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Drinking and Driving Among Teens Down by 54%

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

According to the Center for Disease Control[1] the percentage of high school teens who drink and drive has decreased by more than 50% since 1991.[2]  Despite this positive trend, more needs to be done to reduce the likelihood of an impaired teen driving.  Nearly one million high school teens drank alcohol and got behind the wheel in 2011. Teen drivers are 3 times more likely than more experienced drivers to be in a fatal crash. Drinking any alcohol greatly increases this risk.

Although fewer teens are drinking and driving, this risky behavior is still a major threat to everyone on the road.

  • Drinking and driving among high school teens has dropped 54% since 1991. Still, high school teens drive after drinking approximately 2.4 million times a month.
  • 85% of teens in high school who report drinking and driving in the past month also report binge drinking, defined as having 5 or more alcoholic drinks within two hours.
  • 1 in 5 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2010 had alcohol in their system. Most (81%) had BAC’s higher than the legal limit of .08%.

Preventing Teen Drinking and Driving – What Works:

Research shows factors that help keep teens safe include parental involvement, minimum legal drinking age and zero tolerance laws, and graduated driver licensing systems.

  • Minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) laws in every state make it illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under age 21.  Enforcing MLDA laws through alcohol retailer compliance checks reduces retail sales of alcohol to minors.
  • Zero tolerance laws:  It is illegal in every state for those under age 21 to drive after drinking any alcohol. Research has shown zero tolerance laws have reduced the number of alcohol related crashes involving teens.
  • Graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems help new drivers get more experience under less risky conditions. As teens move through stages, they gain privileges, such as driving at night or driving with passengers. Every state has a  GDL system, but specific rules vary. Research indicates GDL systems prevent crashes and save lives.
  • Parental involvement, which focuses on monitoring and restricting what new drivers are allowed to do, keep new drivers safe as they learn to drive. Research has shown that when parents establish and enforce the “rules of the road,” new drivers report lower rates of risky driving, traffic violations, and crashes.

The percentage of teens in high school, aged 16 years or older, who drink and drive has decreased by more than half.




[2] High school students aged 16 years and older who, when surveyed, said they had driven a vehicle one or more times during the past 30 days when they had been drinking alcohol.

Pedestrian Safety Facts

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 4,378 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle collision nationwide, with another 69,000 pedestrians injured in 2008. This averages out to one motor vehicle collision-related pedestrian death every 2 hours, and a pedestrian injury every 8 minutes.1 Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passengers in a motor vehicle be killed in a motor vehicle collision on each trip.2

Pedestrians ages 65 and older accounted for 18% of all pedestrian deaths and approximately 10% of all pedestrian injuries in 2008. 1 One in five children between 5 and 9 years old killed in traffic collision was a pedestrian. 1 Alcohol-impairment, whether the driver or pedestrian, was reported in nearly half (48%) of traffic-related incidents resulting in pedestrian death. Of the pedestrians involved, 36% had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the illegal limit of .08.1

Higher vehicle speeds increase the chances of a pedestrian being struck by a motor vehicle as well as injury severity.3 Most pedestrian and bicyclist deaths occur in urban areas, at non-intersection locations, and at night.1

How can pedestrians avoid being injured or killed by a motor vehicle?

  • Pedestrians should be alert at intersections, where drivers may fail to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians while turning onto another street. 1
  • Pedestrians can increase their visibility at night by carrying a flashlight and wearing light reflective clothing. 1
  • Pedestrians should cross a street at designated crosswalks whenever possible.
  • Pedestrians should always walk on a sidewalk, if present.  If no sidewalk is available, pedestrians should walk facing oncoming vehicle traffic. 1


  1. Department of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts 2008: Pedestrians. Washington (DC): NHTSA; 2008 [cited 2010 May 19].
  2. Beck LF, Dellinger AM, O=Neil ME. Motor vehicle crash injury rates by mode of travel, United States: Using exposure-based methods to quantify differences. American Journal of Epidemiology 2007;166:212B218.
  3. Rosen E, Sander U. Pedestrian fatality risk as a function of car impact speed. Acc Anal Prev 2009;41:536-542.



Back to School Safety

Categories: Other Physical Injuries

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

It’s that time of year again: summer is starting to wind down and students are returning to the classroom. Parents are inundated with information packets from schools covering an array of topics. Shopping for supplies and new clothes, completing enrollment and medical forms, registering for classes, signing up for sports and other extra-curricular activities, and coordinating the family schedules can become overwhelming. With all that’s coming at them, it’s easy for parents to overlook the critical issues of health and safety for their children.

