Semi-trucks: Driver and Pedestrian Safety

Semi-truck drivers have a bad rap for being bullies of the highway. They pull in occupied lanes, hug the lines, and semi-truckdon’t let allow merging. This may appear as bullying, but more than likely, it’s a “No Zone” issue.

Semi-trucks have huge blind spots –  in front, on both sides, and behind their trailer. If another vehicle or even a pedestrian is in one of those blind spots, they may be out of the truck driver’s range of vision. Staying out of a large truck’s “No Zone” will reduce the odds of a semi-truck vs vehicle or pedestrian accident.

The “No Zone” includes:
  • 20 feet in front;
  • One lane to the driver’s side;
  • Two lanes on the passenger side and;
  • 30 feet behind.

Basically, if you can’t see the trucker in their side mirrors, they probably can’t see you either.

Here is a graphic from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) illustrating the “No Zone.”

There are other ways to stay safe when driving around semi-trucks as well.
    1. Again, ensure you can see the driver in the mirror before passing. Signal, then move into the left lane (never pass them in the right lane if you can avoid it) and accelerate so that you can get past the truck safely, but quickly.
    2. Make sure the truck is visible in your rearview mirror before you pull in front. As a precaution, give extra space.
    3. Avoid passing a truck on a downgrade when they tend to pick up speed.
    4. If a truck is passing you, slow down slightly and give the driver plenty of space.
  1. Cutting it close.
    1. Don’t cut in front of a big rig or wait until the last minute to brake if driving in front of one. It takes them up to 40% longer to stop than cars and pickup trucks.
    2. Trucks have air brakes. If the driver brakes and uses up the air before it can recharge, then he has no brakes for a second stop.  This will increase his stopping distance and will result in you getting rear ended.
    1. If driving behind a big rig, you are more than likely in one of their blind spots, plus, your ability to see other traffic will be diminished.
    2. If you rear-end a big truck, you can probably kiss your vehicle goodbye. can not only be injurious, but deadly. That’s a 80,000 pound truck vs a 5000 pound car collision.
    3. Rear ending a semi-truck can not only be injurious, but deadly. If the car drives under and gets stuck, those in the front seat can be instantly killed. Though commercial trucks are required to have a safety device called under ride guards, they’re not effective enough to always stop cars from driving under the trailer.
  2. Space to turn.
    1. Trucks require extra turning room. They swing wide, and sometimes may need to take a right turn from the middle lane as opposed to the far right lane.
    2. If a truck has signaled for a right turn, don’t pull along their right side.
    3. When you stop at an intersection, stay behind the stopping line or crosswalk. A semi-truck will require that space to make a left or right turn, depending on which direction they are heading.
Pedestrian safety around semi-trucks.

Pedestrians are not always visible to drivers. This goes double for the drivers of large trucks. It’s important to be cautious while out walking, especially at intersections and while crossing the street. Just last week a mom and her two children, an infant and three year-old were struck as they crossed the street in front of a semi that was pulling out into traffic. They were in one of his blind spots. The mom was uninjured, but the two children were admitted to Mary Bridge Hospital for evaluation.

