The Legal Calculus Blog by Tom Gelwicks

Empowering lawyers and clients - Techniques and strategies for winning results

About Tom Gelwicks

Thomas Gelwicks – Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer for Cincinnati and Southwestern Ohio Thomas Gelwicks has been a trial and settlement attorney since 1982. Tom Gelwicks offers personalized representation for the injured of Cincinnati and southwest Ohio. His practice is strictly limited to accident and injury law.

Appellate Review

Compelling the Lower Courts

The law-of-the-case doctrine holds that the decision of the reviewing court in a case remains the law of that case on the questions of law.

This includes all subsequent proceedings at the trial and appellate levels. The doctrine functions to compel trial courts to follow the mandates of reviewing courts.

Assume Retrospective Application of Law

There is an essential rule governing the application of changes in the law to a case. Any intervening decision by the Supreme Court is to be applied retroactively unless the Supreme Court specially decrees that the change in the law has only prospective application.

It’s axiomatic that an earlier decision is not considered to be bad law. Rather, it must be treated as though it never was the law.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

De Novo Review on Appeal

A trial court’s decision as to granting or denying a stay of proceedings – pending arbitration – is a final appealable order. It is also subject to de novo review on appeal with respect to issues of law – which commonly will predominate.

This is because these matters generally turn on issues of contractual interpretation or statutory construction.

The Best Book on Mediation and Arbitration Practice

Over the past 20 years, alternative dispute resolution has grown into its own recognized area of law. The literature continues to proliferate. Trying to make sense of the competing strategies produces a drinking-from-the-fire-hose-effect. Now there is a remedy for the TMI produced by strategists from every school of thought.

The ABA offers the best publication, by far, on the subject. Buy today The Client’s Guide to Mediation and Arbitration-The Strategy for Winning. Looks can be deceiving, and so is this book. Although only 91 pages long, it packs more wisdom and insight into ADR than all the other volumes assembled together. ADR expert Peter Silverman, a highly-regarded-speaker and legal strategist, knows how to get to the point. Fast.

Chapter 5 alone is merits the nominal $30 charge. Silverman articulates, simply and convincingly, his ideas for beginning with your settlement goals. Until your ranges are clearly defined, a lucid and dynamic presentation will remain beyond reach.

The framework Silverman recommends will quickly provide you with your WATNA (worst alternative to a negotiated agreement), BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). Then you can work on your ReTaZ (reasonable target zone for settlement) and LiStaR (likely statistical result).

Armed with Silverman’s insider tactics, your approach to hearings and settlements will be conducted on a considerably higher level.

Medical Treatment

Emergency Rooms Are Beginning to Enter the 21st Century

The American health care system generates considerable resentment at the emergency room level. Waiting times are customarily 3 to 6 hours or more. The medical staffs are overtaxed. Anger simmers from the waiting rooms, to the back lounges, where physicians and nurses seek temporary shelter from the tensions.

Much discussion has taken place regarding the factors that create such a dismal delivery of health care services. Now some hospitals are beginning to respond to the economic threat offered by urgent care centers. These competitors have boldly assumed a larger amount of the dollars in the emergency services marketplace.

Some of the new methodologies for coping with the constant stream of patients include systems management ideas borrowed from the business world. Now it is more common for a triage nurse to greet patients as they enter the ER. They quickly assess the urgency of treatment with form questions and an exam.  The next level of care is with a triage physician who will order the preliminary lab tests and x-rays. The focus is on obtaining an initial diagnosis. This may later be changed, but the speed at which the patient is attended to can be one-third the length of time.

New approaches to testing step up the evaluation phase to lightening speed. Certain lab tests, for cardiac dysfunction, asthma or kidney problems, can be ordered within 15 minutes of the gateway nurse or physician’s initial look-over.

In really able hospitals, which have adopted the new express procedures, patients requiring hospitalization can be placed in a bed and find themselves wheeled to a room in less than half the customary time. The fastest ERs usually strive to accomplish their assessments, and possibly treatment, within 90 minutes to 2 hours at the maximum.

