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A number of automakers acknowledge that drowsy driving is a big problem amongst American drivers. Recently, many have now begun investing in technologies that are designed to detect when a motorist is too tired to be operating behind the wheel.

Nissan has announced an exciting new technology that the company claims will help reduce the risk of drowsy driving accidents by detecting fatigue or drowsiness in a motorist.

9774109374_30408d141d_zAccording to statistics by the AAA, nearly 40 percent of drivers have said they have fallen asleep at the wheel at some point while driving, while 11 percent reported dozing off while driving in the past year alone. In the United States, drowsy drivers are responsible for more than 300,000 accidents, and account for over 6,400 fatalities every year.

Nissan has recently shared a new drowsy driving detection system that will be featured on its new models. This system is designed to analyze driving behavior, and look for signs of driver fatigue. The system can detect when the driver is too tired to operate safely and flashes a coffee mug symbol in the center of the instrument panel along with an audible warning.

The system detects drowsiness by monitoring steering input patterns of the driver using sensors, which it then compares to patterns of subsequent driving. When it finds behaviors that are typical of a drowsy motorist, it then immediately delivers a visible and audible alert.

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More than 200 passengers on two cruise ships, Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas and Celebrity’s Infinity, have fallen ill with norovirus. The CDC is now investigating the outbreak and monitoring clean up procedures on the two ships.

What is Norovirus?

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that spreads through contaminated food, water and dirty surfaces. Similar to the stomach flu, norovirus can cause up to three days of stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. This usually does not require treatment, but some people may become dehydrated and need liquids or intravenous fluids.

Cruise Ship Liability

Cruise ship passengers do have a bill of rights, but the terms of the ticket contract are what determine passengers’ right to sue.

147301814_1ca9572eb8_mUnder the contract, usually located on the back of the cruise ticket, passengers generally waive their right to sue unless the cruise company was negligent in some way. In order to show the cruise line was negligent, it must be demonstrated that the cruise line had a duty to reasonably care for its passengers, but breached that duty, which in turn, caused you harm.

A reasonable standard of care often translates to mean that the cruise company took adequate measures to clean rooms and restrooms, handled and stored food and water properly and made a reasonable effort to quarantine sick passengers to stop the spread of disease. Lastly, it must be shown that the cruise company’s breach of duty is what caused your injury. In the case of norovirus, the cruise company may allege that you already had the virus when you came aboard the ship. It could even claim that you picked it up on shore during one of the stops. However, in this case, it will be quite difficult for Celebrity and Royal Caribbean to argue that the 200 passengers were already sick before coming onto their ships.

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Bicycling has been a growing trend in the United States over the past few years, mostly in urban metropolitan areas. Many urban cities in the state of Florida and throughout the rest of the country have been bicycle-friendly for years and have been proactive in designing bike lanes and bike paths to give cyclists safer ways to travel alongside motor vehicles. In order for bicycling to remain as a safe alternative to driving a motor vehicle, cities will need to continue to stay focused on ways to reduce the number of cycling accidents and fatalities.

Since the late 70’s, there has been a decline in bicycle fatalities. However, a recent report conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that bicycle fatalities have been on the rise these last few years. Between 2010 and 2012, there was a 16 percent increase in the number of cyclists who were killed in accidents with motor vehicles.

4920222422_e160c0f228_zTotal Number of Bicycling Fatalities from 2010-2012

  • 2010 – 621 fatalities
  • 2011 – 680 fatalities
  • 2012 – 722 fatalities

The GHSA report revealed that the states with the most bicycling fatalities were Texas, California, New York, Florida, Michigan and Illinois. Why these states? Florida and the other five states are all densely populated with multiple urban areas, which can lead to an increase in the number of bicyclists on the road, providing more opportunity for collisions with motor vehicles. The statistics do not lie – nearly 70 percent of all bicycling fatalities occur in urban areas and more than 33 percent take place at intersections.

Accidents involving motor vehicles can be very dangerous to cyclists, mostly because bikers are relatively unprotected. There are actually a number of things that bicyclists can do to protect themselves from injury and to prevent a tragedy.

  • Wear a Helmet
  • Follow all Traffic Laws
  • Never Bike Under the Influence of Drugs and/or Alcohol
  • Exercise Extra Caution When Approaching and Crossing an Intersection
  • Use Designated Bike Paths, Lanes and Trails when Possible

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has publicized their annual Distracted Driving Awareness safety campaign. The month of April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month so the NHTSA’s U Drive. U Text. U Pay. campaign will focus on the financial consequences and expenses of texting from the driver’s seat. The U Drive. U Text. U Pay. campaign has been funded by grants totaling up to $8.4 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation. This year’s slogan is “If you’re texting, you’re not driving.”