The FMCSA offers the following tips to keep pedestrians safe when around large trucks:
  • Watch your walk ways. Walk on sidewalks and in crosswalks whenever possible. Pay attention to walk safety around semi truckssignals and keep a safe distance when standing on street corners. Trucks make wide right turns and occasionally run up onto the corner of the sidewalk. It is important for you to be alert and to move back. Mostly likely, the truck driver will not see you or may be distracted and you could be seriously injured or killed if hit.
  • Know your no-zones. Be careful of the blind spots, or No-Zones, when walking near or around trucks. Always assume the driver does not know that you are there. Make eye contact with the driver before walking in front of a truck that appears to be parked. If a truck is running, ensure there is plenty of room between you and the truck. Never walk behind a truck when it is backing up; truck drivers cannot see directly behind the truck and could seriously injure you.
  • Stopping distances. Use caution when crossing intersections and streets. You may think vehicles will stop for you, but they may not see you or even be able to stop. Remember, trucks take longer to stop than other vehicles and need much more space. Never take a chance with a truck, even if the driver sees you he may not be able to stop.
  • Make yourself visible. Wear bright or reflective clothing, especially when walking at night. Dressing to be seen will make it safer for you and drivers. Professional drivers do a lot of driving at night, and there’s a good chance a truck driver will not see you if you don’t make yourself visible. Carrying a flashlight is your safest bet for being seen at night.
  • Watch out for wide loads. Trucks with wide loads have very limited visibility as well as difficulty maneuvering. Wide loads are much heavier and take up lots of room on the road. You need to be aware when walking near a truck with a wide load, because the driver may not see you. Trucks with wide loads make even wider right turns, require more space, and take even longer to stop than other trucks on the road. Remember to keep your distance when walking around these large trucks.

Always err on the side of caution when driving or walking near a semi-truck. A collision with a large truck can be deadly. Safety does not lie solely on the shoulders of the truck driver. It’s up to all drivers and pedestrians to ensure their own safety on the streets.

Move Over Laws Protect Emergency Responders

paramedic

On Sunday, a driver hit a State Patrol trooper’s car on I-5 in Tacoma as the trooper investigated an earlier crash. Luckily no one was hurt, but northbound lanes were shut down for several hours.  This is a good reminder that moving over or slowing down to keep law enforcement officers and emergencies responders free from harm is not only a great safety precaution, but the law.

“Move Over” laws were created by a South Carolina paramedic who was struck and injured at an accident scene in 1994.  South Carolina passed the first Move Over law in 1996. In 2000, a series of similar events sparked the US Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration to address the need for improved standards in Emergency Scene Safety and protection for emergency workers. With the further assistance of public interest groups such as the Emergency Responder Safety Institute Move Over laws became standard across the US and Canada.

In our state, Move Over laws passed in 2007. In 2010 legislation added “Emergency Zone” laws. Emergency Zone is defined as the adjacent lanes of the roadway 200 feet (10 car lengths) before and after a stationary emergency vehicle with flashing lights. These vehicles include tow trucks, emergency assistance vehicles, or any police vehicle using emergency lights. Fines double for vehicles exceeding the posted speed limit in an Emergency Zone.

In Washington, If the highway has four or more lanes, two of which traffic is heading the same direction as the approaching vehicle, proceed with caution, and if reasonable and safe, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change or moving away from the lane or shoulder occupied by the stationary responding vehicle. If the highway has less than four lanes, proceed with caution, reduce speed, and if safe and under the rules, yield the right-of-way by passing to the left at a safe distance while also yielding the right-of-way to vehicles traveling in the proper direction.  If changing lanes or moving away would be unsafe or unreasonable, proceed with caution and reduce speed.

To find information on the Move Over law in your state, visit Move Over America.

Liquor licensee risks with New Years alcohol sales

The new year begins at the end of this week, and many people will be out reveling and ringing it in. Some may stay alcoholat home, but other will have a night out on then town. Those celebrating are not the only ones that need to be careful. If you are a bar or restaurant owner, bartender, or server, be vigilant when serving alcohol. You can be liable of you serve a minor or over-serve an overtly drunk individual. Under dram shop law, bar owners, servers, and retail stores can be held liable if they sell alcohol to a minor or someone who is already drunk, and that person in turn injures or kills a third party due to driving drunk or other by other means (such as assaults).  If the wounded party provides evidence that the serving or selling of the alcohol was the proximate cause of their injuries, they may be entitled to compensation.

Dram Shop law were put into place to protect the public from the irresponsible selling of alcohol to minors or discernibly intoxicated patrons.

