Menu
Rapoport Law Offices, P.C.
Call for a Free Consultation Se Habla Español
Ph: 312-445-9160 TF: 877-216-4213
Practice Areas Menu

Personal Injury Law Blog

A Look at Impaired Driving from the NHTSA

A 2014 survey of U.S. drivers shows that the issue of impaired driving has changed significantly over recent years. The Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers is conducted periodically by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The survey was first conducted in 1973. Since its inception, the survey has shown a dramatic decrease in the number of drivers with alcohol in their systems. Unfortunately, it has also shown an increase in the number of drivers using marijuana and other illegal drugs, as well as prescription drugs. The survey is voluntary and anonymous.

Since 2007, the number of drivers with alcohol in their blood has fallen by nearly one-third. The number of drivers reporting marijuana use has increased by almost 50 percent. In discussing the alcohol related figure, the head of the NHTSA suggested that it was the result of "a focused effort and cooperation among the federal government, states and communities, law enforcement, safety advocates and industry." A drop in alcohol use by drivers has the potential for enormous safety gains, as roughly 10,000 people are killed each year in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents. 

A Campaign to Increase Seat Belt Use

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a new campaign focusing on seat belt use. The campaign specifically targets parents and children aged 8 to 14. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adult seat belt use tops the list of ways to reduce injuries and fatalities in motor vehicle accidents. Seat belt use is on the rise across the country, though usage varies by state.

According to the NHTSA, the number one cause of driving fatalities among teens is failure to wear a seat belt. Teen drivers are more likely to get into an accident and more likely to sustain serious or fatal injuries than other drivers. Seat belt use among drivers 16 to 24 years old is the lowest of any age group. While roughly 80 percent of people this age wear seat belts, more than half of teen drivers involved in fatal accidents are unbuckled. By targeting children in the 8 to 14 age group the NHTSA is hoping to improve seat belt use once these children reach driving age. 

New Chairman of the NTSB Confirmed

In a unanimous vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed Christopher Hart as the new chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Mr. Hart has been acting chairman of the NTSB since April, when Deborah A.P. Hersman left to become the president and CEO of the National Safety Council. The confirmation allows Christopher Hart to officially begin his two-year term as the thirteenth chairman of the NTSB.

In addition to his time as acting chairman, Mr. Hart served as deputy director for the Air Traffic Safety Oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration. He served as the NTSB vice chairman from 2009 to 2014. He previously served the NTSB from 1990 to 1993. He is a licensed pilot, holding a commercial certificate with ratings for instrument flying and multiengine flying. Mr. Hart also holds a law degree from Harvard and degrees in aerospace engineering from Princeton.

NHTSA Changes Crash Data Policy

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not investigate every motor vehicle crash. There are far too many crashes to review each one. Instead, the NHTSA uses a sampling of crashes to analyze overall trends. More than 20 sites have been designated for this sampling, including Chicago and Los Angeles. Since 1988, the NHTSA has analyzed approximately 4,700 crashes per year, nationwide.

The NHTSA put a new system in place that saw a substantial reduction in the car and truck crashes reviewed. The Government Accountability Office recently disclosed the change, showing that the NHTSA reviewed roughly 3,400 crashes in 2013. The reduction was blamed on rising costs and a flat budget. The NHTSA is attempting to maintain the quality of its crash information while actually reviewing fewer crashes. The GAO declared the new approach "reasonable," citing a White House imposed restriction on travel expenses for federal agencies. 

Transportation Safety Data Released

The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary data concerning 2013 transportation fatalities. According to NTSB figures, 34,678 people were killed across all modes of transportation in 2013. That represents a slight decrease from 2012, during which 35,796 died in transportation accidents. The data groups all deaths from highway accidents, aviation accidents, marine, rail and pipeline transportation accidents. The acting chairman of the NTSB called the total "very troubling" while acknowledging that it represented a slight improvement.

Traffic deaths make up the vast majority of transportation deaths in the United States. In 2013, there were 32,719 deaths on U.S. roadways. Railroad accidents accounted for 891 deaths. Marine deaths, many of them tied to recreational boating accidents totaled 615. Aviation deaths accounted for 443 of the total. 

