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Category Archive: Law Blog

Category Archive: Law Blog

  1. Tips for Driving Around Semi-Trucks in Texas

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    Every year, thousands of deadly accidents involve semi-trucks around America. Large trucks played a role in almost 4,700 fatal traffic accidents in 2017, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) data. Commercial big rigs can pose significant risks to other road users. Their size and weight can cause catastrophic damages to smaller vehicles in collisions, not to mention common incidents such as tire blowouts and lost cargo loads. You may not be able to avoid driving around semi-trucks in Texas, but you can decrease your risk of an accident with a few simple tips.

    Keep Your Distance

    Avoid driving next to big rigs for extended periods on Texas highways. Semi-trucks have long trailers and significant blind spots that can be extremely dangerous for other drivers. The FMCSA calls these spots “No Zones,” with warnings to other drivers to give big rigs extra space. A truck driver’s blind spots extend 20 feet in front of the truck, 30 feet to the rear, 1 lane to the left and 2 lanes to the right.

    If you cannot see the truck driver in his or her rearview mirrors, the truck driver cannot see you. Do not hover in the No Zone or you risk a truck driver merging on top of you. Try to pass large trucks as quickly as possible, using extra care to drive far enough in front of them to merge back into the lane safely. Avoid the No Zone when a truck is changing lanes.

    Do Not Pass to the Right

    Reserve the right lane for traveling slowly and exiting the interstate, not trying to quickly pass a big rig. Passing a semi-truck on its right side could expose you to a high risk of blind spot accidents. Truck drivers often cannot see vehicles on their right sides at all. Truckers may try to merge right into the slow lane on top of smaller vehicles or turn right on top of cars they cannot see. Only pass to the left, where the driver can see your vehicle better and is expecting faster cars.

    Never Tailgate a Semi-Truck

    Underride accidents are such a significant risk to motor vehicle drivers that the federal government passed rear impact guard requirements to help prevent them. An underride accident is a large truck rear-end collision in which the smaller vehicle slides beneath the tractor-trailer, often fatally injuring vehicle passengers.

    The height of a trailer can be dangerous for shorter cars, but a rear impact guard can help prevent deadly underride collisions. The best way to protect yourself from this type of crash is to keep at least two car lengths of space between the front of your car and the back of the semi-truck. Staying away from the back of the truck can give you enough time to stop if the truck driver slams on the brakes.

    Do Not Drive Distracted

    Navigating safely around semi-trucks takes 100% of your attention as a driver. Driving with distractions such as cellphones, food or chatty passengers could jeopardize your ability to avoid an accident. Driver distraction is a common cause of collisions in the U.S. In 2017, this negligent driver behavior took at least 3,166 lives, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. You could greatly increase your risk of a semi-truck accident in Texas if you drive distracted. Put your phone away and keep your eyes on the road.

    Allow Extra Time for Trucks to Brake

    Semi-trucks can exceed 80,000 pounds. Commercial trucks use special air brakes to help them stop quickly, but they still require extra space and time to brake. Never cut a big rig off when driving in Texas. Instead, pass or merge lanes safely by leaving plenty of room between your car and the truck. Signal your intent to merge at least 100 feet in advance. Do not merge in a place where you will have to immediately hit the brakes, as this could put you at risk of the truck rear-ending you. Rear-end collisions and override accidents with large trucks can be deadly for passenger vehicle occupants.

  2. Top Apps to Keep Your Kids Occupied On Road Trips

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    A family road trip can seem like a great way to spend quality time together…until the kids start to complain about being bored and ask, “Are we there yet?” Luckily, modern technology provides a solution to childhood boredom in the car – smartphone and tablet apps. Apps can be exciting and educational, providing hours of productive fun without messy markers or lost game pieces. Before your family embarks on its next road trip, download the following apps to keep children of all ages happily occupied.

    Wheels on the Bus

    Ideal for ages three and up, Wheels on the Bus is a nursery rhyme app for younger kids. It provides an interactive experience that can encourage the development of language and cognitive skills in young children. It has colorful illustrations and offers creative interaction while singing common nursery rhymes. Your child can swipe the wipers and open the doors of the bus, for example, while you get out of having to sing the songs over and over. It is easy to play and sings songs in five different languages.

