Construction workers in road/highway work zones are at a significant risk of fatal and nonfatal injury. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, in 2017, 132 construction workers died in work zone related accidents in the Unites States. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that in 2016 there were 158,000 non-fatal work zone injuries in the Unites States.

Construction workers are at an equal risk of injury and death both from passing motorists and from construction vehicles and equipment operating within the road/highway work zone. Furthermore, workers operating construction equipment in work zones are also at a risk of injury and death from the overturn of equipment, equipment collisions, or being caught in between equipment.

Both construction workers and passing motorists can take steps to ensure construction worker safety in road/highway work zones. Construction workers can take the following measures to reduce their risk of injury or death: 1) Use temporary traffic control devices and communicate clearly with motorists; 2) Illuminate the work zone during evening and night hours; 3) Wear high-visibility and reflective apparel to increase worker visibility; 4) Participate in safety training in order to be aware of common hazards and prevention measures.

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On November 12, Trina Morgan was killed as she attempted to assist a 9-year-old child who was injured in a motor vehicle collision on State Route 530 near Arlington, Washington.  According to the Washington State Patrol, Ms. Morgan was hit by another driver as she attempted to offer assistance to the injured child.  The driver that struck her was later processed by the Washington State Patrol on suspicion of driving under the influence.  Trina Morgan was pronounced dead at the scene by authorities due to her significant injuries.  The young girl was transported to the hospital for medical treatment for her injuries.

Our hearts go out to Trina Morgan’s family for her untimely death while trying to assist an injured child.  She is a true hero and an unnecessary death.  We all need to do more to prevent and report drunk drivers operating on our highways and roads.  If you see a driver that appears to be impaired, report it to 9-1-1 immediately.  Do not let friends or family drive if they are impaired.

Drunk driver is a major problem in the state of Washington.  Just in the last year, police agencies in the state of Washington have made over 24,000 arrests for driving under the influence on Washington’s highways and roads.  Impaired driving is a leading factor in motor vehicle accidents and deaths.  Last year, there were 146 deaths in motor vehicle collisions caused by drunk driving.

On September 26, 2016, two men were seriously injured when a crane at a construction site in West Seattle made contact with overhead power lines close to the job site.  The incident occurred at about 10:30 a.m. near 42nd Avenue Southwest and Southwest Oregon Street.  As lawyers representing injured construction workers, we have unfortunately seen these types of incidents many times in the past.

Data from the NIOSH National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) Surveillance System indicates that electrocutions accounted for approximately 450 of the 6,400 work-related deaths that occurred annually in the United States from 1980-1989.  Preventing Electrocutions of Crane Operators and Crew Members Working Near Overhead Power Lines, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 95-108 (May 1995).  In the four-year period from 1985 to 1989, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported 113 deaths from crane and boom truck contact with overhead power lines.  Id.  Nearly 30 percent of all electrocutions on the job site involve crane and boom operation.  Id.

As a direct result of the hundreds of electrocutions throughout the nation caused by crane and boom truck contact with overhead power lines, a number of regulatory standards have been established to prevent these tragic deaths by state and federal governments.  On the national and international level, OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have adopted strict standards to help prevent work site electrocutions.  See 29 CFR 1926.550; Mobile and Locomotive Cranes, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME B30.5-1994.

The National Safety Council (NCS) released a report on motor vehicle fatality estimates for the first six months of 2016 that found traffic deaths on the rise across America, as well as in Washington State.  From January to June of 2016 there were 19,100 total motor-vehicle deaths, a 9% increase from the same period in 2015 and an 18% increase from 2014.  Washington had 253 motor-vehicle deaths in the first half of 2016, an 8% increase from the same period in 2015 and a 12% increase from 2014.  One possible explanation for the increase in motor-vehicle deaths is the decrease in gas prices nationwide and the subsequent increase in cumulative miles driven; gas prices have averaged over 16% below 2015 levels through the first six months of the year.   Another possible explanation for the increase in fatalities is the rise in distracted driving across America.  While many laws have been implemented across the United States to combat distracted driving, many motorists are still texting and calling while driving.  As a driver we highly recommend not using your cell phone while driving.

At Kraft Davies Olsson we represent those who have been involved in motor-vehicle accidents.  In the event that you have suffered an injury in a motor-vehicle accident our lawyers are available to consult with you regarding your injuries.  Please call us at (206) 624-8844, or contact us through this website.

Please find below more statistics from the NCS report:

Pike Place Market Pedestrians
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 Davies Olsson 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 Davies Olsson 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 Davies Olsson 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.

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