US Crash Fatalities Decrease; Road Safety Still a Concern

1
Feb 2015
By:

Motorists got good news when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its statistics on motor vehicle traffic accidents that occurred over the course of 2013. During 2013, there was a 3.1 percent reduction in the number of people who died in vehicle crashes.

It is refreshing to see the death toll decrease. However, lingering safety concerns related to high death rates among vulnerable road users like bicycle riders, motorcycle riders and pedestrians cannot be ignored.

Road Safety Improving, But There’s Much More To Do

car crash

The U.S. has greatly reduced traffic accident deaths over the last several decades. According to statistics, there has been a 41 percent reduction in the number of people who are killed in car crashes each year as compared with during the 1970s.

However, the United States’ reduction in traffic-related deaths is much smaller than many other countries like Germany and the Netherlands, which saw an 81 percent decline in death rates over the same period.

How were other countries able to make their roads so much safer than the U.S.? Some safety advocates suggest the theory that the U.S. has focused too much on technological improvements in vehicles and not enough on actually changing the behaviors of drivers to make the roads more safe.

The new NHTSA data on 2013 fatalities lends some support to that position. While there were fewer people killed in car crashes, there were actually more people killed in bicycle collisions. There was a 1.2 percent increase in bike accident deaths compared with 2012 and more people died while riding a bicycle than at any time since 2006.

There were slight declines in the number of pedestrians killed in 2013 and in the number of motorcycle riders killed in 2013. However, these declines did not offset the fact that motorcycle riders and pedestrians have had big increases in deaths over the last several years. In 2013, for example, there were a total of 4,735 pedestrians killed in motor vehicle accidents. This is 15 percent more pedestrian fatalities than in 2009.

Bicycle riders, pedestrians and motorcycle riders do not benefit from the fact that in-vehicle technologies have reduced the impact of a crash on people’s bodies. In-vehicle technology can do a lot to save lives, but it can only go so far.

In the long run, it is far better for our country to shift attention to changing driver behavior, rather than focus on designing and manufacturing cars that can withstand crashes. If drivers make smarter and safer choices on the roads, it is inevitable that fewer overall accidents will occur. Everyone deserves to stay safe on our roadways, whether they are in a car, on a bike, on a motorcycle or on foot.

Metzger Wickersham is one of Pennsylvania’s leading accident and personal injury law firms. Metzger Wickersham attorneys serve clients throughout the state, with offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pottsville, York, Lancaster, Shippensburg, and Harrisburg, PA. Contact us at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit www.mwke.com for a free case evaluation.

Harrisburg Accident Lawyers Warn of Burn Injury Dangers

29
Jan 2015
By:

hot coffee

Burns are some of the most serious and painful injuries that a person can suffer. Burns can also be very costly injuries to treat, especially if skin grafting is required. Unfortunately, children are the most vulnerable to burn injuries, many of which occur as a result of scalding.

According to Yahoo News, approximately 440,000 children in the United States seek medical treatment annually as a direct result of suffering burn injuries. The younger the child is, the greater the chance that a burn will occur.

One study conducted in the United Kingdom involved an assessment of 1,215 children who had sought treatment for burn injuries during a two year period of time. Among this group, approximately 700 of the kids were scalded and around 72 percent of the children who sustained the burn injuries were under 5 years old at the time of the incident. Though this particular study took place in Europe, burn injury trends are similar in the United States.

One top cause of scalding for both children and adults alike is beverages that are too hot. Some stores and restaurants serve tea and coffee at temperatures that creates a significant risk of burn injuries. Perhaps the most famous incident of this type involved McDonald’s serving coffee that was too hot, leading to a lawsuit that tort reform advocates often site as the classic example of frivolous litigation.

In the widely misunderstood McDonald’s “hot coffee” incident, the woman who had sustained the burns suffered damage to 16 percent of her body and needed costly medical treatment. The coffee that McDonald’s served was found to be much too hot, at 180 degrees. Coffee at this temperature can cause third degree burns to develop within only 15 seconds. There had been more than 700 complaints made to McDonald’s about the fact that its coffee was excessively hot before this incident occurred.

Another top cause of scalding injuries is soup that is served in Styrofoam containers. When children try to carry these containers to the table, the containers can become hot and kids may drop them and get burned. In these situations, burn injuries to the legs and trunk are common. If the soup has noodles in it, the noodles can become stuck to the skin and the burns are often much more serious. A study conducted in 2007 revealed that in burn incidents involving noodle soup, victims stayed in the hospital for a significantly longer period of time than for other types of burn injuries.

