Common Driving Hazards During The Holidays In Portland: An Attorney Discusses

Portland auto accident attorney

Car accidents in Oregon or Washington can happen at any time, even to the most cautious drivers. You may drive defensively, but sometimes factors beyond your control can lead to a serious car accident. During the holidays, the likelihood of a crash increases because of the several unique driving conditions involved. December can be considered one of the most dangerous months for drivers because of the holidays. In particular, there are four hazards that are especially common this time of the year:

  • Distracted driving
  • Impaired driving
  • Pressured driving
  • Fatigued driving

Even if you’re practicing safe driving habits, other drivers may be driving under the influence of one or more of these hazards.

“When accompanied by poor road conditions, these four dangerous behind-the-wheel behaviors combine into a perfect storm of risk for drivers,” explained driver safety expert Doug Horn, who founded driving safety program “Drive by Example.”

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is commonly the result of a driver using their phone to text or make calls while driving. During the holidays, drivers might be more tempted to do so when coordinating plans with their friends and family. They may also be browsing the web to check store hours or inventory when shopping for gifts.

Impaired Driving

Late-night celebrations are well-established traditions during the holidays. In many cases, they involve alcohol and drug use. The dangers of impaired driving are compounded during poor weather in December, increasing the likelihood of impaired drivers causing an accident.

“An increase in the number of impaired drivers using the roadways during the winter holidays has been well-established by law enforcement, and the loss of life resulting from impaired driving is also well-established,” says Horn.

Pressured Driving

“The winter holidays typically bring with them increased pressures, especially financial pressures and the stress created by trying to do too much in a short time span. Drivers often react to these pressures by driving too fast for conditions, making aggressive lane changes, failing to yield right-of-way, and generally disregarding the needs and safety of others using the road,” according to Horn.

Fatigued Driving

The holiday season is incredibly stressful. People are working more hours to afford gifts, fitting shopping into tight schedules, and spending long nights attending social events. Even losing only an hour of sleep can have a dramatic effect on driving safety.

A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that people who slept six to seven hours a night were twice as likely to be involved in a crash compared to those sleeping eight hours or more. Sleeping less than five hours increases that risk by four to five times.

Injured in a crash? Take action!

If you were injured in an Oregon car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. But you often won’t automatically receive such compensation. It’s important to take strong legal action and contact an experienced automobile accident law firm. That way, you can make sure your rights are properly protected. Call or email a car accident attorney today at Zbinden & Curtis for your free and confidential consultation.

Oregon Drivers May Rely Too Much On Safety Technology, Unaware Of Limitations

Portland auto accident attorneyDrivers have recognized the value of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) like blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and lane keeping assist. Though these once premium technologies are increasingly being offered as standard features, misinformation on their capabilities and limitations remains widespread.

This is causing drivers to become over-reliant on the technology and develop bad habits that cause accidents. 

Understanding what they can do

Researchers found that nearly 80 percent of drivers with blind spot monitoring systems were unaware of limitations, namely that they can’t accurately detect bicycles, pedestrians or vehicles passing at very high speeds. The technology can only detect vehicles traveling in a driver’s blind spot and many systems can’t consistently detect pedestrians or cyclists. It was also found that about 25 percent of drivers with blind spot monitoring or similar systems reported being comfortable relying solely on them and don’t perform visual checks for oncoming traffic or pedestrians. 

In the cases of forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, nearly 40 percent of drivers did not know the system’s limitations or confused the two technologies. These drivers believed that forward collision warning could apply the brakes in the case of an emergency, while this technology is only designed to deliver a warning signal. These systems also lead some drivers to falsely believe that they can multitask while driving, which accounted for about 25 percent of those surveyed.  

When properly used, these systems have proven their ability to prevent 40 percent of crashes and 30 percent of fatalities. Unfortunately, research has also shown that there is still a lot of work to do to ensure that drivers are educated about the capabilities and limitations of these systems. The simple reality is that driver assistance systems are intended to supplement safe, responsible driving, not to replace it. 

