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Long Beach Personal Injury Law Blog

IIHS recommends side underride guards

Drivers of large trucks on California highways may eventually have both back and side guards that protect against underrides. Rules that will require rear-mounted underride guards are in process. In spring of 2017, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did two crash tests to look as well at the safety provided by side guards.

In the crash tests, a midsize passenger car going 35 mph hit a 53-foot dry van trailer in the center. For one of the tests, the trailer was equipped with a side underride guard. In the other test, the trailer had a fiberglass side skirt. This skirt was designed to improve aerodynamics but not to protect occupants of other vehicles. In the first test, the guard was damaged but the car did not go under the trailer. In the second test, the top of the car was partly torn off, and the vehicle became wedged under the truck. This would likely have been a crash that involved fatalities.

Dooring is a major concern for bicyclists

Cycling, while it is great exercise, can sometimes also be dangerous, as many California riders know. One type of accident many cyclists face is dooring, which is when a cyclist crashes into an open car door. In this type of accident, cyclists are limited about what they can do to prevent or avoid the crash, except look inside cars to see if anyone is about to get out or look at the car's lights as indication that the car has just parked.

Dooring accidents nationwide have increased, as have bicycle accidents in general. Many states have passed dooring laws and established designated bike lanes. Dooring laws help promote awareness of the problem. Some come with a fine as part of the consequences of opening a door into traffic. However, most of these laws do not really focus on what happens to cyclists, or even mention them specifically. Only three states with dooring laws, in fact, specifically mention cyclists and pedestrians and how they should be protected. The other states leave the definition of traffic up for interpretation.

How important is manned control of autonomous vehicles?

As technology towards fully autonomous vehicles rapidly develops, California residents might wonder just how important manned control of autonomous tractor-trailers is. In a panel hosted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, representatives from the trucking industry debated this point.

While there is support for the new technology being developed, many within the industry reiterated that human drivers are still necessary and important, even as trucks become more autonomous. Situations related to truck accidents were brought up as examples, to show why a human might be needed in emergency situations, such as a when to make a decision between the truck self-destroying by slamming into a wall or shifting and hitting pedestrians nearby. Supporters, however, worried about the return on the investment, which then led to a debate about driver hours' reform.

Texting and driving device raises privacy concerns

2016 saw a 6 percent increase in traffic fatalities over the previous year, and many of the almost 40,000 that occurred were related in part to cellphone usage. Textalyzers are a tool like that could help police figure out when someone has been using a phone while driving. If California residents aren't sure about this new portable device, then they aren't the only ones who have concerns about monitoring cellphone usage.

Some cities and states are weighing their options when it comes to using textalyzer devices. Those who like the idea say that too many people cause accidents by texting and driving. The device ideally does not download any content from a phone, but privacy advocates worry about giving police the power to search phones so easily as many people store sensitive content on their phones.

Auto accident injuries and PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental condition that individuals can experience after a catastrophic event. California residents should be aware that they may sue for PTSD that is a result of their being in a motor vehicle accident caused by another driver. However, if their mental health injury has not incapacitated them, they are required to file the lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations.

In order to have a personal injury case based on a PTSD diagnosis related to a vehicle accident, it will be necessary to demonstrate that an accurate diagnosis was made by a qualified doctor and that it is at least partly due to the accident. This typically requires the testimony of an expert medical witness.

Study shows just how unwilling drivers are to put down their smartphones

Even though everyone undoubtedly understands that talking and texting while driving is both dangerous and illegal, chances are good that you nevertheless witnessed several motorists doing either on your way to work or school this morning.

While statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show how dangerous distracted driving is -- claiming the lives of 3,477 people and injuring another 391,000 in 2015 alone -- it's perhaps less clear just how many drivers are willing to disregard this danger on a regular basis.

Trucks to face cargo-focused inspection blitz

California truck drivers may find their cargo subject to closer inspection during the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance's International Roadcheck safety blitz that will be held June 6-8. The inspections will generally be North American Standard Level I inspections. These are the most thorough types of inspections, and generally, examining cargo securement is a part of them. However, the organization hopes that highlighting cargo securement in particular will emphasize its importance to drivers.

As part of raising awareness, the CVSA has made an information sheet about cargo securement. Cargo is supposed to be loaded and secured, and tie-downs should be inspected for any damage.

Remote control tech may allow drivers to operate trucks remotely

According to a California startup company, truck drivers may seen be operating their commercial vehicles from the comfort of a remote office. The company has created remote control technology that can be installed in commercial trucks. The drivers can then manipulate the speed and steering from a home base.

The equipment that would be installed into the commercial vehicle includes a remote control retrofit kit, radar systems and camera systems. The systems would provide the remote driver with the data needed to safely operate the vehicle. Theoretically, the operator could remotely drive the vehicle from the starting point to its final destination. Ultimately, the co-founder of the company stated that the technology would act like a video game.

Liability claims for self-driving cars in California

There are a number of safety improvements that computer-driven cars offer over ones driven by humans. Autonomous vehicles don't suffer from driver fatigue, and the software in these vehicles won't engage in unsafe driving practices, such as driving while intoxicated or looking at a cellphone instead of focusing on the road.

While there are a number of potential benefits to the increasing the number of self-driving cars on the road, the proliferation of these vehicles also brings up a few questions. When an accident is caused by a negligent driver, that person will normally be deemed financially responsible. However, if a computer causes an accident, it might become more difficult to assign financial responsibility.

Car accident deaths surge in 2016 according to NSC report

Motor vehicle accidents in California and around the country claimed 40,200 lives in 2016, according to a report released on Feb. 15 by the National Safety Council. Road deaths have not surpassed 40,000 in the United States in almost a decade, and the Illinois-based safety advocacy organization says that reckless drivers deserve much of the blame.

Improvements in the health care sector have made accidents that would have been deadly in years past survivable, and modern automobiles feature a host of safety features that were considered the stuff of science fiction just a decade or so ago. However, this has not prevented car accident fatality rates from soaring in both 2015 and 2016. Less expensive gasoline and a growing labor market were blamed for sobering crash statistics a year ago. However, the NSC says that these arguments are not borne out by the latest data.