Violations may include:
  • Selling alcohol to a minor
  • Over service of alcohol
  • Selling alcohol without checking ID
  • Selling alcohol without a license
  • Selling alcohol after hours
There are many ways to avoid becoming the defendant on the end of a dram shop claim.
  • If unsure about a patron’s age, check ID. This will prevent serving liquor to a minor.
  • Don’t be afraid to cut someone off. It’s not only a right, but a duty to stop serving a visibly intoxicated customer.drunk
  • Avoid overcrowding. Capacity is not just a number – overcrowding can lead to fights among other safety hazards.
  • Know the signs of intoxication. Not sure what they are? The State of Oregon Liquor Control Commission created a comprehensive list. View it here.
  • Don’t serve alcohol outside of legal sales hours. In Washington, liquor sales are allowed from 6 A.M. to 2 A.M. For more info, Wikipedia has a detailed list of liquor law by state.

Don’t think it can’t happen to you. I’ve helped many clients with dram shop claims. Whether in a car accident or assaulted by an intoxicated individual, I’ve proven liquor licensee liability.  Err on the side of caution when serving alcohol this weekend. You might save your business, your job, or even save a life.

Happy New Year to you.

Don’t let the New Year start deadly

New Year’s Eve is one of the worst days of the year for alcohol related car crashes and deaths.  According to the drinking and driving new yearNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on average, 130 deaths take place on New Year’s Eve.

Here are some tips regarding staying safe on New Years:

  • Designate a sober driver.
  • Save the number of a local cab service in your phone prior to heading out.
  • Hire a shuttle or limousine service to transport you and your friends to and from your event.
  • Take an Uber or Lyft home.
  • Stay in a hotel.

 

 

Don’t assume walking is a safe option.  New Years has the highest death rate of pedestrians than any other day of the year.  The walker is drunk in over a third of pedestrian fatalities.  Alcohol impairs your ability to walk and navigate, especially in the dark.  If you must walk:

  • As silly as it sounds, have a designated walker.
  • Drink responsibly
  • Stay on the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is available, walk facing traffic
  • If you plan ahead of time, wear bright colored clothing and carry a flashlight to be more visible to drivers.
  • Walk in groups. This help with visibility also.

If you’re driving, it’s very simple. Don’t drink.

Have a fun, but safe New Years Eve.

Host a safe holiday office party

A holiday office party is a great way to bring people together, boost morale, and show staff how much they’re Office Christmas Partyappreciated. Be aware, if alcohol is served, some guests may overindulge. The increased opportunities to party this time of year account for a spike in binge drinking. Some party goers will undoubtedly get behind the wheel after celebrating. If drunk party guests cause a car accident on their way home, the host could be legally responsible for damages.

Are you hosting and office holiday party this year? Here are some tips to keep employees safe.

  • Send out a party memo prior. Make clear what your alcohol policy is and enforce it. Remind staff not to overindulge and not serve drinks to minors.
  • Party during the work week. People are less apt to overindulge if they must be at work the next morning.
  • Have a dry party. Employees may not like it, but they won’t be driving drunk afterward either.
  • Have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available. Serve soft drinks, water and mocktails as well as alcoholic drinks.
  • Serve beer and wine only. Avoid stronger alcoholic drinks.
  • Use drink tickets. Limit the number of drinks each guest is allowed.
  • Don’t host the bar. If you offer a no host bar where guests must pay for their own drinks, they may not drink as much as they would at a hosted bar.
  • Serve food. People tend to drink less at parties at which food is served because it’s hard to juggle food and a drink at the same time. Stay away from greasy, salty, and sweet foods that make people thirsty. Offer high protein and starchy foods which stay in the stomach longer and slow the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream.
  • Hire a bartender for the night. A professional bartender can identify employees who drink too much and should be encouraged to card younger employees. If younger staff members will be attending the party, consider using wristbands. Issue one color for guests under 21 and one for those over 21.
  • Close the bar an hour before the party ends. Just like they do at sporting events, closing the bar an hour before the party ends will give guests time to sober up before heading home.
  • Host at a hotel. My law firm did this for years. We would rent a banquet room at a hotel, then most employees would book a room for the night instead of driving home.
  • Have numbers for taxi services on hand. Keep the number handy and visible, for instance, placing their business cards at tables.
  • Splurge on a party bus or ride vouchers. Hire a bus for the night to drive employees to and from the party, or offer to pay for their Uber or Lyft ride at the end of the night.
  • Reward designated drivers. Give DDs a gas gift card or some other kind of reward for staying sober and responsible.
  • Intervene. If a guest attempts to drink and drive, step in, call a cab, take their keys, do whatever it takes to keep them off the road. After all, if they cause an accident, the host may be held legally responsible under the social host liability law.