Scalding-hot bathroom faucet water is yet another major risk for kids. A responsible adult should always test the bathroom water temperature prior to allowing a child to put their hands under the faucet or submerge their body in bath water. Landlords also have a duty to ensure that they do not set thermostats on hot water tanks at a level that could cause scalding.

If you, your child or someone else you love has sustained a burn and you suspect that a business or another individual may be responsible, it is always wise to contact a lawyer. An experienced personal injury attorney can advise you of any applicable rights under the law.

The experienced Pennsylvania accident lawyers at Metzger Wickersham have offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pottsville, York, Lancaster, Shippensburg, and Harrisburg, PA. Contact us at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit www.mwke.com for a free case evaluation.

Helping Pennsylvania Teens Avoid Winter Accidents

27
Dec 2014
By:

winter driving

It is unquestionable that driving is one of the most dangerous activities for a young person. More teens die in car accidents than from any other cause. New drivers are especially prone to accidents due to lack of experience and other factors. According to Drive Steady, the risk of an accident is 10 times more likely within the first year a teen has his or her license than that of a more experienced motorist.

Although teen drivers are at high risk for accidents throughout the year, winter can be an especially dangerous time for inexperienced drivers. Driving in snow is difficult and requires a unique set of skills that new drivers might not have. This means that a young teen’s first few winters behind the wheel could be a very high-risk time with a significant chance that a crash may occur.

Preventing Teen Collisions During Winter

While there is never a way to entirely prevent a crash, parents can take some steps to help their children learn how to drive more safely during the winter. Here are some useful tips for parents who are interested in preparing their sons or daughters for winter:

  • Find a professional driving school to teach teens how to drive in snow. Many driver’s education programs and schools have special lessons intended to teach young people safe driving techniques for bad weather.
  • Keep kids off the roads during inclement weather. Although it is not always practical to do so, it is a good idea to restrict teens from driving on snow or ice-covered roads whenever possible. If an alternative means of transportation is available, it is smart to tell your teen that he or she cannot drive until the roads have been cleared.
  • Practice safe winter driving with kids. Parents who want to get their kids ready to tackle the winter streets can take them to a parking lot to practice driving in the snow. Let them practice how to handle the car if it skids or slides, and teach them how to react in order to get back on track.

At Metzger Wickersham, we urge all parents to get their children ready to make it through the winter safely and to reduce the chance of a teen driving accident this season.

The experienced Pennsylvania accident lawyers at Metzger Wickersham have offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pottsville, York, Lancaster, Shippensburg, and Harrisburg, PA. If you or a loved one has been involved in an auto accident, contact us at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit www.mwke.com for a free case evaluation.

Harrisburg Senior Drivers at Higher Risk of Collision

23
Dec 2014
By:

elderly

As a person ages, he or she may experience changes to body and brain that reduce flexibility, result in longer reaction times, and result in reduced cognitive function. Senior citizens who experience the natural effects of aging will eventually become unable to drive as a result of new limitations on their health.

Strict laws designed to keep dangerous older drivers off the road can help prevent accidents caused by elderly drivers. However, people age at different rates and it is also important for an individual senior or his or her family members to determine when it has become unsafe for someone to drive.

Senior Citizens Can Be Dangerous Drivers

Seniors generally tend to support laws, such as texting bans, that are designed to make the roads safer. Recent studies suggest that older Americans will support laws to improve road conditions even if those laws may limit their personal ability to drive. For example, as many as seven out of 10 seniors said they supported laws that required in-person renewals for people 75 and older who wanted to get a driver’s license. Many of the seniors in the survey, who were 65 and up, also said that they believed that people should be required to undergo a medical exam if they wanted to renew a license if they were 75 and up.

Although seniors believe, in general, that older people should get off the roads once they can’t drive safely, it is a lot harder for an individual to make the choice to sacrifice their own mobility. As a result, family members and medical professionals should be watchful of when a person cannot continue to safely drive. Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, held from December 1 through December 5 each year, is intended to encourage family members and other relatives and friends to take the time to discuss senior driving safety issues with the older people in their lives. It is suggested to take the following actions during Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, or at any time during the year, to help elderly loved ones evaluate their ability to drive safely:

  • Talk to senior family members in a family conference to discuss driving safety issues
  • Evaluate the types of limitations and physical changes that can make it difficult or impossible for a senior to continue to drive safely
  • Explore the possibility of using adaptive devices to extend the amount of time that a senior drives before it becomes unsafe to do so
  • Have a screening done by a qualified medical professional to determine if the senior is still safe to drive or has any limitations that could lead to a collision
  • Create a plan for the future, which will allow a senior to continue to get around when needed, even after driving becomes an impossibility

There is no better time than the present to address driving safety issues with older friends or family members. Taking action to prevent senior citizens from driving when it is not safe could potentially save the lives of your elderly loved one, as well as others on the road.

