Everything you need to know about riding Bakersfield’s electric scooters safely

December 12, 2018 | 6:00 am


The birds are soaring in Bakersfield — the electric scooters from the company “Bird,” that is.

About 200 of the Bird electric scooters, or e-scooters, have been scattered throughout Bakersfield, mostly downtown, “to help meet the town’s need for transit options that are accessible, affordable, and reliable,” according to the company. They have gained popularity across the United States and Europe in recent years. Closer to Kern County, several e-scooter companies have planted their wheels in Los Angeles.

But the e-scooters also come with controversy, due, in part, to their safety concerns.

News reports have highlighted injuries on pedestrians hit by scooters and on scooter riders themselves including chipped teeth, cut lips, broken bones, bruises, and worse. A 29-year-old San Diego man who had been drinking alcohol suffered life-threatening injuries after crashing a rented scooter into a building in Pacific Beach. He was not wearing a helmet and suffered serious head injuries, police said.

For its part, Bird states the following: “At Bird, safety is our very top priority and it drives our mission to get cars off the road to make cities safer and more livable.”

With the e-scooter ride-share launch in Kern County, the Bakersfield-based accident and injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles wishes to provide some tips for riding the e-scooters, as well as rules for sharing the road safely.

 

Before you Bird

Here’s how the Bird scooters work:

  • The scooters work through an app downloaded onto smartphones.
  • The app will locate available electric scooters nearby and, for a per-minute fee, people ride the electric scooters to their destination, leaving the scooter wherever the trip ends.
  • It costs about a $1 to rent the scooter, plus 15 cents a minute to use.
  • A group of scooter “chargers” go out at night to pick up the scooters and recharge them, collecting a fee per scooter.

The scooters move at a maximum of 15 miles per hour, but riders must obey the rules of the road (see below). The scooters will only be available during the day. After dark, a Bird contractor gathers the scooters for recharging and maintenance, and then drops the scooters off at predetermined areas in time for the next morning’s ride.

 

Rules of the Road

Once you’re ready to ride, be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Wear a helmet: Bird offers free helmets to all active riders. Just cover shipping. You can request your helmet in the “Safety” section in the Bird app.
  • Where to ride: Care for pedestrians. No riding on sidewalks unless local law requires or permits — it endangers members of our community who want to walk freely. We’re all in this together, so let’s be good neighbors and look out for one another. Ride in bike lanes or close to the right curb.
  • Where to Park: Park e-scooters out of the public right of way — keeping walkways, driveways, access ramps, and fire hydrants clear. Park scooters close to the curb, facing the street near designated bike or scooter parking areas, trees, or street signs. Make sure your kickstand is securely in the down position so that the scooter stays upright. Avoid uneven surfaces like grass, gravel, rocks, or inclines.
  • Rules of the Road: You must be at least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license to ride. Only one rider per vehicle. Follow all traffic rules including street signs and stop signs. Use caution at crosswalks
  • Use Caution: Be aware of surrounding traffic, especially at intersections. Always be aware of surrounding traffic, especially at intersections – cars are your biggest risk. Start off slowly while you get used to the accelerator and brakes. No one-handed rides. Put down the phone and coffee cup. No headphones – listen to what’s around you. Don’t ride if you’ve been drinking alcohol.

 

Scooters Safety News

Bird launched what it calls a pledge to “Save Our Sidewalks” and has asked the CEOs of other similar companies to join, including Limebike, Ofo, Mobike and Jump. Each company would commit to reducing street clutter by putting their bikes and scooters only where they are used, to refrain from expanding unless vehicles are used three times a day, and to remitting $1 per vehicle per day to cities for bike lanes and safety programs.

In other related news, Bike Bakersfield, local bike safety and advocacy nonprofit, reportedly is working with city officials to bring electric scooters and electric bicycles to Bakersfield though a state grant. However, other U.S. cities have steered clear of the e-scooters. Miami banned them, and Nashville seized the scooters once they blocked public rights of way and caused accidents soon after the uninvited rollout. San Diego started giving out tickets to riders not wearing a helmet, and San Francisco began impounding the scooters and issuing a cease-and-desist order after the companies launched their services in the city without asking.

