Where Are Most Of Austin’s Bicycle Wrecks?

The folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab have used all that MIT brainpower to put together an interactive map showing Austin’s bike wrecks.

Using data from the Texas Department of Transportation, they’ve mapped over 1,400 wrecks to come up with this map.  Not only does the map show the location for the wrecks, but it also provides statistics on what roads have the most wrecks, and it allows you to see the Google Street View shot for each wreck location.

So what streets are most dangerous for Austin cyclists:  Guadalupe Street, South Congress Avenue, IH 35, North Lamar, South First Street, and East Riverside Drive.

Austin Pedestrian/Bicyclist Deaths Continue At A Rapid Pace

Yesterday’s Austin American Statesman reported that Austin is on a record pace for pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. So far, 16 pedestrians and 1 bicyclist have lost their life to wrecks.  In 2012, the current record year, 26 pedestrians and 3 bicyclists were killed.

The best quote of the story was from Lt. Troy Officer, who works in the Austin Police Department vehicular homicide unit.    Lt. Officer stated:

If we had people being killed in these numbers, if we had gun violence that was taking lives like we have the vehicle violence, people would be outraged.  People should be outraged by the loss of life from these vehicles because it’s preventable.

I couldn’t agree with the officer more.  We see the tragedy caused by careless drivers on a daily basis.   I think we understand it.  But most people don’t know how significant these problems are.

I also agree with the officer that these wrecks are preventable.  I often tell my kids that the one excuse I don’t want to hear from them when something happens was, “It’s an accident.”  In most instances, it’s not an accident.  Car wrecks, pedestrian injuries and bicycle wrecks usually result from a choice.  A driver chooses to text and drive.  A driver chooses to not pay attention.  A driver chooses to not check a cross-walk or to try and beat a pedestrian through a cross-walk.  A pedestrian chooses to not cross at a cross-walk or to try and beat a car.  A driver chooses to not look for bicyclists.  A bicyclist chooses to only slow-down at a red light.

These are not accidents.  These are preventable.  And right now, with record deaths, Austinites are doing a poor job of preventing these incidents.




Brain Injury Basics: Brain Injuries In Children

Brain injuries are devastating in children.

Today, traumatic brain injuries remain the leading cause of both death in children.

For those children lucky enough to survive, an early brain injury can have life-long consequences.  Brain injuries often affect a child’s ability to learn even years after the injury.   Young victims are particularly vulnerable because most brain development occurs between the ages of 1 and 5.  Even as children get older, studies still suggest that the younger they are at the time of injury, the more serious problems they will face.

And even when a child has a satisfactory or normal IQ levels, emotional problems caused by the head injury set them back.  One study found that 19 of 22 children with  brain injuries showed long-term emotional issues.

These problems have a real economic value.  One study found that only 27 percent of kids who sustained brain injuries were working full-time by the time they reached age 21.

Unfortunately, auto accidents are the leading cause of brain injury-related deaths in children.  Proper use of seat belts and car seats can really help minimize these risks.

Falls still account for most brain injuries in children, including falling down stairs, falling off of playground equipment, and falling out windows.  Parents can help reduce the risk for these types of injuries by child-proofing the house and making sure that playgrounds are protected by twelve inches of soft surface material (such as mulch, gravel,  etc.)

Bicycle accidents also account for thousands of brain injuries per year.  Parents can reduce the risk of bicycle-related brain injuries by teaching their children bicycle safety and making sure that children are properly using bicycle helmets.



Safe Bicycling Tips

As the holidays approach, I know that a number of kids will receive new bikes as gifts this year.  Some will get their first bike, and some will get a new bike with more capabilities than a prior bike.  Whatever the case, it’s always good to remind our kids the dangers of biking and to make sure that they know how to bike safely.  Having represented a number of cyclists injured in various wrecks, we know the importance of good safety more than anyone.

Here are some bicycle safety tips from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration:

1.  WEAR A PROPERLY FITTED BICYCLE HELMET.  Fortunately, helmets are increasingly common these days and kids don’t feel the stigma to avoid a helmet like they used to.  But far too many kids just use any helmet they like.  To make it as safe as possible, it’s important to make sure the helmet fits.  The NHTSA has these five easy tips for making sure the helmet fits.

2. ADJUST YOUR BICYCLE TO FIT.  When you’re standing over your bike, there should be 1 to 2 inches between you and the top bar of the bike.  The seat height should also be adjusted to allow a slight bend at the knee when the leg is fully extended.  The handlebar height should be the same as the seat.

