Archive for May, 2013

Making Massachusetts Safer for Motorcycle Riders

The number of motorcycle fatalities in Massachusetts and throughout the United States is cause for great concern. While fatalities for all other categories of accidents have declined over the past decade, the GHSA reports that motorcycle deaths have increased for 14  of the last 15 years. The nine percent increase from 2011 to 2012 was one of the worst on record and exceeded predictions from federal authorities on how much the death toll would rise over the course of the year. 

Our Fall River, MA accident attorneys urge drivers to seriously consider the problem of motorcycle rider safety during the month of May, which is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Drivers can start their efforts to improve safety by taking a look at the NHTSA reminder about sharing the road safely, but should go much further than just reading troubling stats and safety tips. Drivers and motorcyclists need to put what they learn through Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month into practice to make safe choices on the roads and avoid accidents.

Improving Motorcycle Safety in Massachusetts

Motorcycle riders are in serious danger of being killed by a motorcycle crash, with motorcyclists 30 times more likely on a per vehicle mile basis to die in a car accident than those in passenger vehicles.  Something needs to be done about the risks, and some Massachusetts residents told the Taunton Gazette that a mandatory motorcycle safety course might be the answer. There are many proponents of this solution who argue that a safety course could help reduce the number of motorcycle-related deaths in the state.

While such a mandatory class might be one way to help to reduce accidents, the Massachusetts Rider Education Program for motorcyclists called “Training Wheels” is currently required only for motorcycle riders ages 18 or under or for riders who have failed the motorcycle road test twice. Further, a safety course for motorcyclists may not be the best answer because motorcycle riders are often not the ones behaving unsafely or driving in a risky way.

Often, it is the drivers of passenger cars who take chances, make careless choices and put motorcyclists at risk. Part of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month involves educating drivers so they won’t be the ones endangering motorcyclists and the NHTSA offers some important advice to drivers serious about making the roads safer. For example, drivers can reduce the chances of a motorcycle accident by:

  • Never driving distracted.
  • Leaving motorcyclists their own lane, not trying to share.
  • Using signals before merging or changing lanes so motorcyclists can better anticipate what the car will do.
  • Checking and double checking blind spots where a motorcycle rider could be hidden while  a driver is changing lanes or merging.
  • Being sensitive to the fact that motorcyclists are more affected by potholes or changes in road surface.
  • Leaving plenty of room–at least three to four seconds of driving distance–between the car’s front and the motorcycle’s back.

By following these basic safety tips, drivers can do their part to reduce the rising number of motorcycle accident deaths. Drivers making smart choices will do at least as much to help motorcycle riders as any type of proposed mandatory safety course that motorcyclists could be required to take.

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, contact an experienced lawyer at 508-677-4900. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl  serves clients in Providence, R.I., as well as Foxborough and Fall River, Mass.

May 2013

Cycling Safety a Spring Focus in Rhode Island, Massachusetts

With spring and summer being the prime time for bicycle riding, May is the perfect opportunity to take a minute to think about bicycle safety. 

Our Fall River, MA bike accident attorneys know that National Bike Safety Month serves as an important reminder to drivers, bicycle riders and parents of bicycle riders about the importance of bike safety. This year, part of the Bike Safety efforts will also include Roll Model, which is a campaign to remind parents to set a good example for their kids when riding.

Bike Safety Tips

As part of the Roll Model Campaign, the Department of Transportation urges parents and caregivers to follow some basic bicycle safety tips and to teach their children these tips through setting a good example. Some of the different things that bike riders should do to stay safe include:

  • Wearing a properly fitting helmet every bike ride.
  • Following the same laws as motor vehicles during every bike ride.
  • Using appropriate hand signals to communicate with cars.

The DOT also recognizes that drivers play a major role in keeping bicycle riders safe. Drivers are expected to obey the rules of the road as well, and should also be cautious when bike riders are on the road. To help reduce the risk of becoming involved with a bicycle accident, drivers are urged to:

  • Treat bike riders respectfully when driving.
  • Be patient when passing bicycle riders and pass only when it is safe to do so.
  • Leave at least three feet between the car and any bicycles on the road.
  • Avoid using cellular phones or texting while driving.

