Travel safely: Thanksgiving weekend is one of the most dangerous times to be on the road (with safety tips)

November 14, 2018 | 9:28 am


Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and football, turkey and togetherness, and for millions and millions of people across the United States: driving.

In fact, more than 54 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home during the week of Thanksgiving this year, according to AAA travel association — the highest volume since 2005, and 2.5 million more travelers than last year. The travel group estimates that 48.5 million travelers will be driving between Wednesday, Nov. 21, to Sunday, Nov. 25.

And while this time of year is about giving thanks, it’s also one of the most dangerous times to be on the roads. In fact, AAA states it expects to rescue nearly 360,000 motorists along U.S. roadsides this Thanksgiving for such things as dead batteries and flat tires. For thousands of others on the roads, they will unfortunately need rescue services from first-responders.

Before you hit the road, the injury and accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles encourages you check out these Thanksgiving driving tips to navigate through traffic and arrive at your destination safely.

Plan Ahead

You should expect to encounter traffic, so plan to leave early if necessary to avoid stress on the road. Share travel plans with a family member or friend. Also, make sure that your vehicle is ready for long distances travel before you leave your home. Before you get on a highway, know your exit by name and number, and watch the signs as you near the off-ramp. Make sure that your windshield wipers work well, that your tires are properly inflated, and that no service lights illuminate your dashboard. Have your radiator and cooling system serviced. Lastly, have an emergency kit that includes a battery powered radio, flashlight, blanket, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable foods, maps, tire repair kit and flares.

Buckle Up

The simple act of buckling your seat belt increases your chance of surviving a crash. In 2016 alone, seat belts saved 14,668 lives. The Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2016 saw 341 people killed in traffic across the country. About half of those who died weren’t wearing seat belts. Most often, younger people and men are failing to buckle up. Among 13- to 15-year-olds killed in crashes in 2016, 62 percent weren’t wearing seat belts. Similarly, 59 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds killed in crashes were also not wearing seat belts. That same year slightly more than half of men killed in crashes were unbelted, compared with 40 percent of women, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The NHTSA states it simply: “Buckle Up — Every Trip, Every Time.”

Choose Alternate Travel Days

If possible, leave a day early and stay an extra day at your Thanksgiving destination to avoid traffic hassles and potential roadside headaches. Use a GPS device with real-time traffic information to keep your options open for alternate routes. Make sure that you are rested and alert to drive, and make frequent stops to give you and your passengers a break.

Watch the Weather Reports

In many parts of the country, and possibly in California, Thanksgiving weekend means the potential for hazardous weather, especially during early mornings and evenings with the cold. Watch the weather reports before you set out for the weekend and before you travel back home to make sure that the roads aren’t too treacherous to drive.

Avoid Distractions

Distracted driving is never good idea. Ignore all distractions until you are able to safely pull off the road and respond. No call or text is worth risking your life. Also, know your limitations: Don’t drive when tired, upset, or physically ill.

“Thanksgiving is about being with your family,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Caution, patience and preparedness are especially important so we all arrive safely to our loved ones.”

Finally, when you arrive at your destination, please drink responsibly if you are consuming alcohol. If you are expecting to hit the roads again, use a designated driver or plan appropriately to ensure guests make it home safely.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident over the holidays at the fault of someone else, please contact the accident and injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or use the chat service at the website chainlaw.com.

Season of Giving: Community comes together to renovate library at Boys & Girls Club of Kern County

November 22, 2017 | 7:03 am


It’s the season of giving — giving to the less fortunate, giving to our Kern County community, and giving thanks.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, philanthropy and giving back is a year-round mission, whether it’s giving out free safety helmets and bicycle lights to bicyclist throughout Kern County, supporting MADD Kern County who assists innocent victims of DUI crashes and fights against DUI crimes, or taking disadvantaged youth back-to-school shopping.

This Thanksgiving season, Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to highlight a special project at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County administered by Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Bakersfield, a professional development program that enhances leadership skills and introduces participants to diverse sector of Kern County. The law firm’s own marketing director Jorge Barrientos was a part of this project, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles served as a sponsor.

Learn more about the amazing community project below:

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Leadership Bakersfield Team 1 has unveiled a renovated, revitalized and updated library at the east Bakersfield branch of Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County that will provide a safe learning environment for years to come.

The room is used by students to study, read, finish homework, and receive tutoring assistance. It is also used to provide English as a Second Language services for children and adults alike.

The room had not been updated in more than 15 years due to lack of funding from grants and donations to renovate the room. Chairs and desks were run down, the floor was badly stained, book shelves were missing, and cabinets were deteriorating. Valuable counter space was limited, and ceiling tiles were water stained and breaking apart. Windows were covered by student art to prevent pedestrians from looking in and disrupting activities.

Among the renovations and conversion from a library into a multi-purpose room, Leadership Bakersfield Team 1 painted the room, brought in 30 new chairs along with a moving cart and foldable classroom tables for student workspaces, polished and revitalized flooring, installed new ceiling tiles, installed decals on the windows and walls, organized materials, and installed a mural.

“The project will undoubtedly benefit children and adults from Bakersfield needing a safe place to learn,” Leadership Bakersfield Team 1 said in a statement. “We believe the renovations made to this room will help provide a world-class experience, and adhere to the mission and vision of the Boys & Girls Club.”

The local chapter of Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County is the largest in the nation, serving 7,200 kids each day, with its main operating site in Kern County being on Niles Street. The clubs serve children from all walks of life, with most children coming from families of low socioeconomic backgrounds. The club also has a special outreach program for children residing in homeless shelters and foster care. The club’s vision is to provide a world-class club experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who walks through their doors. The club does this by offering support, programs and a safe and healthy environment to prosper and thrive.

