Winter weather causes multiple accidents, closing I-90

By Arthur Elk

Whiteout conditions and icy roads caused more than 22 accidents Wednesday afternoon on a 20-mile stretch of I-90 in Northeast Ohio.

According to the Chardon post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, lanes in both directions were closed at State Route 44 in Concord Township. Hundreds of motorists were stranded for hours as emergency crews and law enforcement personnel worked to clear the road.

I watched the news and images from the scene were horrific. One car was trapped between two semis. A big rig ended up on top of a Volkswagen Bug. Dozens of vehicles were crushed and mangled from the collisions.

In spite of how bad the accident looked and the incredibly large number of vehicles involved, the Highway Patrol said there were no serious injuries.

All of these people were very lucky that they were able to walk away from and survive these accidents. As a personal injury attorney, I’ve seen the deadly results of motor vehicle accidents too many times. Lives lost, families devastated and futures cut short. Many accidents can be avoided if people simply planned ahead and used a little extra caution when behind the wheel.

It’s important to give yourself a little extra time when you are traveling on snow-covered roads. Don’t be in such a hurry to get somewhere that you have to drive faster than you should, and end up causing an accident. Always assume that the road that only looks wet might actually be ice-covered, too. And most importantly, keep your attention on the road, not on your cell phone or GPS.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, call us today at 1-800-ELK-OHIO or check out our website to find out how we can help you.

Arthur Elk: Stay safe on your snowmobile this winter

By Arthur Elk

Northeast Ohio was hit hard by snow this week. For many, that means the frustration of longer commutes, dangerous roads and shoveling snow. But for others, the piles of snow mean the opportunity to break out their snowboards or gas up their snowmobiles.

More than 2 million Americans enjoy snowmobiling every winter. It’s a fun, exciting pastime that riders of all ages can enjoy. However, the weight of the vehicle and the high-speed capability of the vehicle can be a dangerous combination, especially for new riders or riders who are impaired by alcohol. Snowmobile accidents result in more than 14,000 injuries and 200 deaths each year in the United States.

A 48-year-old Ashtabula County man died Tuesday evening after he crashed his snowmobile.  Authorities said the snowmobile ran off the right side of the road, striking a ditch and then a tree, where Steven Pawlowski, who troopers said was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, was ejected from the vehicle. Police said they believe alcohol may have been a factor but the crash is still under investigation.

One of the greatest risk factors for having an accident on a snowmobile, as with every motor vehicle, is drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol before operating any kind of motorized vehicle is never a smart choice. It slows your reflexes and affects your decision-making process. And when you are traveling at speeds up to 90 mph on a 600-pound snowmobile, every second counts.

For a safe and enjoyable season, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources offers these tips:

  • Always keep your machine in top mechanical condition.
  • Always wear insulated boots and protective clothing including a helmet, gloves and eye protection.
  • Never ride alone.
  • Avoid, when possible, crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Never operate in a single file when crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Always be alert to avoid fences and low strung wires.
  • Never operate on a street or highway.
  • Always look for depressions in the snow.
  • Keep headlights and taillights on at all times.
  • When approaching an intersection, come to a complete stop, raise off the seat and look for traffic.
  • Always check the weather conditions before you depart.

So get out there and enjoy the snow while you can, and remember these tips. I hope you all have a safe and fun snowmobiling season.

Judge sentences drunk driver to view accident victims

By Arthur Elk

Drunk driving is a tragic problem in our country. Thousands of people lose their lives senselessly each year because of the wrong choices others make to get behind the wheel after drinking.

As a personal injury attorney, I’ve seen the sad consequences of drunk driving too many times. Often, the drunk drivers are repeat offenders. If you’re like me, you’ve heard too many stories on the news about drivers being convicted of drunk driving for the 10th, 15th or even the 20th time.

That’s why I was very interested to hear about the unique sentence a Northeast Ohio judge imposed on a first-time drunk driving offender earlier this week.

Painesville Municipal Court Judge Mike Cicconetti is known for handing down some interesting sentences.  In  2005, Cicconetti sentenced 26-year-old Michelle Murray to spend a night out in the cold for abandoning 33 kittens in the dead of winter, nine of which died.

In Cicconetti’s court on Tuesday, first time OVI offender Jonathan Tarase, 27, was sentenced to 65 days in jail, with 60 of the days suspended, probation for six months, a $600 fine and no driving privileges for 15 days. But there was another twist. Tarase will have to view the bodies of two car accident victims at a local hospital ER or coroner’s office. Cicconetti wants to make sure that Tarase learns the lesson that drunken driving kills.

I think it’s great to see a judge thinking of creative new ways to fight the deadly problem of drunk driving. If just this one offender can learn a lesson and never drive drunk again, the experiment will be a success. Hopefully other judges will continue to come up with other new ways to try to keep drunk drivers off the road.