California Legislature introduced a bill that would allow anyone 18 and older to ride without helmets. Bird is the bill’s sponsor. Chain | Cohn | Stiles recommends you continue to use a helmet, for your safety.

Local media reported on Dec. 12 that Bakersfield city officials were working with Bird for the next 6 to 12 months through what they called a “pilot program.”

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark discussed concerns about e-scooter safety in Bakersfield on KERN Radio’s “Richard Beene Show.” Click here to listen to the segment.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a scooter accident at the fault of someone else, please contact the attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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.

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.

Summer, sunshine, and safety. Keeping your loved ones safe during National Safety Month

June 27, 2018 | 9:43 am


The month of June brings summer days, sunshine, travel, vacations, and other activities. In the summer months, we should all think “safety” as well.

Dangerous situations can present themselves often during the summer. It’s important for each of us to do our part to keep ourselves, our neighbors, and our loved ones as safe as possible.

Observed each June, “National Safety Month” focuses on reducing leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road and in our homes and communities. In fact, accidental injury has become the No. 3 cause of death for the first time in U.S. history, according to the National Safety Council.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with the help of the National Safety Council, would like to pass along some safety tips to keep in mind this summer to remain safe, and injury-free.

Be Prepared

Emergency situations can happen at any time, making it a priority to be prepared for the unexpected before it happens:

  • Research and prepare for natural disasters that may occur, like an earthquake.
  • Create an emergency kit for both your home and car.
  • Create a home emergency plan with your family and learn how to shut off your utilities.
  • Be a good participant in emergency drills at work and school by following instructions and paying attention to lessons learned.
  • Store important phone numbers, including those of family members, with other important documents in a fire-proof safe or safety deposit box.
  • Learn first aid and CPR for children and adults.
  • Stock your emergency kits.

Safe at Home

Slipping at home or tripping on the sidewalk is a serious risk, and they can be deadly. In fact, falls are the third leading cause of unintentional-injury-related deaths for all ages and the No. 1 cause of death for those 65 and older, according to the National Safety Council.

Take these simple steps to prevent falls both at home and in your community:

  • Remove clutter, including electrical cords and other tripping hazards, from walkways, stairs and doorways.
  • Install nightlights in the bathroom, hallways and other areas to prevent tripping and falls at night.
  • Always wear proper footwear and clean up spills immediately.
  • Place non-slip adhesive strips on stairs and non-skid mats in the shower and bathroom.
  • For older adults, install grab bars near showers and toilets, and install rails on both sides of stairs. Older adults can also take balance classes, get their vision and hearing checked each year and talk with their doctors and pharmacist about fall risks from medication

Driving Dangers

Summer is a busy travel season. And considering up to 94 percent of motor vehicle crashes involve human error, it’s important to follow safety measures to help stay safe on the roads.

  • Prevent injuries on the road by keeping your focus on the driving task.
  • Avoid impaired driving, whether by alcohol, lack of sleep or drugs, including over the counter and prescription medication.
  • Avoid cell phone distracted driving, including hands-free.
  • Practice with your teen drivers and teach them to avoid distraction.
  • Make sure all occupants are properly secured in age-appropriate restraints.
  • Never leave a child alone in a car and always keep your car locked when not in use.
  • If you drive for work, talk with your employer about safe habits – do not take calls while behind the wheel.
  • Regularly check your vehicle for recalls at CheckToProtect.org and stay up to date on the safety features in your car by visiting MyCarDoesWhat.org.
  • Make sure you understand your vehicle safety features before using them – not all vehicle safety features operate the same way.
  • Pay attention to vehicle alerts and warnings.
  • Educate teens and all inexperienced drivers about the safety features present in the vehicle and how they work.

