Teen drivers, school buses the focus of safety awareness weeks

October 23, 2019 | 11:11 am


Our children’s safety can be one of the most important focuses in our lives, which makes two national observances this week especially vital. This week in the United States we are observing “School Bus Safety Week” and “Teen Driver Safety Week.”

Learn safety tips, statistics, and other important information about these observances below.

“Our children’s safety is a top concern always,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Let’s all remember this week, and moving forward, to be extra careful around school buses, talk to teens about safe driving habits, and follow our laws always.”

 

Teen Driver Safety Week

This week and beyond, parents should speak with their teen children about how to stay as safe as possible behind the wheel. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading causes of death for teens (15 to 18 years old) in the United States, ahead of all other types of injuries, diseases, or violent acts. Teens are also 10 times more likely to be in a fatal car accident than adults.

In particular, there are six dangers that are especially important for teens to understand: alcohol, inconsistent or no seat belt use, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding, and number of passengers. Learn more about them below, courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

  • Alcohol and Drugs: All teens are too young to legally buy, possess, or consume alcohol.  However, nationally in 2017, 15% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system. But alcohol isn’t the only substance that can keep teens from driving safely.  According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.5% of adolescents 12 to 17 years old reported using marijuana. Like other drugs, marijuana affects a driver’s ability to react to their surroundings. Remind teens that driving under the influence of any impairing substance could have deadly consequences.
  • Seat Belts: Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways for teens to stay safe in a vehicle. A total of 539 passengers died in passenger vehicles driven by teen drivers and more than half (60%) of those passengers who died were NOT buckled up at the time of the fatal crash. Even more troubling, in 87% of cases when the teen driver was unbuckled, the passengers were also unbuckled. The chances of surviving a traffic crash are 45% higher when properly restrained in a seat belt.
  • Distracted Driving: Distractions while driving are more than just risky—they can be deadly. In 2017, among teen drivers involved in fatal crashes, 9 percent were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. The use of mobile devices while driving is a big problem, but there are other causes of teen distracted driving which pose dangers as well. They include adjusting the radio, applying makeup, eating or drinking, or distractions from other passengers in the vehicle.
  • Speeding: In 2017, almost one-quarter (27%) of all teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash, and males were more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than females.
  • Passengers: Teen drivers transporting passengers can lead to disastrous results.  Research shows the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of passengers in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers.
  • Drowsy Driving: Teens are busier than ever: studying, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and spending time with friends are among the long list of things they do to fill their time. However, with all of these activities, teens tend to compromise something very important—sleep. This is a dangerous habit that can lead to drowsy driving or falling asleep at the wheel.

 

School Bus Safety Week

Every school day in this country, 25 million children ride in a bus. The good news: School buses are among the safest modes of transportation. In fact, students are 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car, according to NHTSA. Why? They’re designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries.

But it’s not inside of the bus we should be most concerned about in terms of safety, but what happens outside. The real risks is in walking to the bus stop, and getting on and off the bus.

Here are some tips to keep students safe, as well as those walking and driving around school buses.

Tips for Drivers

  • Watch out for children walking or bicycling to school when backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage.
  • Be on the lookout when driving through neighborhoods. Drive slowly and watch for children walking in the street.
  • Learn the school bus laws in California.
    • Yellow flashing lights indicate that a bus is preparing to stop to pick up or drop off children. Drivers should slow down and prepare to stop.
    • Red flashing lights and an extended stop-arm signal indicate that the bus has stopped and that children are getting on or off. Cars must stop a safe distance away and not start again until the red lights stop flashing, the stop sign has been folded back, and the bus begins to continue on its way.

