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.

Oregon’s New Move Over Law Goes Into Effect

Portland auto accident attorneysA new state law went into effect at the start of the new year with the goal of protecting drivers pulled over on the side of the road. The new law requires drivers to move over when passing a vehicle that has pulled over on the side of the road and is flashing warning lights or exhibiting other signs of distress. This expands on an existing law that had been in place for emergency and roadside assistance vehicles, such as police cruisers and tow trucks.

Like the preexisting “move over law” for emergency vehicles, drivers will be required to switch lanes to provide space to any vehicle that is pulled over. If a driver is unable to switch lanes, such as on single-lane roads, then he or she will need to slow down to 5 mph below the posted speed limit.

Drivers who fail to comply with the new rule can be ticketed and fined up to $260. When the Oregon Department of Transportation introduced the new legislation, they cited the statistical difference between crashes involving pulled-over vehicles and the presence of an emergency vehicle. Between 2011 and 2015, 167 serious crashes and 8 deaths occurred when a moving vehicle struck a stationary one on the side of the road. This compares to only 6 serious crashes and 0 fatalities involving an emergency or roadside assistance vehicle on the side of the road.

These laws are the norm nationwide, though specifics vary

All 50 states have a similar law for emergency vehicles, though the specific requirements for drivers vary. Florida, for example, requires that drivers slow down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit. Puerto Rico and Washington D.C do not have any move over laws, however.

There’s a good reason these laws exist: They prevent serious accidents. A pulled-over vehicle often means one of its occupants is standing outside the vehicle and could be seriously injured by a vehicle traveling at highway speeds. The worst-case scenario is when one or more motorists who have already been involved in a collision are then involved in a second collision while pulled over and inspecting their vehicles and exchanging insurance information.

These new protections for drivers on the side of the road will hopefully reduce accident rates to the levels that emergency vehicles experience, which is nearly zero. However, if you or someone you know is injured in a roadside accident, you have rights that need to be protected. Speak to an experienced Portland auto accident attorney who can further discuss your options.

In the event that you have been struck by another vehicle while pulled over, you may be eligible for compensation. The attorneys at Zbinden & Curtis can help. Contact us online or call today.

Elderly Driver Risks in Portland

Portland auto accidents attorneysFor many older adults, driving is a way to maintain independence and mobility. In 2015, there were over 40 million drivers aged 65 and older, which is more than a 50% increase since 1999. While these older adults enjoy retaining their mobility through driving, the risk of injury or death increases as they get older. It is important for these drivers to understand the risks they face on the road that affect their age group, especially as Oregon is a state that is aging faster than much of the nation. Nationwide, 1 in 6 drivers are over 65, are twice as likely to have a medical condition that affects their driving, and 4 in 5 take medications that may further affect their ability to drive.

The Risks

In 2015, 6,800 senior drivers were killed while more than 260,000 were treated in the emergency room for injuries due to an auto accident. That amounts to an average of 19 deaths and 712 injuries over that year. For older drivers, the risk of being involved in an auto accident starts to substantially increase in the 70 to 74 age range, reaching its highest levels for drivers 85 and older. These increased risks can be attributed to an increased susceptibility to injuries and medical complications that accompany the demographic. In particular, declining vision and cognitive function are prominent risk factors as they affect a driver’s ability to react to situations on the road.

Improving Safety for Older Drivers

With increasing amounts of older drivers on the road, these numbers can increase if the right precautions are not taken. Elderly drivers already are reported to drive impaired at significantly lower rates than other age groups, 6 percent for drivers aged 75 and over compared to 28 percent for drivers aged 20-24. It is reported that they tend to drive less when conditions on the road are not ideal, such as during inclement weather.

There are further steps that these drivers can take to minimize their risk of being involved in an auto accident and being injured as a result, as suggested by the CDC:

  • Discuss your medical problems with your doctor to determine if they might affect your driving.
  • Discuss stopping or changing your medications with your pharmacist or doctor if you experience any side effects that could interfere with safe driving such as blurry vision, dizziness, sleepiness, confusion, fatigue, and/or loss of consciousness.
  • Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as directed.
  • Plan your route before you drive.
  • Consider potential alternatives to driving, such as riding with a friend, using public transit or ride share services.

