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Statistics tell us that automobile accident rates differ from age group to age group, and when it comes to traffic collisions injury rates are subject to the fluctuations, especially in the case of older drivers. According to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers and passengers over the age of 75 are much more likely to sustain injuries and die in less serious crashes.

As a person ages, their body naturally grows more fragile, and this not only makes them more susceptible to accident injuries, it also reduces the chance of them recovering from their injuries. Even when older drivers are able to make a full recovery, the process is slower and more arduous. In 2014, many members of the baby boomer generation are approaching their 60s and 70s, and that means there will be more elderly drivers on the road in the years to come. With this in mind, it is important to educate ourselves and do what we can to reduce preventable injuries and fatalities among our older vehicle occupants. Here are just a few of the ways that people can make a positive impact:
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Throughout the course of the last few decades, a multitude of safety organizations at the federal and state level have launched campaigns to educate the public with regard to the hazards of automobile accidents. As a result, most people are aware that traffic collisions are one of the most common causes of death in the United States, and this is a very good thing. However, with health and safety at the forefront of most educational initiatives the economic impacts of these accidents are often overlooked.

Earlier this week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a new study analyzing the economic toll and societal impact of motor vehicle accidents in the United States. According to data presented by the agency, the price tag of these crashes comes out to a staggering $871 billion, including $277 billion in economic costs, or roughly $900 for every American citizen. The NHTSA explained that the additional $594 billion worth of societal harm stemmed from the loss of life, pain, future health related expenses, and overall diminished quality of life suffered by injury victims and their families as a result of motor vehicle accidents.
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Throughout the course of any given year, it is common for both automotive companies, as well as the manufacturers of various vehicle parts and components to recall defective or unsafe products from the market. According to a recall report recently produced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 650 safety recalls were enacted in 2012 alone, affecting nearly 18 million vehicles, child seats, and other pieces of equipment. The vast majority of these recalls were conducted by a responsible party immediately after they became aware of an issue, and this is essential to keeping consumers safe. However, when companies fail to act on their knowledge of design defects in a timely manner, they place millions of drivers in serious danger. In these scenarios, our civil justice system is crucial to protecting the rights of victims, and in subsequent lawsuits, personal injury lawyers play an essential role in holding corporations accountable when they put profits over people.

In this regard, 2014 has proven to be a tumultuous year for the automotive giant, General Motors (GM). During the initial three months of the calendar year, the company recalled 2.6 million of its small engine vehicles due to potential safety problems related to faulty ignition switches. The issue made it possible for ignition switches to easily be bumped, brushed or pulled from ‘on’ to ‘accessory’ or ‘off’ while vehicles were in motion, disabling the power steering and power breaks, as well as preventing the airbags from deploying in the event of an accident. The cause of such failures has since been attributed to a lack of torque, or pressure, being supplied by the switch indent plungers in these vehicles, which had been improperly designed.

This defect was not disclosed by GM, but was instead discovered by an attorney, who had sued the company on behalf of the family of a woman killed in an accident the ignition problem caused. It was found that GM had been holding meetings about the safety hazards of the issue as early as 2005, but had decided against a recall because it would take too long and cost an excessive amount of money. Because of this negligence, at least 12 other people have died in crashes involving these vehicles. (NHTSA; USA Today)

More than 70,000 individuals are injured in pedestrian car accidents throughout the United States each year. That equates to one pedestrian injury every 8 minutes. Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a final regulatory decision related to pedestrian safety, which will require all auto manufacturers producing vehicles weighing less than 10,000 lbs. to equip their vehicles with rear visibility technology by May of 2018. This regulatory rule will affect everything from smaller sedans and mid-sized SUVs, to buses, trucks, and other large vehicles. (Center for Disease Control & Prevention; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

Many believe that this new rule is a significant step toward enhancing the safety of automobiles, citing that rear visibility technology will be a particularly valuable tool for reducing the risk of fatalities and serious injuries in pedestrian car accidents, such as ‘back over accidents’. A back over accident occurs when a vehicle reverses, striking a pedestrian, but the driver is unaware that any accident has occurred. Because of this, the driver continues to reverse, backing over the pedestrian. According the statistics collected from the NHTSA, an average of 210 pedestrian fatalities and 15,000 injuries are caused by back over accidents each year. Analysis of the same data found that children under the age of 5 accounted for nearly 1/3rd of all back over fatalities, and additionally, that adults over the age of 70 constituted more than 1/4th of the fatalities.

