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Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Personal Injury Blog

"Sleep Suit" lets motorists experience drowsy driving

According to federal statistics, approximately 20 percent of car accidents in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. are caused by drowsy driving. In order to raise awareness about the issue, Ford Motor Co. invited young drivers to try a "Sleep Suit" that simulates the impact of sleep deprivation on the brain.

Lack of sleep can negatively impact a person's mood and his or her ability to concentrate. Unfortunately, it can also make a driver incapable of safely operating a vehicle. For example, research shows that staying awake for 18 straight hours can impair a driver just as much as exceeding the legal drinking and driving limit in many countries. To help young motorists understand the dangers of drowsy driving, Ford let a group of young people use a "Sleep Suit" on World Sleep Day, which fell on March 15.

AAA warns against drowsy driving after daylight saving time

Daylight saving time changes can leave many drivers in Pennsylvania feeling drowsy. This is why the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recommends that drivers adjust their sleeping schedules beforehand. It is well-known that everyone should rest for at least seven hours every night. Skipping one to two hours of that recommended time within a 24-hour period can nearly double one's risk for a car crash, according to AAA.

Drowsy driving can impair one's judgment and reaction times just as much as alcohol. In fact, AAA states that sleeping only five hours in the prior 24 hours will make drivers act like someone with a blood alcohol content exceeding the legal limit.

Pedestrian deaths becoming more common

Pedestrian deaths make up 16 percent of all traffic fatalities in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. In 2009, they made up 12 percent of all fatalities, according to data from a Governors Highway Safety Association report. In 2018, there were 6,227 pedestrians killed in 2018, which is 51.5 percent higher than in 2009 when 4,109 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents. Smartphones and SUVs are cited as reasons why this increase is occurring.

Distracted walking and driving is also a potential reason why this increase is taking place. Some people believe that more should be done to educate drivers about the dangers of driving while tired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Public service announcements would also aim to educate drivers about the dangers of speeding. Improved road crossings could also keep pedestrians safer when walking to work or other destinations.

Rare diseases affect a surprising number of people

Rare Disease Day is held on the last day of February each year in an effort to raise awareness regarding rare diseases. Each year, a specific theme focuses attention on an aspect of the problem, and for 2019, the theme spotlights bridging the gap between medical, social and support services. There is no way of telling exactly how many Pennsylvania families are directly impacted by a rare disease because individual diagnoses are elusive. However, worldwide, it is estimated that roughly 400 million people are currently living with a rare disease of some form.

World health experts define a rare disease, also known by the term 'orphan disease," by the numbers of people so affected. In the U.S., a rare disease is one that affects fewer than 200,000 Americans at any given time. There are over 7,000 different rare diseases that have been identified, and sadly, 50 percent of patients who have rare diseases are children.

Deadly truck accidents on the rise

Truck accidents are unfortunately a common occurrence in Pennsylvania and around the country. Because of the size and weight of these massive vehicles, other road users face an elevated risk of serious and often fatal injuries. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration statistics indicate that these concerns are well-founded, especially as the last several years show a trend of rising large truck accidents and an attendant increase in fatalities. From 2015 to 2017, the percentage of fatal crashes involving a large truck rose each year, as did the number of fatalities in accidents involving large trucks and buses.

While the number of fatal crashes overall was on the rise, more truck drivers and their passengers also died in trucking accidents, while fatal work zone crashes involving large trucks also escalated. Of course a number of factors can contribute to accidents, but the impact of a large semi-truck or 18-wheeler in a crash can make it particularly deadly. Safety experts noted that distracted driving can be a particular problem when truck drivers are paying attention to smartphones or tablets rather than the road. According to the FMCSA, mobile phones and other distractions rank in the top five reasons for truck crashes caused by driver actions or negligence.

Do these things to safely share the road with commercial trucks

When driving in or around Pittsburgh, there's no avoiding commercial trucks. It doesn't matter if you're sitting in traffic on the parkway or zipping down I-79 on your way to Cranberry or Washington, there will always be large trucks in close proximity to your vehicle since they are the lifeblood, in many ways, to the success of the American economy.

