Driving in a zone where there are human beings working requires extra care and vigilance. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, in the past 5 years, 4,400 people have died in work zone crashes – and 85 percent of those were passengers or drivers.
Work zones don’t just put you at risk as a driver. Not paying attention or driving dangerously puts construction workers at risk. Your negligence could seriously injure or even kill a worker, which could result in a personal injury lawsuit brought against you. Use these tips to stay safe and avoid harming those around you.
1. Follow All Signage
When you’re approaching a work zone, there should be ample signage alerting you about entering a work zone and providing directions for how to safely navigate one. Usually, work zone signs are orange and/or diamond-shaped. Some common work zone signs you might encounter are:
Road work ahead
Traffic traveling in both directions
Lane is ending and requires merging
Flagger ahead – a flagger is a work zone worker
End of work zone
Speed limit change
You may encounter completely different directions for work zone driving within just a minute or two. Roads and navigation may change completely, sometimes turning one-way roads into two-way traffic. Pay attention to all signs, and make sure you’re obeying each one as you drive.
2. Be Aware of Sudden Changes
“Expect the unexpected” is a wise mantra for driving through work zones. Because there are likely to be construction equipment and a multitude of workers and work vehicles in a work zone, these elements may enter your lane without warning or cause a change to your driving directions in an instant.
Pay attention to humans entering a work zone, as well as other vehicles changing lanes or stopping or slowing unexpectedly. Because sudden changes may occur, it’s a good idea to drive no faster than the speed limit that is posted.
3. Comply with Directions
As mentioned, in addition to the signage that is posted, flaggers may enter the road to give additional directions. These flaggers will most likely be wearing reflective construction garb or a uniform in neon colors, as well as a hard hat. They’ll likely be carrying actual flags to point vehicles in the direction they want them to go, or to stop vehicles.
Roll down your window in case the flagger attempts to communicate with you. Follow the direction of the flagger if it conflicts with something a sign has posted. The flagger has the most relevant directions based on what the work zone team needs to accomplish at that moment.
4. Give Plenty of Room
Because there can be sudden changes or flaggers amending driving directions, allow for plenty of room between your vehicle and the one in front of you – at least two car lengths is a good amount. The car in front of you may need to stop suddenly, or a work zone vehicle may enter your lane, or you may need to come to a stop to pay attention to a flagger. Without ample room, you could ram into the vehicle in front of you and set off a dangerous chain of events.
As soon as you see the first “road work ahead” construction sign, start to slow down, and increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. If you need to change lanes, make sure there is also plenty of room to do so before moving.
You should never attempt to do anything else besides driving while you are behind the wheel. In work zones, this is even more important, since someone could walk into the road or change the driving directions in an instant. Put down your phone, keep both hands on the wheel, and make sure your eyes are only on what’s in front of you when driving through a work zone.
6. Have a Positive Attitude
Road rage is a major risk factor for vehicle accidents, motorists, passengers, pedestrians and construction workers. According to the Insurance Information Institute, aggressive driving plays a role in more than half of fatal crashes. When you’re about to enter a work zone, take a deep breath, stay calm, and be grateful for the beautiful new roads those workers are helping to create and maintain.
Don’t get angry at slow drivers, or at workers for doing their job. Be patient and rational. Follow all driving laws, and don’t let a bad attitude turn into a deadly driving situation.
If you neglect to follow work zone signs and directions from flaggers, you are putting yourself and others at risk. Your negligence could result in someone else getting seriously hurt or dying. You could also make yourself vulnerable to a personal injury lawsuit. Next time you see a construction zone, make safety your top priority.
A favorite American pastime in summer months is taking a road trip. Unfortunately, more people on the road driving longer distances also means more risk for summer car accidents. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute, reports that summer is one of the top most dangerous times of the year on the road. In summer, weekends are deadlier, and July and August are the deadliest months of the road in the entire year.
Alcohol and drug use, distracted driving, improper car maintenance, inexperienced drivers on the road and more are all contributing factors to risky conditions on summer roads. If you’re planning on taking a road trip with family or friends this summer, use these tips to stay safe.
Check Your Car Out Before Hitting the Road
Hot summer temperatures can increase the risk that your car malfunctions. Summer heat particularly makes tires vulnerable and can increase the likelihood of blowouts on the road. Under-inflated tires produce more heat, so get your tires checked out before driving any considerable distance. Make sure you ride with a spare in case you need to replace it.
