Archive for Car Accident Attorney

Robot Car Technology Challenges Law and Insurance

Where We Are Today

Most cars now already feature some form of self-driving technology, from cruise control – first developed in the 1950s – to electronic stability introduced in the mid-1990s to recent innovations like automatic braking, lane departure alerts and self-parking. The latest technologies, like Autopilot from Tesla and Drive Pilot from Mercedes-Benz, automatically steer, adjust speed and brake. Instead of relying on eyes, ears and a brain for control, autonomous vehicles depend on data from cameras, radar and LIDAR – high-tech sensors that detect light – all fed into an on-board computer.

Since we share the road with both old and new vehicles, all with a mix of technologies, the Society of Automotive Engineers created a six-level ranking system. Level Zero, One and Two vehicles still require human drivers to monitor the driving environment. Level Three, Four and Five vehicles put the computer in charge of monitoring the driving environment. Only Level Three vehicles, like the Tesla, are commercially available today. But traditional manufacturers, along with new players like Google and Uber, are testing fully autonomous Level Five vehicles and predict they will be available to the public in the early 2020s.

What Autonomous Vehicles Mean to You

Tesla Model S
Tesla has rejected responsibility for crashes even when its Autopilot system is engaged.

The most encouraging prediction from the transition to driverless cars is a dramatic reduction in auto accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 37,000 people died in auto accidents in 2016 and millions more were injured. NHTSA estimates that 94 percent of crashes are caused by human error. A self-driving car that is never tired, distracted or impaired could dramatically reduce accidents, saving 30,000 lives or more each year.

The reality, however, is that Americans will still suffer injuries and deaths from auto crashes as self-driving technology is perfected. No technology is foolproof, especially when it involves the highly complex sensors and artificial intelligence central to self-driving cars. We’ve also learned the hard way that automakers deny responsibility or cover up manufacturing defects to protect profits. And even if Level Five automation is available to the public in 2020, it will be another 15 to 20 years before all vehicles on the road have the latest self-driving technologies.

Operators Still Blamed for Crashes

In a collision involving autonomous vehicles, the question of liability is murky at best. Is the operator at fault, the manufacturer, the software designer? Unfortunately, the trend has been to blame the operator, with manufacturers suggesting that humans should be ready to take over when self-driving systems hand over the controls. Research shows, however, that humans are not well adapted to re-engage with complex tasks, like driving in an emergency situation, once their attention has been allowed to wander.

As more and more vehicles become completely driverless, it makes less and less sense to hold their human operators liable. Instead, we see strict liability as the best solution, where manufacturers take full responsibility for crashes when the robot system is driving. This same principle already applies to common carriers like bus companies, airlines or train operators, where passengers are completely dependent on the carrier for their safety. Auto insurance as we know it today would be eliminated under this scenario, because who needs an insurance policy if they’re not driving?

In the Meantime …

Self-driving technologies and eventually fully autonomous cars will likely be a reality sooner than later. Consider these tips along the way:

  1. Do your research: Cars that already have automated safety technology, such as back-up cameras or automatic braking, are already on the road today. Before you purchase a new car, review safety ratings for both the mechanical and the computer-driven technologies already on board.
  2. Stay vigilant: Just as you would if you were driving a car with no automated features, keep your attention on the road. It’s tempting to believe that once self-driving cars are introduced, you can relax your focus. Don’t exclusively rely on automated features to keep you safe.
  3. Support accountability: There are laws currently being written about liability and safety when it comes to driverless cars. Support the laws and lawmakers that insist on strict liability for autonomous vehicle manufacturers.

Road Safety Tips for Teen Drivers Heading Back to School

Distractions, Inexperience and Risky Behavior Spell Trouble

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. It is estimated that on average, six teenagers die every day in the United States from a car crash. As teens head back to school, you should know how to keep them, and others, safe.

PedestrianTeens who text and drive are outside of their lane  about 10 percent of the time.

The Stats

A teen driver on the road is more likely to cause a car crash than any other driver. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash. Young men are two times more likely to get in a crash than young women.

If your teen driver has recently received his or her license, inexperience can spell disaster out on the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers ages 16 to 17 are twice as likely to get in a car crash compared to teen drivers ages 18 to 19.

Teens are also less likely to practice safe driving behavior, such as using seat belts or maintaining a safe following distance. In 2015, only 61 percent of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else. [Download report.]