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If you or someone you know is injured due to the fault of another, contact the personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com

Dog Bite Prevention: Safe interaction, education, responsible pet ownership are key

April 11, 2018 | 11:39 am


Each year about 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs and 800,000-plus receive medical attention for dog bites, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Many of the dog bite victims are children, the elderly and postal carriers.

The good news is that many dog bites can be prevented with safe and appropriate interaction with canines, education, and responsible pet ownership.

The motto for this year’s Dog Bite Prevention Week, observed from April 8-14, is “70 million nice dogs … but any dog can bite.” Here are a few tips to help keep us all safe from dog bites, courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States and American Veterinary Medical Association.

Socialization

Socializing your pet helps it feel at ease in different situations. By introducing your dog to people and other animals while it’s a puppy, it feels more comfortable in different situations as it gets older. It’s also important to use a leash in public to make sure that you are able to control your dog.

Responsible pet ownership

Basics of responsible dog ownership that can help reduce the risk of dog bites include carefully selecting the dog that’s right for your family, proper training, regular exercise, and neutering or spaying your pet.

Education

Educate yourself and your children about how, or whether, to approach a dog.

Avoid risky situations

It’s important to know how to avoid escalating risky situations and to understand when you should and should not interact with dogs. You should avoid petting a dog in these scenarios:

  • If the dog is not with its owner
  • If the dog is with its owner but the owner does not give permission to pet the dog
  • If the dog is on the other side of a fence – don’t reach through or over a fence to pet a dog
  • If a dog is sleeping or eating
  • If a dog is sick or injured
  • If a dog is resting with her puppies or seems very protective of her puppies and anxious about your presence
  • If a dog is playing with a toy
  • If a dog is growling or barking
  • If a dog appears to be hiding or seeking time alone

Pay attention to the dog’s body language

Put a safe amount of space between yourself and a dog if you see the following signals, indicating that the dog is uncomfortable and might feel the need to bite:

  • Tensed body
  • Stiff tail
  • Pulled back head and/or ears
  • Furrowed brow
  • Eyes rolled so the whites are visible
  • Yawning
  • Flicking tongue
  • Intense stare
  • Backing away

When putting space between yourself and a dog that might bite, never turn your back on them and run away. A dog’s natural instinct will be to chase you.

Safety tips for children

You can help protect your child from dog bites by discussing with him or her the appropriate way to behave around dogs.

  • Children should not approach, touch or play with any dog that is sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or bone, or caring for puppies. Animals are more likely to bite if they’re startled, frightened or caring for young.
  • Children should never approach a barking, growling or scared dog.
  • Children should not pet unfamiliar dogs without asking permission from the dog’s guardian first. If the guardian says it is okay, the child should first let the dog sniff his closed hand. Then taking care to avoid petting the dog on the top of the head, he can pet the dog’s shoulders or chest.
  • Children should not try to pet dogs that are behind a fence or in a car. Dogs often protect their home or space.
  • If a child sees a dog off-leash outside, he should not approach the dog and should tell an adult immediately.
  • If a loose dog comes near a child, he should not run or scream. Instead, he should avoid eye contact with the dog and stand very still, like a tree, until the animal moves away. Once the dog loses interest, the child can slowly back away.
  • If a child falls down or is knocked to the ground by a dog, he should curl up in a ball with his knees tucked into his stomach, and fingers interlocked behind his neck to protect his neck and ears. If a child stays still and quiet like this, the dog will most likely just sniff him and then go away.
  • Children should never try to outrun a dog. If a dog does attack a child, the child should “feed” the dog his jacket, bag, bicycle—or anything that he has for the dog to grab onto or anything he can put between himself and the dog.

What to do if you think a dog may attack

If you are approached by a dog that may attack you, follow these steps:

  • Resist the impulse to scream and run away.
  • Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog.
  • Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until they are out of sight.
  • If the dog does attack, “feed” them your jacket, purse, bicycle or anything that you can put between yourself and the dog.
  • If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Try not to scream or roll around.

