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Murrieta Personal Injury Law Blog

New truck driver training standard

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has approved a rule dealing the training of commercial driver license applicants in California and around the country. The rules met with support from trade groups who helped create them. They became effective on June 5, but there is a compliance window of close to three years. Commercial driver's license applicants who receive them on or after Feb. 7, 2020 will be subject to the rule.

The FMCSA rule establishes a mandatory training curriculum. It includes classroom instruction as well as behind the wheel training. Those providing training must be certified by the FMCSA and will then be listed on the agency's rolls. This also applies to trucking companies that have their own training facilities.

Annual International Roadcheck campaign to focus on cargo safety

Motorists in California are more likely to see trucks and buses being pulled over between June 8 and June 10 during the annual International Roadcheck safety campaign. The initiative is organized each year by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. The nonprofit group says that about 15 commercial vehicles will be inspected each minute during the 72-hour-long effort. Federal inspectors will be looking for violations of federal safety regulations, and commercial vehicles that pose a threat to the safety of other road users are likely to be ordered out of service.

During International Roadcheck in 2016, inspectors conducted 42,236 North American Standard Level I inspections and ordered 9,080 commercial trucks off the road. The focus of the effort a year ago was truck and bus braking systems, and almost half of the out of service orders were issued due to brake-related citations. Truck drivers were most commonly prevented from continuing on their journeys because of hours of service violations, according to the CVSA.

Child fatalities in car accidents vary widely by state

In a study that examined child fatalities caused by motor vehicle accidents throughout the country from 2010 to 2014, California, with 200 deaths, ranked second highest among all the states. Children were defined as being younger than 15 in the research.

A total of 2,885 children died in car accidents from 2010 to 2014. Most of them occurred on rural roads in the South, which ranked as the deadliest region in the U.S. with 1,550 child fatalities. The Midwest followed with 585 deaths, then the West with 561 and, lastly, the Northeast with 189. The study revealed that one out of five children is improperly restrained, and 13 percent of them sit in the front seat before reaching the age when it would be safe to do so. Researchers calculated that increasing the proper use of restraints by 10 percent would prevent more than 230 children from dying each year, a figure that represents almost 40 percent of the child fatalities from 2010-2014.

Pedestrian deaths increasing

California residents may be interested to learn that the number of pedestrian fatalities have been increasing. In fact, data from a report released by the Governor's Highway Safety Administration showed that there was an 11 percent increase in pedestrian deaths in 2016 when compared to 2015.

While pedestrian and driver error do factor into many auto-pedestrian accidents, research has shown that a lack of safe walking environments have also had an impact on the number of pedestrian accidents. This appears to be a problem particularly in low-income and immigrant communities. Many streets are designed to allow vehicles to travel faster, meaning the streets are wider and without sidewalks or safe pedestrian crosswalks.

Tests show the effectiveness of side-mounted underride bars

Testing performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests that the mandatory installation of side-mounted underride bars on semi-tractor trailers in California and around the country could save lives. Legislators are currently reviewing regulations that would mandate the fitting of underride bars to the rear of large commercial trucks, but the IIHS tests indicate that these safety features protect passenger vehicle occupants just as well when they are installed on the sides of trailers.

To gauge the effectiveness of side-mounted underride bars, the nonprofit organization conducted two crash tests involving family sedans traveling at 35 mph and two standard 53-foot van trailers. The trailers were fitted with either a side-mounted underride bar or an aerodynamic glass fiber skirt. Truck operators use such skirts to improve stability and reduce fuel consumption, but they do little to protect vehicle passengers in a crash.

FMCSA panel addresses autonomous truck safety concerns

California residents may be aware that self-driving vehicles may be in their future. With technological advances in vehicle technology, however, come questions and concerns regarding roadway safety. When commercial trucks enter the discussion, safety concerns often escalate.

In April at the annual Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance workshop, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration held a panel to address questions about tractor-trailer safety in the wake of emerging autonomous driving technology. Truck drivers, representatives from various state trucking associations and FMCSA officials all took part in the discussion. Topics included the possibility of driver fatigue in manned autonomous trucks, hours of service and vehicle behavior in near-crash or hazardous situations.

Employers could be held liable for offsite accidents

California residents may be interested to learn that Home Depot, the popular home improvement store, will face a lawsuit that claimed that the company's negligence led to the murder of an employee by a supervisor. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in remanding the case back to the trial court, held that the company knew that the supervisor had a history of harassing lower-level female employees but still allowed him to have supervision over the female employee, who was pregnant when she was murdered.

The female employee was murdered by the male supervisor in 2012 during an offsite event. The supervisor was eventually sentenced to two life terms in prison in 2014. Home Depot argued that the company could not be held responsible as the crime was not committed on store property. However, the appellate court held that, by allowing the man to be a supervisor even knowing his history, the company did give him power over the employee. He reportedly used this power to force her to go to the offsite event.

Mail carriers face increasing risk of dog bites

The number of postal workers who are attacked by dogs each year appears to be on the rise with two cities in California making the list of the top five cities for mail carrier attacks in 2016. According to the United States Postal Service safety director, continuing education in the area of dog bite training and prevention may help people who visit homes safely and happily coexist with pets and the people who care for them.

Employee safety is a top priority at the postal service. In response to the increasing dog bite hazard, veterinary groups, insurance groups and the USPS have joined forces to raise awareness of this national concern. These groups agree that education may be the path to a workable solution.

Fatal large truck accidents on the rise

California motorists might have been in more danger of involvement in a fatal large truck accident in 2015 than in the previous year. In 2015, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there was an 8 percent increase in the number of large trucks involved in deadly crashes compared to the previous year. The FMCSA defined large trucks as weighing more than 10,000 pounds.

There were 3,598 deadly crashes in 2015 involving 4,050 large trucks. A total of 415,000 crashes involving large trucks were reported to police, and 20 percent of those crashes resulted in injuries.

The importance of avoiding distracted driving

California motorists might have to become more defensive to prevent getting into accidents with distracted drivers. Traffic fatalities began to rise in 2015 after dropping for several years. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving as a cause of accidents rose more quickly than drunk driving, speeding, drowsy driving, or driving without a seat belt.

One safety organization is working to educate the public about the importance of defensive driving and avoiding distracted driving. Many of these hazards are related to smartphone usage by drivers and pedestrians, so drivers should keep this in mind when they are scanning and predicting hazards. For example, a pedestrian distracted by their phone might step into a crosswalk unexpectedly, or a driver might run a red light.

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