DSCN5905-300x225With the beautiful Fall weather and rise in temperature over the summer months, motorcycle riders and bicyclists have taken to the streets to enjoy the open air. More than a year into a pandemic, people are increasingly more comfortable being out and itching to do so. Unfortunately, Rhode Island has also seen an increase in the amount of motorcycle accidents in the state over the past few months. As of August, Rhode Island experienced 10 fatal motorcycle crashes.  In fact, these types of collisions are about one-third of the total vehicle accident deaths in the state. In comparison, past years have seen approximately 13 motorcycle fatalities in total.  As a personal injury lawyer in Providence, RI, for over 20 years, Attorney David Tapalian has seen the complete devastation suffered by families after a losing a loved one in a tragic, and too often preventable, motorcycle accident and wants all drivers to increase their awareness of this serious safety concern. With months still left to go in 2021, it’s important for both motorcyclists and other drivers on the road to take note.

Importance of Wearing a Helmet

Plenty of data shows that wearing a helmet can significantly increase your chances of surviving a motorcycle accident, as well as minimize the severity of the injuries suffered. This is one simple step, yet a very critical one, that motorcyclists can take to protect themselves from potentially life-threatening injury. Motorcyclists are less protected than those travelling in cars and therefore, are more prone to serious and life-altering injuries if involved in a collision. Sadly, the majority of motorcyclists who were killed in crashes this year in Rhode Island were not wearing helmets, according to Peter Alviti, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.

59cc92e4b17684dfa99766246bc519ca-2-300x179Despite a reduction in the number of miles traveled, 2020 was the deadliest year on U.S. highways since 2007. Fewer cars were on the road during the pandemic, and those that were typically drove less miles. Nevertheless, data shows that the number of deaths on U.S. highways in 2020 grew approximately 7.2% to 38,680, more than any other year in over a decade, according to the NHTSA. One leading factor for the increase is attributed to speeding.

Throughout the pandemic, cars and trucks on the highways had less traffic to contend with and, in turn, increased their driving speeds. In some states, the number of tickets issued for speeding offenses was about double that from before the pandemic. As a personal injury lawyer in Providence, Rhode Island, Attorney David Tapalian has seen first-hand the dire consequences of speeding crashes that are easily preventable and all too often result in serious, life-threatening injuries, or tragic death.

With school back in session and many returning to their pre-pandemic work and travel schedules, the speeding issue hasn’t slowed down but rather continues. Some drivers will continue their poor habits and speed for the thrill or simply because of a lack of visible police enforcement, while others do it because the other vehicles around them are speeding as well. Others feel like they are safe to drive faster since there are increased safety features in cars such as airbags and anti-lock brakes. While a danger on its own, speeding is often exacerbated by distracted drivers, leading to an even greater lag in reaction time and greater risk of collision.  Increasing that risk, some precarious motorists have taken to illegal street racing. One such event had drivers across the country competing to break a record for the fastest trip from coast to coast with some drivers travelling at speeds of over 150 mph on empty highways. Street racing in Rhode Island is an extremely dangerous concern to not only those involved in the racing, but other innocent drivers on the road, pedestrians, and bystanders.

1853552-2-300x273It may go without saying, but when a motor vehicle collides with a pedestrian, in the majority of cases, the pedestrian is going to be the loser in this battle. When the vehicle involved in the collision is an SUV, the stakes are even higher and the risk and severity of the injuries suffered by the unprotected victim are typically much worse. As a Rhode Island personal injury attorney, David Tapalian has seen serious and often life-threatening injuries occur when a person on foot is hit by a moving vehicle. Frequently, the extent of the injuries the person suffers, and their risk of death, corelates to the size of the SUV or truck.  A study last year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) backed up this assumption when it looked at which vehicles were more dangerous in pedestrian car accidents and reported that sports utility vehicles were found to kill and injure pedestrians more frequently than other types of cars. 

