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$2 Million Settlement to Family of Teen Critically Hurt in DUI Crash

Sergio Molina was laying in the bed of a pickup truck being driven by an intoxicated 16-year-old boy on the night of June 15, 2013, when the speeding truck slammed into a vehicle on the side of the road, causing a chain reaction crash that killed four people.

Twelve people were also hurt in the crash in Fort Worth, Texas, that night, including Molina, who was thrown out of the pickup bed by the impact of the collision and landed on his head, causing massive and life-changing injuries.

Now 17, Molina and his family will receive a $2 million settlement to care for the teen, who was paralyzed by the crash and is only able to blink his eyes, according to a May 6 report by The Dallas Star-Telegram.

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/

Molina’s parents, Maria Lemus and Sergio Molina, had sued the family of the teen who was driving the pickup truck, Ethan Couch of Fort Worth, according to the story. Couch’s pickup “swerved in the 1500 block of Burleson-Retta Road in southern Tarrant County, hitting a stranded motorist and three people who had stopped to help her,” the paper reported. “The pickup also plowed into a parked car, sending it into a Volkswagen Beetle driving in the opposite direction. Couch’s pickup flipped and smashed into a tree.”

The settlement calls for the liability insurance company of Couch’s parents, Fred and Tonya Couch, to pay $1.638 million to the Sergio E. Molina Special Needs Trust, the paper said. “The Couches’ insurer also agreed to purchase two sets of annuities to provide payments to the trust, beginning in July, of $1,515 monthly and of $1,837 monthly, both for life and guaranteed for 25 years.”

Settlements have also been made with the families of five of the other injured or killed victims in the crash, the paper reported. One remaining family is waiting for a jury trial in the case.

The pickup’s driver, Ethan Couch, was sentenced to 10 years’ probation and ordered not to drink alcohol, use drugs or drive during that time, the paper reported. He was also ordered to get treatment in a lockdown addiction facility.

The case received much publicity after Couch’s own lawyers “argued the youth suffered from ‘affluenza,‘ a condition where enormous wealth blinded him from responsibilities resulting from his actions,” according to a related story by Reuters. Affluenza, however, is not a diagnosis recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.

Also killed in the crash were Breanna Mitchell, whose car had broken down, and three people who tried to help her with her stranded vehicle, according to Reuters. The other victims who lost their lives that night were Hollie and Shelby Boyles, nearby residents who came out to help; and youth minister Brian Jennings.

Couch’s blood alcohol level at the time of the crash was more than three times the legal limit for an adult, Reuters reported.

These kinds of cases occur every day when innocent victims are hurt or killed in vehicle accidents through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others. That’s why it is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle incident or accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

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Elderly California Driver, 100, Hurts 11 Children and 3 Adults Backing Up Car: When is Safety An Issue with Older Drivers?

We all remember the freedom, the thrill, the excitement of getting our driver’s license as young people, and with it the wonderful realization that we could go anywhere, anytime, as long as we had wheels.

That exhilaration and freedom doesn’t go away as we get older, but unfortunately, our skills can deteriorate as we age, slowing our reaction times and reflexes and causing our eyesight and other senses to weaken.

It can create a dilemma for our loved ones and for government agencies – no one wants to pull driver’s licenses from older drivers without good reason, but older drivers can sometimes put themselves and others in danger by driving when their vehicle operating skills are no longer safe.

The issue was highlighted this week when a 100-year-old man in South Los Angeles accidentally struck 11 school children and three adults as he backed his car up across from a school shortly after he children were dismissed for the day, according to a story in The Los Angeles Times.

The issue of elderly drivers on the roads is again in the news. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/dszc

The victims, who ranged in age from 14-months-old to 48-years-old, were struck Aug. 29 by a Cadillac being driven by Preston Carter, who will turn 101 on Sept. 1, the story reported. The driver has a current driver’s license and no history of traffic violations, the California Department of Motor Vehicles told The Times. “Los Angeles Police Department traffic detectives were looking at whether Carter mistakenly hit his accelerator pedal instead of the brake shortly before he rammed into the crowd about 2:30 p.m.”

