driverless cars: photo of two men and a woman looking at two cars involved in crashIt has been predicted that by the year 2020 there will be some 10 million driverless cars on the roads. In preparation for this, the auto industry has been including such features as park assist and crash avoidance technologies on more and more vehicles in recent years. While drivers adjust to the thought of relinquishing all navigational control to their vehicles, the government is grappling with some practical matters that the new fully-automated vehicle technology will bring.

The Department of Transportation recently released new policies aimed at balancing safety with this new technological advancement. These policies address such issues as how to assess a vehicle’s crashworthiness, how to prevent hacking of the automated systems; and how to cope with a system failure. To learn more, read “Department of Transportation Releases Policy on Driverless Vehicles.”

Meanwhile, insurers and lawyers both are dealing with the question of responsibility in the event of accidents involving driverless cars. For more on this, read “Who’s Responsible for Self-Driving Car Accidents?

phone-batteries-400-06177414dThese days it seems almost everyone is attached to their smart phones. Not only do these devices keep us connected to colleagues, friends and family, they also provide access to a wealth of information with the touch of a finger. Along with all the advantages these mobile devices offer, there are risks -and not only those risks associated with distracted driving.

Samsung, a leading manufacturer of cell phones, recently launched a major recall of the Galaxy Note 7 due to a defective battery. According to reports, the batteries in this particular smart phone are at risk of exploding due to a “manufacturing process error.” There have yet to be reports of injuries stemming from these battery explosions, although investigators are looking into a possible connection between the battery problem and two massive fires (see “Samsung’s recalled Galaxy Note 7 blamed for Jeep and garage fires”). Even the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is getting involved by asking customers to not pack these phones into checked baggage and to refrain from turning them on or charging them in flight. For further details, read “FAA Issues Warning About Samsung Phones …”

car-deaths-400-08315349dDespite repeated warnings reminding us how quickly the temperatures inside a motor vehicle can rise, we continue to see reports of children left forgotten in hot vehicles. Each year an average of 37 children die as a result of being left in a hot vehicle and many others suffer heat-related injuries. So far this year, 27 heat-related child deaths have been recorded.

Some reports link the increase in these heat-related deaths and injuries to passenger-side airbags. When passenger-side airbags were first installed, laws were changed requiring parents and caregivers to place child safety seats in the rear to protect young children from injuries resulting from a deploying airbag. Unfortunately, putting children in the rear seat puts them out of the driver’s sight.

Placing a purse, briefcase, or cell phone in the back next to the child’s safety seat forces drivers to look in the rear. Keeping the child’s diaper bag or school bag on the front passenger seat reminds the driver that a child is in the car. While these tricks may be enough for some drivers, child safety advocates want the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration to require auto manufacturers to install electronic reminders in their vehicles and one major car maker has taken steps to do just that. For more details, see “Hot Car Deaths and What the Auto Industry Is Doing About Them.”

water-parks-400-05067547dWater parks, those adventure parks that feature waterslides and wave pools, are gaining in popularity as summertime attractions. According to the World Waterpark Association, about 85 million people attended water parks in 2015, up from about 73 million a decade earlier. While these parks offer fun and exciting ways for children and adults alike to beat the heat, they also present a risk for injury.

A recent tragedy that resulted in the death of a 10-year-old boy at a Kansas City, KS, water park serves as a reminder that accidents can and do happen. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that over 4,200 people are treated at emergency rooms each year for injuries sustained on waterslides; that doesn’t take into consideration other water park-related injuries or near drownings. To find out more about the potential dangers of water parks and the steps being taken to improve their safety, read “Safety issues, statistics about water parks in the US.”

trampoline-park-400-07275180dA New Jersey appellate court recently ruled that a lawsuit brought against Sky Zone Trampoline Park by a family whose son was injured while engaged in an activity at the park can proceed despite the fact that the family had signed a waiver prior to the start of the activity.

Waivers of this type are common with commercially-run activities that are subject to potential injury. These waivers seek to preclude participants from holding the operating company responsible for any injuries incurred in the normal course of the activity in question.

