What cities in America have the worst drivers, and where does Bakersfield rank?

July 19, 2017 | 9:11 am


Where are the worst drivers in America?

The answer, unfortunately, appears to be in California, where a recent survey found five cities in the state listed in the top 10 cities with the worst drivers. Bakersfield ranked No. 10.

QuoteWizard, an auto insurance comparison company, analyzed 2016 statistics from the 75 most populous metro areas in the United States and calculated incident averages that included accidents, speeding tickets, DUIs, and traffic citations, like running a red light and using a cellphone while driving.

No. 1 on the list was Sacramento, while Riverside (No. 3), San Diego (No. 5) and Los Angeles (No. 6) rounded out the California cities in the top 10 cities with the worst drivers.

In December, QuoteWizard ranked the worst drivers by state, and determined California to be No. 2, behind Utah. California was No. 7 for accidents, No. 9 for speeding, No. 5 for citations, and No. 2 for DUIs.

This matters for all drivers, according to insurance experts, because the saturation of bad drivers on roadways has the ability to affect how much you pay for car insurance each month. Living in one of the worst driving cities can see your insurance rates go up, while living in one of the best driving cities can help you save money on your auto insurance.

A spokesperson for QuoteWizard stated that Southern California has a high percentage of DUI arrests, and that could very well be because of the state’s law enforcement’s strong stance against drunk driving.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been a long-time advocate for safe driving and for sharing the road — that goes for other drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists alike.

The law firm for years has been deeply involved with Mothers Against Drunk Driving Kern County, as well as other safety groups including Bike Bakersfield. The law firm also regularly publishes safety tips on a variety of issues on this blog, Blogging for Justice.

For this article, Chain | Cohn | Stiles provides a few driving tips below to help you eliminate distracted driving, reduce traffic violations, and keep Kern County roadways as safe as possible:

  • Keep your cell phone on silent, and put in a place where you won’t be able to access it while driving.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and what other drivers around you are doing.
  • If you’re too tired to drive, find a place to stop so you can get rest before driving again.
  • If you need to eat and drink, make sure that you pull over to the side of the road.
  • Make sure that loose items in your car are secured so that they don’t startle you if they fall.
  • Never drive a vehicle if you’re under the influence of alcohol. Make sure that you have a driver who has not consumed alcohol, or use a service like Lyft or Uber who will be able to take you back to your home safely.

— By Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know is injured in a crash due to the fault of another driver, please call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000 for a free consultation on your case, or visit chainlaw.com.

Hands on the wheel: We can all do our part to end distracted driving

April 5, 2017 | 9:41 am


Plain and simple, distracted driving is a deadly behavior. In fact, federal estimates suggest that distraction contributes to 16 percent of all fatal crashes, leading to around 5,000 deaths every year.

It’s no wonder that 80 percent of drivers cite distraction as a serious problem and a behavior that makes them feel less safe on the road, according to AAA Foundation.

The good news is we can all make a difference — a drivers’ safety ultimately rests in their hands and those of their fellow motorists. And this month, during Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to call on everyone to drive distraction-free, and speak up if you’re in a vehicle with a distracted driver.

“You cannot drive safely unless you’re paying full attention to the road, and on the other vehicles around you,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We can all play a part in the fight to save lives and prevent injuries by ending distracted driving, keeping our hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”

Here’s what you can do to eliminate distracted driving from your travels (courtesy of AARP).

  • Unplug: Keep your cell phone on silent and where you can’t see it light up for every notification you receive. If a phone call or text message is really important, it’s best to pull over into a safe location before using your phone.
  • Refuel: Drowsy driving is distracted driving, so never drive when you’re too tired.
  • Focus: When you’re behind the wheel, pay attention to what’s happening all around your vehicle. Frequently scan your mirrors and watch your speed.
  • Secure your cargo: Prevent loose items in your car from startling you in the event of sudden braking by securing your cargo. Also, never place smaller items on your lap or on the floor near the driver-side foot pedals.

Here in Kern County, local law enforcement agencies and community groups are partnering to help make our roads safer by highlighting the dangers of being distracted while driving.

Specifically, Bakersfield Police Department is instituting zero tolerance enforcement efforts to discourage distracted driving. Officers will have a special emphasis in April on enforcing all cell phone and distracted driving laws, according to the department, deploying extra traffic officers in city locations where higher numbers of traffic collisions occur. Starting in January, drivers no longer are allowed to hold their cellphones in their hands for any reason, including using any of a phone’s apps, such as music playlists. Fines start at $162 for first time offenders.