The urgent care centers still remain the better options for minor injuries such as sprains or cuts requiring stitches. For multiple-system injuries and more complex matters, the ER will still be your targeted destination.
Hospitals have been forced to change their ways. Within the next few years, we will look back on current practices and evaluate many as primitive. The day will come when triage determination by physicians and nurses will be routine. Heart attack patients will be catheterized within an hour and a half of walking through the doors. Timely treatment will be the norm. And each patient’s experience will be vastly speeded up and improved.

Concussions Now Are Taken Seriously

Concussions are only now being recognized as carrying the potential for serious injury. Much of this has been fostered by the extensive media coverage of long-term consequences to former football players in the NFL. The concern has also worked to benefit the medical needs of injured children.

Even mild concussions require prompt attention.  Any complaints of stomach distress or of light annoying the eyes are red flags. Untreated, concussions can soon lead to headaches, dizziness, memory problems and behavioral issues.

With greater public awareness of the warning signs, more kids are getting immediate medical attention. New studies involving brain chemistry and blood flow have furthered the national interest in concussions.  It is now known that traumatic brain injury causes the chemical N-acetylaspartate to lower in brain cells. Experts are now designing better protective equipment to identify those at risk of brain damage after an impact.

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Personal Injuries

The Focus is on Being Made “Whole”

When a individual, or an entire family, turns to a lawyer to obtain money damages as a result of injuries or death, they are in the area of civil law. This often overlaps with criminal or traffic law but is a separate area known as “torts.”

The goal of personal injury law is to make those injured “whole.” This focus must never be forgotten in the complexities of advancing a claim.

When there has been a death, being made whole is obviously unobtainable, but the legal system considers all claims with the intent to return some value to the family of the decedent. There is never any attempt to reward or create a windfall in personal injury law.

Driving Smartly

A World of Tragedy

The World Health Organization reports that, each year throughout the world, about 1.3 million people are killed in traffic collisions. And up to 50 million are injured. Each year.

About half of the fatalities are occupants of motor vehicles. The other half are bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.

Drowsy Driving is a True Roadway Menace

For the past decade, most of the national conversation on traffic safety has involved alcohol, seatbelts and cell phones.

Now a new topic is rising in stature, and it is long overdue: Drowsy Driving. Many drivers would never drive drunk, or leave a seat belt unfastened, or send a text message. Yet those same people will sometimes drive while extremely sleep-deprived.

Drowsy drivers cause more than 1,500 deaths, each year, and about 71,000 injuries, according to government researchers. Plain fatigue kills and maims.

Some states are considering the prosecution of tired drivers and Congress is now researching the issue. We can expect some legislative enactments over the next decade. Even car makers are responding. Some models are being equipped with devices aimed at alerting motorists who may be nodding off.

Social theorists claim our competitive culture puts people under pressure to perform. With the weak economy, some are working two jobs. And always we are expected to be technologically connected. As a result, the lines between work and home are starting to blur. For those with long commutes, the danger is particularly great. And high schoolers work long days on academics and extracurricular activities, which fosters sleepiness.

Fatigue behind the wheel deserves more of the national spotlight. Public awareness at least offers society a chance to take corrective measures. Preventing more calamities should be a much higher priority.

Aggressive Drivers

Much of the tragedy on our roads is caused by completely unnecessary driving behaviors. Allowing just 10 extra minutes to get to a destination would almost magically reduce a significant number of wrecks. Speeding has been shown in multiple studies to be the principal factor in nearly 30% of those collisions in which someone is killed.

The major problem with aggressive driving is that most people do not believe it applies to them. They think it always is others who drive aggressively. However speeding is clearly an aggressive driving behavior, even without other hostile activity.

Law abiding drivers diminish traffic safety when they fail to yield the right away, ignore signs and signals when they are in a rush, or engage in aggressive passing maneuvers or tail gate. They invariably will not consider themselves to be a threat to public safety. As long as this denial persists, they will always be contributing, in their own way, to the increasing climate of aggressive driving and even road rage.

A little humility and a renewed sense of respect for others will keep you and others safer. Looking honestly at your own driving behavior and not being so quick to blame others is a good place to start. This is hard to do.

