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Drivers in California and around the country have access to vehicles that contain several technological advances that have helped to reduce the frequency of fatal car accidents. However, such incidents still are one of the significant causes of death to U.S. residents.

Every day the news is filled with stories about people being killed in car accidents, leading readers to believe motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in this country. That just isn't so. Deaths from car accidents have decreased by approximately a third over the past three years, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. According to 2013 data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four people in the United States died from heart attacks that year, while one in 34 people died from alcohol or drug problems. Only one in 77 people died in car accidents, the same rate as those who were killed by firearms. Fire had the lowest death rate, with only one out of 821 people dying in fires.

Statistics are also available to show the jurisdictions that have the highest and lowest traffic death rates on a per capita basis. The three states that have the highest such rates are Montana, Mississippi and Oklahoma, while the District of Columbia has the lowest rate.

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Tagged in: Car Accidents

California residents may have read about a deadly accident at Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services in Omaha on April 14. Two employees died and another was hurt in the incident.

A major explosion occurred inside a railcar after a 41-year-old employee and a 45-year-old employee went inside of it to begin their work, even though it was known that the air quality within the railcar was dangerously close to causing an explosion. Once inside the railcar, the two workers, who were not adequately equipped with emergency rescue gear and proper respirators, were instantly killed in the blast.

After the deadly blast, officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted an investigation into each of the company's three locations. The company, which mainly cleans railcars that are used to haul items such as ethanol, gasoline, asphalt, pesticides and fertilizers, faces $963,000 in fines following those inspections. OSHA investigators reportedly found that the company failed to monitor and evaluate the air quality within the confined spaces of the railcars before and after employees entered them to do their work. They also discovered that the company failed to fit-test employees with respirators to keep them safe as they were inside the railcars. Among a list of other citations, OSHA officials stated that the company failed to implement safety training, committed electrical violations and failed to correct citations from 2013. The company was given 15 business days to respond to OSHA's penalties and citations.

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Tagged in: Workplace Accidents

Although roundabouts are meant to slow traffic down and prevent accidents, many people believe that they are not right for California. In Berkeley, a roundabout that was constructed on Gilman Street near Interstate 80 is thought to be causing accidents rather than preventing them. However, proponents of roundabouts argue that they just take getting used to and ultimately cause traffic to flow better.

According to traffic studies, roundabouts can prevent accidents in an area by up to 47 percent. Roundabouts have also been shown to reduce traffic delays by 23 percent. Cars going through roundabouts do not always need to come to a complete stop, and the time that is saved can result in a less clogged intersection. Pedestrians may be safer crossing the street near roundabouts because they only have to look out for cars traveling in one direction.

People who are opposed to roundabouts say that they should not be installed in areas where drivers travel at high speeds. When drivers approach a roundabout at 60 to 70 mph, they may come across signage that they do not understand and end up causing an accident. In areas with heavy traffic, it may be difficult for drivers in a roundabout to find a break in traffic so that they can make a turn.

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Tagged in: Car Accidents

California residents know that breaking the rules of the road, such as by speeding or driving while under the influence, can have very serious consequences. Most people would assume that a driver who does so and then ends up in an accident is responsible for the ensuing damages. However, there have been cases where it has been found that a motor vehicle defect may have been a contributory factor as well.

This is the situation in the case of the late actor Paul Walker, whose daughter recently filed a lawsuit against Porsche for wrongful death. Walker was riding in a 2004 Porsche GT Carrera, which has been described as practically a race car on the street. He died when the vehicle crashed into a lamppost and subsequently burst into flames. The official police investigation report concluded that the driver of the vehicle had been going at about 94 miles per hour when it crashed. However, according to the lawsuit, the vehicle was actually going between 63 and 71 miles per hour.

The lawsuit claims that the automaker is responsible because it failed to make this car safe enough to protect its riders from car accidents by not installing a stabilization sensor system, which it has installed in many of its other vehicles. Additionally, the suit also states that the actor was trapped in the burning vehicle due to a defective seat belt system.