A recent national survey found that nearly one-third of drivers reported sending a text message or e-mail while driving, and 42 percent said had read a text or e-mail. A California Office of Traffic Safety study also determined that 1 out of 8 drivers on the road is paying as much attention to his or her smartphone as to the road. State road safety officials estimate that some form of distracted driving is a factor in 80 percent of crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is asking drivers to take a pledge to drive phone-free today: never texting or talking on the phone while driving, speaking out if the driver in your car is distracted, and encouraging friends and family to drive phone-free.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a crash due to the fault of a suspected distracted driver, please call the car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000 or visit chainlaw.com for a free consultation on your case.

New Year, new laws in California for safer streets

December 28, 2016 | 11:51 am


In California, the New Year also means new laws.

And for 2017, several new transportation-related laws, and changes to existing laws, are taking effect starting Jan. 1. Many of them are aimed to keep drivers safer on our streets, including addressing the use cell phones in cars, child safety seats, and motorcycle lane splitting.

The accident and injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles wanted to share some of these changes ahead of the New Year. Learn a little more about them below here, courtesy of the California Department of Motor Vehicles:

Use of Electronic Wireless Devices (AB 1785): Driving a motor vehicle while holding and operating a cellphone will be prohibited, unless the device is mounted on a vehicle’s windshield or is affixed to a vehicle’s dashboard or center console where it does not block the driver’s view of the road. According to the Sacramento Bee, “the law is designed to stop people from holding their phones for a variety of uses that have become popular in recent years, including checking and posting on Facebook, using Snapchat, scrolling through Spotify or Pandora playlists, typing addresses into the phone’s mapping system, or making videos and taking photos.”

A recent California Office of Traffic Safety study found that one out of eight drivers pays as much attention to his or her smartphone as on the road. Distracted driving accounts for some 80 percent of crashes.

Child Safety Seats (AB 53): This law requires a parent, legal guardian, or the driver of a motor vehicle to properly secure a child who is younger than 2 years of age in an appropriate rear-facing child passenger restraint system, unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds or is 40 or more inches in height.

Motorcycle Lane Splitting (AB 51): This law defines “lane splitting” as driving a two-wheeled motorcycle between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane. The law authorizes the California Highway Patrol to develop educational guidelines on lane splitting to help ensure the safety of all motorists. CHP would have to consult with safety agencies and organizations to craft the guidelines for motorcycle lane splitting.

DUI ‘Ignition’ Interlock Devices (SB 1046): This bill extends a pilot program that requires most convicted DUI drivers to install ignition interlock devices, which prevent them from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. Under the law, the DUI offender is able to obtain a restricted driver’s license, have their license reissued, or get their motor vehicle privileges reinstated on the condition that they install a device in their vehicle for a prescribed amount of time. The bill extends the pilot program in four California counties — Kern County not being one of them — before it expands to the entire state on Jan. 1, 2019.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is actively involved with Mother Against Drunk Driving, Kern County.

Accident Reporting (SB 491): This law increases the minimum financial threshold for property damage that is required to be reported to the DMV from $750 to $1,000 when a driver is involved in a motor vehicle crash.

Vehicle Safety Recalls (AB 287): This law, called the Consumer Automotive Recall Safety (CARS) Act, requires the DMV to include a general advisory regarding vehicle recalls and needed repairs on each vehicle registration renewal notice. This law also bans a dealer or a rental car company from renting or loaning a vehicle with a manufacturer’s recall until the vehicle has been repaired.

Installing Counterfeit or Nonfunctional Air Bags (AB 2387): This law prohibits knowingly and intentionally manufacturing, importing, installing, reinstalling, distributing, or selling any device intended to replace an air bag system in any motor vehicle if the device is a counterfeit or nonfunctional air bag system, or does not meet federal safety requirements. This violation is a misdemeanor punishable by a $5,000 fine and/or up to a one year in county jail.

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If you or someone you know is involved in a motor vehicle accident at the fault of another, please call the accident and injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles joins Bakersfield Police in fight to end DUIs, distracted driving

November 23, 2016 | 6:00 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles for years has been fighting to end drunk driving in Kern County, while also raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, and advocating for bicycle and pedestrian safety locally.

And with news that the Bakersfield Police Department was awarded a $415,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety for a year-long program, in part, for these same causes, the streets of Bakersfield may be getting safer.