In addressing this problem, the NHTSA reported that they took the necessary time to ensure that this policy would be both flexible and achievable. Rear visibility technology will expand millions of drivers’ fields of view, allowing them to be more aware of the area behind their vehicle. The NHTSA has stipulated that this field of view must cover a 10-foot by 20-foot area directly behind the vehicle, and that the systems are also required to meet other standards, such as image size, linger time, response time, durability, and deactivation. Including vehicles that already have these systems installed, the Agency estimates that anywhere from 58 to 69 lives will be saved each year once all of the required vehicles are equipped with this technology.

In this day and age, the rapidity of technological advancement is changing the way we live on a daily basis. Many of the things that were dismissed as the stuff of comic book science fiction a few decades ago are now partially, or completely possible; one such technology is Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) Communication, often generalized as “talking cars.” Scientists, engineers, and researchers have been in the process of developing V2V communication systems for many years, and we still have a ways to go before regulators and manufacturers are ready to implement these innovations on a standard basis, but in the mean-time here is a synopsis of what consumers have to look forward to. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

How V2V Works:

The term “talking cars,” refers to technological communication systems that enable automobiles to send and receive pertinent safety information while driving (car-to-car, as well as communicating with traffic signals and other components of roadway infrastructures). The U.S. Department of Transportation, in collaboration with many of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers, plan to utilize Wi-Fi-like wireless technology to notify motorists about potential safety concerns such as adverse roadway conditions or impending collisions, allowing them to take necessary precautions or corrective actions. Connected vehicles will use Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), signals which are secure, reliable, and unlikely to be subject to interference.

Our lawyers have a wealth of experience helping clients seek compensation for the wrongful injuries caused by negligent and reckless individuals. However, personal injury lawsuits aren’t always filed against individuals, so it is important to have a legal team on your side that is well versed in taking on companies and municipalities as well. This is especially true in the case of automobile design defects.

Earlier this month, Graco Children’s Products announced that it would be recalling nearly 3.8 million car seats because of the risk that faulty safety buckles may make it difficult to free a child in the event of an emergency. This is the largest such recall in five years, as well as one of the largest in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s history, but some officials believe it hasn’t gone far enough.

The NHTSA recently issued a letter to Graco requesting that another 1.8 million car seats be incorporated into the recall, due to the face that they included the same buckles, threatening to take legal action to force a recall if the additional car seats were not fixed. Currently, the following seat models (2009-2013 production years) are included in the recall:

If you are a parent, you know that the safety of your children on the road is non-negotiable, and as adults, many of us choose our next car by factoring in how safe we believe it will be for our children. It may surprise you to learn that while safety agencies test crashworthiness for many different scenarios, they have never utilized a test that analyzes side impacts in child car seats; but that’s about to change. In late January, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed multiple upgrades to the federal motor vehicle safety standards that govern child car seats and restraint systems in an effort to better protect children involved in side impact car accidents.

The proposal includes the introduction of the first-ever side impact test for child car seats sold in the United States. According to the stipulations of the NHTSA’s plan, each car seat would be subjected to a ‘sled test’ that simulates a T-bone car accident. The front of a vehicle, which will be traveling at a speed of 30 miles per hour, will strike the side door of a small passenger vehicle (containing the car seat and test dummy) that is traveling at 15 miles per hour. There is currently no comparable test in the world for simulating both the acceleration of a vehicle and the vehicles doors caving in toward a child.

The NHTSA will use a pre-existing 12-month-old child dummy to measure impacts, and have also announced that they will be collecting data for older children by utilizing a newly developed 3-year-old child crash test dummy. Evaluation from the data collected will focus on the capacity of each car seat model to prevent harmful head contact with intruding vehicle doors, and dissipate the forces of an accident, diverting them away from a child’s head and chest. The safety agency says it will allow car-seat manufacturers 3-years to make the changes necessary to meet their proposed requirements. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

The toll that traffic deaths and injuries take on families is significant, and this is a burden our Chicago car accident lawyers attempt to lessen every day. The use of technology in and around automobiles has been a subject of much debate over the past decade, with many critics labeling components like navigation systems and other conveniences as dangerous and overly distracting. However, earlier this week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it intends to require the development and implementation of burgeoning vehicle-to-vehicle communication software in future car models; technology, which the agency believes has the potential to save thousands of lives.