Children need to be safe and healthy to learn at school. Talk to younger children about getting to and from school safely: walking on sidewalks, crossing at crosswalks, wearing helmets when riding bikes, and watching out for drivers who may not see them.

Talk to teenagers about safe driving. One in three teen deaths in the United States is the result of a motor vehicle collision. Teens are more likely than experienced drivers to underestimate or not recognize dangerous situations when driving.[1] Teens are more likely to speed and tailgate. The presence of male teenage passengers increases the likelihood of risky driving behavior.[2] Teenagers have the lowest rate of seat belt use compared with all other age groups. In 2005, 10% of high school students reported they rarely or never wear seat belts when riding with someone else.[3] Male high school students (12.5%) were more likely than female students (7.8%) to rarely or never wear seat belts.[4]

School playgrounds are also sources of injury. Each year, emergency departments in the United States treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries. Organized sports also come with the risk for injury, sometimes very serious. Be sure to read through and discuss information about playground and sports safety provided by the Center for Disease Control in their toolkit, Heads Up: Concussion in High School Sports.

So be sure your child’s back to school list includes things like a helmet, a seatbelt, and a meaningful conversation about safety at school, on the roadway, playground and athletic field.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

[1] Jonah BA, Dawson NE. Youth and risk: age differences in risky driving, risk perception, and risk utility. Alcohol, Drugs and Driving 1987;3:13B29.

[2] Simons-Morton B, Lerner N, Singer J. The observed effects of teenage passengers on the risky driving behavior of teenage drivers. Accident Analysis and Prevention.

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior SurveillanceCUnited States, 2007 [Online]. (2009). National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (producer). [Cited 2009 Nov 6 ].

[4] Id.

Save Face, Wear a Helmet!

Categories: Other Physical Injuries

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

A new study found motorcyclists are less than half as likely to break a nose or dent a jaw when wearing helmets.  Citing a rise in the number of motorcycles on the road and a rise in the number of motorcycle-related collisions, the University of California, Los Angeles conducted a study of the relationship between helmet use and facial injuries following traffic collisions.

The study, led by Dr. Joseph Cromptom and published in the Archives of Surgery, examined the records of over 46,000 bikers sent to hospitals nationwide following collisions between 2002 and 2005.  77% of bikers were wearing helmets at the time of the crash.  Overall, approximately 1,700 bikers suffered nose injuries, 2,300 had eye injuries and 800 busted their jawbones. Another 1,400 had facial bruises following the collision.  However, helmeted riders were less likely to sustain these injuries and were 60% less likely to suffer any serious face-related injury compared to helmet-free riders,

Information regarding the type of helmets worn was not available, so the researchers could not determine whether the presence of a face shield reduced the risk of injury.  Dr. Peter Layde, co-director of the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, who was not involved in the UCLA study, said face shields likely play some role in preventing injury, but helmets can also absorb blows to the side of the head and prevent fractures there from extending to the face.

Despite numerous studies demonstrating the safety benefits of motorcycle helmets, the debate whether state governments should require motorcyclists to wear helmets continues. The number of states with mandatory helmet laws has actually decreased in the last few decades, due to lobbying from the motorcycle community.

Nineteen states and Washington, D.C. have mandatory helmet laws for all riders, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  Twenty-eight states only require some bikers – such as those under 21 or under 18 – to wear a helmet.  Three states, Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire, have no motorcycle helmet laws.

“I think [the UCLA study] certainly supports the idea that there should be mandatory helmet laws,” Crompton, who rides a motorcycle, told Reuters Health.

Distracted Driving: Teens Aren't the Only Culprits

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Who are the most distracted drivers?  You might be surprised.  According to a recent poll, college educated and higher income drivers scored highest in almost every category of “distracted” driving.  Poll statistics indicate ninety-three percent of drivers engaging in some form of distracted driving, whether by it is texting, talking on a cell phone, or eating behind the wheel.  Four in 10 licensed motorists admit that driving while distracted has caused them to swerve into another lane, slam on the brakes, narrowly avoid an accident, or being involved in a motor vehicle collision.   This number rose to 49% for drivers with college degrees and 43% for drivers earning more than $75,000 per year.