Recently, local media highlighted the new grant that will fund educational presentations, DUI checkpoints, bicycle and pedestrian safety enforcement, distracted driving enforcement and seat belt child safety seat enforcement, and more.

“The Bakersfield Police Department is committed to ensuring traffic safety on city roadways,” said Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson in a news release.

So, too, is the Bakersfield-based accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, in partnership with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County.

In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles Director of Marketing and Public Relations Jorge Barrientos spoke with media about grant, and what it means for MADD Kern County. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is a strong and active supporter of MADD Kern County, and deeply involved in the fight against drunk driving in our community. Barrientos serves as the planning committee chairman for MADD Kern County’s annual fundraising and awareness event. And attorneys Matt Clark and Neil Gehlawat are members of the MADD Kern County Advisory Board.

“Currently we are seeing about 12 DUI arrests per day,” Barrientos told Eyewitness News. “That’s more than 4,000 a year. And, that’s just the people that are getting caught … We do know for a fact that a lot of people that are getting caught have been caught before … It’s a 100 percent preventable crime. You don’t have to get behind the wheel after you have a drink.”

In all, the grant will help fund the following efforts:
  • Educational presentations
  • DUI checkpoints
  • DUI saturation patrols
  • Bicycle and pedestrian safety enforcement
  • Motorcycle safety enforcement
  • Distracted driving enforcement
  • Seat belt and child safety seat enforcement
  • Speed, red light, and stop sign enforcement
  • Warrant service operations targeting multiple DUI offenders
  • Compilation of DUI “Hot Sheets,” identifying worst-of-the-worst DUI offenders
  • Specialized DUI and drugged driving training such as Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement, and Drug Recognition Evaluator
  • Court “sting” operations to cite individuals driving from DUI court after ignoring their license suspension or revocation
  • Stakeout operations to observe the “worst-of-the-worst” repeat DUI offender probationers with suspended or revoked driver licenses

In September this year, Kern County came together for the third Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash 5K at the Park at River Walk, called for an end of drunk driving, and raised more than $62,000 in the process to fight against drinking and driving locally.

The 2016 Bakersfield Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – aimed to raise awareness of the DUI problem in our local communities, raise funds to stop drunken driving locally, and provide support to local victims and survivors of drunken driving crashes. Since 2014, the annual Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash 5K has raised more than $160,000.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently has also partnered with Bike Bakersfield, a local nonprofit bicycle advocacy group, to give out free safety helmets and bike safety lights.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a car accident, bicycle accident or pedestrian accident at the fault of someone else, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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GRANT MEDIA COVERAGE

WALK LIKE MADD & MADD DASH 5K MEDIA COVERAGE

Staying safe while driving after ‘deadliest year on the road’

October 12, 2016 | 9:12 am


A scary truth is that whenever you step into a vehicle, you risk the possibility of being involved in a crash, which could also result in injury, or even death.

In fact, USA Today recently reported that “U.S. traffic deaths jumped 7.7% in 2015, marking the deadliest year on the road since 2008.” According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 35,000 people died in 2015 from car crashes.

Even more, traffic fatalities in the United States rose by an estimated 10.4 percent in the first half of 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which called this an “immediate crisis.” And as traffic fatalities spike, the U.S. government announced a commitment to ending road deaths within 30 years, committing $1 million a year for the next three years for related grants, CNN reported.

For now, there are steps you can take to keep you and your family as safe as possible.

For example, distracted driving is becoming more of a problem in today’s society, accounting for 26 percent of fatalities in car crashes, according to the National Safety Council. It’s up to each driver on the road to focus on the road, and do his or her best to prevent crashes. In short, distracted driving includes the following:

  • Texting while driving or using a cell phone in any way
  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Doing your makeup
  • Changing the radio station, song or volume
  • Using a hands-free device can also be a distraction
  • Having an emotional conversation while driving

Texting and driving is likely one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving because it requires drivers to take their eyes off the road to read and type a message, their hands off the steering wheel to type, and it requires their mind to be thinking about what to say or how to respond to the message instead of focusing on the road.

Here are several safety tips that will help you put the phone down, and help make the road a safer place:

  • Put your phone somewhere you cannot reach it, or turn it off completely so it will not be a distraction.
  • If you have to answer your phone wait until you can pull over safely to answer it.
  • If you have to eat or drink, pull over and do so safely.
  • Get enough sleep so you do not become fatigued; however, if you do find yourself getting tired, pull into a safe parking lot, lock your doors and take a nap.
  • Plan ahead enough time to get yourself ready for the day, so you don’t have to do any grooming in the car.
  • Have your car stereo set the way you want it before you start to drive.