The Risks

Teens are also much more likely to drive distracted. Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related crashes, and 42 percent of teens admit to texting while driving. Carpooling seems like a convenient way to get to school, but teens riding with other teen drivers increase the risk of distraction with every additional teen passenger. Here are all eight of the CDC danger zonesmost often linked to teen crashes:

  1. Driver Inexperience
  2. Driving with Teen Passengers
  3. Nighttime Driving
  4. Not Using Seat Belts
  5. Distracted Driving
  6. Drowsy Driving
  7. Reckless Driving
  8. Impaired Driving

The Parents

So, what can parents do to prevent teen driving tragedies?

  • Most important, lead by example. Forty-eight percent of young drivers have seen their parents talking on a cell phone while driving, and 15 percent of those have seen their parents texting while driving. Show your kids how to drive responsibly by driving distraction free, wearing your seatbelt and following all speed limits and traffic laws.
  • Set limits. Multiple teen passengers and late-night driving lead to more crashes. Limit the number of passengers for your teen drivers and set a curfew.
  • Buy a safe car. The car your teen drives should be reliable. Purchase from a reputable dealer, and check all cars at Safercar.gov for recalls. Make sure your young driver knows what to do if a car breaks down.
  • Practice driving with your teen. Provide your teen driver with 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving practice over at least six months. Practice on a variety of roads, at different times of day, and in varied weather and traffic conditions. Stress the importance of continually scanning for potential hazards including other vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Create a Parent-Teen driving agreement. Put your driving rules in writing to clearly set limits, as well as the consequences for not following those rules

Praising the Organizations That Make a Difference

The 2017 Justice Served Awards honor each of these groups for their commitment to a safer, more just America.

Center for Justice and Democracy
Located at New York Law School, the Center for Justice & Democracy is the only national consumer organization in the country exclusively dedicated to protecting the civil justice system. It investigates and exposes attacks on judges, juries, injured consumers and attorneys by powerful corporations and special interests. The Center also raises public awareness and support for the civil justice system and combats the dangerous campaign behind the so-called “tort reform” movement. The Center believes that “America’s civil justice system is one of the only places left in America where individual citizens can successfully challenge powerful industries and institutions and hold them accountable.”

 

Public Citizen

Founded in 1971 and based in Washington, D.C., Public Citizen “serves as the people’s voice in the nation’s capital.” The organization champions citizens’ interests before Congress, the executive branch agencies and the courts. Through its five policy groups – Congress Watch, the Energy Program, Global Trade Watch, the Health Research Group and the Litigation Group – Public Citizen fights to make sure government works for the American people and not corporate power.

Consumers Union
Consumers Union is the policy and action division of Consumer Reports magazine. It works with its activists and alongside subscriber input to pass consumer protection laws in states and in Congress. It holds dangerous and unsafe corporations accountable and celebrates those who put their consumers first. Consumers Union has helped pass consumer protection laws for healthcare, financial services, the food and agriculture industry, clean energy, the auto industry and more.

Consumer Federation of America
The Consumer Federation of America is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy and education. Nearly 300 diverse state and national advocacy groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization’s Board of Directors.

Workplace Fairness
Workplace Fairness is a nonprofit organization working to preserve and promote employee rights. It believes that fair treatment of workers is sound public policy and good business practice. Workplace Fairness also supports and creates comprehensive, unbiased information about workers’ rights in order to empower employees everywhere. With this information, Workplace Fairness educates workers and organizations and advocates for fairness through awareness and public policy.

ProPublica
Founded by Paul Steiger, former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, ProPublica is an independent nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. These investigations shine a light on exploitation and work to create positive change. ProPublica is nonpartisan organization that works to adhere to strict standards of journalistic impartiality. It does not ally with any politicians or advocacy groups in order to provide an unbiased look at businesses, government, unions, education systems, healthcare organizations and the media.

The Leapfrog Group
The Leapfrog Group is a national nonprofit organization focused on improving the quality and safety of American health care. Its Leapfrog Hospital Survey program collects and transparently reports hospital performance, empowering purchasers to find the highest-value care and giving consumers the lifesaving information they need to make informed decisions. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, Leapfrog’s other main initiative, assigns letter grades to hospitals based on their record of patient safety, helping consumers protect themselves and their families from errors, injuries, accidents and infections.

Safe Kids Worldwide
Safe Kids Worldwide is a global organization dedicated to protecting kids from unintentional injuries, the number one cause of death to children in the United States. Safe Kids does this through research reports, education and awareness programs and safety focused public policy. Since 1988, the work of Safe Kids has helped reduce the U.S. childhood death rate from unintentional injury by 60 percent.