In this Blog category you will find articles about motor vehicle accidents and how to avoid them. Personal Injury suits and insurance claims may require the help of an attorney. A good lawyer can protect your rights under the law.

Insurance Study Links Legalized Marijuana to Car Crash Increase

Marijuana

Examining collision claims from January 2012 to October 2016, the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), a leading insurance research group, showed in the results of its recent study that claims in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon increased 3% in the years since legal recreational marijuana sales began between January 2014 and October 2016, when compared with surrounding states.

The Highway Loss Data Institute’s study conducted a combined analysis using neighboring states as additional controls, to examine the collision claims experience of Colorado, Oregon and Washington before and after law changes. Control states included Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, plus Colorado, Oregon and Washington prior to legalization of recreational use. Medical marijuana use was permitted during that time in Nevada, Montana, Wyoming and Utah, and Idaho did not permit it.

HLDI compared loss results for Colorado, Oregon and Washington individually with loss results for adjacent states without legalized recreational marijuana use prior to November 2016. Colorado’s increase in claim frequency was 14 percent higher than neighboring Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming.  Washington’s claim frequency increase was 6 percent higher than in Montana and Idaho, and Oregon’s increase was 4 percent higher than in Idaho, Montana and Nevada. The combined increase for all three states was 3 percent. The study accounted for the following factors, using neighboring states with car crash increase for comparison:

  • Number of vehicles on the road
  • Age and gender of drivers
  • Weather and seasonality
  • Whether the driver was employed

“Worry that legalized marijuana is increasing crash rates isn’t misplaced,” said David Zuby, executive vice president and chief research officer of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “HLDI’s findings on the early experience of Colorado, Oregon and Washington should give other states eyeing legalization pause.”

Earlier AAA Foundation Study Shows Similar Results

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a similar study in 2016, showing traffic fatalities had increased 6 percent in Washington from 2013 to 2014 after marijuana was legalized in that state, while national fatalities decreased during that time. AAA’s study showed that one in six drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 had recently used marijuana.

AAA Study Questions Validity of Marijuana Blood Test

The AAA study also concluded that limits of THC (the intoxicating chemical in marijuana), based on blood test established by states with legal marijuana, have no scientific basis because there is no science that shows drivers become impaired at a specific level of THC in the blood. Frequent users of the drug can also show persistent levels of it long after use, while THC levels can decline more rapidly in occasional users, causing innocent drivers to be convicted and guilty drivers released. The average time to collect blood from a suspected driver is often more than two hours, requiring a warrant and transport to a police station or hospital for testing. By that time, the drug may no longer be present.

Because blood tests are imprecise with measuring levels of THC, the AAA Foundation recommended replacing current laws with ones that rely on police officer conducted field sobriety tests, backed up by a test for the presence of THC.

Oregon Police Drug Recognition Program

In Oregon, police officers attend a Drug Recognition Program. When an officer in Oregon pulls over a car for a traffic violation such as speeding, swerving, or broken taillights or if the driver is suspected of a crime, the officer evaluates the driver for the following obvious signs:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Candy bar wrappers
  • “Beavis and Butthead” type laugh

When the officer suspects that the person is intoxicated, he or she asks the driver to undergo the following field sobriety test:

  • Balancing on a line and walking with one foot in front of the other
  • Pivoting
  • Balancing on one leg
  • Touching one finger to the nose

Field Sobriety Tests Used by California Police

Police officers in California use a somewhat different set of field sobriety tests.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

The officer moves an object or his or her own finger from side to side in front of the person’s face to detect an involuntary jerking of the eye associated with high levels of intoxication. A person’s eye will normally jerk after being strained beyond a 45 degree angle. If the eye begins to jerk at or before moving 45 degrees, it is evidence that the driver is under the influence.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that this test is 77 percent reliable.

Walk and Turn Test (also called the “Walk the Line Test”)

The officer asks the suspected offender to walk a certain number of steps in a straight line and observes if the person:

  • Loses balance
  • Makes the wrong number of steps
  • Is unable to stay on the line
  • Breaks while walking
  • Begins before instructed

NHTSA estimates that this test is effective 68 percent of the time.