The experienced Pennsylvania accident lawyers at Metzger Wickersham have offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pottsville, York, Lancaster, Shippensburg, and Harrisburg, PA. Contact us at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit www.mwke.com for a free case evaluation.

Harrisburg Drivers Need to Commit to Stay Focused to Avoid Collisions

mobile-phone-in-hand-1438231-1-mThe Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently published a report entitled Eyes on the Road: Searching for answers to the problem of distracted driving. The report addresses the need for a broader strategy to deal with the ways that drivers can be distracted. Yet, interestingly, the report also seems to downplay some of the tremendous risks associated with distracted driving.

In response to the IIHS report, the National Safety Council released a statement reiterating the importance of making smart decisions to stay focused in order to avoid the risk of causing a collision. Drivers need to make a commitment to keep their attention on the road at all times and to not allow themselves to become distracted by any in-vehicle infotainment systems, cell phones or other electronic devices.

Driving Distracted Can Be Deadly

In the report, IIHS indicated that approximately 12 percent of the motor vehicle crashes over the course of 2012 involved a driver who was distracted. However, the National Safety Council (NSC) suggests that this number may actually be much higher.

The discrepancy likely arises from the fact that many drivers are not forthcoming about whether they were on their phones. Drivers don’t want to admit they engaged in unsafe behavior. Motorists may not want to admit to using electronics because they may fear that they will be accused of breaking the law and causing a crash. As a result, many accident reports do not contain information about the use of electronic devices even when such devices may have been a factor.

The IIHS report also indicated the number of traffic accident fatalities has fallen at the same time as there has been an increase in the number of motorists who are texting behind the wheel. The NSC cautions this should not be taken as an indicator of the dangers of texting or the number of traffic deaths that texting causes. The decrease in crash fatalities likely has more to do with the fact that vehicle safety technology is steadily improving, and more people are surviving serious crashes.

IIHS does acknowledge that a driver reaching for a cell phone, dialing or answering a phone had triple the risk of becoming involved in a motor vehicle crash. Even simply talking on the phone could result in a 17 percent greater risk of a traffic accident.

The fact remains: the rise of mobile technology has created a new world of risk for the modern driver. Drivers need to be aware that both handheld and hands-free electronic use can make them significantly more likely to crash. Drivers should make a commitment to keep their attention on the road and to leave electronics turned off in the car.

The experienced Pennsylvania accident lawyers at Metzger Wickersham have offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pottsville, York, Lancaster, Shippensburg, and Harrisburg, PA. Contact us at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit www.mwke.com for a free case evaluation.

NHTSA Commitment to Harrisburg Crash Prevention Challenged

Investigation Launched into NHTSA Effectiveness

car keysThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a federal agency tasked with helping to ensure vehicles and roadways are safe. Reducing the risk of collisions is one of the top goals of the NHTSA. As part of its job, the agency is supposed to obtain information from vehicle manufacturers about defects. The NHTSA is also supposed to monitor new and existing safety technologies that can be installed in vehicles.

However, the NHTSA has had some high-profile failures in recent months, prompting the House Energy and Commerce Committee to make a request to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for a full-blown investigation into whether the agency is doing enough to protect the public. Leaders of the bipartisan House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a joint letter to the Government Accountability Office voicing their concerns. The letter stated concern “about NHTSA’s process of obtaining data and investigating vehicle defects.”

General Motors Ignition Switch Recall

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s concerns were prompted, in part, by the NHTSA’s response — or lack thereof– regarding several recent recalls. One of the recalls involved General Motors vehicles that had defective ignitions. As a result of the problems with the ignition, the car would randomly shut off while a motorist was driving. This problem with the ignition also disabled safety equipment, presenting a significant risk of serious injury or death.

According to some accounts, the NHTSA may have been aware of this problem as early as 2007 but did not act immediately. GM did not act either until recently, and the dangerous vehicles remained on the roads for years after this serious problem was identified.

Takata Airbag Recall

Many feel that the NHTSA has also not been as effective as it should have been regarding the recent recall of around 8 million vehicles containing airbags manufactured by Takata. These airbags are found in vehicles made by 10 different automobile manufacturers. Unfortunately, the airbags may explode and injure those inside by sending shrapnel flying with powerful force. So far, four fatalities and dozens of additional injuries have been linked to the exploding airbags.

The NHTSA should have provided accurate information to consumers about the Takata airbags, officials say. Instead, the agency initially provided incorrect details about the vehicles that were affected by the problem. The NHTSA website tool making it possible for people to look up whether their vehicle was affected by a recall also allegedly malfunctioned.

