Entries in Accidents (9)


Seat Belt Use at Record High, New Report Shows

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Seatbelt use in the U.S. has reached an all time high, according to a new report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA.

Through an annual survey, the organization found that 86 percent of Americans use a seat belt when driving a car, a 2 percent increase over the previous year. Researchers also found that seat belt use has been on a consistent incline since 1994, which corresponds with a steady decrease in unrestrained vehicle passenger fatalities in the daytime.

“When it comes to driving safely, one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and your family is to use a seat belt,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Officials attribute the trend to the passage of primary seat belt laws in certain states, where authorities can issue tickets solely based on those not wearing a seat belt. A total of 32 states and the District of Columbia have passed primary laws requiring seat belt use.

There have also been rising efforts in seat belt use awareness, such as the "Click It or Ticket" initiative, a national campaign dedicated to heighten awareness among young people to wear a seat belt when in the car.

"We’ve made steady gains in belt use in recent years,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “Moving forward, it will be critical to build on this success using a multi-faceted approach that combines good laws, effective enforcement, and public education and awareness.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Report Ranks States on Drunken Driving 

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In 2009, nearly 11,000 people were killed and more than 350,000 were injured nationally in crashes involving a driver with an illegal blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater, according to the latest statistics by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This Wednesday, MADD marks the fifth anniversary of its campaign to eliminate drunken driving with a report that rates each state on its progress in eliminating drunken driving.

The Report to the Nation finds that the nation, according to each state’s average, received an overall three-star rating on a five-star scale. States earning a five-star rating include Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska and Utah. States earning one star were Michigan, Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Dakota.

“These ratings indicate which states have passed effective laws and employed effective drunken driving countermeasures, and are independent of a state’s fatality numbers,” a spokesperson for MADD said.

The report comes out just before the holiday season, when road travel is expected to be heavier, and drunken driving typically increases, according to a MADD spokesperson.

“Nationally in 2009, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, 879 people were killed by drunk drivers,” the MADD spokesperson said.

The report also finds that drunken driving costs in the U.S. are more than $132 billion annually, according to data compiled by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.

According to MADD, in the five years since the campaign was launched, fifteen states have instituted mandatory all-offender ignition interlock laws, up from only one state; all 50 states now have some form of ignition interlock law, up from 45; and advanced in-vehicle alcohol detection technology is no longer just a concept but is now in its second phase of development.

In addition, Arizona’s all-offender mandatory ignition interlock law -- requiring that an alcohol ignition interlock be installed on the vehicles on all convicted drunken drivers -- went into effect in 2007.

Since then, Arizona has seen a 46 percent reduction in drunk driving fatalities. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving calls for these types of all-offender ignition interlock laws in every state.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


‘Hero’ Hunter Was Killed by Pal, Not Grizzly

Tom Brakefield/Thinkstock(WINNEMUCCA, Nev.) -- The Nevada hunter hailed as a hero for saving his friend’s life when he distracted a wounded grizzly bear that was  attacking him wasn’t killed by the bear but by a gunshot fired by his friend, police now say.

The Montana State Crime Lab determined that Steve Stevenson, 39, of Winnemucca, Nev., died of a single gunshot to the chest.

Stevenson and Ty Bell, 20, were hunting black bear along the Montana-Idaho border when they shot what they thought was a black bear. They were tracking the wounded animal when they found it was a grizzly, and it turned on them, first attacking Bell.

Stevenson started shouting at the grizzly, trying to distract it from attacking his hunting companion, the man’s family said.

It appears that when the animal turned on Stevenson, Bell started shooting at it, and a bullet hit Stevenson in the chest, killing him, Bowe said. Officials are convinced it was an accident.

Officials are also investigating the bear’s death, since it is a crime to kill a grizzly bear.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Are Red-Light Cameras Causing Accidents?

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- It's the "Gotcha!" flash that no driver wants to see after running a red light.  And it's quickly becoming the target of critics who say the cameras may cause drivers to take desperate measures to avoid being caught on film.

Red-light cameras, designed to catch drivers who run lights and endanger others, are now the subject of significant debate because some believe they may cause more harm than good.