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Tagged in: Wrongful Death

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has recently released its annual list of the deadliest jobs in California and around the country. Compiled from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the list looked at the 4,679 fatal work injuries that were recorded in 2014. There were 4,585 fatal work injuries reported in 2013, which means there was a 2 percent increase in 2014.

Of the 4,679 work-related fatalities in 2014, 4,251 of the deaths were in the private sector. The civilian occupations that were the most deadly in 2014 included logging workers, fishers and aircraft pilots and flight engineers. There were 77 fatal work injuries for loggers, 22 for fishers and those doing related fishing work and 81 for the pilots and engineers.

Other occupations with high rates of fatal injuries were refuse and recyclable material collectors, agricultural managers like farmers, steel workers and truck drivers. Those who work with electrical power lines and supervisors of construction workers finished at the bottom of the list. The data from the 2014 CFOI also revealed that government workers had fewer fatal work injuries while workers 55 years of age and older had the highest amount of fatal work injuries ever reported. There were 1,047 on the job accidents that led to fatalities for self-employed workers, and men accounted for 92 percent of those fatally injured on the job.

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Tagged in: Workplace Accidents

California drivers who find themselves in situations where visibility has dropped due to fog might be unaware of the dangers posed by these conditions. Because visibility can drop rapidly and because drivers often do not have enough time to react correctly, fog has been a factor in a number of serious crashes around the country over the years.

While research focusing on the role that foggy weather can play in a motor vehicle accident is limited, there have been studies that have addressed the issue. One found that drivers tend to approach foggy conditions in two ways. The study labeled drivers 'laggers" and 'non-laggers" and suggested that the majority of drivers fall into the non-lagger category, which posed its own set of dangers as non-laggers attempt to stay within view of lead cars ahead of them, which sometimes cause them to drive at unsafe speeds. Additionally, another study found that fog can make drivers underestimate just how closely they are following another vehicle, which means that in the event they have to brake to avoid a collision, they might not have enough time to do so.

One study also focused on identifying the location and time when accidents involving foggy weather were more likely to take place. The study found that incidents under these conditions tended to happen in the early hours of the day, in rural areas and during the winter months from December to February. These accidents also tended to be multi-vehicle accidents resulting in more serious injuries than crashes where visibility was not an issue.

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Tagged in: Car Accidents

While OSHA says that workers must have fall safety equipment when working more than four feet in the air, employers don't always provide such protection. In fact, some employers consider it optional or don't buy equipment until after an accident happens. In some cases, employers aren't sure what type of equipment to buy, which is why they forgo it altogether even if they understand its value.

Therefore, it may be a good idea for employers to put together a safety team that can determine the best fall protection equipment for a given company. The team can do research and take other steps necessary to ensure that they balance worker safety with the cost of making such a purchase. Another option is to identify which application is most relevant for a given company and buy equipment for that application.

For instance, if the company's main application is unloading or reloading, equipment should be purchased to protect workers while performing those tasks. Buying the right fall protection gear can help to save lives and reduce workplace injuries. This can help prevent costs related to site shutdowns or medical bills for injured workers. Furthermore, companies that fail to abide by OSHA regulations expose themselves to steep fines for violating federal safety regulations.

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Tagged in: Workplace Accidents

California residents have probably heard about the General Motors recall of many vehicles that could have defective ignition switches, but some may be unaware of how these recalls might influence the legal system. Several past criminal cases are being looked at in light of the new knowledge of the problem.

In one case, a 25-year-old woman previously spent three months in jail for a one-to-two year sentence when losing control of her Chevrolet Cobalt in 2010, which resulted in the death of a 16-year-old male passenger. The authorities thought she was speeding, but the woman said that she was not and that the brakes and vehicle stopped working. The Chevrolet's ignition went into the accessory position, and there was no power for steering or braking. Additionally, the airbags did not deploy when a crash occurred. Instances like this sounded unbelievable before the news about faulty ignition switches, and the woman pleaded guilty to reckless driving and involuntary manslaughter.

