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States with strict distracted driving laws have fewer teen crash fatalities

Portland auto accident attorney

Distracted driving is everywhere on Portland roads. With the advent of handheld technology, it has become a growing danger to the lives of everyone on the road. In fact, 2,841 traffic fatalities and about 400,000 injuries occurred throughout the United States during 2018 because of distracted driving.

Since teen drivers don’t have years of driving experience, they are the most at risk of being involved in serious and fatal crashes. In fact, the CDC reports that crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers. According to the NHTSA, teen drivers are more likely than any other age group to use cellphones or text while driving.

Do distracted driving laws work?

Recently, a study was conducted by Michael R.  Flaherty from the Mass General Hospital for Children in Boston, Massachusetts. The study, which is titled Distracted Driving Laws and Motor Vehicle Crash Fatalities, was published in the Pediatrics journal in June of this year.

The study found that from 2007-2017, fewer fatal crashes involving teen drivers were reported in states that enforced strict distracted driving laws. In 2007, only 15 states had any kind of distracted driving law in place. That number grew to 47 by 2017.

Researchers first analyzed 38,215 crashes involving teens ages 16-19 during that 10-year period. The states that enacted primary distracted driving laws saw the largest decreases in the teen crash fatality rate. These states allow police officers to pull over drivers solely for texting and driving or using cellphones while driving.

The states that enacted secondary distracted driving laws saw only slight decreases in the teen crash fatality rate, but did better than states without any distracted driving laws. In these states, police are not allowed to pull over drivers for texting and driving or using cellphones. They can cite drivers for using cellphones only after pulling them over for other infractions.

Oregon is one of many states that has a handheld ban for all drivers (except school bus drivers) and enforces it as a primary law.

What should I do if I was injured in a distracted driving crash?

If you were injured in a crash involving a distracted driver, don’t hesitate to get an experienced Portland car accident attorney on your side who can help you get the justice you deserve.

The attorneys at Zbinden & Curtis can investigate your distracted driving crash by obtaining a police report, speaking to witnesses, obtaining any available surveillance or dash cam footage, or getting a subpoena for cellphone records.

We can also help you recover all economic and non-economic damages that you’re entitled to. To schedule your free case evaluation, simply fill out our contact form.

Marijuana is the leading substance found in drug tests administered to truck drivers

Portland truck accident attorney

Like a small handful of states, it is legal to possess marijuana for recreational use in Oregon. It’s illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana, as well as alcohol and other recreational drugs. Commercial truck drivers are especially held to a high standard.

While many truck drivers generally behave responsibly, there are some that bend the rules. If they don’t get caught by police or face disciplinary action from the companies that employ them, they could put countless lives in danger.

Operating a large commercial truck isn’t the same as driving a car. It takes far more skill, attentiveness, judgment and control, all of which can be impaired by marijuana.

How many truckers smoke pot?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently released a report that found that marijuana was the most common substance found in drug tests administered to truck drivers.

The test results reported in the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse were from drug tests administered to truck drivers from September 2019 to May 2020. The report also provides the names of truck drivers who have failed drug tests in real time.

During that testing period, 19,849 truck drivers tested positive for at least one substance. In total, 21,156 substances were identified in the tests, meaning that some drivers tested positive for more than one substance.

Marijuana was the most common substance found in the tests, amounting to 10,388 drivers who tested positive for it. The second most common substance found was cocaine (3,192 positive) and the third was methamphetamine (2,184 positive).

The legalization of marijuana and the widespread use of CBD products makes it more likely that truck drivers will test positive, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That’s because many CBD products contain THC, the psychoactive component to marijuana.

Contact our Portland law firm if you were hurt in a truck crash

There is no excuse for operating a large truck while under the influence of marijuana or any other substance that causes impairment. When truck drivers break the law and endanger others they can be held accountable.

Truck accident claims aren’t easy to pursue, however. Trucking companies may go to great lengths to cover up any wrongdoing on part of their drivers. In addition, the insurance companies that represent them will use every trick in the book to avoid losing money, including offering a small settlement that only pays a fraction of your losses.

