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St. Louis Legal Issues Blog

Fatigue and workers' compensation claims

Fatigue at work is a common culprit for many workplace injuries in Missouri. A survey by the National Safety Council found that 69 percent of those surveyed felt fatigued at work.

Workers employed doing shift work where safety is a critical factor are most at risk for fatigue-related injuries. Another survey found that 97 percent of employers in the transportation industry realized that fatigue is a serious concern. Workers in the transportation industry cited long shifts and sleep loss as risk factors.

NHTSA: 2017 crash data shows worrying trend for large trucks

Missouri motorists may be interested in roadway safety data that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has collected from 2017. While the car crash death rate went down last year, the fatality rate for large truck crashes went up. As the sole negative trend, it deserves special attention.

Large truck crashes led to 9 percent more deaths in 2017 (4,761) than in 2016 (4,369). Multi-vehicle accidents involving large trucks went up 8.8 percent.

Car safety tech is backfiring on uninformed drivers

Missouri residents are aware that there are car safety features that can help prevent accidents by, for example, warning drivers to obstacles when backing up or changing lanes. According to federal estimates, driver assistance systems can cut down on car accidents by 40 percent and accident-related deaths by 30 percent. Yet more and more drivers are overestimating the abilities of these systems.

This is the conclusion of a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The study found that 80 percent of drivers with blind-spot monitoring are unaware of its limited ability to identify fast-approaching cars, bicyclists and pedestrians. 20 percent do not look for oncoming cars when changing lanes because of their trust in their technology.

Understanding construction site car accidents

A variety of factors can contribute to the severity of a car crash. One recent fatal crash involved six people sustaining injuries, and part of the severity involved the vehicle driving over a patch of loose dirt and gravel, which was there from recent construction. 

Drivers need to remain vigilant at all times when operating vehicles. However, that vigilance becomes even more important when driving through a construction area. While these sites can catch drivers off-guard, it is vital to anticipate them and know precisely how to react to avoid a dangerous crash.

Car accident spike linked to always connected mobile workforce

For many people in Missouri and other parts of the country, the work day is no longer confined to an office. It's becoming increasingly commonplace for employees to remain connected with co-workers, supervisors, bosses, clients, leads and customers via smartphones while on the road. According to results detailed in the 2018 Distracted Driving Report, the increase in the so-called "mobile workforce" correlates with an increase in vehicle accident rates.

The report found that as smartphone ownership spiked 22 percent over a four-year period, the number of car accidents increased by more than 12 percent during the same time period. Additional data compiled by a company that makes a mileage tracking app shows that mobile workers drive more frequently than the typical American driver does. They determined that employees who stay connected while on the road travel approximately 12,000 distracted miles per year. The link between smartphone ownership and car accidents has resulted in an increase in property damage, injuries and fatalities from distracted driving based on results from available data.

Large-scale inspection puts thousands of trucks out of service

Some Missouri drivers may be a bit concerned when they have to share the road with trucks and other larger vehicles. Normally, there's nothing to worry about if such vehicles are well-maintained and the drivers are following rules specific to their industry. However, the results of an inspection blitz spearheaded by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance suggest drivers of smaller vehicles may have cause for concern. During a three-day period June 5-7, nearly 70,000 roadside inspections were conducted and 11,000-plus trucks and buses and nearly 3,000 drivers were taken out of service.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance periodically conducts roadside inspection sprees as part of efforts to reduce truck accidents and improve overall safety for other motorists and pedestrians. Just over 20 percent of the trucks that underwent level I inspections ended up being placed out of service. Following level II and III inspections, nearly 4 percent of drivers were kept off the road because of the results. Problems with brake systems was the No. 1 problem for out-of-service trucks.

FMCSA proposes changes to hours-of-service rules for truckers

The hours-of-service rules set up by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have been controversial for some truck drivers and fleet owners in Missouri. However, the FMCSA announced in August 2018 that it may revise some of the rules. Now it is seeking input on these proposals, even holding public listening sessions in various locations. Below are the proposed changes.

The 100 air-mile short-haul exemption may be expanded from 12 hours on duty to 14. This is to make the regulation consistent with the rule for long-haul drivers. The FMCSA may also allow truckers who face adverse driving conditions to go up to two hours over the current limit of 14 on-duty hours.

Drivers say worry distracts them more than cellphones

Two studies suggest that motorists in Missouri and around the country have heightened concerns about distracted drivers. Almost two-thirds of the drivers polled by the Swedish car maker Volvo and a research company said that distraction behind the wheel worried them more than intoxication, but the studies also reveal that an alarming number of the respondents were frequently guilty of this reckless behavior themselves.

While cellphones are often portrayed as the leading cause of distracted driving, the overwhelming majority of the motorists surveyed said that driving while worried was their biggest problem. Only 43 percent of the respondents cited cellphones as their chief distraction. Talking with passengers, tending to children and adjusting entertainment or navigation systems were also cited as common driver distractions.

Traffic fatalities may drop with rural roundabouts

Missouri drivers might be safer on roads that have roundabouts compared to those that attempt to control traffic in other ways such as with traffic lights. As part of the Vision Zero initiative, for example, North Carolina is building rural roundabouts throughout the state.

Vision Zero is a program that started in Sweden in the 1990s. It aims to eliminate all fatalities from motor vehicle accidents, and it has spread throughout the world. Traffic lights at intersections tend to reduce the number of accidents, but the ones that do occur are more like to result in severe injuries or fatalities. Roundabouts do not cut down on the number of car crashes, but they reduce the number of fatalities and serious accidents. The accidents that occur in them tend to result in only minor injuries.

How difficult is it to recover hit-and-run damages?

If another motorist hits your car in Missouri and then flees the scene, you may find it quite difficult to learn the driver’s identity, which naturally is the prerequisite for suing him or her for your injuries and/or property damage. Statistically, if neither you nor law enforcement officers can identify the driver within the first few hours after (s)he hits your vehicle, his or her identity likely will remain a mystery forever. Consequently, you need to begin identification attempts immediately.

If this hit-and-run accident happens while you are driving, do your best to overcome your shock and surprise sufficiently to look at and quickly memorize the license plate number of the perpetrator’s vehicle. Pull over and stop as quickly as you safely can and write down this number before you forget it. If you do not have paper and a pen handy, use your cellphone to text the number to a friend or family member. If you happened to notice the vehicle’s make, color, company logo or unusual bumper sticker(s), include these in your text message as well.

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