If you’re an older driver or have an older loved one who has been injured in a car accident in Oregon or Washington, contact Zbinden & Curtis today. An experienced car accident lawyer can analyze your case, determine how best to proceed, and ensure your rights are upheld.

Trendy Apps Can Make Portland Drivers More Susceptible to Distracted Driving

Portland car accident attorneysDistracted driving has become a leading cause of Portland car accidents in recent years. Now, drivers must not only contend with smart phones, in-vehicle entertainment systems, and navigation systems, but also trendy apps which increase the temptation to divert a driver’s attention from the road ahead.Victims who are injured in car accidents caused by distracted drivers have legal rights. A Portland car accident attorney can help injury victims understand and protect these legal rights.

Oregon Cracks Down on Distracted Driving

On October 1, 2017, a Oregon’s distracted driving law became a lot more strict. Oregon Live reports that the previous version of the law, passed in 2009, required drivers to use a hands-free device to make phone calls and banned texting altogether. But this left open the possibility that drivers could use other functions – such as programming navigation systems or playing games – without violating the law. After the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in favor of this interpretation, state lawmakers passed a new version of the law that prohibits drivers from using any function on a mobile device which requires touching or holding. The Oregon Department of Transportation reports that any activation or deactivation of a mobile function to be limited to a single touch or swipe.

Inattention behind the wheel continues to be a serious public safety risk on the roads of Oregon, even after the implementation of a new, tougher state ban on distracted driving. According to KTVL, inattentiveness caused a chain of accidents to occur on the Interstate 5 near Medford. A total of four collisions occurred within a four-mile radius in just over an hour during the morning commute. Oregon State Police stated that the accidents were caused strictly by a lack of attention to the road, and not because of road conditions. More than two months after the ban took effect, drivers still struggled to pay attention and respond to traffic conditions around them.

Trendy Apps: The Silent Killer

As technology changes and adapts to consumer needs, new problems present themselves, and exacerbate the distracted driving problem. One such major problem occurred with the release of Pokémon GO in July 2016. The game became a worldwide sensation, and demanded users’ attention while out and about in public. This caused many drivers to engage with the application when they should have been paying attention to the road. A study reported by the Social Science Research Network estimated that the cost of traffic injuries related to the game was $2 to $7.3 billion within the first 148 days following the game’s release. And while no fatality statistic was reported nationwide, the researchers did attribute traffic fatalities to the game.

Distracted driving takes lives. It is important that distracted drivers be held accountable for their highly dangerous behavior. While enforcement of the new distracted driving law is an important step, it is also up to injury victims to hold distracted drivers accountable for their negligence. Contact a Portland car accident attorney as soon as possible after any accident in order to best protect your legal rights.

Nationwide Increase in Traffic Fatalities Affects Portland Drivers

car accident attorneys

Traffic fatality rates across the United States have been on the rise for several years now. Oregon, too, has seen increases, and all road users at put in danger by this concerning trend. Luckily, the use of simple safety measures can dramatically reduce one’s chances of being involved in an accident, as well as the severity of injuries which are sustained in an accident. Be sure to contact an experienced Portland car accident attorney as soon as possible after any accident. You have legal rights which must be protected.

How Oregon Fatality Trends Compare to the Nation

According to The Washington Post , 2011 saw the lowest number of traffic fatalities ever recorded in the United States. This was a result of fewer vehicles being on the road after the economic crash of 2008. As drivers returned to the road again, traffic accident rates began to rise again. Unfortunately, traffic fatalities have been steadily climbing ever since. 2016 traffic data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed a continuation of the trend of increased traffic fatalities. A 5.4% increase placed the total number of fatality victims over thirty-seven thousand.  Now, in 2017, more than eighteen thousand people died on the roads of America between January 1 and June 31. Another 2.1 million people were seriously injured in car accidents during that same time period.

Oregon, too, has seen recent rises in fatal traffic accidents. The Oregon Department of Transportation reports that 2015 saw a nearly 30% in fatalities from the previous year. And before the DOT released its official 2016 data, The Northwest News Network had already declared it the deadliest year since 2003.