Three of the children remained hospitalized on Aug. 30, but were expected to recover, according to a story from The Associated Press.

Police believe that the driver simply made a “miscalculation,” a police officer told The Times. Carter allegedly told police that his “brakes had failed.”

Luckily for everyone involved, no one was killed in this incident, which certainly could have been far more tragic.

But as it stands, it again brings to light the delicate issue of older drivers and when and how to decide if their declining skills mean that they should no longer be legally permitted to drive.

Several similar incidents occurred in the Philadelphia area in late 2011. Last December, an 80-year-old woman in Pennsville, N.J., rammed into an optician’s office that she was visiting when she hit the gas by mistake, while last November, an 84-year-old woman plowed into the Once Again Thrift Shop in Berks County, striking two toddlers, according to reports from The Philadelphia Inquirer. In another crash last November, a 79-year-old woman died when she drove off Route 73 and into a Marlton pond.

And in September 2011, an 89-year-old Haverford man killed his daughter and injured his wife when he ran them over in his driveway after he accidentally pressed the wrong foot pedal in his car, the Inquirer reported. In July 2011, an 85-year-old man drove his big Mercury Grand Marquis into a fast food restaurant at 8th and Market streets in Philadelphia, injuring six people inside the restaurant.

After this week’s crash, Carter’s daughter told news reporters that he will no longer be driving and will give his car away, according to a story by CNN.com. He didn’t have a history of any prior traffic violations on his driving record.

It is a difficult thing to tell someone who has been driving for decades that they should no longer continue to drive for safety reasons, but it is a necessary step at the appropriate time for many elderly drivers.

In Pennsylvania, drivers over 65 years of age must renew their driver’s licenses every two years by law, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  And by law, doctors and other medical personnel who are authorized to diagnose or treat disorders and disabilities such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and other debilitating conditions, must report such cases to PennDOT in writing so that the cases of those individuals are investigated, according to the NHTSA. Physicians and other medical personnel are given immunity from civil or criminal actions involving such drivers as long as they report such cases when they come to their attention.

To discuss the issue, PennDOT has created several online resources to help educate older drivers and their families about how to analyze and approach the matter together. PennDOT’s JustDrivePA.org Web site offers safety tips for older drivers, as well as warning signs for when older drivers should stop driving.

“Since driving is such a critical form of transportation for the older driver, it is also a very difficult decision to make,” the Web site states. “There is no clear cut factor to look at in terms of stopping driving; however, PennDOT continually seeks to balance the safety of our roadways with the impact of loss of independence, autonomy, and mobility of the older driver.”

Some of the safety tips include:

  • Having regular eye and medical exams to ensure that near and distance vision is adequate to drive safely.
  • Aging eyes become more sensitive to bright light and glare, so limit nighttime driving and try to avoid looking directly into headlights of approaching vehicles.
  • Avoid stressful driving situations such as rush hour travel, driving at night or driving in bad weather. Plan trips for daytime hours after 9 a.m. and before 5 p.m. to avoid rush hour traffic. Plan ahead. Know your route and try to stay on familiar roads.
  • Avoid travelling in bad weather, if at all possible.
  • Avoid taking medications before driving. Many medications, prescription and over-the-counter, cause drowsiness and can affect safe driving.
  • Make sure your driver’s seat and mirrors are properly adjusted prior to beginning a trip.
  • Maintain a safe speed and look ahead. Controlling your speed and looking down the road for possible hazards allow you to make adjustments before encountering a problem.
  • Always keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you. A four-second gap between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you is recommended.
  • When driving long distances, especially in winter, call ahead for weather and road condition updates.