If you or a loved one was hurt in a truck crash, get an experienced Portland attorney on your side who knows how to take on the trucking companies and their insurers. Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys at Law will fight to help you and your family get compensated for every penny owed to you.

To learn how, contact us online. We offer free case evaluations.

 

Safety advocates offer tips on safe driving as Oregon loosens COVID-19 restrictions

Portland auto accident attorney

Most of Oregon will be entering Phase II of Governor Kate Brown’s reopening plan. Portland and the rest of Multnomah County are about to enter Phase I, according to the East Oregonian. For the counties entering Phase II, the following businesses and activities have resumed under social distancing and public health guidelines:

  • Recreational sports
  • Movie theaters, bowling alleys and arcades
  • Public pools
  • Churches and social gatherings
  • Bars and restaurants will be allowed to stay open until midnight
  • Additional in-office work

As we discussed in April, COVID-19 has led to an increase in speeding on Oregon roads. As Oregon starts to transition back to normal, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) warns that driving conditions could be dangerous. The primary reasons for this are:

  • An increase in traffic congestion: As businesses open and activities start to resume, people will travel more often. Traffic congestion could be even greater than it was prior to COVID-19. That’s because more people will be using their own cars to get around and avoid using public transit or Uber. This can be problematic, as some drivers who have developed the habit of speeding start to mix with others on the road.
  • Drunk driving could increase: As bars and restaurants start to reopen, people who have been pent up in their homes for months will want to get out and consume alcohol. This could lead an increase in drunk driving. With 4th of July coming within weeks, we could see a sharp increase.

Staying safe on the road

Many people who haven’t driven while in quarantine need to brush up their driving skills. Moreover, collisions can be avoided by merely being alert, aware, sober and traveling at a reasonable pace.

Those who haven’t driven for essential purposes such as work, getting groceries, or attending medical appointments, should brush up on their driving skills as we transition back to normal. In addition, it’s important to use caution and defensive driving skills on the road.

Should you or a loved one be injured in a crash caused by someone else’s negligence, it’s important to speak to an experienced Portland car accident attorney who can help you build a strong legal claim and get the compensation you need.

To get started, contact Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys At Law, and schedule your free and confidential case evaluation. You can also call our Portland office at 503-287-5000.

Safety tips for bicyclists during COVID-19

Portland bicycle accident attorney

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the health and financial well-being of Portland residents. We are all currently unsure if what we once considered normal will ever return.

One thing that has come out of this pandemic is a rise in bicyclists. According to Bloomberg, more Americans are purchasing bicycles now than ever. This rise in bicycle sales may be happening for these reasons:

  • People are turning to cycling while gyms and fitness clubs are closed.
  • Children are out of school until September and will likely not partake in extracurricular activities any time soon.
  • Commuters may want to avoid crowded buses and train stations.

Safety first

While it’s great to see more people getting around by bicycle, it’s important that safety precautions are taken when sharing the road with cars and trucks.

AAA has offered some tips on how bicyclists can avoid being injured. These include:

  • The basic safety precautions: Bicyclists are vulnerable on the road. Unlike motorists, they are not protected by seatbelts and airbags. Moreover, drivers don’t always see or acknowledge bicyclists. These safety precautions can significantly reduce your chances of being involved in a crash:
    • Be aware of your surroundings
    • Make yourself visible by wearing bright clothing (wear reflective devices at night)
    • Stay in a single file with other bicyclists
    • Never ride against traffic. Stay on the right side of the road and ride in the direction of traffic.
    • Avoid areas with heavy traffic unless you have a protected bike lane.
  • The use of hand signals: Hand signals work the same way as turn signals in cars. They tell other road users which direction you intend to travel. The NHTSA offers some information on how hand signals work for bicyclists:
    • Turning left: Extend your left arm and hand out.
    • Turning right: Either bend your left arm into an L shape or extend your right arm and hand out.
    • Slowing down or stopping: Bend or your left or right arm in an L shape with your hand pointing downward.
  • Awareness of roadway hazards: Be sure to watch out for potholes, large cracks, debris in the road, downed tree branches, large puddles, slick surfaces, and uneven surfaces.