The DOT suggests that all adult drivers, whether they are bike riders or not, should follow these safety tips while driving in order to make the roads safer for riders.

The Dangers of Bicycle Accidents

Bicycle riders are at risk of accidents for many different reasons, including drivers not paying attention or drivers not obeying the rules of the road. The risks of accidents decreases, however, when the safety of bicycle riders is taken into account. This means that states and cities with bicycle paths, with educational programs, and with safety laws in place are all better for bike riding.

Each year, the states are ranked in terms of how friendly they are to bicyclists and how safe bike riders are. For 2013, the Detroit Free Press has Rhode Island as number 25 on the list of bike friendly states. This means that about half of the states are doing better at protecting bicycle riders than Rhode Island.

Rhode Island clearly has room for improvement, and celebrating National Bike Safety Month is a good start. If every driver is cautious about protecting the rights of bicycle riders, then riders will be safer and the chances of an accident will be reduced. This can help to protect victims of all ages: While kids may be the victims of bike accidents a lot, the average age of a bicyclist killed is age 41.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact an experienced bike accident lawyer at 508-677-4900. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl  serves clients in Providence, R.I., as well as Foxborough and Fall River, Mass.

May 2013

Fatal Work Injuries a Serious Concern in New England

For 22 years, the AFL-CIO has released an annual report detailing the status of health and safety protections for workers throughout the United States. The 2013 report has been released and shows little progress has been made in recent years to reduce the number of workers getting hurt or dying on the job. While great strides have been made since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created in 1970, progress has stalled in recent years and worker safety risks are receiving little national attention. 

Our Providence, RI work injury lawyers know that Rhode Island is one of the better states for workers, with a fatality rate of 1.5 deaths for every 100,000 workers as compared with the national average of 3.5 deaths for every 100,000 workers. Still, there is a long way to go to improve working conditions and to help reduce the number of people who die or are seriously injured while doing their jobs.

Neglect and Lax Regulations Stall Workplace Safety Improvements

The AFL-CIO indicates that 4,693 workers died on the job in 2011, or an average of 13 workers each day. Another 50,000 workers died as a result of occupational diseases while a total of 3.8 million suffered an injury or illness as a result of work.

Unfortunately, with the high number of workers suffering injury or dying on the job, the job fatality rate has not improved from last year. In fact, the job fatality rate has been stagnant for the past three years with few improvements being made to reduce the number of people who die on the job.

The AFL-CIO suggests a number of potential reasons why worksites aren’t becoming safer and why workers continue to suffer injuries and fatalities including:

  • Too few OSHA inspectors. There are an estimated 8 million workplaces in the United States that OSHA has jurisdiction over. Unfortunately, there are only 837 federal OSHA inspectors and 1,065 state inspectors to check work conditions at these eight million worksites. This means that federal inspectors would be able to visit a workplace once every 131 years and state inspectors would be able to visit once every six years.
  • Fines that are too low. Even when OSHA does catch employers committing workplace violations, this is not a major deterrent. For a serious violation, the penalty imposed by federal OSHA regulators was $2,156 on average. For state OSHA, the penalty was just $974. Even when workers die as a result of workplace violations, federal OSHA only imposed a median penalty after settlement of $5,175. These fines are simply not high enough to actually force employers to take safety seriously.
  • Limits on criminal penalties.  Criminal charges can be brought only in cases where a willful violation of OSHA regulations leads to worker death. Even when criminal penalties are imposed, the crime is a misdemeanor. Further, only 84 cases have been prosecuted sine 1970 and defendants who were convicted served only 89 months of jail time.

With few inspectors available and with inspectors having virtually no leverage to ensure compliance, it is no wonder that employers are not actively taking steps to make worksites safer. Unfortunately, this is why the AFL-CIO has named its 2013 report “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect.”

If you have been injured in a work accident, contact an experienced lawyer at 508-677-4900. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl  serves clients in Providence, R.I., as well as Foxborough and Fall River, Mass.