Even occasional lapses in driving courtesy can increase the odds of causing a wreck. And remembering the “10 Minute Rule” can not only reduce the odds of getting into a collision, but promote general peace of mind as well.

Rural Roads Are The Most Dangerous

It has long been my experience, as an injury lawyer, that rural roads are more dangerous than freeways. Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released definitive figures that prove this to be true.

Forty-two percent more fatal crashes occur in rural parts of the country than on busy stretches of highways running through cities and suburbs.

Even worse, the study finds that country road crashes are more likely to involve multiple fatalities, rollovers and motorists being thrown from their vehicles. All of this is compounded by the logistics of location. It simply takes emergency medical services longer to arrive at the scene.

Motorists have long believed that denser urban traffic poses greater danger. But the undeniable reality is that rural driving is far more risky.

Life-Saving Advice For New Drivers

Remember, you’re operating a 2-ton machine.

  • Left hand turns are the most dangerous maneuver you will make, nearly every time you drive a car.
  • Passing is treacherous. Don’t do it until you’ve been driving for a while.
  • Never, ever pick up a stranded motorist or hitchhiker. Never. Ever.

Why So Many Teens Die in Car Wrecks

The National Safety Council has recently released statistics which go far in explaining why so many of our kids get killed on the road.
The single factor that increases the accident rate for teens by 300% is not having a powerful car, not loud music and not proper signaling. It’s having 2 teen passengers. If three or more teen passengers are in the car, the odds quadruple.

20-30% of fatal teenage car crashes are due to driver distraction.

30% of all accidents resulting in teen driver fatalities involve not drugs, not makeup application, and not a loud radio – but alcohol.

What the above figures don’t address is one of the most prevalent factors contributing to traffic crashes, and that is speeding. If excessive speed, failure to control and failure to yield were placed into a single category, this would total nearly 50% of the fatal crashes in Ohio.

Of all drivers 15-24 years of age, involved in fatal crashes, 32% are the result of speeding.

Traffic Accidents Are the No. 1 Cause of Travel Abroad Deaths

When we think of traveling to foreign destinations, we worry of plane crashes, crime and terrorism. However the State Department shows that almost a third of all Americans who die while abroad, have been killed by road accidents.

Of countries visited by Americans, the most dangerous one in which to be on the road is Mexico. More Americans travel there than to any other country. That single nation is responsible for 40% of the travel deaths. In second place is Thailand, even though it is not frequently visited by Americans. The Dominican Republic is third, followed by Germany and Spain.

The reason for the predictable, year-in and year-out carnage is mix of factors. The roads are often in disrepair. But there are also many unsafe vehicles, particularly as to tire management. Add to this travelers who are often exhausted, disoriented and unfamiliar with the lay of the land.

One Lifestyle Change To Save Your Life

To save stress, the risk of costly traffic citations and the chance of getting into a significant wreck, there is one thing you can do: leave 10 minutes earlier.

When Pulled Over For Speeding

Around the courthouse, this is what traffic cops and State Highway Patrol officers tell me:

Make life easier for the officer

  • Pull over to the right side of the road.
  • If dark, turn on the dome light; this is important.
  • Keep the window down and the radio off.
  • Stay calm and respectful.
  • Don’t argue, make jokes, or use sarcasm.

Driver’s Education Needs Improvement

Every year, 6,000 American teens are killed and over 300,000 are injured. Teens make up 6% of all licensed drivers. But they are involved in 14% of fatal wrecks.
There is no national outrage over this predictable carnage, just quiet acceptance.

Driver’s education has long been an afterthought in the American educational system. This needs a rethinking. Most driver’s education courses have changed little in the past 50 years. There is no uniformity of instruction or course materials.

Too many teens see driving as merely a cluster of mechanical skills. The reality is that a person’s driving temperament and maturity often makes the difference between life and death.

Teens need to learn the hazards of blind spots and hydroplaning. But they especially should be told to put their cell phone in the trunk before putting the key in the ignition.

It’s Not Just Cell Phone Use

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that other in-car activities cause more teen vehicle accidents than cell phone usage. These behaviors are eating, drinking and
This squares with our experience. We have brought more claims against insurance companies for injuries to our clients because of the above activities, than because of teens on their cell phones.

