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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Winter Driving Safety Tips

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Winter weather is upon us, whether we like it or not.  While the Northwest often fares better than many parts of the country when it comes to harsh winter weather, there is no denying that winter driving can be both challenging and dangerous for automobile travel.  Drivers should be cautious when driving in adverse weather conditions and be familiar with the rules for safely dealing with winter road emergencies.

Here are some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe during the winter driving season:

  • Avoid driving while you’re fatigued.
  • Be sure your tires are properly inflated, and never mix radial tires with other tire types.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up or running out of gas if     inclement weather causes severe traffic snarls.
  • Avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  • Always look and steer where you want to go.
  • Wear your seat belt EVERY time you get into your vehicle.
  • Check local weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips if bad weather is expected. If you must travel, inform others of your travel route, destination, and estimated time of arrival.
  • Pack a basic emergency kit in your vehicle which should include: flashlight and batteries, blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.
  • Stay with your vehicle if you become snow-bound. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you.  Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress.
  • Keep the dome light on at night, if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to fill the passenger compartment of your car if the engine is running.
  • Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  • DRIVE SLOWLY. Everything takes longer on snow and ice-covered roads; accelerating, stopping, turning, nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement.   Slowly applying the gas is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Allow extra time and distance to slow down for a stop sign or traffic light. Remember: It takes longer to slow     down on snowy or icy roads.  Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • Allow greater following distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you.  The normal dry pavement following distance of 3-4 seconds.  This should be increased to 8-10 seconds to provide an increased margin of safety for emergency stops.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. It is harder to start moving from a full stop on snow or ice that it is if your vehicle is still rolling.
  • Don’t power up hills. Accelerating on snow-covered roads often causes your wheels to spin and lose traction.  Try to get some inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. When crest a hill, reduce your speed and proceed down the hill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an     icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.


Traffic Fatalities Down Nationally but Distracted Driving An Increasing Problem

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced recently that the updated traffic fatality data for 2010 indicated that highway deaths are at the lowest levels they have been in six decades.[1]  This is apparently due in part to safer roadways and the vast improvements in vehicle safety that have occurred since 1949 – the last time we recorded a similar number of highway deaths.

This is indeed good news, but while vehicle technology and corresponding vehicle safety has changed for the better, distracted driving injuries and fatalities are becoming an increasing problem.  Because of this problem, NHTSA recently unveiled a new measure of fatalities related to distracted driving, called “distraction-affected crashes.”  This new measure is designed to more closely track those fatalities in which a driver was distracted by dialing a cellphone, texting, or was distracted by an outside person or event.  Under the new refined system, the new data released by NHTSA using its refined methodology showed an estimated 3,092 fatalities in distraction-affected crashes in 2010.[2]

NHTSA also recently completed a national survey that highlights the problem:

  • Three fourths of survey respondents indicated they answer cellphone calls on most trips.
  • Survey respondents acknowledged few situations when they would not use their phone or text – but over one third felt unsafe when riding in vehicles in which the driver is texting and support bans on texting and cellphone use.[3]

So what does all of this mean?  Obviously it is a complicated and complex problem that is not fully understood.  I think part of the problem is that most drivers assume that they can handle all distracted driving situations, even when the data is clear that is not true.  So, be safe and don’t use your cellphone while driving for anything except emergencies.  I am reminded of a sign that I saw at a local headstone company – “Put the cellphone down and stop texting – we can wait.”  Truer words were never written.


[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

“Outrageous” conduct and the law

Categories: Personal Injury Resources, WA State Insurance Law

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

Many of us see things that are outrageous every day – whether it’s on tv, in our community or on our daily commute to work.   Did you know that under Washington law there is an actual claim for outrage caused by a third party?  A claim for outrage is also known as the intentional infliction of emotional distress.  To recover for outrage, you must prove the following elements:

  • Extreme and outrageous conduct;
  • Intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress; and
  • Actual result to you of severe emotional distress.[1]

To prove extreme and outrageous conduct, it is not enough to show that the defendant acted intentionally or even criminally, or that he or she intended to inflict emotional distress, or even that his or her conduct can be characterized by malice.  Liability for outrage exists only where the conduct has been so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.

For example, a claim for outrage has been found to exist in the stalking of a former girlfriend[2] and an employer’s intentional exposure of employees to toxic chemicals[3].  The conduct must result in severe emotional distress to the plaintiff.  While bodily harm would be an indication of severe emotional distress, severe emotional distress short of bodily harm is sufficient.

[1] Corey v. Pierce County, 154 Wn.App. 752, 225 P.3d 367 (2010).

[2] Kloepfel v. Bokor, 149 Wash.2d 192, 66 P.3d 630 (2003).

[3] Birklid v. Boeing Co., 127 Wash. 2d 853, 904 P.2d 278 (1995).