Signs that it may be time for an elderly person to stop driving include:

  • Feeling uncomfortable, nervous or fearful when driving.
  • Unexplained dents and scrapes on the car, fences, mailboxes, garage doors, etc.
  • Frequent “close calls” (i.e. almost crashing).
  • Getting lost.
  • Slowed response to unexpected situations.
  • Being easily distracted or having a hard time concentrating while driving.
  • Difficulty staying in the lane of traffic.
  • Trouble paying attention to signals, road signs and pavement markings.
  • Trouble judging gaps in traffic at intersections or highway entrance/exit ramps.
  • Medical conditions or medications which may be affecting abilities to handle a car safely.
  • Frequent traffic tickets or “warnings” by traffic or law enforcement officers in the last two years.

Organizations such as the AAA (American Automobile Association) offer self-assessment tools for older drivers, including this self-rating form which can help an older driver realistically evaluate his or her motor vehicle skills.

There are even PennDOT-approved Basic and Refresher Mature Driver Improvement courses which are offered throughout the Commonwealth by AAA, AARP and by Seniors for Safe Driving.

Pennsylvania also has a Mature Drivers Task Force (MDTF), which was established in 2000 to ensure that mature drivers and pedestrians in Pennsylvania are safe and feel safe while traveling the state’s highways and interstates. “Mobility is essential to everyone’s quality of life,” according to the task force. “The loss of mobility can be devastating to the lives of older Pennsylvanians, and most of us want to drive for as long as we safely can. Many older people are capable, and have a lifetime of valuable driving experience behind them to draw upon.”

PennDOT has also put together a useful pamphlet, “Talking With Older Drivers: A Guide for Family and Friends,” to assist family members or friends when it is time to discuss these issues with elderly drivers in their lives.

It’s a touchy, difficult subject to bridge with the older drivers in our lives.

But it’s a discussion that we must have to protect older drivers who might be at risk, as well as other drivers, pedestrians and others in society who stand to be harmed by elderly persons who are no longer safe vehicle operators.

It’s a talk that every family needs to have with parents and older relatives as they age. We have to help make the difficult decision with our older relatives.

Compassion, understanding, love and concern are all a part of the discussion. It is not easy, but when the time comes, it is for the safety of everyone involved.

This has been a public service message from MyPhillyLawyer. When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

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Unsafe Idea: Legislator Proposes Raising PA Turnpike Speed Limit to 70 mph

A proposal to raise the speed limit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike from 65 mph to 70 mph has been introduced by a legislator who argues that it makes sense because cars and roads today are safer than ever.

The problem is that’s ridiculous, based on all of the statistics that are available about vehicle crashes, injuries and fatalities when it comes to higher vehicle speeds.

The bill was introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by Rep. Joe Preston, D-Allegheny County, according to a story in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News. The measure was passed by the House transportation committee by an 18-4 vote and it is now being reviewed by House Republican leaders, according to the paper.

Preston told the Patriot-News that the higher speed limit is warranted because road improvements on the Turnpike have made the highway safer over the years. “When you spend 15,000 to 18,000 miles a year on the turnpike, you notice the difference,” he told the paper. “All I’m trying to do is give them the [leeway] to make it 70 mph if they so choose in different spots. It doesn’t change it. It just gives them the opportunity to change it.”

The speed limit on most of the Turnpike is 65 mph since the limit was raised back in 1995-96. Some sections around urban areas and toll plazas have a 55 mph speed limit.

And while Preston’s belief that a higher speed limit is supported by better roads and safer vehicle design, critics say that’s hogwash.

A tractor-trailer enters Pennsylvania in this stock photo. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/benkrut

“The fact is pretty clear – if you raise speed limits on an urban or rural highway, more people will die,” said John Ulczycki, a vice president with the Itasca, Ill.-based National Safety Council.  ”That’s not my opinion. It’s a fact that is so every time we raise speed limits.”

Overall, there has been a significant decrease in traffic deaths in the U.S. over last decade in many categories such as teen crashes, DUI crashes and truck crashes, but one area where fatalities have not decreased is in speed-related deaths, Ulczycki said.  ”Speed continues to be factor in one-third of traffic fatalities. Even with cars and roads getting better, those numbers are not going down. The legislator [who sponsored the bill] can talk about better roads and better vehicles. Yes, that’s all true and that’s having a real effect on safety, but it’s not affecting road deaths.”

A wealth of data points to a correlation between higher road speeds and increased fatalities, said Russ Rader, vice president of communications for the Arlington, Va.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “Because we’ve had this long experience of speed limits over time there have been many opportunities to study what happens when speed limits go down and up,” he said. “The research is clear that when you raise speed limits deaths go up and when you lower them deaths go down.”

If approved by the Legislature and governor, a higher speed limit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike will result in more crash deaths, Rader said. “A change like this will definitely allow people to get to their destinations faster, but the tradeoff is a road that is less safe.”

And while today’s motor vehicles are in fact safer than older vehicles due to advances in air bags, passive restraints, electronic stability controls and more, today’s vehicle crash safety ratings refer to vehicles that are tested at 35 to 40 mph, not at the 65 mph being driven on today’s highways, he said.

“When you get up to these very high speeds you’re overwhelming all of the crash-worthy structures and safety equipment that is built into modern vehicles,” Rader said. “At ever higher speeds, you are increasing the likelihood of a crash and the severity when one happens.”

In addition, many vehicles on our roads are older and don’t have all the latest safety devices.

Statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) show that deaths on rural interstates increased 25-30 percent when states began increasing speed limits from 55 to 65 mph in 1987. In 1989, about two-thirds of this increase — 19 percent, or 400 deaths — was attributed to increased speed, the rest to increased travel, according to the group.

“A 1999 Institute study of the effects of the 1995 repeal of the national maximum speed limit indicated this trend had continued,” the IIHS reports. “Researchers compared the numbers of motor vehicle occupant deaths in 24 states that raised speed limits during late 1995 and 1996 with corresponding fatality counts in the 6 years before the speed limits were changed, as well as fatality counts from 7 states that did not change speed limits. The Institute estimated a 15 percent increase in fatalities on interstates and freeways.”

A later study, conducted in 2009, found that the 1995 repeal of the 55 mph national speed limit  resulted in a 3 percent increase in road fatalities attributable to higher speed limits on all road types, with the highest increase of 9 percent on rural interstates. “The authors estimated that 12,545 deaths were attributed to increases in speed limits across the US between 1995 and 2005,” the report stated.

A similar effort to increase the speed limit was successful in neighboring Ohio last year, according to the Patriot-News story, when the Ohio Turnpike raised its speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph on the 241-mile span across northern Ohio. “The number of crashes during the first year of the higher speed limit rose by 5.6 percent from the year before, according to an April 29 story in The [Cleveland] Plain-Dealer,” the paper reported.

So what does this all mean?

On its face, the proposal to increase the speed limit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike is a bad idea because it doesn’t provide any true benefits for anyone.

Already, many motorists are exceeding the 65 mph speed limit, which essentially means that drivers are illegally operating their vehicles at 70 to 80 mph or more. Bumping the limit up by 5 mph is only going to encourage more speeding while not resulting in any true gains for residents.

Lower speeds mean greater safety and increased fuel economy, so raising the speed limit even more is counter to safety and efficiency.

It would be better for our legislators to be at work on bills aimed at helping our Commonwealth’s economy, school districts, local communities and residents, rather than on isolated side issues like the speed limit on the Turnpike.

If you or a loved one is seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, the skilled and compassionate attorneys and staff here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you. Call us anytime with your questions and concerns about any legal issues.

When Winning Matters Most, call MyPhillyLawyer.

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Court Radio: What You Need to Know About Bus Accidents and Bus Safety

Bus accidents have been on the rise, from school bus crashes to tour bus disasters to city bus incidents that have left passengers and people in other vehicles badly injured or killed.