At least 70 percent of motorists report that they would recommend the technology to other drivers, though only half of drivers recalled being offered training on the advanced safety features. This likely contributes to the issue at hand and can spread the misconceptions when drivers recommend the features to others.  

Driver responsibility comes first

Drivers need to be aware of the capabilities and limitations of their vehicle’s safety features. Believing that they can replace safe driving habits can nullify any safety benefits that they provide to drivers. If you were injured in an Oregon car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. It’s important to take action by contacting an experienced auto accident attorney promptly to make sure your rights are protected.  

Contact us today for a free, confidential case evaluation. 

Excessive Speeding Puts Portland Road Users at Risk, Lawyer Reports

Portland, OR auto accident attorneyDuring the busiest times of day, Portland’s streets can become crowded with motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. When Oregon drivers fail to obey the posted speed limits, it only takes one wrong move to put someone’s life in jeopardy.  

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, there were approximately 10,111 road deaths caused by speeding in 2016 (the most recent statistics), which made up 27 percent of all traffic fatalities that year.  

Speed-related accidents can be especially dangerous for the following reasons:  

  • With greater speed, drivers can lose control of their vehicles.  
  • It can take more time and distance to come to a complete stop. 
  • The severity of a crash can increase with speed. 

Speeding On City Streets Means Higher Risk Of A Crash

In response to the dangers posed by speeding on city streets, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is urging cities across the U.S. to reduce their speed limits.  

IIHS conducted a study in Boston, which lowered its speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph on municipal roads and dense areas in 2017. The study compared Boston roadways affected by the speed limit decrease with similar roadways in Providence, RI. They found that in a 25-mph zone, drivers are:  

  • 29.3% less likely to exceed 35 mph 
  • 8.5% less likely to exceed 30 mph 
  • 2.9% less likely to exceed 25 mph 

On April 1st of this year, Portland reduced its speed limits from 25 mph to 20 mph in most of its residential neighborhoods – covering roughly 70 percent of the city’s street mileage. Shortly after, the City Council voted to lower the speed limit from 35 mph to 30 mph on Southeast Stark Street. The ordinance took effect immediately.  

Portland has been taking further measures to reduce speeding, particularly on the two-mile stretch between North 33rd Drive and Insterstate 5. The speed limit was reduced from 40 mph to 35 mph and speed cameras were installed.

Additionally, speed cameras have been placed on some of Portland’s most dangerous streets. While they have prevented accidents involving speeding, many drivers still continue to drive over the posted speed limit. Furthermore, citations are only issued to drivers who exceed the speed limit by 11 miles per hour.

Other cities, including Seattle, and New York City, have lowered their speed limits as part of Vision Zero’s effort to eliminate traffic deaths. As a result, they have seen a significant reduction in fatal accidents. 

What To Do If You’re Struck By A Speeding Driver 

While lowering the speed limit in Portland may help reduce speed-related accidents, some drivers may still continue to drive recklessly. If you’ve been injured in a crash caused by a speeding driver in Portland, you should take your claim seriously from the start.  

If you’re able to do so, it’s crucial to take photos of the crash scene and speak to witnesses. The amount of damage done to your vehicle and the distance of tire tracks (if the other driver applied his or her brakes) can often give clues as to how fast the other driver was traveling at the time of a crash.  

You should also seek immediate medical attention, even if you feel ok. Injury symptoms can often take days to appear.  

Don’t worry about dealing with the other driver’s insurance company. An experienced Portland auto accident attorney can take care of that so you can focus on recovery. Contact Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys At Law today for a free case evaluation. We handle cases throughout Oregon.

Red Light Runners on the Rise in Portland

Portland, OR auto accident attorneyThe red light has to be the most universal of traffic signals. There is nothing subtle or confusing about its meaning. There is only one thing to do: stop.

Yet red light running is one of the most common factors in crashes and fatalities, the numbers of which have been rising. All states have traffic laws that specifically require “obedience to traffic control signals and devices” (or similarly-worded language), meaning that drivers must observe and obey all traffic lights and stop signs when operating vehicles.