You should also check that oil, brake fluid, coolant, windshield wiper fluid, power steering fluid and other car components are all stocked and in great working order. A clean air filter will also help ensure your car runs at peak performance during a summer road trip. Make sure all lights and signals function perfectly before driving at any time.
Take an emergency kit with jumper cables, a flashlight, water bottles, first aid equipment and a phone charger with you. If you’re in an accident and are stranded in the middle of nowhere, you’ll want to be able to contact emergency services and stay safe.
Keep Distractions to a Minimum
Summer road trips are carefree times and ones you’ll likely be spending with other people in your car. The more people in a car, the more distractions you might encounter as a driver.
Giving young children a quiet activity to stay busy, like a coloring book or game
Researching routes ahead of time, or asking another passenger to navigate
As the driver, take ownership of keeping passengers safe. Make it understood that you may not be able to engage in discussions while driving because you need to focus.
Never Drive Impaired
Summertime may be party time for some, but that doesn’t excuse driving while impaired. There is one death because of an alcohol-impaired driver every 50 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and marijuana users are 25 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than sober drivers.
In your road trip group, make a pact to never let an impaired driver get behind the wheel. That puts the entire car at risk, as well as others on the road.
Only Drive While Alert
Just like you should never get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or using drugs, avoid driving while sleepy, too. Drowsy driving caused 72,000 crashes and 800 deaths in 2013, the CDC reports.
It may be tempting to keep driving on the road to get to your next destination, but it’s important to get proper rest. Drowsy driving decreases attention, slows reactions, and impairs decision-making. Make rest a part of your road trip schedule, or switch off driving so that only alert drivers are behind the wheel.
Be a Defensive Driver
One notable reason why summer roads are more dangerous is that there are more teen drivers on the road. AAA calls the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day the “100 Deadliest Days,” because an average of 10 people a day are killed by teen drivers during these times. This is a 14 percent increase compared to the rest of the year.
Knowing the increased risks during summer months, use defensive driving techniques like:
Staying focused on the road
Being aware of surroundings and the behavior of other drivers
Always making the most cautious driving decision to avoid accidents
Allowing up to 3 to 4 seconds to brake between you and any driver in front of you, and more in inclement weather
You should also be aware of changing road conditions, including construction zones. Especially when you’re driving in unfamiliar areas, be sure to drive at the speed limit and be proactively aware about evolving surroundings.
What to Do If You’re in a Road Trip Accident
Factors like distracted driving, neglecting to maintain a vehicle, impaired and drowsy driving, and reckless driving all contribute to negligent risks for car accident injuries and deaths. If you are a victim in a serious car accident, especially when out of state, contact emergency services. They can fill out a police report and make sure the other driver stays at the scene so information can be gathered.
Document the accident by taking photos of the scene and writing down your account of what happened. Contact a car accident attorney for a free consultation on whether or not pursuing action against the other driver for negligence is worth it. You may be entitled to more compensation than an insurance company is willing to offer.
Workplace falls from height are the leading cause of private sector worker death in the construction industry, accounting for nearly 39 percent of construction fatalities in 2016. They’re also among the leading causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports worker injuries and illnesses are down drastically from nearly 11 percent of workers in 1972 to nearly 3 percent of workers in 2016, there are still dangerous risks anyone working from a substantial height faces.
Workplace falls from height include incidents like the following:
Falling off ladders
Plummeting from scaffolding
Being struck by an object from above, then losing balance and falling off another object
Cascading off a roof or vehicle
Falling into a hole in the floor or a wall
Any fall from 6 feet or more can cause serious injury, but even falls covering fewer distances can cause broken bones, cuts, head injuries and more. Here’s a look at what to be aware of concerning workplace falls from height, what to do if you experience this type of situation, and when negligence may be to blame for your fall.
Causes of Workplace Falls from Height
Any time you’re working high off the ground, it’s vital to be aware of the risks you incur. One of the top preventable causes of workplace falls from height is a lack of training. If you ever feel uncomfortable with the amount of training you have before working from a significant height, voice your concerns to an employer. You should never be forced to do work you are uncomfortable with.
As you’re working above the ground, keep these other risk factors in mind:
Inadequate edge protection: If you are not properly secured to a harness that can protect you in a fall, and there is no edge protection, you could slip off the edge and plunge.
Poor securing of flooring or objects: If what you are walking on is not stable and secure, you might fall or slip off the flooring. Objects above you that are not properly secured and that may fall on your could also cause you to fall.
Vehicle movement: If you are scaling a vehicle, and the vehicle starts moving without warning, you could fall off it. A moving vehicle could also cause you to collide with another object and fall off.