The woman's guilty plea was erased due to new evidence in August 2015, but this story highlights what some have gone through after unexplained accidents happened that now make sense due to vehicle recalls. GM knew about the ignition switch problem before issuing a public notice, and the company has created a fund to compensate those who suffered because of the defective ignition switches.

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Tagged in: Car Accidents

Every year, car accidents cause serious injuries to California residents. However, some injuries don't show up right away. Mental trauma and many physical ailments can surface hours or days after an accident. It is important to recognize the symptoms of delayed trauma to ensure that certain injuries are not left untreated.

Many car accident victims suffer from headaches after a crash. Though usually benign, some headaches may indicate serious issues like a blood clot on the brain, a concussion or a neck injury. Delayed neck and shoulder stiffness, commonly known as whiplash, may also occur. Serious cases may require x-rays, MRIs or CT scans. The delayed onset of abdominal pain or swelling could indicate undetected internal bleeding. Other symptoms of internal bleeding include deep bruising and dizziness.

Car crash victims should also be on the lookout for back pain, numbness in the extremities and changes in their personality, which could all signal serious injuries. Post-traumatic stress disorder, which may involve disturbing dreams, could also occur after a crash. PTSD is especially common in children. To be on the safe side, health care professionals suggest that anyone involved in an accident should seek immediate medical attention even if they do not initially believe they suffered an injury.

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Tagged in: Car Accidents

Vehicles with defective braking systems pose a danger to all California road users, but the threat is particularly serious when the vehicle involved is a semi-tractor trailer. The air braking systems used on large commercial vehicles are more complex and require more maintenance than the systems found on passenger cars, and random roadside inspections often result in citations for poorly maintained or defective truck brakes. Trucking companies can avoid such issues by ensuring that their vehicles are properly maintained, and truck drivers can help to improve road safety by pointing out vehicle behavior that could be caused by braking problems.

Commercial vehicle braking systems are designed to work evenly, and semi-truck accidents can occur when brakes on some wheels are not working as well as those on others. This kind of defect can sometimes go unnoticed during visual inspections, but truck drivers may be alerted to the problem by their vehicles pulling to one side or the other after the brakes are applied.

Timing issues are another common commercial vehicle braking problem. Air braking systems are designed to work in sequence, and semi-tractor trailers can become unstable if all of the brakes operate simultaneously. Timing issues are usually caused by leaks or blockages in the air lines that can either restrict air flow or prevent air escaping from the brake chamber.

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Tagged in: Truck Accidents

Motorcyclists in California might wonder how they can ride more safely. It is important to anticipate specific dangers and consider what can be done to avoid or deal with them.

For example, avoiding excessive speed can help prevent the dangers of taking a corner too fast as well as going around a blind corner and hitting a patch of leaves, gravel or other debris that can cause an accident. Riders should also be observant so that they will notice cars changing lanes or making left turns.

Motorcyclists should space themselves between cars or while riding among other motorcyclists to avoid being hit from behind. They should not ride between a traffic lane and a line of parked cars so they do not hit pedestrians or car doors. Practicing the use of the front brake is also important. The front brake is more powerful than many motorcyclists realize and riders who are unfamiliar with its operation may lock the brake and be thrown.

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Posted on in Car Accidents

As California motorists know, driving the wrong way on a highway is responsible for serious accidents. The National Transportation Safety Board completed a study detailing accidents caused by motorists accessing on ramps and off ramps incorrectly. The study did not include drivers who cross over the center or those driving on two-lane roads, since the recommendations for those types of accidents would be different.

Although wrong-way drivers account for only a small percentage of accidents every year, those types of accidents frequently result in serious injuries and fatalities. Because wrong-way drivers have been a problem since the introduction of the Interstate Highway System, research into ways to prevent it have been recommended since the 1960s.