Dealing With the Intoxicated Teen Driver

Parents often find themselves in a quandary. If their teen drinks at a party, they don’t want them driving home. But what if the teen calls and says “Ok, I did drink, will you come and pick me up?”

Most authorities believe this matter should be discussed before it happens. Telling your teen that you will quietly pick them, with no questions or lectures, is a good approach.

The penalty can come later. What that entails depends on many factors, including the parent-child relationship dynamics and the parents’ values.

When parents get together with other parents, this is what they talk about.

What A Difference A Year Makes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Council tells us how much difference there is between a 16 year old driver and one who is 17.

The later drivers, although still beginners, have about one-third the number of accidents as their counterparts only one year younger.

This is a very large and important piece of information. It suggests for parents how they should approach their new driver kids and the value of earning trust after they obtain their license.

Many people like to think that vehicle collisions as random, uncontrollable events. This notion is greatly weakened by heavily researched statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). After a quarter of a century of compiling data, clear patters have emerged.

This important study defines the most dangerous driving days. The evidence bears out that weather and fate do not control the number of fatal vehicle wrecks. Drivers, it turns out, cause wrecks.

Here are the 10 deadliest days of the year to drive:

  • July 4
  • July 3
  • December 23
  • December 24
  • December 22
  • August 3
  • January 1
  • September 1
  • September 2
  • August 4

Here are the days of the week, from the most dangerous to the least dangerous:

  • Saturday
  • Sunday
  • Friday
  • Thursday
  • Monday
  • Wednesday
  • Tuesday

The deadliest times of the day to drive:

  • 3:00 – 6:00 pm
  • 6:00 – 9:00 pm
  • 9:00 – Midnight
  • Noon – 3:00pm
  • Midnight – 3:00am

The time from 12:00 am to 3:00 am is the most surprising. Conventional wisdom suggests that this is the most dangerous time. But the federal figures say otherwise.

Blaming the Victim

A lawyer friend of mine was defending a career criminal accused of robbing and severely beating a man. The victim was driving his car on Queen City Avenue and stopped to pick up this hitchhiker. His generosity was rewarded by having his money and car stolen, in addition to having serious head injuries inflicted.

After the jury found the defendant guilty, my friend and the prosecutor spoke to the jury to learn their impressions. All the jurors were extremely contemptuous of the victim. They felt his stupidity and irresponsibility were at fault for what happened.

Despite the guilty verdict, no one had really anything to say about the defendant. For this jury, evil lurks – it is to be expected.

We live in a time where being thoughtful of others does not excuse thoughtlessness.

Parents Enable Teen Drinking

I was talking with a Blue Ash police officer who has had 20 years of experience on the force. He said that law enforcement officers traditionally have relied on parents as their allies in the war against teen alcohol consumption.

Over the years, however, he has found that – increasingly – parents are quick to excuse and otherwise enable teen drinking. While half the alcohol-fueled high school parties are without parental knowledge, the other half are held with parental approval.

Parents get it wrong when they say “We know the kids are going to drink, so let’s keep them safer, in our home, where we can watch over.” This casual, even hip attitude about alcohol, and even other drugs, is an invitation to disaster. The law is being broken and the kids are placed at great risk.

Police have found that if more vigilant parents suspect another household is permissive, they will refuse their children to go there. This affects the friendships of multiple kids. It gets much worse if charges are brought or lawsuits are filed.

The Philosophical Driver

Do You Accept the Terms Life Offers You?

Serious accidents are deeply tragic; they rearrange families forever.

Formerly energetic individuals are mowed down by a single traumatic event. Because of someone else’s error of judgment, they are seriously mauled by life.

At the hospital and at home, those around the victim will talk endlessly. They will work at compelling them to accept the randomness of their fate. This is the new question that will augur into their consciousness: Do you accept the terms life offers you?

Predictable Misery

Motor vehicles are the #1 cause of death for teens in America.

They claim the lives of 6,000 teens each year. And 300,000 can be expected to be injured before the year is out.

One of the most powerful influences in getting teens to drive more safely is their peers.

Talking to the friends of your kids is an important safeguard, and could prevent many more unnecessary tragedies.

Why Is There Is So Much Suffering in This World?

Religious leaders, philosophers and novelists concern themselves with the random tragedies that strike at the human condition with scary ferocity. The philosophical area of theodicy concerns itself with how can there be an all-loving and all-powerful God who would permit so much suffering in the world.

Theodicy envisions a triangle. At one point the deity completely loves. At the second point is the notion that the deity is entirely powerful. The third triangle point represents suffering and tragedy.

The question then is, “can the triangle be squared?” Whether it can or not will depend on an individual’s particular world view.

Unnecessary Tragedies

Many Americans understand romance as a lightning bolt from the mysterious beyond. Sociologists tell a different story. They say the reality is you only marry who you meet, and that is dictated by whatever layer of the socio-economic strata in which you live your life. Beyond social class, academics point to the cold reality that love is a decision, not a tempest of uncontrollable forces seizing your being.

Motorists also like to think that accidents are random, uncontrollable events. As one who has practiced injury law exclusively, for about 3 decades, I can say that is not the situation. In fact, the word “accident” is a laymen’s term. Plaintiff’s lawyers don’t use it around other lawyers. They refer to road mishaps as “collisions.”

Accidents suggest that what happened was a just-one-of-those-things event, a twist of mercurial fate intervening in human affairs. The word conceals the truth that there was a human agent who created the event.

In contrast, collision is a stripped-down word which neutrally announces that an impact happened.  And, if you look closely enough, you’ll find mundane negligence as the explanation.
The word collision invites us to ask “Did it have to happen? Could this terrible situation have been avoided?” With honest appraisal and clear-eyed thinking, the answer will be “Yes.”

Psychology of Trauma

When Your Life Goes ‘On the Ropes’

Every day I have the opportunity to see how differently families react to the crises, or even tragedy, that has befallen them.

Families are like the individuals that make them up. Some are capable of slowly bouncing back after taking a major hit. Other families never do adjust to what has happened. They lack some collective cohesive force which allows them to forge ahead despite the adversity.

Avoiding getting stuck in self-destructive behaviors can be very challenging for some families. They cannot cope with all that is demanded of them in caring for the injured, and fighting off the ritualistic game-playing of the insurance adjuster. There seems no end to the badness of their situation.

At a time when they most need psychotherapy, they can ill afford that extra expense. Asserting a claim for emotional distress is often overlooked, and is certainly underutilized as a legal weapon. This is unfortunate, because it is a valid argument to advance in many claims for monetary compensation.

Riding the Therapeutic Arrow

Freud’s “talking cure” of psychoanalysis has fallen into disfavor in western societies. Today mental health professionals often look to psychotherapy, grounded in developing new cognitive skills and behaviorism.

Those most benefited by help from a mental health professional seen in our practice, are people with strong verbal skills. They can better speak to their own psychological issues and with greater precision.

There’s no MRI machine for emotions, one that can discover the nature and degree of psychological pathology.

It’s sad how many patients persist in therapy, over years, and never really assuage the pain, much less end it. Society may be 100 years from effectively being able to treat major depression and anxiety disorder.

At sad times, we are reminded of the fragile equipoise that is the world of the human. When life becomes tormenting, it can be beneficial to “ride the therapeutic arrow” and get help. For this to work, there must be a great deal of credibility between the patient and the therapist. This factor alone is the most important one if the process of transference is to occur.

Therapy is a reflection of life itself – very amorphous and contradictory.  Those able to live with the ambiguities stand the best chance of getting to a better place.

Practical Law

Transfer of Vehicle Ownership From A Deceased Spouse

When a married person dies, the question arises as to how to transfer interest from the deceased spouse to the surviving one. This assumes that there has been no joint ownership with right of survivorship, as established under 2131.12 of the Ohio Revised Code.

The interest in the car, truck or motorcycle will immediately pass to the surviving spouse upon the transfer of the title. This is according to the provisions of 4505.10 of the Revised Code. An affidavit can be applied for at the local Clerk of Courts Title Office. The affidavit will require:

  • Approximate value of the vehicle
  • Year and make and model and body type
  • Vehicle identification number
  • Ohio Certificate of Title numbers
  • Death certificate
  • Original title

If an estate is opened, then the Will is to be probated through the courts. The Executor or Administrator will act for the transfer of ownership of the vehicle.

