Pedestrian Safety Month: As pedestrian accidents climb locally, we all have a responsibility to share the road

September 5, 2018 | 9:37 am


Pedestrian deaths are on the rise in Kern County and California, according to the Bakersfield Police Department.

In 2016, 867 pedestrians were killed and more than 14,000 were injured on California roadways alone. Since 2012, pedestrian deaths have increased by nearly 33 percent, growing substantially faster than any other type of traffic-related death, BPD statistics show.

And in the City of Bakersfield, 47 pedestrians have been killed and another 473 pedestrians have been injured over the past three years.

This month for Pedestrian Safety Month, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, along with local and state agencies and community partners throughout Kern County, are urging pedestrians and drivers alike to be aware of each other at all times, and share the road responsibly.

“We all have a responsibility watch out for everyone’s well-being while walking, cycling, and driving,” said Matt Clark, senior partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “More often than not, these accidents are preventable. Pedestrian safety depends on safe walking habits, and safe driving habits as well.”

As an example, 12 pedestrians were killed when crossing the street outside of a crosswalk last year.

This month, Bakersfield Police Department is sending out special unit officers to patrol areas with the highest incidences of pedestrian collisions in Bakersfield. Officers are on the lookout for unsafe pedestrian crossings, as well as poor driving. Those areas include:

  • Union Avenue between Brundage Lane and 21st Street.
  • Wible Road and New Stine between White Lane and Stockdale Highway.
  • Ming Avenue between Hughes Lane and Gosford Road.

In February, the City of Bakersfield announced a “Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety Plan,” a partnership with California Department of Transportation to examine the city’s roadways and determine which are the most dangerous to bicyclists and pedestrians. The goal was to recommend design improvements, including more bike lanes, more signage, and new pedestrian and bike paths away from traffic.

For years, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has advocated and fought to raise awareness of bicycle, pedestrian and driver safety throughout the streets Bakersfield and Kern County. Each fall, Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with Bike Bakersfield to give away hundreds of free bicycle lights and over 100 safety helmets throughout Kern County.

This month and always, keep in mind these safety tips to keep everyone on our streets safe, whether you’re walking, riding a bike, or driving:

Pedestrians:

  • Be obvious and predictable, crossing at crosswalks or intersections only, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible if there is no sidewalk
  • Make eye contact with drivers; never assume a driver sees you
  • Look left-right-left before stepping into a crosswalk. Having a green light or the “WALK” signal does not mean that it is safe to cross
  • Look for cars baking up, including white backup lights or signs the vehicle is running.
  • Don’t dart out between parked cars
  • Avoid distractions. Don’t walk and use your phone at the same time
  • Wear bright clothing during the day and reflective materials at night

Pedestrians

  • Be predictable. Follow the rules of the road, cross at crosswalks or intersections, and obey signs and signals.
  • Walk facing traffic, and if there is no sidewalk, walk as far from traffic as possible.
  • Pay attention to the traffic moving around you. This is not the time to be texting or talking on a cell phone.
  • Make eye contact with drivers as they approach. Never assume a driver sees you.
  • Wear bright clothing during the day and reflective materials (or use a flashlight) at night.
  • Look left, right, and then left again before crossing a street.

Drivers

  • Look out for pedestrians, especially in hard-to-see conditions such as at night or in bad weather.
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or entering a crosswalk where pedestrians are likely to be.
  • Stop at the crosswalk stop line to give drivers in other lanes an opportunity to see and yield to the pedestrians, too.
  • Be cautious when backing up; pedestrians, especially young children, can move across your path.

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

Back-to-School 2018-19: Lessons to learn for a safe school year

August 8, 2018 | 4:09 pm


It may not feel like it from the scorching Kern County heat and long days, but summer is drawing to a close and students are preparing to go back to school.

While some local school districts begin school in early August and late event late July, the biggest school districts begin Aug. 15. Bakersfield College begins session on Aug. 18, and CSU Bakersfield’s fall semester starts Aug. 27.

And with the start of school comes the hectic schedules. Remember and share with students that safety and health throughout the entire school year are the most important lessons to learn.