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If you or someone you know is involved and injured in a car or motor vehicle accident, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles right away at (661) 323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com. And remember to take the following three steps if you have been involved in an automobile accident:

1) Obtain the name, address, insurance information, vehicle identification number (VIN) and driver’s license number of any and all persons involved in the accident, as well as the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all witnesses.

2) Make sure that a report is filed with the police, sheriff, or highway patrol, but do not talk to anyone else, especially insurance adjusters, about the accident or sign anything without first consulting an attorney.

3) Seek medical attention immediately and explain to your physician or surgeon all of the symptoms and complaints you have been feeling since the accident occurred.

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— By Marisol Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with country radio station KUZZ in awareness campaign

July 13, 2016 | 7:00 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to announce a partnership between the Bakersfield-based law firm and the widely-popular country music radio station, KUZZ Radio.

“Bakersfield’s best country music station,” as is the slogan for KUZZ, will begin airing 60-second audio spots featuring Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury attorney Matthew Clark, as well as workers’ compensation attorney James Yoro to assist radio station listeners who need help with their potential accident, injury or workers’ compensation* cases.

You can listen to all of these commercials spots below. You can also tune in live at 107.9 FM, 55 AM or visit kuzz.com.

The commercials will focus on spreading awareness of the following legal issues that listeners may have:

  • Auto and Pedestrian Accidents: It seems like every day in the news we hear about families being hurt in car and bike accidents, big rig crashes, and pedestrian accidents on the streets here in Kern County. But what would you do if it happened to you?
  • Choosing a Local Legal Expert: Law firms from out of town think they can come to Kern County and take your case. They pretend to be from here, but they’re not, and they don’t know Kern County. Chain | Cohn | Stiles has helping Kern County residents in Bakersfield for over 80 years, and has recovered more than half a billion dollars for injured clients.
  • Elder Abuse and Neglect: It’s tough enough putting your loved ones in the care of others. You trust they are in the best place, and cared for. But to learn they’re suffering, not being cared for, can be devastating. Chain | Cohn | Stiles can help you get justice.
  • Distracted Driving: Put down your phone, quit texting, and focus on the road. The last thing you want is to get into a car accident, right? But if you or your loved ones are injured in an accident, especially if it’s someone else’s fault, you need experts who can help get you all the medical care and compensation you and your family are entitled to.
  • Workers’ Compensation: A work injury can change everything. Whether it’s your fault or not, you and your family shouldn’t have to suffer.

Like Chain | Cohn | Stiles, KUZZ has deep roots in Bakersfield. It was founded in 1958 as KIKK and changed its name to KUZZ In 1960. Six years later, Buck Owens Production Company purchased the station, and still owns it today. By 1977, KUZZ was broadcasting country music 24 hours per day.

For more on the history of KUZZ, click here.

— By Evelyn Andrade for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know has been injured at the fault of someone else, please call Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000 or visit chainlaw.com.

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 *NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine

Teenage driving is as dangerous as ever. What you can do to make sure they’re safe

April 20, 2016 | 8:53 am


Over the years, cars have gotten safer and so have our roadways. In fact, they’re the safest they’ve ever been in the history of automobiles. It’s no wonder that the number of motor vehicle crash fatalities in the United States has continued to decline since 2006, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But for teenage drivers in the United States, driving is as dangerous as ever.

Auto accidents are the No. 1 killer of American teenagers — more so than suicide, cancer and other types of accidents, according to The New York Times. On average, six teenagers died each day from injuries related to auto accidents in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are some notes to keep in mind that could help make sure your teenager gets from point A to point B safe and sound (courtesy of the New York Times):

  • Friends: Adding one non-family passenger to a car with a teenage driver increases the rate of accidents by 44 percent. Add a second non-family passenger, and that rate doubles, and add three or more passengers and it quadruples. As the NY Times, states: “Your cellphone isn’t encouraging your teen to go 80 in a 50, or 100 in a 70.”
  • Alcohol, Night Driving: Nearly a third of teenagers killed in car accidents had been drinking, according to U.S. Department of Transportation. Late-night driving significantly increased the risk, too.
  • Smartphones: It’s no secret that texting and phone usage can be a big distraction for teenagers at any time, but using smartphone while driving can be deadly. Even with hands-free equipment that is readily available in new cars, having your eyes on the road while your mind is elsewhere can negatively impact driver awareness. (FYI: April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month).
  • Safety Technology: New car safety technology tools are no-doubt helping save lives. Features including forward-collision warnings, lane-keeping assist, and automatic braking have all led to declines in teenage driving deaths and injuries in recent years. It may be worth the extra payment to get the best safety features in a new car.
  • Parents: Parents are not doing enough to supervise their children, and chances are teenage drivers are not driving as safely as parents may think. The more a parent is involved when a teenager is learning to drive, the lower their chances are for a crash.