Have a fun and safe holiday season.

Hit by the delivery driver

fedex deliveryThis time of year seeing a UPS or Fed Ex truck on the road is a common occurrence.  Driver’s delivering packages this time of year are often under a lot of pressure. UPS expects to deliver 630 million packages between Black Friday and Christmas Eve. During the holiday season delivery drivers will be driving about 50 miles a day. With driver’s traveling that many miles, delivering that many packages, accidents are bound to happen.

Accidents happen for a variety of reasons. They can be caused by human error, outside conditions, or other factors. Some common causes of delivery truck accidents might include:

  • Failure of the driver to set the truck’s parking brake during a delivery causing it to roll;
  • Driver backing up the delivery truck after passing the desired address rather than going around the block or turning around. This can be especially dangerous for pedestrians or bicyclists;
  • Speeding while driving in order to met delivery deadlines;
  • Distracted Driving – text messaging, eating, or doing something else that distracts resulting in an accident;
  • Not following truck driving guidelines and regulations
  • Drivers making sudden stops or quick left turns;
  • Failure to yield while merging in to traffic;
  • Failure to obey traffic laws;
  • Driver fatigue, intoxication, inexperience or inadequate training,
  • Failure to properly maintain vehicle;
  • Vehicle equipment failure;
  • Poorly secured cargo load;
  • Poor road or weather conditions.

If you’re not at fault, who is? It depends on the situation.

The delivery company:

In most cases claims will be filed against the negligent driver’s employer as long as the following is true:

  1. The truck driver is an employee, and
  2. The driver was acting within the scope of his or her employment.

Sometimes these companies hire independent contractors or perhaps the employee was on his or her lunch break when the accident occurred. However, that doesn’t mean the delivery company isn’t still at least partly liable for damages if the person driving its truck was negligent.

The driver:

Since the driver was the negligent party, they will more than likely need to be named party to the claim. If both the driver and employer are added to the claim, chances of completely recovering losses for medical bills, lost wages and other damages are more likely.

Independent contractors:

Some companies may hire independent contractors to do deliveries for them, and in those cases, liability may get a little sticky. Independent contractors aren’t employees of the business and they do not direct the work performed, a 3rd party contractor does that.  Independent contractors are generally solely responsible for a truck accident, unless the business owner exercised a great deal of control over the contractor’s duties.

FedEx was under the microscope last year regarding the use of independent contractors. The company claimed that all its drivers are independent contractors, but the court ruled differently in a class action lawsuit. The decision stated, “Contracts with drivers who must wear FedEx uniforms, drive FedEx-approved vehicles and groom themselves according to FedEx’s appearance standards to deliver packages to its customers.”FedEx tells its drivers what packages to deliver, on what days and at what times,” he said. “Although drivers may operate multiple delivery routes and hire third parties to help perform their work, they may do so only with FedEx’s consent.”

FedEx paid out $466 million to settle their claims.

If you get into a vehicle accident with a delivery truck, treat it just like you would any other kind of accident. There are certain steps you should follow.  DMV.org has posted a helpful checklist.