Sadly, 301 school-age children 18 and younger were killed in school transportation-related crashes from 2006 to 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And over the last decade, nearly two-thirds of school-age pedestrians fatally injured in school transportation-related crashes were struck by school buses or other vehicles when getting on or off a school bus. Thousands more are injured from campus-related accidents.

Please review these simple tips, and be sure to share them with your students to make sure they stay safe when traveling to school, on campus, and in getting home.

STROLL TO SCHOOL

  • Pedestrian Safety: Walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, and you must walk in the street, walk facing traffic.
  • Before crossing the street, stop and look left, right and left again to see if cars are coming.
  • Never dart out in front of a parked car.
  • Parents, practice walking to school with your young child, crossing streets at crosswalks when available.
  • Never walk while texting or talking on the phone. Focus when walking near traffic.
  • Do not walk while using headphones.
  • Use crosswalks whenever they are available to cross the street.

BIKE RIDERS

  • Always wear a helmet that is fitted and secured properly.
  • Children need to know the rules of the road. Ride single file on the right side of the road, come to a complete stop before crossing the street, and walk the bike across.
  • Watch for opening car doors and other hazards.
  • Use hand signals when turning.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing.
  • Stay in the bike lane whenever possible.
  • Use the sidewalk appropriately and keep an eye out for other pedestrians.
  • Never use electronics while riding – they are distracting.

THE WHEELS ON THE BUS

  • Line up 6 feet away from the curb as the bus approaches.
  • If seat belts are available, buckle up.
  • Wait for the bus to stop completely before standing.
  • Do not cross in front of the bus if possible, or walk at least 10 feet ahead until you can see the other drivers.
  • Face forward after finding a seat on the bus.
  • Exit the bus when it stops, look left-right-left, and take five steps away from the bus toward the curb.

DRIVING

Parents and guardians driving their students to school should take note of the following safety tips while driving.

  • The car shouldn’t move until everyone is buckled up.
  • Don’t block crosswalks
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and take extra care in school zones
  • Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians
  • Never pass a bus loading or unloading children
  • The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them to safely enter and exit the bus
  • Use appropriate car seats and booster seats for younger passengers.

For some teens, back to school also means the new-found freedom of driving. Teens crash most often because they are inexperienced. They struggle judging gaps in traffic, driving the right speed for conditions and turning safely, among other things.

And research tells us that teens are the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of a fatal crash. Texting is clearly a dangerous distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds on average, and at 55 mph, that is equivalent to driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. In 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, according to the National Safety Council.

Simply put, make sure drivers put does their phones at all times.

PREVENTING INJURIES AT SCHOOL

Students should watch out for several other dangers on campuses, including:

  • Backpack safety: Backpacks that are too heavy can cause a lot of problems for kids, like back and shoulder pain, and poor posture.
  • Playgrounds: A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that emergency departments still see more than 20,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related traumatic brain injury each year.
  • Sports: Every three minutes, a child in the U.S. is treated for a sports-related concussion. Learn how to identify concussion symptoms and steps to keep kids safer on the playing field.
  • Bullying: Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, over the Internet, or through mobile devices like cell phones.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident on the way to school, on campus, or coming home from school, please contact the personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Teachers, staff members, or other employees of schools injures at work can contact the workers’ compensation lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website bakersfieldwclawyers.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 value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

‘Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety Plan’ aims to decrease accidents, deaths in Bakersfield

February 21, 2018 | 10:13 am


Pedestrian and bicycle accidents and fatalities have been climbing year after year in Kern County, with 42 deaths reported in the county in 2017, according to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

In Bakersfield alone, the Bakersfield Police Department has investigated 49 fatal and injury collisions involving pedestrians during the past three years, and saw an astonishing 21 pedestrian deaths and three bicycle accident fatalities in 2017, according to the City of Bakersfield.

The fact of the matter is that one pedestrian or bicycle accident is one too many, and likely preventable. For this reason, the Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is glad to see the City of Bakersfield’s recent announcement that it is moving forward in developing a plan that aims to reduce injuries and fatalities of bicyclists and pedestrians.