On “Court Radio” at 7 a.m. on Sunday, the topic of bus accidents and what you need to know to protect yourself and your loved ones will be featured with our special guest, attorney Mandeep Singh Chhabra. Chhabra will join MyPhillyLawyer managing partner Dean Weitzman and his co-host David Rapoport on Court Radio to explain your rights in such accidents and how you can better protect the interests of your family.

Court Radio is broadcast live at 7 a.m. every Sunday morning on Philadelphia’s WRNB 100.3 FM, with a simulcast on Magic 95.9 FM in Baltimore. You can also listen live on the Internet at WRNB 100.3 or on Magic 95.9 via streaming audio.

A passenger bus sits on a roadside after a severe crash. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/airportrait

Just this week a spate of bus accidents has been in the headlines across the U.S.

Seventeen people were hurt when a Metrobus collided with a car early this morning in Washington, D.C., according to a report from WTOP FM 103.5 radio.

In another incident, a bicyclist was struck and killed by a school bus in Arlington, Fla., near Jacksonville, according to WOKV.com News.

Even the tour bus for the singer, Bucky Covington, was in a crash with a Goodwill truck in Birmingham, Ala.

In February, an 11-year-old girl was killed and her two sisters were critically injured in a school bus accident in New Jersey when the bus was struck by a dump truck just south of Trenton.

Even more serious tour bus accidents have been in the news often in the last few years.

Last March, two people were killed when a privately owned tour bus crashed into a guardrail and a concrete embankment on the New Jersey Turnpike and veered into a drainage ditch on the side of the highway, according to a story in The Star-Ledger newspaper in Newark, N.J.  Forty other passengers were injured on the bus, which was heading to Philadelphia from Chinatown in New York. MyPhillyLawyer is representing two passengers on this bus.  The tour bus company involved in this crash has one of the worst driver safety records in the bus industry, according to a story in The Star-Ledger.

And last August, another tour bus struck the rear of a tractor-trailer rig that had run into the rear of another truck on a traffic-snarled, southbound section of the New Jersey Turnpike, The  Star-Ledger reported. The driver of the bus died several days after the crash due to critical injuries, while at least 16 other people were injured.

In another incident last June, four bus passengers died in Virginia when the discount tour bus they were traveling on swerved off Interstate 95 about 30 miles north of Richmond and overturned, according to an Associated Press story on NJ.com.  That bus company, Sky Express Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., was shut down indefinitely by the U.S. Department of Transportation in May, according to CBS 3 New York.

The worst tour bus crash last year in the U.S. also occurred last March when 14 passengers were killed and 19 others were injured when a Manhattan-bound bus overturned on a Bronx highway, according to a story in The New York Times. The passengers on the bus were returning to New York’s Chinatown after a night of gambling in a Connecticut casino.

MyPhillyLawyer recently settled a bus accident case for $175,000 for a client who was seriously injured when a school bus driver crashed into her car as the bus made a left turn. Upon investigation by MyPhillyLawyer, the bus driver had failed some of his training by the bus company but was still out on the roads.

In another case involving a SEPTA bus in Philadelphia, an elderly man was killed when he was thrown on his head as he stood riding inside a bus that stopped quickly as it tried to avoid a crash with another vehicle.

So what do you do if you are in an accident as a passenger on a bus or if your vehicle is struck by a bus? How can people protect their rights?

One thing that depends is what the laws are in the state where the accident occurs, said Chhabra, an attorney with the Annapolis, Md., law firm of Cochran, Cochran & Chhabra.  Laws for such cases are different in Pennsylvania and Maryland, he said.

“A lot of buses in Maryland are state-owned or owned by local governments,” which subjects such cases to special rules regarding lawsuits, he said. “There’s a notice requirement that has to be given to the state” to notify the government if you are intending to sue after an incident involving a vehicle operated by the state. “The regular statute of limitations [of three years] doesn’t apply.”

The notice requirements are very stringent, he said, and can be as short as six months. A plaintiff injured in a crash with a state-operated vehicle still has a three year statute of limitations in which to file a lawsuit, but the notice requirement means you also have to inform the state that a lawsuit will be filed or you lose your ability to sue, Chhabra explained.

