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Oregon Attorney Discusses the Dangers of Motorcycle Lane Splitting

Portland motorcycle accident attorneyA new motorcycle lane-splitting bill, House Bill 2314, has picked up speed with Oregon lawmakers. Support for the bill was garnered amid a 2015 study conducted by researchers from the University of California-Berkeley.

The study concluded that motorcyclists could safely ride between lanes on highways with speed limits of 50 mph or more – as long as they don’t exceed the speed of parallel traffic by more than 15 mph. In addition, bi-partisan supporters suggest that lane-splitting increase road safety and reduce traffic congestion.

Currently, California is the only state that allows lane-splitting. If HB2314 becomes law, it would allow motorcyclists to travel between lanes only when traffic slows down below 10 mph on roads with speed limits more than 50 mph. In addition, motorcyclists would only be allowed to travel 10 mph faster than traffic.

Similar bills were proposed in 2015 and 2017. Both bills, which were sponsored by only six lawmakers, died in House committee.

Opposition to the bill

According to opponents, the law would be “unenforceable” and could potentially result in the following problems:

  • Motorcyclists speeding through traffic
  • Rear-end collisions
  • Lane-departure accidents when motor vehicles change lanes

Dylan Rivera, a Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesman, cites a rise in motorcycle accidents over the past few years. In 2018 alone, approximately 77 motorcyclists lost their lives throughout the state of Oregon. In Portland, roughly a quarter of the 34 road deaths involved motorcyclists.

“If lane-splitting becomes legal on state highways, we are concerned that it would spill over to city streets – especially since the bill does not include any way to educate the public about this change,” said Rivera.

Troy Costales, Oregon Department of Transportation safety administrator, also showed opposition to the bill, citing statewide crash data between 2015-2017. Out of 3,081 statewide motorcycle accidents, approximately 2,610 resulted in injuries and 168 resulted in death. In addition, 12 of the motorcycle deaths were caused by rear-end collisions – nine of which involved motorcycles striking vehicles from behind.

Your legal options in a motorcycle crash

Motorcycle accidents are a serious matter. With limited protection, motorcyclists often sustain severe and life-threatening injuries – primarily due to the reckless and inattentive actions of motor vehicle drivers.

In the event of a motorcycle accident, crash victims are within their right to pursue compensation for medical expenses and other financial losses accrued. An experienced litigator at Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys At Law know how to handle motorcycle accidents and get results.

Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation, case evaluation.

Oregon Attorney Discusses Marijuana Use and Impaired Driving

Portland auto accident attorneyThe cannabis industry has taken hold of many parts of the United States, including here in Portland. Marijuana is now legal in 33 states for medical use and 10 states for recreational use. 

If used irresponsibly, it can carry risksespecially when users get behind the wheel. This problem is more common than you might think — at any given moment, you could be sharing the road with someone who is under the influence of marijuana. 

The prevalence of impaired driving

Researchers from the University of Michigan Addiction Center conducted a survey of Michigan adults seeking to obtain medical marijuana certification or recertification in 2014 and 2015. The study found that about one in five medical marijuana patients reported driving under the influence of cannabis within the past six months.  

Out of all respondents in the study: 

  • 56 percent said they have driven within two hours of using cannabis 
  • 51 percent reported that they had driven while mildly high 
  • 21 percent reported that they had driven while very high 

According to The Verge, studies surrounding traffic accident trends in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use have shown an increase in fatalities by one additional death per one million people.  

Additionally, neighboring states that haven’t legalized recreational cannabis have experienced an increase in traffic fatalities within the first six months of legalization. The fatality rate dropped back down to usual levels after the first year. 

As research suggests, a temporary spike in road deaths after marijuana legalization may be due to new users being inexperienced with using cannabis. Many users may simply underestimate the potency of cannabis products before getting behind the wheel. 

Holding negligent drivers accountable

Until further research is done, there is currently not enough available data suggesting that marijuana legalization has a profound impact on car accidents. There is also no current method available to determine if someone is driving under the influence of cannabis. After an accident occurs, police may be able to determine intoxication by administering a blood test. 

What we do know is the THC found in cannabis can impact drivers’ motor functions, judgment, reaction time, concept of distance and time, and may even cause drowsiness. 

If you or a loved one was injured in a crash with an impaired driver, contact Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys At Law to discuss the legal options available to you. 