The “Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety Plan” — a partnership with California Department of Transportation — will examine the city’s roadways to determine which are the most dangerous to bicyclists and pedestrians and recommend design improvements, including more bike lanes, more signage, and new pedestrian and bike paths away from traffic.

For years, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has advocated and fought to raise awareness of bicycle, pedestrian and driver safety throughout the streets Bakersfield and Kern County. For example, each fall, Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with Bike Bakersfield to give away hundreds of free bicycle lights and over 100 safety helmets throughout Kern County.

A national study revealed that pedestrians and drivers do not obey laws and signals consistently and many of them often use cell phones, text or listen to music while walking or driving. In fact, only 60 percent of pedestrians said they expected drivers to stop when they were in crosswalks, even though they have the right-of-way.

In Bakersfield, law enforcement officials have increased pedestrian safety enforcement operations, patrolling in “trouble spots,” cracking down on drivers and pedestrians who violate traffic laws meant to protect all roadway users. Special attention has been directed toward drivers speeding, making illegal turns, failing to stop for signs and signals, failing to yield to pedestrians in cross walks or any other dangerous violation. Additionally, officers are also targeting pedestrians who cross the street illegally or fail to yield to drivers who have the right of way.

Here are some safety tips that pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers can use to decrease accidents, and potentially save lives:

Drivers

  • Look out for pedestrians, especially in hard-to-see conditions such as at night or in bad weather.
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or entering a crosswalk where pedestrians are likely to be.
  • Stop at the crosswalk stop line to give drivers in other lanes an opportunity to see and yield to the pedestrians, too.
  • Be cautious when backing up; pedestrians, especially young children, can move across your path.

Pedestrians

  • Be predictable. Follow the rules of the road, cross at crosswalks or intersections, and obey signs and signals.
  • Walk facing traffic, and if there is no sidewalk, walk as far from traffic as possible.
  • Pay attention to the traffic moving around you. This is not the time to be texting or talking on a cell phone.
  • Make eye contact with drivers as they approach. Never assume a driver sees you.
  • Wear bright clothing during the day and reflective materials (or use a flashlight) at night.
  • Look left, right, and then left again before crossing a street.

Bicyclists

  • Know the rules of the road. Bicycles and motorcycles are considered vehicles on the road with all the rights and responsibilities of automobiles.
  • Be predictable. Ride in a straight line, use signal turns, and signal lane changes.
  • Dress “bright and tight,” which means being seen, and not getting tangled up in your bike.
  • Anticipate what other motorists will do next, whether it’s turning, braking or accelerating.
  • Ride ready. Make sure everything on your bicycle is in working condition.
  • Never ride or drive distracted.
  • Always wear a helmet when on a bicycle or motorcycle, and a seat belt when in a vehicle. A U.S. Department of Transportation certified helmet is recommended for riders. Cyclists should consider a horn or bell to get others’ attention, as well as reflectors. Motorcyclists should make sure headlights and taillights are in working order, too.
  • Never get behind the wheel (or wheels) under the influence of any substance.

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

Back-to-school tips: For students and parents, getting to and from campus safely should be top priority

August 9, 2017 | 9:24 am


With the close of each summer comes the return of school, including back-to-school shopping, hectic schedules, sports, and seemingly never-ending homework.

In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently helped our local students get in the school spirit as a sponsor of Childspree, which takes hundreds of underprivileged children back-to-school shopping at Kohl’s. The annual program organized by the Bakersfield Active 20-30 Club provides students with a backpack full of school supplies and $125 for clothes. Volunteers, including Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys and staff, helped the students pick out new digs.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles takes this time of the year to remind parents and students to keep safety at the top of mind.

“Whether its students who are walking, cycling or taking the bus to school, parents dropping off their children, or other pedestrians and drivers around school campuses, safety should always be the top priority,” said David K. Cohn, managing partner for Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We want everyone to arrive to class, and back home, safely.”

