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Covington Personal Injury Law Blog

FMCSA report reveals alarming rise in fatal truck crashes

Fatal commercial truck and bus accidents are becoming worryingly common in Kentucky and other U.S. states according to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The agency reports that the number of large buses and semi-tractor trailers involved in deadly collisions increased by 8 percent in 2015 to 4,311, and a similar surge was observed in the number of fatal accidents tractor-trailers are involved in per 100 million miles traveled.

The FMCSA figures follow a disturbing road safety trend. The National Safety Council reported that road fatalities had increased by 7 percent in 2015 over the prior year after years of steady improvement, and an increase in traffic levels caused by inexpensive fuel and plentiful jobs was thought to be largely responsible. However, the FMCSA report suggests that it is passenger vehicles and not trucks and buses that are making the nation's highways more crowded and dangerous.

Lawmakers seek to rein in autonomous vehicle testing

Leading figures in the technology sector and many road safety advocates say that car accidents in Kentucky and around the country could eventually be a thing of the past thanks to self-driving cars, but the speed at which autonomous vehicle technology is being developed and deployed has alarmed some lawmakers. Measures being considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee would require car manufacturers to certify their autonomous systems before testing them on public roads, and it would also place limits on the number of self-driving cars that can be tested at any given time.

Bills dealing with autonomous vehicle technology are being considered in both the Senate and House, and road safety groups like Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety are concerned about systems that have not been properly tested being made available to the public. There are currently no federal guidelines in place for self-driving cars, and manufacturers like Google, Apple and Ford tend to test their autonomous vehicles in states like California and Florida that allow self-driving cars to be on public roads.

Supreme Court declines to hear truck driver disclosure case

Road safety advocates in Kentucky and around the country may have welcomed news that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear arguments in a case filed against the Department of Transportation over the information it shares with employers about truck drivers. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association backed the six truck drivers who filed the lawsuit. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled in favor of the DOT in December, and the nation's highest court announced on June 19 that it would not be revisiting the decision.

The truck drivers behind the litigation claim that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is part of the Department of Transportation, violated the 1974 Privacy Act by revealing information about minor violations such as parking infractions and hours of service irregularities. According to the plaintiffs, the DOT should only disclose information about accidents and serious safety-related violations to employers.

Study highlights the importance of child seat belt laws

Kentucky law requires the operators of motor vehicles to ensure that all child passengers are properly secured by seat belts or appropriate restraints or buckled into approved child safety seats, but the data suggests that these laws are routinely ignored. The Kentucky State Police says that only 67 percent of the state's motorists regularly fasten their seat belts, and research from Harvard University and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center indicates that this is a pervasive problem in southern states.

The researchers studied fatal car accidents involving children using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and they found that one in five of the 2,885 children under the age of 15 killed on the nation's roads between 2010 and 2014 were not properly restrained or were not restrained at all. The roads of Southern states were especially hazardous for children during the period studied, and Mississippi was found to have the deadliest roads of all when population sizes were taken into account.

Sleep apnea testing of truck drivers likely to increase

Many Kentucky residents earn their livings as truck drivers. Truckers with a body mass index above 35, which indicates obesity and a higher risk for breathing problems, might have to undergo testing for sleep apnea. In April, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear a case from a trucker who declared that his employer violated his privacy by requiring him to take the costly test.

With the lower court ruling against the trucker remaining in effect, trucking companies could increase driver testing. These employers have an interest in testing their overweight drivers for the condition that reduces sleep quality and promotes fatigue. According to a study from Harvard University, truckers with untreated sleep apnea have a rate of preventable accidents five times higher than their healthier colleagues. Researchers calculate that truck driver fatigue or drowsiness causes up to 20 percent of big rig crashes.

Device can detect last few phone actions of drivers

It may be easier to identify Kentucky drivers who cause accidents due to phone distractions if state authorities decide to use a new device known as the "textalyzer". The device can be attached to a phone to check a driver's last few actions. It can also tell whether the driver was using the phone in hands-free mode. Although privacy advocates have expressed concern about it, those who have worked on developing the device say it does not download content.

An advocacy group started by a man whose son was killed while riding in a car with a driver who was texting worked with a technology company to develop the device. Lawmakers in several cities and states have expressed interest in it. Drivers do not always admit that they have been using their phone when an accident happens, and it can be difficult for police to check their stories. In the accident that killed the man's son, the driver claimed to have fallen asleep. It took six months for the father to obtain a copy of the phone records through a civil lawsuit.

Compensation for PSTD related to car accidents

When Kentucky residents are involved in a severe car accident, they may suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. These accidents usually involve the death of someone or severe physical trauma, and in some cases, people may be able to collect compensation for pain and suffering related to the crash as well as compensation for medical bills or vehicle repairs.

If victims are interested in seeking compensation for a mental health issue like PSTD, they should be aware that proving these issues is not easy. Although physical damage is easy to prove with diagnostics, photos and X-rays, damage to someone's mental health is not as easily demonstrated.

More deaths caused by distracted driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of the traffic fatalities caused by human choice, the rate of fatal accidents caused by distracted driving increased faster in 2015 than by speeding or drunk driving. Distracted driving can involve any action that takes a motorist's attention away from the road, but one very common source is smart phones.

Many believe that an increase in distracted driving may be a contributing factor in the rise in the number of traffic fatalities. Between 2008 and 2014, there was a general decrease in fatal crashes. However, between 2014 and 2015, the number of fatal crashes rose, and the trend continued in 2016.

Cargo securement emphasized in 2017 Roadcheck campaign

When the 2017 International Roadcheck inspection event begins on June 6, safety inspectors in Kentucky and around the country will be placing special emphasis on cargo securement. Although all violation categories are checked for compliance during each annual inspection blitz, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance chooses a different area of focus every year as a reminder to those who are involved in the industry of that category's importance in commercial trucking safety.

Both trucks and their drivers are examined for violations during a North American Standard Level I inspection, which is the type of inspection that will most often be conducted during the 72-hour Roadcheck campaign. Truckers who want to prepare for the event in advance can review recommended tips online in a flyer that has been made available to the public by CVSA officials.

Automated trucking technology may complicate claims

Kentucky truckers may be interested in learning about a new technology company that is pioneering revolutionary changes in the industry. By placing remote controls in trucks, the firm hopes to make a semi-autonomous fleet that drivers can control remotely from offices.

The push toward semi-autonomous trucks is likely to have a major impact on laws and accident claims related to the trucking industry. The software uses sensors and radar to direct the vehicles and enables truckers to remotely control their rigs from offices. During the initial phases, these trucks still have drivers inside the vehicle ready to take control in case of a failure or problem. The ultimate goal of this company and the industry in general is to remove the need for an operator in the truck entirely.

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