April 16, 2014

Autonomous Vehicles May Be Introduced In the District of Columbia

A couple of states in the United States have begun to legalize the operation of autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles are also known as driveless cars, driver-free cars and self-driving cars. By Autonomous it is meant that a vehicle is capable of fulfilling the human transportation capabilities of a traditional car. An autonomous vehicle is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input or interaction. These vehicles sense their surroundings with the use of radars, GPS and computer vision. It is with these tools that the vehicle is able to navigate through streets as well as obstacles on the road. These vehicles keep track of their position even when conditions change in their surroundings.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established an official classification system for Autonomous vehicles. The 5 levels are as follows:

Level 0: Drivers completely control the vehicle at all times;

Level 1: Individual vehicle controls are automated, such as electronic stability control or automatic braking;

Level 2: Two or more controls can be automated in unison, such as cruise control in combination with lane keeping; and

Level 3: The driver can fully cede control of all safety-critical functions in certain conditions. The car senses when conditions require the driver to retake control and providers a sufficiently comfortable transition time for the driver to do so.

Level 4: The vehicle performs all safety-critical functions for the entire trip, with the driver not expected to control the vehicle at any time. As this vehicle would control all functions from start to stop, including all parking functions.

These autonomous vehicles may be introduced in the District of Columbia in the coming weeks since new rules were introduced last week. The District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles published a set of new guidelines last Friday, in accordance with the Autonomous Vehicle Act of 2012, to allow drivers to obtain licenses for self-driving vehicles, and if there are no objections, will go into effect in 30 days. If this goes into effect, the District of Columbia would be the first jurisdiction to license self-driving operators. The process to obtain these special self-driving operator licenses is as simple as taking a self-driver training seminar, filling out the proper paperwork and paying the $20 fee. The application process means that each person trying to obtain this special license needs to acknowledge that they will be deemed the "Driver" of the vehicle while it is operating in autonomous mode, and are therefore responsible for speeding, rolling thru stop signs, and missing or passing thru traffic signals. This means that they are subject to the same traffic laws that non-autonomous cars and drivers have to follow.

Each applicant will also have to complete a training seminar and obtain certification in the operation of autonomous vehicles. These courses will be provided by self-driving car dealerships and manufacturers. Once the course is completed, forms executed, license fee paid and license obtained, each driver will have a new "A" printed on their license to show that they are certified to operate an autonomous vehicle. Once the operator is issued a license the final step is to apply for a special license plate that will only be used for self-driving cars.

Some of the advantages of autonomous vehicles are that fewer traffic accidents and collisions will happen, due to the system's increased reliability and faster reaction time compared to human drivers, roadway capacity will increase and traffic congestion decreased due to the reduced need for safety gaps and the ability to better manage traffic flow, relief of vehicle occupants from driving, higher speed limits, removal of constraints on occupants' state, due to the fact that the drivers age, blindness, distractedness, intoxication or other impairment will not matter, and alleviation of parking scarcity, are a few of the advantages of autonomous vehicles.

Some of the obstacles however are Liability for damages, software reliability, resistance for individuals to give up control of their vehicles, Cyber security, the implementation of legal framework and the establishment of government regulations for self-driving cars, drivers will become less experienced when manual driving is needed and the loss of driver related jobs.

April 10, 2014

What Is Personal Injury Law

What is Personal Injury Law: It is a legal term or an injury to the body, mind or emotions. It covers physical injuries, mental injuries and death that result from the negligence or intentional misconduct of another person, group of individuals, or entity. The most common types of personal injury claims are automobile traffic accidents, accidents in the workplace, slip & fall or tripping accidents, assault claims, accidents in the home and defective products. Also, included in the personal injury realm are medical and dental accidents, which can lead to medical negligence claims.

Depending on how bad the injury to the person is and the level of intent or negligence of the responsible party, the injured person may be entitled to monetary compensation from the at fault party through a settlement or a judgment.