Drivers with higher education and/or income levels scored highest in almost every “distracted” category of the poll:

  • 41% of well-educated drivers and 35% of high-income drivers say they’ve swerved out of their lane as a result of distracted driving, versus 32% of all drivers polled.
  • 37% of drivers with a college degree and 33% in the highest income bracket report slamming on their brakes because of distractions, compared with 29% of all motorists polled.
  • 26% of well-educated drivers and 22% of higher income drivers reported distracted driving caused them to nearly get into an accident, compared with 18% of all drivers polled.
  • 22% of well-educated drivers and 18% of high-income drivers admit they’ve been ticketed for distracted driving, compared to 12% of all drivers polled.
  • 20% of well-educated drivers and 16% of well-off drivers say they’ve been involved in a minor accident because of distracted driving, compared with 11% of all motorists polled.
  • 17% of well-educated motorists and 13% of high-income drivers have been in a serious accident as a result of distracted driving, versus 8% of all drivers polled.

Music and food cause of most of the driving distractions:

  •  92% of highly educated drivers and 95% of high-income drivers say they’ve adjusted a radio, CD player or iPod while driving, compared to 87% of all adult drivers polled.
  • 83% of highly educated and high-income drivers admit tp eating behind the wheel, compared with 77% of all respondents.
  • 80% of highly educated drivers and 85% of high-income drivers say they’ve used a cell phone while driving, compared to 74% for all drivers.
  • 39% of highly educated drivers and high-income drivers admit to kissing or engaging in other romantic physical contact while driving, compared to 29% of all drivers who acknowledge being amorous behind the wheel.
  • 33% of highly educated and high-income drivers say they’ve read while driving, versus 20% of all drivers polled.

Please do your part to keep the roads safe by recognizing and eliminating your own dangerous driving habits and encouraging others to do the same.

Concussion and Girls Youth Soccer

Categories: Brain Injury

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Concussion strikes not only male football players, but athletes of both sexes in almost every sport.  Youth soccer has become increasingly popular over the past several years, and more girls are playing the game than ever before.  Currently, girls make up 48 percent of the more than 3 million soccer player registered in US Youth Soccer leagues.

Hundreds of girls across America suffer concussions while playing soccer each year.  “People who think of concussions as only being present mostly in guys and mostly in the sport of football are just plain wrong,  Soccer is right at the top of the list for girls.” Robert Cantu, MD, Chief of  Neurosurgical Service and Director Service of Sports Medicine at Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA, stated recently in a recent Rock Center with Brian Williams report.  According to Cantu, the country is in the middle of a “concussion crisis” with girls reporting almost twice the number of concussions as boys in sports played by both sexes.

Girls soccer has the second highest rate of reported concussions in young athletes according to another recent study in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.  Heading in soccer is a major cause of concussion.   When heading, players use their head to direct an airborne ball, often jumping in a group, which can cause collisions between players, strained necks, and banged heads.

Dr. Cantu says that the act of heading is one of the most dangerous parts of soccer and has recommended heading be eliminated from youth soccer under the age of 14. He also stated girls are more susceptible to concussion as a result of their anatomy.  “Girls as a group have far weaker necks.  The same force delivered to a girl’s head spins the head much more because of the weak neck than it does the guys.”

“What’s happening in this country is an epidemic of concussions, number one, and the realization that many of these individuals are going to go on to post-concussion syndrome, which can alter their ability to function at a high level for the rest of their lives,” Dr. Cantu said.

Concussion crisis growing in girls’ soccer – Rock Center with Brian Williams

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

1. growing-in-girls-soccer?lite

2. Trends in Concussion Incidence in High School Sports, Andrew E. Lincoln, ScD, et al, American Journal of Sports Medicine, January 2011, Vol. XX, No. X.

3.  Epidemiology of Concussions Among United States High School Athletes in 20 Sports, Mallika Marar, et al, The American Journal of Sports Medicine, April 2012, Vol. 40, No. 4.

Some Facts and Stats on Traumatic Brain Injury

Categories: Brain Injury

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a contributing factor to a substantial number of deaths and permanent disabilities each year.  A TBI is caused by a bump, blow, jolt or penetrating injury to the head.  The severity of a TBI may range from “mild” to “severe.”

There are an estimated 1.7 million TBI-related deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits occur in the U.S. each year. Nearly 80% of these individuals are treated and released from an emergency department.  TBI is a contributing factor in one-third of all injury-related deaths in the United States, or about 52,000 deaths annually.[1]

TBI injuries result form a number of causes. Falls are the leading cause of TBI, resulting in over  520,00 TBI-related emergency department visits and 62,000 hospitalizations each year. TBI rates are highest for children aged 0 to 4 years and for adults aged 75 years and older.

