Ohio Personal Injury Lawyers: Walking and texting an underreported danger

The number of pedestrians killed and injured due to distractions from electronic devices appears to be on the rise. The Ohio personal injury lawyers of Elk & Elk want all walkers to be aware of the dangers of walking and texting.

Studies have proven, and you have likely noticed yourself, that most people can’t focus on two things at once. But how many of us continue to text and drive or text and walk? Although there is a lot of attention being focused on ending texting and driving, evidence shows that distracted walking is a growing problem.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 4,280 pedestrians died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2010, a 4% increase from 2009. Officials estimated another 70,000 were injured, an increase of 19 percent from 2009. According to the NHTSA, on average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes. Pedestrian deaths accounted for 13% of all traffic fatalities in 2010.

Many officials believe the recent increase in pedestrians injured and killed is tied to the increase in pedestrians distracted by electronics – cell phones, iPods and other portable devices.

Reports of injuries to distracted walkers treated at hospital emergency rooms have more than quadrupled in the past seven years and are almost certainly underreported. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 1,152 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms in the United States last year for injuries suffered while walking and using a cellphone or some other electronic device. But officials believe that number is likely an underestimate, because many patients may not mention they were using a cellphone at the time they were injured or the doctor or nurse may neglect to include the information in their report.

Officials and safety groups are working hard to find ways to protect people, without infringing on their personal rights.

In Delaware, officials are using a public education to increase awareness of the issue, placing decals on crosswalks and sidewalks at busy intersections urging pedestrians to “Look up. Drivers aren’t always looking out for you.”

Efforts to legislate distracted walking have proved mostly futile. The Utah Transit Authority adopted an ordinance banning pedestrians from using cellphones, headphones or other distracting electronic devices while crossing the tracks of its light rail system in Salt Lake City. However, the state legislature refused to make it a statewide law. Other distracted walking bills in Arkansas, Illinois and New York also failed.

The Ohio accident attorneys at Elk & Elk encourage you to avoid texting while walking to reduce your risk of being involved in a pedestrian accident. No text message is worth you being killed or injured in a pedestrian-vehicle accident.

While it is important that pedestrians pay attention while they are walking or jogging, it is also important for drivers to watch and pay attention. As U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “Roadway safety is a two-way street that requires effort on the part of motorists and pedestrians alike.”

If you or someone you love was injured in a pedestrian-vehicle accident, contact the Ohio accident attorneys at Elk & Elk. We have almost 50 years of experience representing victims of pedestrian accidents and we can help you and your loved ones get the justice you deserve. Call 1-800-ELK-OHIO today.

Ohio Employment Claims Lawyers: Illinois becomes 2nd state blocking employers from asking for social media logins

State lawmakers and the federal government are taking steps to stop employers from improperly snooping in employees’ and potential employees’ social media accounts. The employment claims lawyers of Elk & Elk believe laws must be in place to protect individuals’ privacy.

Earlier this week, Illinois became the second state to pass a law that makes it illegal for employers to ask job applicants for passwords to their online profiles.

Some companies and government agencies have started asking for passwords to log in to prospective employees’ accounts on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Many have criticized the practice as a serious invasion of privacy.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where several students claimed that their bosses’ online snooping had caused them to lose out on jobs or forced them to deactivate their profiles.

Quinn said that it was important that the law keep up with technology. “We’re dealing with 21st-century issues … Privacy is a fundamental right. I believe that and I think we need to fight for that,” Quinn said.

Rep. La Shawn Ford, sponsor of the bill, said, that penalties in any successful civil suit would start at between $100 and $300 but would likely end up costing employers much more.

Maryland is the only other state with a similar law, but several other states are considering bans, including Washington, Delaware and New Jersey.

The Illinois law protects both current and prospective employees. However, the law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2013, does not stop bosses from viewing information that isn’t restricted by privacy settings on the social media site.

Some research shows that as many as 75 percent of employers look at an applicant’s online profile before offering them a job. One-third of employers have turned down applicants based on what was found in those searches.

Employers asking employees or potential employees for their social media passwords is a gross invasion of privacy. While an employer has the right to vet any potential employees, there has to be a line maintained between what is public and what is private. There are limits about what questions an interviewer may ask an applicant. Is there any reason similar limits shouldn’t exist in cyberspace?

But no matter what the law may say about your privacy, it is always smart to be cautious about what you post on social media sites. You never know who may end up seeing it. Be smart and make good choices.

Elk & Elk wants to help end distracted driving

Managing partner Art Elk and the rest of the lawyers at Elk & Elk are serious about putting an end to distracted driving. Together, we can save lives, one person at a time. Help us spread the word about how each of us can do our part to drive safely.

Watch out for youngsters heading back to school

The roadways in your area are about to get a little more crowded again in a few weeks as summer break draws to an end and schools will be back in session. With more distractions in traffic, it pays to slow down and pay attention. Drivers should take extra precautions at the beginning of the school year.

Of course, anytime you are driving, you should eliminate any distractions so all your attention is on the road. But that is never more important than when you are in a school zone. Texting or using your cell phone can take your eyes off the road long enough to result in a tragic accident.

For parents who are sending your kids off to school on school buses, you can rest easy. School buses are one of the safest forms of transportation on the road today. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, riding a bus to school is 13 times safer than riding in a passenger vehicle and 10 times safer than walking to school.

The reality of school bus safety is that more children are hurt outside the bus than inside as passengers. Most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related crashes are pedestrians, 4 to 7 years old, who are hit by the bus or by motorists illegally passing a stopped school bus.

The National Safety Council has shared some helpful tips for motorists to help you and all the young ones heading back to school stay safe.

Sharing the road with school buses

  • All 50 states have a law making it illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children.
  • School buses use yellow flashing lights to alert motorists that they are preparing to stop to load or unload children. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm signals to motorists that the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off the bus.
  • All 50 states require that traffic in both directions stop on undivided roadways when students are entering or exiting a school bus.
  • State laws vary on what is required on a divided roadway, but in all cases, traffic behind the school bus traveling in the same direction must stop.
  • Stop far enough from the bus to allow children the necessary space to safely enter and exit the bus. The area 10 feet around a school bus is where children are in the most danger of being hit.
  • Be alert. Children are unpredictable. Children walking to or from their bus are usually very comfortable with their surroundings, making them more likely to take risks, ignore hazards or fail to look both ways when crossing the street.
  • Never pass a school bus on the right.

Sharing the road with child pedestrians

  • Drivers should not block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn. Blocking the crosswalk forces pedestrians to go around your vehicle and puts them in a dangerous situation.
  • In a school zone when a warning flasher or flashers are blinking, you must stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk.
  • Always stop when directed to do so by a school patrol sign, school patrol officer or designated crossing guard.
  • Don’t honk your horn, rev your engine or do anything to rush or scare a pedestrian in front of your car, even if you have the legal right-of-way.
  • Children are the least predictable pedestrians and the most difficult to see. Take extra care to watch for children, not only in school zones, but also in residential areas, playgrounds and parks.

Following these tips and paying extra attention when you are behind the wheel can help make going back to school a safe time for everyone.