Tips for Students

  • Be at the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
  • Stand at least 6 feet away from the curb when the bus approaches, and keep the line away from the street.
  • Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says it’s okay to step onto the bus.
  • Remain visible to the bus driver at all times.
  • Never walk behind the bus. You should always make sure that you’re in the driver’s line of sight.
  • Use the handrails to avoid falling.
  • If seat belts are available on the bus, buckle up.
  • Don’t speak loudly or make loud noises that could distract the driver.
  • Stay in your seat.
  • Don’t put your head, arms, or hands out the window.
  • Keep the aisle clear of books, bags, and other objects.
  • Wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat.
  • If you have to cross in front of the bus after you get off, first walk at least 10 feet ahead until you can see the driver.
  • When the driver signals, look left, right, then left again. Walk across the road and keep an eye out for sudden traffic changes.

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

‘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.

Grants galore! Local agencies receive hundreds of thousands to combat unsafe driving in Kern County

November 21, 2018 | 6:00 am


Drivers beware: Local authorities have received hundreds of thousands of dollars to combat unsafe driving in Kern County.

Bakersfield’s California Highway Patrol branch recently received a grant to provide enforcement and education to local motorists about aggressive driving with the goal of decreasing injuries and deaths on our roadways. The Bakersfield Police Department received two grants recently: one aimed to teach youth and adults about traffic rules, rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian and bicyclist, and a second for a year-long enforcement and public awareness program intended to educate the public on safe roadway habits and deter people from violating traffic laws or practicing other unsafe behaviors. Lastly, the Kern County Probation Department’s grant will allow the department to focus on lowering deaths and injuries due to traffic collisions due to drivers being under the influence.

“Nearly every crash can be prevented simply with safer driving. Never drive while under the influence, and don’t speed or drive recklessly,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matthew Clark. “It’s important for us all to be educated on the best driving practices, and to share the road with our fellow motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists to make our community safe for all.”

Learn more about each of the grants below:

 

AGGRESSIVE DRIVING

California Highway Patrol grant campaign, called Regulate Aggressive Driving and Reduce Speed (RADARS) III, aims to reduce the number of crashes where speed, improper turning, and driving on the wrong side of the road are the main factors.

Speed and aggressive driving are California’s two main contributors in traffic collisions, according to CHP. Speed is a factor in about 45 percent of all fatal and injury collisions in the state.

“With this grant, the Californian Highway Patrol will strive to change this dangerous behavior through increased enforcement and education,” said CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley in a statement.

The California Office of Traffic Safety provided funding for the program through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

 

BIKE AND PEDESTRIAN SAFETY

The safety of people who use roadways to walk or ride their bike is the focus of a bicycle and pedestrian safety education program with the Bakersfield Police Department.

The $30,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety will fund the year-long program that includes 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 throughout Bakersfield, any efforts are needed to decrease the record number bicycle and pedestrian accidents.

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

Educational efforts funded by the grant will promote safe behaviors by pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers, including avoiding distractions like cell phones, looking for parked cars that may be pulling out or opening a door, and making yourself visible by wearing bright clothing during the day and reflective materials at night. Educational components on bicycle and pedestrian safety will be especially geared toward children and older adults.

These are efforts Chain | Cohn | Stiles can stand behind, and are actually helping toward. Currently, Project Light up the Night hosted by the local bicycle advocacy nonprofit Bike Bakersfield aims to make Kern County’s roads a little safer for drivers and cyclists by giving out free bicycle lights, helmets, and safety lessons at various locations throughout Bakersfield and Kern County. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to support Project Light up the Night each year by providing the helmets and lights. Bike Bakersfield representatives hand out the free helmets and lights on select Thursdays in November throughout Kern County.

 

DUI & UNSAFE DRIVING

The Bakersfield Police Department has also been awarded a $405,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety intended to educate the public on safe roadway habits and deter people from violating traffic laws or practicing other unsafe behaviors that lead to injuries and fatalities. Specifically, the grant will provide:

  • DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols to take suspected alcohol/drug-impaired drivers – and those unlicensed or with a revoked/suspended license – off the road.
  • Traffic safety education presentations for youth and community members on distracted, impaired and teen driving, and bicycle/pedestrian safety.
  • Patrols at intersections with increased incidents of pedestrian and bike collisions.
  • Checking for seat belt and child safety seat compliance.
  • Motorcycle safety operations in areas with high rider volume and where higher rate of motorcycle crashes occur.
  • Speeding, red light and stop sign enforcement.
  • Compilation of DUI “Hot Sheets” identifying repeat DUI offenders.
  • Specialized DUI and drugged driving training to identify and apprehend suspected impaired drivers.

