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Distractions Lead to More Pedestrian Injuries and Deaths

Pedestrian injuries and fatalities skyrocketed in 2010 according to new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but no one seems to know why.

Road fatalities are dropping in many categories, but pedestrian deaths rose 4.2 percent and pedestrian injuries went up 19 percent over the previous year, according to a December story in USA Today.

Officials say the increase could be because we have recently built increasing numbers of wider, higher speed and higher volume roads that were not built with pedestrians or bikers in mind.

Also, more people have moved to suburban areas that were not designed for pedestrian traffic. This pedestrian unfriendly environment inevitably leads to more walkers getting hit by cars, according to experts.

Some research has suggested that pedestrians suffer from the same distractions, such as talking on mobile phones and texting, that drivers encounter. Walking and texting is every bit as dangerous as driving and texting and may be more deadly since a pedestrian is much more vulnerable than a driver, according to USA Today.

It has been difficult for researchers to analyze the issue of mobile phone use because law enforcement agencies are not required to indicate whether a pedestrian was on the phone or using a smartphone when he or she was struck by a car.

Alcohol also plays a part in pedestrian accidents too. Alcohol was involved in about half of the pedestrian accidents, whether the driver or the pedestrian was intoxicated.

Chicago personal injury attorney Paul Greenberg has experience representing clients who have been struck by automobiles and commercial vehicles. To learn more, call 877-595-HURT (4878) or visit more of


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DOT Bans Smartphones for All Commercial Truck and Bus Drivers

The U.S. Department of Transportation has formally banned Interstate bus and truck drivers from using hand-held phones.

The new rule was jointly created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. “I hope that this rule will save lives by helping commercial drivers stay laser-focused on safety at all times while behind the wheel,” said DOT Secretary Ray LaHood after the rule went into effect in November.

The new rule is simple and has financial and professional consequences. Commercial drivers are no longer allowed to use a hand-held phone of any kind while operating a bus or truck. Drivers found in violation of the restriction will be fined up to $2,750 per offense and may be disqualified from operating a commercial vehicle after multiple violations, according to the DOT. States hold the commercial driver’s licenses and will revoke them after multiple offenses.

Commercial truck or bus companies also can be fined for allowing their drivers to operate hand-held smartphones while driving. The maximum fine for companies is $11,000.

There are about four million professional commercial drivers in the United States, according to the DOT. The government got the authority to make such a rule from federal highway safety laws passed in the 1980s. The DOT used research from its own 2009 study showing the dangerous effects of distracted driving that indicated it does not take much distraction for a commercial driver to create big problems on the highway.

The study found that doing things like text messaging on a phone were more than twice as distracting as rummaging through a grocery bag or looking at a map while driving. It also showed that using a hand-held device was about five times more distracting than speaking on the phone hands-free.

As many as 500,000 people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2009, according to the DOT’s research. Another 5,474 died in distracted driving accidents in the United States that year. The DOT’s study alarmed the industry, and government agencies have been cracking down ever since. The FMCSA and the PHMSA both banned texting while driving in 2010 in hopes of cutting back on distracted driving. The new smartphone ban goes much further by banning use of all hand-held devices.

Some of the country’s largest employers of commercial drivers like Wal-Mart, UPS, Greyhound and Covenant Transport already had rules banning their drivers from using smartphones, according to the DOT’s press release.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago truck accident lawyer and Chicago truck accident attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit

NTSB Suggests Ban on All Portable Electronic Devices for Drivers of Any Vehicle

The National Transportation Safety Board recently called for a total ban on driver use of portable electronic devices – both hands-free and hand-held – in all motor vehicles.

Distraction-related accidents took the lives of about 3,000 people on America’s highways last year, according to NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman.

The agency’s press release calling for the ban included examples of deadly crashes, injury accidents and near misses caused by distracted drivers, pilots and engineers.

The NTSB does not have the authority to make state law, but the agency’s recommendations can be used when legislators bring the issue up in capital buildings across the country.

For example, a motorcoach driver slammed into a low bridge in 2004 while using a hands-free device and injured 27 high school students. A commuter train conductor texting on his phone hit a freight train head on in 2008, killing 25 in California. Two airline pilots using their laptop computers were distracted and overflew their destination by 100 miles in 2009. A tugboat mate killed two tourists while he was using a laptop computer when his tug pushed a barge over their duckboat in the Delaware River in 2010.

The NTSB report outlined the different mishaps in assorted transportation types in an effort to show the many ways that portable electronic devices can distract the operator of a vehicle. The agency set the deadlines across all modes of transportation.

The Department of Transportation banned the use of smartphones by professional truck and motorcoach drivers in the fall. That rule was created by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Researchers say the statistical evidence backs up the NTSB’s recommendations. An analysis of 300 studies on mobile phones showed no evidence that people using hands-free devices were any less distracted than people holding a phone to their ear, according to the Associated Press.

American privacy laws have made it difficult for researchers to gather thorough data on motor vehicle accidents caused by cellphone distraction. Studies conducted in Australia and Canada have shown drivers are four times more likely to crash if they are talking on the phone regardless of whether it was hands-free or handheld.