    Duckie Deck Collection

    Duckie Deck Collection is a great road trip app for ages one to three, using zoo animals to teach responsibility and expand vocabulary. It has positive reviews from parents and is available for $2.99 from the app store. This is an exploration app with six different activities for young kids to enjoy. Each activity encourages learning, responsibility and discovery through role-playing. It is easy to navigate for young kids.

    Cookie Monster’s Challenge

    If you have a Sesame Street fan in the car, the Cookie Monster’s Challenge app could be the perfect option for keeping him or her occupied on a long trip. Designed for players four and older, this app asks your child to navigate several puzzles and challenges to build a cookie delivery contraption for the Cookie Monster. It shows the Cookie Monster and a few of his friends in a fast-paced game that requires children to unlock items by following directions, exploring and using self-control. It is a lighthearted game that can help children build important life skills.

    GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine

    GoldieBlox has been at the forefront of challenging gender stereotypes with engaging and educational toys and games for girls. GoldieBlox created the first female engineer character, who stars as the main character in the company’s app for kids: GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine. Boys and girls alike will enjoy this game, which inspires innovation with an app that lets kids learn animation basics and create one-second GIFs. If this app is a hit, you can also download others from GoldieBlox that feature the same heroine.

    Weirdwood Manor

    Kids eight and older will love the Weirdwood Manor app, which offers a dark and spooky setting to keep children interested for hours on end. It is a mystery thriller app with interactive challenges, interesting puzzles and engaging narratives. Weirdwood Manor is a series, with Books 1 and 2 available through the initial app download and other books you can unlock through in-app purchases as your child plays.

    Solve the Outbreak

    Older kids (ages 14 and up) will love Solve the Outbreak – an app that blends adventure and science. This free app asks players to put together clues in an engaging and educational interactive game to identify the outbreak and stop it from spreading further. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created this app to spread health and safety awareness as well as to inspire young scientists. The app comes with many additional educational features, including a glossary and videos from the CDC.

    Plenty of fun, engaging and educational apps exist to keep kids occupied on road trips while offering developmental benefits. Download a few parent favorites to prevent boredom and make your next road trip more fun for everyone.

  3. The Most Dangerous Intersections in Houston

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    Houston is one of America’s busiest cities. Every day, hundreds of thousands of vehicles travel in and around the city. Sadly, some of these drivers will not make it to their destinations. In 2018, the City of Houston reported 64,126 car crashes, 197 fatalities and 1,175 serious injuries. Many serious and fatal car accidents occur at intersections. Identifying Houston’s most dangerous intersections based on crash data could help you avoid a collision as a driver or pedestrian.

    What Is So Dangerous About Intersections in Houston?

    Intersections are where vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians traveling in different directions cross paths. Intersections have their own set of rules, called rights-of-way. All drivers must obey the rules of the intersection. They must stop at red lights or stop signs and yield the right-of-way to others at the intersection, when applicable. At a four-way stop, the driver that approached the intersection first has the right-of-way. At a traffic-controlled intersection, drivers must wait until they have green lights to proceed. Drivers making turns must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks at intersections, unless they have green arrows.

    Intersections become dangerous when parties break the rules. Rolling through stop signs, running red lights, speeding and ignoring the right-of-way can all cause deadly intersection collisions. When one driver ignores the rules, he or she puts everyone else at the intersection at risk. A driver that breaks the rules is unpredictable and dangerous. Intersections accidents are often serious, as they can involve T-bone collisions, head-on collisions and pedestrian collisions. Paying attention to the road and obeying traffic laws can prevent intersection accidents in Houston.

    Bissonnet and West Sam Houston Parkway

    On Houston’s west side, the intersection of Bissonnet and West Sam Houston is the scene of the most intersection accidents in the city each year. From 2012 to 2015, this intersection saw 355 reported collisions. Many of these intersections accidents were serious, with 263 injuries. Another intersection at Sam Houston Parkway is the second most dangerous, at Hardy Road. This intersection saw 280 accidents over the three years. Sam Houston Parkway and Westheimer is the third most dangerous intersection with 233 reported wrecks in three years.