One Leg Stand Test

The officer instructs a suspect standing on one leg to raise his or her foot, hold still, count, and look down. The officer may arrest the suspect if he or she is:

  • Swaying
  • Hopping
  • Putting the raised foot down

NHTSA estimates that this test is effective 65 percent of the time.

By |June 25th, 2017|Auto Accidents, Drunk Driving and DUII|

Can LIDAR Help Autonomous Cars Drive Safely?

Self Driving Car

To be fully autonomous, self-driving cars must identify all nearby objects correctly, have perfectly updated mapping systems, and avoid all software glitches. Nearly all companies involved in producing autonomous vehicles rely on LIDAR for vehicle navigation. Can LIDAR deliver the kind of accuracy and dependability required of self-driving cars?

LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, was invented soon after the 1958 invention of lasers. Using a laser, scanner, and a GPS receiver, LIDAR works by bouncing light off far-away things to precisely determine their distance and shape. Since light travels at a predictable speed of 671 million miles per hour, the time it takes for projected light to bounce off objects and return shows the distance to whatever is around the LIDAR system, typically down to a centimeter. Some LIDAR systems take millions of measurements every second. By building up a mosaic of these measurements in 360 degrees, LIDAR can paint a three-dimensional picture of the world around it.

LIDAR Used by NOAA and US Forestry Service

LIDAR is used as a surveying tool to make high-resolution maps, with applications in geography, geology, seismology, archeology, forestry, atmospheric physics, and laser guidance. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses LIDAR to produce accurate shoreline maps, make digital elevation models, and to assist in emergency response operations. Because the technology can show accurate data on canopy cover, openings, and density of trees, the U.S. Forestry Service currently plans to adopt LIDAR to improve forest thinning efforts. Capabilities of LIDAR instruments vary, with the best sensors able to see details of a few centimeters at distances of more than 100 meters.

Limitations with Camera and Radar in Autonomous Vehicles

Self-driving vehicles being tested by companies such as Alphabet, Uber, and Toyota rely on LIDAR to locate themselves on the detailed maps they need to identify objects around them. Most companies in the race to commercialize self-driving cars, with the exception of Tesla, consider LIDAR essential. Tesla instead relies solely on cameras and radar. Supplementing its front-facing camera, a Tesla Model S also incorporates long-range front facing radar that can reach over 500 feet, short-range ultrasonic sensors which can detect objects up to 16 feet, and GPS. However, radar sensors can’t see much detail, and cameras don’t perform well in conditions with low light or glare. A camera lens can also get dirty or covered with snow or not see behind fogged-up glass.

LIDAR Does Not Work in All Situations

LIDAR also has limitations. It doesn’t work in fog, heavy rain, or snow. With snow on the ground, a LIDAR sensor and camera have a difficult time seeing lane markers and other markers that help a driverless car drive and change lanes safely. Even in good weather, road markings may not be visible, causing many to say that changes need to be made to the infrastructure for autonomous cars to be successful on the streets. Ford seems to have found a solution to the problem of invisible road markings with its high-resolution 3D maps that provide information about the road and what is above the road.

Driverless cars, which rely on landmarks to pinpoint themselves on the map, also struggle going over bridges. Because bridges don’t have many environmental cues like surrounding buildings, even with GPS it is hard for an autonomous car to determine where it is. Driving in cities with tall buildings, where it is difficult to receive a GPS signal, is also a problem for an autonomous vehicle, and “drop-outs” can occur. These are issues that technologists need to solve before driverless cars become completely road-ready.

By |June 18th, 2017|Auto Accidents|

Portland Police Maintains Order during June 4 Demonstrations

Portland Police Bureau

Compared to Portland political demonstrations in November and January, demonstrations on June 4, 2017 were well maintained within three downtown city blocks, with relatively minimal traffic disruption.  