It is a controversy that is leading to a red-light camera backlash.  Houston has already voted them out, and now the driving capital of the world, Los Angeles, is on the verge of doing the same.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nine states have banned red-light cameras.  Several others have passed laws limiting the use of camera enforcement.

There is evidence to support both sides of the debate.  A study this year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety claims that in 14 of America's largest cities the cameras have saved 159 lives during a four-year period.

The study also said that if all 99 of the country's largest cities had them installed, 815 lives could have been saved.

On the other side of the debate are statistics that show the cameras also cause accidents.  A 2005 federal study demonstrated that while injuries from right angle or T-bone crashes decreased by 16 percent at red-light camera intersections, injuries from rear-end collisions increased by 24 percent.

The final argument in the debate in Los Angeles may have already been decided by the courts.  The courts have ruled that violations caught on a photo are unenforceable since there is no live witness to testify against an alleged offender.

Nearly half the tickets issued in Los Angeles go unpaid without consequence, leaving the city paying $1.5 million a year for unpopular, if lifesaving cameras.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


$41 Billion: Annual Cost of US Crash-Related Deaths

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Fatalities resulting from auto accidents cost $41 billion in medical costs and lost wages each year, according to a report out Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, based on deaths in 2005, found that the highest costs -- in fact, half of the overall total -- came in just 10 states: California ($4.16 billion), Texas ($3.50 billion), Florida ($3.16 billion), Georgia ($1.55 billion), Pennsylvania ($1.52 billion), North Carolina ($1.50 billion), New York ($1.33 billion), Illinois ($1.32 billion), Ohio ($1.23 billion), and Tennessee ($1.15 billion).

"Deaths from motor vehicle crashes are preventable," said the CDC's Thomas Frieden. "Seat belts, graduated driver's license programs, child safety seats, and helmet use save lives and reduce health care costs."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Few Remedies for Contractors Injured In Oil Refinery Accidents  

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- February 22, 2008, began like any other day for José Herrera. A seasoned contract pipe fitter in his late 40s, Herrera had labored in Texas refineries for two decades. The work was hard and sporadic, but on a good week, including overtime, an experienced hand like Herrera might earn $3,500, enough to provide a good life for his wife, Hortencia, and son and frequent fishing companion, José.

By late morning, Herrera and a co-worker, Aaron Salinas, had scaled a scaffold at the CITGO East refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, and were busy preparing the Crude Unit for a procedure known as a chemical wash. At 10:35 a.m., a "nipple" -- a metal piece measuring only three-quarters of an inch by 17 inches -- extending from a heat exchanger broke loose, showering the two men with 550-degree oil, a lawsuit filed by Herrera and Salinas claims.

Salinas clambered down from the scaffold, escaping with burns on his back, neck and head. Herrera wasn't as lucky. Unable to free himself from his safety harness for several minutes, he was seared badly by the oil. Someone finally cut him down, and he was airlifted to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where, for a time, doctors thought he might die. Third-degree burns covered his head, hands, and arms.

Since that day three years ago, Herrera, 50, has undergone 11 operations. Doctors rebuilt his chin, transferring layers of skin from his chest and his thighs. Scar tissue prevents him from being able to close his right eye. His body temperature is constantly out of whack. "I've been in hell," he said during a recent interview in Houston, near his home in Baytown, Texas. "I'm in pain every minute."

Adding to his woes, Herrera has fallen into a gap in the protections afforded many workers injured on the job. After racking up an estimated $200,000 in medical costs and with no income other than a modest workers' compensation check, Herrera says his money is running out. He can only fantasize about holding a job and resuming the activities he used to relish -- martial arts, dancing, fishing with his son, now 13. A photograph shows José and Hortencia at a dance, in better days. "He's not the husband I had before," she said.

Some refinery workers are killed on the spot and duly memorialized, their survivors compensated financially for expenses, and for pain and suffering. Others, like Herrera, are maimed -- their prospects dashed, their lives forever altered -- and largely forgotten. Even when authorities find fault with refineries and the contractors that keep them running, workers like Herrera can have few means of redress for their injuries.

