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In the United States every year thousands of pedestrians are injured or killed.  In 2013, 4,735 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes across America.  In addition, in 2013, there were more than 150,000 non-fatal crash-related injuries of pedestrians that were treated in emergency rooms.  Those whom are most at risk as pedestrians are older adults (ages 65 and older), children, and those impaired by alcohol.  In 2013, 19% of all pedestrian deaths were those 65 and older.  In addition, in traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian deaths, 49% involved either an intoxicated pedestrian or driver (or both).

Pedestrian safety is a serious issue nationwide.  In the fall of 2014 Liberty Mutual Insurance released a “Pedestrian Safety Index,” ranking America’s 15 safest cities for pedestrians based on published government data and resident’s perceptions of safety for pedestrians.  The number 1 ranked safest city in the United States for pedestrians is Seattle, Washington, followed by Boston, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. at number 2 and 3.

In Seattle, we are fortunate to have a relatively safe environment for pedestrians, due in large part to safety measures that have been implemented in recent years.  Among those Seattle residents surveyed, 96 percent felt the city is safe for pedestrians and 97 percent found the city proactive when it comes to pedestrian safety.  These sentiments are likely the result of such measures as “Safest Route to School,” which created 501 new cross walks in Seattle to ensure children traveled to school safely, as well as the city of Seattle’s new master plan to make Seattle the most walkable city in the nation.  The city of Seattle hopes to achieve improved pedestrian safety and walkability through taking the following measures: 1) Install sidewalks, curb ramps, and marked crosswalks; 2) Install and maintain pedestrian and school crossing signs; and 3) Construct curb bulbs and crossing islands at pedestrian crossing locations.  Other safety measures that could be taken to increase safety include adequate traffic signs, adequate signal time to cross streets, and ample street lighting.

Working in the construction industry can be a very challenging and dangerous occupation.  At Kraft Palmer Davies we represent both residential and commercial construction workers.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are approximately 6,000,000 people working in the construction industry.  In 2014, 4,821 workers died on-the-job; and roughly 20 percent of those deaths were construction worker fatalities.  Among construction worker deaths, there were four leading causes that amounted to over 50 percent of the total deaths; 1) Falls – 359 deaths; 2) Electrocutions – 74 deaths; 3) Struck by Objection – 73 deaths; 4) Caught-in/between – 12 deaths. Construction work can be dangerous, as evident by the 2009 fatal occupational injury rate nearly three times that of all workers in the United States (9.7 injuries 100,000 full-time equivalent construction vs. 3.3 for all workers).  The construction industry also encompassed three of the top ten occupations with the highest fatal injury rate: 1) Roofers; 2) Structural iron and steel workers; 3) Laborers.  Among the frequently cited OSHA standards violated in fiscal year 2015 were two construction specific violations; 1) Fall Protection and 2) Scaffolding.  Falls are the greatest cause of fatal construction injuries.

At Kraft Palmer Davies we suggest taking the following safety measures to help ensure a safe construction working environment.

Protecting against falls in a construction zone can greatly reduce injuries and fatalities for the most lethal part of the construction industry.  To protect against falls, guardrails, safety nets, floor covers, and restraint systems should be put in place.

Around 8:00 a.m. on Friday, July 1, 2016, a box truck hit the elevated arm of a man lift stationed under the West Seattle Bridge, knocking two workers out of the lift. The workers were involved in the Fauntleroy Expressway Bearing Pad Replacement Project. One of the workers fell approximately fifteen feet to a ramp below and suffered serious injuries; the other worker fell all the way to the ground where the lift was parked under the bridge (about 50 feet) and died today at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The box truck was proceeding on an off ramp at the time of the crash. We extend our deepest condolences to the injured worker, and the families of both victims.

Incidents like this have broad legal implications with respect to claims available to the surviving worker and the deceased victim’s family. Workers injured on the job cannot sue their employer directly for damages related to their injuries pursuant to Washington’s workers compensation scheme. However, when an accident is caused by the negligence of a third party (someone other than the victim’s employer), those injured, or the survivors of those killed often have claims against the negligent party.

For example, in this situation, the victims and their families likely would be entitled to bring claims against the driver of the box truck that hit the man lift. In addition, since box trucks are often owned by businesses and used for business purposes, there are also potential claims against the business that owned the truck. Furthermore, many construction projects involve work by various contractors. Although claims do not lie against the workers’ own employer, there may be claims against other contractors involved in the project (i.e. was another company responsible for limiting access to the roadway during the work, but failed to do so?).

The annual study for the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) provided by state highway safety offices revealed that 2015 U.S. motorcycle deaths increased 10 percent compared with 2014; the total number of deaths exceeded 5,000 for only the third time in U.S. history, and first time since 2008.  Statistics nationwide show that motorcyclists are far more likely to be injured or killed while driving than motor vehicle occupants. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), per mile driven, motorcycles have a fatality rate that is 26 times higher than passenger vehicles.  A large contributing factor to a higher fatality rate for motorcyclists is the absence of helmet laws across America. Currently, only 19 states and the District of Columbia require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. According to the NHTSA’s 2014 study, 89 percent of riders wore helmets in states that required by law that riders do so, while only 48 percent in all other states; wearing a helmet decreases motorcyclist’s chance of dying in a crash by 37 percent.  According to the 2015 GHSA study, the number of motorcycle deaths in several states was as follows: Alaska, 11; California, 489; Idaho, 27; Oregon, 57; and Washington, 76. In Washington, motorcycle fatalities were 15 percent of total traffic deaths.

The GHSA study suggests several measures that can be taken by motorcyclists to reduce the risk of being involved in a fatal crash, which include the following: 1) Always wear a DOT-compliant helmet; 2) Wear bright-colored clothing to make it easier to be seen by other drivers; 3) Never ride impaired by alcohol or drugs; 4) Obey posted speed limits; and 5) When purchasing a new motorcycle, opt for a model with antilock brakes.

Washington state is taking several measures to increase motorcycle safety, which includes expanding its “A Fine Line” motorcycle safety program and conducting a High Visibility Enforcement motorcycle safety project.  At Kraft Palmer Davies we support all safety measures taken by motorcyclists and the state of Washington to increase rider safety and decrease fatalities.  Here are several safety tips for motorcycle riders that we suggest: 1) Attend a Motorcycle Safety Foundation riding course in your area; 2) Avoid riding in bad weather; 3) Be alert for road hazards (sand, debris, pot holes); 4) Wear proper attire (gloves, boots, leather clothing); 5) Drive with the awareness as if no other commuter has mirrors.

Google’s self-driving cars have traveled more than 1.4 million test miles, and none of them were at fault in accidents until Feb. 14, when a city bus scraped one of the company’s Lexus SUVs. Google said that no one was injured but that its autonomous vehicle was partially responsible. This might make some Washington drivers wonder whether or not driverless-vehicle projects should continue if they are responsible for traffic fatalities.

Artificial intelligence researchers, computer scientists and engineers have questioned what would happen if a driverless car was to blame for a fatal crash. The goal for Google and many other companies is to create self-driving cars that are reliable and safe, but like the fender bender on Feb. 14, the fault of an autonomous vehicle in a fatal collision is practically inevitable. Such a case may mean that the many self-driving projects around the world are halted if the public responds poorly.

The automobile was in this position in 1899, when the first recorded traffic death occurred in the United States. A New York City taxi ran into a man as he stepped off of a trolley. Over the next 30 years, justices and scholars debated if the automobile was naturally evil. Vehicle-related deaths were happening so much in the 1920s that the public started having parades in Detroit and New York to highlight the need for improved safety.

The recall of vehicles due to potentially dangerous airbag inflators shows no signs of slowing down. More than 29 million cars, trucks and SUVs have already been recalled, and a number of lawmakers have called for all vehicles in Washington and around the country equipped with airbags manufactured by Takata to be included. These calls grew louder on Feb. 23 when a Senate committee indicated that the Japanese auto parts manufacturer may have known about and concealed the problem.

The faulty airbag inflators have been linked with accidents that caused 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries. Automakers say that a combination of poor design and lax manufacturing processes caused the fault, which can lead to airbags exploding and showering vehicle occupants with metal fragments and other debris. It was initially thought that only vehicles in hot and humid parts of the country were affected, but the recalls were subsequently expanded.