Most personal injury attorneys represent their clients on a contingency basis or a contingency fee retainer agreement. This means that the attorney's fee is a percentage of the plaintiff's (injured party) eventual monetary compensation, payable to the attorney, once the case is resolved and settled, with no payment necessary if the case is unsuccessful. Also, when in this type of contract with a personal injury attorney, the attorney will pay all upfront costs and fees, which can include costs for obtaining medical records, copies, postage, faxes, correspondence, and obtaining police reports. These upfront costs and fees are reimbursed back to the attorney once the case settles and is separate then the attorney's fee for representation.

Damages: Damages are categorized as either special and/or general. Special costs are measured and itemized to include medical expenses, loss of earnings, property damage and other out-of-pockets expenses. General costs are less measurable such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium and emotional distress. Personal injury claims include and consider both special and general damages when a claim is submitted to an at fault party.

The amount of compensation for special and general damages in a personal injury claim depends on the severity of the injury, the amount of treatment received and whether or not an injury is permanent in nature. The worse the injury is, the greater the compensation.

Time Limitations: In the United States, each state has different Statutes of Limitations - laws that determine how much time you have to file a legal claim. Different types of injuries have different statutes of limitations. In Maryland and the District of Columbia the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations to file a claim is 3 years from the date of accident and in Virginia it is 2 years from the date of accident.

Personal Injury Claim Settlements are not taxable. Therefore; any monies awarded on a personal injury claim you do not have to claim on your taxes. The official statement from the IRS states:

"If you receive a settlement for personal physical injuries or physical sickness and did not take an itemized deduction for medical expenses related to the injury or sickness in prior years, the full amount is non-taxable. Do not include the settlement proceeds in your income."

March 26, 2014

Cigarette Smuggling Increases in Maryland and Virginia

Higher cigarette taxes are causing an increase in the smuggling cigarette trade along Interstate 95 in Maryland and Virginia, and all over the east coast of the United States. Maryland and Virginia lawmakers have passed various bills in the last few months making the penalties for smuggling harsher and so these states can crack down on the trafficking of cigarettes and regain lost revenue.

States and the federal government have all raised tobacco taxes and therefore the profit incentive for smugglers increased. There are huge differences in cigarette costs from one state to another. There's a difference in costs for cigarettes from one state to another as high as $4.18 per pack. 57% of cigarettes smoked in the state of New York alone are smuggled by cigarette traffickers. Therefore the entire east coast is cracking down and making the needed changes to prevent the loss of billions of dollars of revenue and increase the fight against the increase of organized crime.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), there are many types of tobacco trafficking and schemes, actively trying to avoid taxes. The most common is the smuggling of cigarettes between states due to tax differentials between states along the East Coast of the United States. From $7 billion to $10 billion in state and federal tax revenue is lost each year because of tobacco smuggling. These amounts are much higher than the $5 billion it was just a few years ago, according to the ATF.

The per pack tax on Tobacco ranges from .17 cents in Missouri and .30 cents in Virginia to $4.35 in New York, where there is an additional charge state charge of $1.50 per pack. In total, there have been about 113 tax increases on Tobacco in 47 states, the District of Columbia and New York City since 2000.

According to the campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in the state of Washington, every time there is a 10% increase in the price of cigarettes the overall consumption lowers by as much as 5% and lowers the number of children who smoke by about 7%.

On the other hand, this increase in Tobacco tax leads to a huge profit for smugglers. For example, Tobacco smugglers buying 200 cases of cigarettes in North and South Carolina to sell illegally in New York can clear as much as $500,000 in profits. Buying illegal and untaxed cigarettes, for as low as $6 a pack instead of the legal $12 to $13 per pack, is as easy as walking into any convenience store in Brooklyn, or any part of New York.

In recent months, over 12 recommendations have been made to various crime commissions on the east coast. One of which includes, dedicating more funding for enforcement, as well as increasing penalties for tobacco smuggling. Besides the lost revenue, organized crime is a growing problem, according to the Virginia State Crime Commission. Crimes that include: gangs stealing peoples' identities, to buy cigarettes in large quantities, using fake credit cards. These schemes can be expansive. Maryland was included in an indictment in the state of New York, after it was discovered that a ring of smugglers were flooding New York city and Albany, New York with more than a million cartons of untaxed cigarettes imported from Virginia. The investigation found $55 million in unlawful cigarette sales and more than $80 million in lost state sales-tax revenue.