V2V Communication software functions by sending a signal similar to those used by Wi-Fi routers, which transmits your vehicles position, heading, and speed, along with other important pieces of information. This allows vehicles to detect dangerous driving patterns of other vehicles on the road, even if they are not visible to the driver, and react accordingly to prevent collisions. The NHTSA was quick to point out that such technology, even once perfected, will only act as a driver aid, and not as a replacement for responsibility and attentiveness behind the wheel. Still, the agency believes that if this technology is fully utilized, it could reduce the number of traffic accidents (not including those caused by alcohol or mechanical failures) that occur each year in the United States by as much as 80%. (Chron)

Our lawyers welcome the implementation of any technology that promises to make cars safer and smarter without breaking the bank for customers, but for now V2V software is still a ways away. For now, avoidable deaths and serious injuries associated with traffic accidents are still far too common, and incredibly costly. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the total cost of medical care and productivity losses related to motor vehicle accident injuries in the United States was approximately $100 billion in 2010. Theoretically, this adds up to a cost of roughly $500 to every licensed driver on the road, but thankfully, not all of us will be involved in a car crash this year. Instead, responsibility for paying these enormous expenses is concentrated within the individuals and families who have experienced an accident. (Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association)

It doesn’t matter how skilled or experienced you are as a driver, when you are on the freeway traveling at 70 miles per hour with a five foot tall cement median on your left, and a 10,000 lbs. semi-truck on your right, it is natural to become a little nervous. Everyone knows the feeling, and it’s completely justified. During any given year, approximately 500,000 large trucks, tractor-trailers, and commercial vehicles are involved in accidents across the United States, causing over 130,000 people to sustain serious injuries. Due primarily to the enormous size and weight of these trailers, a vast majority of the individuals killed and injured in large truck accidents are drivers and passengers in other vehicles, and that means operating one of these rigs is a serious responsibility. (PR Newswire; TruckAccidents.org)

Yesterday, bail was set at $150,000 in the trial of the semi-truck driver allegedly at fault for a deadly accident in DuPage County. The Monday night crash resulted in the death of a 39-year-old toll way worker, and left an Illinois State Trooper hospitalized with third-degree burns, broken ribs and fractured shoulder bones. Reports indicate that the two men had stopped along the shoulder of Interstate 88 not far from Aurora to provide assistance to another semi driver whose rig had broken down. Despite the fact that both the toll way worker and state trooper’s vehicles had their emergency lights activated, the driver claimed he was unaware that anyone was stopped along the shoulder. A bond hearing Wednesday morning revealed that this error was likely due to sleep deprivation, as the DuPage County State’s Attorney reported that the defendant had slept just 3 ½ hours during a stretch of more than 36 hours of driving previous to the accident. The prosecution has filed charges of operating a commercial vehicle while impaired/fatigued, driving beyond the 11-hour rule, driving more than 14 hours and filing a false report of record and duty status. The Illinois State Trooper, a decorated Navy veteran, had just returned in June from deployment to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa; he remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition. (Chicago Tribune-ChicagoLand)

Large trucks and commercial vehicles have an incredible potential to cause serious injuries and fatalities when involved in an accident, and that is why it is the responsibility of all truck drivers and owners to conduct themselves with the safety of everyone on the road in mind. If you have been injured because of a truck accident, or you are a survivor of a person killed because of negligence on the part of a truck driver or owner, our lawyers can help you get the compensation that you deserve. Together, our Chicago personal injury attorneys possess more than 130 years of experience, and have recovered over $520 million dollars in settlements for our clients. If you think you may have a case, call us for a free consultation to explore your legal options.

In the last few decades, technology has become a ubiquitous part of our lives as Americans. If you were to pick out a random individual walking down the street and ask him or her to empty their pockets, you would probably find that they have at least one piece of technology on them, if not several. While things like smartphones, tablets, Mp3 players, and navigation systems have the potential to make our lives easier and more enjoyable, they can be incredibly hazardous inside an automobile. In the aftermath of a deadly car accident that killed a 6-year-old girl and seriously injured two members of her family, the smartphone app designer Uber is raising questions all over the country regarding the safety of the technology in vehicles, and who is to blame when it goes wrong.

Four years ago, Uber was created as an ambitious Silicon Valley startup, and it has been on an upward trajectory ever since. The software, now valued at approximately $4 billion, can be used by anyone with a smartphone to get a ride in a similar fashion to a taxi. However, with Uber rapidly hiring in an attempt to satisfy larger amounts of customers, many users have expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of their drivers, a grievance made more urgent after an Uber affiliate hit a mother and her two children in a crosswalk on New Year’s Eve, killing a 6-year-old.

This fatal accident has brought about the first wrongful-death lawsuit against Uber, and represents a new area of controversy in the legal realm. Regulators and courts are struggling to categorize Uber, unsure as to whether it is a taxi company or a technology platform. With drivers owning their own vehicles, but being employed as affiliates of Uber, these cases fall into a gray area of employee vs. freelancers. If the previous four years are any indication, Uber will only continue to grow larger, and with more Uber drivers taking to the streets, the chance of accidents affiliated with the company become greater and greater. Many personal insurance policies refuse to cover commercial activity, and in response some states, such a California, have required Uber to carry a $1 million per accident liability policy to pay victims for their injuries in the event of a crash. (New York Times)

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