NHTSA Has Duty to Adapt to New Automotive Technology

As vehicle technologies develop and cars have more advanced safety features, there is greater potential for problems to occur. The NHTSA needs to take a proactive role in obtaining information, conducting investigations and making accurate data available to the public. When the agency fails in these areas, lives are at stake.

If you have been injured in any type of auto accident, don’t hesitate to contact the experienced Pennsylvania accident lawyers at Metzger Wickersham for a free consultation. Our injury lawyers have offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pottsville, York, Lancaster, Shippensburg, and Harrisburg, PA. Contact us at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit www.mwke.com for a free case evaluation.

Hidden Nanny-Cam Catches Abuse of Elderly Woman at Bucks County Facility

nursing-home

According to CBS news, a Philadelphia woman is facing misdemeanor charges of Neglect of Care-Dependant person and Simple Assault after a nanny-cam caught her abusing a 90-year-old woman at Arden Courts Residential Assisted Living facility in Bucks County.

Relatives of the elderly woman had noticed suspicious bruises, so they set up the hidden video camera to check for potential abuse by a caregiver. Disturbingly, the family’s suspicions were confirmed when the nanny-cam caught 36-year-old Baindu Kromah physically mishandling the 90-year-old victim on two separate occasions. During both instances of abuse, the victim was filmed crying in pain and pleading for help.

Read the full article here.

The elderly population of Pennsylvania is ever increasing, and families want to be confident that their loved ones are receiving compassionate care in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Yet, sadly, nursing home abuse and negligence is not a rare occurrence. Family members of elderly men and women in nursing homes must stay vigilant for signs of abuse. Not only are these actions criminal in nature, but they may also be sufficient cause to pursue a civil law suit.

Contact the Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers at Metzger Wickersham for more information about nursing home negligence and abuse cases.

Stoned Drivers Create Accident and Injury Risks in Pennsylvania

18
Aug 2014
By:

Motor vehicle collisions are a top cause of death for young people, and one of the leading factors is driving under the influence. While alcohol remains the number one cause of impaired driving accidents, many teens and college-aged students tend to underestimate the dangers associated with driving under the influence of marijuana.

In reality, THC is second on the list of substances most likely to be in the blood of impaired drivers. Studies have demonstrated that 4 to 14 percent of motorists who are injured or killed in traffic accidents tested positive for having THC in their blood. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.

With medical marijuana nearing a vote in Pennsylvania, it is more important than ever for college students to know that stoned driving is not safe.

Stoned Driving Dangers Underestimated by College Students

College students may be underestimating just how risky it is to drive after consuming products with cannabis. Research from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst provides plenty of cause for worry.

Researchers asked 640 incoming college freshman to respond to survey questions and 338 agreed. The students were asked about drug and alcohol use as well as whether they drove impaired. Just seven percent of the survey respondents admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol in the 30 days leading to the survey. By contrast, 44 percent of men and nine percent of women admitted that in the prior 30 days they had driven after consuming cannabis products.

Students were also very likely to get into the car with someone who had used marijuana. In fact, 51 percent of men and 35 percent of women were passengers in the car with a stoned driver.

The difference between the number of students driving drunk versus driving stoned is especially striking when considering that college students were significantly more likely to use alcohol than cannabis. A total of 30 percent of men and 13 percent of women had used cannabis in the 30 days before the survey, compared with 67 percent of men and 64 percent of women using alcohol.

College students need more education and information on the risks that stoned driving presents so that they can make better choices about not getting into the car after consuming products containing THC.

When student accidents happen, an experienced attorney at Metzger Wickersham can help injury victims to take legal action. Our experienced Pennsylvania accident lawyers have offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pottsville, York, Lancaster, Shippensburg, and Harrisburg, PA. Contact us at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit www.mwke.com for a free case evaluation.

Harrisburg Bicycle Accidents – Are Drivers or Bicyclists at Fault?

Bicycle riders faced an increase in fatalities from 2011 to 2012. According to recent reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 726 bicycle riders killed over the course of the year. An additional 49,000 bike riders were injured in collisions. The death toll rose six percent from 2011 to 2012. The majority of the bicyclist deaths– 69 percent– occurred in urban areas.

bicycle-1443880-mBike riders in urban locations, as well as throughout the rest of the country, have been fighting to improve conditions and reduce fatalities. While The Burg News indicates that Harrisburg is far behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in terms of being bike-friendly, advocates from Bike Harrisburg have been promoting and encouraging improvements in road conditions for riders.