Following the hot oil mishap in 2008, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Herrera's former employer, Corpus Christi-based Repcon Inc., for two serious violations. Repcon paid a $2,000 fine for failing to alert its employees to fire and explosion hazards; OSHA dropped the other violation, which alleged that Repcon failed to provide personal protective equipment.

OSHA also found fault with CITGO, citing it for four serious violations. The company paid a $10,000 fine for three of the violations, including failure to inspect and test the nipple on the heat exchanger to ensure its mechanical integrity prior to the accident. OSHA dropped the fourth violation, which claimed that CITGO failed to inform contract workers of fire and explosion hazards.

Under Texas law, Herrera can't sue Repcon, his employer at the time of the accident, because the company provided workers' compensation coverage. Such is the case in most states. Because of a court decision, however, a property owner in Texas is considered its own "general contractor," and also is shielded from lawsuits if it provides workers' comp to its "subcontractors." CITGO did.

The 2007 Texas Supreme Court decision shielding "premises owners" from liability was unanimous. During their careers on the court, the nine justices involved in the ruling collectively have received nearly $1.2 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The industry is a major economic engine in Texas; nearly one-fifth of all U.S. refineries are located there. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Fatal Car Crashes at Intersections Going Down 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ITASCA, Ill.) -- The number of fatal car crashes resulting from running red lights at intersections is going down, according to a new study released Thursday by the National Safety Council.

Analyzing data from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., the study found that fatal, red-light running crashes at intersections went down by 27 percent between 2005 and 2009.  This reduction also coincides with one in the number of fatal crashes at intersections with traffic lights, which decreased by 17 percent during the same time period.

The analysis does say, however, that the number of non-fatal crashes entering and leaving intersections is slowly increasing, mostly by rear end collisions -- a possible indication drivers are slamming on brakes to avoid running the light.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Truck Underride Accidents: Drivers Endangered When Cars Slide Under Trailers

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- More than 350 people a year are killed when a car strikes the back of a big truck and slides underneath. There are safety standards to prevent these so-called truck underride accidents, but a new study shows the protections aren't working.

Rear impact guards, fastened to the backs of big rigs, are designed to stop cars and prevent them from sliding underneath. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) put them to the test. The Institute crashed a 2010 Chevy Malibu, traveling 35 miles an hour, into the back of parked trailers. The rear guard that meets the U.S. standard gave way, and the car slid right under the trailer, crushing the vehicle. If there had been real occupants instead of crash dummies in the front seat, the IIHS said they would not have survived.

"Our tests show how easily some of these guards are failing at relatively moderate speeds," said institute president Adrian Lund. "The standards need to be stronger. These crashes don't have to be deaths or serious injuries."

Canada requires rear-impact barriers that are 75-percent stronger than those in the U.S. In the IIHS crash tests, the Canadian-style guard held up properly when the car hit it.

For Nancy Meuleners, a rear under-ride crash has meant 40 surgeries and a changed life -- she lost her jaw and parts of her tongue.

"Speaking can be an issue. Eating. I can't eat normal foods," Meulener said.

Meuleners, of Bloomington Minnesota, has lobbied to get stronger rear guards, "We need lower, safer, more energy-absorbing guards," she said. She is understandably nervous when driving near a big rig. "They are a danger to me and to the American public, I feel, without proper underride bars on them."

"It doesn't provide the kind of underguard protection that clearly is called for," said Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations, after being shown the test video.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


November Most Dangerous Month for Deer Collisions

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Deer hits are not unusual in November. In fact, your chance of hitting a deer rises threefold this month because this is breeding season. Bucks are chasing does and many end up in the middle of the road.

"It's a big problem, particularly this time of year," says Kim Hazelbaker, a senior vice president of the Highway Loss Data Institute. "We see literally hundreds of thousands of claims that cost insurers hundreds of millions of dollars and these of course have to be paid for by all of us who are insured," he says. The average cost of repairs is between $2,500 and $3,000 when an auto and deer collide.

Drivers in nearly half the country have a medium to high chance of having an encounter with a deer on the road. The most dangerous state: West Virginia, where drivers have a one in 42 chance of hitting a deer.

The number of deer and collisions with autos have been increasing the past several years.

About 200 people lose their lives each year in one of these collisions.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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