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If you or someone you know is involved and injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles right away (661-323-4000). And remember to take the following 3 steps if you have been involved in an automobile accident:

  • 1) Obtain the name, address, insurance information, vehicle identification number (VIN) and driver’s license number of any and all persons involved in the accident, as well as the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all witnesses.
  • 2) Make sure that a report is filed with the police, sheriff, or highway patrol, but do not talk to anyone else, especially insurance adjusters, about the accident or sign anything without first consulting an attorney.
  • 3) Seek medical attention immediately and explain to your physician or surgeon all of the symptoms and complaints you have been feeling since the accident occurred.

Cool safety tips for a successful summer road trip

June 24, 2015 | 10:32 am


Summer officially kicked off June 21, which means it’s time to enjoy sunshine and vacations. Summer is one of the highest travel periods in the United States, and it can also be one of the most dangerous times on our roadways.

Before heading out on the highway, it’s important to plan ahead and take all safety measures into account. Prevention and planning may take a little time, but will spare you from dealing with the consequences of a breakdown, or worse, a highway crash.

Read the summer travel safety tips below, courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For a full list of summer travel safety tips, download a comprehensive PDF by clicking here.

Before You Go

Regular maintenance of your vehicle goes a long way toward preventing breakdowns. Schedule a preventive maintenance checkup before hitting the road. Also, check for recalls on your vehicle by looking it up on this website — you’ll need your car’s VIN number.

Here are some quick and easy safety checks you can do before a road trip:

  • Change the oil
  • Check the brakes, battery and belts
  • Replace the windshield wipers
  • Checking your cooling system and levels, as well as other fluid levels (brake, transmission and power steering)
  • Assess tire tread and pressure
  • Check the spare tire for proper pressure
  • Make sure headlights, brake lights, turn signals, interior lights and emergency flashers are in working order.
  • Subscribe to a roadside assistance program

Protect Children

Make sure car and booster seats are properly installed. All children 13 and younger should ride in the back seat. And all passengers in your vehicle should be buckled up.

Visit this website for child safety recommendation, including how to select the right car seat for your child.

  • Buckle up: All passengers must wear their seat belts
  • Summer heat: One of the biggest dangers related to vehicle in the summertime is heatstroke. Never leave children alone in the car. Vehicles heat up quickly and can reach deadly levels in just a few minutes.
  • Lock up: Lock your vehicle’s doors at all times when it’s not in use. Put the keys somewhere that children can’t get access to them.
  • Stay alert: Long trips can be difficult for children, drivers and other passengers. Plan time to stop along the trip. Change drivers if they’re feeling tired or drowsy.

On the Road

A driver’s responsibilities include keeping eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, and focusing only driving. Plus, it’s important to share the road with motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians, who all have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as every motorist.

  • Leave more distance between you and a motorcycle.
  • Be mindful of pedestrians: Keep your eyes open for distracted pedestrians. Stop for pedestrians who are in a crosswalk, even if it’s not marked.
  • Be especially attentive around schools and in neighborhoods where children are active.

Avoid Bad Driving Behavior

  • Avoid distracted driving: The most obvious forms of distraction are cell phone use, texting while driving, eating, drinking and using in-vehicle technologies and portable electronic devices.
  • Impaired driving: Every 52 minutes (or 28 times a day), someone in the United States dies in an alcohol impaired-driving crash, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Crashes caused by impaired driving are preventable. Simply, never drive after you have a drink or use drugs.

Emergency Roadside Kit

Put together an emergency roadside kit to take with you. Suggested emergency roadside kit contents include:

  • Cell phone and car charger
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Flares and a white flag
  • Jumper cables
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Jack for changing a tire
  • Work gloves and a change of clothes
  • Basic repair tools and some duct tape (for temporarily repairing a hose leak!)
  • Water and paper towels for cleaning up
  • Nonperishable food, drinking water, and medicines
  • Extra windshield washer fluid
  • Maps
  • Emergency blankets, towels and coats

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If you or someone you know is in a car accident due to the fault of another, contact the Bakersfield personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling 661-323-4000, or visiting the website chainlaw.com.

