Key safety tips to driving safely in the fog

November 28, 2018 | 6:00 am


‘Tis the season … for fog.

Throughout the Central Valley, winter brings with it the tule fog that seems to swallow up cars and stop signs, and sometimes even lines on the road. The fog creates such a driving hazard that local school districts several times a year decide to delay the start of classes, called “fog delays,” when roads are too foggy and unsafe to travel. School buses are grounded for 2-3 hours for the safety of students, and others on the roadways.

In fact, fog is one of the most dangerous driving hazards as it plays a large factor in traffic collisions each year. One of the worst incidents in the Central Valley involving fog took place in November 2007, when the heavy fog cut visibility to about 200 feet and caused a massive pile-up of cars on Highway 99 between Fowler and Fresno. More than 100 cars and 18 big-rig trucks were involved in the accident, which caused two fatalities and 39 injuries.

Whether you are heading to work or taking your children to school during this foggy season, please keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • If possible, avoid driving in the fog altogether.
  • Before leaving, check road conditions. Use the “Caltrans Quickmap” app on your smart phone, which is a useful navigational tool that will inform you of up to date roadway closures, traffic collisions and other traffic hazards.
  • Reduce your speed. Many collisions are a direct result of driving too fast. The moisture from the fog creates wetness on the roadway. It’s a matter of physics — your vehicle cannot stop as fast or turn as accurately on a wet road.
  • Travel with your vehicles headlights on low beam. Low beams direct the light down onto the roadway and allow other drivers to see you. Never use your high beam headlights. This will cause your lights to be directed up into the fog, making it difficult for you to see.
  • Be mindful of the solid painted white “fog line.” This line is located on the right edge of the road as in place to guide motorists when roadway visibility becomes compromised. Always maintain a high visual horizon. This will give you the ability to observe potential hazards in the road or vehicles braking suddenly.
  • Use your windshield wipers and turn on your defroster to help eliminate condensation on windows.
  • When fog visibility becomes less than 500 feet, California Highway Patrol officers will begin to pace traffic. Pacing efforts are conducted to insure motorists travel at a speed appropriate for traffic and roadway conditions. If you find yourself traveling behind a patrol vehicle with its emergency lights activated while conducting a pace, maintain a safe distance between you and the patrol car as officers may be required to apply their brakes or make sudden turns.
  • If you experience mechanical trouble while driving this winter, attempt to exit the freeway. Never stop in the middle of the road. If you cannot exit the freeway, pull completely off of the right side of the road, turn off of your headlights and activate your hazards lights so others can see you. Remain seat belted in your vehicle and call for help on your mobile phone.

The Bakersfield Californian has also provided a neat infographic regarding safe driving in the fog. You can view it by clicking here.

Lastly, as always, drive safely, share the road, and be courteous to one, especially while driving in adverse weather conditions.

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If you or someone you know is involved in an accident at the fault of someone else this foggy season, please contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com to submit a contact form.

Travel safely: Thanksgiving weekend is one of the most dangerous times to be on the road (with safety tips)

November 14, 2018 | 9:28 am


Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and football, turkey and togetherness, and for millions and millions of people across the United States: driving.

In fact, more than 54 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home during the week of Thanksgiving this year, according to AAA travel association — the highest volume since 2005, and 2.5 million more travelers than last year. The travel group estimates that 48.5 million travelers will be driving between Wednesday, Nov. 21, to Sunday, Nov. 25.

And while this time of year is about giving thanks, it’s also one of the most dangerous times to be on the roads. In fact, AAA states it expects to rescue nearly 360,000 motorists along U.S. roadsides this Thanksgiving for such things as dead batteries and flat tires. For thousands of others on the roads, they will unfortunately need rescue services from first-responders.

Before you hit the road, the injury and accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles encourages you check out these Thanksgiving driving tips to navigate through traffic and arrive at your destination safely.

Plan Ahead

You should expect to encounter traffic, so plan to leave early if necessary to avoid stress on the road. Share travel plans with a family member or friend. Also, make sure that your vehicle is ready for long distances travel before you leave your home. Before you get on a highway, know your exit by name and number, and watch the signs as you near the off-ramp. Make sure that your windshield wipers work well, that your tires are properly inflated, and that no service lights illuminate your dashboard. Have your radiator and cooling system serviced. Lastly, have an emergency kit that includes a battery powered radio, flashlight, blanket, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable foods, maps, tire repair kit and flares.

Buckle Up

The simple act of buckling your seat belt increases your chance of surviving a crash. In 2016 alone, seat belts saved 14,668 lives. The Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2016 saw 341 people killed in traffic across the country. About half of those who died weren’t wearing seat belts. Most often, younger people and men are failing to buckle up. Among 13- to 15-year-olds killed in crashes in 2016, 62 percent weren’t wearing seat belts. Similarly, 59 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds killed in crashes were also not wearing seat belts. That same year slightly more than half of men killed in crashes were unbelted, compared with 40 percent of women, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The NHTSA states it simply: “Buckle Up — Every Trip, Every Time.”

Choose Alternate Travel Days

If possible, leave a day early and stay an extra day at your Thanksgiving destination to avoid traffic hassles and potential roadside headaches. Use a GPS device with real-time traffic information to keep your options open for alternate routes. Make sure that you are rested and alert to drive, and make frequent stops to give you and your passengers a break.

Watch the Weather Reports

In many parts of the country, and possibly in California, Thanksgiving weekend means the potential for hazardous weather, especially during early mornings and evenings with the cold. Watch the weather reports before you set out for the weekend and before you travel back home to make sure that the roads aren’t too treacherous to drive.

Avoid Distractions

Distracted driving is never good idea. Ignore all distractions until you are able to safely pull off the road and respond. No call or text is worth risking your life. Also, know your limitations: Don’t drive when tired, upset, or physically ill.

“Thanksgiving is about being with your family,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Caution, patience and preparedness are especially important so we all arrive safely to our loved ones.”

Finally, when you arrive at your destination, please drink responsibly if you are consuming alcohol. If you are expecting to hit the roads again, use a designated driver or plan appropriately to ensure guests make it home safely.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident over the holidays at the fault of someone else, please contact the accident and injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or use the chat service at the website chainlaw.com.

Highway 99 through the Central Valley named the deadliest highway in America

July 25, 2018 | 10:01 am


In all, the United States has 2.7 million miles of roads — some parts safer than others. Unfortunately, the most dangerous roadway in America happens to be in our own backyard, according to new study.

Highway 99 through the Central Valley was named the deadliest major highway in the country, according to data compiled by ValuePenguin, a private consumer research organization based in New York, using statistics from the National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration database of fatal crashes.

The 400-mile highway — which runs through Bakersfield, the Central Valley, and up through Sacramento — recorded 62 fatal accidents per 100 miles over a recent five-year span, from 2011 to 2015.

What makes Highway 99 so dangerous? The study looked at three factors that contribute often to crashes: weather, lighting, and driving under the influence, and evaluated which highways were the most dangerous by category. The study found that Highway 99 had the largest number of fatalities caused by dark, unlit roads anywhere in the county, and ranked second for the highest number of drunk driving fatalities.

In total, Highway 99 saw 264 fatal crashes in the five-year period. Fifty of those involved driving under the influence.

Interstate 45 in Texas had the second highest rate of fatalities, 55 per 100 miles, followed by Interstate 95, which runs down the eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida.

“Certain things are out of our control when we’re driving, but we can all take several steps to make sure we all get home safe,” said attorney David K. Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Don’t distract yourself while driving, don’t speed, practice defensive driving, and never drive while under the influence.”

California highway officials have been working on $1 billion worth of safety and efficiency improvements on Highway 99 over the past 10 years, using some of the $20 billion in infrastructure bonds approved by state voters in 2006 under Proposition 1B, according to news reports.

Highway 99 was the only freeway singled out in Prop. 1B specifically for upgrades. At the time, state officials said the old highway was outmoded, with narrow shoulders, tight ramps and under-sized interchanges. Improvement work has been ongoing since then.

Besides being connected with the title of having the most dangerous roads in America, Bakersfield also has been ranked high for having the deadliest roads for pedestrians, and has been grappling with a rash of bicycle-related accidents and deaths.

Doing its part, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered each year with local agencies to give away free safety helmets and bicycle lights, is a close partner with Mothers Against Drunk Driving Kern County in the fight against driving under the influence locally, and regularly provides safety tips for Kern County drivers.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident on Highway 99 due to the fault of someone else, please contact the accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Record numbers to hit the road for Memorial Day weekend, nation’s deadliest travel holiday. Here’s how to stay safe.

May 23, 2018 | 8:51 am


Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, and Americans will kick off the season by hitting the roads over the weekend in near-record numbers.

In fact, according to AAA, more than 41.5 million people in the United States will travel this Memorial Day weekend, which is 5 percent more than last year and the most in more than a dozen years, USA Today reports.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is joining safety advocates, including MADD Kern County and California Highway Patrol, to remind drivers to practice safe driving habits this Memorial Day, which also happens to be the deadliest travel holiday of the year.

And safe driving habits mean driving sober, driving with proper safety equipment, including seat belts and car seats, and focusing on the roads and only on the roads.

“Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor our nation’s heroes who sacrificed their lives for the safety of our country, and ultimately, for all Americans,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “You can honor them by making sure your holiday, and entire summer, is as safe as possible.”

MADD KERN COUNTY

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County, for years in the name of making our streets as safe as possible. This Memorial Day weekend, MADD Kern County is bringing attention to the increase in drunk driving crashes during the weekend.

In 2016, drunk driving claimed 160 people during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. If your celebrations include alcohol, plan ahead and make sure to use taxis, public transportation, rideshare services or call a non-drinking friend. Remember, drunk driving deaths are 100 percent preventable, 100 percent of the time.

MAXIMUM ENFORCEMENT

Kern County’s branches of the California Highway Patrol will be conducting a “maximum enforcement period” during the Memorial Day weekend, where the aim is to educate motorists and enforce traffic safety laws throughout the state to ensure a safe holiday.

Officers will also be watching carefully for those violating seat belt laws, those who are driving distracted, and also for those who are impaired by drugs or alcohol.

About 70 percent of the vehicle occupants who died in CHP jurisdiction in the 2016 and 2017 Memorial Day weekends were not wearing seat belts, according to the department. A total of 45 people died statewide in Memorial Day weekend collisions in 2017. During the same period, there were 921 arrests in California for driving under the influence in 2017.

CHP is also reminding motorists to protect child passengers by placing them in age-appropriate restraint devices, whether a safety seat or booster seat. The law requires that children under age 8 to ride in the back seat, and a child under age 2 is secured in a rear-facing child passenger safety seat.

CHP is taking part in the nationwide “Click It or Ticket” campaign led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that emphasizes seat belt use until June 3. On a national level, nearly half the passenger vehicle occupants killed in collisions in 2016 were not wearing seat belts, the administration reports.

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If you or someone your know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, please call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com to submit a contact form, or chat with a representative.