When this particular case first went to trial, the trial court ruled that the dispute had to be brought to arbitration as stated in the waiver. The appellate court, however, ruled that the arbitration clause was unclear, thus paving the way for the case to be brought to trial. To learn more, read “Family can sue trampoline park for son’s injury, court says.”

GM-lawsuits-400-08334845dA federal appeals court recently overturned a ruling by a federal bankruptcy judge that protected the reorganized General Motors Co. from lawsuits over defective ignition switches, and now the company potentially faces billions of dollars in liabilities.

The appeals court stated that when the company referred to as Old GM filed for bankruptcy back in 2009, it knew about the problems with its ignition switches but failed to disclose that information to the bankruptcy court. Those problems reportedly caused certain GM cars to stall unexpectedly leading to accidents, which have been linked to about 275 injuries and almost 125 deaths.

Terms of the bankruptcy protected the reorganized company, referred to as New GM, from most of the claims against Old GM, but the appeals court said that protection was tantamount to rewarding the company for concealing information. To learn more about this decision, read “Court Ruling Opens GM to Billions in Death, Injury Claims.”

fireworks-PI-blog-400-06392254dWhen you think of Americana, some things readily come to mind – patriotism, baseball, apple pie and fireworks on the Fourth of July to name a few. While these pyrotechnics have become almost synonymous with our Independence Day celebration, they can result in serious injury, especially when handled by the inexperienced.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks-related injuries bring an average of 230 people to the emergency room each day during the month surrounding the July 4th holiday. On top of that, possession and use of fireworks without the proper permits are illegal in New Jersey. Violating these laws carry maximum penalties of up to 18 months in jail and $10,000 in fines (see “NJ cops on the lookout for illegal fireworks”).

teenage-drivers-400-05083542dFor most people, Memorial Day marks the start of the carefree days of summer; for teen drivers, however, the 100 days following this holiday are considered the deadliest.

Once school lets out, most teens are focused on having a good time with friends. Often these good times entail travelling – to friends’ houses, the beach, a pool, or a nearby amusement park. Curfews are often extended, meaning these teens are out and about till later hours. Add all this to inexperience behind the wheel and the number of distractions teens face today and you have a recipe for potential disaster.

As a parent, you may be surprised to learn what is considered the biggest distraction for teen drivers today. Read “Summer Days Are Deadliest for Teen Drivers & Texting Isn’t the Reason;” it can give you some information to help your teen have a fun and safe summer on the road.

 

escalator-400-04429202dA trip to the department store ended tragically for one New Jersey youngster who was injured when her foot became caught in the store’s escalator. Now, three years and multiple surgeries later, a settlement has been reached in a lawsuit brought against the store by the young girl’s family.

According to reports, Macy’s Inc. settled a $15 million lawsuit brought against it by a Bergenfield, NJ family for injuries suffered by their then 10-year-old daughter whose foot became stuck as she was riding the store’s escalator. The girl endured 22 surgeries and years of rehabilitative physical therapy as a result of the injuries. Thyssen Krupp Elevator Corporation, the company responsible for maintaining the departments store’s escalators, was also named in the lawsuit. For more details, see “N.J. girl whose foot was caught in Macy’s escalator gets $15M settlement.”

bike-helmets-400-07614659dBiking is a popular pastime particularly in the warm weather months, and parents often take their young children along for the ride even before they are able to peddle on their own.  A properly fitted infant bike helmet can help to protect your child from injury while enjoying the ride. In fact, it’s the law.

In New Jersey, everyone under the age of 17 must wear a helmet while riding a bicycle. That includes passengers. Parents in the market for an infant bike helmet should be aware that Pacific Cycle, a Wisconsin-based company, has issued a recall for certain infant bicycle helmets bearing the Schwinn brand name. According to reports, the buckles on the helmets’ chin straps can become loose, posing a choking hazard. For details, read “Infant Bike Helmets Sold at Target Recalled Over Choking Hazard.”