Rise in Large Verdicts in Defective Product Cases

For 10 years, there were no jury verdicts of $1 billion or more in cases involving defective products. In 2014, that trend stopped with several verdicts exceeding that total. Some have tied the absence of large verdicts from 2004 to last year to extensive lobbying efforts by "tort reform" groups. Others suggest that the gap was due to the settlement of the major class action lawsuits against the tobacco industry. Whatever the reason, the return of larger jury verdicts has an impact on the makers of consumer goods and the victims of injuries and illnesses caused by product defects.

The largest jury verdicts generally include punitive damages. Punitive damages are not necessarily dependent on the amount of financial harm done to the plaintiff by a defective product. They are intended to penalize the defendant and deter them from engaging in similar conduct in the future. These damages are often a major factor in civil litigation concerning defective and dangerous products. 

Final Tally of Auto Recalls Announced

By June of last year, it became clear that the total number of vehicles recalled in 2014 would be an all-time record. The final tally is in and just shy of 64 million vehicles were recalled for safety defects, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The number of vehicles recalled last year was greater than the sum of 2013, 2012 and 2011 recalls. The massive increase led to calls from NHTSA leadership that more resources and more authority were needed to keep auto makers and the makers of automobile products in line.

There were 803 total recalls initiated last year. The vast majority of those recalls were the result of internal investigation and independent action by auto makers. Only 123 were the result of NHTSA action. Still, among the recalls pushed by the NHTSA were several that led to intense debate and controversy. The NHTSA installed a new head administrator in December and he has promised firmer action, while also requesting greater resources to further the organization's mission. 

New Recommendations for the FAA

The more time that passes following an accident, the harder it is to determine the cause of that accident. The National Transportation Safety Board is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to make several changes it hopes will allow plane crashes to be found faster and will aid in investigating those crashes. The eight recommendations from the NTSB to the FAA were outlined in a 13-page letter this week. The FAA promised to review the recommendations and prepare a formal response.

The NTSB has made several of the recommendations in the past. In 2000, the NTSB asked the FAA to use video recorders in the cockpits of airplanes. The FAA did not follow that recommendation after pilots protested. Instead, the FAA released standards for the voluntary use of image recorders. The NTSB would like the recorders to be mandatory and to make it impossible for pilots or airline crew to disable the recorders or the voice and data recorders currently used in aircraft. 

Officer Discusses Truck Accident That Nearly Claimed His Life

Illinois State Trooper Douglas Balder discussed the truck accident that injured him and killed a tollway worker on the one-year anniversary of the incident. When asked about the crash, he said, "I view it as a failure of the system to take care of us." Officer Balder was not the only Illinois policeman involved in a truck crash recently. State Trooper James Sauter was struck and killed in 2013 when his cruiser was rear-ended by semi. Officer Balder and the widow of Officer Sauter are advocating for the use of reckless homicide charges in cases like theirs.

Criminal charges are one method of attempting to improve commercial trucking safety. Commercial truck accidents occur for a variety of reasons and it will take more than increased penalties to address them. The National Transportation Safety Board listed several potential methods of improvement when it placed commercial trucking safety on its 2015 Most Wanted List. 

Sleep Apnea in the Aviation Industry

The sleep disorder known as sleep apnea has safety implications in the transportation industry. People who suffer from sleep apnea suffer from interruptions in their breathing during sleep. These interruptions can occur frequently throughout the night, causing a victim to experience significant fatigue even after a normal-length sleep period. In addition to drowsiness, victims may suffer from headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability, depression, forgetfulness and other side effects. The impact of sleep apnea on pilots, truck drivers and others in terms of safety is difficult to pinpoint.

The Federal Aviation Administration is scheduled to release new medical guidance to Aviation Medical Examiners regarding pilots who may be suffering from sleep apnea. A pilot diagnosed with untreated obstructive sleep apnea, one of two varieties of the condition, has been and will continue to be disqualified from FAA approval. The new guidelines concern what screening approach medical examiners should take in identifying and treating the condition to allow pilots to manage the condition and fly safely. 

YOU HAVE QUESTIONS? WE HAVE ANSWERS.Fill out the form and an attorney will be in touch with you shortly.

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Contact

Rapoport Law Offices, P.C.
20 North Clark Street
Suite 3500
Chicago, IL 60602

Toll Free: 877-216-4213
Phone: 312-327-9880
Fax: 312-327-9881
Map & Directions