The intent of law enforcement is to provide a safe environment for all participants, non-participants, and community members while ensuring the peaceful exercise of the First Amendment,” the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) stated.

Expecting a few hundred to over a thousand participants, no permits were issued by the city for the June 4th events, scheduled for downtown Terry D. Schrunk Plaza, City Hall, and Chapman Square. PPB said they expected all rally and protest participants to remain on the sidewalks or in city parks, and advised drivers to plan for possible traffic disruptions in the area.

Constant Law Enforcement Presence Keeps Crowd in Check

In response to online threats made by multiple groups prior to the event, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) partnered with the following agencies to keep the peace:

  • Oregon State Police
  • Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office
  • Federal Protective Service
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • United States Attorney’s Office
  • Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office
  • Portland Fire & Rescue

It is hard to imagine a better place for Portland city demonstrations than Terry D. Schrunk Plaza, a federal property managed by the U.S. General Services Administration, with the Federal Protective Service as the lead enforcement agency for the property. Demonstrators in that area are required to follow specific conduct rules at the city, state, and federal levels.

To keep protesters out of the streets, police stretched yellow crime scene tape along sidewalks adjacent to the streets, and officers outfitted in riot gear maintained a constant presence to keep the crowd in check. Although 14 arrests were made, no serious violence occurred.

November Protesters Spill onto Bridges and Freeway

In contrast, more than 200 protesters blocked traffic in both directions on Interstate 5 in Portland for four hours during the November 10, 2016 post-Presidential election demonstrations, which extended for several days. One woman was struck by a vehicle that tried to make it through the human barrier on Interstate 5, and a protester was shot in an apparent argument over blocking traffic on the Morrison Bridge during a protest.

Pedestrians walking on the freeway is illegal and extremely dangerous to all road users,” Portland police said.

To prevent further incidents, the state Department of Transportation (ODOT) briefly shut down Interstate 5

By |June 9th, 2017|Auto Accidents, Protecting Oregonians|

Speed Limit Reductions Approved in SE Portland

Despite well-intentioned plans to reduce the number of fatalities on Portland streets, 2016 saw an uptick in traffic fatalities compared with 2015. Although 2015 was the deadliest year to be on Oregon roads since 2008, in Portland, 2016 outpaced the preceding year with 44 traffic fatalities compared with 37 in 2015. The majority of these fatalities are taking place in the Southeast Division, where several streets are designated as “high crash corridors.”

In 2015, 8 of the crashes that led to 13 fatalities that occurred as early as April occurred in East Portland neighborhoods. Just last year, 5 were killed in crashes on the outer Southeast Division. As a response to the high rate of serious injury accidents and death, the Portland City Council has passed an emergency measure to reduce the speed limit in this area.

What is going on? Isn’t Vision Zero supposedly correcting all our traffic issues?

An initiative like Vision Zero, adopted in 2015, is a massive scheme to eliminate traffic incidents by adjusting the design and infrastructure of our roads to accommodate everyone who uses them. This is achieved through education, increased awareness of issues, and redesigning the entire transportation system so that it will work equally well for motorists to pedestrians, and everyone in between. Vision Zero is a plan to improve Portland streets by 2025, and it can be difficult to notice immediate improvements.

Since it was adopted in 2015, there are more protected bike lanes throughout the city helping bike commuters enjoy a more secure commute throughout the city. In addition, speed has been singled out as an important focus area (along with impairment, disobeying traffic laws, and road design), as it is a huge contributing factor for over 30% of traffic fatalities. Safe speeds that take all users of transport into account are a big part of the Vision Zero initiative. To encourage safe driving, speed limits are being reconsidered, and speed cameras are being introduced to High Crash Network streets.

Targeting Speed in SE Portland

In Southeast Portland, the City Council rushed to reduce the speed limit from 82nd Avenue to the Gresham border at 174th to 30 MPH as a response to the high rate of people killed on these

By |March 20th, 2017|Auto Accidents|

Are Salvage Cars a Good Idea?

If you’re shopping around for a used car, you are probably searching for one that has a clean title. Yet if you search online your eyes may be drawn to seemingly perfect vehicles — with incredibly attractive prices and low mileage — only later to find out that their title states “Salvage.” You might get annoyed to find several options you’ve considered are marked with the vehicular equivalent of the scarlet letter and you may wonder if a salvage title is really all that bad. Well, is it?

What is a Salvage Car?

The general consensus of salvage cars is that they have been involved in serious accidents and are therefore, unreliable. This is not a bad assumption, but it doesn’t paint the full picture. Salvage cars are vehicles whose titles show they have been deemed a total loss by the insurer. Usually, these cars have been severely damaged.

In Oregon, a salvage title can be given to any car that would cost an insurance company to pay at least 80% of the car’s market value at the time it was damaged (or stolen) to repair or replace it. That’s right, on rare occasions salvage cars don’t have a mark on them, they were just found through unfortunate circumstances. In addition, abandoned vehicles worth less than $500 are also also given salvage titles.

Is it Worth the Risk?

Salvage cars typically sell at 5% to 10% below market value, yet they are usually accompanied by a hoard of obstacles involving insurance and financing, and quality and safety.

After a car is considered totaled it faces two possibilities: a salvage certificate that prevents it from being registered, driven, or sold as-is, or it is rebuilt and remarketed as a salvage car. The first group of vehicles end up at auctions for car rebuilders or junk yards. The salvage cars that make it on the market are those that have been rebuilt and have passed inspections, which vary from state to state. These cars are issued a title that indicates they are salvage vehicles.

The functionality and safety of these cars is so unpredictable that it is generally recommended to avoid salvage titles whenever possible. The “savings” generally do not outweigh the drawbacks of owning such a car. If you are tempted

By |March 15th, 2017|Auto Accidents|

Is Portland Ready for Self-Driving Cars?

Some fear them, some are ready to welcome them with open arms. A question that many wonder is “When will self-driving cars hit the road?”

While we are not any closer to the human-controlled flying cars imagined on The Jetsons, we are making huge leaps in automated technology. Self-driving cars are being tested on closed tracks and public roads in several states. Big names like Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan and Toyota are testing the technology in a concept town in Ann Arbor, Michigan on the University of Michigan campus. One day, these cars will be fit to operate in a bustling city like Portland.

Welcome to Mcity, Michigan

Mcity is a pop-up town with real streets, street lights, street signs, sidewalks, crosswalks, and even graffiti that somewhat resembles a movie set. The town is meant to represent the typical American city, but presents more obstacles to drivers than the average town. Things like faded stop signs, hills, tunnels, and near-invisible lane markings challenge the cars’ abilities to react to scenarios found in the real world.

Seeking to weed out weaknesses in fully automated vehicles, Mcity is purposely difficult to navigate. It is a course full of obstacles where manufacturers can create complicated scenarios that are controllable and repeatable to thoroughly test the equipment. On its closed track, carmakers evaluate how self-driving cars react to pedestrians appearing between parked cars or the car’s ability to stay in its own lane when markings are barely visible, or even the car’s ability to properly decipher signals covered in graffiti. Its position in Michigan also makes it the perfect spot to test for various weather events, such as heavy snow or strong wind storms.

Every mile traveled on an Mcity street helps the cars map their environments to boost their navigation ability. Each interaction with a human driver, pedestrian, or cyclist improves their ability to predict common behavior. While Mcity provides a great way to test automated functions, manufacturers are anxious to get the technology on busy public roads to work out the final kinks.

When will Portland be the next “Mcity?”

States like California, Michigan, and Nevada already allow self-driving cars to be tested on public roads. This very track is on a bustling college

By |March 10th, 2017|Auto Accidents|

Heavy Rain Triggers Landslides and Road Closures in Oregon

A strong, moisture-laden eastern Pacific Jetstream brought heavy rain to the Pacific Northwest in February, creating landslides throughout Oregon.

