photo_9135_20090113-300x225Since the legalization of marijuana movement began in the U.S., health and safety experts have been trying to measure the potential impact it would have on traffic accidents. Without ample past reliable data to go off, much of the results so far have been inconsistent. However, according to a new set of studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute, an increase of up to 6 percent in the number of highway crashes has been found in four states where the recreational use of marijuana is legalized. As Providence personal injury lawyers, Tapalian Law feels any uptick in car crashes is reason to sit up and take notice. Our car accident lawyers see clients everyday who suffer from serious injuries incurred in an auto accident. While the latest reports cannot yet prove a direct risk caused by the use of marijuana among vehicle operators, there is a rising trend in these states and any upsurge in car crashes is cause for attention. At this time it is a challenge to accurately test drivers to determine if they are under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Without this hard proof, much more research needs to be done to explore marijuana use and its relationship to vehicle crashes. After this Tuesday’s election, 10 states and Washington D.C. have now legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over the age of 21. Rhode Island has not legalized marijuana for recreational use. Medical marijuana is legalized in 33 states, including Rhode Island.

Results of IIHS Study Linking Legalized Marijuana to Car Crashes

The IIHS studies used police reports and insurance claims to determine auto crashes rose between 5.2% and 6% in states with legalized recreational marijuana, in comparison to neighboring states where marijuana use is illegal. Highway crash data from surrounding states was also compared in an attempt to control for factors like weather and economy. One disturbing find from the study is that while most drivers under the influence of alcohol are driving alone or with other adults, approximately 14% of those confirmed to be using pot had a child in the car. As Providence car accident injury lawyers, this find is very troubling. The IIHS feels this reflects a variance between marijuana and alcohol use and it appears that marijuana use isn’t reserved for evenings and other occasions when adults are more likely to consume alcohol. Experts are uncertain whether this reflects an increase in the use of recreational pot or medical marijuana for pain treatment.  The IIHS is clear however, that there is a “correlation”, a connection, between the rise in crashes once pot became legal, however it is not the same as “causation”, meaning other variables could be involved. One of the difficulties with this study, as with similar reports, is the accuracy in measuring how marijuana use impacts car crashes because law enforcement has a difficult challenge due to the way marijuana works in the body.

file0001091226410-300x170Bicycles are gaining popularity, especially in urban areas like Providence. With the recent arrival of the city’s first bike-share program, JUMP Bikes, city residents and visitors are now offered an environmentally friendly, heart-healthy, and affordable way to navigate Providence to explore for fun or commute to work or school. The bicycle accident injury lawyers at Tapalian Law see bike accident clients on a regular basis who have been hit by a car and suffer from slight to life-threatening personal injury. As with all modes of transportation, there’s always some negative with the positive. Cycling is great for the atmosphere and our bodies but is also accompanied by the risk of serious personal injury, most frequently from cars or trucks. Getting “doored” is a frequent occurrence to bicyclists.  A “dooring” is a type of collision where a cyclist is struck by a vehicle door that was opened without checking the side view mirror for approaching bicyclists.  Motorcyclists can also fall victim to door related accidents. Due to the lack of physical protection, bicyclists and motorcyclists can suffer significant bodily harm when involved in an accident. 

Injuries from Bicycle Accidents

At the time of a “dooring” bicycle crash, you may feel shock as well as a rush of adrenaline and injuries may not be instantly visible. You might feel bumped or bruised, but are able to get up and walk away. It is imperative to seek immediate medical attention, no matter how you feel. Inner injuries, like internal bleeding, can go undetected and without proper medical treatment can turn fatal. Bicyclists can suffer from traumatic brain injuries, especially if not wearing a proper safety helmet. Broken bones, lacerations, chipped teeth, serious bruising, road rash, and spinal cord injuries can all happen during a bike accident. If a person on a bicycle gets hits by a door, the impact might throw them into oncoming traffic causing them to get hit by a passing vehicle. Cyclists may also see a car door opening upon approach and swerve into moving traffic to avoid getting hit by the door. In 2016, a Cambridge, Massachusetts bicyclist died when a motorist opened their car door, causing the woman to veer into traffic where she was struck and killed by a truck. In a recent Rhode Island Accident Lawyer Blog, Tapalian Law explained the “Dutch Reach”, a habit that motorists can adapt when exiting a vehicle to prevent and avoid “dooring” accidents.

71-DSC_7273-300x240Bicyclists abound around Providence. With the launch of the city’s first bike-share program, more bikes are appearing on the streets of Rhode Island’s capital. It’s a great boost for rider’s health and a plus for the environment. It will take automobiles awhile to get used to sharing the road with more bicyclists, and both drivers and cyclists alike will need to heed extra caution. The personal injury lawyers at Tapalian Law in Providence see severe injuries occur to bicyclists when they collide with a vehicle. We know that bicycles are no match for a car or truck. Bicycle accidents can cause serious injuries to the brain, broken bones, abrasions, lacerations, and fatalities. Bike accidents transpire more frequently in urban areas like Providence so with the upsurge in bicycles in the city a corresponding spike in bike-related personal injury may take place. Statistics clearly show that cyclists are much more likely to be injured or killed by a car than by anything else on the road.

