seat-belts-400-06733773dIt has been more than 30 years since the first law requiring motor vehicle occupants to wear seat belts was adopted in New York. Since that time, efforts to enforce laws like this throughout the country have been stepped up as our roadways have become more congested. But some are now questioning whether the very same safety feature designed to save lives is to blame for causing severe injuries in some cases.

Originally, seat belts were designed to “catch” on impact keeping both drivers and passengers close to their seats to avoid injuries from hitting the steering wheel, dashboard or windshield. Accident victims, however, were suffering from damaged organs and broken ribs thought to be caused by the tightening seat belts. About ten years ago, the design was changed to allow seat belts to spool out in a crash, leaving the cars’ airbags to cushion the impact. While studies credit this new technology with saving lives, experts say that under certain circumstances the slackening seat belts may be leading to more severe injuries. An investigation by the NBC News I-Team takes a look at these allegations. For more details, see the article, “I-Team: Seat Belt Technology Designed to Improve Safety Blamed for Some Severe Injuries,” by Ann Givens, Pei-Sze Cheng, and Evan Stulberger.

fireworksAs Fourth of July approached, the New Jersey State Police issued a reminder to State residents that the use of fireworks without the appropriate permits is illegal in New Jersey: “Slow Down and Leave the Fireworks to the Pros.”

Despite these efforts, hospital emergency rooms throughout the State, as well as the rest of the country, are filled each year with people injured by fireworks, and this year was no different. The recent headlines underscore the potential dangers: “Man dies shooting fireworks off head;” “Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul ‘severely’ injures hand in fireworks accident…” and, on a more local front, “Man loses part of his leg in fireworks accident.” These are just some examples of serious accidents that occurred over the July Fourth weekend.

Although fireworks have become synonymous with Fourth of July celebrations, they are common with other events throughout the summer. If reports like those mentioned above are not enough to encourage you to leave the fireworks to the professionals, the risk of facing criminal charges for selling, using or even possessing fireworks in New Jersey should be.

amusement-ridesDuring the summer months, amusement rides can be found everywhere – at theme parks, on the boardwalk, at state fairs and local carnivals – attracting thrill-seekers both young and old. And every summer there are reports of people suffering injuries or being rescued from these amusement rides. These accidents can happen anywhere as confirmed by Foxnews.com’s recent article, “2 injured in California amusement park roller coaster accident,” which reported on amusement ride accidents stretching from California to Maine.

New Jersey, home to boardwalk amusement parks, multiple state and county fairs, and a major theme park, is not immune to such accidents, but it does take steps to help prevent them. An article that recently appeared on NJ1015.com reported on New Jersey’s rigid amusement ride inspection system and offered tips on what riders can do to further prevent injuries. For details, read “Are the amusement rides safe in New Jersey?

house-explosionIt started as a simple home improvement. A South Jersey couple decided to convert the heating system in their home to natural gas from propane. Although they hired professional contractors for the job, a series of errors resulted in an explosion that destroyed their house and left the couple seriously injured. Now, just under two years after the accident, it was reported that the couple has reached a settlement with both the contractor and the propane company and will receive $1.9 million. See Jeff Goldman’s article, “Couple critically injured when their house exploded gets $1.9M, report says” for details.

pool-safetyMemorial Day traditionally marks the start of the summer season even though the summer solstice is still a few weeks away. While summertime often evokes thoughts of casual relaxation, it is no time to let your guard down, particularly if you own a backyard pool. This is the time when extra diligence is required to protect your guests from injury, especially when young children are involved.

The American Red Cross reports that each year more than 200 children drown in backyard pools. Already stories are emerging about children injured in pool mishaps; see Jonathan Lin’s story, “Bayonne boy found unconscious in pool, taken to hospital, eyewitness says.” Accidents such as these can result from any number of situations: unsupervised children, unsafe diving, excessive horseplay, to name a few.