    Main Street and South Loop

    Another busy intersection with a high risk of collisions is Main Street and the South Loop West, near the Whataburger restaurant. This major intersection reported 206 traffic accidents from 2012 to 2015, or an average of about 67 collisions per year. Many of these accidents involved pedestrians and caused serious injuries. Distracted and careless drivers cause many of these collisions. Running red lights, for example, is a major cause of intersection collisions in Houston.

    Beechnut and the Sam Houston Parkway

    The Sam Houston Parkway makes the list yet again as the fifth most dangerous intersection in Houston, at Beechnut. This cross-section reported 189 traffic accidents in three years. The Sam Houston Parkway is such a dangerous stretch for drivers and pedestrians for many reasons, including distracted drivers, driving while intoxicated, drowsy driving, speeding and tailgating. Crashes at intersections along the Sam Houston Parkway take dozens of lives each year.

    Greens Road and Interstate 45

    Interstate 45 (I-45) is a major highway traveling down from Dallas to Houston. In Houston, the intersection of I-45 and Greens Road is an especially dangerous place for roadway users. This intersection had 176 traffic accidents, making it Houston’s sixth most dangerous cross-section. The state aims to make I-45 safer for travelers with a massive rebuild project, which will widen lanes and recreate Houston’s downtown freeway system.

    Veterans Memorial Drive and the Sam Houston Parkway

    Houston’s seventh most dangerous intersection once again involves the Sam Houston Parkway, for the final time on this list. From 2012 to 2015, crash data shows a total of 174 traffic accidents at the intersection of the Sam Houston Parkway and Veterans Memorial Drive. This is a major intersection with heavy foot and bicycle traffic, contributing to the number of annual collisions. As a driver or pedestrian, staying away from Houston’s most dangerous intersections could decrease your risk of getting into a traffic accident.

  4. Tips to Avoid a Car Accident on Labor Day Weekend

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    Holiday weekends are some of the most dangerous for drivers in Texas. Holidays come with safety threats such as drunk drivers, drowsy drivers and heavy traffic. Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is notorious for an increase in traffic accidents. Crash statistics from the Texas Department of Transportation show an unusually high number of collisions on Labor Day weekend. In 2018, 56 people died over Labor Day weekend in Texas, compared to 25 deaths the following weekend. Learning how to avoid a car crash in Houston on a holiday could save your life.

    Stay Off the Road

    The best way to avoid a car accident is to limit the amount of time you spend on the road. Celebrate close to home, if possible. Host a barbeque in your local neighborhood instead of traveling out of town. Pick up groceries and decorations the week before Labor Day rather than the weekend of, when fewer people will be out and about. If you want to take a vacation over the three-day weekend, choose to fly to your final destination rather than drive.

    Map Your Route

    If you will be driving out of town or out of state for the long weekend, plan your route in advance. Search for information on the safest and most efficient roads to your destination. Consider taking the scenic route on rural roads if you do not wish to get stuck in traffic or drive next to semi-trucks on major highways. Check the weather where you live and on the way to your final destination to plan for rain or fog.

    Maintain Your Vehicle

    Take your car to the shop right before any long road trips on Labor Day weekend. Vehicle breakdowns and part malfunctions can contribute to traffic accidents. Avoid a tire blowout, your car overheating or other common problems with proper vehicle maintenance. Check your vehicle’s fluids, tire pressure and lights before embarking. Proper vehicle maintenance can give you peace of mind all weekend long, which is important since many auto shops close on Labor Day.

    Never Drive Drunk

    Driving under the influence is a serious issue in Texas. In 2018, 940 Texans died in drunk driving accidents. This was 26% of the total number of traffic fatalities. If you plan on drinking at all on Labor Day, do not plan on driving home. Use a designated driver, taxi, Uber or Lyft to get home safely. Keep an eye out for drunk drivers over the weekend, especially at night. If you notice any signs of drunk driving, keep your distance and call the police.

    • Unsafe lane changes
    • Drifting between lanes
    • Driving over the line
    • Driving without headlights
    • Stopping and starting abruptly
    • Running red lights

    A drunk driver may be unable to keep his or her vehicle between the lines, going the correct speed limit or driving in a straight line. If you see someone who appears to be under the influence or falling asleep behind the wheel, stay a safe distance away and call 911. You can report a suspected drunk driver by giving the police your location and the other vehicle’s license plate number.