Landslides Block Highway 36 Near Eugene

In just two days from February 16 through 17, heavy rains triggered a landslide in the Coast Range, blocking Highway 36 at milepost 25 two miles west of Triangle Lake, which is about 35 miles northwest of Eugene. Crews cleared the obstruction on the 17th and reopened both lanes of highway to traffic. By afternoon a much larger slide entirely blocked both lanes of the highway, closing the road once again.

Hillside Slides Close Portland West Hills Roads

Landslides are a recurring feature in the Portland West Hills. In February 1996, a major storm induced hundreds of landslides in the West Hills. Smaller numbers of landslides occur every few years in the area during extended rainy periods and intense storms.

This year on February 7th, a hillside slide blocked two lanes of westbound traffic along Highway 26 west of the Vista Ridge tunnel. On the same day, a landslide forced crews to close a section of Northwest Cornell Road.

A month earlier, a section of earth, trees and mud tumbled into the canyon below onto Newbury Road, which may remain closed into summer 2017 while crews work to repair the stretch between Highway 30 and Skyline Road.

How to Avoid a Landslide

Slides tend to occur after several hours or days of heavy rain or rapid snow melt. During intense, prolonged rainfall, listen for advisories and warnings over local radio or TV or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio. In western Oregon “intense” rainfall is considered 4% of average annual rainfall in a 12-hour period during the wet season. East of the Cascade Range “intense” rainfall is 2 inches in 4 hours.

If you are in an area susceptible to landslides and debris flow, consider leaving the area. Embankments along roadsides weakened by snowmelt or heavy rains are particularly susceptible to landslides. Any area, such as the Portland West Hills, that is composed of very weak or fractured materials resting on a steep slope will likely experience landslides.

 

 

 

 

Stay alert when driving, especially at night, watching carefully for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rock, and other debris. Be particularly careful in areas marked as slide or rock-fall areas, and watch for signs with warnings or road closures.

By |February 18th, 2017|Auto Accidents|

Wildlife Car Crashes Increase in Oregon This Winter

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports this winter a higher than usual number of deer and other wildlife on or near roadways as they move further down away from heavy mountain snow and into valley areas in search of food.

Animals foraging for food tend to follow the easiest path that will use the least amount of energy, which may lead them onto sections of highways or other transportation routes. Banks of snow along road shoulders may cause deer looking for a place to escape to panic and run into the path of vehicles

Wildlife Warning Signs Fail to Reduce Number of Crashes

Wildlife-vehicle crashes occur everywhere in the state, in both rural and urban settings. In 2014, ODOT reported Klamath, Lane and Jackson counties with the highest number of reported vehicle-wildlife crashes, followed by Clackamas and Deschutes counties.

 

 

 

 

To stimulate driver awareness, last year the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife installed wildlife warning signs, some with flashing lights, along U.S. 20 between Vale and Juntura. However, drivers tend to ignore them or forget about them if they don’t see wildlife in the area.

ODOT and ODFW Install Designated Wildlife Crossings

Using a more comprehensive approach to preventing animal vehicle crashes by managing wildlife, the Oregon Department and Transportation (ODOT) and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) joined forces in 2012 to construct two sets of wildlife undercrossing structures on Highway 97, approximately fifteen miles south of Bend. The same year the project received the Exemplary Environmental Initiative award from the Federal Highway Administration, naming it as an example of an interagency collaborative approach using applied solutions and best available science in creative ways.

Four miles of 8-foot high fences along that stretch of Highway 97 channel 25 species of animals into using the underpasses, with four wildlife escape ramps on the northern and southern ends of the fence that allow animals trapped on the road the opportunity to jump over the top of the fence into open forest habitat. Six ElectroBraid TM mats also prevent wildlife from entering the road right of way at intersections. ODOT has also installed rocks, logs, and native plantings in the under-crossings to encourage small animal use. In 2014, ODFW reported a 90 percent reduction in roadkill in that area as a result of the improvements.

By |February 14th, 2017|Auto Accidents|

Do Lower Speed Limits Prevent Car Crashes?