What to do if you’re bitten by a dog

If you are bitten or attacked by a dog, try not to panic.

  • Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water.
  • Contact your physician for additional care and advice.
  • Report the bite to your local animal care and control agency. Tell the animal control official everything you know about the dog, including their owner’s name and the address where they live. If the dog is a stray, tell the animal control official what the dog looks like, where you saw them, whether you’ve seen them before and in which direction they went.

Lastly, contact a personal injury lawyer if you think you have a case.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolved a lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of a Bakersfield woman for $2 million in what is the largest award for a dog bite case against a public entity in California. Learn more about that case here.

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If you or someone you know it attacked or bitten by a dog, contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000 to schedule a free consultation, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

‘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.

Older Driver Safety Awareness: Tips for the safest journey while behind the wheel

December 6, 2017 | 9:17 am


It’s a fact of life — we grow older every day. And with each year that passes comes changes in our physical, mental and sensory abilities that can be a challenge for some, especially our senior citizens.

The ability to drive safely can also be affected by changes in our physical, emotional, and cognitive health — changes that are a part of normal aging, but occur at different rates and times for people.

During “Older Driver Safety Awareness Week,” which is observed this year from Dec. 4–8, Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to provide some tips and information to make driving as safe and enjoyable as possible for our older friends, neighbors and loved ones.

By 2025, a quarter of licensed drivers in the United States will be 65 or older, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Today, this age group accounts for about 20 percent, or 40 million, of all licensed drivers, according to Federal Highway Administration.

Older Driver Safety Awareness Week aims to raise awareness about the safety issues older drivers face while remaining active members of their communities. For many senior citizens, it’s important for them to remain active in the community — shopping, working or volunteering — while remaining confident that transportation will not be the barrier to strand them at home.

During this time of year, families often come together for the holidays, and one of the first steps in addressing older driver safety is having a conversation with our loved ones. Consider sharing these seven suggestions for the safest journey (courtesy of DMV):

1) Your Health is No. 1

Schedule regular appointments with your physician to monitor pain or stiffness in your joints. This may affect your ability to control the steering wheel or turn to look into safety mirrors. Diabetes, seizures, and other conditions could affect your safety on the road. It’s best to discuss your driving options with your doctor before operating a vehicle. Fatigue can be a problem depending on the length of your trip. If your stress levels are high, driving could aggravate any other health conditions you may have. It’s best to speak with your doctor about lowering your stress levels before you drive, especially if you are at risk for any heart-related health conditions.

2) Schedule Hearing and Vision Tests

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, always have them while driving. Be aware of conditions that might be affecting your vision, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. If you feel like your vision is worsening, consult with your optometrist. Recognize signs of trouble seeing at night — you may need to stick with daytime driving only. If you have problems hearing other vehicles or emergency sirens when you drive, get a hearing aid. Keep the noise inside the vehicle to a minimum, and this includes music and conversations with your passengers.

3) Be Realistic About Your Limitations

It’s important to be aware of and honest about any limitations that you find yourself up against, so that you can be proactive about making the necessary adjustments to ensure your safety, and that of all other drivers around you. Some of these adjustments can include increasing your following distance to allow yourself more reaction time when it’s time to hit the brakes. Also, use the brakes early. When you first see that a stop sign, red light, or other obstacle is approaching, begin braking early. This will help you to avoid the need for a hard brake at the last minute. Avoid busy areas — when there’s a lot happening at once, your awareness of your surroundings will suffer. Try to find alternative routes with less traffic congestion. Lastly, try to anticipate rather than react. Scan as far down the road as possible. This will help you plan your course of action instead of having to react suddenly.

4) Check Your Medications

For each of the medications you have been prescribed, be sure to read the label carefully. If it states that you should not drive or operate heavy machinery while taking the medication, do not drive. If there is nothing on the label, but you feel as though your mental or physical abilities are altered when taking the medication, contact your doctor and report the effects you’re feeling.