Oregon Attorney Discusses Winter Driving Risks

Portland auto accident attorneyIt may not snow as much in Portland as in Chicago or New York City, but drivers must still be prepared when it does. This is especially true for people living in or visiting the mountainous regions of Oregon, where it snows much more often. Snow and ice reduce a vehicle’s traction and maneuverability, causing slower speeds, reduced roadway capacity, and an increased chance of being involved in a crash.

Understanding the risks

Winter weather can slow down traffic by over 30 percent and severely limit visibility. It is common for vehicles, especially smaller cars, to skid and fishtail. Lanes can be obstructed by snowbanks and debris, which can be even more dangerous if drivers can’t see them from a distance. After a storm, melting snow can become slush and refreeze, creating more ice. Vehicle crashes in these conditions account for nearly 900 deaths and nearly 76,000 injuries annually.

How to be prepared

By being aware of the weather forecast in the winter, you can prepare yourself for the commute. If possible, stay home when a storm passes through. If that isn’t an option, then you should know how to stay safe. Besides checking the weather, have a mechanic check the following vehicle systems before heading out on the road:

  • Ignition
  • Brakes
  • Wiring
  • Hoses and fan belts
  • Spark plugs
  • Air, fuel and emissions filters, and PCV valve
  • Distributor
  • Battery
  • Tire wear and air pressure
  • Antifreeze level and freeze line

If your vehicle breaks down or is disabled in any other way, do not abandon it. If you have flares, light them in front and behind the car and make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow, mud or any other object. Along with flares, consider bringing a shovel, high energy foods, a first aid kit, and other supplies to help you if you get stuck in an unfamiliar place.

When driving in the snow, be cautious. That means not using cruise control, slowly changing speeds, and giving more distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. Anti-lock brakes and traction control can help you keep control of your vehicle. Both technologies are standard in most new vehicles.

Taking Action After a Crash

Even if you take every precaution to reduce your risk of an accident when driving in winter weather, other drivers may be inexperienced or careless. If you are injured in a car accident due to snow or ice, you may be entitled to compensation, but such compensation is not always guaranteed. It is 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.

Auto Accidents and Traumatic Brain Injuries, Portland Attorney Discusses

Portland auto accident attorneyHead injuries are a common occurrence in Portland auto accidents, but they shouldn’t be taken lightly. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is more than just a bump on the head. It causes your brain to slosh against the inside of your skull. Even if you seem fine immediately after a crash, a TBI can cause damage to the brain tissue and blood vessels.  

Crash-related TBIs are most commonly attributed to: 

  • Head-on collisions 
  • Rear-end collisions 
  • Side-impact crashes 
  • Rollover accidents 
  • Single-vehicle collisions with stationary objects 

How to identify a TBI

Recovery time from TBI can vary from one person to the next. In many cases, recovery can take months or years. And too many brain injuries never truly heal. TBI symptoms often include: 

  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Confusion and disorientation 
  • Loss of memory 
  • Severe headaches 
  • Fatigue or drowsiness 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Problems with communication 

Unlike most injuries, many brain injury victims never make a full recovery. Once damaged, some brain tissue and neurons will never regenerate, resulting in permanent complications.  

The most common types of TBIs include, but are not limited to:

  • Coup-contrecoup brain injury: When a serious accident occurs, the brain hits the inner lining of the skull on the opposite side of impact. 
  • Concussions: In comparison to coup-contrecoup brain injuries, concussions are relatively mild – but there is no such thing as a truly minor brain injury. If left untreated, concussions can result in lifelong complications.  
  • Brain contusion: When a concussion or other type of brain injury occurs, it may accompany bleeding under the skin. In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove a brain contusion. 
  • Diffuse axonal injury: This type of TBI happens the same way as a concussion, but the injury is often much worse. 
  • Second impact syndrome: This occurs when a second TBI is sustained before the first has healed. The damage can be far worse, even life-threatening.  
  • Penetrating injury: Debris that is propelled during a crash, or parts of your own vehicle, can cause a penetrating injury. In this type of TBI, severe bleeding can occur.  

Take action immediately

TBIs are no laughing matter. If you have sustained one in an auto accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you are urged to seek immediate medical attention. Even if you feel fine, your TBI can worsen without treatment. Additionally, you may be faced with lifelong brain damage that can hinder your ability to engage in everyday activities. Even if you make a full recovery, you may experience a lifetime of mental and emotional trauma. 

Treatment for a TBI can be expensive. If you are unable to attend work and make ends meet, the aftermath of a single auto accident can take a devastating toll on your life. If you were injured in a crash, you need an experienced Portland auto accident attorney on your side who can help make things right. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation. 

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 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 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.