In 2016, more than 800 people died in incidents related to red light running, an increase of 17 percent from 2012. One of the main reasons, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), is the lack of red light camera programs. Fortunately, we do have such a program here in Portland, where signs are posted on all major streets and ahead of each camera-enforced intersection. A violation occurs when a driver enters an intersection after the signal light has turned red.

But Portland is one of relatively few. As of July 2018, just 421 communities across the country had red light camera programs, down from 533 in 2012.

Commonly cited reasons for ending programs included a reduction in camera citations (tickets), financial issues and community opposition. Opponents often believe the cameras are not a safety measure, but a revenue-generating measure. But the IIHS says that the data supports the argument that red light cameras do indeed improve safety.

“We know turning off cameras results in more crashes, injuries and deaths, so it’s important that camera programs succeed,’’ said David Harkey, president of the IIHS. “While new programs continue to be added, more were discontinued than were initiated.’’

Practical information

The IIHS recently completed an analysis of national fatality figures, which prompted it to partner with several other safety organizations to develop a checklist to help communities create and maintain successful programs.

“We developed the guidelines to help communities avoid the problems that have undermined programs in the past,” Harkey added.

The checklist, which provides practical information and recommendations for planning, implementing and evaluating red light camera programs, including steps to help communities build and maintain public support, was released during the summer by the IIHS, AAA, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and the National Safety Council.

“Red light cameras can play a role in improving traffic safety for all road users and should be placed where they can benefit a community, like at intersections with high numbers of fatalities,” says Jill Ingrassia, AAA’s managing director of Government Relations and Traffic Safety Advocacy. “When properly implemented, red light cameras can help save lives and can serve to supplement law enforcement efforts, rather than generate revenue for governments. This new set of guidelines is an excellent starting point in ensuring adequate safeguards are put in place to maintain the public’s trust.”

Red light running is one of the most common factors in urban crashes. More than half the people killed in red-light-running crashes are pedestrians, bicyclists and people in other vehicles hit by the red light runners.

Should you be in need of a car accident attorney in Oregon, Zbinden & Curtis is ready to help.

The Dangers of Streaming Videos While Driving

Portland, Oregon auto accident attorneyIt made probably every newscast in the country. A self-driving Uber car struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona in March.

The backup driver, Rafaela Vasquez, looked down inside the vehicle more than 200 times in the 22 minutes before the accident, according to police. Her smart phone was streaming NBC’s “The Voice’’ in the minutes before the deadly collision that killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was walking her bike across the street.

This particular case has drawn attention due to its unique circumstances – but the larger problem of distracted driving affects thousands of people every year.

Over the speed limit, eyes off the road

Based on preliminary information, the car was going approximately 43 mph in a 35 mph zone, according to Tempe police. And their reports also made it clear that the operator was not paying attention to the road.

According to the police, Vasquez “appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the time she is looking down.’’ Her eyes were repeatedly trained on the “lower center console near her right knee.’’ However, video recordings don’t show what she’s doing with her hands. Tempe police subpoenaed viewing records from the streaming service Hulu that covered Vasquez’s silver LG Smartphone. “The user played one episode of the Voice on March 18, 2018 between 21:16:45 and approximately 21:59:00,” the company responded.

Herzberg was struck at about 9:58 p.m. Vasquez, who was supposed to provide a second layer of safety, did not begin braking until after Herzberg was hit. Uber’s self-driving system initially misidentified the victim as a vehicle, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

No braking

The ride-hailing company’s specially outfitted Volvo was deliberately being tested on public roads without its emergency braking system turned on, the NTSB said. According to Uber, emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control, to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior. And the distracted operator did not manually engage the brakes.

While the particular circumstances of the fatal self-driving Uber accident are obviously unique, the more general importance of keeping one’s eyes on the road cannot be overstated. Too often, vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians are the victims of distracted driving crashes. Taking your eyes off the road for a single second can lead to permanent injury or loss of life.