This information doesn’t just apply to FedEx and UPS drivers; it applies to anyone driving under the scope of their employment. Be careful on the roads this holiday season and if you’re in a car accident, give me a call, shoot me an email or fill out my online request form for a free consultation to discuss your rights. I have decades of experience with motor vehicle accidents and would be happy to help.

Halloween Safety Part Three: Pedestrian Accidents

Halloween night is a big day for emergency room staff. Many ER visits are due to  injuries resulting from car vs. pedestrian Halloween Safetyaccidents. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children are four times more likely to be hit by a motor vehicle on Halloween than any other day of the year. There are many reasons for pedestrian accidents on Halloween, including but not limited to:

  • Trick-or-treating after dark.
  • Children are likely to choose the shortest route such as crossing streets mid block, sometimes darting out between parked cars.
  • Smaller children may not be visible to drivers while crossing the street.
  • Parents overestimating their child’s ability to negotiate traffic.
  • Eager trick-or-treaters often forget about safety.

Motorists need to do their part avoiding pedestrian accidents and protecting children from harm on Halloween night. Here are some tips for driving safely on Halloween.

  • Stow away your cell phone. Pull over and stop to call, text or answer.
  • Don’t pass stopped vehicles. Children may be getting dropped off or picked up.
  • Obey all traffic signs and signals and drive at least 5 mph below the posted speed limit to give yourself extra brake time if a child darts in front of your car.
  • Watch for children walking on roadways, medians and curbs.
  • Look for children crossing the street midblock or between parked cars.
  • Carefully enter and exit driveways and alleys.
  • Turn on your headlights to make yourself more visible.
  • Always yield to young pedestrians. They may not stop, either because they don’t see your vehicle or don’t know how to safely cross the street.
  • If dropping off or picking up your own children, park and turn on your hazards.

Let’s keep the tragedies at bay this Halloween. Drive safely.

Do you have any other safety tips for those driving on Halloween night?

Pedestrian fatalities

A woman was killed last Friday night walking across 6th Avenue to her 50th high school reunion. Tragedies such as pedestrianthis happen all too often and are usually preventable. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 4,700 pedestrians were killed in traffic deaths in 2013, and more than 156,000 were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries.  Though children 14 and under make up the majority of pedestrian fatalities (21%), the 65 and older demographic come in at a close second (19%).

Like the accident that occurred on Friday, most pedestrian deaths occur in urban areas, at night, at non-intersection locations. It’s important to be careful while crossing the street, especially at night. Even if it’s a bit of a walk, it’s better to cross at a designated crosswalk or intersection than in the middle of a busy thoroughfare.

Another factor in pedestrian deaths is alcohol. About a third of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents were legally drunk, with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher.

The NHTSA has advice for both pedestrians and drivers on how to avoid pedestrian traffic accidents.

For Pedestrians:
  • Walk on a sidewalk or path whenever available.
  • If there is no sidewalk or path available, walk facing traffic, on the shoulder, as far away from traffic as possible.
  • Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices, including smart phones and other devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road environment.
  • Be cautious night and day when sharing the road with vehicles.
  • Never assume a driver sees you (he or she could be distracted, under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or just not seeing you).
  • Try to make eye contact with drivers as they approach to make sure you are seen.pedestrian crossing
  • Be predictable. Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections whenever possible. This is where drivers expect pedestrians.
  • If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area, wait for traffic while crossing.
  • Stay off of freeways, restricted-access highways and other pedestrian-prohibited roadways.
  • Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flash light at night.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair abilities and judgment.
For Drivers:
  • Always and everywhere, be on the watch for pedestrians. Very often pedestrians are not walking where they should be.
  • Be especially vigilant for pedestrians in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or in inclement weather.
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
  • Always stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop too.
  • Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. They are stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the street.
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Follow the speed limit, especially around pedestrians.
  • Follow slower speed limits in school zones and in neighborhoods where there are children present.