3. SEE AND BE SEEN.  People think they should wear white in the daytime.  This is wrong.  Studies show that it’s safest to wear bright colors — with neon or fluorescent colors being most noticeable.  Also, use your lights.  Wear a blinking light or put extra reflective tape on your clothes or bike.

4. CONTROL YOUR BICYCLE.  Always ride with at least one hand on the handlebars.  My wife tells me that she passes a high school student every morning who flies down the bike lane with both hands texting on his phone and no hands on his handlebar.  Don’t let your kids be that guy.  Carry books or other items in a carrier or backpack.


6. MINIMIZE RIDING AT NIGHT.  It is far more dangerous to ride at night than during the day because it is harder for others to see you.  Make sure you have reflectors on the front and rear of your bike and that you use a light on the front of your bike.  It’s also a good idea to wear a flashing light in front and back to make sure others see you.


8.  BE PREDICTABLE.  Ride in a straight line.  Don’t weave in and out of cars. Signal your turns and moves to others.


Austin Pedestrian & Bike Accidents An Increasing Problem

According to this morning’s Austin American Statesman, Austin has seen a record number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities despite the fact that there are still six weeks to go in the year.

About half of the pedestrian fatalities were caused in large part by the pedestrians not being careful.  For example, a number of the deaths involved pedestrians trying to cross IH 35 or other major highways, and a significant portion were caused when the pedestrian was intoxicated.

The bicycling fatalities are different — all were caused by the drivers hitting the cyclist from behind.

These findings mirror my own practice.  I’m seeing increasing number of cases where the victim was a pedestrian or on a bicycle.  Just this year, we’ve handled cases involving a child who was run over and suffered a horrific head injury, a pedestrian who sustained severe leg fractures as he was hit while on a sidewalk, and pedestrians who were hit in parking lots (including one who now needs surgery).

The description of the bike accidents is also similar to the types of accidents we’re seeing.  Most of the bicycle accident victims we’ve represented over the years have involved drivers who have hit the cyclists from behind.  We’ve also seen a number of clients who were injured when the drivers failed to yield to them at intersections — the driver either turns into the cyclist or doesn’t yield the right of way to the cyclist.

Unfortunately, these accidents usually involve significant injuries since pedestrians and cyclists have no protection.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a pedestrian or cyclist, please call us at (512)476-4944 or submit your information via the “submit a case” boxes throughout our website.

Summer Safety Tips

For those of us in the Austin Independent School District, today is the first day of “summer” so I thought I would mark the occasion by sharing some summer safety tips.

SUNBURN:  The number one summer ailment in Austin has to be sunburn.  Make sure to limit your exposure to peak sun, use sunscreen, and keep covered.  If you experience a sunburn, remember that ibuprofen or aspirin can help relieve the pain. You can also use moisturizing cream and cold compresses/washcloths as long as the skin isn’t blistering.  If the skin does have significant blistering, seek medical care.

HEAT EXHAUSTION:  We all hope this summer won’t be as bad as last summer, but even in a “typical” Austin summer, heat exhaustion is a concern.  Remember to drink plenty of liquids and modify your activities as the weather requires.  But most importantly, be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion.  Common symptoms include:

  • You quit sweating.  If heat stroke sets in, your body can’t compensate and you quit sweating.
  • Pale skin.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Confusion or disorientation.
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

If you or a friend experience heat exhaustion, know what to do.  Get to a cooler area, apply water to the person (or immerse them in a cool pool or bathtub), and apply ice to neck or armpits.  If the symptoms are severe enough, call 911.

SPORTING INJURIES:  As kids have more free time, the number of sporting injuries increase. Whether biking, skateboarding, or riding scooters or horses, make sure your kids are wearing helmets.  As a personal injury lawyer, I’ve seen too many head injuries that could have been minimized or even eliminated by a helmet.  Protect your kids.

Make sure that your other sporting equipment is safe.  If your kids frequent playgrounds, make sure that the playgrounds have a safe surface (falls account for over 60 percent of playground injuries).  Watch out for movable soccer or basketball goals that can fall over on children, and if your kid is playing on a trampoline, make sure that they know the safety rules and that the trampoline is well maintained.






Austin Auto-Pedestrian Wrecks An Increasing Problem

Sunday’s Austin American Statesman had a great article about the increasing number of auto-pedestrian fatalities in Austin.  While the bigger trend is for fewer traffic fatalities, the number of auto-pedestrian accidents and fatalities is increasing. 