Recently, however, bicycle activists nationwide have been getting negative press as some claim that bike riders don’t actually obey the rules or share the road in a fair way.

When a bicycle accident happens, it is important to determine if the biker or the driver were following the rules of the road and if either were negligent. A personal injury attorney can provide assistance to bike accident victims in determining who was to blame for the collision and who is liable for damages.

Are Bicycle Riders Failing at Sharing the Road?

The Washington Post has had several recent articles about the problems of bicycle riders in urban areas. A litany of complaints includes:

  • Bicycle riders being overly-demanding about where bicycle lanes should go, resulting in bike lanes displacing some parking spaces and making it more difficult to park in popular areas.
  • Bicycle riders disobeying the laws and riding on sidewalks, endangering pedestrians.
  • Bicycle riders riding at night without lights on so they are difficult for pedestrians and drivers to see.
  • Bicycle riders riding their bikes in the wrong direction in a bicycle lane.
  • Bicycle riders moving to the front of a line of cars waiting at a light and then holding up traffic by driving slowly along when the light changes as motorists are left waiting for a chance to pass.
  • Bicycle riders riding during high-traffic areas during rush hour and getting in the way of motorcycle riders.
  • Bicycle riders failing to obey the rules of the road even when they demand that they be given the same respect and held to the same rules as other drivers.

These are complaints that have been voiced by many motorists who have had experience with bicycle riders in urban areas. While some of the complaints may be legitimate, the reality is that biking is becoming a more popular way to commute and some drivers are simply unhappy that bike riders are disrupting long-standing traffic patterns.

Bicycle riders and drivers both need to be respectful of each other and need to follow all safety rules. This means yielding the right-of-way as required, drivers avoiding passing too close to bicycle riders and bike riders staying in bike lanes where they belong and not endangering pedestrians on sidewalks.

If everyone on the roads follows the rules and is aware of the rights of others on the road, perhaps the complaints against bicycle riders could stop and the death toll of pedalcyclists could be reduced.

Central Pennsylvania’s premier accident and injury law firm, Metzger Wickersham, has offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pottsville, York, Lancaster, Shippensburg, and Harrisburg, PA. Contact Metzger Wickersham at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit www.mwke.com for a free case evaluation.

Harrisburg Traffic Collisions – Feds Want Greater Oversight

4
Aug 2014
By:

car crashIn recent months, GM has recalled hundreds of thousands of vehicles in response to a myriad of problems, including issues with an ignition switch that may have caused at least a dozen car accident fatalities. The car company allegedly knew about the problems long before recalling the cars but failed to act to fix the problem or take the cars off the roads. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that something like this has happened and it likely will not be the last time. When a vehicle defect results in a collision, victims need to consult with a personal injury lawyer for help taking legal action.

In response to the wave of recalls and consumer concerns about safety issues, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller has introduced a Senate Bill (SB 2559) that would expand funding to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and that would give the agency more authority.

Proposed Bill Would Give NHTSA More Power

Senator Rockefeller is the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. According to Modern Tire Dealer, the bill he introduced would result in significant changes including not just giving the NHTSA more power but also requiring more oversight of the agency.

If the bill passed, the NHTSA would be required to make consumer complaints public and would need to publicize the results of consumer satisfaction campaigns. The NHTSA would become responsible for alerting the public to consumer complaints; for publishing technical service bulletins; for providing field reports to the public; for alerting people to recalls and warranty claims; and for reporting to the public on “other activity involving the repair or replacement of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment.”

The NHTSA would also become responsible for generating certain new reports on a regular basis and presenting the information to Congress. For example, the secretary of transportation would be required to provide regular updates on the Council for Vehicle Electronics, Vehicle Software and Emerging Technologies. Additionally, the NHTSA would need to do a report on early warning data, providing details on the safety investigations the agency opens, the duration of each investigation and what percentage of the investigations identified safety problems or resulted in a recall.

The NHTSA would be given more funding to comply with its new responsibilities and serve its new role. The additional funding would be generated from a new manufacturer’s fee on vehicles of $3 per car starting in 2015, rising to $6 per car in 2016 and $9 per car in 2017. The fee would be charged on sales from U.S. auto makers.

The Bill is before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. It is not clear if the bill will leave committee or if it will ever get a full vote of the Senate or House of Representatives. However, if it does become law, it could be a positive step forward in helping to ensure that the NHTSA is taking a much more active role to prevent and remove defective products from market.

The experienced Pennsylvania accident lawyers at Metzger Wickersham have offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pottsville, York, Lancaster, Shippensburg, and Harrisburg, PA. Contact us at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit www.mwke.com for a free case evaluation.