Recommendations by the NTSB in 1990, following a study of truck drivers involved in fatal accidents, included establishing a standardized method for specimen collection. It also called for legislation requiring alcohol and drug testing of drivers who were involved in truck accidents that resulted in fatalities.

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Tagged in: Car Accidents

California drivers may be interested to learn that newer technologies are making driving safer. Companies such as Volvo and BMW are introducing devices that help detect when a driver may be getting drowsy and alert the motorist to that possibility.

While it is difficult to measure fatigue as a factor in car accidents due in part to the fact that there is no test for drowsiness as there is for drunk driving, it is estimated that at least 7,500 fatal accidents each year have fatigue as a factor. It was considered one likely cause of the 2014 accident that seriously injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed another passenger in his limousine. The truck driver who hit them had been awake for 28 hours.

These new devices function by detecting when a driver makes an error such as slipping into another lane or when a front-end collision is likely. The devices sound an alert, and in some cases, may make a correction such as braking automatically to avoid a collision. Other devices and apps check for driver alertness through checks such as how often the driver is manipulating the steering wheel or by predicting if the driver will become drowsy based on factors such as how much the driver has slept. They sound alarms or flash lights if the driver is not responsive.

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Tagged in: Car Accidents

California residents may be following the story of a gas explosion that injured three people at a Bronx high school. Workers were installing a new science lab when the accident took place at about 8 p.m. on Aug. 20. The accident occurred when a worker used a lit match to see if gas was going through the line as designed.

There were seven workers from a construction company at the school at the time of the accident. Three of the workers had serious burn injuries, and all seven were taken to area hospitals. The explosion caused damage to the 4th, 5th and 6th floor of the school with the 6th floor suffering the most damage.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the school would not be able to open on time, but that all students would be placed at nearby schools. An area assemblyman said that no one was going to be allowed back into the building until it was safe to do so. It is believed that some rooms on the 7th floor of the school suffered structural damage in the wake of the explosion.

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Tagged in: Workplace Accidents

Workers in manufacturing and other industries in California and throughout the United States will receive additional support in the prevention of certain types of serious workplace injuries. Specifically, the Occupational Safety Health Agency has recently issued an updated version of its National Emphasis Program directive on amputations.

OSHA's directive calls on employers to better identify and work to eliminate serious hazards in the workplace. The directive targets general industry workplaces where machinery is present that is likely to cause amputations. These industries include machine shops, bakeries, sawmills, meat processing plants and other manufacturers of food products. Data reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate these industries have the highest rates of amputations among workers.

Data from 2013 reveals that 2,000 workers suffered an amputation that year, with the manufacturing sector experiencing a rate of amputations more than double that of all private industry. According to OSHA, this sector had an amputation rate of 1.7 per 10,000 full-time employees in 2013, whereas private industry overall had only 0.7 amputations per 10,000 employees.

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Tagged in: Workplace Accidents

Although railroad companies are required to upgrade safety technology by the end of 2015, only three companies have filed formal plans to do so. The new technology upgrades are to involve positive train control, which is designed to automatically slow or stop trains when necessary via GPS as well as radio and computer software. Advocates hope that the technology can help prevent accidents due to trains traveling at unsafe speeds or into areas where crews may be working.

One such advocate is the National Transportation Safety Board, which has lobbied for such technology for more than 40 years. It believes that PTC would have prevented 145 crashes, which would have saved 300 lives and avoided 6,700 injuries. However, some railroad companies say that they have experienced unanticipated problems that have made it difficult to comply with the new rules.

Despite not being one of the companies that has submitted a plan for government approval, Amtrak says that it will have PTC available on its Northeast Corridor by Dec. 31. BNSF Railway, Metrolink and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority are the three railroads that have submitted plans. BNSF is the second-largest freight railroad in America while Metrolink and the PTA are commuter lines in Los Angles and Philadelphia, respectively.