Weather: A 2016 study of falls from height found weather conditions are one of the most common factors in falls. Inclement weather like windy or rainy conditions can exacerbate risk factors.
Protect yourself in situations where a fall is a risk factor by wearing slip-resistant shoes, helmet equipment and protective clothing. Always make sure any equipment you use has been tested first to ensure it’s in proper working condition.
What to Do If You Fall at Work
If you experience a fall at work, call for help, and don’t move because you may be injured. Get medical attention immediately. Try to take a mental note of what you were doing before the fall, what the conditions were like, and what happened immediately after.
You will want to file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer. The insurance firm of your employer will handle compensation for medical bills and money lost from time missed off work.
Sometimes, the compensation you are offered is much lower than you deserve, or a workers’ compensation claim may be turned down. When an employer’s negligence is to blame, getting help from a workers’ compensation attorney may be wise. OSHA’s outline of fall protection states that employers must install fall protection at elevations at 4 feet or higher depending on the work environment. Employers should also guard holes, provide guardrails and toe-boards around elevated flooring, provide safety harnesses, and more depending on the work situation.
If you suspect adequate protection was not given to you while working, and you sustained a serious injury after a fall, contact an attorney. The statute of limitations prevents workers from filing a lawsuit after a certain amount of time, so it is best to get a free consultation as soon as possible from an attorney. Workers’ compensation claims don’t necessarily account for pain and suffering, or psychological damage incurred from a fall. An attorney can help you get the full compensation you deserve.
Need Help for a Serious Fall from Height Injury?
If you have experienced a serious injury from a fall, the team at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums may be able to help. We specialize in workers’ compensation issues and offer a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
Something more than a few of us have probably been guilty of at least once in our lives is having our heads buried down in our phones while we’re walking in a public place. In Hawaii, a new law means you can be fined up to $99 if you’re caught staring at a screen and walking on city streets – not just for those using smartphones, but tablets and video games, too. Nicknamed the “smartphone zombie” law, the Distracted Walking Law applies to device-using pedestrians in Hawaii’s capital city, Honolulu. This is the first law targeting distracted walking to increase road safety to pass in the United States.
Pedestrian deaths nationwide are on the rise, with the Governors Highway Safety Association reporting an 11 percent increase year-over-year in 2016, citing smartphone technology usage as a contributing factor. Looking at a screen while walking poses risks including:
Walking into oncoming traffic
Not noticing a car turning into a crosswalk
Moving in front of a cyclist
Crashing into another pedestrian and causing a fall
Having a delayed reaction time when danger strikes
People who text and walk are about four times more likely to engage in at least one dangerous action, such as not looking both ways or jaywalking, and they take nearly 20 percent longer to cross a street than a non-distracted pedestrian does, reports The New York Times. Not only does staring at a screen while you’re walking endanger you, but it can cause catastrophic events around you if you collide with someone – or a vehicle.
The new distracted walking law in Honolulu places the burden of road safety on pedestrians, as well as drivers, and makes an exception for pedestrians who are using a cell phone to call emergency services. It will be interesting to watch how Hawaii’s new law enforcement affects pedestrian accident and death statistics, and if other states follow suit.
Distracted Walking Laws Around the World
While Honolulu is the first major American city to enact a law against texting and walking, several places throughout the globe are already combating the dangers. Some actions that may make their way State-side some day include:
In certain parts of the Netherlands, Russia and Germany, embedded LED lighting strips alert pedestrians when traffic lights are changing, so those looking at their smartphones are still alerted
Chongqing, China, has “smartphone lanes,” which are differentiated from non-distracted pedestrian lanes
India has “no selfie zones” to prevent deaths from stampeding
In the U.S., several communities including those in California, Idaho and New York remind walkers about the importance of paying attention to where they’re going, through signage and community outreach. At least 10 states have debated legislation regarding distracted pedestrians and bicyclists.
More Device Distraction Dangers
Device usage while walking isn’t just dangerous for pedestrians. Using a smartphone while driving can have dire consequences. Already, 47 states as well as the District of Columbia and U.S. territories ban text messaging by drivers.
The Federal Communications Commission reports there are about 8 deaths and nearly 1,200 injuries a day in accidents caused by distracted drivers in the United States. A driver who is traveling at 60 mph and takes their eyes off the road for 1 second can travel nearly 90 feet, making the risk of a deadly accident more likely than some would think.