If you need a personal injury attorney in Oregon, look no further than Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys at Law.

Truck Safety Technology that Could Prevent Collisions on Oregon Roadways

Portland truck accident attorneyThe future is on the horizon, and Daimler Trucks North America wants it to arrive as soon as possible via vehicles that are safer, more fuel efficient, and automated.

The Portland, Oregon-based company said it doesn’t expect self-driving commercial trucks “in the near future,’’ but it does believe some automation may be practical well before that. Most importantly, this means using technology to warn of potential collisions or to pair trucks on the highway to improve efficiency.

Daimler is already testing this pairing (also called platooning) of trucks on Interstate 84 and at its test track in Madras, Oregon.

“Pairing is the next level in vehicle automation, where we look at using not only the steering systems and the emergency braking systems, but also the vehicle-to-vehicle communications,’’ said Derek Rotz, director of advanced engineering for Daimler.

“Today a vehicle driving the road at highway speeds, about half that power, that energy, that motor is producing is used to overcome drag,” he said. “So imagine two vehicles driving in close tandem behind each other, they can save a good amount of fuel by aerodynamic benefits and do it in a safe fashion.’’

Regular production

Daimler said it plans to ship 30 electric semi trucks this year, but doesn’t plan to begin regular production until 2021.

According to Oregon Live, the trucks Daimler displayed in June were nearly silent, “a dramatic contrast to diesel’s traditional rumble.’’ The company said the trucks have ranges of 230 to 250 miles and can recharge 80 percent of their battery in 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the model.

Daimler said it believes there is a market for these trucks in short-haul routes within cities – to and from a port, or on a delivery route. The company says it will invest millions of dollars to develop an automated trucking research headquarters on Oregon’s Swan Island.

Even fairly basic automation could significantly reduce collisions, according to Roger Nielsen, chief executive of Daimler Trucks North America. He expects that the German parent company will introduce its technology in the United States first.

“We think the first applications for the higher levels of automation are here in America because of the higher distances traveled,” Nielsen said.

This technology has the potential to reduce the risk of catastrophic truck accidents on Oregon roadways. In 2016, almost 4,000 people died in large vehicle crashes. Sixty-six percent of them were in cars and other passenger vehicles. The number of motorists who died in large truck crashes jumped 27 percent higher in 2016 than in 2009.

If you have been injured in a truck accident, contact Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys at Law, in Portland, Oregon for a free consultation.

Can Road Deaths be Eliminated on Oregon Roads?

Portland, OR auto accident attorneyToday it is an ambitious plan: Road to Zero. Managed by the National Safety Council (NSC) and backed by a coalition of more than 40 organizations, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the American Automobile Association (AAA), Road to Zero plans to end roadway deaths by 2050.

It is the first time so many groups have collaborated to address motor vehicle fatalities, which have been on the rise across the country since 2011.

Is zero road deaths possible?

In a report by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institution established in 1947, Road to Zero identifies three initiatives as a start.

  • Concentrate on what works, through proven, evidence-based strategies.
  • Promote the latest in life-saving technology in vehicles and infrastructure.
  • Prioritize safety by adopting a safe systems approach and creating a positive safety culture.

“We demand 100 percent safe operations in aviation, marine, pipeline, rail and transit,’’ said NSC President Deborah A.P. Hersman. “We should cultivate a corresponding societal demand for safe roads. Getting to zero fatalities is not impossible – it just hasn’t been done yet.’’

The report, A Road to Zero: A Vision for Achieving Zero Roadway Deaths by 2050, was released earlier this year in the midst of national discussions about motor vehicle safety issues including automated vehicles, infrastructure investments, distracted driving, and alcohol- and drug-impaired driving.

In the short term, the coalition stresses enforcing and strengthening current traffic safety laws, especially when it comes to speeding and texting, as well as providing new resources for traffic safety researchers and supporting those who design and build roads and vehicles.

While the coalition notes that widespread use of fully automated vehicles remains decades away, accelerating the benefits of new technologies by creating partnerships between public safety and health groups and industry professionals is a current target.

