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Connecticut Legal Blog

Tesla's safety record called into question

Connecticut residents may enjoy driving their Tesla vehicles or otherwise approve of the company's efforts. The company is based in Fremont, California, which is unusual because most car companies tend to operate in rural states. It also has 15,000 employees and contractors, which is more than other manufacturers that build cars in the United States. Therefore, it may not be a surprise that Tesla has had more OSHA violations than the competition.

Between the years 2014 and 2018, Tesla had three times as many OSHA violations than the next 10 competitors combined. Overall, it was hit with 54 violations in that span, and they resulted in fines of $236,730. However, the company is disputing some of those fines, which may mean that the actual amount paid could be higher or lower. In addition to the 48 violations in California, there were another 27 violations that occurred in other locations throughout the country.

Prescription opioids are often involved in fatal crashes

Many people in Connecticut are worried about the public health effects of the widespread use of both legal and illegal opioids. From growing addictions to the danger of fatal overdoses, the effects of opiates have been labeled a national epidemic. One study indicates that prescription opioids could also have an effect on highway safety. According to one study, drivers deemed at fault in fatal two-car crashes are almost two times as likely to have prescription opioids in their systems.

The researchers examined 18,321 fatal car accidents and found that driving outside the lane was the cause in 7,535 of them. This was the largest single cause of these crashes. Substances were a factor in a number of collisions. According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, 5,258 of the at-fault drivers tested positive for alcohol at the time of the collision. In addition, 1,815 of the not-at-fault drivers also had alcohol in their system. In the case of prescription opioids, 918 of the at-fault drivers tested positive, as did 549 of the not-at-fault drivers in these crashes.

Reasons for car accidents

There are many different reasons drivers may be involved in motor vehicle accidents on Connecticut roads. The claims adjuster for the insurance company and law enforcement who are tasked with determining the causes of road accidents have to consider many contributing factors.

Human error is a significant source of car accidents. This can be frustrating for many drivers, as they have control only of their own behaviors, while the actions of the drivers occupying the other vehicles on the road cannot be controlled.

Cellphone use and distracted driving

Distracted driving is a major cause of car accidents every year in Connecticut. Cellphones are a primary source of distraction that can lead to accidents. More drivers than ever are using cellphones for texting and other functions while driving rather than using them to make phone calls.

A recent study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that there has not been an overall increase in distracted driving based on data from the recent study and a comparison to prior studies in 2014 and 2018. The study also looked at how drivers are using their cellphones while driving. Researchers found that the ways that drivers are using their cellphones have changed over the years.

Tired driving can pose dangers for passengers

Those who use ridesharing services in Connecticut or elsewhere may not stop to consider that their drivers may be too tired to do their jobs safely. However, drowsy driving in the rideshare industry is a significant problem according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. This is true despite attempts by Uber and Lyft to cut down on drowsy driving by instituting hours of service rules.

Uber drivers must log off the app for at least 6 hours for every 12 hours of driving time. Lyft requires a similar break after 14 hours of driving time. However, drivers may get around this rule by driving for multiple ridesharing companies. The National Transportation Safety Board listed reducing fatigued driving accidents as part of its 2017-2018 list of changes it wanted to see. However, the fact that rideshare drivers tend to be paid a relatively low wage may keep them on the road while tired.

Unsafe scaffolding poses serious risk to workers

When people in Connecticut head to their jobs, they may be concerned about the safety risk of working on scaffolding and other heights. After all, falls, collapses and other dangers can be magnified when they take place at high altitudes. In the construction industry, workplace accidents on scaffolding are some of the most common. In addition, they are some of the most commonly sanctioned safety violations. In 2016 alone, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued 3,900 citations for safety problems related to improper use or construction of scaffolding, the third most common violation found.

Every year, these accidents cost $90 million just in lost work, let alone the serious injuries and even fatalities faced by employees injured on dangerous scaffolding. The majority of construction workers frequently use scaffolds as part of their job. According to OSHA, 65 percent of these employees regularly operate at heights, amounting to 2.3 million people. There are around 4,500 injuries that take place every year on scaffolding, including 60 fatal workplace accidents. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a full 72 percent of all of these incidents take place as a result of falls or unsafe scaffolds.

Keeping workers safe when winter comes

Employers in Connecticut and throughout the country have a duty to keep workers safe in all weather conditions. During the winter months, this generally means taking steps to protect against cold weather, snow and wind. It may also mean protecting against the hazards presented by slippery surfaces or that may come with removing heavy snow. Individuals who are not used to working in winter weather conditions may need more training and time to acclimate themselves.

For instance, they may need to be trained on how to drive in the snow or how to work on elevated surfaces that may be covered in ice or snow. In addition to learning how to drive in winter weather conditions, employees should know how to inspect a vehicle before doing so. This means checking tires, brakes and electrical components as well as windshield wipers and lights.

How Connecticut residents can prepare for winter driving

The ice and snow of winter can pose a challenge to drivers. That's why preparation is essential. For example, there are many drivers who do not even understand certain vehicle safety features. The National Safety Council, together with the University of Iowa, is helping to educate drivers on new vehicle technologies through a campaign called, "My Car Does What?"

Most drivers have at least traction control and anti-lock braking on their vehicles. The former keeps traction when drivers accelerate and decelerate while the latter pumps the brakes in a skid. However, an entire vehicle must be in good condition to meet winter challenges. A mechanic could check components like the engine, tires, ignition, brakes, wiring and filters.

Safety experts seek reasons for increased car crashes

Motor vehicle crashes pose a significant danger to people in Connecticut and across the country, and fatalities are on the rise. Approximately 40,000 people were killed in car accidents in 2016. This number represents a 6 percent increase over 2015 figures and a 14 percent increase over the 2014 figures. This means that the roadways are becoming more dangerous. However, it is often difficult for government agencies and safety researchers to fully understand the reasons for car crashes. They rely on the information recorded by local police at the time of an accident to tabulate national statistics.

However, the records that they use to do so are often incomplete and do not provide key information about why motor vehicle accidents happen. In 26 states, police reports do not have a field to record whether a driver was texting at the time of a crash, despite the threat of distracted driving. Another six states also have no information available about hands-free cellphone use.

OSHA violations in 2018

Workplace accidents can cause a significant disruption in an injured victim's life. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is constantly working to make workplaces in Connecticut and other states safer, but some employers fall short in implementing safety regulations which puts their workers at risk. Data has been collected regarding the top OSHA violations for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2018.

Violations of the duty to provide fall protection was the number one OSHA violation in fiscal 2018. Common violations include failure to provide protection near sides or edges on roofs. Failure to provide proper training in fall prevention ranked number seven. Failure to comply with OSHA guidelines on hazard communication ranked second. This includes failure to provide a written program, inadequate training and failure to properly fill out data sheets. Auto repair companies and hotels received some of the most citations in this area.

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