Here are a few helpful safety tips for parents and students alike:

 

STROLL TO SCHOOL

  • Map a safe way for your children to walk to school or to the bus stop. Always use sidewalks or walking paths.
  • Check for moving cars at driveways and intersections.
  • Obey all traffic signs and crossing guards.
  • Cross streets safely. Stop at the curb or edge of the street; look left, right, left and behind you for traffic; wait until no traffic is coming and begin crossing; keep looking for traffic until you have finished crossing; walk and don’t run across the street; and don’t use your phone when crossing the street.
  • Work with other parents in the neighborhood to ensure that children in the neighborhood are supervised closely to and from school. Also, identify “safe houses,” homes of neighbors who your child is familiar with if your child is scared or needs help on the way to and from school.
  • Point out places they should avoid, such as vacant lots, alleyways and construction areas.
  • Encourage your children to use the “buddy system.”
  • Teach children to always be aware of their surroundings. Be aware of slow moving vehicles or parked vehicles that appear to be occupied.
  • Parents should also make sure the child knows his or her phone number, address, how to get in touch with a parent at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult, and how to dial 9-1-1.

 

CYCLING TO CLASS

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Ride in the direction of traffic.
  • Watch for opening car doors.
  • Wear bright clothing to help drivers see you.
  • Install reflectors on the rear, front, pedals and spokes.
  • Install lights on the front and back of your bike.

 

WHEELS ON THE BUS

If children ride a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand back from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive. Other safety tips include:

  • Wait to board the bus until it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has signaled to get on.
  • Tell children they should only board their bus, and never an alternate one.
  • Always stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.
  • Cross the street at the corner, obey traffic signals and stay in the crosswalk.
  • Never dart out into the street, or cross between parked cars.

For more school bus safety information, check out this previous Blogging for Justice blog post on the subject.

 

DRIVING

If children ride in a car to get to school, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.

If a teenager is driving to school, parents should mandate that he or she use seat belts. Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls, and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.

As for parents and other drivers, it’s important to remember the following:

  • Obey the traffic laws.
  • Follow the ingress and egress patterns at your school.
  • If you want to avoid an unpleasant interaction with law enforcement, leave early, follow the rules of the road and be courteous.
  • If you want to walk your child to his or her classroom, park off-site so you are not creating a traffic jam.
  • Drivers should know what the yellow and red bus signals mean and be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down – especially in residential areas and school zones. Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is getting ready to stop and motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign indicate the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers in both directions must stop their vehicles and wait until the lights go off, the stop sign is back in place, and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.
  • Pull into a passenger loading zone for drop-off. If there is no passenger loading zone or any space available, park in a legal parking space farther away.
  • Drop your child off at the curb on the school side of the street rather than crossing into incoming traffic or having your child run across the street.
  • Don’t park in the loading zone or in a school bus zone. Also, never double park; this creates an unsafe situation for children who are often difficult to see between cars.

For more school-related safety tips — including at school safety and bullying prevention advice — visit a previous Chain | Cohn | Stiles blog post here.

— Alyssa Wood for Chain | Cohn | Stiles contributed to this article

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If you or someone you know is injured to and from school at the fault of someone else, contact the accident and injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

SAFETY TIPS: A spooky time of year for pedestrians, motorists

October 28, 2015 | 3:21 pm


With Halloween here, it’s a spooky time of year. For an enjoyable and safe Halloween, it’s important to be aware of all the dangers surrounding the holiday. And perhaps the No. 1 safety concern for trick-or-treaters is traffic.

It’s difficult for drivers to see children in dark costumes, and young ghouls and goblins can also have their own vision obscured by masks.

Plus, drinking and increased pedestrian traffic on Halloween night has historically been a dangerous combination, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For example, on Halloween night in 2012, 54 people were killed and nearly half of those deaths involved a crash with a drunk driver. That compares to about one-third on an average day. And about 28 of Halloween crash fatalities were pedestrians, compared to 14 percent on an average day. In a five-year span to 2012, 21 percent of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween night involved a drunk driver.

In all cases, it’s important for children and adults to be extra cautious while out and about on Halloween night. Chain | Cohn | Stiles reminds you to stay safe, and be sure to follow the following tips:

MOTORISTS

  • Use caution while behind the wheel:
    • Slow down and be alert in residential areas.
    • Enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully.
    • And eliminate distractions so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
  • Drive sober or get pulled over:
    • Always designate a sober driver and plan a way to safely get home at the end of the night if you plan on celebrating Halloween with alcohol. Use your community’s sober ride program or take a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
    • If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local law enforcement. And if you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make safe travel arrangements to where they are going.