IIHS Study Findings

Considering that SUVs make up almost 50% of motor vehicle sales in the U.S. each year and are projected to continually rise, and sedans make up less than a quarter of sales, the study findings are daunting.  The primary difference between getting hit by a smaller vehicle versus a sports utility vehicle occurs when a collision takes place at an intermediate speed. For example:

m_FRS330539-300x199From January to early May, 23 people have been killed so far this year in Rhode Island car accidents. For the past four years, the number of deaths in Rhode Island auto accidents has increased and there are a few different theories for the increase in traffic deaths throughout the state. One thought involves the COVID-19 pandemic which saw a great reduction in the number of drivers on the road.  However, having less vehicles to contend with, the motorists that were using the roads felt like they could driver faster, and more recklessly, than usual. Higher speeds result in an increased crash risk and higher likelihood of death. As other parts of daily life return to normal and more vehicles appear on the road, unfortunately, the dangerous habits that some of these drivers picked up didn’t disappear. In addition, the pandemic exponentially increased general anxiety in everyday life, which all too often correlates with an increase in drug and alcohol use. As a personal injury lawyer, Attorney David Tapalian saw an increase in RI car accidents resulting from drivers acting recklessly on the roads and driving under the influence.

Role of the Wolfpack

Formed in 2019 and nicknamed the “wolfpack”, the State Police Traffic Safety Unit makes sure that people are aware of their existence. On a quest to decrease the amount of fatal car accidents on Rhode Island roadways, the officers ensure that they are visibly present on the highways in an effort to deter reckless motorists. A recent interaction involved an officer pulling over a 19-year-old male for trying to prompt other cars to race him on the highway. The officer pulled the teen over and began the protocol to test for driving under the influence. Law enforcement stresses the importance of going through the process of conducting the entirety of the test when there is proper warrant to pull someone over. By going through the motions, people are deterred from engaging in reckless behavior in the future, including both the person in question and those who happen to see while passing. The Department of Transportation is also expected to increase funding for the Traffic Safety Unit which will be used to double the size of the “wolfpack” and keep RI drivers safer on the roads.

m_Tesla_1-203x300Tesla is well-known for their innovations in the electric vehicle industry, notably their Autopilot system technology. Autopilot is not designed to be used solely without human input; however, many users treat it that way which has resulted in a rash of deadly accidents, and legal action, against the enormously lucrative company. Tesla claims their systems are designed to reduce automobile crashes caused by human error and distractions, which account for a majority of the roughly 40,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S. each year. However, the NHTSA has a dozen active investigations into crashes involving this assistive driving technology, and recently released a list of at least 10 fatalities from crashes involving Autopilot since 2016.

While Autopilot can help control certain aspects of driving the car, such as changing lanes, the driver must still maintain awareness of their surroundings despite stories of drivers that fall asleep at the wheel or read a book while relying on the vehicle technology to make decisions for them. These actions are dangerous as the system is not meant to be self-driving and can result in serious injuries, or death, to both the driver and innocent motorists, pedestrians, or bicyclists. Attorney David Tapalian is an experienced personal injury lawyer who helps victims of car accidents in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including those crashes caused by a negligent or distracted driver.  If you’ve been the victim of a dangerous auto accident, call 401-552-5000 to see how Tapalian Law can help you hold the negligent driver liable for your injuries.

Recent Tesla Accidents 

file0001452955445-2-300x179Driving the roads of Rhode Island at night and another car is coming toward you in the opposite direction, do you ever feel like you’re being blinded by the other vehicle’s headlights? Typically, we blame it on the other driver forgetting to turn off their high beams, but lately it seems to happen more often with just regular headlight use. After a blinding encounter like this, sometimes it can take more than 10 seconds for your eyes to readjust. As Providence personal injury lawyer David Tapalian knows, taking your eyes off the road for even a mere few seconds can be the difference between getting home safely and being involved in a serious night-time car accident.

You may find it reassuring to know that these seemingly brighter headlights are not just your imagination. There’s no denying the automotive industry has made tremendous safety improvements over the years, including improvements in lighting technology. Sometimes, however, these enhancements lead to an alternative problem, for instance the blinding glare of LED and high-intensity headlights. There are various reasons for these brighter lights causing a dangerous distraction to drivers, one being the prevalence of SUV’s and tall pickups, as well as small, short cars. The physical placement of headlights on a taller vehicle, such as an SUV, are going to be mounted higher and when the lights shine towards a shorter car, it can be directly into the driver’s eyes. Complaints of blinding glare from these headlights have increased greatly, according to the NHTSA. Being that over half of the nation’s motor vehicle accidents happen in the dark, as a personal injury law firm helping Rhode Island car accident victims, we feel it’s a crucial element for drivers to be aware of. 

Reasons for the Blinding Glare

m_woman-treadmill-run-silhouette-300x193Driven by the demand for at-home workout equipment during the pandemic, Peloton, maker of the popular exercise bikes and at-home fitness machines, experienced a huge boost in sales of their products and quadrupled their stock value.  That may soon change. This week, the company issued a recall of its Tread+ and Tread treadmills. The recall arrives amidst reports of dozens of injuries, and the death of a young child, associated with the company’s machines.

