As personal injury attorneys with extensive experience in brain injury, we have covered and continue to follow the debate raging over the effects of concussion in sports. The NFL recently reached a huge settlement with many former players over cumulative brain injuries, and many high schools nationwide have implemented stricter safety policies to protect young athletes from concussion.
But the recent critical injury of a high school athlete is a tragic freak accident that no safety policy could have prevented.
Sean McNamee, 16, a football player at Wharton High School in Tampa, Fla., sustained a severe head injury while warming up before practice. Sean was simply playing catch with his teammates when he slammed his unprotected head into a machine used to paint lines onto the field.
Had Sean been in formal practice, he would have been wearing his helmet, but practice had not yet started. Sean jumped to catch a teammate’s throw, landed off-balance, and struck his head on the machine.
The impact fractured his skull. Doctors performed emergency surgery to reduce brain swelling and put Sean into a medically-induced coma. They told his family he might not survive.
After nearly a week in the coma, Sean regained consciousness. He was able to recognize his parents, to understand questions, and to respond with a nod or shake of his head. It will take some time to determine whether he sustained any permanent brain damage.
A woman from Zephyrhills, Fla., was killed in a head-on collision in Tampa on a recent Friday morning during predawn hours.
Rita Marie Sutliff, 69, was southbound on Morris Bridge Road near Pictorial Park Drive when she collided with a car driven by Kunjummen Arun Babu, 18. According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Babu was northbound when he crossed into southbound traffic and collided with Sutliff’s car. Sutliff was pronounced dead at the scene. Babu sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to a local hospital.
Investigators estimated both vehicles were traveling at about 50 mph. Both drivers were wearing seat belts, and investigators said they saw no indication alcohol or drugs were factors. Although no charges had been filed, authorities continued to investigate the accident.
Much of Morris Bridge Road – probably including the location of the accident – is two lanes and has no lighting. The accident occurred before dawn, when both drivers were likely fatigued either from waking early or staying up late.
A head-on collision like this is difficult to survive. If it is possible to plan your route to avoid two-lane, high-speed roads, especially outside daylight hours, consider doing so. Remain diligently focused on the road – avoid the temptation to engage in distractions such as fiddling with the radio or your cell phone. And if you are injured or a loved one is killed in an auto accident that you believe may be the fault of another, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently brought attention to a pair of vehicle systems that are important for auto accident prevention. One is a high-tech system that is a new addition to the agency’s list of recommended safety features for new cars. The other is low-tech and present on all cars, but one which drivers need to carefully maintain.
The agency added rearview video systems to its list of recommended advanced technology features – part of its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). The program serves as a non-binding list of recommendations for automakers and customers to consider when making or purchasing new cars.
The change to NCAP will be implemented in two phases. Beginning immediately, the agency will list vehicle models having rearview video systems on its website at safercar.gov. Next, the agency will evaluate those systems to determine whether they meet certain criteria. Those criteria are: video coverage of a 10 by 20 foot zone directly behind the vehicle; display of the video image within two seconds of changing gears into reverse; and a display large enough to discern objects in the image and avoid crashing into those objects.
The NHTSA also turned its attention in a recent report to a decidedly low-tech vehicle system: tires. The agency pointed out safety issues with tire aging, saying that rubber breaks down over time regardless of whether the tire is in use – a process accelerated by heat. As tires age, they become more prone to failure. The age of spare tires and of tires sitting on store or warehouse shelves must therefore be considered as a safety factor just as crucial as tread depth.
That same report also covered the importance of tire pressure and systems that monitor it. Tires gradually lose air over time even when the vehicle is at rest, so drivers should check their tire pressure at least once per month. Underinflated tires lead to longer stopping distances, decreased handling, and increased heat buildup. They are more prone to tread separation and blowout.
Tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) are mandatory in the U.S. for all passenger cars, light trucks, and vans beginning with model year 2008. TPMS systems automatically alert drivers when a tire is underinflated by more than 25 percent. The NHTSA estimates that TPMS cuts in half the probability that a given vehicle will have one or more significantly underinflated tires. The fuel savings attributed to proper inflation due to TPMS in a single year is estimated at over half a billion dollars.
Help prevent auto accidents by checking your tires regularly for proper inflation and familiarizing yourself with your vehicle’s TPMS, if applicable.