Motor vehicle-related injuries are the leading cause of TBI-related deaths.  Motor vehicle–traffic injury rates are highest for adults aged 20 to 24 years.

According to data collected by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there was a 14.4% increase in TBI-related emergency department visits and a 19.5% increase in TBI-related hospitalizations  between 2002 to 2006.  Emergency department visits for fall-related TBI saw a dramatic increase between 2002 and 2006. There was a 62% increase in fall-related TBI injuries for children 14 years and younger, and a 46% increase for adults aged 65 and older; 46%.  Hospitalization for fall-related TBI rose 34% while fall-related TBI deaths increased 27% from 2002 to 2006.

Direct medical costs and indirect costs of TBI, such as lost productivity, totaled an estimated $60 billion in the United States in 2000.

There are a few simple things everyone can do to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury, including:

  1. Wearing a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle;
  2.  Never driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
  3. Wearing a helmet and making sure your children wear helmets when:
  • Riding a bicycle, motor cycle, snowmobile, scooter, or ATV;
  • Playing contact sports of any kind;
  • Using in-line skates or a skateboard;
  • Riding a horse;
  • Skiing or snowboarding.

4. Make living areas safer for infants and seniors by:

  • Removing tripping hazards such as throw rugs in walkways;
  • Placing  nonslip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors;
  • Installing grab bars in the tub or shower and next to the toilet;
  • Installing handrails on both sides of stairways; and
  • Improving lighting throughout the home.[2]


[1] CDC. Ambulatory Health Care Data.


Teen Drivers: Stats and Tips

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

There are few things in life more exciting for teenagers, and more unnerving for parents than receiving the license to drive.  This important rite of passage marks the first big step toward adulthood and independence for a teen.  Parents play a vital role in this transition and must be proactive in educating the new driver to be safe and responsible behind the wheel.

According to a Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report, overall traffic fatalities dropped during the first half of 2011.  However, the number of American 16- and 17-year old teenagers killed in motor vehicle collisions rose 11 percent during the same period, from 190 to 211.[1]

More than 20% of teens in the United States never receive driver’s education prior to receiving their driver’s license.  The number of teens who have not received driver’s education is even greater in states which do not require formal training.[2]  Driver’s education usually consists of 30 hours of classroom instruction and six hours of training behind the wheel.  The original goal of formal driver’s education when it was implemented in the 1950’s was to produce safer teenage drivers, who are four times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle collision than older drivers.

It is not clear, however, that increasing the rate of driver education would result in fewer collisions.  According to Jean Shope, a professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Institute, driver education is effective in teaching teens the rules of the road and how to maneuver a vehicle, but it does not necessarily make them safer drivers.  Supervised practice driving over a period of many months makes a bigger difference in producing safe teen drivers.[3]

The website provides from suggestions on how to keeps teens safe while driving:

  • Talk about the consequences of driving distracted with your teen.
  • Establish safety rules, including forbidding talking or texting on the phone while driving.
  • Have everyone in the family sign a pledge form to drive without distraction.
  • Become familiar with your state’s laws about distracted driving, and educate your teen about the legal consequences of distracted driving.
  • Be a good role model by turning your cell phone off while you drive.

Other facts and tips for parents to know in raising safe teen drivers include:[4]

Drive Now. Talk Later: Cell phone use is the most common distractions for drivers.  Dialing a hand-held device increases the risk of a motor vehicle collision by almost 33%.[5]

Pay Attention.  Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the crash.  A high percentage of the crashes reported by teens involved rear-ending a car that had stopped while the teen driver was looking away from the road.

Get Ready at Home – Not in the Car.  Activities such as applying makeup, fixing your hair, and eating while driving increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by almost 3 times.

Drowsy? Pull Over.  Drowsiness is a significant problem that increases a driver’s risk of a crash or near-crash by at least a factor of four.

Limit Teen Passengers.  Teen passengers can distract a beginning driver and lead to greater risk taking.  Fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers are much more likely to occur when other teenagers are in the car. The risk of a fatal crash increases in proportion to the number of teenage passengers.



[3] Id.

[4] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[5] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Court Extends “Equitable Fee Sharing Rule” for the Benefit of Passengers and Pedestrians

Categories: Personal Injury Resources

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Two cases1 recently decided by the Washington State Supreme Court clarified an existing rule which requires insurance companies who provide Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits to pay a fair share of legal costs incurred by injured persons who recover those benefits paid on behalf of the insurer.