The project was made possible through donations and support from Kern Federal Credit Union, Bakersfield Association of Realtors, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Gary & Tanya Carruesco Realtors, Wells Acoustics, HealthSouth, Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, Trans-West Security, and Stinson’s, who provided and donated all of the furniture for the room.

Leadership Bakersfield Team 1 participants include Rebecca Aceves, Tamara Baker, Jorge Barrientos, Lori Brackett, Gary Carruesco, Aaron Flores, Kristen Hartsell, Miranda Whitworth, and advisor Patricia Marquez.

The group unveiled the room during an open-house ceremony attended by Leadership Bakersfield group members, Boys & Girls Club representatives, supporters, and local dignitaries.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Tips: Make sure you’re safe before you hang your Christmas lights

December 1, 2014 | 9:06 am


The end of Thanksgiving, for many people, means one thing: It’s almost time for Christmas.

With that comes the tradition of hanging beautiful Christmas lights. But stringing lights across your roof and around your home can be a safety hazard if you are not careful.

Each year, more than 15,000 people were injured during November and December, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.  And each year, injuries increase. The most common reported incidents include falls, lacerations and back strains. Fires are also common, which can lead to injuries, deaths and property loss.

Personal injury attorney Matt Clark, of the Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, recently spoke with KERO Channel 23 about Christmas light safety, and the liability that comes with hiring someone to hang your lights for you.

Click here to watch the news segment.

But for those who decide to hang Christmas lights on their own, the Kern County attorneys would like you to take a look at a few safety tips, courtesy of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • Before you string up a single strand of lights, carefully check them for cracked cords, frayed ends or loose connections.
  • Newer lights have fused plugs, which prevent sparks in case of a short circuit. Toss any old strands of lights in the trash that don’t have fuses.
  • If bulbs have burned out, replace them right away, but make sure you use the correct wattage bulbs.
  • Make sure outdoor lights are plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet to reduce the risk of shorts and shocks.
  • Keep an eye on extension cords, as they can overheat. If the cord is hot, unplug it.
  • Don’t use tacks, nails or screws to hang lights. They can pierce the cable and become electrified. Use insulated hooks instead.
  • When running extension cords along the ground, make sure to elevate plugs and connectors with a brick to water and debris out of the connections.
  • Tape down any ground-level extensions cords to prevent people from tripping over them.
  • Not all lights are made for outdoor use. Make sure the ones you string up on the house belong out there.
  • When you put your lights back into storage, make sure to put them in a well-sealed container to prevent possible water damage and to block hungry rodents looking to turn the cords into lunch. My final advice? Be careful with ladders.

If you or a loved one is injured during the holiday season, call the Bakersfield personal injury law firm, Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website Chainlaw.com.

Turkey time: Get to know the dangers of using fryers for the holidays

November 20, 2014 | 10:06 am


Around the holidays in 2002, Richard Hernandez was heating the oil in his Brinkmann turkey fryer he bought from Walmart when it combusted, shooting bright red flames three feet into the air.

“The best way I can explain it is, it was an eruption like out of a volcano,” Hernandez told The Bakersfield Californian in 2004. “It just shot straight up in the air.”

Hernandez then sprayed the fire with an extinguisher, but it only fed the flames. He decided to carry the flaming pot away from the house, but the pot started to implode. The flaming hot oil burned Hernandez’s arms, legs and face.

A year after Hernandez’ incident, Steven Pendergrass, a Kern County Fire Department engineer and former paramedic was frying a turkey using a Brinkmann fryer on Christmas Day. When moisture in the turkey caused oil to boil out of the pot and catch fire, Pendergrass tried to push the pot away from his house, it tipped, spilling oil onto the ground. Pendergrass slipped and fell onto the oil, burning his arms, ankles, back and face.

Both men, represented by Bakersfield personal injury and burn injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles faced several surgeries to repair damaged skin, and dealt with unbearable pain and suffering. Attorney David Cohn helped settle Hernandez’ case against Brinkmann Corp. and Walmart for $2.15 million, while Cohn settled Pendergrass’ case for more than $2 million.

The lawsuits led companies to make changes in the design of the turkey fryers, including adding more legs to make them steadier and prevent tipping, adding automatic turn-off valves if the oil becomes too hot, and other safety fixes.

Still, burn injuries continue all too often with propane-fueled turkey fryers. In fact, more than 4,000 fires occur annually around Thanksgiving alone as people deep fry turkeys, bake pies and cook other foods, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

With the holidays around the corner, the Bakersfield personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, are reminding people about the dangers of turkey fryers, with tips provided by the Bakersfield and Kern County Fire Departments.

  • Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors at a safe distance from structures.
  • Never use fryers under patio covers, on wooden decks or in garages.
  • Use fryers on flat surfaces to reduce the possibility of accidental tipping.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended.
  • Keep children and pets away from the fryer at all times.
  • Do not overfill the fryer. This may result in a “spill-over” of hot oil.
  • Safety goggles and potholders or oven mitts should be used when utilizing the fryer.
  • Turkey must be completely thawed to avoid oil splattering and “boil-over.”
  • Turkey should be free of loose ice and water to avoid oil splattering and “boil-over.”
  • Choose a smaller turkey (10 to 12 pounds) to fry to reduce the potential for accidents.
  • Never use water to extinguish a grease fire; use an all-purpose fire extinguisher.

And if you are injured or burned throughout the holidays, call Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website Chainlaw.com for more information on the following: