April 2010 Archives

April 30, 2010

Recent Data about Children Injured in Car Accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2008 an average of 4 children were killed in motor vehicle crashes and 528 children were injured every day in the U.S. Approximately 20% of the children below the age of 14 who were killed were pedestrians, and almost half of the crashes that involved those minors occurred between 4-8 pm.

The legislatures of North Carolina and South Carolina have both passed laws that mandate a variety of restraint devices for child passengers. Such restraints (including seat belts that meet federal standards) have been proven to reduce the number of injuries to children who are passages. Nonetheless, based on 2006 figures (the most recent data available), the NHTSA reports that automobile crashes are the leading cause of death for children 3-14 years old in the United States.

While traffic-related fatalities have generally declined during the last year, the tragedy of each accident is magnified when it leads to injury to a child. In such situations, distraught parents find themselves trying to care for and comfort their children while at the same time dealing with doctors and hospitals, insurance companies, and a variety of investigators. The family's focus is certainly not on documents and other evidence. However, the amount of compensation that the child may receive for health care costs as well as pain and suffering will depend in part on how well the family can verify the extent of the injuries and the treatments received.

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April 28, 2010

New Research on Risks and Prevention of Whiplash Injuries

Earlier this week, six Charlotte children were injured in the University area when a pickup truck allegedly rear-ended the school bus in which they were riding. At the time of the crash, it was reported that the school bus was stopped at a red light.

All the injured students were treated for minor injuries and were released from the Carolinas Medical Center the same day. The drivers of the truck and the school bus were also treated for injuries.

One of the most typical injuries that occur in rear-end collisions is the whiplash neck injury. Scientists from Italy's Technical University in Milan have described whiplash as "an issue of rapid 'acceleration-deceleration' with energy transferred to the neck in rear-end or side-impact collisions"; they are now working on a new kind of headrest for car seats, which would be easy to adjust yet would lock in place automatically in a collision, keeping the motorists' heads from swinging sharply back and thus helping reduce the incidence of whiplash.

Whiplash injuries may be difficult to diagnose initially, are often difficult to treat, and may lead to long-term disability. One recent study has shown that women have a far greater risk of suffering whiplash injuries than men do. Interestingly, the author of the study concluded that the difference is due in part to differences between men and women's sitting positions inside a car.

Unfortunately, most school buses have fairly high seats but lack headrests. In addition, children riding in school buses are often seated in awkward positions, playing or talking to friends who are sitting in other parts of the bus. The studies of rear-end collisions seem to suggest that these factors would increase the chances of whiplash injuries when school buses are hit from behind.

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April 26, 2010

North Carolina Enforcement of Ban on Texting While Driving

Nationwide, in 2008 almost 6,000 people were killed and half a million people were injured in car crashes caused at least in part by distracted driving. Increasingly, states are passing laws banning texting while driving and/or calling while driving, or requiring the use of hands-free phones in cars.

Texting while driving became illegal in North Carolina in December of last year. However, a recent review showed that relatively few drivers have received citations for texting while driving in North Carolina so far since the texting ban took effect. Through February, 41 people had been convicted of texting while driving. The counties that filed the most texting-while-driving charges were Guilford and Mecklenburg.

The Asheville Citizen-Times quoted Asheville Police Department spokeswoman Melissa Williams as stating that law enforcement officers were more likely initially to give out warnings, in an attempt to build public awareness of the new law before beginning to issue more tickets. At the same time, however, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced the beginning of an effort to curtail distracted driving through a high-profile crackdown campaign on distracted driving in several cities throughout the country.

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