No matter how one looks at this, it is a crime to smuggle Tobacco from one state to another. Taxes and loss of revenue by states and the federal government are affected.

March 4, 2014

What to Do When You Are Involved In An Automobile Accident

More than 5 million automobile accidents occur each year, nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If you were involved in an accident, would you know what to do and what information to obtain in order to set up an insurance claim? Well here are some helpful hints and tips for you to do following a crash.

1) Be Prepared - this means that before you hit the road, it is important that you understand your automobile insurance policy and the coverage that you have. Your automobile insurance follows the vehicle, not the driver. Therefore; it is important that you carry a current insurance card in the car along with the registration to your vehicle. If needed, have your insurance agent explain all the coverage you have and the specific elements included in our policy. Such things as: your deductible, collision coverage, what your liability coverage limits are, Personal injury protection or medical payments coverage, uninsured and underinsured limits, etc. All these items help protect you when you are involved in an accident and the other driver is held at fault or responsible for the collision.

2) After you are involved in an accident, it can be a hectic and stressful situation. It is sometimes difficult to remember what to do, but the most important thing is to obtain the following information from the other person or persons involved in the accident: their name, their insurance information; which should include; name of the insurance carrier and policy number.

3) The following should be done immediately after the accident occurs:
- Assess the scene and try and remain calm.
- Call the police and inform them of any injuries. If the police cannot be immediately dispatched to you, make sure and file and incident report over the phone.
- Do not admit fault at the scene. Be courteous to the other party, but do not admit fault.
- Take photographs of the damage to all vehicles involved and damage to any property surrounding the area.
- Exchange your name and insurance information with the other party; and
- Obtain the names and contact information for any witnesses.

4) Filing a Claim - It is important to file a claim with the insurance company as soon as possible. It is at this time that details of the accident are still fresh in your mind. When you make the initial call to your insurance carrier make sure and have all the information you obtained from the other party, witness information and if available; the incident or police report number, so that a copy of the police report can be obtained. Once the claim has been set up you will be given a claim number and the contact information for the representative assigned to your claim. Your insurance company should be able to contact the other insurance company involved and establish liability. Once it has been determined who was at fault for the accident your property damage can be taken care of. You will be given information for body shops and collision centers the insurance company deals with directly, if not you can chose your own shop, but it must be certified and have all the proper licenses to operate. A rental vehicle may be given to you, depending on the coverage, while your vehicle is being fixed. If your vehicle is deemed a total loss you will have the option of keeping your vehicle as a salvage or to turn over your vehicle to the insurance company. The choice is yours. As far as your medical expenses and treatment, that is covered by the at fault insurance carrier. Make sure and keep copies of all medical bills, records, prescription receipts and any other out of pocket costs you may have to submit to the insurance company so your claim can be properly examined.

5) Retain an attorney that specializes in automobile accidents and personal injury cases. Once you obtain an attorney they will handle all aspects of your claim directly with the insurance company. Your only job, after you obtain an attorney, is to get better, get the proper medical treatment and make sure you reach maximum medical improvement.

When a person is involved in an automobile accident and is injured, it is important to seek the aid of an experienced attorney. It will be the attorneys' responsibility to get you the best possible monetary settlement in order to cover all your medical expenses and compensate you for your pain and suffering. So, when you have been involved in an automobile accident, make sure and contact our office and we will do all we can to get you the best possible result.

February 12, 2014

Lawmakers in Maryland Propose New Birth Injury Fund

Legislators in the state of Maryland are trying to create a brand new fund for children and families with health problems that may have been caused by medical mistakes during child birth and labor. They propose to call this new fund the Birth Injury Fund. If and when this new fund is implemented, it would limit the ability of families to pursue medical malpractice lawsuits against medical providers, institutions, etc., and it would serve as a form of tort reform.

