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Charleston Personal Injury Law Blog

Brain injury proteins found in boxers' and martial artists' blood

Family members of and people with brain injuries in West Virginia may be aware of two brain injury markers called neurofilament light chain and tau. These two proteins are found in the blood of people who have suffered a brain injury. A recent study found that neurofilament light might be an indicator of acute traumatic brain injury, and tau might be more closely linked to accumulated damage to the brain over time.

The study consisted of 438 participants. The researchers analyzed the amount of the two proteins in the blood of active boxers and martial arts fighters, non-fighters and retired fighters. The largest portion of the participants were the active fighters as they made up 291 of the research subjects. Next were the non-fighters, which added up to 103 participants. Finally, the last of the participants were the 44 retired fighters.

Elevated speed limits come with elevated danger

Deaths on the road in West Virginia and across the country could be an additional risk after speed-limit increases, says a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The institute says that increasing speed limits over the past 20 years have taken 33,000 lives in auto crashes.

The IIHS said that in 2013 the speed limit hikes led to 1,900 additional deaths, a number that nearly cancels out the lives saved by front-side airbags. In general, maximum speed limits have been rising since 1995. While these are set by the states, in earlier decades, states faced the risk of federal financial penalties for raising the limits above 55 miles per hour.

CVSA holds unannounced Brake Safety Day

West Virginia drivers may have been impacted by the Brake Safety Day that took place on May 3. This unannounced check caused nearly 2,000 trucks to be sidelined in 33 states and 10 Canadian provinces where inspections took place. A total of 9,524 inspections took place with 1,989 trucks being taken out of service. Of those trucks taken out of service, 1,146 were related to brake violations.

According to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the goal of the inspection was to remove trucks that had critical brake violations. It also wanted to see how anti-lock brake systems were being maintained.

Deadly tractor-trailer crashes becoming more common

There was an alarming increase in the number of fatal accidents involving tractor-trailers and buses in West Virginia and around the country in 2015 according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Statistics indicates that 4,311 large trucks and buses were involved in deadly crashes in 2015, which is a worrying 8 percent increase over the 2014 figures according to the federal safety watchdog.

The large truck involvement rate also increased by 8 percent in 2015 according to the FMCSA report. This figure represents how often commercial vehicles are involved in fatal accidents for each 100 million miles traveled. A 7 percent increase in road deaths overall in 2015 was largely put down to increased vehicle traffic by the National Safety Council, but the FMCSA report reveals that the distance covered by tractor-trailers in 2015 increased by a mere 0.3 percent.

Motor vehicle accident fatalities go up as speed limits rise

West Virginia has not been restricted in its ability to set motor vehicle speed limits since the full repeal of the National Maximum Speed Limit by the U.S. Congress. A study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that tracked increases in speed limits and the number of traffic fatalities found an association between faster traffic and the number of people who die in wrecks.

The institute analyzed the number of fatalities per every billion miles traveled on rural highways and interstates in 41 states. Statistical adjustments were made to account for other contributors to fatal crashes, such as the number of young drivers, level of alcohol consumption and unemployment. Calculations yielded a 4 percent rise in deaths for every 5 mph that speed limits increased.

Better economy heralds increase in driver death rate

The trend of lower driver death rates that began in the 1970s may be coming to an end, and motorists in West Virginia and other states may want to take note. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the risk of dying in an accident while operating a late-model vehicle increased in 2015. Preliminary reports indicate that the toll will be higher for 2016 as well.

The rise appears to be economy-driven. Forecasters say that a higher rate of driver deaths is a predictable consequence of an improving economy. While commuting tends to remain constant during fluctuations in the economy, discretionary driving increases when consumers have more dollars to spend on non-essential travel and entertainment. Data also suggests that an improving economy may affect how fast people drive.

IIHS crash testing yields unexpected results

West Virginia residents may be aware that the Tesla Model S full-sized sedan has been hailed as the safest car ever sold in the United States, but the luxury electric car was bettered by three of its traditionally powered competitors in a series of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests. The IIHS, which conducts safety evaluations on behalf of auto manufacturers, tested six full-sized sedans, and the Tesla Model S was one of three that failed to make it onto the nonprofit organization's list of the safest cars available in America.

The Chevrolet Impala and the Ford Taurus also failed to earn a place on the prestigious IIHS safest cars list. All three of these full-sized sedans were denied a place on the list because they performed poorly in what the IIHS calls the small overlap front test. This is a test that replicates a collision between the front driver's side corner of a vehicle and an object such as a wall, a utility pole or a tree.

Mining states passing laws to reduce mandatory inspections

The coal industry in West Virginia has been hit particularly hard due to a slowdown in mining. As a result, lawmakers in the state considered scaling back the number of mine inspections. While they backed off due to criticism, other Appalachian coal states such as Kentucky have passed laws that cut back on the number of mandatory safety inspections.

In West Virginia, the backlash appeared to be unexpected by lawmakers. However, the state records multiple mining deaths every year. The fifth mining death of 2017 was reported on June 13. The state reported a record low number of mining deaths at eight fatalities in 2016. If the law had been passed, the number of mandatory mine inspections would have been reduced from four to just one per year.

July 4 is the deadliest day of the year for drivers

While driving can be treacherous in West Virginia during the winter months, the Mountain State's roads actually become more dangerous when temperatures rise and traffic becomes more congested. Holiday weekends are known as a particularly hazardous time to take to the roads, and data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveals that July 4 is the deadliest day of the year for drivers. When Travelers Insurance examined personal insurance claims, the company found that accidents, injuries and deaths are more common during the Independence Day holiday period than they are over the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.

Public holidays and warm summer weather will generally be enough to prompt Americans to venture out, and more cars mean more distracted, reckless and drunk drivers on the nation's roads. Nerves can fray and tempers can flare when temperatures soar and traffic slows to a crawl, and holiday driving is often made even more hazardous by the added menace of road rage.

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