baylor University study, these components are especially helpful in raising risk awareness.

The study focused on 21 teens who participated in the one-day, six-hour RED program. Set in a hospital, the program includes guided tours through emergency rooms, intensive care units and morgues as well as talks with medical staffers who treat car crash victims.

Potential brain injury treatment in development

In Louisiana and across the country, around 8 million people sustain head and brain injuries every year. There are different causes of these traumatic injuries, but motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading factors. Since these accidents are, unfortunately, so common, developing better treatment for brain injuries can make a difference in many people's lives. At one university, an interesting breakthrough has been made. Scientists have reproduced the effects of a traumatic brain injury and stimulated its potential recovery in neuron cells in a petri dish.

These neuron cells were derived from stem cells, and these scientists are the first in the United States to successfully stimulate recovery. Neurons, unlike other cells in the human body, cannot renew or repair themselves after an injury. This can make the effects of a traumatic brain injury particularly intractable. In order to look at how it might be possible to change this process, scientists used a substance called glutamate that is released in the brain after an injury to disrupt the activity of neuron cells in a petri dish.

Rural roundabouts reduce serious car accident injuries

Though they're several states apart, Louisiana motorists may be interested in something that North Carolina residents know: roundabouts in rural areas save lives. That state began installing roundabouts out in the country after a 21-year-old pregnant woman was killed in an intersection by a driver who ran a stop sign.

After that accident, the North Carolina Department of Transportation cleaned up the scene to get rid of vegetation and installed signs warning of a stop sign ahead. Car accidents resulting in serious injuries continued to happen. The DOT then installed a roundabout at this intersection. Roundabouts do not eliminate accidents, but since drivers are forced to slow down to go around it, the accidents are minor with fewer serious injuries. The state is installing roundabouts at other rural intersections.

IIHS puts autonomous car safety systems to the test

Much has been said and written in Louisiana and around the country in recent years about the impact that autonomous automobile safety systems and self-driving cars will have on road safety. Some experts say that this technology will eliminate the human error that causes the overwhelming majority of motor vehicle accidents and save thousands of lives each year, but a study released recently by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests that current autonomous systems are far from reliable and a great deal more development and testing is needed.

The nonprofit group tested the latest autonomous systems offered by Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, BMW and Tesla on both closed circuits and public roads, and they found that the technology often failed to notice stationary vehicles in the roadway and sometimes even steered toward dangerous situations. This may be concerning to road safety advocates because these are the same systems that the IIHS previously rated as being the best technology available. The results of the study were published on Aug. 7.

Tips for avoiding car accidents

Many auto accidents in Louisiana are caused by human error, which makes them preventable. If drivers consider the following tips, they can drastically reduce their risks for a crash. The first is to avoid all distracting behaviors while on the road; this includes all cell phone use, eating, putting on makeup, reading, reaching into the backseat and adjusting the audio system. Having a large number of passengers can also lead drivers to engage in distracting conversations.

While it may seem obvious, drivers should make sure to obey traffic laws. Going below the speed limit and avoiding the fast lane can make drivers less prone to reckless behavior. Drivers should also use turn signals, obey all road signs and keep a safe distance from the vehicles in front. Being a defensive driver is also essential. This means watching out for swerving drivers, looking beyond cars in front and being aware of blind spots.

How to recognize and avoid drowsy driving

Drowsy driving is a greater problem than many Louisiana residents might think. In 2018, AAA reported that the number of crashes involving drowsy drivers is actually eight times higher than federal estimates indicate. In a poll from the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of adults admitted to driving drowsy, and 37 percent admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel.

Drowsiness leads to slower reaction times and impaired decision-making abilities. The National Sleep Foundation notes that the effects of drowsiness are similar to those of intoxication. Drivers awake for 18 consecutive hours are like those with a .05 blood alcohol level; after 24 hours, it's as if they have a .10 BAC. The legal limit is .08.

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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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New Orleans, LA 70119

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