What if I get in a bicycle crash?

A bicycle crash can happen in an instant and can result in serious injuries including broken bones, traumatic brain injury, as well as cuts, bruises, and contusions. If the reckless actions of a driver caused your injuries, it’s critical that you get compensated for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.

Don’t count on the driver’s insurance company to pay you in full, however. In order to ensure that an accurate value is placed on your claim, you need an experienced Portland bicycle crash attorney on your side.

Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys At Law can negotiate with the insurance companies to do the right thing and compensate you to the fullest extent. To schedule your free case evaluation, contact us online or call our Portland office at (503) 287-5000.

With less drivers on Oregon roads during stay-at-home, police pull over more people speeding

Portland auto accident attorney

In March, Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued a statewide stay-at-home order (Executive Order 20-12) to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As a result, several businesses, state parks, and other places where people congregate were required to close their doors.

The stay-at-home order doesn’t necessarily mean all residents must stay home. Some people still go to the grocery store to get food and go to work. We may not see the congested roadways we once saw throughout Portland, but the lack of traffic congestion may present its own risk, according to a KATU 2 story.

Speeding becomes a growing danger on empty Oregon roads

More speeders have been spotted by law enforcement. According to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, some drivers were traveling at speeds of 100 mph or more. One speed-related crash resulted in a serious injury that required one person to be airlifted to a nearby hospital.

“Naturally, congestion tends to actually slow traffic down for us. And with the roads being so open I think it’s easy for people to lose the focus they have on the road and move a little bit quicker,” said Sgt. Jeremy Landers.

While police are issuing fewer tickets, most of the citations they are issuing are speed-related. Landers explains how the increase in speeding can potentially tie up the hospitals for COVID-19 patients.

“With increased speed comes the increased risk of injury and that can result in putting more burden on our strained hospitals systems, and divert attention that our medical workers have on other issues right now,” he said.

Why is speeding so dangerous?

Some drivers get over-confident. They think that just because the road is wide open that they can violate the speed limit without any consequences.

Those who drive too fast are rarely ever prepared for potential crash risks. A speeding driver could hit a driver obeying the speed limit or exiting a shoulder on a major highway. That’s because speeding results in:

  • Loss of vehicle control
  • Less time and distance to stop
  • Increased damage capability in the crash

According to the NHTSA, more than 9,000 people were killed in speed-related crashes across the United States in 2018. Approximately 110 speed-related fatalities happened in Oregon.

How can a lawyer help me if I was injured in an accident?

If you were involved in a crash with a driver who was speeding, you have the right to pursue compensation for any medical expenses, wage loss, pain, suffering or other damages accrued.

It’s critical that you consult with an experienced Portland car accident attorney who can help you weigh your legal options. Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys at Law has built a solid reputation for successfully advocating on behalf of crash victims and their families. Contact us online or call our Portland office at (503) 287-5000 to get started. Our case evaluations are confidential and free of charge.

How often do cars crash into buildings and injure or kill pedestrians? More than you think.

Portland auto accident attorney

The possibility of being hit by a car while inside a building rarely crosses anyone’s mind. We tend to think that pedestrian accidents can only occur while walking down the street, using a crosswalk, or while crossing at an intersection.

Crash data compiled by the Storefront Safety Council (SSC) shows that an average of 60 cars crash into buildings each day across the United States. These types of crashes may cause up to 500 fatalities and 4,000 injuries each year.

Here are some local incidents recently reported:

  • In February, the driver of a pickup truck crashed into a Little Ceasar’s pizza restaurant in Portland, according to The Oregonian. The crash resulted in traffic being halted and a gas line being shut down due to a gas leak. The driver sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was treated at a nearby hospital. No other injuries were reported. Officials were unsure what caused the crash.
  • Only days before the pickup truck crash, a Tesla car malfunctioned and crashed into a building in Woodland, according to KOIN. The driver sustained minor injuries, but no other injuries were reported.
  • In early March, a driver crashed into a Red Robin restaurant in Clackamas, according to KOIN. The driver reportedly hit the gas instead of the brakes. One family was seated near the window where the crash occurred. They barely escaped being struck. Several customers were hit by debris and sustained minor injuries. Nobody was taken to the hospital, however.

