slip-and-fall: photo of man's foot in black shoe and black dress pants hovering over banana peelSlip-and-fall accidents can result in damages ranging from minor sprains to broken bones and spinal cord injuries. When these falls occur on someone else’s property, the injured party is sometimes entitled to recover damages, but not always. A recent New Jersey case is one such example.

Last Tuesday, a New Jersey appeals court upheld an earlier Superior Court ruling in favor of Burlington Coat Factory in a lawsuit brought against the retailer by a customer who claimed to have slipped on a piece of fruit while shopping in the company’s Middlesex Mall location. Generally, property owners are responsible for keeping their property safe or at least warning visitors of potential dangers until they can be rectified. In this instance, however, the woman allegedly slipped on fruit, which had nothing to do with the store’s business. Because of this, the appeals court ruled, store management could not be expected to have been aware of the danger prior to the accident. For more details on the court’s ruling, see “Burlington Coat Factory not liable for woman who slipped on fruit, court finds.”

inattentive-drivers-400-04486155dFor a long time, safe driving campaigns focused on stopping people from drinking and driving. Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over; Don’t Drink and Drive, Arrive Alive; Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk; U Drink, U Drive, U Lose are some of the more memorable slogans used to discourage this behavior.

Although driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol has not been eliminated, it is no longer the number one factor leading to fatal collisions in New Jersey. According to State Police analysis of crash data, driver inattention, or distracted driving, was the leading cause of fatal accidents in the State in 2014. This revelation is not new. In fact, 2014 was the fifth consecutive year in which distracted driving was found to be the top factor leading to accident fatalities. To read more details about this analysis see “This kills more people on N.J. roads than anything else.”

drone-400-08261576dDid you receive a drone as a gift this holiday season or perhaps purchase one for someone on your gift list? If so, you should be aware of new regulations recently announced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) affecting many recreational drone operators.

Officials are concerned that the increased, unregulated use of drones poses a risk of serious injury resulting from accidents with other aircraft. According to a report issued by Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone, there were 327 “close encounters” between drones and manned aircraft reported between December 2013 and September 2015. The majority of these incidents met the FAA’s definition of “close encounters,” which means two aircraft were flying within 500 feet of each other at some point. Additionally, most of the reported incidents took place in areas where drones are prohibited by the FAA. The Consumer Electronics Association predicted that sales of drones for 2015 would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 700,000, with a large number of sales occurring during the holiday season. With more drones in the air, the near-miss incidents can only be expected to increase.

In an effort to cut down on the dangers drones pose to manned aircraft, the FAA is now requiring that drones over a certain weight be registered with the federal government and that recreational users follow certain operating guidelines. For details on the new regulations, read US News & World Report’s story, “Toy Drones Must Be Registered With the Government.”

Holiday hazards -- photo of poinsettia plant and lighted candlesThe holidays are a hectic time for many people and, with attention stretched so thin, it is easy to overlook hazards lurking in your home. Trees that aren’t properly cared for, candles left unattended, and cooking surfaces left unsupervised are the most common hazards that can lead to fires which, in turn, have the potential to cause injury and property loss.

Those aren’t the only hazards of the holiday season however. Decorative lights, plants, even the ribbons, bows and paper used to dress up the presents hold hidden dangers. For a more detailed list of what to look out for, see “6 Holiday Safety Hazards.”

Taking a few extra minutes to ensure that your home and decorations are safe can mean the difference between happy holidays and tragedy.

drunk driving: color photo of glass of beer and car keys on brown tableEach year for the past several years the National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration (NHTSA) has designated December as National Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Month to reinforce the message that driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol is a risk to everyone on the road. In connection with this campaign, the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association once again will join forces with Uber in efforts to keep impaired drivers off the road this holiday season. See http://herocampaign.org/2015/11/uber-offering-free-rides-from-bars-during-holidays/ for details.

The NHTSA recognizes that strides have been made in reducing the number of alcohol-related accidents over the past several decades, but NHTSA admits more work needs to be done to stop people from driving under the influence of drugs, including marijuana and prescription medications.

Penalties for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol vary by state. New Jersey takes these offenses seriously and imposes stiff penalties for those arrested for DUI and DWI violations. For information on these penalties, see http://www.state.nj.us/mvc/Violations/dui.htm.

color photo of a finger pointing to a car's keyless ignition switchMost new cars today come equipped with a keyless ignition feature that allows the driver to start the car without ever taking the key from his or her pocket or purse – they simply push a button. While many drivers quickly grow to appreciate this new convenience, some claim keyless ignition systems are defective and pose a potential deadly hazard.

Class action lawsuits have been filed against car manufacturers alleging that the keyless ignition feature makes it too easy for drivers to unintentionally leave their cars running. When this happens in an enclosed garage, carbon monoxide fumes can build up and potentially enter the attached homes threatening the safety of the home’s occupants.