Also, ask the pharmacist about the medication when it’s prescribed. If the medication is known to affect driving ability, the pharmacist may be able to adjust your dosage or recommend a time of day when it’s best to take them. And avoid driving if you feel drowsy or lightheaded.

5) Adjust Your Driving Position

By adjusting the position of the driver’s seat, you can make it easier to reach the steering wheel, see your side mirrors, recognize obstacles down the road, control the vehicle, and reach the gas pedal and brake.

To help, keep the steering wheel at a comfortable but significant distance from your chest. If the steering wheel is too close, it could result in an injury should an airbag deploy. Raise the height of the seat so that your eyes are a few inches above the steering wheel. Do this by adjusting the steering wheel itself, adjusting the height of your seat, sitting on an additional seat cushion, if necessary, moving your side mirrors to avoid blind spots, or raising or lowering the headrest so that it is directly behind your head.  Consider a pedal extension if you have difficulty reaching the accelerator or brake.

6) Avoid Dangerous Conditions

Try to avoid inclement weather, night driving and rush hour commutes. It’s more difficult to control your vehicle, and your visibility is limited in bad weather. Additionally, dark surroundings give you less time to see, process, and react to your environment. Rush hour adds an increased number of cars on the road, coupled with impatient drivers, which can be one of the most dangerous times to drive for seniors.

7) Take a Mature Driver Course

Brushing up on your driving skills and refreshing your memory as it relates to the rules of the road can boost your confidence and help you stay safe while driving. Enroll in a senior driving course to learn defensive driving techniques, state-specific laws related to safety belts, cell phones, road signs, traffic violations, and making right-of-way decisions

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

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.

Two-wheeled transportation safety tips for bike, motorcycle month and beyond

May 31, 2017 | 10:18 am


May is National Bike Month as well as National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, where we celebrate the benefits of riding on two wheels, while remembering the dangers of doing so and measures to help keep everyone as safe as possible.

California is ranked No. 4 in the United States for percentage of commuters who bike to work, according to the 2016 Benchmarking Report by the Alliance for Walking & Biking. California was also above the state average in commuters who walk, bike or take public transit to work, and in getting 150 minutes or more of aerobic exercise.

But the increase of people enjoying life on two wheels has unfortunately led to an increase of bicycle and motorcycle accidents on our roadways.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 818 bicycle fatalities in 2015 in the United States, which was a 12 percent rise from the previous year. Nearly 40 percent of all these fatalities were influenced by alcohol. To combat this disturbing trend, California has passed legislation, including the “Move Over Law” which requires motorists to have a 3-foot space from cyclists. Read more about that law here.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we believe we should all share the road, and be extra careful when driving around motorcyclist and bicyclists.

Our law firm has been a proud partner of Bike Bakersfield, whose mission it is to promote bicycling as a safe, fun and environmentally-friendly means of everyday transportation. Recently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles served as a sponsor for Project Light Up The Night, where volunteers hand out hundreds of free bicycle lights in various locations throughout Bakersfield. The law firm also donated 100 safety helmets to east Bakersfield students during a Bike Bakersfield “Kidical Mass,” which featured bike repairs, safety demonstrations, and a group bike ride.

We ask you, the reader, to take responsibility in making sure our roadways are safe for cyclist and motorist alike. Here are a few tips on how we can make cycling, riding and driving in Bakersfield safer and more enjoyable:

Rules of the Road for All

  • 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.
  • Be Easily Seen: Dress “bright and tight,” which means being seen, and not getting tangled up in your bike.
  • Think Ahead: 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.
  • Ride and Drive Focused: Never ride or drive distracted.
  • Safety First: Always wear a helmet when on a bicycle or motorcycle, and a seat belt when in a vehicle. A DOT 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.
  • Alcohol and Drug-Free: Never get behind the wheel (or wheels) under the influence of any substance.

For more bicycle and motorcycle safety tips, click here to read previous Blogging for Justice posts related to two-wheel safety.

 

— Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know has been injured in a bicycle accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles as soon as possible at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.