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Currently Viewing Posts Tagged Safety

Close the App Loophole

There are some things worthy of being consumed. Fortunately, the Virginia legislature is still turning its attention to distracted driving. Because drivers do more than text.

The Virginia Lawyers Weekly blog just reminded me that in Virginia, it is still legal for drivers to view apps on their phones like Facebook or Twitter, while they are driving. But the Virginia legislature is paying attention.

Del. Christopher Collins, R-Winchester has introduced House Bill 181 to broaden the existing distracted driving law. It would make it a violation of the law for any use of a cell phone while driving. It would also remove a defense. Currently if a police officer wants to cite you for texting and driving, you could presumably just say that “No, I was just checking my Facebook“.

As Delegate Collins explained,  “This law goes after those individuals who are staring at their phone to the point that it diverts their attention from driving along the road“.

As noted in the blog, Janet Brooking, executive director of Drive Smart Virginia, has indicated that her organization supports the bill.  She explains, “If the bill doesn’t pass, people are going to continue to die,” She referenced that there had been an 11 percent increase in traffic fatalities in the past year in Virginia.

This bill is really about saving lives and changing behavior,” she said. “This is an issue that has to be addressed.

On its face you are probably thinking, “This sounds like a good idea”. Here’s the opposing side according to the blog,

Del. Jeffrey Bourne, D-Richmond, spoke in opposition to the bill on the House floor. He said that while he agreed with the bill in theory, he felt it was written ambiguously and could be used as a precedent for bad acting officers to pull over and harass people, particularly people of color.

My heart goes out to every family who has had to deal with a fatality because of a distracted driving accident,” Bourne said. “But equally important and valuable are those drivers who after a pre-textual stop had a fatal encounter with a bad actor who was charged and responsible for keeping our community safe.

He has introduced a different bill to stop distracting driving, that would make it so that police could only pull people with phones…if they are driving recklessly. I guess his reasoning is a “cause and effect bill“.

So there are two sides of the issue. I am glad that no one is trying to introduce No driving with a coffee cup in hand! Just sayin’!

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And for pic o’ day, all I can say is Hahahahahahahaha!

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Optimism Bias

PilotOnline and U.S. News bring us one of those stories that just grips you in a very sad way. Not normally what I would write about on a Friday, but it is thought-provoking.

Last Friday, Rebekah and Austin Wesson left the courthouse in Wichita, Kansas after just getting married. The 19-year-old newlyweds could not stop smiling.

“I’m Mrs. Wesson,” Rebekah Wesson kept saying. Here is a picture of the couple that shows their happiness and hope of a wonderful future together:

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On Saturday, one day after becoming husband and wife, the Wessons crashed into a tree. The pickup truck that they were riding in went off a dirt road. Austin Wesson, the driver, died at the scene. Rebekah Wesson died on Monday. Now their families are planning a funeral instead of checking Facebook to see their smiling faces on their honeymoon.

For some reason, while reading the article, I can’t help but keep looking at their picture. It causes me to ask myself, “what were they thinking in this picture”. I also think about how sad this is.

But here is the point of this blog. It’s what psychologists say that many of us do when we see bad news or bad things that happen to other people. This couldn’t happen to me!

At least that’s what psychologists tell us. It’s called optimism bias. The thought that “it won’t happen to me”. It’s why insurance companies never advertise how fast they pay. Airlines typically don’t advertise their safety record. Instead, it’s all about pricing.

It is the psychological principle that causes a person to believe that they are at a lesser risk of experiencing a bad event, as compared to others.

This blog isn’t counter to the power of prayer or the will of God. Instead, looking at this happy couple is a good reminder that bad things do happen. In the meantime, it’s up to us to exercise good behavior habits. It’s why a person might smoke. Or, why someone might be obese and continue to eat mass quantities.

It’s hard to alter bad behavior and eliminate risk. It goes against the optimism bias. The converse is reality. I remember when I sold Harley-Davidson motorcycles to put myself through law school. Invariably, I would hand the keys and paperwork to a new buyer and comment that I knew they would ride safely… but be careful of other drivers. No optimism can change negligence of someone else!

 

After that blog… I feel like I need something to pick us up a bit. So, here’s a pic o’ that makes me smile. I hope you have a great weekend!

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Big Gulp of Metal

Hexavalent chromium! Does that make your eyes gloss over. Not really “click bait” to make you excited to read.

I’m not sure that this story will make you tell the waitress that you would like to order two chickens and a coke, but it may cause you to say “no thanks” when she asks you if you would like a glass of water.

A report released by an environmental research group found concentrations of hexavalent chromium in the public drinking water systems of 200 million Americans. This includes the utilities that serve Richmond, Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Hexavalent chromium found in the water is a metal that is known to cause cancer in laboratory rats and mice. The metal is known to be associated with industrial pollution from  such things as steelmaking, chrome-plating, coal ash, paints, inks and plastics.

