Archive for June, 2013

Oregon Teen’s Death Highlights Dangers Faced by Kids During the 100 Deadliest Days

The months stretching from Memorial Day to Labor Day are the riskiest days for teen drivers each year, with more teens dying in car wrecks during this time than at any other point throughout the year. Since teen drivers already have high fatality rates and car wrecks are always a top cause of teen deaths, these days are an extremely dangerous time for young people on the roads. In fact, the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day is known as the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers.  

These days are deadly for a lot of reasons, most notably the fact that kids are off from school and generally have more time and less supervision. Our Portland, OR personal injury attorneys know that teens often make dangerous decisions when they are out joyriding with friends during the summer. One recent tragic accident that led to the death of a 19-year-old Oregon man shows just how grave the consequences can be when teen drivers engage in high-risk driving behavior.

Oregon Teen Dies in Hill Hopping Accident

According to ABC News, a 19-year-old Oregon man was driving in his Honda Civic with two friends on Valley View Road near Jefferson Oregon on Saturday night. The young driver and his passengers were traveling between 90 and 100 miles per hour. They were “hill hopping,” which is a term that refers to driving very quickly over natural ridge tops that are often located on country roads.

Hill hopping has become a common practice, with young drivers posting videos on YouTube demonstrating their joyriding adventures as they fly over hills at high speeds. Unfortunately, this has become a major problem in this part of Oregon, with drivers traveling to the area specifically to search for areas to go hill hopping. Residents have suggested repaving roads in areas prone to hill hopping or putting up cautionary signs, but many believe this would do no good because hill hopping is not accidental and teens would likely just seek out other areas to engage in this dangerous practice.

In this case, the 19-year-old hill hopping driver paid the ultimate price for the risk he took. He lost control of the car in mid-air and the Honda Civic hit a utility poll and split into two pieces that were found more than 100 feet apart. The car’s front end had separated entirely from the rear of the vehicle and the young driver was found dead at the scene. One of the passengers also suffered severe injuries and was listed in critical condition while the second passenger sustained more minor injuries.

The deceased was described as good kid, a great friend and a good student. Unfortunately, he made a dangerous choice here and the consequences were grave. He is not the only teen who has taken a risk in a car and there may be other young people this summer who go out joyriding and who speed, drink and drive or otherwise engage in high-risk behavior. These teens are at risk of dying during the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers and parents need to stress to their kids the importance of being safe. Parents should remind kids how terrible the consequences can be and how high the price can be for what seems like a bit of fun behind the wheel.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in the Portland area, contact Zbinden & Curtis. Call (503) 287-5000 for a free case consultation.

Oregon Drowning Victims Don’t Look Like What You’d Expect

Recently, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sent out a call to action urging all swimming pool owners to secure their pools with fences and encouraging parents to teach kids of all ages how to swim. The call to action was prompted by the fact that the majority of child drowning incidents occur in backyard swimming pools or in backyard spas. 

The CPSC’s advice is important to follow, but it is also important to realize that many kids drown within site and arms reach of parents or guardians. At Zbinden & Curtis, our Portland injury attorneys know that these kids lose their lives because many people do not know what drowning looks like. Recently, Oregon Live published an article explaining some of the common signs of drowning and dispelling some of the myths about how a drowning victim will act.

The Truth About Drowning Victims

Oregon Live reports that most people believe a drowning victim will shout, call for help and flail his arms around. We believe this because this is how the movies portray drowning and because most people have not actually seen a real-life drowning incident.

In reality, however, this is not what drowning looks like at all. In fact, most drowning victims are physiologically unable to shout or to cry out for help because the body will not let them talk unless or until they can breathe. When they are drowning, they cannot breathe and so they cannot speak.

Drowning people also cannot flail their arms about or wave for help because when they are drowning, their instincts will force them to extend their arms down to press on the surface of the water. If a drowning person is yelling and flailing about, he or she is not drowning but is instead experiencing “aquatic distress.” This person will need help, but can assist in his own rescue by grabbing a life jacket or a thrown ring. A person who is truly drowning typically cannot help in his rescue since instinct won’t allow the body to do so.

Instead, the body’s instinctive drowning response causes the drowning person to struggle on the water’s surface for between 20 and 60 seconds before the drowning person is submerged. The drowning person will remain upright in the water during this time and will not be kicking his feet.

The drowning person may also have his head tilted backwards with his mouth at the water level and open.  His eyes may be either closed or glassy, or may be covered by his or her hair.  Trying to roll over on his back; trying to swim in a particular direction but not actually moving; or moving the limbs as if trying to climb an invisible ladder are also signs of drowning.

Being aware of these signs is very important because kids can drown within just a few minutes even when being watched.

Kids are thus in danger of drowning not only if they wander into a pool unsupervised but also when parents are right there. Lives can be saved if caregivers know the signs of drowning and if swimming pool owners properly secure their pool areas to avoid a child falling in. If a swimming pool owner fails to secure his pool and a child is hurt, he could be sued by the parents for resulting injuries or wrongful death.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in the Portland area, contact Zbinden & Curtis. Call (503) 287-5000 for a free case consultation.

Elderly Oregon Man Killed in Auto Accident

Early this June, two senior citizens were together in a Toyota RAV4. According to NR Today, the two elderly Oregon men in the RAV4 were traveling on Interstate 5 South when the 76-year-old driver lost control of the car. The vehicle drifted onto the right shoulder of the road and then collided with a guardrail at a freeway off-ramp. Upon colliding with the guardrail, the vehicle spun into the southbound lane. A Toyota Tundra pickup truck hit the passenger side of the vehicle and the 88-year-old passenger in the RAV4 was killed.  