Eligibility for the Maryland Birth Injury program would be restricted to children born in a Maryland hospital, whose injuries fir the definition of a birth-related neurological injury. Each case would be reviewed on an individual basis by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Maryland Board of Physicians. Each of these organizations would review the hospitals and doctors for indications of less than standard care and practices. An administrative law judge would make the final eligibility determination and there would also be an appeals process, if needed. Once the administrative law judge approves eligibility, the child and their parents could seek compensation and care from the program in less than 90 days.

The Birth Injury Fund would give a one-time monetary award of up to $100,000.00, plus lifetime medical care, lost earnings compensation for the years 18 to 65 and no cap on the health care benefits of the injured patient/person.

The purpose of this New Birth Injury fund program is to prevent birth injuries through improved medical care and not to provide negligent doctors and hospital with immunity from the consequences of their poor medical care and practices. The new program would also result in more infants obtaining compensation and the needed lifetime medical care sooner because their parents would not need to wait to win in a medical malpractice lawsuit/trial to get access to the fund. Acceptance in the program is based on the injury and not the outcome of a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The funding for the New Birth Injury Fund would come entirely from hospitals and doctors. John Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical System have already shown their support for the bill.

February 3, 2014

State Highway Safety Laws in 2013

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety published a report titled, "2014 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws", in which the District of Columbia was ranked as the best for having the most basic traffic safety laws in the United States, while South Dakota was ranked the worst.

The 2014 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws is in its eleventh year of publication and it uses the following criteria:

- Grades all 50 states in the United States and the District of Columbia;
- Grades based on 15 basic traffic safety laws;
- Takes into consideration the progress in the last 25 years; and
- Considers the risks that put drivers and children at risk.

The purpose of the report is to advance state and federal highway and vehicle safety laws, programs and policies in the United States. It is published by a group of leading consumers, both health and safety organizations and insurance agents and companies whom when gathered together are known as the Advocates.

In the report, it states that the District of Columbia has 12 laws related to basic traffic safety laws. The report gives three different ratings to each state. They range from Green (Good), Yellow (Caution) and Red (Danger). This year was the first year that a safety law was included for enforcing seat belts to rear seating passengers. In order for any state to receive a green rating it had to have included a law enforcing all vehicle passenger safety. Also, a state had to have 11 to 15 laws including both primary enforcement seat belt laws, nine or more laws including both primary enforcement seat belt laws and an all-rider helmet law.

States with a rating of Red have less than seven laws on the books and do not include front and rear seat passenger seat belt laws, therefore; they are deemed dangerous states for drivers and passengers.

There where however six new state laws enacted in 2013. They were the following:
- Primary Enforcement of Seat Belts
- All-rider motorcycle Helmet Use
- Booster Seats
- Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) for teen drivers
- Impaired Driving
- All-Driver Text Messaging Restrictions

January 6, 2014

New Traffic Cameras in the District of Columbia

In the District of Columbia a new type of traffic cameras have been implemented. Starting February 1, 2014, the deployment of several new types of automated traffic enforcement will go into effect. One of the new types include cameras, as part of D.C. Street Safe Initiative. The purpose of these new cameras is to combat aggressive and dangerous driving habits in the District of Columbia. The new cameras are also suppose to track drivers who speed and violate other traffic infractions, such as, rolling through stop signs, crosswalks and intersections and also drivers who "block the box" at intersections.

"Block the box" refers to when a vehicle attempts to cross an intersection on a green light but cannot make it all the way through and then the light turns red, therefore; they are now blocking the intersection and blocking drivers from moving through the intersection in the perpendicular direction, in other words, they are blocking cross traffic.

These cameras were placed, in areas in the District of Columbia, based on the number of crashes and injuries, calls for service, high speed volume, near schools and churches, or in zones where commercial vehicles are prohibited from traveling. Also, they are located at intersections with known speeding problems and in congested areas. The Department of Transportation, Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and community organizations also had a say in where these cameras should be placed.

Therefore; starting February 1, 2014, these cameras will begin taking pictures of offenders and issuing fines. The cameras were installed and suppose to go into effect as of late November 2013, but they needed to make sure that the locations had been issuing warnings for 30 days first, as to make drivers aware of the new cameras.

