Have Distracted Driving Laws Reduced Crashes? 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Distracted driving poses a serious threat to our health. According to government research on driver behavior, in 2014 nearly 3200 people were killed and an additional 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle accidents in which distracted driving was a factor.

Distracted driving is defined as any activity that can divert a person’s attention away from their primary task, which is driving. Examples of distracted driving include texting, talking on the phone, eating or drinking, applying makeup, reading maps, consulting a navigation system, even adjusting a radio. Since text messaging requires digital, cognitive, and visual input, it’s often seen as the biggest threat. And we text a lot – according to federal data, we sent nearly 170 billion texts in December 2014 alone. A lot of us text while driving – around 660,000 at any given time.

To reduce the number of distracted driving related crashes, lawmakers have passed sweeping regulations to address texting on the road. Today, nearly every state in the union prohibits it. But are they doing any good?

New York was the first to pass a handheld device provision in 2001. Not only are residents not allowed to text, but they’re not allowed to talk or use their devices (hands-free talking is allowed in some states). Currently, fourteen states have this provision, as well as the District of Columbia. Forty-four states prohibit texting while driving, but allow talking and use of a navigation system.

Texting-Related Bans Save Lives

A review of hospitalization data show that texting bans have led to a decrease in crash-related hospitalizations across all age groups, according to a study in The American Journal of Public Health. On average, such hospitalizations have decreased by seven percent. The improvement was most drastic among crash victims aged 22 to 64. Crashes among adolescents and teens, on the other hand, dropped only marginally.

Researchers in the study concluded that these reductions translate into annual prevention of 30 motor-vehicle hospitalizations per hospital (in states with a primary texting ban). This suggests that texting bans work and are improving public health.

Insurance Companies Tell a Different Story

Interestingly, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found conflicting information. While they found bans on hand-held phone use have curbed the behavior of texting behind the wheel, they haven’t produced a subsequent reduction in crashes. According to their analysis, cell phone and texting bans have not reduced the number of crashes reported to insurers, even with strong enforcement.

The institute’s research found that in places with a handheld device ban, such as New York, cell phone conversations dropped by as much as 76 percent. They also found, however, that motor vehicle crash claims haven’t been significantly reduced in the years following the ban.

There are several possible reasons for this – for example, drivers who were on their phones may have been distracted by something else. Another is that drivers may be switching to hands-free calling, which is legal but still provides a cognitive distraction. These drivers would still be distracted by the conversation, even when their hands are on the wheel.

What’s the Final Word on Texting Bans?

It’s important to note that one study analyzed insurance claim data, while the other analyzed hospitalization data. One possible explanation for the cell phone ban data discrepancy is that there are fewer serious crashes producing hospitalization although they may still result in an insurance claim.

Distracted driving still poses a threat to our health. Each year, there are several hundred preventable deaths related to cell phone use. Lawmakers must continue to recognize the efficacy of texting bans in reducing serious injury and encourage states without texting bans to adopt legislation. Together, we can reduce the number of distracted driving deaths.

Posted by admin at 5:24 pm

What Are Some of the Most Common Injuries for Oil and Gas Employees?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Employees get injured on the job every day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were nearly 3 million workplace-related illnesses and injuries reported in 2015, or a rate of 3 cases per 100,000 employees. Some jobs are naturally more hazardous than others, and the oil and gas industry is one of the nation’s most dangerous. The same report found that the rate of injury and illness among oil and gas workers was five times that of the general worker population, or 15 reported cases per 100,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 142 deaths in the oil industry in 2015, a 27% increase from the previous year.

What Are the Most Common Workplace Injuries?

Oil workers are prone to all manner of injury, due to the natural hazards of the job. But the most common types of injury are not what you might think. Here are the highlights:

  1. Driving Is the Most Dangerous Job in the Oil Industry

Most oil workers are not killed in the field or on the rig itself, but on the highway. Over 300 oil and gas workers have been killed on the road in the past decade. One of them was Timothy Roth, who boarded a truck after a 17 hour shift with three coworkers to begin the long 4 hour commute home to West Virginia. Just ten minutes into their journey, the driver fell asleep, crashing the vehicle and killing Mr. Roth.

Stories like these are not uncommon, as workers are expected to pull long shifts hours away from their homes. Oil field employees are not subject to the regulations that keep truck drivers from working long shifts on the road, which pressures employees to make long commutes home after shifts that can be 20 hours or longer.

