Research & Statistics

Seattle’s new Bikeshare program will address higher risk of head injuries

Want to get somewhere fast but don’t want to rent a car or wait for a cab or bus? When visiting San Francisco a few weeks ago, I noticed a variety of bike share programs offered to locals and tourists alike. Seattle seems like a good candidate for a bike share. However, a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health (led by researchers from UW and WSU) reveals that where there are bike share programs, the incidents of head injuries in bicycle related accidents increase. Why? Those who jump on the bikes often neglect to wear a helmet when the bike share doesn’t offer one for rent.

Seattle is thought to be the first to offer helmet rental with its new bike share. Pictured is a Montreal bike kiosk.

Seattle is thought to be the first to offer helmet rental with its new bike share that will begin this Sept. (Pictured : Montreal bike kiosk)

But Seattle requires all cyclists to wear a helmet. Thus, the City’s new bike share program (to start this September) is the first in the world to include helmet rentals. Wherever a bike kiosk is, helmets will also be available for rent.

Pronto Emerald City Cycle Share executive director Holly Houser said, “It looks like a vending machine. The helmet sort of drops down into kind of a mailbox bin where you pull open the door and grab it,” she said.

The helmets will cost $2 to rent, and will be sanitized and inspected after each use.

Here’s hoping that people will observe the law and take advantage of this innovative “helmet share,” when participating in this bike share.

Class actions empower consumers

A widespread fallacy is that class action lawsuits only help to line lawyers’  pockets.  This is what corporations want everyone to believe. That way, consumers who are hurt–either physically or financially– as the result of a corporation’s wrongdoing are less apt to seek  a class action against a behemoth.  But the results that Stritmatter Kessler Whelan has consistently obtained on behalf of class action plaintiffs have empowered many consumers. They have truly found justice and appropriate compensations for their injuries.

Public Justice, the nation’s largest public interest law firm pursues actions on behalf of consumers to keep large corporations in check. PJ attorney, Paul Bland, explains in the video below why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “analysis” of class actions is bunk.  We at SKW are proud of the many accomplishments of PJ. Our own Brad J. Moore is currently vice president (Public Justice’s president-elect by August 2014), involved in some PJ lawsuits that include the one against Yakima industrial dairies who are responsible for that region’s groundwater contamination.

Why do bike-car accidents result in deaths?

Lately, a lot of reports have surfaced regarding increased bicycle use and the number of bike related incidents.  But the League of American Bicyclists believe that the numbers from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are not capturing enough details.

According to a Consumer Advisory on the NHTSA site.  NHTSA statistics show that in 2012, 726 bicyclists were killed and an additional 49,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes, an increase of 6 percent from 2011 (682). The average age of bicyclists killed in traffic crashes was 43. The vast majority of these deaths occurred in urban areas (69 percent) and at non-intersections (60 percent) and involved mostly male riders (88 percent). About half of these fatalities (48 percent) occurred from 4:00 p.m. to 11:59 p.m.

Interesting. But according to a Vox article, the League of American Bicyclists’ own data sets reveal even more telling information:

Rear-end collisions cause a huge number of cyclist deaths

League of American Bicyclists data reveal more about bicycle related fatalities

One key takeaway is that rear end collisions with bicyclists don’t make up a huge chunk of bike collisions.  However, this category of incidents are more likely to result in serious injury or death.

Driver error account for many more deaths than cyclist error.

Most common factors in bicycle related deaths are due to driver error.

For those of you bicyclists, please check out bicyclesafe.com which provides a wonderful and detailed guide that will help you avoid getting into a range of different types of collisions with cars. We at Stritmatter Kessler Whelan have seen too many of our bike accident clients horribly injured due to driver error.

NOTE: This blog post is re-published from SKW’s Bike Law Blog.

Mayor Announces Some Good News for Seattle Cyclists

Projects like the Puget Sound Bikeshare are helping grow the number of cyclist commuters,

Projects like the Puget Sound Bikeshare are helping grow the number of cyclist commuters,

Seattle cyclists have something to look forward to this month. We at SKW are thrilled to see anything that may reduce the number of injured bicyclists. Cyclists whom we’ve represented were all skilled on their bikes. However, they sustained serious injuries because of either flawed roads or negligent drivers.

But cyclists in our city are undaunted. Among all of the nation’s major cities, Seattle is ranked fifth for bike commuters and seventh for walking commuters. Projects like the Puget Sound Bikeshare are helping grow the number of cyclist commuters.

Celebrating Bike to Work Month, this past Tuesday Mayor Ed Murray announced that a pilot project for the 2nd Avenue Protected Bike Lane will be in place before the launch of bike share.

Second Avenue has been cited as an especially dangerous path for cyclists. As Rutgers professor and bike evangelist, John Pucher, pointed out last year to the Seattle Times reporter Lindblom, “I’d say [2nd Avenue is] as bad as a major avenue on Manhattan. I think it’s maybe even worse, because I think here, there’s more left and right turns, there’s more doors that are being opened, more cars that are trying to park.”

Seattle’s pilot bike lane project will hopefully provide for safer trips for those biking around downtown– whether they are on the new bike share bikes or on their own bicycles.

Part of the funding of the pilot project is from the Green Lane Project,which selected Seattle as one of six cities to receive financial, strategic and technical assistance to install protected bike lanes.

If you want to learn about the City’s effort to build protected bike lanes on 2nd and 4th Avenues and other bike-ped improvements around the City, join others at the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Downtown Policy Ride. The Policy Ride will end at a Bike Happy Hour at Von Trapp’s near Capitol Hill.

According to a recent King5,com article,  Seattle area bike commuting has risen from 1.9 percent in 2000 to 3.4 percent.  Biking to work has jumped by 60% in the U.S. over the last decade.