Making safety a priority when it comes to using your pool will allow both you and your guests to enjoy it and, at the same time, help to prevent injuries. In an article on its website titled, “Home Pool Safety – Maintaining a Safe Environment Around Your Home Swimming Pool,” the Red Cross offers some safety guidelines every pool owner should heed.

aggressive-drivingAggressive driving takes on many forms. It can be exhibited by excessive speed, tailgating, failure to signal, unsafe lane changes, illegal passing, and other dangerous driving behaviors. Often aggressive driving starts out as a driver trying to make up time, but this behavior could very easily result in a motor vehicle accident. What’s more, aggressive driving could lead to road rage – a situation in which one driver overreacts and deliberately seeks retaliation on another.

According to statistics, a majority of New Jersey drivers view aggressive driving as a real threat to their safety and to the safety of their families. In an effort to cut down on this risk, Gov. Chris Christie recently signed a new law that would add the dangers of aggressive driving to New Jersey’s new driver training program. For details, read Mike Davis’ recent article, “N.J. law aggressive driving education is inspired by teen paralyzed in road rage crash.”

trampolinesTrampolines have long been a favorite form of fun and exercise for children and adults alike. Now with the warmer weather approaching and thoughts turning to outdoor activities, it might be tempting to add this activity to your own backyard. Before you do, however, you may want to consider the risk of injuries trampolines pose.

According to an article on www.parents.com titled “What E.R. Doctors Wish You Knew,” injuries from trampoline accidents account for more than 90,000 visits to the emergency room each year. But ER doctors and pediatricians aren’t the only ones who caution against trampoline use. Insurance companies classify them as “attractive nuisances,” ranking them right up there with such risky attractions as abandoned refrigerators, swimming pools and unattended tools. In her article, “Trampolines bounce up homeowner’s insurance claims,” Linda Melone points out that some insurers won’t even write a homeowner’s policy if there is a trampoline on the property. Others, she writes, may write the policy but exclude the trampoline. Read the full article for more information about the problems and liabilities homeowners face when installing a trampoline on their property.

dog-bite-vacationRecent economic conditions have opened the door to new opportunities designed to make money for the creative entrepreneur while at the same time offering significant savings to the consumer. Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft are prime examples of this, as is Airbnb, which offers housing accommodations to travelers at rates far more attractive than those offered by more traditional hotels and inns. Airbnb has the added advantage of offering lodging accommodations in locations not necessarily serviced by traditional resorts, like rural areas or residential neighborhoods.

The idea of gaining a true local experience by renting a house, or even a room, from someone native to the area you are planning to visit can be enticing, especially now as people plan their summer vacations. Before booking your trip, however, understand that this new trend carries its own set of risks. What happens if you suffer an injury from a fall or a dog bite? Traditional hospitality companies are insured against unexpected accidents, which may not be the case with private individuals offering their homes or portions of their homes for rent to travelers. Consider the following story by New York Times reporter Ron Lieber, “Questions About Airbnb’s Responsibility After Attack by Dog.”

teen-distracted-drivingOne of the most nerve-wracking events for parents of teenagers is when their child first begins to drive – and with good reason. Statistics released recently by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety confirm that distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents among young drivers. Michael Green’s article, “Distractions and Teen Crashes: Even Worse than We Thought,” identifies the most common factors leading to teen driver distraction and illustrates just how serious the problem is.

New Jersey’s graduated driver license program attempts to combat this problem by limiting the hours new drivers are permitted to drive and the number of passengers permitted in their vehicles. It also bans the use of both hand-held and hands-free devices for new drivers. For more details on New Jersey’s teen license restrictions, see New Jersey Graduated Driver License Program.

pet-insurancePet ownership can be a very rewarding experience, but it carries tremendous responsibilities that extend beyond the proper care and feeding of the animal. In addition to food, vet visits, training, socialization, and grooming essentials, pet owners are liable for injuries or damage their pet may cause to another person or their property. This liability can be substantial, especially if the pet attacks someone.

When the injury or damage is severe, as can be the case with dog bites, the pet owner can be held liable and possibly sued for medical expenses and other damages that can amount hundreds of thousands of dollars. Homeowner’s insurance may cover a portion of this liability, depending on the type and amount of insurance the pet owner carries, as well as any restrictions their specific insurance company may have. To understand whether or not your insurance will cover such damages, read Chris Kissell’s article, “Will your insurance pay out for pet damage?”