December 4, 2013

Single-Car Accidents Are the Most Deadly in the DMV

In 2012, 273 lives were lost as results of single-car crashes in Maryland. In 2011 and 2012 combined, there were a total of 1,541 reported deaths due to single-car crashes in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia. This means that 60 percent of all traffic fatalities in these jurisdictions were a result of single-car crashes. One would think that multicar accidents would be the leading cause of deaths in the United States, but surprisingly it isn't. This statistic is even higher when considered on a National level. Nationally, single-car fatalities in Maryland, DC and Virginia make up 65 percent of fatalities.

Single-car accidents are, for the most part, avoidable by drivers. It is suspected that single-car fatalities are a result of unbelted drivers, drunk drivers, distracted drivers, as well as speeding and driving while drowsy. Some research, conducted by the AAA Mid-Atlantic, shows that some factors associated with these single-car fatalities are inattentiveness, over-correction of the vehicle and oddly enough, trying to avoid a crash all together.

It is for these factors, and many more, that in 2012, the overall number of people killed increased, nationally. In the District of Columbia alone, in 2012 there were 157 people killed due to single-car crashes.

In Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia two-thirds of area commuters drive to work and therefore; are most likely victims themselves of single-car accidents and deaths. In order to avoid these accidents and fatalities drivers must pay attention to the road, follow traffic signs and signals, obey all traffic laws, and be alert to their, and, of their surroundings. Drivers should make sure and get enough sleep, be attentive and not get behind the wheel while drunk or intoxicated, in order to avoid these kinds of collisions, and all car collisions in general.

November 26, 2013

Cycling Deaths Are on the Rise

In 2012, Cycling deaths increased by 6.5 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2011, 682 cyclists died while riding in traffic and in 2012 the number of deaths rose to 726. 37 percent of those deaths were for people between the age of 45 and 64. The second leading age range of deaths were cyclists between the age of 25 to 34.

It was determined by research conducted by the NHTSA that the leading cause of cyclist deaths was drivers who failed to yield the right of way. Drivers who failed to yield the right of way caused 188 deaths out of the 726 deaths in 2012. That means that 26 percent of cyclist deaths in 2012 were as a result of drivers who failed to yield the right of way to cyclist.

The two other leading causes of cyclist deaths were drunk drivers, which caused 65 deaths and cyclists who wore dark clothing and no lighting gear when traveling in the dark, which caused 62 deaths. 25 percent of Cyclist deaths occurred between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., while almost half of the deaths occurred between noon and 6 p.m. (49.4 percent to be exact). 15 percent of deaths occurred between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m..

Other contributing factors to cyclist deaths were cyclists who failed to obey traffic signs, cyclists who rode their bikes the wrong way on roads and improperly crossing intersections and roadways.

The NHTSA's press release on this subject focused mainly on highway deaths.

October 29, 2013

Vicodin to be Reclassified as a Schedule II Drug by the FDA, HHS and DEA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided to place new limits and regulations on the painkiller Vicodin. Vicodin is generically known as Hydrocodone. The new limits and regulations on the drug will come as a result of it being reclassified as a Schedule II drug. A Schedule II drug is considered to be more powerful and has a higher risk for potential drug abuse and addiction. This reclassification will limit how many Hydrocodone-based pills a doctor or medical provider can prescribe to any one patient and would require stricter storage and handling requirements.

With the reclassification, the goal is to prevent theft and abuse of these pills, which is considered to be the number one way federal regulators are trying to fight against the current painkiller abuse epidemic in the United States. The reclassification of Hydrocodone drugs would require fewer prescriptions be written at any one time and to any one patient and would prohibit patients from receiving more than a three month supply at one time.

Opioid painkillers, such as Hydrocodone, have been responsible for more deaths than cocaine and heroin combined since 2003. It is the misuse and accidental overdoses caused by the use of these drugs that are causing so many deaths in the United States. In 2007 alone, there were about 27,000 unintentional prescription drug overdose deaths reported in the U.S.. As of 2008, the CDC reported that prescription drug overdoses have accounted for more deaths than traffic accidents.