As a rule, plaintiffs must pay their own attorney fees and costs when bringing legal action against another party.  However, there are certain exceptions.  In claims involving a motor vehicle collision, an injured party whose medical bills are paid by PIP insurance is required to reimburse the PIP insurer for those benefits paid from any settlement or judgment obtained from the at-fault party.  Under the “equitable fee sharing rule” first announced in Mahler v. Szucs2, a PIP insurer is required to pay a pro rata, or proportionate share of the legal expenses incurred by the injured person who recovers from the third-party and reimburses the PIP carrier for those benefits paid.3  The PIP carrier typically contributes to those legal expenses by reducing the amount it is entitled to receive from the settlement.  The Mahler court reasoned that any recovery obtained by the injured person from a third party created a “common fund” from which the PIP insurer benefited and held that a PIP insurer could not benefit from the efforts of the injured party (and their attorney) in recovering the PIP benefits paid without contributing to the expenses incurred in securing that recovery.

Later cases expanded the Mahler rule to include situations where the injured party recovered funds from both the underinsured at-fault party and their own Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage4; and where the at-fault party was uninsured and the injured person received benefits under both the PIP and Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage.5

In Matsyuk, the plaintiff was a passenger in a motor vehicle who was injured by the driver’s negligence.  Matsyuk’s medical bills were paid by the driver’s PIP coverage with State Farm.  Matsyuk later settled her negligence claim against the driver under their liability coverage, also with State Farm Insurance.  State Farm sought reimbursement of its previous PIP payments through an “offset,” or reduction, against the liability payment to Matsyuk.  Matsyuk demanded State Farm pay their a pro rata share of her legal expenses in accordance with Mahler.  State Farm argued it was not required to reduce its reimbursement claim under Young v Teti,6 a Court of Appeals decision which held a plaintiff was not entitled to recoup a pro rata share of attorney fees where the liability insurer and PIP insurers were the same.
The Court of Appeals upheld State Farm’s argument.  The supreme court reversed the appellate court, stating the Young decision was inconsistent with the Mahler rule, subsequently expanded by Winters and Hamm.

The Matsyuk decision is an important victory in that it further establishes a clear, consistent rule regarding the obligation of an PIP insurer seeking reimbursement of benefits paid to contribute to the legal expenses incurred by the injured party who secures that reimbursement.


1  Matsyuk v State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. and Weismann v Safeco Ins. Co., 2012 WL 402050 (Wash.).

2 135 Wn.2d 398 (1998).

3 Matsyuk at 2.

4 Winters v State Farm Mut. Ins. Co., 144 Wash.2d 869 (2001).

5 Hamm v State Farm Mut. Ins. Co., 151 Wash.2d 303 (2004).

6 104 Wash.App. 721 (2001).

National Research Council Report Recommends Actions to Improve Car Safety

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

A recent report released by the National Research Council’s Transportation Research Board concluded the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) acted appropriately in discontinuing its investigation of unintended acceleration claims with Toyota vehicles. The report was prepared in response to a number of consumer complaints claiming that Toyota and Lexus vehicles suddenly accelerated without driver input.  In some cases, vehicles allegedly spontaneously accelerated when the driver claimed they were pressing the brake pedal.

Despite previous claims and prior recalls, this issue hit the national stage after a fatal accident in August, 2009, involving an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer driving his family in Lexus ES. Floor-mat entrapment was later determined to be the cause, involving a non-original, all-weather mat.

Several large-scale recalls were issued in the wake of this tragedy to examine potential causes for the unintended acceleration events.  Factors considered included floor mat replacement, floor mat anchors, modifications to gas-pedals to reduce the risk of  mat entrapment risk, and software updates enabling smart-throttle brake override to prevent unintended acceleration in certain late-model vehicles.

The NHTSA determined mat entrapment, misapplication of the gas pedal, and sticking pedals were the cause of these incidents, and not malfunction of the electronic throttle system.  These findings were corroborated by a separate investigation by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The report recommends an advisory committee to the NHTSA be formed to keep the government up to date on current and developing technologies so that the agency can be more proactive in dealing with technology-related safety issues.  The report also calls for a review of Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) with the goal of improving the ability to identify and deal with  problems related to increasingly complex electronic systems which may leave no physical trace of defect or malfunction.

Another recommendation was to have event data records, a vital aid to investigators, installed on all new vehicles. The Research Council also endorsed further research by the NHTSA regarding pedal layout and keyless ignition designs, and emphasized the importance of human factors in electronic system design.