“Dooring”: Car Door Related Accidents in Providence

A “dooring” is a type of traffic collision where a cyclist rides into a car door or is struck by a car door that was opened without checking the side view mirror for cyclists. Dooring is unfortunately a very common occurrence among cyclists and one that personal injury lawyer David Tapalian sees frequently. It is not only scary, but can be deadly. A car driver doesn’t normally intend to open their car door to hurt a cyclist, but the results can be tragic nonetheless regardless of intention. The opened door may hit the cyclist causing them to crash head-on or if the bicyclist is able to see the door opening quickly, they may swerve into traffic to avoid the open door, thereby crashing into a moving vehicle or falling off their bike. Either way, the outcome can cause detrimental injuries to the bicyclist and to other cars, passengers, or pedestrians, on the road. 

photo_71959_20160725-1-300x250There’s more bad news for the chronically sleep deprived. Not only are they perpetually tired but also more at risk for causing a car accident. According to a AAA study, drivers functioning on less than 4 hours of sleep have crash risks similar to those of an intoxicated driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .12. (Rhode Island law defines a BAC of .08 or higher as driving while intoxicated (DWI)). So, an exhausted truck driver who skimped on sleep in order to reach their destination on-time may be just as much of a danger as a drunk driver on the road! The Providence, RI car accident injury lawyers at Tapalian Law know it can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of an auto accident and this is especially true for car crashes caused by a sleep-deprived driver. We do know that truck drivers are particularly vulnerable to driving while tired due to long, and often monotonous, hours on the road. Recall the much publicized 2014 crash that severely injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed another passenger in his vehicle. The truck driver who hit Morgan’s vehicle had been awake an estimated 28 hours before the collision took place and driver fatigue was cited as one cause of the deadly crash.

AAA Sleep Deprivation Study: Poor Sleep Alters Brain Function

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a review of data from 6,800 car accidents for the period of 2005-2007 to study the effects of sleep deprivation on driving. Only the data from drivers determined to be culpable (whose errors, actions, or lack of actions, led to the crash), were used.  Accidents involving external factors, like brake failure or poor infrastructure, were not factored into the report. The goal of the review was to “quantify” the correlation between hours of sleep and crash risk. The study found that less than 7 hours of sleep increases a driver’s risk of a crash. By far, the greatest risk of crash occurs when a driver is operating on less than 4 hours of sleep. Poor sleep affects brain function and impairs judgement. Fatigued drivers are not just “nodding off at the wheel”, but their decision-making process is also highly impacted by poor sleep quantity and quality. Vehicle operators with less than 4 hours of sleep are more likely to be involved in a single car crash. Fatalities are 3 times more likely with a single vehicle crash than a multi-vehicle crash.

Texting-Driving-Female-2-300x225It sounds dramatic, but yes, two seconds can be the difference between life and death. Taking your eyes off the road for only 2 seconds has been shown to double the odds of a car crash. In 2016, an estimated 3,450 people were killed in the U.S. in crashes linked to distracted driving. As Providence personal injury lawyers, Tapalian Law knows that car accidents caused by distracted driving can result in serious injuries or fatalities, yet are completely preventable. We see it every day on the streets and highways of Rhode Island- drivers performing another task like texting, adjusting the music, putting on makeup- behind the wheel. We multi-task on a daily basis at home, work, and school, but the truth is our brain cannot perform multiple tasks as well as it can when focused on one at a time. The result can be inattentional blindness, a lack of attention not associated with any vision defects. For example, a truck driver busy composing a text may miss a stop sign even though the sign is in plain view. The outcome may be a crash with another vehicle or a pedestrian. When 2 seconds can cause a death or serious personal injury, multi-tasking shouldn’t even be an option.