The Kern County Probation Department received a $150,000 “DUI Offender Grant” to focus on lowering deaths and injuries due to traffic collisions due to drivers being under the influence.

The grant will fund various education and enforcement activities, including:

  • Warrant service operations targeting multiple DUI offenders.
  • Compilation of DUI “Hot Sheets” identifying repeat DUI offenders.
  • Probation supervision of high-risk DUI offenders.
  • Referrals for services to address the needs of DUI offenders.
  • Alcohol monitoring and testing to identify intoxicated DUI offenders.
  • Collaborating with the court and district attorney to ensure DUI offenders are held accountable.
  • Standardized Field Sobriety Testing training to identify and apprehend impaired DUI offenders.
  • Participate in “stings” to cite DUI offenders found driving on suspended or revoked licenses.

If you or someone you know is involved in an 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 to submit a contact form.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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.

Media covers record-breaking Chain | Cohn | Stiles settlement

March 5, 2014 | 4:30 pm


Late last week, Chain | Cohn | Stiles announced a wrongful death settlement between the County of Kern and the families of two people killed by a speeding Kern County Sheriff’s deputy.

That $8.8 million settlement is believed to be record-breaking for an automobile accident case against the County of Kern. But the toughest part of a wrongful death case like this, Chain | Cohn | Stiles Managing Partner David K. Cohn says, is placing the value on a human life.

Cohn discussed the case and settlement with The Bakersfield Californian’s CEO Richard Been on “First Look with Scott Cox” live news show. (Watch the video of the show above)

Cohn represented Daniel Hiler’s fiancee and two young sons. The 24-year-old was struck and killed along with Chrystal Jolley, 30, in late 2011 by Kern County Sherriff’s Deputy John Swearengin.

Both were crossing a road in Oildale when Swearengin’s patrol vehicle struck and killed them. Swearengin was driving 84 mph in a 45 mph zone before hitting Hiler and Jolley. He was responding to a call of a stolen vehicle; however, his emergency lights and siren were not turned on.

Law enforcement officers can travel in excess of the posted speed limit so long as their forward facing overhead lights are activated to warn others that they are responding to an emergency, but Swearengin didn’t do that, Cohn said. In fact, the deputy violated several policies and procedures.

The Hiler family will receive $4.8 million from the settlement.

“You try to convey that loss of love, society, comfort and protection they (Hiler’s kids) will not have,” Cohn said Tuesday on the show. “And that’s when you ask the jury to consider and put a number on that loss.”

Cohn’s appearance on the live streamed-radio news show was the latest press on the case. Following Friday’s announcement, media from throughout Bakersfield, Kern County, the state and even Associated Press mentioned the civil case’s culmination. The criminal case is ongoing.

Local media coverage included (click the links for news coverage on the case):

The Bakersfield Californian

KGET-17 (NBC)

KBAK 29, KBFX 58 (Fox, BakersfieldNow.com)

KERO-23 (ABC)

And several other news outlets ran the Associated Press story on the Chain | Cohn | Stiles settlement, such as this one here.

While the civil case is settled, the criminal case against Swearengin continues. He is charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and he has plead not guilty.

Cohn also discussed other Chain | Cohn | Stiles cases involving Sheriff’s deputies, including a claim brought by a young woman who was sexually assaulted by a deputy at her home in Tehachapi. The Sheriff’s deputy involved in the sexual assault is currently being prosecuted by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. For more current cases involving Chain | Cohn | Stiles, go to Chainlaw.com.

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UPDATE: Below is media coverage regarding the criminal case against the Kern County Sheriff’s deputy involved in the crash. Local and national media covered the case: