‘Drive like you work here’: Use extra caution to protect road workers and others

April 17, 2019 | 6:00 am


Each spring, “National Work Zone Awareness” reminds drivers to use extra caution in construction zones. And with the various construction projects taking place throughout Bakersfield and Kern County, the message of safety is that much more important.

While you’re driving through these zones, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants you to remember this year’s safety slogan: “Drive like you work here” to keep yourself and others safe.

“The people working to improve our roadways are just like you and I. We all want to get home to our families after a hard day’s work,” said David Cohn, managing partner of Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Let’s make sure we always slow down and be extra alert in construction zones.”

Since 2000, Federal Highway Administration has worked with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the American Traffic Safety Services Association to bring national attention to motorist and worker safety and mobility issues in work zones through National Work Zone Awareness. In Bakersfield, construction has been ongoing as workers continue working on the Centennial Corridor, a four-phase freeway project that eventually will connect the Westside Parkway to Highway 99, and the Highway 58 and Highway 99 connector ramps. Construction of “Phase 4” is expected to begin this summer, and the entire Centennial Corridor Project is expected to be finished in 2022, according to local media reports.

Unfortunately, many dangers lurk for road workers, which include crashes that result in injuries and even death. In 2017, the most recent year with complete statistics available, the United States saw 132 worker fatalities in road construction sites, 222 fatal work zone crashes involving large trucks and buses, and 203 fatal work crashes where speeding was a factor, according to the federal department of transportation.

In fact, speed is a contributing factor in almost 29 percent of 2017 fatal work zone crashes, according to the department of transportation. Speeding drivers are less likely to safely navigate the roadway conditions, lane closures, lane shifts, rough surfaces, and other conditions that are common in work zones. Distracted driving is also a big concern.

In California alone since 1921, 189 Caltrans employees have been killed on the job. In 2017, 46 people were killed and more than 3,000 injured from crashes that happened in construction zones, according to data from the California Highway Patrol. California’s “Move Over Law,” which went into effect in 2007, requires drivers approaching Caltrans vehicles, tow trucks or emergency vehicles with flashing lights to move over a lane if safe to do so.

When traveling through work zones, drivers should practice the following work zone safety tips:

  • Plan ahead. Expect delays, plan for them, and leave early to reach your destination on time. When you can, avoid work zones altogether by using alternate routes.
  • Obey road crews and signs. When approaching a work zone, watch for cones, barrels, signs, large vehicles, or workers in bright-colored vests to warn you and direct you where to go.
  • Slow down. Look for signs indicating the speed limit through the work zone. Keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you and follow the posted speed limit.
  • Move over. California has move-over laws when passing work crews and official vehicles parked on the shoulder with flashing warning lights.
  • Avoid distractions. Keep your eyes on the road and off your phone. Just drive.
  • Watch for sudden stoppages. In 2017, 25 percent of fatal work zone crashes involved rear-end collisions.
  • Watch for large vehicles. Don’t make sudden lane changes in front of trucks that are trying to slow down. In 2017, 50 percent of fatal work zone crashes involving large trucks or buses occurred on rural roadways. Between 2013 and 2017, fatal work zone crashes involving large trucks increased by 43 percent.

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

Bakersfield ranked 7th deadliest city in the nation for pedestrians

March 27, 2019 | 1:11 pm


In recent years, Kern County has seen the number of pedestrian accidents rise to an alarming rate. In fact, a new study ranks Bakersfield as the seventh deadliest city in the United States for pedestrians.

Between 2008 to 2017, Bakersfield saw a total of 247 pedestrian deaths, bringing the annual pedestrian fatality rate to 2.83 per 100,000 residents, according to the report titled “Dangerous By Design” by Smart Growth America, an advocacy group that studies metropolitan expansion. While the number of pedestrians has only increased by a mere 1 percent during the past decade, Bakersfield saw fatalities of pedestrians rise an alarming 35.4 percent.