It is considered a carcinogen when inhaled. This is also the chemical made famous in the movie Erin Brockovich, because as a paralegal she worked on these kinds of claims. You just don’t expect to see it in “our water”.

It’s a fair question to ask why there isn’t more concern over the drinking water. The government (Environmental Protection Agency) tells us not to worry. This contaminant is considered well below the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level for total chromium of 100 parts per billion.

That’s just some defined general amount. That’s code for “we’re fine”. Here’s the kicker: For drinking water, the EPA has no maximum contaminant level for this metal.  Does that make you feel better? Me… not so much. It makes me think twice about ordering a glass of water at a restaurant.

As far as I know, unless you are a superhero or the Tin Man, I can’t figure out any good to the concept of having a glass of metal with my meal.

And for pic o’ day:

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Reportable Errors

There are now several billboards across the country that advertise for hospital emergency room care. Many of them have a digital clock attached that tells you the current waiting time. No one questions why they advertise the need for emergency with the identification of wait time. Isn’t that what is called an oxymoron? Instead, most of us just nod our heads and say something like, “Look, only 9 minutes to wait”. It’s like a scoreboard.

Researchers tells us that more than 440,000 people die each year in the United States from preventable medical errors. When Joan Rivers died from a recent simple in office medical procedure, the news services immediately began to report on the investigation of that medical facility. Yet, there is very little reporting on the safety of local hospitals.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has recently reversed itself and will now begin to release data on hospital mistakes. (USA Today)  I don’t expect to see highway signs to tell us how many medical mistakes have been made at a hospital this week, but that sure seems more important than advertising wait times. At least public safety numbers are becoming more available.

Wouldn’t transparency of hospital safety and care seem like a sensible concept? Well, right now there is a movement to get Congress to make laws requiring such reporting. Hospitals are reportedly fighting such disclosures because they claim that the information reported is not reliable. Hmm.

DID YOU KNOW that over 15 billion prizes have been given away in Cracker Jacks boxes? Who doesn’t like a prize!

And our pic o’ day:

stop the wedding

Legal News Bits

For this blog, I thought I would post some legal bits. If the topic interests you, click the attachment for the full story.

From Yahoo comes a discussion on why ALL bike riders should wear a helmet.  Plus, it has a funny picture of Kermit and Miss Piggy. As an argument for helmets; in 2010, 70 percent of bicyclists killed in accidents were not wearing helmets. Plus, the article confirms that there are now stylish helmet options that make you believe that wearing a pocket protector is no longer helmet coordinated necessary. (that’s code for looking “helmet-nerdy”)

The second news story (also Yahoo) is a little disconcerting, because it discusses that many doctors admit that they do their medical research on the Internet. A recent IMS Health report found that Wikipedia is the single leading source of medical information for doctors. In fact, the article recites that 70% of doctors use it as an “information source in providing medical care”. Unfortunately, researchers have shown that 90% of medical information on Wikipedia has been deemed to have some inaccuracy. Hmm.

And for the last story of the blog, Sanford Health just settled a lawsuit that claimed wrongdoing in a kickback scheme by two Sioux Falls, South Dakota doctors. These doctors were performing more spinal implants than any other doctors in the state, by a large margin.

Sanford agreed to pay $625,000 to the federal government to settle the whistleblower lawsuit which claimed that the doctors were paid by a manufacturer to use their spinal implants. The spinal implant, known as the “Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion,” was developed by one of the doctors named in the lawsuit.  (Argus-Leader.com)

DID YOU KNOW that Abraham Lincoln grew his beard because he received a letter from eleven-year-old Grace Bedell wrote him to say that he should grow a beard because “All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President”.

And this pic o’ made me laugh:

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Regulations or Business Restrictions?

Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, established the Regulatory Review Task Force by Executive Order on February 12, 2013.  She did so to evaluate current regulatons that “are a burden on South Carolina businesses”.

The appointed Chairman of the task force, Mark Lutz, is vice president of a multi-media company that is based in Belmont, Massachusetts. As a former candidate for Congress, he personally lives in South Carolina.  After the first public meeting, Chairman Lutz summarized the intent of the Task Force by indicating that the task force’s biggest challenge is to figure out which regulations hurt business and which help business. (citizensforafreemarket.org)

There is a balancing act between necessary regulations, and some restrictive rules that make it virtually impossible for a new business to even enter the workplace. Regulations can protect citizens and workers or they can serve as a restraint for trade and the creation of jobs.

That is South Carolina’s current thought on regulations effecting business which leads me to the story of Samuel Plimsoll in the 1800’s. It was a time when there was no regulation on the loading of ships.

In 1867, Plimsoll was elected as the Liberal Member of Parliament from Derby. As a British politician, he made it his mission to pass law dealing with the safe loading of ships. At the time, ships were often carelessly overloaded with cargo, causing the ships and crew to ultimately be lost at sea.