PEDESTRIANS

  • Make sure everyone in your foot traffic party is walking safely and using sidewalks whenever possible. Look both ways to cross the street, and be extra aware of cars parking on the street or backing out of driveways.
  • Walking impaired can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Designate a sober friend to walk you home.
  • Help keep kids safe:
    • Children out at night should have adult supervision.
    • Kids should stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.
    • Choose face paint when possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.
    • Decorate costumes with reflective tape and have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights.
    • And always cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks, and look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a pedestrian or car accident, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the law firm’s website at chainlaw.com.

Trick or Treat? No matter the choice, practice safety this Halloween

October 30, 2014 | 6:55 am


Trick or treat?!

No matter which one you and your family chooses this Halloween, make sure you take proper safety precautions. Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office reminds children and adults to keep the Halloween tradition fun by remembering to be safe.

“There is no real trick to making Halloween a treat for the whole family, but following safety tips and using common sense can help you make the most of your Halloween season,” the Kern County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

The most common dangers on Halloween are falls and vehicle-pedestrian collisions and crashes. Another major concern is identifying candy that has been tampered with, which children are given.

Halloween is the deadliest day of the year for young pedestrians, with twice as many deaths as on a typical day, USA Today reported, according to State Farm. Most at risk are kids ages 12 to 18.

Drunken drivers, too, are another hazard for everyone walking the streets. The share of fatal crashes involving drunken drivers rises from the usual 30 percent to nearly 50 on Halloween, USA Today highlighted. About 20 percent of pedestrian deaths on Halloween involve a drunken driver.

Here are several tips provided by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and Chain | Cohn | Stiles to help make Halloween safe and fun:

Parents

  • Know the route your children will be taking if you aren’t going with them.
  • Make sure you set a time for them to be home. Have your children eat a good dinner before going out.
  • Make sure your children are properly supervised while out.
  • Make sure they trick or treat in a group if you are not with them.
  • Children 12 years and younger should be accompanied by an adult.
  • Tell your children to never go into a stranger’s house.
  • Tell your children to stay out of the street while walking.
  • Choose a costume that is brightly colored and easy to see in the dark.
  • Carefully inspect all food and candy before letting your child eat it (when in doubt, throw it out).

 Trick or Treaters

  • Carry a flashlight.
  • Stay on sidewalks.
  • Cross the street at intersections, never run out from behind a parked car.
  • Stay in familiar neighborhoods.
  • Make sure your costume fits you well.
  • Only approach houses that are well lit.
  • Walk from house to house, don’t run.
  • Never take shortcuts, such as alleyways or empty fields.
  • Don’t eat anything until your parents have had a chance to inspect it.

Children should also know the basics, such as their phone number and address in case of an emergency, and how to react if a stranger tries to approach them. If your child is late returning home or you cannot locate your child, immediately call 9-1-1 and report it to local law enforcement.

Pets 

Calls to animal poison control centers go up at Halloween, according to USA Today. Chocolate contains a compound that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and even seizures and death in dogs. Raisins and the artificial sweeteners can also sicken dogs.

  • It’s best to keep all sorts of human treats stashed away.
  • Don’t feel the need to dress up pets in costumes. Pet costumes can cause stress in some pets, and some dogs might try to chew the unwanted costumes off their backs.

Adults

If you are planning on attending a Halloween party, consider the following:

  • In 2012, 23 percent of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween involved a drunk driver.
  • In 2012, 48 percent of all traffic fatalities on Halloween resulted from a DUI-related accident.
  • Children are two times as likely to be hit and killed by a vehicle while walking on Halloween.
  • Drinking violations for criminal offenders increase by about 25 percent when Halloween is on a Friday.

And if you or a loved one are involved in an accident during Halloween, it’s important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are experts in pedestrian and car accident cases. Reach them 24 hours a day at 661-323-4000, or visit the website Chainlaw.com.