Law enforcement agents with the Oregon State Police are conducting an investigation into the cause of the accident. While it is not yet clear why the RAV4 began to drift out of its lane, it is natural to be concerned that the driver of the SUV made a mistake or error in losing control of the vehicle and hitting the guardrail. The driver could have drifted out of his lane for any number of reasons, but his advanced age may have been a factor.

At Zbinden & Curtis, our Portland, OR accident lawyers know that there is a great deal of concern about the aging of our driving population and about the ability of senior drivers to be safe on the roads. While some of the concern is based on unfounded myths, the fact remains that seniors can be dangerous behind the wheel if they drive after the point when it is no longer safe for them to do so.

Senior Drivers on Oregon Roads

Drivers in Oregon and throughout the United States are aging. In fact, according to a recent article on Your West Valley.com, one out of every five drivers in the U.S. is going to be aged 65 or older by 2030.

As these senior drivers age, there is understandable worry that more accidents will happen. The reflexes of seniors can begin to slow down as a natural part of the aging process, and elderly drivers may have slower reaction times. Vision, strength, memory and cognitive function can all begin to decline and fail as well, and a senior driver who struggles with physical or mental issues could be a serious danger to himself and to any other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, motorcycle riders or others on the roads.

Some seniors continue to drive past the point when they should be, and this may not only increase the accident risk but may also increase the dangers of serious injuries since the elderly driver may be slower to react after a crash happens. In the accident involving the RAV4, for example, the 88-year-old passenger might not have been killed if the 76-year-old driver had been able to react and swerve in time to avoid hitting the guardrail.

Of course, not every senior driver is going to be a menace on the roads. In fact, Your West Valley indicates that senior drivers may actually be less likely to get into car accidents than younger people. To support the position that seniors aren’t necessarily unsafe behind the wheel, the article points to data from the NHTSA that shows seniors between the ages of 64 and 69 are statistically the safest drivers on the road.   However, this low accident rate may be caused not by the fact that seniors really are good drivers but instead by the fact that seniors are less likely to put themselves in high risk driving situations such as driving at night or in bad weather.

While it is unclear at this point exactly what impact the aging of the driving population will have on traffic accident safety, it is clear that accidents with senior citizens can have devastating consequences. Elderly drivers need to make sure that they are cognizant of their own abilities and limitations and need to make informed choices about when it is time to stop driving.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in the Portland area, contact Zbinden & Curtis. Call (503) 287-5000 for a free case consultation.

Cognitive Distraction and Inattention Blindness Increase the Risk of Oregon Auto Accidents

Recently, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety sponsored a study on distracted driving. The Washington Post reported on the outcome of the study, which showed that drivers who have their eyes on the road may still be distracted if they are using tech devices while driving. 

Our Portland, OR car accident lawyers know that 3,331 people died and 387,000 people were hurt in distracted driving-related accidents in 2011. Efforts to curb these accidents have largely focused on stopping people from texting or talking on a cell phone unless a hands-free device is used. However, the new AAA study reveals that tech advances designed to keep driver’s eyes on the road haven’t really made people any safer.

Distracted Driving Still a Risk Despite Tech Innovations

To determine how distractions affect the ability to drive safely, researchers conducted a series of experiments using driving simulators and on-road tests. The study took place over a two-year period and groups of test subjects were fitted with caps with electrode wires. The wires recorded how the subject’s brains responded to an increasing number of distractions. When brain waves changed as a result of a distraction, a squiggly line appeared on the graph.

Based on brain activity, the study revealed that the more complicated and absorbing a task is for the driver, the greater the distraction the task caused. Furthermore, the longer the task takes to complete, the worse the problem becomes. Tasks such as having a conversation or setting a GPS destination, therefore, can take much of the brain focus away from the road for an extended period of time, making it hard to concentrate.

While it is not unexpected that distractions take focus away from the roads, some of the information found in the study was surprising to researchers. First and foremost, it came as a surprise that technology intended to make texting safer while driving is not very effective. In fact, when drivers interacted with a speech-to-text system on their cell phones, this actually created the most cognitive distraction of any of the activities. Because of this result, researchers believe that using voice-based systems in vehicles could actually have the unintended consequence of making traffic safety worse.

The study outcome also highlighted two major issues: cognitive distraction and inattention blindness. A cognitive distraction is something that a driver may not even be aware of. The driver, whose brain is focused on something besides the road, could run through a red light or a stop sign and be totally and completely unaware of a cognitive distraction. In these cases, the driver might indicate he never saw the light or sign.

Inattention blindness is a related problem wherein a driver sees something but what he sees does not register in his brain.  For example, a driver might see a red light but will not react to it because the brain is focused on something else. This problem means that it can take much longer for a distracted driver to react appropriately, such as by swerving to avoid an accident or braking at a light.

The study thus highlighted some new and serious risks associated with distracted driving. If you are out in your vehicle, you should not assume that you are safe to use your phone to text or talk just because you use voice-control or hands-free devices. You still increase your accident risk and could put your own health and safety, as well as the health of others on the road, in jeopardy.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in the Portland area, contact Zbinden & Curtis. Call (503) 287-5000 for a free case evaluation.