When Texting While Walking Becomes a Legal Issue
Each state has different stipulations regarding pedestrian rights in accidents. Pedestrians who are distracted by smartphones don’t just pose a danger to motorists. They can also cause serious accidents with other pedestrians, as well as cyclists, children and other parties.
While pedestrians often get the right-of-way when they’re around vehicles, there are laws they must follow in order to create a safe environment for drivers, too. For example, in Alabama, drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing roadways in a crosswalk when traffic control signals are not operating. However, pedestrians break the law whenever they leave a curb or other safe place, enter the path of a vehicle, and become a hazard. In this case, if a pedestrian is looking at a device and heads into traffic, the situation may be deemed negligence on the part of the pedestrian. If serious injuries were sustained on behalf of the driver, pedestrian or other parties, their use of a device becomes an important aspect of a possible claim.
The best way to stay safe is to be aware of the rise in pedestrian fatalities and injuries, many of which are caused by device usage. As a driver, understand that pedestrians may not be paying attention, and employe safe driving behavior at all times. As a pedestrian, know that even if you don’t get fined for device usage while walking like you would in Honolulu, you could cause a serious injury or even death by distractedly walking.
Need information on a Birmingham personal injury or other attorney assistance? Call Pittman, Dutton & Hellums at (866) 515-8880 for a free consultation.
With school back in session in Alabama, teen drivers are taking to the road to get to and from school and all the extracurricular activities that go along with it — including parties. As a parent, make sure to also emphasize these driving aspects to teen drivers who have secured their licenses.
Always Be Prepared
Teen drivers should make sure they never drive in a vehicle that is not prepared to be on the road. This means the vehicles should be properly maintained, including having regular oil changes, windshield wipers that work, functioning brake and turn signal lights, intact side view and rearview mirrors, and proper engine functioning.
All seat belts in a car should work and be worn at all times. Tell your teen not to give a ride to anyone unless they are buckled up. If your child is driving at the time of an accident, you want to make sure that any possible accusations of negligence are avoided, making sure that they always wear their seat belt will not only keep them safer but will help to protect them from being liable for negligence.
Teen drivers should also make sure that their most up-to-date insurance information is safely stored in a glove compartment for easy access in case they’re pulled over. They should always drive with a valid license, too.
Follow All Driving Instructions
The CDC reports some of the most significant risk factors teen drivers face compared to other age groups on the road include nighttime driving, distracted driving, drowsy driving and reckless driving. Inexperience heightens all these risks, which is why proper training is essential before a teen drives alone. Once they start driving independently, though, parents should talk to teens about avoiding dangers on the road.
You should make it clear that teens should:
Never drive while using a smartphone
Only use in-car technology such as maps or a radio when stopped completely
Avoid driving when tired, whether after leaving a party or from staying at a friend’s house
Be aware of the power a car has and be careful to protect their life and the lives of others by driving alertly every time
Substance abuse and impaired driving from alcohol or drugs also pose a threat. If your teen uses any medication that increases their risks, you should consider limiting their driving ability.
Be Wary of Other Passengers
One of the biggest threats to your teen driver is other passengers they ride with in the car. Teen drivers might get distracted by conversations, by looking at something on a smartphone, or by the actions another teen passenger is taking in the vehicle.
Communicate to your child that they should avoid driving with others. If this is necessary, such as in a carpool situation, they should reduce the risk by:
Turning off the radio
Banning smartphone use in the car
Limiting the amount of total passengers in a car
Your teen is likely under your insurance policy. You can create a safe driving agreement with your teen that enforces their adherence to safe driving behaviors you agree upon. If the teen does not follow those, their driving privileges will be revoked.
What to Do When All Else Fails
Even when your teen driver safely follows all traffic laws and focuses on driving while they’re behind the wheel, accidents may still occur. Prepare your teen for this, by advising them to do the following after an accident:
Call 911. They should be honest in what they tell police happened, provide all materials asked of them, and not leave the scene of the accident without direction from police.
Document the scene.The teen should take photos and videos of the vehicle and the conditions of themselves and passengers.
Talk to a parent.Make it clear to your teen that their honesty in telling you about any accident situation is vital and that they will not be punished for their honesty. Highlight that you are their advocate if they are involved in an accident, and the more transparent they can be and the more information they can provide, the more you can help protect them and their driving rights.
In any accident where there is a serious injury, or your teen or you believes another party’s negligence caused the accident, you may have a car accident claim that can be pursued. Contact a car accident attorney in Birmingham for more information on how to protect the rights of your teen.
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