What’s the average time texting takes your eyes off the wheel? Five seconds. While that might not seem like a lot, if you are travelling at 55 miles per hour, that’s equivalent to driving the length of a football field blindfolded. You can’t drive and text. You’re either driving or you’re texting. Even just reading a text message is enough to cause an accident resulting in an injury or fatality.

8598246170_a96656631a_z (1)Distracted Driving Key Facts

  • 3,154 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2013
  • An estimated 424,000 people were injured in accidents involving distracted drivers in 2013
  • 3,328 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2012
  • 27 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes are drivers in their 20s

Texting while driving has become an epidemic in Florida and across the nation. Drivers of all ages have been known to engage in distracting driving behaviors behind the wheel. The good news is that most states now have distracted driving laws. Law enforcement agencies will be enhancing enforcement efforts throughout the country this month in order to combat this nationwide epidemic.

What to Do After a Distracted Driving Crash

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A couple was found dead Thursday in an apparent murder-suicide aboard a Holland America cruise ship that docked in Puerto Rico, according to officials.

The unidentified man and woman were in their 50s and from Cleveland, Ohio.

4243246108_5770984db2_mPolice claim that blood was found in the cabin aboard the Ryndam, but it was unclear how the couple died.

Police have not released anything regarding the motive or the murder weapon.

The ship’s crew apparently found the bodies when they checked on the couple after not seeing them for a while.

The FBI has taken over the investigation.

The ship departed Tampa, Florida, on Sunday for a two-week cruise in the southern Caribbean. The ship stopped in Key West on Monday and then spent two days at sea before docking in historic Old San Juan on Thursday, according to reports.

If someone you love is killed on a cruise ship, then the Death on the High Seas Act applies. This is actually a separate set of laws from either maritime or state laws. These types of cases are particularly complex, and should only be taken on by an experienced Maritime Lawyer at Whittel & Melton.

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Within the past year, airbags have been in the news for many wrong reasons. Many automakers have been forced to issue recalls for defective airbags, the most prominent airbag recall being Takata airbags. Nearly 8 million vehicles containing defective Takata airbags have been recalled to date that potentially propel metal shrapnel upon deployment.

Defective Airbags

Most airbags are located inside the steering wheel or in the dashboard panel and are connected to a crash sensor. This sensor sends a signal to deploy the airbag when the vehicle is involved in a severe wreck. The purpose of the airbag is to protect the driver and passengers from suffering substantial injuries, but in the case of defective airbags, they have been known to actually cause injuries, many of which can prove fatal.

Why Airbags Malfunction

Airbags deploy in a fraction of a second at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour. When an airbag malfunctions, the usual reason is because of a malfunctioning crash sensor that either does not deploy the airbag, deploys the airbag at the wrong time or deploys one airbag but not another.

Recovering Compensation in a Personal Injury Claim

If you have been injured in a collision where the airbag malfunctioned, you potentially have the option of filing a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the airbag. Depending on the facts of the case, there may be additional parties who could be found liable as well, such as the manufacturer of the vehicle or any other party that was responsible for maintenance, inspection or replacement of the airbag.

There are a few things that are key to file an injury claim, the first being preserving all evidence – the airbag itself. While it may be difficult to recover the airbag immediately after the accident, remember to take pictures, because these images can help prove your case.

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The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study that has some pretty disturbing results. The study actually determined that more than half of all teen car crashes involve some type of driver distraction.

The results show that distracted driving is a factor in 58 percent of teen crashes. Nearly 6 out of every 10 moderate to severe accidents involving teens also involved some type of distraction behind the wheel.

9734368152_c231145c75_zThe most common distractions for teens are not surprising – interacting with other passengers and cell phone usage. The study analyzed around 1,700 dashboard camera videos. Researchers observed and recorded the behavior of the teen drivers in the moments leading up to the accidents.

The following facts were determined from the study:

  • 6 out of 10 teen accidents involve distracted driving.
  • 15 percent of those crashes involved drivers interacting with one or more passenger.
  • 12 percent of those collisions involved cell phone usage.
  • 10 percent of those wrecks involved looking at something in the vehicle.

Teens that were found to be using their cell phones were said to have taken their eyes off the road for about 4.1 seconds out of the final 6 seconds leading to a crash.

Distracted driving is an epidemic involving teen and adult drivers across the country. AAA reports that teen drivers have the highest crash rate of any other driver age group.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has established a set of guidelines called “5 to Drive” in order to attempt to combat the teen distracted driving problem.

  1. No Cell Phones
  2. No Extra Passengers
  3. No Speeding
  4. No Alcohol
  5. Always Buckle Up

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A woman accused of leaving two children unattended inside a hot car in October was arrested Tuesday, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

The arrest report states that the woman was shopping at a strip mall in the 6500 block of Lantana Road in Lake Worth on Oct. 29. She apparently went into a store to make arrangements for a child’s birthday party, leaving two children, ages 2 and 4, alone for about 15 minutes in a van that was turned off and had the windows rolled up.