Speeding is one of the leading causes of car wrecks because most drivers cannot control a vehicle that is moving at a high rate of speed.

In 1974, President Richard Nixon signed the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, which included the National Maximum Speed Law (NMSL) that set the national speed limit at 55 mph. Following the enactment of the NMSL, car wreck fatalities decreased by the thousands.

After the enactment of the NMSL, many complained of government intrusiveness and argued that, since drivers were already exceeding posted 55 mph limits, setting speed limits should be left up to each state. In 1995, Congress responded to opponents of the law by repealing the NMSL and passing the National Highway System Designation Act, which reinstated the power to set speed limits to each state.

The Effect of NMSL Repeal on Car Accident Rate

In a September 2009 article published in the American Journal of Public Health titled “Long-Term Effects of Repealing the National Maximum Speed Limit in the United States,” researchers examined the long-term effects between 1995 and 2005 on rural interstates, where all US states had raised speed limits since the repeal, as well as on urban interstates and non-interstate roads, where many states had raised speed limits, and reported a 3.2% increase in road fatalities attributable to the raised speed limits on all road types in the United States. The highest increases were on rural interstates (9.1%) and urban interstates (4.0%). They estimated that, between 1995 and 2005, 12,545 deaths and 36,583 injuries in fatal crashes were attributable to increases in speed limits across the United States.

In the article, the researchers concluded that “Reduced speed limits and improved enforcement with speed camera networks could immediately reduce speeds and save lives, in addition to reducing gas consumption, cutting emissions of air pollutants, saving valuable years of productivity, and reducing the cost of motor vehicle crashes.”

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) conducted its own study and published a report in 2006, to help guide state highway officials and policy makers in setting speed limits. It examined earlier studies, surveyed state transportation and police departments, and collected and analyzed relevant data. The NCHRP study found that increasing a speed limit from 55 to 65 mph on an “average” section of high speed road resulted in about a 3% increase in the total number of

By |February 4th, 2017|Auto Accidents|

Self-Leveling Adaptive Headlights Appearing on Vehicles

Adaptive Headlights

As vehicles become more autonomous, we are already seeing cars equipped with headlights that automatically adjust to a car’s position to keep lights on the road ahead and not in the eyes of other drivers.  

Adaptive headlights react to the steering, speed and elevation of the car, and automatically adjust to give the driver a clear view of the road ahead. The car lights turn their beams around each bend in the road, giving the driver a better view. Since adaptive headlights are directed at the road, glare of oncoming headlights is reduced for other drivers.

Self-Leveling System Included with Adaptive Headlights

Most adaptive headlights also include a self-leveling system, with a sensor that determines if the car is tilted forward or back. Driving over a bump, as the front of the car lifts up, electric servomotors in the headlights react to the level sensors and keep the headlights aimed down at the road.

Availability of Adaptive Headlights in the US

While already required on new cars in Europe, self-leveling headlights are only required on U.S. cars equipped with bi-xenon headlights, which are so bright that they would blind other drivers if they didn’t level themselves. At this time, adaptive headlights are not standard equipment on most cars in the U.S., and only a few companies offer them as options.

Adaptive Cornering Lights Featured on Some Models

Some BMW models are equipped with cornering lights. If a car has fog lights, small reflectors swivel to direct the fog lights off to the side. Without fog lights, a side-directed lamp is installed with the headlights. When the car is moving slower than 25 mph and turning, the cornering lights can illuminate up to 80 degrees of additional area to the side of the car. When the car speeds up or finishes turning, the lights automatically turn off. If the car is not moving or is moving in reverse, the adaptive headlights will not activate, keeping the lights from blinding other drivers.

Adaptive Brake Lights Coming in the Future

In the next few years production models will appear that feature adaptive brake lights, which will allow drivers to see not just a car in front applying the brakes, but how hard the driver is applying the brakes. This will give drivers an indication of trouble ahead and how much they need to slow down. When a driver presses hard on the

By |January 30th, 2017|Auto Accidents|