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.

Holiday season a time for cheer, a time for safety

December 14, 2016 | 10:44 am


It’s the time of cheer, and a time of celebration.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to make sure you and your family enjoy the holiday season, while staying as safe as possible. With so many potential dangers affiliated with the holiday season — driving and traveling, celebrating with alcohol, and decorating your home, as examples — it’s important for everyone be aware of how to remain as safe as possible and remain injury-free.

Please take note of the following safety tips as you celebrate with your family this holiday season.

 

Home Safety 

The holidays and “home” go hand in hand — home decorating and home cooking, for example. But each year, we see tens of thousands of injuries involving holiday decorating.

As you celebrate in your home, please keep these notes in mind, courtesy of the National Safety Council:

  • Make sure your Christmas tree has a stable platform.
  • If you choose an artificial tree, make sure that it is labeled as fire resistant. Also, spraying artificial snow can irritate your lungs if inhaled. Decorate the tree with your kids in mind; move ornaments that are breakable or have metal hooks toward the top.
  • Never use lighted candles near Christmas trees or boughs.
  • Keep your pets and children away from poisonous plants and other potential hazards.
  • If using a natural tree, make sure it is well watered.
  • Check holiday lights for fraying, bare spots, gaps in the insulation or excessive kinking in the wire.
  • Turn off all tree lights and decorations when not in use. Additionally, more than 10 percent of home candle fires take place in December. Never leave burning candles unattended or sleep in a room with a lit candle.
  • When putting up decorations, use a step stool or ladder to reach high places.
  • When preparing a meal, wash hands, utensils, sink and anything else that touches raw meat. And reheat leftovers to at least 165 degrees.

 

Celebrating with Alcohol 

It’s OK to have a little eggnog, but it’s important to plan ahead before celebrating with alcoholic drinks. During the holiday season, more people die in highway related crashes related to alcohol that any other time of year.

  • The best call is to just say “no.” Resist the pressure to drink alcohol.
  • If you do drink, designate a driver before the party begins. If you or your friends are going to a party and plan to use alcohol, decide in advance who will be the designated driver. Decide that drinking and driving is not an option.
  • The main purpose of a party is to have fun with people you know. You can stop yourself before you go too far, you just need to choose to do so.
  • Additionally, MADD and Uber has launched a national holiday campaign on Monday, in which Uber is directing riders to take a pledge on madd.org/uber to #LeavetheKeys on social media.

 

Traveling 

Tens of millions of people choose to travel during the holidays. Before you hit the road, keep these points in mind:

  • Never drink and drive. Alcohol-impaired fatalities represented 31 percent of the all road-related crashes.
  • Use a designated driver to ensure guests make it home safely after a holiday party.
  • Make sure every person in the vehicle is properly buckled up no matter how long or short the distance being traveled.
  • Put that cell phone away; distracted driving causes one-quarter of all crashes.
  • Properly maintain the vehicle and keep an emergency kit with you.
  • Be prepared for heavy traffic, and possibly heavy snow.

The Bakersfield Police Department will be running its year-end “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement mobilization continuing into the New Year. The campaign includes DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols.

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If you or your family members are hurt this holiday season at the fault of someone else, please call the injury and accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.