In March, a 6-year-old boy died in an accident involving a Peloton treadmill. At Tapalian Law, as personal injury lawyers, we know there is never a way to make sense of a death from a devastating accident, and it can seem perhaps even more tragic and senseless when it involves a child. Sadly, childhood injuries from accidents are the number one cause of death in kids under the age of 19, according to the CDC.

In April, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an “urgent warning” to owners of the treadmills to stop using them immediately. The warning came after the commission received 72 reports stating adults, children, pets, and objects had been pulled under the rear of the machine. Of the 72 reports, 29 involved children, including the death of the young boy. At the time, Peloton fought back against the agency’s request calling it “inaccurate” but has since apologized, acknowledged its wrongdoing, and issued the equipment recalls.

468bddc63e662ecf3a104b26db86c196-300x206Head-on collisions, also known as front impact collisions, are among the most deadly types of car accidents in the United States. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), frontal collisions account for around 2% of accidents, but account for 10% of motor vehicle accident deaths. These statistics highlight the dangers associated with Rhode Island head-on collisions.

Frontal crashes occur when the front of one vehicle slams into the front of an incoming vehicle or stationary object. The leading causes of head-on collisions involve impaired drivers, unsafe passing, wrong-way driving, driver distraction, driver fatigue, and unsafe road conditions. Although head-on collisions may seem straightforward, there are often various factors at play that can affect liability and damages. For example, a wrong-way driver may claim that road signs were unclear or not visible. Similarly, a driver may claim that they had no choice but to swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid an accident. However, these defenses may not dissolve liability or diminish the motorist’s negligence.

Those that do not suffer fatal injuries in a head-on crash often experience severe and permanent disabilities. Frontal crashes may result in traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, neck injuries, broken bones and fractures, organ damage, paralysis, and burns. Victims often experience secondary injuries from flying debris or additional accidents. In some cases, adrenaline and stress mask serious injuries. It is important that head-on collision victims seek medical attention, even if their injuries appear minor.

m_DSC_1977-2-300x253The use of recreational vehicles in Rhode Island, specifically ATV’s, has long been a contentious topic. This past January, an ATV incident came to light when a Cranston police officer tackled a motorcyclist who had pushed him. The police officer was then surrounded by a group of ATV riders and assaulted by an accompanying motorcyclist. The Cranston police chief has vowed to strengthen action taken on all-terrain vehicles and other similar unlicensed vehicles.

All-terrain vehicles, commonly known as ATV’s, are classified as recreational vehicles and their use has been an issue of concern for years to local residents throughout Rhode Island and police alike, who field complaints concerning the loud noise created by the ATV’s and, more importantly, the unsafe and improper operation of the recreational vehicles. Injuries incurred in a collision with an ATV can be serious and especially dangerous to children.

ATV Laws in Rhode Island

m_1281636-300x161Although Spring beckons, national news sources recently reported a surge in death tolls related to winter storms across the United States. In Rhode Island, we are no stranger to snow storms and the state’s proximity to the ocean makes nor’easters and winter blizzards a common occurrence throughout the winter months. The freezing rain, heavy slush, snow, and ice result in treacherous road conditions. These weather conditions increase the likelihood of a Rhode Island car accident.

In some situations, a winter driving accident is an unavoidable consequence of dangerous roadways. However, drivers can, and should, adjust their driving habits to accommodate these conditions. Motorists should make sure to remove snow and ice from their vehicles before going out in bad weather. The failure to completely clear a car can result in dangerous snow and ice flying off of a car. Further, ice and snow on a car can decrease visibility, resulting in accidents. Moreover, vehicles traveling during these dangerous conditions should increase their braking distance as snow and ice can reduce a vehicle’s ability to adequately grip the pavement. As a Rhode Island car accident lawyer, David Tapalian sees numerous clients hurt each winter in snow and ice related crashes.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHA), reports that over a ten-year period inclement weather accounted for nearly 20% of weather-related collisions. These accidents resulted in serious injuries and fatalities. Last month, Rhode Island state troopers urged motorists to stay off the road after the state experienced 18 weather-related accidents in one day. Moreover, following the series of accidents, Rhode Island Governor Raimondo imposed a tractor-trailer ban until the roads were cleared.

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