Negligent Driving in Rhode Island

Using a hand-held cell phone while operating a moving vehicle is illegal in Rhode Island. Hands-free devices are allowed per the June 2018 law, and while helpful do not necessarily equate to safe driving. Our brains are simply incapable of expertly performing two thinking tasks at the same time- like operating a vehicle and talking to a friend on the phone, even using a hands-free device. As Rhode Island personal injury lawyers, Tapalian Law knows that inattention to the road can easily result in a collision with a vehicle, bicyclist, pedestrian, or a stationary object like a parked car. Laws, common sense and distracted driving campaigns are important, but not always heeded. Drivers still struggle to avoid the temptation to text, check emails, and use social media when on the road. We must continue to spread awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, and also find solutions to lessen it with the aid of auto manufacturers and help from technology features.

e65b5845610276e0e4ebe18ba15aa1bf-300x200Following the tragic death of a 6-year-old boy this summer on the East Bay Bike Path in Bristol, RI, avid bicyclists and concerned locals alike are asking- is it safe to ride a bike in Rhode Island? It’s a particularly perplexing question for parents of young children.  Kids are encouraged to get outside in the fresh air and exercise but at what risk? We proudly teach our children to ride a bike, ensure their helmet is properly strapped on, and explain the basics of road safety. But when a child is hit by a car and killed in a seemingly safe place to ride, the East Bay Bike Path, it’s natural we are going to have apprehensions. As Providence personal injury attorneys, Tapalian Law knows not only the enjoyment cycling can bring, but also the detrimental effects of a bicycling accident. Bicyclists injured in a RI bike accident can suffer brain trauma, head injuries, broken bones, internal bleeding, severe cuts and bruising, even death. While cycling can certainly be a great competitive sport or leisure activity, it can also be dangerous. As Rhode Island bike accident injury lawyers, we see catastrophic injuries and fatalities result when a bicycle collides with a vehicle. 

What is Rhode Island Doing to Make Bicycling Safer?

The Providence Journal recently asked bicycling advocates whether they think the biking systems in Rhode Island are safe for children and the responses were mixed. Much depends on where the child lives, goes to school, and whether the traffic in that area moves at slower speeds. Overgrown trees and bushes are a huge issue for bicyclists at crossings, making it difficult for bike riders and vehicle drivers alike to see each other. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza cites that children can, in fact, safely ride in the city and that efforts are made to plan the city around people, not cars. He added that a city bicycling advisory council provides input into bike safety as new projects are developed throughout Providence. Bicycle crossings have been installed by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) at various busy intersections and “Sharrows”, symbols painted on the road with the symbol of a cyclist with arrows, were installed to remind drivers to share the road with bicyclists. After the death of the young boy in Bristol, RIDOT vowed to review every spot where dedicated bike paths cross roads. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) is responsible for maintenance issues along the bike path and Rhode Islanders are encouraged to contact them with maintenance concerns like shrubbery overgrowth.

photo_103920_20170708-225x300Hundreds of thousands of seniors are hurt or killed in car accidents each year. More than 200,000 drivers over the age of 65 were injured in crashes in 2016, over 3,500 were fatal. Seniors are some of the safest drivers- they are more likely to wear seat-belts, drive sober, and observe speed limits. Yet they are more likely to die in a car crash than other age groups. Behind teenage drivers, seniors have the highest crash death rate per mile driven. With the population living longer, AAA researchers have found that older drivers are now outliving the age when they can drive safely by 7-10 years.  In Rhode Island alone, 20% of drivers are over age 65. The personal injury lawyers at Tapalian Law are always concerned about safe driving habits.  After all, we see clients every day, from new teenage drivers to senior citizens, who suffer from serious car accident related injuries. Our RI injury attorneys know the life-long implications car accident injuries can have on a victim. An aging person’s body is not as agile and flexible as it once was and may not heal from injuries as quickly as a younger person, further complicating the recovery process.  It may be a difficult or embarrassing topic to broach with aging parents. And that’s probably why over 80% of aging drivers never talk to a doctor or family member about it. Typically, when they do it is often too late and happens after a crash or near-collision while on the road.

Why Are Seniors More Likely to Die in Car Crashes?

Fatality rates for older drivers are 17% higher than for 25-64-year-old drivers. Seniors are more likely to die in a car crash than younger people, largely due to having more fragile bodies and underlying medical conditions that can worsen injuries and hinder recovery. But it’s not just the plain fact of old age that can impair older drivers and cause auto accidents. Many other aspects of aging can impede safe driving habits.  As personal injury accident lawyers, we see medication side effects or health circumstances frequently factor into car accidents involving older adults. Over 75% of drivers age 65 and older use one or more medication which can potentially impact their driving ability. As we age, it is common to experience vision changes, hearing loss, delayed reaction time, and mind and cognition impairment. Weaker muscles, decreased flexibility, and reduced range of motion can affect and restrict the ability to hold and turn a steering wheel and press the gas or brake. Arthritis affects half of the middle-aged population and 80% of those in their 70’s. It can cause crippling joint inflammation making the turning, flexing, and twisting needed to operate a motor vehicle and react quickly, painful or physically impossible.

lawn-chemicals-300x199In a milestone case expected to be the first of many, a jury unanimously awarded a 46-year-old man $289 million in a lawsuit filed against Monsanto Company. Monsanto is the maker of farming products and perhaps best known for developing Roundup, a popular weed killer used for decades on crops, lawns, golf courses, and gardens all over the world. The plaintiff, 46-year-old Dewayne Johnson, was diagnosed in 2014 with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that kills approximately 20,000 people in the U.S. each year. The jury ruled that Johnson’s years as a school groundskeeper using Roundup and Ranger Pro, a similar herbicide, on a daily basis contributed to his cancer.  As Providence, RI personal injury attorneys, Tapalian Law has heard a lot of exchanges surrounding this landmark product liability lawsuit. Rhode Islanders, and others across the country, are questioning if they too could unknowingly be exposed to potentially cancer-causing chemicals in their everyday lives.