Chhabra earned his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore and earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Boston University.

Be sure to tune in for Court Radio at 7 a.m. Sunday to hear more about bus accidents and your rights with co-hosts Dean Weitzman and David Rapoport and their guest, Mandeep Singh Chhabra. And remember to call in with your own questions and comments.

About Court Radio

Listeners can call in with their legal questions to 800-539-1479 or they can email their questions to AskDean@CourtRadio.com. Participants are asked to only ask or submit ONE question each time so that all callers have a chance to discuss the legal topics that are on their minds.

Court Radio is the place to ask your legal questions and get real answers from lawyers with a deep background in the law, from personal injury to contracts and estates, insurance and much more.

Most weeks, Dean brings in a special guest to answer your legal questions and provide information on a dizzying array of legal topics, all with humor, good advice and at no charge to callers. You can even listen to past shows and their featured guests by downloading or listening to stored podcasts.

A production of WRNB-FM radio in Philadelphia, Court Radio is brought to you each week by the law offices of Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C., which is known throughout the Philadelphia area as MyPhillyLawyer.

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Springtime Driving Safety: Be Extra Cautious for Pedestrians, Bicyclists and Motorcyclists

Children darting in front of moving cars, runners out getting a good workout, bicyclists migrating onto the roads after a winter layover and motorcyclists back out on their machines, enjoying the warmer weather as it arrives again – these are sure signs that spring is truly upon us.

With that, it’s also a great time as drivers to remember that we share the road with pedestrians and smaller two-wheeled vehicles that are no match for the weight, mass and power of our cars, SUVs and trucks when accidents occur.

As motorists, we all need to be careful and more aware to protect ourselves from legal liability in the event of an accident involving a pedestrian or a two-wheeled vehicle. And if it’s one of us walking, running or riding a bicycle or motorcycle, then we also need to understand our rights and protections as well when we are on the roadways.

Bicyclists and cars share the road in this photo taken in New York's Greenwich Village, where cars, pedestrians and bicycles operate in close quarters every day. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/JayLazarin

A good way to accomplish this is to make adjustments for the extra activity as we drive on seemingly quiet streets in our neighborhoods or along busier roads where hazards may be less obvious.

Thousands of people are injured or killed in traffic accidents involving pedestrians, motorcycles and bicycles each year in the U.S.

In the U.S., 630 bicyclists were killed and another 51,000 were injured in accidents involving motor vehicles, according to NHTSA statistics.  The number of fatalities was down 12% from the 718 deaths reported in 2008, according to the agency.

The number of pedestrians, including walkers and runners, who died across the U.S. in 2009 in accidents with motor vehicles stands at 4,092, according to NHTSA statistics.

Across the U.S., 4,462 motorcyclists died in 2009 in traffic accidents, according to the latest complete statistics available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), compared with 2,483 deaths a decade earlier in 1999.

You and your loved ones certainly don’t want to become one of those tragic statistics. The monetary losses from those injuries and deaths are also significant and you certainly don’t want to be on the wrong end of any legal judgments in such cases.

As drivers of cars, trucks and SUVs, we always need to remember to watch carefully for smaller, less visible vehicles like bicycles and motorcycles as we drive. Remember to double-check your blind spots surrounding your vehicle and try to anticipate what bicyclists and motorcyclists are going to do as they cross your path.

Drivers in Pennsylvania also need to keep in mind that new laws went into effect recently that require drivers to give bicyclists a much wider berth on roadsat least four feet of room when passing bicycle riders on public streets. The new law makes it legal for drivers to cross the painted yellow lines on streets as they negotiate to give bicyclist safe room for passing. Now you don’t have to worry about being ticketed by a police officer for crossing the yellow lines as you pass a bicyclist.