What Oregon Drivers Can Do to Protect Themselves

Despite these concerning statistics, there are simple things Oregon drivers can do to dramatically reduce their odds of being fatally injured in a car accident. Speeding is a significant predictor of fatal injuries. The World Health Organization reports that an injury victim is twenty times more likely to die in an impact at 80 kilometers per hour than impact at 30 kilometers per hour. Reducing speed is more than a simple safety precaution – it is also a legal obligation under Oregon state law. Section 811.100 of the Oregon Revised Statutes prohibits drivers from traveling at a speed that is greater than reasonable and prudent, having due regard to: traffic; surface conditions of the roadway; hazards at intersections; weather; visibility; or any other conditions then existing.

Seat belt use is also highly effective at reducing the severity of injuries sustained in a traffic accident. Dozens of studies over many decades have proven that failure to use a seat belt increases the likelihood that traffic accident injuries will be fatal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that seat belt use saved an estimated 64,000 lives between 2011 and 2015. This, too, is a requirement of Oregon law. (See Oregon Revised Statutes §811.210.)

If you or a loved one has been injured in any type of auto accident, seek the counsel of an experienced Portland auto accident attorney. He or she will ensure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries and losses.  

Marijuana and Auto Accidents

As recreational marijuana laws are considered across the country, many opponents voice concerns about the increase in auto accidents which might be attributable to impaired driving.

There is some evidence to suggest there is a connection between legalized recreational marijuana use and an increase in accident rates, but it’s not conclusive. What is certain is that injury victims have the legal right to be compensated for losses they sustain as the result of Oregon car accidents caused by the negligence of others – including marijuana impairment. Just because a substance is legal does not absolve a person of the duty to operate their vehicle in a reasonably safe manner. When someone has been injured, it is imperative that they have an attorney on their side who has their best interests in mind. At Zbinden & Curtis, all accident victims deserve representation, and compensation for the injuries and suffering they have endured.

The Statistics

The American Journal of Public Health reports on a study of auto accident rates in Washington, Colorado, and eight control states between 2009 and 2015. The study found that all 10 states had similar accident rates in 2009. This trend continued after the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Washington and Colorado – indicating that no reportable increase in accident rates occurred as a result of the change in law. This is merely one study, and longer periods of analysis must be obtained to determine the accuracy of this trend. It is nonetheless important to note that the preliminary data has found no increase in auto accident rates as a result of legalized recreational marijuana use.

Opiods Are A More Immediate Threat To Safety

There are many types of drugs by which a driver may become impaired. The accident statistics on these classes of drugs are very different. The Washington Post reports that 2015 was the first year in which drugged driving with substances other than marijuana caused more traffic fatalities than drunk driving. Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health reports that the number of opioid-impaired drivers who caused fatal traffic accidents increased seven times between 1995 and 2015. In contrast, the impairments caused by marijuana involve reduced cognitive ability and reaction time, there is no data that confirms smoking and driving causes more traffic accidents. Other drugs and substances, including alcohol, pose much more of a risk.

However, it is always safest to choose to not smoke and drive.

The problem has received much media attention nationwide, and Business Insider reports that the governors of Arizona, Florida and Maryland have all declared states of emergency in order to grant them access to federal grant money through the Department of Health and Human Services. Opioids continue to be a highly dangerous problem for drivers across America.

Oregon’s Impaired Driving Statutes

It is a criminal violation of Oregon law (Oregon Revised Statutes 813.010) to drive while under the influence of a controlled substance. This includes recreational marijuana. Unfortunately, Oregon – like other states – has not been able to set a specific blood level at which intoxication may be inferred. This is because scientists have not been able to definitively identify a uniform amount of marijuana at which most humans are intoxicated, the way they have been able to with alcohol. The lack of a set blood level makes it difficult for prosecutors to prove that a defendant was under the influence of marijuana while driving. Additionally, a defendant’s tolerance level to THC may prevent notable signs from appearing. However, any social media activity encompassing the time of the accident can reveal whether or not the defendant was driving under the influence of a controlled substance. This could include bragging, live streaming, or photos providing live evidence- as discussed in a recent USA Today article.

Nonetheless, injury victims have the right to be compensated by impaired drivers who cause auto accidents. This compensation is usually available regardless of whether the defendant is ultimately convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a collision, contact an experienced Portland auto accident attorney as soon as possible. Oregon law protects your right to be compensated for injuries and losses.