Jainchill & Beckert, LLC

Connecticut Legal Blog

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.

OSHA releases trencing and excavation NEP

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration updated its excavation and trenching National Emphasis Program, superseding a special emphasis instruction that was released in 1985. The new standards may establish requirements for Connecticut businesses. The increased enforcement has been called for, according to OSHA, by the number of trenching or excavation collapses that result in loss of life.

The NEP directive says that 130 deaths were recorded in excavation and trenching projects from 2011 to 2016 with 49 percent of these incidents occurring from 2015 to 2016. Private construction projects accounted for 80 percent of these construction accident deaths. The NEP directive requires that OSHA offices conduct outreach programs to help employers meet the excavation and trenching standards. The outreach is scheduled to run for 90 days beginning on Oct. 1, 2018. After the outreach period, enforcement and inspections will begin under the new NEP.

Overall, motor vehicle accident numbers were down in 2017

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released the 2017 statistics acquired from its Fatality Analysis Reporting System. It seems that the overall number of fatalities occurring because of motor vehicle accidents across the nation were down by almost 2 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year. However, Connecticut residents should be aware that not all of the news is positive.

While motor vehicle accidents resulted in fewer deaths overall, the bigger picture shows an increase in fatalities involving large trucks over 10,000 pounds. There are several factors that may contribute to this development, including a stronger economy. Since more commercial trucking across the country contributes to additional travel miles logged on the roadways, there's a potential for more wrecks. It is not just commercial truck accidents that have increased. Some of the trucks involved include privately owned trucks such as dual-wheel pickups.

Americans drive 107 billion miles each year while distracted

Smartphone ownership in the U.S. stood at 55 percent in 2013, but now more than three in four Americans carry the ubiquitous devices. Road safety experts say that the corresponding surge in distracted driving in Connecticut and around the country is one of the chief reasons that the number of car accidents rose by 12.3 percent from 5.7 million to 6.4 million during the same period. According to a study, drivers in the United States covered 107 billion miles in 2017 while distracted by a cellphone.

The study was released by the workforce logistics and management company Motus, and it suggests that mobile workers may be particularly prone to driving while distracted. The Boston-based firm based its research on information gathered by one of the world's largest driver databases. It shows that mobile workers in America make 49 percent more road journeys than other employees and drive about 1,200 miles each year while distracted. The data also indicates that cellphone use by drivers is at its highest between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Researchers endorse teen driving programs

Thousands of teenagers die around the country each year in motor vehicle accidents, and police investigations often reveal that they were ignoring posted speed limits or staring at cellphone screens when they died. Public information campaigns have done little to deter young drivers from behaving recklessly behind the wheel, but a Baylor University study suggests that supplemental driver's education programs that bring teenagers face-to-face with the consequences of speeding and distraction could succeed in Connecticut and across the U.S. where more conventional approaches have failed.

A group of 21 teens with checkered driving histories were asked a series of road safety questions both before and after they took part in a risk reduction program that included trips to intensive care units and morgues. Researchers found that visiting these places and speaking with the doctors, nurses and pathologists who work in them made the teens far more aware of the possible consequences of even a moment's impatience or distraction. However, the researchers did not gather enough follow-up information to find out if these lessons were applied when the teens got back behind the wheel.

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