“It is crucial that we hold pedestrian safety to the highest degree or these statistics will only continue to get worse,” said David K. Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which represents victims of motor vehicle accidents, including pedestrians and bicyclists.

 

Deadliest cities for pedestrians

Bakersfield is the only California city ranked in the top 23 worst cities for pedestrians, according to the study that looked at pedestrian safety in cities of different sizes, density, and rates of walking.

Part of the problem, according to the study, is that road designs continue to be tailored to drivers only, and are not taking pedestrian safety into account. Unnecessarily wide lanes with high speed limits and few sidewalks are also to blame.

Many pedestrian deaths in Bakersfield occurred on Union Avenue and in areas east of Highway 99, according to an interactive map.

“Dangerous by Design” calls upon the federal government to do something about this problem since federal regulations and dollars helped create unsafe conditions to begin with. It calls on U.S. Congress to adopt policies to make it mandatory to consider everyone’s use or our streets, and not only drivers. The report also asks over 1,400 communities to adopt policies to focus on applying ideas to help make a safer reality for all, as well as talking to locally elected officials, and raising awareness for the problem.

 

Local pedestrian safety

Several local efforts are underway with pedestrian safety in mind.

Walk Kern, a Kern County Public Works Department project devoted to providing safe pedestrian and bicycle paths around Kern County, has completed over 60 pedestrian and bicycle trails including “Walk Rexland,” “Walk Rosamond, and “Walk Lamont” to name a few. Future trails include Walk Belle Terrace, Walk South Chester, and Walk Lake Isabella.

The “Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety Plan” — a partnership with California Department of Transportation — also aims to 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. Improving and creating more crosswalks, and educating pedestrians and drivers on the rules of the road are just some efforts officials hope will help reduce pedestrian deaths.

A $30,000 grant for Bakersfield Police Department from the California Office of Traffic Safety is funding a variety of educational activities like bike rodeos, classroom presentations and community events aimed at teaching youth and adults about traffic rules, rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian and bicyclist.

And the Bakersfield-based injury and accident law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles for years has been doing its part to raise awareness and promote bicycle and pedestrian safety. Noting a lack of lighting throughout Bakersfield at night, the law firm teams up with local bicycle advocacy nonprofit Bike Bakersfield each year to give away hundreds of free bike lights and safety helmets in a project called Project Light up the Night.

 

How to stay safe

It’s up to pedestrians and drivers alike to make sure everyone gets home safe. Take these safety tips into account no matter if you’re behind the wheel, or taking a stroll:

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 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
  • 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.

— Martin Esteves contributed to this report.

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

Check your (safety) list twice for an injury-free holiday season

December 19, 2018 | 6:00 am


As Santa checks his list, you also should be checking your list this holiday season — your safety checklist, that is.

The holidays are ripe with dangers, from roadway hazards during holiday travel, to dangers at home from keeping warm and holiday decorating. It’s important you and your family take careful steps in celebrating, and make it through the holiday season injury-free.

Take note of these important safety tips courtesy of the accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

 

Holiday Travel

California Highway Patrol is conducting a DUI “maximum enforcement period” during the holidays, and encouraging Californians to use other travel options if they choose to consume drugs and alcohol, including medications, prescription or over the counter drugs that are common during the cold season.

Bakersfield Police Department, too, is helping spread the message about the dangers of drunk and drugged driving to get impaired drivers off roads. In partnership with California Office of Traffic Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, officers are launching the high-visibility enforcement campaign “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” through January 1. During this time, more officers will be on the streets of Bakersfield conducting saturation patrols, looking for drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, driving aggressively or distracted, and making sure drivers are properly licensed.

During the Christmas and New Year’s weekends in 2017, 25 people were killed and 643 injured on California roads, according to CHP. Don’t let yourself be a statistics this year.

“Any arrest during the holidays means a family that won’t have a loved one present during the holidays — due to an arrest or worse — because of a decision made to drive while under the influence,” said Matt Clark, attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Not only are you putting your life at risk, you are putting the lives of other innocent families at risk by driving under the influence. Just don’t do it.”

