A future with fewer traffic accidents? A look at driverless cars, safety and liability

November 8, 2017 | 7:00 am


The U.S. government recently released new federal guidance for automated driving systems that officials say has the potential to change the way we travel. But what does that mean to you, the everyday driver and passenger of motor vehicles?

The answer comes down to safety.

“The safe deployment of  automated vehicle technologies means we can look forward to a future with fewer traffic fatalities and increased mobility for all Americans,” according to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

As Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David K. Cohn sees it, this is great news for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and others on our roadways. The Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm each year represents hundreds of innocent victims of motor vehicle crashes where human error is the primary cause.

That guidance report, called “Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety 2.0,” calls for industry, state and local governments, safety and mobility advocates and the public to lay the path for the deployment of automated vehicles and technologies. It can be accessed and read here.

In fact, the California Department of Motor Vehicles recently unveiled a timeline for when driverless cars may begin appearing, as well as a new set of streamlined regulations. In short, test vehicles could be on California roads and highways by June 2018, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Currently, California rules require a human driver behind the wheel even when fully autonomous cars are being tested. Driverless cars already are operating in Arizona, Florida and other states that have looser rules than California, or no specific driverless regulations at all, according to L.A. Times.

DMV officials are trying to balance safety with technology development, and safety experts believe that robot cars will prove safer than human drivers.

According to Car and Driver, removing the possibility of fatigue or alcohol impairment in a driver alone knocks 45.5 percent off the fatality rate in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also declared that a driverless-­vehicle fleet, should at a minimum cut in half the current toll of roughly 40,200 deaths annually.

The federal government will continue to set safety standards for automobiles, while the state’s role is to make sure vehicles traveling on state highways conform to federal standards, the DMV stated.

Already, some vehicles are available with autonomous features.

Available to the public for purchase, Tesla’s Model S and Model X are stocked with eight surround cameras, ensuring a full 360 degrees of visibility. Enhanced autopilot allows the self-driving car to match speed to surrounding traffic conditions and allows for multiple lane changes.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., similarly developed an autonomous car, Waymo, with its name deriving for the company’s mission to create “a new way forward in mobility.” Alphabet describes Waymo as “a self-driving tech company with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around.”

According to Forbes, of the 35,000 car crash fatalities in 2015, 94 percent were due to human error, with almost 40 percent of the fatalities resulting from driving under the influence.

While autonomous cars would drastically decrease the number of accidents due to the fault of the driver, car companies would face great liability from the number of accidents due to the fault of the automobiles, according to Forbes. In the event of a car accident, if the self-driving car is at fault, the automobile company would face the repercussions of the incident and accept liability. Autonomous cars could drastically increase in price in order to cover liability costs, but car insurance premiums could substantially decrease because there would be fewer accidents.

For Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which helps victims of car accidents and other motor vehicle accidents, fewer accidents equals fewer injuries and deaths. In that case, the future is bright.

— By Alyssa Wood for Chain | Cohn | Stiles 

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If you or someone you know is injured in an motor vehicle accident at the fault of someone else, please call Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com. For work injuries, you can also visit bakersfieldwclawyers.com.

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