Ultimately, the title will be transferred to the surviving spouse’s name. That person then will take the new title to a deputy registrar at the local license agency.

Driving With Vehicle Insurance

For Ohio motorists, it is illegal to drive any motor vehicle without insurance or other Financial Responsibility (FR) coverage. It is also illegal for any motor vehicle owner to allow anyone else to drive the owner’s vehicle without FR coverage.

There are many losses sustained as the result of a vehicle wreck. The damages suffered by you and by the other party involve personal injury or death, as well as property damage. In Ohio, motorists must have coverage for at least $12,500 injuries for one person and $24,000 for two or more people. As to property damage, the minimum amount of coverage is $7,500.

You can prove you are covered under the Ohio Financial Responsibility Act by producing:

  • The insurance policy
  • An insurance identification card (with the same coverage as the policy)
  • A surety bond of $30,000 issued by any authorized surety company
  • An Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) bond secured by real estate having equity of at least $60,000
  • A BMV certificate for money or government bonds in the amount of $30,000 on deposit with the Ohio Treasurer of State
  • A BMV certificate of self-insurance, available only to companies or persons who own at least 26 motor vehicles

Any driver – or owner of a vehicle – who fails to show FR coverage will sustain large penalties. These include:

  • Lost of their license for 90 days on the first offense.  For the second offense it is one year’s suspension, and two years for any additional offenses.
  • Lost of their license plates and vehicle registration.
  • Reinstatement fees of $100 for the first offense; $300 for the second offense, and $600 for any additional offense.
  • Payment of a $50 penalty for any failure to surrender their driver’s license, license plates or registration.
  • There will be a requirement to maintain a special FR coverage (“high-risk” insurance or its equivalent) on file with the BMV for a period of 3 to 5 years

Once the suspension is in effect, any driver or owner who violates the suspension will have his or her vehicle immobilized and the license plates confiscated for at least 30 days for the first offense and 60 days for the second offense. For the third or subsequent offenses, the vehicle will be forfeited and sold, and the vehicle owner will not be permitted to register any motor vehicle in Ohio for 5 years. These penalties are in addition to any fines or penalties imposed by a court of law.

The Family Systems

Families on The Ropes

Each family is a system. Although this is a somewhat mechanistic view, it’s valid. Some family systems are functional and some are not. And it all varies largely by degree. Each member is an interlocking and vital presence in that collection of people we call ‘family.’

But when a family member is seriously hurt in an accident, the whole family is affected. And that includes families where there was little emotional intimacy even before the devastating event.
Personal injury lawyers don’t represent just individuals. They go about their work with all the people who lives circle that of the injured party, every day. The human context of family – at its best a valued support system – is crucial when a terrible card has been dealt.

In the most tragic situations, the spouse assumes the role of a LPN. This is when hour-by-hour care is required; the demands are overwhelming. Pills to be counted and timed, therapeutic walks to accompany, lifting the loved one in and out of bed – the list goes on.

Blessed are those who have the hand of kindness waiting for them at every turn, while their bodies and minds recover. At its family-best, there’s no place like home.

Car Crashes

Air Bag Explosions Are Powerful

Air bags are designed to literally explode. Although everyone knows this, it is commonly heard by me, from clients, that they had no idea the extraordinary power which would be unleashed upon them.

We humans learn best by direct experience. For those unfortunate enough to have an air bag impact their face and torso, the event never ever leaves their memory. Broken noses, damaged eyes, shattered eyeglasses, and fractured jaws can result to the face. Broken shoulders and arms, crushed ribs and chest wall contusions are frequent occurrences.

Air bag deployment has killed some children and many dogs. The safest place for them is the back seat. At the instant of the crash, the entire front seat becomes a warzone.

But for all the bodily injury inflicted by air bags, they have been remarkably effective at saving lives.

