News And Thoughts From The Law Office of Curtis Floyd

Increase in road deaths related to poor choices behind the wheel

Automakers have been improving safety technology for decades. Our vehicles now have systems that help prevent crashes and design modifications that make crashes more survivable. Because of these advancements, there has been a consistent downward trend in the number of fatal car accidents on U.S. roads annually.

Unfortunately, driver behavior threatens to reverse this trend, and already appears to be doing so. According to news reports, there were about 40,200 car accident deaths in the United States last year. This is a six percent increase from 2015 and a 14 percent increase from 2014.

Road safety concerns grow over Trump regulation vows

Road safety advocates in California and around the country are worried that President-elect Donald Trump's campaign stance on regulations could place road users in danger. During a contentious and controversial presidential election campaign, Trump vowed to support American businesses and encourage entrepreneurship by slashing regulations. He also floated the idea of forcing federal agencies to eliminate two existing regulations for every new rule put into place.

Safety groups are concerned about how these campaign promises could impact pending rule changes that would limit the maximum speeds of new heavy commercial vehicles. The regulations, which were initially proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, were published in August 2016. However, comments submitted by members of the public and trade groups must be reviewed before published rules are implemented, and it can take federal agencies a year or longer to complete this process.

Lawmakers block truck driver safety regulations

California residents may have heard that federal lawmakers moved to suspend rules aimed at keeping tired truckers off the road. Specifically, the rules called for truck drivers to take two nights off after working up to 75 hours a week. Currently, drivers are required to take a 35-hour break at the end of a work week, and they were at one time required to include two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. as part of that 35 hours.

However, opponents of the rule within the trucking industry got it overturned, which means that truckers can go back to work whenever their break period ends. Drivers themselves are split on whether there should be government-mandated regulations requiring them to rest after long periods on the road. One man said the rest breaks were a good thing while another said that drivers should determine when they are too tired to keep going.

Autonomous trucks may result in new regulations

Truck drivers in California and around the country may be able to look forward to better working conditions once autonomous trucks become a part of the industry. The American Transportation Research Institute says that autonomous trucks will still require a driver in the cab, so they will not lead to job loss. However, it is hoped that the introduction of the vehicles will cut down on driver fatigue and allow operators to work on other tasks, such as logistics, during the time they would ordinarily be driving.

Drivers' on-duty limits may be more flexible with autonomous trucks. According to the ATRI, regulations such as the 14 hour on-duty limit, the 30-minute rest break, the 11-hour drive-time limit, and weekly limits may be revised. Drivers may also spend less time on the road.

Are phone apps to blame for the spike in traffic fatalities?

After a consistent decline over the past forty years, traffic fatalities have spiked in 2015. Recent statistics for this year are even worse. During the first half of 2016, highway fatalities have increased over 10 percent from last year. These numbers are truly alarming traffic safety analysts. They are trying to discover the cause for a sudden jump in traffic deaths.

Texting and driving has been the decade old scapegoat for distracted driving-related crashes. While texting is still a serious problem, experts are suspecting a different cause for traffic accidents. Phone apps are now a prime suspect for the spike in traffic deaths.

Though more widely legalized, truckers cannot use marijuana

The legalization of marijuana for recreational use, medicinal use or both may be on the rise, but use of the drug remains off limits for commercial truck drivers in California and elsewhere across the country. According to the Department of Transportation, marijuana is listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, and the department has indicated that it will stand by its previously established stance as long as this remains so.

On Nov. 8, voters in California joined those in Maine, Nevada and Massachusetts in legalizing the drug for recreational use. Voters in three additional states elected to legalize the drug for medicinal use with loosened restrictions on medical marijuana approved by voters in Montana. Following the vote, a spokesperson for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration implied that the DOT does not have the authority to change current drug testing laws for truck drivers without any such change first being initiated within the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Electronic logging device rule beats challenge

California truck drivers and their employers might want to know about a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit that was handed down in late October. The court upheld the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's rule mandating the installation and use of electronic logging devices on trucks instead of the paper log system that had previously been used by many companies.

The mandate had an effective date of Dec. 18, 2017. With the court's ruling, that date remains in place, but it continues to exempt trucks with model years earlier than 2000. The electronic logging devices track when trucks are in service, preventing violations of hours of service rules and logbook falsifications. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association had filed a lawsuit which was the subject of the appeal against the FMCSA for two drivers. The organization claimed that the rule violated the drivers' Fourth Amendment rights to privacy.

Traffic deaths are on the rise

On Oct. 5, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released estimates regarding the number of deaths on roadways across the nation during the first half of 2016. Statistics showed that the number of fatalities for the first six months increased by about 10 percent over the same period in 2015. The agency's findings indicate that 2016 could see the largest percentage increase in vehicle-related deaths in about 50 years, and California motorists should take heed.

The data was released as the U.S. Department of Transportation announced an initiative that the government hopes will reverse this increase. Patterned in part on a Swedish effort that has been highly effective, The Road to Zero Coalition will work to completely eliminate roadway fatalities over the next 30 years.

Multi-car crash in California kills 1

A multi-vehicle California crash on Oct. 3 left one person dead. Authorities say that they do not know what caused the crash although weather was not a factor.

The crash occurred in the evening along Highway 20 at the intersection of Main Street. A big rig was last in a line of cars. When the cars came to a stop, the big rig was unable to. It is not known what speed the big rig was traveling at, but it rear-ended a Chevy pickup.

Technology and an aging motorist pool

California freeways can be dangerous, and they are often congested. An elderly driver might feel intimidated in these situations because of difficulties in turning to see while changing lanes. Vision can be another major factor in limiting an elderly driver's time on the road. However, driving can be a major interest as an aging person attempts to remain independent. Fortunately, the auto industry is hard at work in engineering technologies to assist with driving challenges facing not only the elderly but also drivers of all ages.

Self-driving vehicles offer the greatest promise for those who could otherwise be restricted from driving on freeways and busy streets. However, this is one of the more controversial technologies in development as consumers worry about the potential for car accidents because of programming problems. An autopilot feature on the Model S from Tesla Motors has been rolled out with recommendations that many are ignoring to some degree. Many worry that a glitch with a self-driving vehicle could be deadly, and at least one fatality has occurred in connection with the robotic driving of the Model S.


Law Office of Curtis Floyd, A Professional Law Corporation
903 H Street, Suite 200
Bakersfield, CA 93304

Phone: 661-846-2295
Fax: 661-633-1391
Bakersfield Personal Injury Office