Bicyclists can obtain some great advice on riding safely on public roadways and how to avoid the most common types of bicycle/vehicle crashes at the “How Not To Get Hit By Cars” Web site, which includes helpful and easy-to-understand tips and illustrations on avoiding the top 10 types of bicycle/motor vehicle crashes, such as when a driver opens a door in front of a cyclist to a vehicle that pulls out in front of a bicyclist without seeing it.

Parents of younger cyclists can also help their children learn about safer riding styles by sharing The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) “Kids and Bicycle Safety” Tip Sheet to give good advice about bike safety.

Among the key rules of the road for children, from the NHTSA:

  • Go With the Traffic Flow. Ride on the right in the same direction as other vehicles. Go with the flow – not against it.
  • Obey All Traffic Laws. A bicycle is a vehicle and you’re a driver. When you ride in the street, obey all traffic signs, signals, and lane markings.
  • Yield to Traffic When Appropriate. Almost always, drivers on a smaller road must yield (wait) for traffic on a major or larger road. If there is no stop sign or traffic signal and you are coming from a smaller roadway (out of a driveway, from a sidewalk, a bike path, etc.), you must slow down and look to see if the way is clear before proceeding. This also means yielding to pedestrians who have already entered a crosswalk.
  • Be Predictable. Ride in a straight line, not in and out of cars. Signal your moves to others.
  • Stay Alert at All Times. Use your eyes AND ears. Watch out for potholes, cracks, wet leaves, storm grates, railroad tracks, or anything that could make you lose control of your bike. You need your ears to hear traffic and avoid dangerous situations; don’t wear a headset when you ride.
  • Look Before Turning. When turning left or right, always look behind you for a break in traffic, then signal before making the turn. Watch for left- or right-turning traffic.
  • Watch for Parked Cars. Ride far enough out from the curb to avoid the unexpected from parked cars (like doors opening, or cars pulling out).

And for bicycle riders under 10 years of age, the NHTSA suggests riding on sidewalks rather than on streets. If you do ride on a sidewalk:

    • Check the law in your State or jurisdiction to make sure sidewalk riding is allowed.
    • Watch for vehicles coming out of or turning into driveways.
    • Stop at corners of sidewalks and streets to look for cars and to make sure the drivers see you before crossing.
    • Enter a street at a corner and not between parked cars. Alert pedestrians that you are near by saying, “Excuse me,” or, “Passing on your left,” or use a bell or horn.

When driving near pedestrians, it’s always wise to use extra caution, according to PennDOT’s DriveSafe.org Web site.

Drivers should be especially attentive around special pedestrian safety areas which use traffic-slowing devices in intersections or along busy roadways. The safety areas use clear signs to remind motorists to yield to pedestrians and to stop when people are in the special crossings, according to PennDOT.

“The signs are designed to remind motorists of Pennsylvania law requiring the operator of a vehicle to yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing a roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection where there are no traffic controls or traffic controls are not in operation,” the agency says. Violators of the law are subject to a $50 fine.

PennDOT has distributed more than 6,800 devices since 2001, while pedestrian crashes have fallen by 25 percent over that time, the agency reports.

Motorcyclists have their own special safety needs on our roadways. When operating a motorcycle, you should wear full protective gear including a helmet, jacket, gloves, long pants and boots to protect you in the event of an accident, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). The MSF also offers excellent rider training programs for beginning motorcyclists as well as advanced classes for expert riders to help build and maintain your survival skills on the roads. All motorcyclists should take advantage of such opportunities.

For operators of both motorcycles and bicycles, one of the best ways to protect yourselves is to ride as though you are invisible to other motorists. Imagine that they can’t or don’t see you and ride defensively to protect yourself at all times.

Safety is the responsibility of all of us, from motorists of the four-wheeled kind to motorcyclists and bicyclists.

As you drive this summer, remember to practice safe driving habits by carefully watching for vehicles of all sizes and be sure to maintain adequate following distances. In addition, be sure to use caution around slower-moving vehicles and drive defensively rather than aggressively to help minimize the dangers to yourself and others on the roads.

