One Dead, Several Injured in Spring Hill Auto Accident

A local woman died and several people were injured in a four-car crash on U.S. 19 in Spring Hill, Fla.

The crash occurred at about 3:30 p.m. on a recent Monday afternoon, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. A Pontiac minivan driven by Candice Hood, of Spring Hill, was northbound when it crossed the grass median into oncoming traffic for unknown reasons. It then collided with a Nissan sedan driven by Barbara Clark, of Hudson.

Clark was rushed to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, but died later that day. Hood, who was thrown from her vehicle, was also taken to Bayonet Point with serious injuries.

Two other drivers were unable to avoid colliding with the two initial vehicles. Enid Cedre, of Spring Hill, and her passenger, Wanda Reyes, of Coral Springs, were taken to Bayonet Point with minor injuries. The occupants of the fourth car were uninjured. Authorities are investigating the cause of the collision.

It may be scary to think about, but one never knows when a life-threatening collision might occur. Most are avoidable if you drive safely and defensively while keeping your attention on the road at all times. Others are not avoidable, and the only way to mitigate your risk of those is to obey the speed limit and wear your seat belt. If you have been injured or a loved one has died in an auto accident that may be the fault of another, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

DOJ Sues Florida Over Children in Nursing Homes

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida, claiming its policies and practices leave many parents with no practical choice but to house their disabled children in nursing homes.

The civil rights division of the DOJ accused Florida officials of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by funding its community health programs so poorly that hundreds of children are forced to live in geriatric institutions, often far from home.

Reimbursement rates paid by the state to community service providers have remained flat since 1987, according to the lawsuit, while rates paid to nursing homes for housing children have risen by nearly 30 percent to $550 per day.

Three years ago, Florida lawmakers cut $6 million from a program that provided private nursing care for those outside institutions. Another program to assist parents in caring for disabled children close to home has a wait list of 22,000 individuals.

Children are far more likely to face abuse in nursing homes than at home or in community settings. A Miami nursing home faced over $300,000 in fines and eventually shut down its pediatric wing after two disabled children died there in less than a year. And Lakeshore Villas in Tampa recently closed after federal officials cut off Medicare payments amid allegations of neglect and isolation of disabled children living there. That was the second nursing home accepting children to close in 2013. Just four remain.

NHTSA Releases Report on Pedestrian Deaths in Auto Accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) just released a report analyzing data for traffic crashes in the U.S. involving pedestrians. The most recent data analyzed is from 2011.

For purposes of the report, a pedestrian is anyone on foot, sitting, or lying down, and a traffic crash is any collision involving one or more vehicles on a public roadway. Note that accidents occurring on private property, including parking lots and driveways, were not included.

Pedestrian fatalities numbered 4,432 in 2011. That represents an increase of 3 percent over 2010 and the second year in a row that an increase was recorded. But the number is 7 percent lower than that of 2002. An estimated 69,000 pedestrians were injured in auto accidents in 2011.

The total number of auto accident fatalities declined rather steeply over the period 2005-2011, while pedestrian fatalities declined at a more modest pace. Accordingly, pedestrian fatalities share of total deaths increased to a new high of 14 percent in 2011.

Alcohol was a factor – either for the driver or the pedestrian – in 48 percent of auto accidents in which a pedestrian was killed. In 35 percent of those cases, the pedestrian was legally drunk, with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher. Clearly, roads are a dangerous place for anyone with significant levels of alcohol in their system, whether behind the wheel or on foot.

Automobiles have become much better at protecting occupants from bodily injury over the years, but the extent to which they protect pedestrians is progressing rather slowly. The greatest danger to pedestrians struck by cars occurs when their heads hit the vehicles’ hoods. Depending on the force of impact, the hood deforms until it comes into contact with the immobile engine or other components, and then the head suffers a devastating deceleration. A system designed by Volvo uses contact sensors in the bumper to detect a collision with a pedestrian and responds by inflating a large airbag beneath the hood, which extends to cover the lower portion of the windshield. The pedestrian’s head therefore contacts either the airbag itself or the hood, which, supported by the airbag, decelerates the pedestrian’s head in a controlled manner.

All drivers and pedestrians should take personal responsibility to keep themselves and others safe on roadways. When walking, cross with signals at crosswalks. When driving, be vigilant for pedestrians and expect the unexpected – pedestrians, especially children, do not always behave predictably.