Potential Cancer-Causing Chemical in Roundup

The potentially cancer-causing chemical at the forefront of the lawsuit is glyphosate. Glyphosate is an active ingredient in both Roundup and Ranger Pro. Numerous studies claim a link between glyphosate and several cancers, the most thoroughly researched being non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), released a report that categorized glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Some countries are attempting to ban glyphosate products while the state of California has added a label to glyphosate products warning they contain a chemical known to cause cancer.

scooter-300x231Providence residents were in for a surprise this summer when in mid-July, dozens of electric scooters showed up on the streets of Providence unannounced. With the newfound popularity of electric scooters to navigate cities like San Francisco, it was just a matter of time before the vehicles hit the streets of Providence. Bird, the California company responsible for bringing the scooters to Providence, say they want to offer affordable, environmentally friendly vehicle options to communities.  The easily accessible vehicles, available through an app for $1 plus .15/minute, were a novelty with many interested in trying them if not just for the curiosity factor. But, just as quickly as they appeared and local residents got used to seeing them around, the scooters disappeared just a few weeks later due to a lack of regulation by the city. Bird says they plan to return to Rhode Island as soon as they comply with new regulations set forth by the city.

Inexperienced Drivers Often Cause Accidents Resulting in Personal Injury

While many view rental scooters as a welcome and environmentally friendly addition to cities, others have some concerns. Cities where rentals are currently offered have seen a spike in emergency injuries to riders, as well as pedestrians. The main cause for the injuries is inexperienced scooter operators. As personal injury lawyers, Tapalian Law knows with inexperience comes an increased risk of injury. Just as new teenage drivers have a higher accident rate than more experienced drivers, the same is likely to occur with scooter riders. The Cedars-Sinai Emergency Department in Los Angeles states they have seen a “definite increase” in patients seeking medical treatment for head, wrist, elbow, and hip injuries related to scooter usage. Older patients are especially vulnerable to these injuries. Although Bird recommends riders wear a proper safety helmet, many riders are not heeding the recommendation. Nor are they wearing additional protective gear such as knee and elbow pads, and wrist guards. And it’s not only riders that are getting hurt. Pedestrians are getting injured as they try to avoid getting hit by reckless scooter drivers navigating sidewalks.  In addition, operators of the scooters are often wearing earbuds which can make them oblivious to traffic and pedestrians around them, adding to the potential for injury. As Rhode Island personal injury lawyers, Tapalian Law can see the concerns pedestrians and car and truck drivers in Providence have about inexperienced scooters joining the traffic flow and the potential for accidents and injuries.

photo_4556_20071230-300x200It’s a terrible tragedy no parent should ever have to experience. A 6-year-old Somerset, MA boy was involved in a fatal crash while on a leisurely bike ride with his family. The family was bicycling on the East Bay bike path on July 24th, when the fatal crash occurred at the intersection of the East Bay bike path and Poppasquash Road in Bristol, RI.  A 21-year-old Connecticut driver collided with the young boy on his bicycle and some area residents are claiming poor visibility at the site may be to blame. As Rhode Island bike accident injury lawyers, at Tapalian Law we have seen catastrophic injuries and tragic fatalities result when a bicycle collides with a vehicle. The weight of a car or truck colliding with a bicycle almost always has horrific results involving severe injuries including brain trauma, serious bodily injury, and often fatalities. Over 800 lives were lost in 2015 alone in the U.S., in crashes involving a bicycle and motor vehicle, according to the NHTSA.

Town of Bristol Had Been Warned

A concerned citizen had warned the Bristol Town Administrators assistant four years ago via email about the poor visibility at the East Bay bike path and Poppasquash Road intersection where the tragic bike accident took place. The email spoke of several near crashes witnessed at the sight. With this email, Bristol was put on notice of a potentially dangerous problem. The question remains however whether even though the Town was alerted to the potential problem, did it properly address the safety issue and if so, did it continually maintain surveillance of the area to ensure its safety continued. The Town said at that time they worked to address the issue at the location by sending the Department of Transportation (DOT) to perform landscaping to improve visibility. Some nearby residents feel further safety measures need to be taken such as installing flashing lights and reducing the speed limit to make the intersection safer.

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