Therefore, the FDA will submit a formal recommendation package to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by the end of December of 2013. The HHS oversees any and all FDA topics, discussions and established regulations. Once the HHS makes a decision, it will begin the process that will lead to a final decision by the DEA on the appropriate scheduling of Hydrocodone and Vicodin products.

October 9, 2013

VA Medical Malpractice Case Ends in Deadlocked Jury

A jury in Culpeper County Circuit Court could not decide the outcome of a medical malpractice case brought on by Carol Nettles against the orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Rutkowski, which resulted in a hung jury, after 11 hours of deliberations. A hung jury means that the jury members cannot, by the required voting threshold, agree upon a verdict after an extended period of deliberations and is unable to change its votes. It is sometimes also called a deadlocked jury.

Ms. Carol Nettles, a 68 year old woman filed a $1 million medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Rutkowski for causing severe and permanent injury to her left collar bone, shoulder and arm as a result of surgery that Dr. Rutkowski performed on Ms. Nettles' clavicle on October 26, 2011 at the Virginia Orthopaedic and Spine Center. Out of the $1 million. Ms. Carol had originally been examined by Dr. Rutkowski to help ease some of her carpal tunnel pains at which time he recommended surgery. Dr. Rutkowski performed an operation that involved attaching a six-inch metal plate to her clavicle to help stabilize the bone. Unfortunately, the bone was so weak that Dr. Rutkowski could not attach the metal plate using traditional materials. Dr. Rutkowski instead used sutures to secure the metal plate to Ms. Nettles' clavicle instead of using traditional screws. It is believed that by using the sutures instead of the screws her clavicle suffered a permanent injury due to the sutures rough edges sawed through her clavicle. As a result of this permanent injury Ms. Nettles is unable to move her left arm and shoulder and has been left with a disfigured left collarbone and shoulder.

Dr. Rutkowski alleged to Ms. Nettles at a post-operative appointment that her injury was a result of her weak bone, when in fact it was because of the sutures he used, instead of the screws that he was suppose to have used to properly attach the metal plate to Ms. Nettles' clavicle. Ms. Nettles continued to complain about the pain to Dr. Rutkowski on various visits post operation and it wasn't until December 2011 that Dr. Rutkowski referred Ms. Nettles to a shoulder surgeon at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Dr. Angelo Dacus, who removed all of the hardware implanted by Dr. Rutkowski, alleviating some of the pain and discomfort that Ms. Nettles was experiencing, but still left her with a permanent injury.

Ms. Nettles therefore; made the following claims/charges against Dr. Rutkowski in the suit filed in Culpeper County Circuit Court:

- Failing to refer Ms. Nettles to a more qualified physician;
- Failing to explain the risks of the surgery;
- Failing to foresee that sutures would saw through the bone instead of stabilizing it, and
- Performing a complicated surgery that was not worth the risk to the patient's otherwise good health.

The jury was in the end unable to determine whether or not Dr. Rutkowski was completely responsible for Ms. Nettles permanent injury. The jury consisted of six people, three men and three women. During the deliberation process the jurors presented the court and the judge with five questions, all of which could not be answered because as Judge Susan Whitlock answered "The court cannot answer these questions because the evidence is in."

September 23, 2013

Unique Medical Device Identification System Passed in September in the U.S.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on September 20, 2013 that the final rule for a Unique Device Identification system (UDI) has passed. The system is designed to allow the FDA to track medical devices and help raise warning flags about problems that may exist with a particular model. It is designed to identify potentially dangerous and defective medical devices in the United States, such devices as hip replacements and knee replacements.

The UDI will have two parts. One part is that it will have an identification number that will be assigned to each medical device, which will enable quick identification of the lot number, expiration date and manufacturing date for each medical device. The second part will be a database that is searchable by the public, called the Global Unique Device Identification Database (GUDID). The database will not have patient identification information, however; it will only be used as a reference catalogue for every medical device with a unique device identifier number. This will allow patients and the medical community to see for themselves; whether the specific medical device appears to be linked to failures and other problems.