Cars into buildings crash causes

According to the SSC, driver error is the number one cause of crashes involving cars and buildings, accounting for roughly 22 percent of all incidents. This often includes distracted driving, speeding, aggressive driving, and drowsy driving.

Pedal errors account for 19 percent of all incidents (as what happened at the Red Robin in Clackamas). This happens when a driver mistakes the gas pedal for the brakes.

Other common causes include drunk or drugged driving (16 percent of all incidents), traffic collisions (10 percent), medical events (9 percent), ramraid burglaries (6 percent). Other causes not mentioned by the SSC could include slippery road conditions and car defects (such as brake failure, wheel detachment, and steering wheel issues).

Which buildings are most at risk?

About 35 percent of all crashes into buildings involve retail stores, according to the SSC. In addition:

  • 28% occur in restaurants
  • 16% occur in commercial buildings
  • 13% occur in offices
  • 8% occur in convenience stores

Many of these buildings aren’t protected by barriers and bollards. In addition, drivers are able to park directly in front of areas where windows and doors are located. This increases the risk of a car-building crash due to a pedal error.

If you or a loved one sustained injuries while inside of a building, the Portland pedestrian accident attorneys at Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys at Law can help you pursue justice. We know that pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users, even when inside of buildings. Our legal team can help you recover all damages owed to you, including medical expenses and lost wages.

Contact us online to schedule your free case evaluation.

Portland may soon have the authority to establish its own speed limits

Portland auto accident attorney

As of January 1, 2020, cities across Oregon were granted the authority to lower speed limits by five mph on highways located in residential districts (not including arterial highways). The authority for cities to set speed limits is still limited, however.

The Oregon Joint Committee on Transportation recently voted 10-2 on House Bill 4103, which would authorize the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to allow cities and counties to establish their own speed limits.

How will the speed limits in Portland be impacted?

HB 4103 was introduced as a continuation of HB 2702, which was ushered in by House Representative Rob Nosse (D-Southeast Portland) in 2019. That bill would have given Portland the authority to set its own highway speed limits, but it never made it out of the committee. HB 2702 was influenced by the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s ongoing efforts to reduce the speed limit throughout the city.

“In a big city like mine, where there are more and more people, more and more cars, more traffic — the local jurisdiction needs to be the one to take responsibility for figuring out how fast someone should be allowed to drive,” said Nosse. “I believe we should be setting the speed limit based on how fast motorists should be driving in dense urban neighborhoods, not on how fast people want to drive.”

The efforts of lawmakers is a response to ODOT’s inefficient and ineffective approach to addressing speed limit changes. It can currently take ODOT up to nine months to respond to a speed limit change request. That’s because the agency determines “safe” speed limits on the 85th percentile speed drivers are traveling. Portland has been advocating for the authority to promptly set its own speed limits (independent of ODOT) for more than a decade.

Lawmakers will vote on HB 4103 in March. If it becomes law, it will become effective on October 1, 2020. It will apply to only two counties: Lane and Multnomah (home of Portland).

Why are high speed limits a problem in Portland?

Oregon has seen a four percent increase in traffic fatalities from 2018-2019, according to the National Safety Council. In 2019, approximately 489 people were killed in traffic collisions in the Beaver State. Speed is one of the leading factors in fatal crashes.

Higher speed limits encourage drivers to travel faster. This not only increases the likelihood of a crash being serious or deadly, but it also gives drivers less time to avoid a collision entirely. In dense cities like Portland, pedestrians and bicyclists are especially at risk. Lowering the speed limits in Portland will likely help reduce the number of serious and fatal crashes that happen throughout our city.

If you or a loved one was hurt in a crash caused by a speeding driver. The car accident attorneys at Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys At Law can help you take legal actions. We have been serving clients in the Portland area for more than 30 years. Contact us online to set up your free case evaluation with one of our attorneys.

To what extent is a collision an accident?