    Wear Your Seatbelt

    Try as you might to stay safe, another driver may involve you in a car accident on Labor Day weekend. Do not drive without your seatbelt, no matter how short the drive. Make sure everyone in your vehicle – especially children under 16 – also buckle up. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says wearing a seatbelt is one of the safest choices you can make. Seatbelts saved almost 15,000 lives in 2017. If you do get into a Labor Day car accident, your seatbelt could prevent serious or fatal injuries, including a fractured spinal cord or traumatic brain injury. Buckle up this holiday weekend.

  5. Electric Scooter Accidents Are Increasing in Texas

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    Rentable dockless electric scooters, or e-scooters, now have a presence around the world. Over the last few years, e-scooter rideshare companies have released tens of thousands of rentable electric scooters into major metropolises around the U.S. Unfortunately, safety does not appear to be a top priority for many of these companies. They allow inexperienced riders to try e-scooters for the first time in busy cities – scooters that can reach 15 miles per hour or more. As more riders try out electric scooters in Texas, the state’s related crash rate continues to climb.

    E-Scooter Accident Statistics

    Rentable e-scooters are still relatively new to the transportation sector, with Scoot Networks rolling out the first models in 2012. Dockless electric scooters gained popularity after 2017 when they entered the European market. Statistics regarding e-scooter accidents are difficult to find, but Consumer Reports conducted a survey to shed light on e-scooter safety. The survey attributed 8 deaths to rentable e-scooters since fall 2017, as well as at least 1,500 rider injuries.

    The very first death connected to a rentable electric scooter occurred in Texas. The tragedy involved Jacoby Stoneking, a 24-year-old man who may have been in a hit-and-run. He passed away from severe head trauma after an apparent e-scooter accident. Investigators found Stoneking’s body about 500 feet from an electric scooter he had rented, snapped in two. While investigators concluded Jacoby fell from the scooter, his family believes his injuries were too severe and more likely pointed to a vehicle collision.

    Another study based out of California found that over one year, e-scooters sent 249 people to emergency rooms throughout the U.S. Only 4.4% of these riders were wearing helmets. The most common injuries that sent riders to hospitals were bone fractures, head injuries and soft-tissue injuries. Other frequent injuries were lacerations, contusions and sprains. Although most e-scooter companies set the minimum age to ride at 18, the study showed 10.8% of victims in hospitals for e-scooter accidents were underage.

    E-Scooter Safety Concerns

    E-scooter accident research points to a few common problems contributing to related incidents. The first is rider age. Too many riders under the age of 18 unlawfully use electric scooters due to a lack of supervision by the companies. E-scooter companies have no way of restricting who can ride the e-scooters, other than requesting a driver’s license – which riders can have at age 16. Young and inexperienced riders can contribute to e-scooter accidents. Young riders are more likely to speed, ride on sidewalks, run red lights and engage in other reckless behaviors.

    Another common safety problem is the lack of helmet use. E-scooter companies tell users to wear helmets, but many users ignore this recommendation. The California e-scooter accident study found that only 10 out of the 249 riders in the hospital had been wearing helmets at the time of their accidents. Wearing a helmet could dramatically decrease a rider’s risk of suffering a serious or fatal head injury in an e-scooter accident.

    Texas E-Scooter Laws

    Texas has been at the forefront of creating new laws to combat e-scooter safety concerns. In April 2018, LimeBike and Bird pulled their e-scooters from Austin after a City Council vote created stricter rules for e-scooter companies within city limits. The Council passed new rules that forced dockless e-scooter companies to obtain licenses to operate their services in Austin, or else face misdemeanor charges.

    Austin now permits each company to release 500 e-scooters and electric bicycles in the city, with the city collecting $30 per vehicle. Operating licenses last six months. Texas lawmakers are further combatting e-scooter risks with proposed bills such as State Bill 549, which would enact rules such as only one rider per scooter, rider age of at least 16 and no e-scooters on roads with speed limits over 30 miles per hour. Legislators hope the new bill could halt the increasing number of e-scooter accidents in Texas.