While she was inside the store, a woman who was attending her daughter’s dance class next door heard screaming coming from the van as she walked by. She told police she saw the children sweating profusely and noticed that one of them had vomited.

The woman ran into her daughter’s dance studio and asked the other mothers if anyone had left children in a red van. The dance moms ran out of the studio and tried to get into the car. One woman called 911 and the others ran inside the various stores at the strip mall to try and track down the driver.

When the driver was located she used her key remote from inside the store to open the rear hatch. Three of the dance moms went inside the vehicle to help the two children.

3144127895_bddb2e631b_zA responding sheriff’s deputy asked the woman whether the children were all right, but did not immediately arrest her.

Deputies said in the report that the outside temperature at the time was about 82 degrees.

The woman is now charged with child neglect.

A car interior can reach 109 degrees after sitting for just 10 minutes on a sunny 90-degree day. For every 10 minutes a vehicle sits in the sun, another 10 degrees is added. If your vehicle is sitting in a parking lot on a warm 90-degree Florida day for just an hour while you shop, the the interior of your car can actually reach 133 degrees in one hour.

With that said, the interior of your parked car is clearly not an ideal place for any living things, especially children and pets. Children and pets should never be left alone in a parked vehicle when the weather is hot. When children and pets are left in hot vehicles, they are at risk for heatstroke or even death. If you see a child or pet left in a closed car without an adult present, call 911 immediately. Even if children or pets are left in the car for just a few minutes, the car can still heat up to deadly temperatures very quickly!

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Graco Children’s Products has agreed to pay $10 million to settle claims that it failed to recall about four million child car seats with a defective buckle that could make it difficult to free a child in an emergency, according to federal regulators.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Graco would pay a $3 million fine and spend $7 million developing safety programs.

Recently, Graco had insisted that the only problem with the buckles was caused by children spilling food or drinks on them. However, parents told federal regulators that they had to cut the straps to free a child, and regulators dismissed the contamination explanation, saying such a problem was foreseeable.

In January 2014, the NHTSA demanded a recall. Graco originally refused, but relented about a month later.

Federal regulators opened an investigation in December into whether the company should have recalled the seats earlier than it did. That investigation started due to a review of Graco documents that showed that parents complained to Graco about the buckles in 2009.

In 2012, the company was telling parents how to clean the buckles and arguing that there was no safety issue.

Federal regulations require that once a manufacturer is aware of a safety problem, it has five business days to inform the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of its plan for a recall or the company will face a civil fine. The maximum penalty is $35 million.

6485505171_e6b1200fc1_zIn a statement issued on Friday, Graco said the company had “evaluated the issue in a timely manner.” Graco acknowledged that “it did not provide the required notice to N.H.T.S.A.” They additionally stated, “we fell short of N.H.T.S.A.’s expectations for data collection and reporting procedures.”

Graco will be required to submit an independent audit showing how it spends the $7 million, which is to be used on programs like “identifying potential safety trends affecting car seats industry wide and launching a child safety awareness campaign.”

If you believe your child’s injury may have been caused by a defective or flawed child safety seat, our Florida Injury Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help. Car seats are supposed to keep children secure in the event of a traffic accident, which means the device must work properly and be free of any defects or malfunctions that could prevent it from doing its job. While the safety seat should keep a baby or young child secure during a collision, it should also be easy to remove the child from seat without much delay.

Manufacturers can be held liable under Florida products liability if their defective product caused injury or death. If a negligent driver played a role in causing the crash that led to injury or fatality, there may also be reason for a Florida auto accident lawsuit.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a press release last week about the U.S. Department of Transportation’s first-ever National Tween Seat Belt Safety Advertising campaign. The campaign urges parents to “Never Give Up Until They Buckle Up.”

The NHTSA is utilizing this campaign to show the importance of targeting this age group and their parents about seat belt safety. It is absolutely vital for tweens to use their seatbelts any time they are riding in cars because these are formative years that immediately precede driving privileges for teenagers.

Unrestrained Tween Facts: Did You Know?

  • Within the past five years, 1,552 children between the ages of 8 and 14 died in car, SUV or Van collisions.
  • Around half of those children killed were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.
  • The percentage of child passengers who die while riding unbelted tends to increase with age. This more pronounced among 13 and 14-year-olds, regardless of seating position.

2732924156_617c53d3df_zThe campaign targets the parents of children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old. Why? This is a very important time to instill the habit in children of always buckling up, for every trip. Tweens are just a few short years away from being in the driver’s seat, which makes this campaign all the more important.

Parents are encouraged to lead by example. No matter how short the trip, any time you get behind the wheel you should fasten your seatbelt before heading anywhere.

Tweens are constantly learning how to be responsible and make good decisions. It is up to the adult or adults in the car to make sure they are always buckled up. Again, it doesn’t matter if you are driving 2 miles or 2,000, tweens, children and adults need to be buckled up for every ride.

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