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Pittsburgh Personal Injury Law Blog

Alcohol a factor in over one-quarter of traffic fatalities

All drivers in Pennsylvania have an obligation to be sober while operating motor vehicles. The White House has recognized December 2017 as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month to highlight the dangers of impaired driving. According to information published by the White House, over 10,000 people died in car crashes attributed to alcohol use in 2016. This figure represented 28 percent of all traffic-related deaths that year.

Last year marked the first increase in alcohol-related traffic deaths in 40 years. Decades earlier, nearly two-thirds of victims in car accidents had alcohol to blame. The White House press release stated that, as of 2012, 4.2 million American adults acknowledged driving at least once in a 30-day period after consuming alcohol.

Electronic logging devices now required for commercial trucks

Trucking companies in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the U.S. are coming to terms with a new mandate from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA now requires electronic logging devices to be installed in every commercial truck for tracking and safety reasons. Larger truck carriers like FedEx and UPS are already using ELDs in their fleet.

The FMCSA claims that ELDs will allow drivers' records to be tracked, managed and shared, thus preventing drivers from cheating on paper logs. It also has safety benefits as drivers can be warned against overworking; the FMCSA sets a maximum of 11 work hours, after which a truck driver must stop working or else run the risk of an accident due to fatigue. ELDs may help prevent hundreds of accidents every year.

Drug use in the trucking industry

Pennsylvania residents might like to know about the challenges involved in properly vetting commercial truck drivers for drug use. A federal law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects patient privacy, which may also unfortunately shield drivers from scrutiny from trucking companies. Due to these privacy rules, companies are not notified when a driver is prescribed something that makes driving unsafe.

Illicit drug use is also a problem as trucking companies don't always receive notice when a driver is detained for drug use. A 2015 report by the Governor's Highway Safety Association found that more than 40 percent of fatally injured drivers were under the influence of illegal drugs in cases where test results were available.

Fall protection violations still top OSHA list

Fall protection continues to be a serious concern in workplaces throughout Pennsylvania and across the country. Every year, OSHA releases a list of the most frequent workplace violations. For the sixth year in a row, fall protection violation has topped the list.

The 2017 list of violations covers the period from October 1, 2016, to September 30, 2017. OSHA says there were more than 6,000 violations of fall protection requirements during that time, including 1,523 citations issued for violations of fall protection training. This type of violation was new this year, most likely because of new fall protection training requirements that were implemented under the Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection rule. Workplaces were required to comply with the new rules by May 17 and may have encountered difficulties in doing so.

Pokémon Go linked with increase in distracted driving

Pennsylvania residents probably know about the smartphone-based game called Pokémon Go, and they may have even heard reports about how it gets many players into accidents. A study from Purdue University has discovered that distracted driving is one especially worrying trend as many drivers play the game while behind the wheel.

Niantic developed an update for the game that senses when players are in a fast-moving vehicle and asks them to confirm that they're passengers before continuing; the company then made most of its features unplayable above certain speeds. This still has not stemmed the rise in distracted drivers.

AAA study reveals advantages of four truck safety devices

Drivers in Pennsylvania may feel uncomfortable about driving near commercial trucks, but they will be happy to hear about an AAA study advising trucking companies to consider four safety technologies for their fleet. These are lane departure warning systems, automatic emergency braking, air disc brakes and video-based onboard safety monitoring systems.

By analyzing other studies, crash data between 2010 and 2015, and the recommendations of an advisory panel, authors of the study were able to estimate just how many crashes these devices could prevent. With video-based monitoring, that number was a staggering 63,000. The other numbers are: 6,372 with lane departure warning systems, 5,294 with emergency braking and 2,411 with air disc brakes. Altogether, they could also prevent 23,275 injuries and 500 deaths.

ADHD medication reduces risk of car accidents

Pennsylvania residents who have been diagnosed with ADHD may be interested to learn that those who are medicated are less likely to be involved in car accidents than those who are not. The results of a study determined this by analyzing health insurance claims from between 2005 and 2014.

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that prevents an individual from being able to pay full attention. It also includes impaired impulse control and hyperactivity, which is often expressed through fidgeting, tapping and talking. Essentially, the core symptoms of the disorder can interfere with the concentration needed for driving, potentially making them more prone to becoming involved in distracted driving accidents.

Diagnosing TBIs with blood tests

Pennsylvania residents who have sustained a head trauma may benefit from a simple test that can determine if they have a traumatic brain injury. Thanks to university researchers, a rudimentary blood test to detect certain biomarkers may be able to do so. The university researchers have identified four proteins that are released from brain cells, referred to as astrocytes, when the outer lining of the cells have been broken open as a result of trauma from whiplash or blunt force.

It is not unusual for concussions, or mild traumatic brain injuries, to be undiagnosed. However, the injuries can result in permanent neurological complications, particularly if they occur repeatedly. In order to determine the degree of consciousness that is present in someone who has sustained an impact to the head, physicians currently use a standard scoring system or CT scans. According to research, these methods have little or no positive impact on a patient's disability or recovery, and neither method is believed to help with identifying mild brain injuries. This has resulted in individuals, such as military personnel or athletes, who tend to sustain mild head injuries frequently, failing to take the steps that are necessary to recover.

Thanksgiving the start of a deadly time of year

Pennsylvania residents may associate Thanksgiving with happy times. However, doctors know that Thanksgiving may also be one of the deadliest times of the year. In fact, there is an increase in the U.S. death rate throughout most of the winter. In 2013, the death rate was 5 percent higher in December than it was in November according to the CDC. The increased death rate during the winter months is largely attributed to the weather and illnesses such as the flu.

The higher mortality rate on Thanksgiving specifically is associated with heart attacks and car accidents. In 2012, there were 764 fatal crashes on Thanksgiving in addition to 654 that took place on Christmas day that year. Furthermore, there were 50,000 Thanksgiving day crashes that did not result in a fatality. A majority of crashes involved drunk drivers while many were killed because they did not wear a seat belt.

New workers are more likely to experience injuries

When starting a new job in Pennsylvania, workers must generally learn tasks, meet co-workers, take in company policies and adapt to a new environment. Unfortunately, being a new employee can also pose health and safety risks.

A study by the Institute for Work & Health indicates that employees in their first month at a new job are more than three times as likely to get injured on the job compared to workers who have been doing the same work for more than a year.