Teen drivers, school buses the focus of safety awareness weeks

October 23, 2019 | 11:11 am


Our children’s safety can be one of the most important focuses in our lives, which makes two national observances this week especially vital. This week in the United States we are observing “School Bus Safety Week” and “Teen Driver Safety Week.”

Learn safety tips, statistics, and other important information about these observances below.

“Our children’s safety is a top concern always,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Let’s all remember this week, and moving forward, to be extra careful around school buses, talk to teens about safe driving habits, and follow our laws always.”

 

Teen Driver Safety Week

This week and beyond, parents should speak with their teen children about how to stay as safe as possible behind the wheel. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading causes of death for teens (15 to 18 years old) in the United States, ahead of all other types of injuries, diseases, or violent acts. Teens are also 10 times more likely to be in a fatal car accident than adults.

In particular, there are six dangers that are especially important for teens to understand: alcohol, inconsistent or no seat belt use, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding, and number of passengers. Learn more about them below, courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

  • Alcohol and Drugs: All teens are too young to legally buy, possess, or consume alcohol.  However, nationally in 2017, 15% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system. But alcohol isn’t the only substance that can keep teens from driving safely.  According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.5% of adolescents 12 to 17 years old reported using marijuana. Like other drugs, marijuana affects a driver’s ability to react to their surroundings. Remind teens that driving under the influence of any impairing substance could have deadly consequences.
  • Seat Belts: Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways for teens to stay safe in a vehicle. A total of 539 passengers died in passenger vehicles driven by teen drivers and more than half (60%) of those passengers who died were NOT buckled up at the time of the fatal crash. Even more troubling, in 87% of cases when the teen driver was unbuckled, the passengers were also unbuckled. The chances of surviving a traffic crash are 45% higher when properly restrained in a seat belt.
  • Distracted Driving: Distractions while driving are more than just risky—they can be deadly. In 2017, among teen drivers involved in fatal crashes, 9 percent were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. The use of mobile devices while driving is a big problem, but there are other causes of teen distracted driving which pose dangers as well. They include adjusting the radio, applying makeup, eating or drinking, or distractions from other passengers in the vehicle.
  • Speeding: In 2017, almost one-quarter (27%) of all teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash, and males were more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than females.
  • Passengers: Teen drivers transporting passengers can lead to disastrous results.  Research shows the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of passengers in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers.
  • Drowsy Driving: Teens are busier than ever: studying, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and spending time with friends are among the long list of things they do to fill their time. However, with all of these activities, teens tend to compromise something very important—sleep. This is a dangerous habit that can lead to drowsy driving or falling asleep at the wheel.

 

School Bus Safety Week

Every school day in this country, 25 million children ride in a bus. The good news: School buses are among the safest modes of transportation. In fact, students are 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car, according to NHTSA. Why? They’re designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries.

But it’s not inside of the bus we should be most concerned about in terms of safety, but what happens outside. The real risks is in walking to the bus stop, and getting on and off the bus.

Here are some tips to keep students safe, as well as those walking and driving around school buses.

Tips for Drivers

  • Watch out for children walking or bicycling to school when backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage.
  • Be on the lookout when driving through neighborhoods. Drive slowly and watch for children walking in the street.
  • Learn the school bus laws in California.
    • Yellow flashing lights indicate that a bus is preparing to stop to pick up or drop off children. Drivers should slow down and prepare to stop.
    • Red flashing lights and an extended stop-arm signal indicate that the bus has stopped and that children are getting on or off. Cars must stop a safe distance away and not start again until the red lights stop flashing, the stop sign has been folded back, and the bus begins to continue on its way.

Tips for Students

  • Be at the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
  • Stand at least 6 feet away from the curb when the bus approaches, and keep the line away from the street.
  • Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says it’s okay to step onto the bus.
  • Remain visible to the bus driver at all times.
  • Never walk behind the bus. You should always make sure that you’re in the driver’s line of sight.
  • Use the handrails to avoid falling.
  • If seat belts are available on the bus, buckle up.
  • Don’t speak loudly or make loud noises that could distract the driver.
  • Stay in your seat.
  • Don’t put your head, arms, or hands out the window.
  • Keep the aisle clear of books, bags, and other objects.
  • Wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat.
  • If you have to cross in front of the bus after you get off, first walk at least 10 feet ahead until you can see the driver.
  • When the driver signals, look left, right, then left again. Walk across the road and keep an eye out for sudden traffic changes.

———

If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

Plan your summer road trip, the most dangerous season for drivers, with safety in mind

July 10, 2019 | 11:33 am


Even with the new gas tax in California, one of the most cost efficient ways to get your family from point A to point B this summer is on the road. Especially in Kern County and the Central Valley, many popular destinations are just a few hours away by car.

But summer is also one of the deadliest seasons for drivers across the country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more people die in drunk driving crashes in July than any other month. That means each time you hit the freeway, you are putting your family at risk of potential danger.

So, this month more than any other month is the time to recognize and prepare for any event that may take place while on the roadway. Here are some summer safety tips for you to be prepared on your next road trip:

 

Carry an emergency kit

Never leave home without an emergency kit. Top of the list is a cell phone because you can call for help in case of an emergency. It’s also suggested to pack the following:

  • Cell phone charger
  • First-aid kit
  • Tools to jump a car, check tire pressure, and change tires
  • Basic repair tools and duct tape
  • Water
  • Nonperishable food and medicines
  • Maps
  • Emergency blankets and towels

 

Never leave children or pets unattended in cars

The law in California states that no children under 12 may be left unattended in a car. The fact is there is no safe amount of time to leave children alone in the car. Did you know that children’s bodies heat up 3-5 times faster than an adult’s body? That’s according to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Even if the weather is at a cool 60 degrees, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach 110 degrees. Cracking a window does not allow for enough air flow through the vehicle. Every hot car death is preventable.

If you bring pets on your road trip, have a plan beforehand. Check to see if the restaurant you’re planning on going to is pet-friendly or if another passenger can watch the pet if you have to run into a store.

Also remember to pull your canned sodas out of the car before you hit the beach or they might explode in high temperatures. This also applies to aerosol products such as hairspray and canned deodorant.

 

Stay alert behind the wheel

Drowsy driving accounted for 91,000 motor vehicle crashes in 2017, according to NHTSA. The National Sleep Foundation states that driving while drowsy is dangerous because it has similar effects on your body as if you were to drive drunk. Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive as if you have a blood alcohol level of .05, and being awake for 24 hours straight brings it to a blood alcohol level of .10. The best way to prevent drowsy driving is to get 7-8 hours of sleep the night before your road trip.  Signs to watch out for include:

  • trouble focusing
  • heavy eyelids
  • inability to remember the last stretch of road you drove
  • constant yawning
  • bobbing head
  • drifting from your lane

Drinking coffee and energy drinks are not always enough for tired drivers because the effects do not last long. Switching drivers throughout a road trip is a great way to improve alertness in each individual’s portion of the drive. If switching drivers is not possible, one way to increase alertness is to drink one to two cups of coffee and pull over and take a 20 minute nap.

 

Have a designated driver

As always, it is important to have a designated driver if any drivers in your party consume alcohol. Deaths caused by drunk driving are preventable. It is important to check and make sure any medication you are taking will not worsen the effects of alcohol. Common allergy medications, such as Clarinex, should not be mixed with alcohol. For a full list of medications to avoid taking while consuming alcohol click here.

 

And, as always, share the road with pedestrian, scooter riders, bicyclists and motorcyclists, and always wear a seat belt. For more driving safety tips, go to bloggingforjustice.com.

— Alexa Esparza contributed to this report.

———

If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

Teen Driver Safety: 6 major dangers affecting teen drivers

October 24, 2018 | 9:14 am


Motor vehicle accidents — they’re the leading cause of injury and death among teens.

In fact, teenage drivers have the highest rate of motor vehicle accidents among all age groups in the United States. In California, the statistics can be scary. Our state saw 73,736 crashes in 2016 involving drivers 16 to 20 years old, according to data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System. In those crashes, 437 people were killed.

Experts say it’s because teenage drivers are inherently immature, lack experience, engage in risky behaviors, and often think of themselves as invincible. For these reasons, it’s important to talk to teen drivers about the responsibilities, rules, and consequences that come with getting behind the steering wheel.

For National Teen Driver Safety Week, observed Oct. 21-27 this year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind adults and teenagers on what we can do to make sure all drivers get home safe.

With the help of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, here are six major dangers affecting teen drivers:

  • Drive sober: In 2016, nearly one out of five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking alcohol despite the fact that it’s illegal everywhere to drink if you’re under 21 throughout the United States. Make it clear that driving impaired by any substance — alcohol or drugs — is deadly and against the law.
  • Buckle up: Roughly half of those 16 to 20 years old who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 weren’t wearing seat belts. In 85 percent of the cases when the teen driver wasn’t wearing a seat belt, their passengers were not wearing seat belts either. Tell your teen driver they must buckle up, every ride, every time.
  • No distractions: About 10 percent of all teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crash. Explain the dangers of driving distracted by phones and texting or anything else, and that driving attentively is essential for safe driving.
  • No speeding: Speeding was a factor in about one-third of all fatal teen driver crashes. Faster speeds rob inexperienced teen drivers of the extra reaction time they may need to avoid a crash. Emphasize that they must obey posted speed limits.
  • Passengers: Passengers can serve as another distraction for inexperienced teen drivers. That’s why many states have graduated driver licensing restrictions, which prohibit any passengers in vehicles with teen drivers.
  • Drowsy driving: Between school, sports, activities, and part-time jobs, a teen’s schedule can cut into much needed sleep, which can lead to drowsy driving. People are most likely to feel drowsy between the hours of 2 and 6 p.m., which is generally when teens are driving home from school. Explain the dangers of driving drowsy before your teen driver takes the wheel.

As for parents, caregivers and adults, keep these points in mind as well:

  • Graduated Driver License: As mentioned above already, “GDL” laws set limits on teen drivers for safety. In California, there are restrictions on driving late at night during the first year they have a license. Learn about all of the GDL laws in California here.
  • Lead by example: Practice safe driving yourself. You’re a role model — when a teen driver sees you obeying the rules of the road, they get the message. Also, have practice driving sessions with your teen.
  • Set ground rules: No cell phones, no passengers, no speeding, no alcohol, no drowsy driving, and always buckle up. No keys until they know the rules. Establish consequences you will enforce if your teen breaks the rules. One suggestion is to draw up a parent-teen driver agreement — a contract that spells out hours the teen may drive, who pays for the gas and insurance, rules for major driving distractions such as passengers, and anything else the parent wants to include.
  • With driving comes great responsibility: Remind your teen that driving requires your full attention. Texts and phone calls can wait. Teach them about zero-tolerance laws, and the consequences they face for driving after drinking or using drugs. Urge them to never ride with someone who has been drinking or using drugs.

National Teen Driver Safety Week is a great reminder to discuss safe driving, but you should keep the conversation going year-round. You’ll not only better protect your young driver; you’ll be contributing to safer roads in your community.

———

If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at the website chainlaw.com.

Don’t snooze on the dangers of driving while drowsy

November 9, 2016 | 9:05 am


It’s a fact — driving drowsy is dangerous.

It’s estimated that 300,000 crashes every year involve drowsy driving, which also contributes to up to 6,400 deaths per year, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The National Sleep Foundation is raising awareness of the danger of driving while drowsy, and educating drivers on sleep safety in an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes and to ultimately save lives.

The annual Drowsy Driving Prevention Week campaign provides public education about the under-reported risks of driving while drowsy and countermeasures to improve safety on the road. And nearly one in four adults in the United States say they know someone personally who has fallen asleep at the wheel.

“Drowsiness impairs driving performance and reaction time,” said William Horrey, research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, in The Detroit News. “When our brains are tired, our attention, judgment and ability to act are greatly impacted, which has the potential for disaster on the road, particularly if there’s inclement weather or a critical situation requiring quick response.”

In fact, a new study by AAA showed that drowsy driving is a form of impaired driving, and that one in five fatal crashes is caused because a driver involved did not have enough sleep.

 

Drowsy Driving Safety 

So what can you do to prevent drowsy driving? Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with the help of National Sleep Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests the following:

  • Get enough sleep before you drive. It’s recommended adult get seven to nine hours of sleep per day.
  • If you’re planning a long road trip, make sure you plan properly for rest stops — a break every 100 miles or every two hours on the road is suggested.
  • Also, try to travel during times you are normally awake.
  • If you have been up for 24 hours or more, do not drive. Period.
  • Drink caffeine if you feel sleepy, and see how you feel first before getting behind the wheel.
  • If you feel too sleepy, find someplace safe to take a nap or sleep, or stay the night somewhere. After, you’ll feel energized and ready to drive!

“If you’re tired, please don’t get behind the wheel. Think of your safety and your passengers, but also of the safety of others on the road,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David K. Cohn. “And if you get tired while driving, please pull over and find a safe place to sleep.”

The Bakersfield-based personal injury law firm recently resolved a wrongful death lawsuit in which a driver fell asleep at wheel, jumped a curb and struck a jogger as he ran on the sidewalk. The jogger was also a husband and father of a little girl. That case settled for $6 million.

 

Drowsy Driving Research 

SleepJunkie, a website focused on improving sleeping habits, recently conducted a study to understand which roads, states, and times of day have the most sleep-related fatalities. The website analyzed six years of fatal driving accidents from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data to illustrate the deadly effects of driving while drowsy.

The study found that drowsy driving-related roadway fatalities spike in the early morning hours, with 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., marking the deadliest span. The hours just before and after — 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. — were the second and third most fatal times. This dispels the myth that the threat of falling asleep at the wheel happens most in the nighttime hours.

Busy interstates accounted for the most sleep-related driving deaths compared to other roadways. Utility vehicles were involved in the highest percentage of fatal sleepy-driver accidents with pickup trucks and vans next on the list, the study found. Dawn light and foggy skies contributed the most to fatal sleep-related accidents.

Three of the top five most dangerous counties for fatal drowsy-driving accidents were in California, although Kern County was not one of them. They included San Bernardino County, Riverside County and Los Angeles County.

———

If you or someone you know is hurt in a motor vehicle accident — whether it’s in a car, truck, bicycle, while walking or by a big rig — call the injury and accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.