According to documents released by a Senate committee, Takata’s internal documents show that the results of tests designed to measure quality and safety may have been manipulated to conceal the fault. The documents also reveal that some members of Takata’s management team urged the company to take a more proactive approach. If NHTSA decides to follow the wishes of lawmakers, up to 90 million additional vehicles may be recalled.

Hoverboards are prone to catching fire and are, therefore, “unsafe,” according to the U.S. Consumer Product Commission. The agency made the declaration in a letter released Feb. 18, which urged self-balancing scooter manufacturers to gain UL certification before selling more hoverboard products in Washington and nationwide.

According to the CPSC, there were 52 reports of hoverboards igniting in 24 states between Dec. 1, 2015 and Feb. 17, 2016. The resulting fires causedmore than $2 million in property damage and led to the destruction of two houses and a car. The acting director of the agency said that most of the fires could have been avoided if the hoverboards had been constructed to meet the voluntary UL safety standards.

The CPSC letter said that if agency employees find imported hoverboards that do not meet safety standards, they may seize them. The agency also indicated that it may seek a U.S. recall of non-compliant hoverboards, which are considered to be “defective.” The letter urges hoverboard manufacturers to ensure their future products meet the electrical standards outlined in UL 2272, which is aimed at self-balancing scooters. They are also encouraged to make sure all lithium ion batteries within the hoverboards meet the requirements under UN/DOT 38.3, which addresses dangerous goods for lithium ion batteries and metal.

Many residents of Washington like to include organic foods and supplements in their diets to avoid potentially unhealthy chemicals, but one organic supplier has had to issue a recall due to contamination from a living source. Products in Garden of Life’s Raw Meal powdered shake and meal replacement powder line have been connected with cases of Salmonella virchow infection in several states.

The product recall started on Jan. 29 and was expanded to include over two dozen additional products on Feb. 12. According to Garden of Life, organic moringa leaf powder from a specific supplier was the likely source of the contamination, and the company plans to reformulate all Raw Meal recipes to omit the leaf.

Health officials in Minnesota advised against consumption of any powders bought on or after Nov. 1 of last year, and they also cautioned not to use any powders with best-used-by dates of September 2017. The officials specified that all of the infected consumers at the time of the report had either used a vanilla or chocolate variety of a Raw Meal product.

Honda owners in Washington may have received notice of an expanded recall of cars that have defective Takata air bags. Since 2008, more than 6 million vehicles have been recalled due to faulty inflators on Takata air bags. There have been nine U.S. deaths connected with the inflators, and eight of them were in Hondas. The latest round of recalls is on late-model cars including the 2016 Acura ILX.

Honda issued the letter to dealers on Jan. 30 saying that it planned to recall as many as 2 million Acura and Honda vehicles. However, on Feb. 2, two U.S. senators said that all 24 million cars with Takata inflators should be recalled.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that its investigation into the recalls and the faulty inflators is still ongoing. NHTSA recalled about 19 million vehicles with Takata inflators through the end of 2015, and in January, Takata said that it planned to recall more than 5 million inflators located on the driver’s side.

While a reckless driver on a Washington highway might be able to wreak havoc by causing a deadly crash in even the safest of vehicles, Volvo is hoping to increase safety features to the point at which concerned drivers will be well-protected from deadly incidents. Some of the company’s current safety technologies would continue to be used, being expanded to address even more areas of vulnerability on the roads. Additional technologies could complement those that now exist to minimize driving risks.

Autonomous technologies are being used by various manufacturers. These include Volvo options such as adaptive cruise control. This feature makes it possible to set a maximum speed that the vehicle can reduce as needed to ensure that a safe following distance is maintained. Collision avoidance could be incorporated into this technology to implement braking when a driver does not respond to a warning of impending impact. Volvo also expects to use camera features to facilitate lane alerts and corrections when drivers drift or doze. Cameras might also be used to identify road features such as speed limit signs.

Volvo has stated that its death-proof vehicles will be in place by 2020. Like some other companies, it is also working on the development of automobiles that will be completely autonomous. The public may be skeptical about the claims of a death-proof vehicle, especially in light of computer issues that have affected some manufacturers in recent years. However, improved safety standards could prove advantageous as lives and money are saved over time.