NOTE: This blog post is excerpted from SKWBikeLaw’s blog.

 

Lawsuits & Congress Demand GM to Answer Tough Questions

When you start a car and drive it down the road, the last thing you expect is for the engine to shut off without warning. But this is what apparently happened to at least a dozen drivers of the GM Cobalts and Saturn Ions, resulting in fatal accidents. Additionally, when drivers/passengers were involved in a crashes with Cobalts and Saturns, airbags failed to deploy over 300 hundred times.

A GM Cobalt involved in a fatal accident in 2010 linked to its ignition system.  (Photo courtesy of The Cooper Firm)

A GM Cobalt involved in a fatal accident in 2010 linked to its ignition system.
(Photo courtesy of The Cooper Firm)

An ignition system and airbags are critical to ensure the safety of a car’s driver and passengers. Now, GM faces a slew of lawsuits regarding alleged faulty ignition switches and fault airbags that account for dozens, if not hundreds, of serious injuries and/or deaths, including a 19-year-old Megan Phillips, who lost control of the car, which careened off the road and struck a telephone junction box and two trees, according to the lawsuit. While Ms. Phillips sustained brain and other profound injuries,  15 year old Amy Rademaker 18 year old Natasha Weigel were killed.

A recent NY Times article discusses how the G.M. ignition problem is connected to air bags. For airbags to deploy, they require electrical power from the engine. The complex electronic system of sensors along with a computer  is what determines whether to deploy the air bag with maximum force or with a much lesser level. 

According to a watchdog organization, the Center for Auto Safety,  303 victims were in the front seat, where air bags failed to deploy. There were additional non-rear-impact crashes of Cobalts and Ions, in which the air bags did not deploy. In total, about 26% of a total 1,148 fatalities front seat and back seat occupants involved the same model Cobalts and Ions.

On top of the civil lawsuits, GM is now involved with Congressional criminal investigation and must answer to questions about what it took so long to order a recall regarding its faulty  ignitions.

How can we make sports safer for youth?

While we have seen discussions about the risk of traumatic brain injuries for NFL players, some are shining a brighter light on injuries that occur for soccer and lacrosse players. A 2013 report authored by the Committee on Sports-Related Concussions in Youth (affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences) pointed out that soccer, lacrosse and basketball have the highest rates of concussions for female athletes at the high school and college levels.

Former U.S. soccer player, Briana Scurry, testified before Congress earlier this month to talk about the risks of concussions and neck injuries. (Photo: Sean Dougherty, USA TODAY Sports)

Former U.S. soccer player, Briana Scurry, testified before Congress earlier this month to talk about the risks of concussions and neck injuries.
(Photo: Sean Dougherty, USA TODAY Sports)

Olympic gold medalist and World Cup soccer player, Briana Scurry cut her career as a soccer goalie because of a concussion and neck injury.  A high school senior, Ian Heaton, who played lacrosse for a Maryland high school chose to leave the sport rather than risk a fourth concussion. Last week, Scurry and Heaton told their stories Thursday at a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing, “Improving Sports Safety: A Multifaceted Approach.”

After suffering his third concussion on the lacrosse field, Ian could barely do much else besides sleep. Noise, light, and even the simplest things like moving his eyes caused him nausea and headaches. Navigating through the school halls and focusing on class lectures was out of his reach.  After home-schooling, he has worked hard to recover for over two and a half years. Recovery includes training himself to retain information and regain his pre-injury personality.

Brianna was kneed in the side of her head, when she was chasing a ball. While the footage caused little concern for most viewers, she has since suffered intense headaches, anxiety, balance loss, memory loss, and sleeplessness to mention a few of the disabling symptoms she’s struggled with over the past few years.

She and Ian spoke out to educate the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, chaired by U.S. Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.). The subcommittee, affiliated with the Energy & Commerce Committee.  The committee, with its oversight of matters involving consumer protection, product safety and sports safety aims to grasp the ways that the sports leagues, equipment manufacturers, and medical community can make all sports safer.

While  the country’s football and ice hockey organizations have demonstrated a genuine understanding of the risks of serious injury, other US Soccer and US lacrosse have much ground to cover.

Ski Helmet Won’t Help Avoid Brain Injury

With ski season upon us, skiers should keep in mind that wearing a helmet won’t necessarily help them avoid serious brain injuries.

Last month, celebrated Formula One driver Michael Schumacher sustained a traumatic brain injury after falling and crashing his head onto a rock. Schumacher was skiing off trail at a French resort. Yes, he was wearing a helmet, but it didn’t help him. Now he is in a medically induced coma, clinging to life.

Helmet didn't help Schumacher when skiing at high speed in off piste area - Photo credit: Reuters

Helmet didn’t help Schumacher when skiing at high speed in off piste area – Photo credit: Reuters

With Schumacher’s ski accident, many are taking a closer look at statistics related to wearing ski helmets versus serious brain injuries and fatalities. One NY Times article points out that the numbers are surprising: Despite roughly 70% increase in helmet use on the slopes since 2003, which is triple the number, there is no decrease in the number of serious brain injuries and deaths. So,what gives?

The researchers say that it’s because of a growing number of skiers, who have embraced the culture of extreme sports and death-defying risk. These skiers are typically younger males who also like to drive fast and who are willing to push the limits by skiing off trail, faster and higher. Moreover, skiing and snowboarding equipment has developed to the point where their capabilities are far more than what any human can control or handle.

This isn’t to say that wearing a ski helmet is a bad idea. After all, studies also show that the minor head injuries, such as scalp lacerations, are down by almost 30-50%. So, when you’re headed to the slopes, keep in mind that the helmet on your head will not make you invincible

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