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo has two theories about the increase.  One, increased alcohol usage by motorists and pedestrians could explain part of the problem.  Additionally, people now have more disregard for pedestrians at intersections.

The APD is trying to do something about to decrease these auto-pedestrian accidents.  They will start sting operations to try and monitor dangerous intersections and ticket people for failing to properly allow pedestrians the right of way.

I’ve seen the problem in both my personal and professional life.  On the firm side, we’re seeing more auto-pedestrian and auto-bike accidents than we used to see.  I don’t keep track of those specific statistics, but I know that the numbers are significantly higher than they were just a few years ago.

On the personal side, I see people’s attitudes about crosswalks that Chief Acevedo mentioned in the article.  I usually drive home one of two ways, and each way has a cross-walk across a major road.  Each cross-walk has lights to increase attention to pedestrians — one is the new flashing red lights mentioned in the story and the other is a hanging yellow light flashing all the time.  And despite these efforts, I see people blow through the cross-walk areas all the time  (especially at the end of the day in rush-hour).  In fact, I’ve frequently had other motorists honking at me when I stop to yield to the pedestrians in the area.

This is a trend that needs to slow.  Leaders are trying to make Austin more and more bicycle and pedestrian friendly, but that will only happen if the risks don’t continue to increase.

Texas Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims: Does Your UM/UIM Insurance Cover You While Riding A Bicycle Or Walking?

Far too few personal injury lawyers are aware that if you (or perhaps more importantly, your children and other family members) are injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver while riding your bicycle or walking  (or doing most anything else), then you can probably make a claim against your UM/UIM coverage.  

When looking at your own policy  (where you are the named insured), the focus is not on what you were doing, but whether you were hit by an uninsured/underinsured motorist.  One of the best quotes about this comes from the case of Greene v. Great American Insurance Company, a 1974 opinion from the Beaumont Court of Appeals:

There is no requirement that the insured have any relation, at the time of the accident, with any vehicle he owns and that is insured with the insurer.  The uninsured motorists protection covers the insured and the family members while riding in uninsured vehicles, while riding in commercial vehicles, while pedestrians, or while rocking on the front porch.

I want to add two clarifications about this.  First, this analysis only applies to your own UM/UIM insurance.  If you’re looking to make a recovery on UM/UIM insurance bought by someone else — for example, your employer, someone whose car you’re in, etc. — then this analysis doesn’t apply.

Second, the potential coverage isn’t quite as broad as the case above indicates.  Because of exclusions, there might be some very specific situations where coverage doesn’t apply.  Because policies are so different, you’ll have to look to your policy.

But those specific exclusions don’t change the general answer that, “Yes, your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverrage will cover injuries to you while you’re biking or walking” or rocking on the front porch.

Joey Harrington – Even Professional Athletes Can Be Bicycle Accident Victims

  Last Sunday, former NFL quarterback Joey Harrington was seriously injured in a bicycle accident.  Apparently he was riding his bicycle when an SUV passed too close to him and struck him.  he was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed as having a broken collar bone, a  punctured lung, and other injuries.  Thankfully, he appears to be okay  (and this is obviously a relative term given the serious nature of his injuries).

I’ve represented a number of people who have suffered serious injuries in bicycle wrecks, and Mr. Harrington’s wreck can serve as a lesson in many facets of the lawsuit process.

First, you should learn to wear a helmet.  Had he not been wearing a helmet, his injuries could have been much worse.

Second, it can be a reminder of how much damage can occur in a bicycle wreck.  While Mr. Harrington is retired, he is still probably in better shape than most of us.  And he suffered very severe injuries in this wreck.  In our biking cases, I’ve represented everyone from the casual rider to the person who bikes regularly for transportation to professional athletes, and all of them suffered severe injuries.  No matter how healthy you are, you need to be careful when you’re on a bike.

Finally, it’s a lesson in potential sources of recovery.  In making a claim, a person such as Mr. Harrington will first want to figure out what insurance is available to compensate him for his injuries.  He obviously has a claim against the driver of the SUV.  If the driver of the SUV purchased enough insurance to cover all of Mr. Harrington’s claims, then he wouldn’t have to look elsewhere.

If the driver didn’t have enough insurance, then Mr. Harrington could turn to his underinsured motorist coverage  (at least in Texas).  Texas law provides that UM/UIM insurance, which you can purchase as part of your automobile insurance, will step in to help you if you’re injured in a bicycle accident.

Schuelke Law maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke

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