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Lake Charles Personal Injury Law Blog

Wearable device is designed to shock drowsy drivers

Accidents caused by fatigued drivers claim thousands of lives each year around the country according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and public service campaigns that highlight the dangers of drowsy driving have done little to reduce this figure. Tired Louisiana motorists often try to avoid falling asleep behind the wheel by drinking coffee, opening a window or playing loud music, but these strategies rarely keep drivers awake and alert for long.

Drivers are often unaware that they are dangerously fatigued until it is too late to avoid a crash, but a startup technology company called Creative Mode says that they have developed a wearable electronic device that could rouse sleepy drivers and prevent accidents. The device, which has been named the Steer gauges fatigue by monitoring a driver's heart rate and sweat secretions, and it delivers a series of vibrations and electric shocks when tiredness sets in and reaction times suffer.

Lesser-known factors of large truck accidents

Large truck accidents can occur in Louisiana for a number of reasons. While there are many well-known reasons these accidents happen, drivers may be interested to learn of the little-known factors that can contribute to truck accidents.

Every year, an estimated 475,000 large trucks are involved in traffic accidents. The United States Department of Labor also reports that the accidents cause more than 5,000 deaths and more than 140,000 injuries. Although the figures may vary from year to year, the number of large truck accidents that result in fatalities continue to grow.

More than 1,700 trucks recalled for fuel pump problem

Louisiana tractor-trailer drivers may have heard that more than 1,700 Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks have been recalled due to a potential problem with the fuel pumps. The trucks affected by the recall were those equipped with Cummins ISX15 engines.

According to the report, the affected Cummins ISX15 engines could have faulty fuel pumps. These fuel pumps could cause the drive gear to spin loose on the drive shaft, which could cause the fuel pump to lose its functionality. Ultimately, this could cause the truck to stall, potentially causing a serious accident.

Higher employment equals more traffic fatalities

Research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that an improved economy with less unemployment leads to higher death rates on the roads of Louisiana and across the country. Data from 2014 produced a driver death rate of 30 per 1 million registered vehicle years across all 2014 models. This represented an increase from 2011 when the rate was 28. When cross referencing driver death rates with unemployment figures, the institute identified a relationship between the two factors.

According to the institute's report, a decline in unemployment of 1 percentage point, in this case from 6 percent to 5 percent, produces a 2 percent increase in the number of miles traveled by vehicles. With more people spending more time on the road, opportunities for accidents rise. The slight drop in unemployment results in a 2 percent rise in traffic fatalitiesas well. A vice president from the institute explained that higher employment enabled people to engage in more leisure driving for dinners out or vacations. He identified this type of driving as riskier than daily commuting to jobs.

Fatal accidents involving tractor-trailers are on the rise

Fatal accidents involving semi-tractor trailers and buses were more common in Louisiana and other U.S. states in 2015 according to the annual Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts report released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. It reveals that the number of large commercial vehicles involved in deadly crashes surged by 8 percent in 2015 from the previous year and has risen by 20 percent since 2005, and data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System suggests that 2016 was even more deadly on America's roads.

The FMCSA reported that the large truck involvement rate also increased by 8 percent in 2015 from 1.34 to 1.45. This figure represents now many fatal truck accidents tractor-trailers are involved in for every 100 million miles traveled. Road safety advocacy groups say that an increase in vehicular traffic was largely responsible for a 7 percent increase in all road deaths during 2015, but the FMCSA report reveals that the total miles covered by large trucks only increased by 0.3 percent in 2015.

Tesla fails to score well in safety tests

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is a non-profit agency that carries out tests on trucks, cars and SUVs to assess how well the vehicles perform in crashes. The organization has conducted a series of crash tests on full-size cars. Tesla owners in Louisiana should be aware that the Tesla Model S, which the manufacturer touts as the safest car ever, did not receive high ratings.

The three cars that were designated as Top Safety Pick Plus cars included the Toyota Avalon, Lincoln Continental and Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan. In addition to the Tesla Model S, other vehicles that failed to achieve high marks included the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus.

Lawmakers call for national self-driving car regulations

Louisiana has taken a proactive approach to the issue of autonomous vehicles, and the state's Department of Transportation and Development announced in May that it had entered into an agreement with the design and engineering firm Arcadis to provide technical assistance and gauge the level of impact that self-driving cars will have. However, many lawmakers in the nation's capital and several road safety advocacy groups feel that the issue should be addressed at the national level.

Groups like the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Highway say that federal regulations would be more effective than a patchwork of state laws, and they worry that possibly unsafe autonomous technology could find its way onto roads if action is not taken soon. Lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are mulling measures that deal with self-driving cars, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee is considering placing limits on autonomous vehicle testing and requiring auto and technology companies to certify their self-driving systems before conducting field trials.

About the LHWCA

Maritime workers in Louisiana should understand how the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act can assist them if they are injured on the job. Shipyard workers, longshoremen and some other non-seaman marine workers can use the law to obtain financial assistance for lost wages and medical expenses that resulted from their work-related injury or illness.

The LHWCA is handled by the Division of Longshore Workers' Compensation, which is part of the Office of Workers' Compensation at the United States Department of Labor. An estimated 500,000 injured or disabled maritime employees, including contractors employed by the federal government and those working on the Outer Continental Shelf, receive benefits provided by the LHWCA.

Court decision allows carriers access to drivers' history

On June 19, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a class-action lawsuit brought by six truck drivers. This lawsuit was the second case backed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association that the high court refused to hear over a two-week span. Because court rulings that concern the trucking industry may impact motorist safety on roadways across the nation, drivers in Louisiana and other parts of the country may want to know more about the history of this case and its potential implications.

Originally filed in a federal district court in 2014, the lawsuit concerned alleged violations of the Privacy Act of 1974. The drivers claimed that the U.S. Department of Transportation and its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shared too much information with prospective employers in Pre-Employment Screening Program reports, which DOT denied. Ultimately, the trial court rejected the plaintiffs' arguments that the inclusion of non-serious safety violations in the PSP reports violated the truckers' privacy, and in October 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit upheld the decision.

Truck driver training subject of new federal rule

After a lengthy delay, new federal rules for truckers in training in Louisiana and across the country are becoming law. However, carriers, trainers and others will still have almost three years to put the new rules into practice. The new training requirements will apply to all truck drivers who receive their commercial driver's license on or after Feb. 7, 2017.

The new rules implement a series of requirements for trainee drivers and CDL applicants. They introduce and mandate the use of a core curriculum for the education of all CDL applicants. Further, they require that all trainee truck drivers receive some amount of behind-the-wheel training. Finally, this training must be received from a federally certified trainer on a registry.