Portland bicycle accident attorney

We all know why crashes occur in Portland. Drivers distracted by cellphones. Drivers under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Drivers speeding, weaving through traffic, tailgating, and attempting risky maneuvers. Some drivers even knowingly get behind the wheel when they are at risk of falling asleep.

These actions are not accidents. They are consequences of decisions some drivers make that often lead to serious and fatal crashes. When media outlets report crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists, the language often insinuates that driver error was only a factor to an extent, however.

In fact, some safety advocates blame subtle media reporting for the lack of public outcry. The term “accident” often mitigates the meaning of human error, and thus, contributes to a culture of inevitability rather than preventability.

A study IDs how media reporting shapes our driving culture

The concerns of safety advocates are reinforced in a 2019 study conducted by researchers at Rutgers University, Arizona State University, and Texas A&M University. The researchers collected more than 4,000 news articles pertaining to pedestrian and bicyclist crashes.

The study authors coined the term “vulnerable road users” (VRUs) in regard to pedestrians and bicyclists. The purpose of the study was to identify how language can subtly apportion fault in crashes and convey them as either preventable or inevitable.

After analyzing 200 news articles, the term “accident” was found in:

  • 47 percent of body text sentences
  • 11 percent of titles

Most titles were found to use sentence types such as “a VRU was hit by a car” or just “a VRU was hit.” The most common body text sentence types identified in the study include: “a VRU was hit by a car,” “a VRU was hit,” and “a car hit a VRU.”

Sentence types such as “a driver hit a VRU” or “a VRU was hit by a driver” were seldom used. Researchers also found that poorly designed road infrastructure was rarely cited when reporting crashes involving VRUs.

A shift in reporting crashes

In order to better address VRU crashes as a public safety issue, the study authors have urged journalists to take a slightly different approach to reporting crashes.

“Coverage almost always treats crashes as isolated incidents, obscuring the public health nature of the problem. This pattern of coverage likely contributes to the limited public outcry about pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities,” said the study. “Journalists can counteract these patterns by subtly altering their coverage. Planners can assist these efforts by making their expertise readily available to journalists. These simple changes would help the public identify links between seemingly isolated events and increase public pressure to reduce road deaths.”

Our driving culture needs an overhaul. Drivers who knowingly endanger other road users should be held accountable when they cause someone’s injury or death. That’s why for more than three decades, the Portland attorneys at Zbinden & Curtis have devoted themselves to helping injured pedestrians and bicyclists pursue justice.

If you were hurt in a crash with a negligent driver, you may be entitled to compensation. To learn how, contact us online and schedule your free case evaluation today.

Whay Was 2019 The Worst Year Since 1997 for Portland Traffic Fatalities?

Portland auto accident attorney

Distracted driving, reckless driving, drunk driving, and other factors continue to seriously injure and kill people on Portland roads. Why was this past year particularly bad?

One crash victim, who was on a motor scooter, became the 37th person to be killed on Portland streets in 2019. After the driver of an SUV made a negligent left turn, crashing into her head-on, she was taken to a nearby hospital, but succumbed to her injuries while undergoing surgery. A relative of the crash victim described her has being the “safest person in the scooter club.”

The fatal crash happened late in August, but is still under investigation.

How many more lives will be lost?

For the remainder of 2019, another dozen traffic fatalities occurred across Portland — making it the city’s most fatal year since 1997. With only days away from the new year, the death toll for this year is at 48. This comes after the city saw a decline in traffic fatalities in 2018, when the city began seeing the results of its Vision Zero campaign.

“Our hope is that it’s an anomaly,” said Bureau Director Chris Warner. “But we are making a lot of investments.”

Warner also gets around on a motorized scooter and regularly scans the city’s crash sites to see what could be done to prevent further fatalities.

“It’s just a daily reminder that our work never stops,” he said.

In 2020, city officials plan on making infrastructural changes to wide, hazardous streets in some areas. To better protect motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists, the city will add center medians, pedestrian crossing beacons, and protected bike lanes. In addition, they will make changes to reduce the number of dangerous left-turns.