“The safe systems approach has saved lives in other countries,” said Lisa Ecola, a senior policy analyst for RAND.

Sweden is an example of safety over speed

“Sweden reduced the number of traffic deaths by more than half since the approach was introduced in 1997,” Ecola continued. “This shows that we in the United States can make large strides in traffic safety with existing technologies and policies.’’

Sweden’s plan is called “Vision Zero.’’ “We simply do not accept any deaths or injuries on our roads,’’ said Hanks Berg of Sweden’s national transport agency. Planning has played the biggest part in reducing accidents, according to The Economist.

Roads in Sweden are built to prioritize safety over speed or convenience. There are low urban speeds, pedestrian zones and barriers that separate cars from bicycles and oncoming vehicles. The next step, according to Swedish officials, is to try to reduce human error even further, like adding warning alerts for speeding or unbuckled seatbelts in cars. The future begins now.

If someone else’s negligence caused your traffic accident, contact Zbinden & Curtis Attorneys at Law. Your personal injury consultation is free and confidential.

Quiet Electric Cars Present Risks to Pedestrians

Portland auto accident attorneyAs electric cars become increasingly popular, an important issue has popped up. They are too quiet, especially at slow speeds. This is a hazard for pedestrians who are usually alerted to a vehicle by the sound of the engine. Combustion engines have been the norm for over a century and the quiet nature of electric vehicles can catch pedestrians off guard.

Because of this, the Department of Transportation has implemented new rules to help protect pedestrians. They require electric vehicles play sounds when traveling below 18.6 mph. The DOT will allow companies to forgo playing a sound above 18.6 mph because sufficient sound is produced by the tires and wind at higher speeds. This eliminates the need for additional noise.

Another issue that presents a danger to both pedestrians and other drivers is the lack of audio feedback to the driver. In traditional vehicles, the driver can gauge how fast they are going by the sound of the engine. Without it, a driver may not realize how fast they are going until they look down at the speedometer or are pulled over.

Some manufacturers have taken steps to improve safety

However, some car companies have taken the initiative to create custom sounds for their vehicles. Mercedes has even enlisted the help of Linkin Park and other audio experts. Audi, BMW, and other manufacturers have done the same. The rules don’t regulate the types of alert sounds the cars will play, allowing companies to develop multiple sounds that can be chosen by the driver or to give different models their own sense of personality. It remains to be seen how eccentric companies will be when creating sound options.

These regulations were first introduced in 2010 but faced multiple delays. They were finalized recently and don’t require full compliance until 2020. However, companies will need to have 50 percent of their vehicles emit sound by 2019. With full implementation, it is expected that there will be 530,000 vehicles able to produce artificial engine sounds. In addition, 2,400 injuries will be prevented.

It is expected that the new standard will cost companies an additional $40 million annually, but will save $250 million to $320 million in injury costs. To further prevent injury, it is important that pedestrians practice habits that reduce their risk, such as using clearly marked crosswalks, not interrupting the flow of traffic by darting out into the road, and by waiting for a “walk” signal to cross the street.

Oregon and Washington pedestrian accidents happen all too frequently. If you or someone you know has been injured, contact an experienced attorney with our firm today. Your personal injury consultation is free and confidential.

How A Nationwide Increase in Accident Fatalities Affects Portland Drivers

Portland auto accident attorneyPortland auto accidents can cause serious, and sometimes fatal, injuries to drivers, passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians and other road users. Traffic fatalities have been on the rise across the United States in recent years.

Here in Oregon, this upsurge has mirrored national trends to a large extent, and road authorities have used data to better understand the causes of fatal traffic accidents. This allows them to develop effective safety strategies, which help Oregon reach realistic goals for reducing traffic accident deaths.

Auto Accident Fatality Trends in the United States and Oregon

The National Safety Council reported that 2017 saw a slight (1 percent) drop in auto accident fatalities across the United States. However, this is not evidence of safer vehicles or drivers. Rather, it appears to be a statistical effect of drastic increases in recent annual fatality rates. In fact, auto accident fatalities in the United States have increased 6 percent between 2015 and 2017. This was the highest two-year gain in more than 50 years.