A Carnegie Mellon study from 2008 also backed up claims that hands-free devices are just as dangerous as hand-held ones. That research showed it is the brain, not the hand, that is distracted. Driving while talking on the phone is distracting because the brainpower is being divided. Research done in driving simulators showed a loss of skills when drivers were subjected to voices talking to them, according to the AP. Investigators see personal electronic devices in increasing numbers of accident scenes.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago car accident lawyer and Chicago car accident attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit

Build-A-Bear Toys Recalled After Choking Hazard is Discovered

The popular Build-A-Bear brand took another hit when the company recently issued a recall of more than 300,000 teddy bears.

The Colorful Hearts Teddy Bear has eyes that could fall out and cause a choking hazard, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The December announcement was the third product safety recall for Build-A-Bear in 2011.

The company also had to pay a $600,000 civil penalty because the company did not immediately report a defect in a line of beach chairs it sold for eight years. The chairs had sharp wooden frames that could pinch or even amputate a child’s arm if folded incorrectly. The company was aware of the problem from at least 10 reports over three years before reporting the problem, according to the Huffington Post.

The company also had to recall about 26,000 lapel pins that were made in China in 2011 because they contained too much lead paint. Build-A-Bear did not receive any reports of injuries from the three recalls the company had in 2011. A company spokesperson said the Colorful Hearts Teddy Bear’s problems likely came from substandard fabric that could not keep the eyes on the bear.

The CPSC suggested taking the bear back to the Build-A-Bear store to be exchanged for a safe toy.

Chicago defective products attorney Paul Greenberg has experience representing clients whose children have been injured playing with defective toys and other products. To learn more, call 877-595-HURT (4878) or visit more of


FDA Sends Out New Warnings About Baby Acetaminophen Dosages

An attempt by the Food and Drug Administration to reduce dosing confusion about liquid acetaminophen has led the agency to clarify a warning about dosing because the first changes created even more confusion.

Major manufacturers agreed in 2009 to produce acetaminophen in only one strength after FDA advisory committees raised concerns about confusion and dosing errors. The new standard concentration is 160 mg/5 mL.

Ideally, that would mean only one concentration of acetaminophen would be available. But because the change was only a voluntary one, some manufacturers opted not to comply with the single-concentration recommendation. As a result, multiple concentrations remain on store shelves including 80 mg/mL and 80 mg/0.8 mL. Adding to the confusion, manufacturers who changed the dosage did not always change the packaging to make it clear that the product is a different strength.

The FDA stressed that the new dosages come with an oral syringe to help with precise dosing. Older products came with droppers. Acetaminophen is still safe in other concentrations as long as parents continue to use the correct dose for the concentration. The FDA also urged healthcare professionals to instruct parents in proper dosing and to explain the problems associated with incorrect dosing when they recommend the drug for children.

Chicago medical malpractice attorney Paul Greenberg has experience in helping parents whose children have been given the wrong dosage by a medical professional. To learn more, call 877-595-HURT (4878) or visit more of


Group B Strep Can Threaten Baby During Delivery

Group B Strep is a dangerous bacteria that lives in the digestive tract and the birth canal of as many as one in four pregnant women and can cause permanent handicaps for the baby.

According to GBS International, a group that promotes awareness of Group B Strep, the condition is the most likely cause of infections in newborns.

GBS does not infect every newborn that is exposed and women who carry the bacteria do not carry it consistently. Babies are most likely to become infected with the bacteria as they pass through the birth canal.

GBS can leave a baby with handicaps like deafness, blindness or cerebral palsy, according to GBS International.

Protecting a baby from GBS involves testing. Doctors can do a urine culture for GBS or other bacteria during the first and third trimesters. It is important for pregnant women to see a doctor immediately if they show signs of a vaginal infection. C-section babies are still at risk, according to GBS International, and IV antibiotics before the surgery can help reduce the risks of infection.

If an expectant mother tests positive for GBS during pregnancy, she should be given IV antibiotics for as long as four hours. In half of GBS infection cases, the mother showed no signs of risk factors, according to the Canadian Pediatric Society. This is why testing is an important step during pregnancy.

Symptoms of GBS include vaginal irritation or burning. The bacteria is also likely to give women bladder infections.

Pregnant women in the United States and Canada are tested as a standard of care. Even if a woman tests negative during a pregnancy, GBS International suggests being retested during the third trimester and again for each subsequent pregnancy. In a baby, GBS causes blood infections, sepsis, lung infections or infections in the fluid or the lining around the brain.

In order to reduce the risks to the unborn baby, a mother who has GBS should be given four hours of IV antibiotics before the baby is born. If the baby comes sooner than that, the hospital should observe the baby for 48 hours, according to GBS International. Breastfeeding also may supply a baby the needed antibodies to fight an infection. Everyone in the delivery room should wash their hands immediately before handling the baby, especially when the mother tested positive for GBS.

Most importantly, ask the doctor what needs to be done during every step of pregnancy and delivery if a mother has GBS. Parents of children who have tested positive for GBS should contact a medical malpractice attorney to understand their rights.

Robert Briskman is a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer and Chicago medical malpractice attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit

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