Ride of Silence Raises Bicycle Safety Awareness, Honors Victims

Bicycle safety advocates recently held the third annual Tampa Hillsborough Ride of Silence in memory of cyclists injured or killed in traffic accidents.

Organizers used statistics to highlight the importance of bicycle safety awareness. They said 173 cyclists were killed in Hillsborough County alone in the past 18 years. Injuries in the same time frame were much higher at 6,656. In 2012, 13 Hillsborough County cyclists were killed, making it the deadliest year here since 1996. That number attracted the attention of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who selected Tampa as the location for the first of two DOT Regional Bicycle Safety Summits. The summit was held on April 11.

The Ride of Silence was held on Wednesday, May 15, and started at 7 p.m. at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Cyclists were asked to ride the 11 miles in silence and to wear either a black or red armband. Red honored injured cyclists, and black honored those who died. The names of nine cyclists killed in Hillsborough County since the last Ride of Silence were read aloud before the start.

The first Ride of Silence was held in Dallas, Texas in honor of cyclist Larry Schwartz. Since then, the idea has spread to hundreds of communities around the world.

Deaths and injuries among Tampa-area cyclists and pedestrians are all too common. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an auto accident of any kind, you need an experienced personal injury attorney to help get you the compensation you deserve.

Staff Shortages at Nursing Homes a Troubling Trend

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal highlights a troubling and growing problem in American health care: understaffed nursing homes.

The cause of the problem does not appear to be mismanagement or excessive cost-cutting on the part of those who run nursing homes. Rather, jobs at nursing homes tend to be seen as undesirable. The fact that these positions are going unfilled is made all the more significant by three employment trends one might otherwise expect to alleviate the problem. Those trends: high national unemployment; lengthy average unemployment, begetting desperate job-seekers; and a strong growth trend in America’s health care sector.

It is not hard to see why staff shortages can lead to nursing home neglect and even nursing home abuse. If a facility is short-staffed, its patients are bound to receive less care and attention. Their health may deteriorate more quickly, their recoveries may lengthen, and any problems they have may go unnoticed longer. And an overworked staffer is more likely to take out his or her frustrations on defenseless seniors who do not deserve it.

If you believe a loved one is not being cared for properly at a nursing home, speak with staff and supervisors. Be specific about the problem and how you expect it to be corrected. Take careful notes about what you tell staff and how they respond. If you cannot resolve the matter by communicating in good faith, you may need an attorney. An experienced nursing home abuse attorney knows the standards applicable and how to hold facilities accountable to them.

Is Voice-to-Text While Driving Better than Manual Texting

Distracted driving is a contributing factor in thousands of auto accidents each year in the United States alone. Many states have already passed or are considering legislation to ban sending text messages while driving. But some smartphones allow the user to speak text messages aloud, which the phone then transcribes into a text message. Generally, state laws against texting while driving appear not to prohibit the use of the voice-to-text, or voice transcription features. Similarly, existing laws regulating cell phone conversations while driving generally allow conversations via hands-free devices. Therefore, the legislative bias appears to be in favor of keeping the driver’s hands on the wheel as opposed to eliminating distractions.

Perhaps legislators are simply focusing on passing more practical and politically palatable laws instead of more stringent ones. Or perhaps they truly believe that hands-free devices eliminate or significantly reduce the distraction mobile gadgets present. Drivers who text while using hands-free devices would probably agree that doing so keeps them safer than they otherwise would be. But does it really?

According to a recently-published study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), the answer is no. The study is the first to compare manual texting to voice-to-text using a handheld phone during actual driving. The performance of 43 drivers on a closed course was measured first without any cell phone use, then while using a voice-to-text application, and finally while entering a text message manually. Researchers measured how long it took drivers to send the messages. They also measured reaction times by recording how long drivers took to respond to a light that turned on during the exercises at random intervals.

The results showed that driver response times increased significantly during text entry regardless of the entry method. In each case, reaction times nearly doubled. Interestingly, researchers found that both methods of entering text messages caused the drivers to spend significantly less time with their eyes on the road.

Contrary to what you might expect, the study showed that voice-to-text entry required slightly more time than manual entry. But during that time, driver performance took the same hit regardless of the method. Crucially, despite each of the texting methods impacting ability the same way, drivers reported feeling safer when using the voice-to-text feature.

A distracted driver is a dangerous driver. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to keep not only your hands on the wheel but your mind on the road around you. Eliminate or reduce your distractions whenever possible. And drive defensively, because even if your car has an attentive driver at the wheel, you can be assured some other car does not.