Here in Oregon, fatality rates have also been on the rise. The Oregon Department of Transportation reports rising road deaths began in October 2014. By 2015, Oregon’s traffic fatality rate per vehicle-miles traveled was higher than the national average. This is bad news for a state that had been consistently below the national average since 1999. The DOT therefore set aggressive goals for reducing the fatality rates per vehicle-mile traveled in Oregon.

The Common Causes of Fatal Traffic Accidents

It is also helpful to understand the most common factors that lead to fatal traffic accidents in Oregon. The Oregon DOT reports that alcohol, speeding, and lack of seat belt use are the leading culprits. Luckily, these problems are preventable. Drivers can reduce their personal risk of sustaining fatal injuries by addressing these risks in their own personal driving habits. While other drivers’ behavior cannot be controlled, you can reduce your risk of fatal injuries on the road by reducing your speed and always wearing a seat belt.

Weather can also be a contributing factor in Oregon car accidents. KGW8 reports on a fatal multi-vehicle accident on Interstate 84. Black ice and high speeds caused an initial collision which resulted in a domino effect of accidents. Ultimately, 20 vehicles were involved in the crash, nine victims were injured, five were left in critical condition, and one victim died. This accident is a stark reminder of the dangers posed by weather conditions on the roadway. Oregon is known for experiencing generally mild winters, which gives some drivers a false sense of security. The fact is that rain, sleet, ice, and snow do occur in Oregon. When they do, slick roadways pose additional dangers to motorists, especially those who aren’t prepared for the risk.

Our auto accident attorneys know how devastating an auto accident can be. We fight hard to hold negligent drivers accountable for dangerous conduct in order to make the roads of Portland safer for everyone. But it is equally important for drivers to accept personal responsibility for their own safety and that of others on the roadway. When an accident does happen, an attorney can help protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve.

New Additions Made to Oregon’s Distracted Driving Law

Portland auto accident attorneyA new law in Oregon, House Bill 2597, went into effect last October. This new law closes a loophole present in the state’s previous attempt at a distracted driving law, which was enacted in 2009. That law prohibited drivers from calling and texting with mobile devices, but only those functions according to a court decision.

A loophole in the existing law allowed drivers to play games or program a navigation app with no legal repercussions. This loophole is now closed and the law better defines how a driver can interact with their smartphones and other devices.

What constitutes distracted driving in Oregon?

Drivers are not strictly prohibited from using their devices behind the wheel; however, any use is restricted to a single swipe. This limitation allows drivers to close apps or change a song. Hands-free devices are also allowed, as are ham radios for licensed amateur operators over the age of 18.

Drivers under 18 are not allowed to use any devices, hands-free or otherwise. Drivers should always have their hands on the wheel and their eyes averted for a minimal amount of time. If drivers need to perform more complex tasks that require significant attention, they are now expected to park safely before doing so. The car does not need to be off, but sitting at a red light does not count and use of a device is prohibited.

The exception to this rule is to dial 911, as drivers are allowed to call emergency services if no one else in the car is able to do so.

Violations of the law

Under the previous iteration of the law, drivers were fined $160 for each violation with no escalation for recurring offenses. This means that there was little incentive for some drivers to learn from their mistakes if they felt they could afford the fine. These drivers may now think twice under the new law, which includes escalating penalties and a harsher penalty for the first infraction.

Under the new law, first-time offenders will be fined $260, which rises to $435 if the distraction results in an accident. The fine can be waived if the driver agrees to take a distracted driving course, but the violation will remain on their record. The second offense is also a fine of $435 and the third within ten years will result in a misdemeanor charge. The misdemeanor can result in up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

If you or someone you know was the victim of an accident caused by distracted driving, it’s best to seek the legal advocacy of an experienced auto accident attorney. Consult with Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys At Law today and find out what we can do for you.