On it’s face, it seems sensible that there would be some law or regulation regarding the loading of a ship. It was no secret that lives were being lost. However, there were a number of Parliament members who were also ship owners. They all stood in oppositiion to any law or regulation.

In 1873, Plimsoll was successful in getting a Royal Commission appointed and in 1875, a government bill was introduced. However, Plimsoll felt as though the bill was inadequate as it did not fully address a loading limitation. On July 22, 1875, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli announced that the bill would be dropped. Plimsoll lost control and called members of Parliament “villians”. Then, he shook his fist in the face of the Speaker.

Disraeli moved to have Plimsoll reprimanded. Instead, Lord Hartington was able to get the body of Parliament to adjourn for a week to allow tempers to cool. Eventually, Plimsoll apologized. Many believed that the shipowners had successfully killed the bill despite the public feeling like something needed to be done. The following year a bill was included as an amendment in the existing Merchant Shipping Act.

Through Plimsoll’s efforts and some backdoor dealing, a limitation on loading was passed. It was a line that indicated how far cargo could be filled. It became known as the Plimsoll Line. It continues to exist as a mark on the hulls of ships today. A time when the business of shipping needed to be told how much they could load, because they could not govern themselves for safety.

DID YOU KNOW that left-handed people have been proven at being better at multi-tasking than right-handed.

And for pic o’ day, this is a version of being told that “in the old days, we had to walk up hill in the snow, to go to school”.

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A Chicken Nugget Nugget

If you enjoy fast food chicken nuggets/ McNuggets, then you might want to stop right now… or continue reading out of curiosity. Yes I know, some people say it is safer to eat the Happy Meal toy.

STILL HERE?

The University of Mississippi Medical Center recently studied two chicken nuggets that were purchased from two different fast food restaurants. To accurately study these nuggets, they purchased full boxes from each restaurant and then just randomly each selected a nugget to study. Yep… nugget science.

Here’s what they found. (Reuters) The first nugget was about half muscle; the rest of that nugget was classified as a mixture of fat, blood vessels and nerves. Close inspection revealed cells that line the skin and internal organs of the chicken, according to the article in the American Journal of Medicine.

Now to the second nugget. It was 40% muscle and the remainder was fat, cartilage and pieces of bone. According to the one researcher, “It is really a chicken by-product high in calories, salt, sugar and fat that is a very unhealthy choice”.

Coming to the defense of the nugget was Ashley Peterson, who is Vice President of the scientific and regulatory affairs for the National Chicken Council; a non-profit trade group that represents the U.S. chicken industry. Peterson said that,
“Chicken nuggets are an excellent source of protein, especially for kids who might be picky eaters”.

DID YOU KNOW that as men and women get older, their ability to hear high pitched sounds diminishes. The ability to taste sweet foods also decreases with age.

And for pic o’ day, it seemed appropriate to include the Chicken McNugget that sold on eBay for $8100 because it resembled George Washington:

George

Seat Belt Counting

     Virginia’s relies on good old-fashioned research. It hires students to count the people wearing seatbelts in vehicles.

     Seatbelt counting

     OK, I know that I shouldn’t, but doesn’t this give me another excuse to post Eli Manning’s picture?

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     I know, I am probably the only person that sees humor in this. So, just bear with me. Pretend that it really does make the point that he is really watching and paying attention. What… not so much?

     Anyway, PilotOnline reports that Virginia has hired surveyors to stand on the side of the road and look into cars, to see if people are wearing their seat belts. Those hired are trained to mentally capture about a half-dozen details in about 3 seconds, as cars pass by. Was the driver male or female? On a cellphone? Was the passenger wearing a seat belt?

     All this is done to collect data all across Virginia, to help contribute to a constant collection of research on safety “in the Commonwealth”. The workers are paid through a grant with salary, or an average per hour pay of about $12-$15 dollars per hour, on a contract basis. Each survey lasts about an hour per location.

     Currently, Virginia is one of seventeen states that classifies a “failure to wear a seat belt” as a secondary offense; which means that a person can only be ticketed for not wearing their belt,  if they have another traffic violation as well.

     The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated last year that there was a marked increase of Virginians wearing their seat belts. That translated into Virginia having about 36 fewer traffic deaths, 544 fewer serious injuries and $138 million less in costs.

     According to the surveys, last year about 78.4% of daytime drivers were wearing seat belts. It found that male drivers buckled up at a rate of about 7% less than female drivers. However, as one surveyor put it, she has seen, “little, old grandmas driving to church” not wearing their seat belts while “hard-looking teenagers with their music blaring” are cautiously strapped in.

     All of it is a reminder to wear our seat belts. Currently, there is also a move to change the law and make the failure to wear a seat belt, a stand-alone traffic offense.

     And now for pic o’day… a bit self-explanatory:

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