SUV Benefits Are Offset By Rollovers

Between 1995 and 2002, SUV registrations climbed by 250 percent in the United States. And the conventional wisdom persists that SUVs are safer because of the weight advantage. On average, SUVs weigh 1,300 pounds more than cars. And that extra weight does, in fact, help reduce the risk of injury by more than a third.

However, this large advantage is offset by findings that SUVs are more than twice as likely to roll over in crashes. Children in rollovers are 3 times more likely to be seriously injured. So the size and weight advantages are cancelled by the hazard of the vehicle flipping.

I have represented individuals, both killed and seriously injured, by rollover SUVs. It took Congress too long to require standards to prevent this common occurrence.
It was known for years that legislation was needed, but lobbyists for the manufacturers fought changes. Once the automakers were forced to change, their efforts to improve made a vast difference. The new technologies and engineering, especially electronic stability controls, turned the tide.

But it is shameful that so many people were crushed to death in Ford Explorers and others, before lives became more important than profits.

Protecting Dogs in Accidents

The American Pet Products Association reports that over one-third of the households in America have dogs.  I believe the day is coming when pets will be required to be restrained in moving vehicles

Most social criticism, regarding pets-on-a-ride, has centered on the danger of distracted drivers. This is for good concern, since nearly 60% of dog owners have driven with their passenger pets, according to the Automobile Association of America. In some of the animal-related wrecks we have handled, dogs have leaped into the driver’s lap, interfered with steering wheel operation, and influenced wrongful braking.

But in our experience, the bigger danger of unrestrained dogs is that they become dangerous projectiles in a collision. In one traffic safety study, it was found that, in a crash, a 10-pound dog traveling 50 mph will exert 500 pounds of force against whatever object it strikes. And an 80-pound dog, in a 30 mph crash, will exert nearly 2,400 pounds. These extraordinary statistics underscore the danger of unrestrained dogs.

The Distractions Causing Deadly Crashes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 25% of all police-reported car accidents involve some form of driver inattention. This is increasingly becoming a larger social issue because of the ever-evolving technological landscape. Today it takes effort not to be distracted while operating a car. Cell phones constantly beep and whirl with alerts for texts, emails and calls.

Despite this, the most common distractions existed long before everyone had their own cell phone. The many offending drivers we have brought claims against have been distracted for reasons not limited to cell phone use. These have included:

  • Adjusting the interior temperature
  • Adjusting the radio dial
  • Eating and drinking
  • Being interfered with by a dog
  • Correcting misbehaving children
  • Smoking and lighting up cigarettes
  • Talking with someone inside the car
  • Retrieving an object from the adjacent seat
  • Gazing at something outside the car
  • Reading a map or note

The Most Dangerous Motorists Are 16-Year-Olds

As to teenage drivers, Ohio is the 17th best state for safety. Ohio teens have an average of 56.2 crashes per 100,000 drivers. This betters the US average, which is 64.7.

Kentucky is at the other end, the bad end, of the continuum – with 91 fatal crashes involving teen drivers for every 100,000 citizens licensed. According to the federal numbers, this makes Kentucky the fifth worst state in the nation.

The most dangerous drivers are 16-year-olds. And the most deadly crashes are single-car events, connected with night driving or the presence of at least one teen passenger.
I’m 59-years-old, and I remember our 6th grade school debate centered on whether the driving age should be raised to 16 years. So this topic, which gains public momentum every so often, has been around a while.

In England, the minimum driving age is 17; in Germany, it’s 18. On a practical level, it would be difficult to now raise the age requirement. Many responsible 16-year-olds are involved in heavy extracurricular schedules, hold jobs, or take on important family duties.

For many states, the problem has been lessened by some form of graduated licensing. Under such a system, the teens receive driving privileges gradually.

One of the fundamental aspects of this social situation is grounded in human physiological and psychological makeup. According to the National Institutes of Health, the portion of the brain which weighs risk and controls impulses does not develop fully until around age 25.

Driving mistakes are behind 78% of the fatal crashes involving 16-year-olds. For drivers over 20, that figure drops below 60%. It is raw inexperience that makes teens underestimate speed, overcompensate with steering, swerve, and misjudge breaking distance.