Many cities across the United States have seen an increase of pedestrian injuries and fatalities, and are making changes accordingly. In Tacoma, they have added:

  • 167 curb ramps
  • 23 bulbouts
  • 157 crosswalks
  • 4 flashing beacon systems
  • 44 countdown pedestrian signal heads

Still, even with improvements by government entities, it is up to the pedestrian to be in charge of their own safety.  Be diligent and aware, whether you are the driver or pedestrian, it will help save lives.

August the deadliest driving month

deadly drivingYou would think most vehicle accidents would take place in winter, when there’s a chill in the air and snow and ice on the streets. However, that isn’t the case. In fact, the winter months are the least dangerous. The deadliest driving month is August according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Four out of ten of the deadliest days on the road occur in August ( 3rd, 4th, 6th, 12th).

What makes August so treacherous?

It’s as simple as this: there are more cars on the roads in August than any other time of year. If you read my blog regularly, you already know that the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day are the deadliest for teens. During August the sun is shining, teenagers and young adults are still taking advantage of their freedom, and families go on extended road trips. Many people are also attending sporting events and backyard barbecues, which much of the time involve alcohol.

The NHTSA recommends “prevention and planning” when it comes to summer driving. Most car accidents and injuries are avoidable.

Ways to stay safe on the roads this month.
  • Buckle up every time you’re in the car.
  • Never drink and drive.
  • Keep your tires healthy by checking air pressure and tread. Also make sure you have a spare on board.
  • Be aware of your surroundings while driving. This includes pedestrians, especially children, animals, and other drivers.
  • Obey the speed limits.deadly driving
  • Avoid distraction while driving. This extends beyond your smartphone. Eating, drinking, changing the radio station are things we might do on a road trip, but are also distractions.
A couple more stats of which to be aware:
  • Saturday is the deadliest driving day.
  • Rush hour the most dangerous time to drive followed by nighttime driving.

With Labor Day approaching, stay mindful that holiday weekends are always treacherous for drivers. While it’s not the deadliest of holiday weekends, Labor Day still sees its share of fatalities because of the number of cars on the roads.

Enjoy the remainder of your summer – out of harm’s way. Stay sober, stay calm, stay alert, and most importantly, stay safe.

Pokemon Go Injuries

The Game

The game, Pokemon Go began just days ago, and already injuries are being reported due to game play. If you are unfamiliar with the game, let me offer a simple explanation. It is what is called an “augmented reality” game that allows players to capture Pokemon (fictional creatures based on a Japanese franchise, i.e. card game, video game, etc.) in the real world. The creatures appear through the camera of player’s smart phones as they walk through their community.

The game, created by Niantic and Pokemon, even warns users to pay attention to their surroundings and play safely, serving as a type of waiver, but many are not heeding the warning, resulting in the injuries.

The Injuries

There have been a number of slip, trip and falls because those playing the game were not watching where they are walking; they were staring at their cell phone screens. Some have fallen into ditches and holes, and ran into cinderblocks.

Players have also taken spills on skateboards and walked into walls, street signs, and the street itself while glued to their smart phones.

Some gamers are even playing while driving, which we all know is an accident waiting to happen. Thankfully, the game will not work if you are traveling at more than 20 miles per hour. It is meant to be played while walking, not driving.

This is not just a problem for juveniles, many of the injured are in their 20s and 30s.

The plus side

The game does come with some positives. Since it is based on walking, people are getting exercise while playing. Players are interacting with each other when they wind up at the same “Pokemon” site. Pokemon are found in parks and landmarks as well as living rooms and kitchens, so players are spending time in outdoor locations they may not have otherwise visited.

If you’re playing:
  • Don’t drive and play. It’s the same as texting while driving, which is against the law and can be dangerous or even deadly.
  • If walking, bicycling, or skateboarding, keep your eyes focused on the sidewalk/road. If you find a Pokemon “egg,” stop to collect your creature. The game is not worth an ankle, knee, elbow or head injury.

Play smart, play safe, and have some injury free fun.