All posts by TheTraumaPro

Driver Sues Family of Teen He Killed. What Do You Think?

An interesting trauma ethics question today.

A Connecticut driver was charged with manslaughter last year after striking a 14 year old bicyclist and killing him. The driver, who is serving a 10 year sentence for manslaughter, is now suing the family for putting him there.

According to the prosecutor, the driver was passing another vehicle at 83 mph in a 45 mph zone. The teen was with friends who were jumping bikes at the curb of a busy street. He entered the street and was struck, sustaining multiple severe injuries and was brain dead the next day.

The driver is suing the parents for “contributory negligence” because had they “complied with the responsibilities of a parent and guardian and the laws of this state and not allowed their son to ride his bicycle without a helmet and to play out in the middle of Rt. 69 … this incident and Matthew’s death would not have happened.” He’s also asking for more than $15,000 in damages, saying he’s endured “great mental and emotional pain and suffering,” wrongful conviction and imprisonment, and the loss of his “capacity to carry on in life’s activities.”

On one hand, what is the responsibility of the teen and his family, or anyone for that matter, for taking reasonable precautions to be safe? On the other, no pedestrian, bicyclist or motorcyclist can survive an impact with a car traveling at 83 mph.

One attorney commented on the case, saying "I can see their side of it. I’m a parent. But I can also see the other side of it. If you’re driving down the street and your car makes contact with a pedestrian and you think it’s the pedestrian’s fault, you have to raise the issue.“

Interesting scenario? Read the full story and tell me who you think is right, and why?

An Airbag In Your Seatbelt?

Ford is introducing rear seat belts with built-in airbags in its 2011 Explorer SUV. It’s a $395 option that is designed to diffuse crash impact across a wider area of the chest. This is particularly important when strapping children in the back seat.

The system uses a cold gas system, unlike the heated gases in standard airbags that can cause minor burns. Ford plans to roll it out to additional models in later model years.

The video shows how the system works in slow motion. Very “cool”!

Sleepiness and Car Crashes

There are generally about 30,000 deaths from car crashes each year. An analysis by the AAA shows that drowsiness is a factor in about 1/6 of them! In the early 1990’s, NHTSA looked at this problem and found only about 4% of fatal crashes were due to sleepiness.

What gives? Is everybody suddenly a lot sleepier these days? It’s actually due to the way it is reported. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to figure out if fatigue was the cause after the fact in a fatal crash. The driver certainly can’t tell you. 

AAA looked at crash rates and applied information it obtained from a driver survey it administered. They found that 41% of drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel at some point. And one in ten admitted to it happening in the past year. The AAA believes that their estimates are far more accurate than the lower NHTSA numbers. 

Sometimes our patients tell us that they think they may have fallen asleep at the wheel. You should assume it in anyone who is driving home after a long shift, especially early in the morning. 

Educate your patients about the warning signs of fatigue while driving. Everyone knows the obvious ones: droopy eyes, frequent daydreams, drifting in and out of lanes. But here are some of the not so obvious:

  • Difficulty remembering the last few miles driven
  • Frequent yawning
  • Restlessness, irritability or aggressiveness
  • Frequent scratching and rubbing

Once fatigue becomes a factor, the driver is not only a danger to themselves, but to everyone else on the road as well. The solution: pull off as soon as practical and call for assistance. Caffeinated drinks are overrated and take too long to work!

Sources: American Automotive Association, NHTSA, National Sleep Foundation