Portland’s transportation department — who is notified by investigators when a traffic fatality occurs — has been ordered to temporarily place electronic message boards near the site of each fatal crash to capture the attention of all road users. Road design flaws and engineering defects are noted at the site of a fatal crash. Transportation officials also look for crash trends dating back 5-10 years in high-risk areas.

Improvements have been made, but more work needs to be done

So far, the city has reduced its speed limits on certain streets to 20 mph, and on dangerous high-speed roadways to 40 mph. Safety advocates say that more needs to be done, and it shows in the number of traffic fatalities reported each year. While the numbers fluctuate, Portland has been on an upward decline from less than 20 in 2008 to 48 in 2019. There have been significant dips in road deaths in 2014 (less than 25) and 2018 (less than 35).

If you were hurt in a crash, or lost a loved one, because of a motorist’s reckless behavior, don’t hesitate to take action. You are well within your rights to pursue a car accident claim and recover all economic and non-economic damages owed to you.

The Portland attorneys at Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys At Law can help you through the process. For more than three decades, we have dedicated ourselves to fighting for the rights of crash victims in the Portland area. To find out what we can do for you, contact us online.

Drunk Driving Crashes Will Increase From Thanksgiving Eve to New Year’s Day

Portland auto accident attorney

It’s known as the biggest drinking day of the year, Blackout Wednesday. Some people refer to it as “Thanksgiving Eve” or “Drinksgiving.” It’s the day that many Portland-area residents clock out of work early and kick off the holiday season.

Blackout Wednesday is a chance for old-time friends to go out to bars and pubs before spending the holiday with family. Of course, it usually involves heavy drinking that can spill over onto Portland roadways. Research concludes that on Blackout Wednesday, beer sales spike by 270 percent and liquor sales by 114 percent.

According to statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 800 people were killed on U.S. roads during the Thanksgiving period from 2012-2016. The Thanksgiving period runs from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 5:59 a.m. Monday.

The danger still persists after Thanksgiving Day

So the Thanksgiving period has passed. If you think the elevated drunk driving risk is behind us, think again. Throughout the entire month of December, people still tend to drink more than usual. In fact, drinking is often an integral part of many family gatherings, holiday work parties, and other holiday celebrations.

According to Alcohol.org, it’s quite common for adults to drink during the holiday season. For some, it adds social value to holiday get-togethers. For others, it’s a mechanism to cope with the holiday stress of shopping, planning, preparing, and traveling.

When drinking becomes a threat to other drivers on the road

Holiday drinking, however, becomes a threat to public safety when someone feels confident enough to get behind the wheel. No matter how sharp someone’s driving skills may be when they’re sober, it’s nearly impossible to maintain control behind the wheel while impaired by alcohol.

It doesn’t take much alcohol consumption to experience some level of impairment. According to an article in verywellmind, impairment can start at a BAC level as low as 0.02 percent. While it’s perfectly legal to operate a motor vehicle, drivers may experience some relaxation and minor loss of judgment. When combined with distracted driving, drowsiness, or recklessness, a BAC level of 0.02 percent can contribute to the likelihood of a serious crash.

At a BAC level of 0.05 percent, a driver’s impairment may become more profound. This includes:

  • Loss of small muscle control
  • Impaired ability to focus eye quickly
  • Impaired judgment
  • Decline in alertness and attentiveness

Currently, the BAC limit in Oregon is 0.08 percent. At this level, drivers can be pulled over and arrested. While police will be out in full force looking for drunk drivers, many of them will, unfortunately, go unnoticed. Some may make it home safely, but others will cause someone’s injury or death on the road. The risk isn’t worth taking.

If you or a loved one is hurt in a crash this holiday season, it’s important that you take legal action. The attorneys at Zbinden & Curtis see the devastation drunk driving causes. A fun and joyful holiday celebration can quickly turn into a catastrophe.

That’s why we’re dedicated to helping crash victims and their families in the pursuit of justice. We’ll fight to hold negligent drivers accountable and work tirelessly to maximize your compensation. To schedule your free case evaluation with our legal team, contact us online.