Fatal distracted driving crash involving deputy in Los Angeles similar to local case

September 4, 2014 | 10:17 am


As was reported recently, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against a sheriff’s deputy who was apparently distracted by his mobile digital computer when he fatally struck a cyclist and prominent entertainment attorney in Calabasas in December.

He was riding his bicycle in the bicycle lane when the deputy’s patrol car hit him. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The deputy was reportedly returning from a fire call at the time of the collision.

Even though the deputy was inattentive by typing into his mobile computer in his patrol car, the district attorney’s office reported, the deputy “was acting within the course and scope of his duties when he began to type his response” and “he acted lawfully.” In short, the law does not prohibit officers from using an electronic wireless communications device while on duty.

The cyclist’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county, the sheriff’s department and the deputy, alleging driver negligence and seeking to obtain more information about the incident.

The situation is similar to another case handled by the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, in which two people were struck and killed by Kern County Sheriff’s deputy patrol car as they were legally crossing a street. The deputy was driving 84 mph in a 45 mph zone before hitting them, as was responding to a call of a stolen vehicle; however, his emergency lights and siren were not turned on.

In March, the wrongful death case settled for $8.8 million, believed to be record-breaking for an automobile accident case against the County of Kern. Read more about the case here. In the criminal case, the deputy took a plea deal, and was sentenced today to 480 hours of community service. During his sentencing, the deputy apologized for the crash.

Simply, distracted driving is dangerous. The attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have provided tips in their website for drivers to avoid distracted driving.

  • Use your electronic device only when parked, or have a passenger use it.
  • Never use an electronic device or take notes while driving.
  • If your phone rings while driving, let the cellular voice mail service take the call and listen to the message later when you are parked.

These tips are meant to protect you, your family, and everyone else on the road. Other tips include:

  • Pay attention to the road: Do not take notes or look up phone numbers while driving. If you are reading an address book or business card while driving a car, or writing a “to-do” list, then you are not watching where you are going. It’s common sense. Don’t get caught in a dangerous situation because you are reading or writing and not paying attention to the road or nearby vehicles.
  • Do not engage in distracting conversations: Stressful or emotional conversations and driving do not mix. They are distracting and even dangerous when you are behind the wheel. Make people you are talking with aware you are driving. If necessary, suspend phone conversations which have the potential to divert your attention from the road.

For more tips, go to Chainlaw.com. And for more on distracted driving, laws and statistics, click here.

Take the pledge: April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April 4, 2014 | 9:59 am


Put down the cell phone, and stay alive.

That’s the message this month from the National Safety Council and National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration as April is “National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”

Thousands die each year due to people using their cell phones while driving. In fact, here are some startling statistics, courtesy of the safety council:

  • The No. 1 cause of unintentional deaths in the United States is car crashes.
  • About 100 people die every day in car crashes.
  • Up to 90 percent of car crashes are caused by driver error.
  • At any moment, 9 percent of drivers are talking on cell phones.
  • About 26 percent of all car crashes involve cell phones or hands-free devices.
  • The NHTSA estimates that 3,328 people were killed and an estimated 421,000 were injured in distraction-related crashes in 2012.

As part of the month-long campaign, officials want drivers to pledge to drive cell-free, recognize that hands-free devices offer no safety benefit, understand the dangers of the cognitive distraction to the brain, and tell others about the dangers of cell phone distracted driving.

Down south, too, the Los Angeles Police Department kicked off the “Look Up!” campaign, in partnership with the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration’s “National Distracted Driving Awareness Month”. It’s aimed to bring awareness to the public about the dangers of texting and driving.

For example, statistics show that every time a driver sends a text message he looks at the phone for an average of 4.6 seconds, and in that time a car driving 55 mph will go the length of a football field, according to CBS-2 Los Angeles.

And remember, it’s the law in California, where there’s a ban on hand-held devices for drivers and for texting while driving.

So, are you taking the pledge? To learn more about these facts, the dangers, and what you can do, visit the National Safety Council website.

And for more information, tips and resources on what to do if you’re ever in a car accident in and around Bakersfield and need legal assistance, no matter the type of accident, visit our two websites, HERE and HERE.