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Tagged in: Workplace Accidents

California workers may be interested in a series of mining industry fatalities that occurred in a single day across the country. These deaths have prompted one government agency to step up its enforcement and education activities in order to prevent further harm.

On Aug. 3, three mine workers in three different states were killed in workplace accidents. One work accident victim, an 18-year-old at a Virginia quarry, was buried beneath tons of stone and sand when a silo on the job site collapsed. The other incidents took place in South Dakota and Nevada. This is the first time that this many incidents have occurred on a single day since 2002.

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration is increasing its enforcement of safety regulations in the wake of these three deaths. This will include more facility inspections, concentrating on particular violations that are commonly associated with mining fatalities. Additionally, the agency will put more effort into educating the industry on the dangers that these violations can present. This includes having inspectors on the ground and at the job sites, educating miners and site operators first-hand about the potential for serious and fatal accidents, along with how to prevent them. A spokesperson for the MSHA points out that these efforts will require cooperation industry-wide.

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Tagged in: Workplace Accidents

California residents may have read the national news reports about a person who was killed after a dump truck slammed into an overpass in New Jersey on Aug. 4. According to a state police captain, the truck was traveling on the New Jersey turnpike when it collided with the Wood Avenue overpass at about 10:30 a.m.

The crash occurred in the southbound lanes of the turnpike. The truck overturned and its driver was killed. The accident also caused a fire to ignite, and authorities closed both lanes of the turnpike until it could be determined if the overpass's stability had been compromised. Additionally, gas and power lines were also compromised. The traffic reportedly became backed up for miles and some of the lanes were expected to be closed until midnight.

Because trucks are much larger than other types of vehicles, an accident involving one is likely to leave people with serious injuries. In some cases, the injuries could be severe enough to result in death. If a person was killed in a crash caused by the negligence of a truck driver, the surviving family members may want to consider filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

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Tagged in: Truck Accidents

California drivers should always be aware of large trucks on the road, especially those transporting liquid loads. These vehicles are subject to special hazards the general public may be unaware of, and they are the topic of several myths about the conditions that can give rise to an accident. Understanding these myths and the actual causes of cargo tank rollovers can perhaps help to reduce the incidence of these accidents.

Contrary to popular belief, cargo tank rollover accidents are not commonly associated with speeding, nighttime driving, unsafe road conditions or lack of experience behind the wheel. Statistics compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration based on 2007 data reveal that most of these accidents occur during the day, on exit or on-ramps and straight roads, with commercial drivers who have more than 10 years of experience. Speeding is a factor in only about 28 percent of all cargo tank rollover accidents.

However, the factors that do influence the likelihood of a cargo tank tipping over include distracted or drowsy driving, which accounts for about 20 percent of these accidents. Cargo tanks are also subject to different physics than dry haulers, because liquids can slosh and surge due to sudden braking, such as when a driver cuts off the tanker, leading to 63 percent of rollovers. Brake conditions play a critical role as well.

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Tagged in: Truck Accidents

An outing among friends turned tragic on July 18 as four of eight women in a limousine were killed when the vehicle collided with a pickup truck. California residents may have heard about this accident that took place in Long Island, and the Suffolk County District Attorney said the crash may have happened because the driver of the truck had consumed alcohol earlier in the day.

The accident occurred when the pickup slammed into the limo that was attempting to turn at an intersection by making a legal U-turn, and the speed of both vehicles is currently unknown. Both drivers suffered injuries, and the four women who survived the crash all reportedly received serious injuries. The district attorney commented that the women in their early 20s did the right thing by hiring a limo since they were touring a winery, and a chemical test revealed that the limo driver had no alcohol in his system.

The truck driver reportedly admitted to drinking beer while at home but has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of driving while under the influence. The charges may be upgraded depending on what a blood test reveals about his level of intoxication at the time of the accident. Police officers apparently brought the truck driver back to the scene of the crash when he left about 15 minutes after the accident.

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Tagged in: Car Accidents
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