  1. Machine-Related Injuries

Oil companies use heavy machinery and hazardous equipment, which leads to workplace injury. Derricks, heavy lifts, hoists, drillers, and loading and unloading materials can all cause trauma or crush injuries. Additionally, machines used in drilling are loud and can cause hearing loss or even loss of balance when they disturb the inner ear. Operators must wear appropriate protective gear, such as earplugs and gloves while operating equipment.

Unfortunately, combining the hazardous equipment with long shifts and worker fatigue can be a recipe for disaster. Workers can suffer crush injury, dismemberment, or even death from being caught in pumps and compressors. Oil companies have a duty to follow OSHA regulations to minimize the risk of these types of injuries by checking their equipment often and making sure employees have proper safety gear and breaks.

  1. Illness From Chemical Exposure

Chemical exposure is common in the oil fields. The processes involved in drilling can release noxious chemicals into the work area. Most notably, oil refineries can release hydrofluoric acid, which can scar lungs and cause death by asphyxiation. It’s so noxious that it can permeate the skin and react with calcium deep within our bones.

Prolonged exposure to other chemicals in refineries and wells can lead to respiratory problems, brain injury, paralysis, leukemia, and other kinds of cancer.

In the short term, workers who are exposed to oil industry chemicals report headache, nausea, fatigues, eye irritation, and chemical burns. It’s essential to wear proper protection and respiratory masks when working both on the rig and in the refinery.

Oil workers can also be killed in fires and explosions, as oil is filled with highly combustible gasses. These accidents can happen with little warning, and are hard to prevent (though they are relatively rare). Employers must have a proper fire prevention plan in place, and take every precaution necessary to avoid a tragedy.

Posted by admin at 5:20 pm

How Can Parents Help Protect Against Cyberbullying? 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Technology has completely revolutionized the way we live and communicate. Unfortunately, ease of communication has a dark side. Cyberbullying has become commonplace, with around half of all children admitting that they have been bullied online. Cyberbullying can cause low self-esteem, depression and, at its worst, suicidal thoughts. 

In 2012, Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, posted a video on YouTube that garnered over 17 million views. In it, she detailed her struggles with self-harm and bullying. A month after she made the video, she hanged herself in her home. She was fifteen.

In today’s technology-driven world, kids have continuous access to one another, creating a platform for relentless teasing. Parents must be more vigilant than ever to ensure their children’s safety and emotional well-being.

Protect Your Child Against Cyberbullying

Parents may feel at a loss in what is still relatively uncharted territory. But being on top of the situation will help keep your child from being a victim – or perpetrator – of online bullying. Here’s what to do.

  1. Stay Involved

The internet is a wonderful tool for studying and connecting with others, but it’s also full of dangers. As a parent, it’s your duty to be actively involved in your child’s internet activity. There are several ways in which to stay involved and be aware of how your child is communicating – align their values with your personal parenting philosophy. For example, you could review your child’s social media activity together once a week, or set blocks on certain websites. At the very least, your children should need your permission before setting up accounts on any website. The more you know about what’s happening online, the better equipped you’ll be to handle potential challenges.

  1. Talk to Your Child About Responsible Internet Use

Each parent sets their own internet rules. But all parents should encourage their children not to create relationships with people they don’t know in real life. There are obvious exceptions to this rule, such as an online pen pal organized through a reputable organization. Teach your children to never accept friend requests from people they don’t know, and to show you any suspicious messaging or activity.

When it comes to posting, teach your children that everything they publish is out there permanently – even with Snapchat. Even if you delete a post, you never know who has taken a screenshot or other measures to share it. Encourage your children to think carefully about what they post and when.

Here’s an example of an internet-use rule. Before posting, ask yourself: Is it relevant? Is it polite? Is it appropriate? If they can’t answer yes to all three questions, they shouldn’t post it.

  1. Have Access to Your Child’s Phone

This is a tricky one for parents, especially when they want their children to feel autonomous and trusted. But knowing how to check your child’s phone is important in today’s world, especially if you notice behavioral changes in your child. Use your own parenting philosophy to guide how, when, and if you check your child’s messages and apps, but always know how in case the situation warrants it.

  1. Keep Records

If your child tells you about cyberbullying, take immediate action. If the bully attends the same school as your child, talk to a teacher or administrator. Many schools are expanding their cyberbullying policies to include what happens outside of classrooms, but rules vary by state, even by municipality.

If contacting a school isn’t helpful, go to the source and send a certified “cease and desist” letter to the bully’s parents. Include photocopies of evidence, such as text conversations or social media comments. Certifying the letter helps tell the parent’s you’re serious about getting the behavior to stop, and they can be held liable.

Finally, if sending a formal letter doesn’t stop, go to the local police and ask to file a report, and contact an attorney for further guidance.

Posted by admin at 5:12 pm