A lawsuit or major injury from a collision or crash involving a bicyclist or motorcyclist would turn the joys of summer into a nightmare.

Yes, accidents and injuries can happen anywhere and anytime, but if we all use more caution and remain more aware of the traffic situation around us, we can improve safety for everyone.

And remember, if you are injured in a motorcycle, bicycle or pedestrian accident, contact MyPhillyLawyer for caring, skilled and compassionate legal representation.

When winning matters most, call MyPhillyLawyer. We’re here to help you and your family.

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Holiday death toll on our highways isn’t just a number – those statistics are real victims

Let’s all remember to be careful out there on the roadways as the unofficial start of summer begins

Across the United States, the Memorial Day holiday weekend began last Friday and hundreds of thousands of motorists took to the highways and roadways for vacations, cook-outs, family gatherings and more.

Sadly, traffic accidents involving serious injuries and deaths were also part of this holiday weekend’s travels on our roadways.

One thing to remember is that the highway death statistics that police around the nation will be gathering and announcing in the next week or two are not just faceless numbers. Behind all the statistics, those people who died had names and lives and families and life stories all of their own.

That’s why this is a fine time to remind ourselves to drive carefully as the summer travel season begins so that we can protect ourselves, the people we love and everyone else out there traveling the roads with us.

Stock image of a serious car accident.

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/creatingmore

It’s a great time to remind ourselves not to drink alcohol or take illegal drugs and drive. Alcohol, controlled substances and driving not only don’t mix but they are deadly combinations that bring tragedy and sorrow to thousands of families each year who lose loved ones due to the terrible decisions of impaired drivers.

It’s also a great time to remember that we must pay complete attention to our driving when we are behind the wheel. That means getting rid of distractions that can endanger ourselves, our passengers and everyone else on the roads with us. That means not texting while driving. That means not using hand-held cell phones while driving. That means not eating a big messy sandwich while driving and not putting on make-up or reading the morning newspaper while driving.

It happens everywhere, every day.

It happened Sunday morning on the streets of Los Angeles, according to a story in The Los Angeles Times.

“A 14-year-old victim in a suspected drunk-driving accident early Sunday morning suffered irreversible brain damage and was being kept on life support so doctors could assess whether her organs could be donated, according to Irvine police,” the story reported. “Police identified the victim as Ashton Sweet, a student at Northwood High School.”

The teen was one of four teen girls who were traveling in a car being driven by the dad of one of the girls, the paper reported. The car they were traveling in was struck by a pick-up truck being driven by a 26-year-old man who was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, according to the paper. “By daybreak Monday, friends and strangers were posting condolences and anti-drunk-driving messages on a Facebook page set up in Sweet’s honor.”

The suspect, according to the paper, has had other incidents involving drinking and driving, including a guilty plea in 2009 to “driving under the influence and battery on a police officer or emergency worker.”

In New Jersey, the State Police announced last week that 230 people have died so far this year in accidents on New Jersey highways, which is up almost 18% from the 195 fatalities for the same period last year, according to a story on NJ.com. “Officials say there’s no clear reason for the spike, but an early analysis indicates distracted driving may be a factor,” the Web site reported.

We need to learn from these deaths and find ways to prevent them so that innocent people don’t die on our highways due to the poor decisions of others.

We must remember 14-year-old Ashton Sweet in Los Angeles and learn something from the horrific tragedy that is now upon her family as they prepare to take their young daughter off life support systems after she was critically injured in a crash by a drunk driver.

This is in our hands, every one of us, as we drive on our roadways.

Let us take the responsibility to make better decisions to protect those around us.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer handle serious injury cases every day for our clients who have been injured in similar horrific crashes. We know what these incidents do to families, victims and their lives.

If you or someone you love should be injured in a serious vehicle accident, call us here at MyPhillyLawyer and we will fight for you, help you, answer all of your questions about your case and walk you through the legal maze in fighting for you every step of the way.

When winning matters most, contact MyPhillyLawyer.

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