If you know how to share the road with big rigs, you'll find it much easier to drive safely and in a confident manner. Here are a few things you should always do:

  • Don't take a risk: It's never fun to drive behind a commercial truck, especially if you're in a hurry. While it's okay to move into the other lane to pass the truck, don't take a risk that puts you in harm's way. An example of this would be attempting to pass a truck (or any other vehicle, for that matter) in the right lane.
  • Pass with caution: You're permitted to pass other vehicles on the highway, but you must do so in a legal manner. This means using the left lane, maintaining a safe speed, using your turn signals and leaving enough space when moving back in front of the truck.
  • Watch for turns on tight roads: Commercial trucks don't spend all their time on the highway. There are times when these vehicles exit the interstate and move onto city or rural roadways. Watch for turning trucks, as they often need additional room to make the necessary maneuver. If a trucker doesn't see you, it's possible they could strike your vehicle when turning.
  • Drive defensively, not aggressively: Your safety is more important than anything, so defensive driving should always be on your mind. Even if a trucker is being overly aggressive, it doesn't mean you have to match this behavior. Instead, create space between your vehicles and focus on the task at hand.

Understanding hypoxia birth injuries

Hypoxia is a type of birth injury that commonly occurs in Pennsylvania and around the country. It can happen at any point during labor and delivery, and it must be quickly treated in order to prevent permanent damage.

When a baby suffers hypoxia during childbirth, it isn't receiving adequate oxygen to its brain. If the problem is caught in time, the baby could make a full recovery. However, if it is left untreated for too long, the lack of oxygen could cause brain damage and permanent medical disorders, including cerebral palsy, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy and cognitive deficiencies. Some of the conditions known to increase the risk of hypoxia include infection, umbilical cord injuries, congenital heart disease, placental insufficiency, placental abruption, umbilical cord prolapse, cardiovascular collapse, shoulder dystocia, oxygen deprivation and brain blood vessel abnormalities.

Large trucks continue to cause accidents

Pennsylvania roadways don't seem to be getting safer despite improved technology. This is according to a Road Safe America report released on Jan. 29. The group analyzed crash data for 2009-2017 and found that 44 out of 50 states saw an increase in big truck crashes. Pennsylvania had one of the highest truck crash fatality rates.

Road Safe America is a non-profit group concerned with highway safety. A representative of the group said that many of the deaths that occurred in the period studied could have been prevented. This is because automatic emergency braking and speed limiting technologies exist that could prevent or reduce the severity of crashes. Unfortunately, the technology is not required by law.

Greater risks associated with certain types of phone use

There is always some type of risk associated with driving and using a cellphone in Pennsylvania or any other state. A new study finds that this risk is even greater when drivers use their phones for purposes other than talking. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study is based on a comparison of driver surveys from 2014 and 2018. They found that drivers were nearly 60 percent more likely to observed using their phones for purposes other than talking, such as texting and checking emails.

A comparison of survey years didn't show an increase in distracted driving. However, the results do reflect conclusions from other studies suggesting that drivers are operating their phones more as they talk less. Based on research showing that the risk of fatal car accidents is nearly 70 percent higher when drivers are controlling a phone, IIHS researchers estimate that more than 800 U.S. vehicle collision deaths that occurred in 2017 may be attributable to drivers doing things with their devices other than talking.

Seven conditions with which migraine sufferers are misdiagnosed

A migraine is a neurological disorder, and its symptoms can be mistaken for those of other conditions. One study shows that only 1 in 20 patients receive the correct migraine or headache diagnosis. Below are seven conditions with which patients in Pennsylvania may have been diagnosed when, in fact, they suffer from a migraine. The opposite can apply as well. Patients may be diagnosed with a migraine when they actually have one of these seven conditions.

The symptoms of a migraine, such as vomiting, nausea, head pain and light-headedness, are often interpreted as anxiety or panic attacks. The problem is compounded because many people do develop anxiety from the stress of living with a migraine. A second condition it can be mistaken for is Meniere's disease, which is a disorder of the inner ear.

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