The new way to identify medical devices will result in more reliable date on how medical devices are used. In turn, this can promote safe device use by medical providers and patients. It will also allow for faster, more innovative and less costly medical device development.

September 3, 2013

Safe Driving in School Zone Tips

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) an average of 14 children die each year in school transportation related accidents, therefore; now that schools are back in session, children safety should be a priority for all drivers traveling in school areas.

D.C., Maryland and Virginia have the following school safety laws in effect:

- It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading children. The only exception to this rule is when you are traveling on a divided roadway.

- All traffic traveling directly behind a school bus must come to a complete stop until all children have loaded or unloaded the school bus and the lights on the school bus have turned off.

- The 10 feet surrounding the school bus is considered to be the most dangerous area for children, therefore; make sure and give more than the minimum amount of space between your vehicle and the school bus. In Maryland a vehicle must be at least 20 feet behind the stopped school bus and in the District of Columbia a vehicle must be at least 15 feet behind the stopped school bus.

- Keep a proper look out of children entering or exiting the school bus because most children consider the area that the school bus stops as a safe area and so they may be unaware of their surroundings or dangerous situations that could arise.

- School buses use yellow lights to advise drivers that they are approaching a stop and when the red lights and extended arm signal appear it means the school bus is at a complete stop and unloading or loading children.

- There are fines and points associated with speeding in a school zone. If you are issued a citation you will also be given 3 points on your license. If you are going more than 20 mph over the posted speed limit in a school zone you will be given 6 points on your license, a hefty citation and be charged with reckless driving. You may even lose your license for six months.

- When you approach a school zone, the safest thing to do is to travel at 25 mph as a maximum speed, unless otherwise stated by the posted speed limit signs.

- the majority of crashes involving children and school buses occur between 3 pm and 4 pm on weekdays, therefore; use extra caution during these times in school zones, as well as in the early morning hours.

August 21, 2013

Crash Statistics for the State of Maryland

Automobile accidents are the number one killer of people between the ages of 4 and 34 years of age. More people are killed in Maryland by automobile accidents than homicides. Out of all the accidents that occur in Maryland it is determined that 90% of them could have been avoided and are as a result of driver error. See the charts below:

August 7, 2013

August Is the One of the Deadliest Months for Pedestrians and Drivers Nationwide

Yield-To-Pedestrians-Safety-Sign-K-4103.gifAccording to a study conducted by the Department of Transportation it is safer to be a pedestrian in the state of Virginia then in any other state nationwide. It was reported that less than 10 percent of traffic fatalities in Virginia involved pedestrians. It was stated in the report that in both 2010 and 2011, 73 pedestrians were killed as a result of an accident involving another vehicle each year, in the state of Virginia. This means that pedestrian fatalities in Virginia are holding steady while they increase nationwide.

In the neighboring state of Maryland the percentage was 21 percent and in the District of Columbia it was determined that 20 percent of traffic fatalities involved pedestrians. It is important to know that everyone is responsible for the safety of pedestrians. Drivers, the pedestrian and people in decision making positions are all responsible for the safety of pedestrians.

Most pedestrian fatalities occur in urban areas, at night and involve alcohol, increasingly. Therefore; these areas should have better sidewalks, crosswalks, signals and overall, be safer for pedestrians.

AAA Mid-Atlantic conducted a study which determined that August is the deadliest driving month nationwide. The dates specifically seem to be August 3rd, 4th, 6th and 12th. Out of over 10,000 motor vehicle accidents on the highways of Virginia, there were 5,800 injuries and 74 deaths, making it the second deadliest month in 2012. The first deadliest month in Virginia in 2012 was July. It was the few days before, during and after the Independence Day celebrations on July 4th. In 2011, Virginia was ranked the 16th deadliest state to drive in, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Therefore, if you plan on hitting the road in August make sure and buckle up, drive safely, keep an eye out for pedestrians and children playing outside, try to have the least amount of distractions while on the road, do not get behind the wheel if you have consumed any amount of alcohol and/or drugs, and overall drive with a little more caution then normally.