If you’re traveling long distances, plan your trip ahead of time and prepare for any potential emergencies.

 

Decorating Safely 

Decorating is one of the best parts of the holidays, but it also leads to thousands of emergency room visits every season. Here are a few tips to prevent accidents and injuries:

  • Hang breakable ornaments at top of the tree. This leaves room for kids to decorate the bottom with non-breakable items.
  • Always use the proper step ladder; don’t stand on chairs or other furniture.
  • Keep harmful plants out of reach. Some popular holiday plants are poisonous to children and pets, including mistletoe and holly berries.
  • Be aware of devices with button batteries. Keep those devices out of children’s reach.

 

Staying Warm

Thousands of deaths are caused by fires, burns and other fire-related injuries every year, and 12 percent of home candle fires occur in December, according to the National Safety Council, due to increased usage of candles and fireplaces, combined with an increase in the amount of combustible, seasonal decorations in many homes. To prevent fires and burn injuries at home:

  • Water natural trees regularly. When needles are dry, they can catch fire easily.
  • Turn off decorative lights before leaving home or going to sleep. Regularly check lights for exposed or frayed wires and loose connections.
  • Keep candles and matches out of reach. Lit candles should be at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and don’t forget to blow them out when you leave the room or before you go to sleep. Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach and sight.
  • Check smoke alarms. Make sure there is a working smoke alarm on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and near sleeping areas. Review your fire escape plan with family members and guests.
  • Don’t burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace.
  • Check and clean the chimney and fireplace area at least once a year

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, contact the accident and injury lawyers 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.

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

National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month: Riders, drivers working together to save lives

May 16, 2018 | 8:45 am


Did you know that accidents involving motorcycles account for nearly 15 percent of all traffic fatalities, but motorcyclists make up just 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the Unites States?

That’s according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In fact, more than 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 – a 6 percent increase from 2015. And over 88,000 motorcyclists were injured in motor vehicle crashes.

May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, which reminds drivers to share the road with motorcyclists. At the same time, this time of year gives us all a chance to make sure motorcyclists and drivers stay safe on the road.

In California, this is especially important, as the state has more than 900,000 registered motorcycles on our roads. Sadly, in 2016, 560 motorcyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashes in California, which was an 11 percent increase from 2015. More than 14,400 motorcyclists were injured in motor vehicle crashes.

Locally, the Bakersfield Police Department in May is joining other law enforcement departments and organizations throughout the state to step up enforcement, as well as increasing awareness efforts to lower motorcycle deaths and injuries.

“Officers will have a special emphasis this month on enforcing all traffic violations by both drivers and cyclist deploying ‘saturation patrols’ throughout the month of May,” according to the department.

To help drivers and motorcyclists alike on the road, Bakersfield Police Department shared the following tips to prevent motorcycle-related collisions.

DRIVERS

  • Always us a turn signal when changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • If you see a motorcycle with a signal on, be careful. Motorcycle signals are often non-canceling and could have been forgotten. Always ensure that the motorcycle is turning before proceeding.
  • Stay alert. Check all mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Follow at a safe distance when behind a motorcycle. This gives them more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
  • Never drive distracted or impaired.
  • Motorcyclists can increase their safety by following these steps:

MOTORCYCLISTS

  • Wear a DOT-compliant helmet and other protective gear.
  • Ride safely when lane sharing and always proceed at safe speeds.
  • Get properly licensed, and obey all traffic laws.
  • Use turn signals at every lane change or turn.
  • Wear brightly colored clothes and reflective tape to increase visibility.
  • Ride safely when lane sharing and always proceed at safe speeds.
  • Never ride distracted or impaired.

Lastly, the Office of Traffic Safety encourages all riders, new and experienced, to enroll in the California Motorcyclist Safety Program, which has training sites throughout the state. The program trains about 60,000 motorcyclists per year, and has trained more than 1.1 million motorcycle riders since it was developed in 1987. For more information, and to find a training site near you, visit californiamotorcyclist.com.

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

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.