An article appearing recently on www.nbcnewyork.com titled, “I-Team: Class Action Lawsuits Expose Potential Dangers of Keyless Ignitions,” details one case of carbon monoxide poisoning claimed to be connected with the keyless ignition issue and discusses the class action lawsuits car makers are now facing.

Zip line injuries: color photo of man soaring over treetops on zip lineZip lines can be found almost everywhere these days – vacation resorts, summer camps, even schools, farms and backyards vying to attract the adventurous. However, as the popularity of this activity grows, so does the number of related injuries according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

The study looked at zip line activity between 1997 and 2012 during which time almost 17,000 zip line-related injuries, including cuts, sprains and broken bones, were reported. The majority of these injuries occurred between 2009 and 2012 at commercial zip line courses; so-called “amateur” zip lines accounted for only about 30% of the reported injuries. Currently, there are more than 200 commercial zip lines in this country; while amateur zip lines number in the thousands.

A recent Associated Press (AP) report titled, “Zip line popularity soars along with injuries, study says,” noted that this study indicates the need for more uniformed safety standards and regulations of the zip line industry. Currently regulations essentially are self-imposed and vary by state. In New Jersey operators are required to obtain a permit before operating a zip line; however, State inspectors perform “paper only” inspections, which involve reviewing the engineering plans, operations manual, and inspection and training records. Zip line operators are, however, required to hire an independent inspector for a hands-on inspection of their equipment, according to the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials.

Halloween injuries: headshot of girl in costume with platinum hair and bright blue eyes wearing bird's nest veilHalloween is just around the corner and if you want a real scare, consider the following statistics:

  • Halloween ranks among the top three holidays in terms of injuries and / or fatalities. The other two most dangerous holidays are July 4th (fireworks) and New Year’s Eve (drunk driving).
  • In the 20-year period from 1990 to 2010, the number of fatal accidents involving child pedestrians on Halloween averaged 5.5 each year, compared with 2.6 for other days.
  • Insurance company statistics indicate that the deadliest night of the year for pedestrians is Halloween.

Motor-vehicle-versus-pedestrian accidents are just one of the dangers associated with this holiday. Contaminated treats, flammable costumes and costume obstructions are others. This year a new warning has been issued regarding potential injuries from certain costume accessories, which could affect adults as well as children

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has warned against the use of decorative, over-the-counter contact lenses, stating that these lenses can leak chemicals that are harmful to the eye or cause scratches or ulcers on the eyeball as a result of their stamped pattern design. To learn more about this latest Halloween hazard, read the www.nj.com article, “This Halloween accessory could damage your eyes, doctors warn.”

For further information on how to keep all trick-or-treaters, both young and old, safe this Halloween, see the Scholastic Parents article, “Safety Tips for a Happy Halloween.”

Artificial turf - picture of goal net on artificial turf fieldArtificial turf as an alternative to natural grass has been growing in popularity, especially in athletic field applications. Durability and low maintenance costs are among the benefits often cited. And now, new manufacturing technologies have yielded a surface designed to be even softer and more yielding to help prevent injuries. However, the safety of long-term exposure to this new surface has come into question.

Recent reports suggest the possibility of a link between student athletes who play on artificial fields made from crumb rubber and those who have been stricken with cancer. Those numbers have increased over the past several years, raising the concern of parents, coaches and even doctors. See the NBCNews article, “Mom of Goalie Who Died of Cancer Wants Answers on Artificial Turf.”

Crumb rubber turf is made from recycled tires which, themselves, contain carcinogenic materials. This has led to the question of whether or not playing on artificial surfaces made from this material is increasing our children’s risk of cancer.

Advocates for the use of artificial turf point out dozens of studies have been conducted on the safety of these fields and none have yet to uncover a link between the underlying materials and cancer. For opponents, however, the coincidence is too big to ignore. What both sides do agree on is that additional testing is needed and that it is time for the federal government to step up to the issue. Currently, the question of whether or not to use artificial turf remains a decision for state and local officials. For more information on where officials stand on this issue, see “Feds Won’t Say If Artificial Turf on Your Kid’s Soccer Field is Safe.”

furniture-dangers-400-04357367dIkea, the giant Swedish furniture company, joined the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) in warning parents of the need to anchor heavy furniture to the walls in order to prevent the furniture from accidentally tipping over and causing injuries, particularly to young children. The CPSC contends that such accidents can be prevented by simply anchoring the furniture to a wall.

Last year, two toddlers in the U.S. reportedly died in separate incidents involving chests of drawers sold by Ikea. In response, the furniture company joined the CPSC in its warning to parents and offered free wall-anchoring kits to consumers who purchased the MALM chests from its stores. For details, the www.today.com story, “Ikea urges anchoring its dressers and drawers to the wall to protect children.”