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Will Fatal Bus-Truck Accident Spur New Safety Regulations?

If you've been following national news, you may have seen ongoing reports of a fatal bus-truck collision in California. A tractor-trailer collided with a motorcoach that was carrying about 40 high school students, and a bus window had to be kicked out for many of the students to escape. Flames engulfed the truck and the bus, and 10 people lost their lives. The tragedy underscores the need for updated safety standards for large buses.

More than 15 years have passed since the National Transportation Safety Board recommended making it easier for passengers to evacuate buses. In particular, the board called for making bus windows and emergency exits easier to open. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to provide new bus evacuation rules. 

Hospitals Using Standardization to Combat Medical Errors

In the last 15 years, studies of U.S. hospitals have revealed a disturbing frequency of patient deaths resulting from medical mistakes that could have been prevented. According to a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, the annual number of deaths caused by preventable hospital errors was estimated to be as high as 98,000.

Many hospitals have tried to address the problem of medical errors by standardizing procedures and encouraging cultural change in the medical field. Specifically, more hospitals have adopted so-called "high-reliability" strategies, whereby standard treatments are better systematized, and medical personnel at every level are encouraged to speak up if a patient's safety is at risk.

Laser Offenses an Increasing Problem in Aviation Safety

Because of the serious risk of aircraft accidents, it is now illegal to point a laser at a helicopter or an airplane. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 raised the penalties for so-called "lasing" offenses, one response to the number of reported laser incidents having increased by 1,000 percent since 2005.

A quick Internet search will show you how easily a high-powered laser can be purchased. These otherwise harmless devices can pose a serious threat to pilots whose night-vision goggles greatly magnify laser light. Of course, the risk of injury extends to people on the ground, particularly in urban areas where takeoffs and landings are common and crashes could occur.

Electronic Logs Proposed for Truck Drivers' Hours of Service

Keeping hours-of-service records is a primary safety requirement for truck drivers and trucking companies. Truck drivers are required to log their hours and take rest breaks to avoid fatigue, which too often is a contributing factor in serious truck accidents.

However, the accumulated data in truck drivers' logbooks can be unwieldy for investigators and regulators. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently detailed a proposed rule that would greatly reduce the amount of paperwork involved in hours-of-service records. The proposed regulation is also aimed at preventing truck drivers from keeping false logbooks.

Cholesterol and Diabetes Drugs Recalled over Mistaken Bottling

As consumers and patients, we rely on product manufacturers and distributors to ensure that products are reasonably safe and properly labeled. Unfortunately, when companies fail in this regard, defective products can have devastating consequences. People who have been affected by a dangerous product need to be aware of their right to hold the responsible party accountable.

With safety in mind, diabetes and high-cholesterol patients in the Chicago area should be aware of two recent drug recalls. Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, the manufacturer of a generic diabetes medication, issued a recall after a customer noticed epilepsy pills mixed in with diabetes drugs. In particular, patients with a prescription for metformin hydrochloride should be on guard.

Lawmakers: Why Did GM Not Heed Complaints over Deadly Defects?

Legislators want to know why General Motors declined to fix deadly auto defects that were allowed to go to market for a decade. So far, an ongoing investigation has linked 13 deaths to defective ignition switches in a variety of GM models.

The problem with 1.6 million recalled cars is that their electrical systems and engines can be easily turned off if the ignition switch is shaken or if the keys are heavy. Turning off the electrical systems disables the air bags, posing a serious risk of injury and death.

Illinois High Court Upholds Law Protecting Construction Workers

If you have been injured in the course of your employment, you are entitled to workers' compensation benefits. However, these benefits often fail to cover the full cost of a work injury. Many injured workers have to file a civil lawsuit in conjunction with a workers' compensation claim in order to receive the compensation they need and deserve.

The legal issues surrounding a work injury can become extremely complicated. This is often the case if negligence by someone other than the employer caused a work accident or if an injury claim has been denied. Many workers also face the obstacle of having been misclassified as an independent contractor by an employer. Make no mistake: misclassifying employees is illegal, but it happens all too often.

Helicopter Pilots Must Adhere to New FAA Rules

About 10 years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration began ramping up efforts to improve helicopter safety -- in particular for air ambulances. The ensuing four years saw a decline in helicopter crashes, but in 2008 the FAA reported a record number of helicopter fatalities.

In light of the 2008 accidents and other data collected over the course of 20 years, the FAA recently issued further safety regulations for all helicopter pilots in the United States. Under this "final rule," the agency's equivalent of Congress passing a law, helicopter operators were given 60 days to implement new safety procedures. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx described the requirements as "a landmark rule for helicopter safety." 

Investigation of Cargo Plane Crash Points to Pilot Fatigue as a Factor

In recent years, the Federal Aviation Administration has addressed the problem of fatigue among on-duty airline pilots. Studies have shown that operator fatigue can result in impairment similar to the effects of alcohol, and federal restrictions are currently in place to help ensure that pilots get enough sleep.

However, when the FAA presented its new regulations two years ago, one group of airlines -- cargo carriers -- was exempted. The cargo industry opposed the new rules, claiming they would cost too much to implement. 

Serious Violations Preceded Deadly Truck Accident

A Chicago-area trucker is facing four felony charges for behavior leading up to a deadly wreck on I-88. The semi-truck accident occurred two weeks ago and claimed the life of a toll-way worker. It also left an Illinois State Trooper with critical injuries. As a result of his actions, the truck driver has been labeled an "imminent hazard to public safety" by the U.S. Department of Transportation. He has been ordered to stop operating commercial vehicles in interstate commerce by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Among the complaints made against driver Renato Velasquez are that he falsified his log books. This was done to conceal the fact that he was driving more than the allowable hours of service. He is alleged to have driven a thousand miles during a period in which he received somewhere between 3 and 5.5 hours of rest. The FMCSA requires drivers to drive no more than 11 hours during a shift. It also forbids drivers to remain on duty after 14 consecutive hours of work. The hours of service limitations are intended to reduce the number of tired drivers on the roads.

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