Please stay safe. Don’t drink and drive.


The 12 Tips of Christmas Safety

The holidays are full of all kinds of fun activities for families, from decorating the Christmas tree, to lighting candles and opening presents. We get so focused on enjoying these events that we may fail to recognize potential dangers posed by some of the items we use as decorations or for wrapping gifts.

One of the greatest risks associated with the holidays is fire. Every year across the country, an average of 300 fires are started by Christmas trees. These fires caused an average of 13 deaths, 27 injuries, and $16.7 million in direct property damage annually. Many of these fires could be avoided if people had followed some simple steps to protect themselves and their families.

As you decorate your home and plan for holiday gatherings, here are 12 things for you to keep in mind:

1. Keep trees away from heat sources. Place your Christmas tree away from any heat sources such as fireplaces and radiators and water it regularly to prevent it from drying out. Cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption.

2. Tree trimmings are flammable. Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant tree trimmings. And choose tinsel or artificial icicles that are plastic or made of non-leaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if children swallow them.

3. Decorations can be dangerous. Avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children. Small pieces could be swallowed or inhaled.

4. Don’t burn wrapping paper. Wrapping paper should not be burned in a fireplace, because a flash fire may result as wrapping paper can ignite suddenly and burn intensely. So be sure to remove all wrapping paper, bags, ribbons and bows from the fireplace area after gifts are opened.

5. Use appropriate decorations. Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety. These are identified by a label from an independent testing laboratory, such as UL or ETL/ITSNA. And if you are decorating outside, be sure to use only lights and decorations that are approved for outdoors. Keep electrical connections off the ground and away from metal rain gutters. Use insulated tape or plastic clips instead of metal nails to hold them in place

6. Damaged lights can be a hazard. Check each set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets or repair them before using.

7. Don’t leave the lights on all the time. Turn off all lights on trees and outdoor decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Lights could short and start a fire.

8. Never connect more than one extension cord together. Instead use one cord that is long enough to reach the outlet without stretching, but not so long that it can get easily tangled.

9. Check your child’s toys. Before your child opens and plays with a new toy, be sure it is age appropriate. You may shop very carefully and keep safety in mind when buying toys for your children. But a well-meaning friend or family member may unintentionally buy your child a toy with parts that are too small for their age.

10. Protect your children from flames. Keep matches, lighters and candles out of the reach of children.

11. Keep watch when cooking. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the United States. When you are cooking for holiday guests, make sure you keep an eye on the range.

12. Some decorations can cause irritation. To avoid skin and eye irritation, wear gloves when decorating with spun glass “angel hair.” To avoid lung irritation, read container labels carefully and follow directions when using artificial snow sprays.

The personal injury lawyers of Elk & Elk want everyone to have a safe and happy holiday season. Don’t let any part of your holiday season ruin your joyous celebrations.

Grant to help fund new anti-texting-and-driving measures

Earlier this year, Ohio joined the growing list of states with bans on texting and driving, yet many states are discovering how difficult it is to stop texting and driving and enforce the bans.

A total of 38 states ban texting while driving, and many municipalities have their own texting and driving ordinance.  In many cases, the law only bans texting and driving, not all cellphone use. This makes it difficult for police, as they must prove someone is texting and not using their cellphone for some other, legal purpose. In Minnesota, police wrote only 1,200 tickets for texting in 2011. In Scranton, PA, police issued only 10 tickets in the first six months after that state’s ban took effect, and one of those was to a driver who admitted texting after a crash.

This difficulty has forced law enforcement agencies to seek out new avenues for cracking down on illegal texters. A new $550,000 federal grant announced last week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will allow police departments in Massachusetts and Connecticut to test a variety of anti-texting initiatives in the next two years. The measures – everything from ad campaigns to roving patrols – are designed to find “real-world protocols and practices to better detect if a person is texting while driving,” according to NHTSA chief David Strickland.

One new measure the grant will help fund is spotters on overpasses and other roadways who can identify drivers who are typing behind the wheel. There is already proof that a program like this can work.

Earlier this month, police in Bismarck, ND, wrote 31 distracted driving tickets in two days as part of a crackdown. Officers used unmarked, high-riding trucks or SUVs to peer down into cars and catch texters in the act. Because North Dakota bans texting and Internet browsing while driving, officers had to be able to see what drivers specifically were doing with their phones. One officer said they could have written twice as many tickets but didn’t have enough evidence.

The personal injury attorneys of Elk & Elk have seen too many cases of drivers injured because of other drivers’ distracted driving. Because of these tragic situations, we are in favor of in steps to help keep drivers focused on the road and not on their electronic devices. Thousands of American motorists have fallen victim to distracted driving and everything must be done to end this epidemic.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, contact the personal injury lawyers of Elk & Elk today. We will put our experience and resources to work to get you the results you need. Call 1-800-ELK-OHIO today or fill out our convenient online consultation form.