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Connecticut Legal Blog

Memes, other social media a frequent distraction for drivers

Drivers in Connecticut and across the U.S. are using their phones and other mobile devices more. Though most drivers acknowledge the danger of being distracted behind the wheel, they engage in it anyway. This appears to be one finding of an online study from the market research firm Wakefield Research. Nearly 2,000 U.S. drivers responded to it; below are some of the results.

Of those surveyed, 99% ranked phone use among the top three distractions for a driver. Almost half said that distracted driving is their top concern on the road. The majority were critical of other drivers who drove distracted with 89% saying they would leave a bad rating on ride-hailing drivers who text behind the wheel.

Study finds U.S. drivers are distracted by cellphones

Almost half of drivers in Connecticut and around the U.S. say that distracted driving is their top worry when behind the wheel, according to a study. It was conducted by Wakefield Research and Root Insurance, which offers rate discounts to drivers who don't use their cellphones while operating their vehicles.

The study found that 47 percent of motorists say that distracted driving is their top road safety concern and 99 percent believe cellphones are one of the top three causes of it. However, the participants spent an average of 13 minutes per day using cellphones or other devices while behind the wheel. That amounts to 91 minutes each week. In addition, 38 percent of people who use their cellphones while driving don't put the devices down when they see police officers.

Weather Channel sued over fatal collision with storm chasers

Connecticut residents who watch the Weather Channel may know about the show "Storm Wranglers." On March 28, 2017, the two stars of that show died as they were chasing a tornado near the city of Spur, Texas. It appears that they were speeding down the highway and ran a stop sign, colliding with a jeep driven by a 25-year-old storm spotter for the National Weather Service. All three died on impact.

Now, the mother of the 25-year-old victim is suing the Weather Channel for $125 million in damages, claiming that the network did nothing about the two stars' long history of reckless driving. The network may even have been encouraging the storm-chasing duo to act recklessly for the sake of more exciting footage.

Back pain in farm work linked to machine vibration

Some agricultural workers in Connecticut use heavy equipment and machinery in their normal daily work. While accidents can cause serious injury and death, even the normal everyday operation of some farm equipment can cause chronic issues like back pain. A recent study shows that the vibration of many types of farm machinery can cause health concerns for workers, even though OSHA does not have any standards regarding this issue.

The study performed by NIOSH examined the vibration levels on 112 pieces of farm machinery, including tractors, forklifts, combines, ATVs and skid loaders. In the absence of an OSHA standard, the researchers measured the vibration level against the European Union's action level on exposure. More than half of the machines tested met the action level within eight hours of use. This action level is defined as when there's an increased risk of health effects. On 30 percent of the equipment, operators endured whole-body vibration at the action level within two hours of use.

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.

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