Tuesday, 30 November 2010

NTSB Report: Louisiana Helicopter Crash Caused by Bird Strike

A report by the National Transportation Safety Board into a helicopter crash in Louisiana that killed eight offshore rig workers, says that failure by the Federal Aviation Administration to require helicopter windshields to be resistant to bird strikes, contributed to the crash.

The crash occurred in January 4, 2009 when a Sikorsky S-76C helicopter crashed into a swamp in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. The helicopter had just taken off seven minutes earlier, and was on its way to an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. There were seven offshore rig workers on board, and six of them were killed. Both the pilots were also killed in the crash.

NTSB investigators believe that a bird collided with the windshield of the helicopter, probably causing the engine control levers to go into the idle position. The report says that the pilots likely became confused and shocked by the impact of the bird hit, and were unable to recover in time to maintain control over the helicopter.

The helicopter was equipped with laminated glass windshields that were compliant with European bird-hit resistance standards. However, the company that operated the helicopter, BHI, had recently replaced the helicopter windshields with lightweight acrylic windshields. These windshields did not have bird-strike resistance.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration has failed to require helicopter operators to install bird strike resistant windshields on helicopters. Considering that bird hits are one of the biggest hazards of aviation travel affecting thousands of aircraft every year, California helicopter crash lawyers find it odd that the FAA has failed to take this problem seriously.

Besides, the NTSB report blames lack of protection that would have prevented the T handles from dislodging at the time of impact, as well as the lack of a warning system that would have alerted the crew members to a low rotor speed condition through lights and audible warnings.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Focus on Swim Coach Sexual Abuse during Olympics 2012

Getting on the US Olympic swim team is a dream for thousands of young swimmers. Unfortunately, training sessions and swim meets are where abusive relationships between swim coaches and their protégés usually develop. It’s therefore natural that as we begin the countdown to the 2012 London Olympics, attention is being raised towards serious abuse issues in swimming that California sexual abuse attorneys have recently confronted.

A new study finds that youngsters who are training to compete at the highest levels are at the highest risk of being abused. A 14-year-old who is on the brink of selection for a national championship is less likely to open up about abuse, even if he or she thinks it may be wrong. A coach wields a lot of power, especially when it comes to determining which swimmer finds a place on the team. By this point, the children and their parents have already invested much time, money and resources, and it is harder to admit that you're being humiliated or abused by a coach.

The study took into consideration answers from young athletes who had finished their sporting careers. The results of the study were delivered at a symposium hosted by Brunei University’s International Research Network for Athlete Welfare.

Unfortunately, there is very little current research into the dynamics of an abusive relationship between a coach and a young swimmer in his care. Much of the research in this area consists of studies that have been conducted using athletes who are at the end of their professional sporting careers. Such studies are not taken too seriously by sporting bodies.

Part of the problem is that it's very difficult to get children to open up about abuse. You can't walk up to a child, and ask questions about whether he or she is being abused by his or her swim coach. Very often, children fail to understand that they're being abused. Very young children don't even know the definition of abuse. It is harder, therefore, to conduct current research that can actually help prevent abuse.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

FDA Warns About Health Risks of Caffeinated Alcohol Beverages

Calling them a public safety risk, the Food and Drug Administration this week shot off a letter to four manufacturers of caffeinated alcohol beverages. According to the Food and Drug Administration letters, these companies must stop adding caffeine to their beverages immediately, or must stop sales of these products.

The four companies are Phusion Projects, New Century Brewing Company, Charge Beverages Corporation and United Brands Company. Chicago-based Phusion Project is the company behind the hugely popular Four Loco brand of caffeinated alcoholic beverage. Last month, the drink was at the center of a nationwide controversy after a group of New Jersey college students fell severely ill with acute alcohol poisoning after drinking the beverages.

These drinks have become extremely popular among the college crowd. The alcohol creates a buzz, while the caffeine serves to conceal the effects of the alcohol, giving the person the illusion that he is not really that drunk. There is a high potential for binging or excessive drinking with beverages like this. A person, especially a young or inexperienced drinker, may not be able to understand when to stop drinking. Several studies have indicated that persons who drink such caffeinated alcoholic drinks have a greater chance of risky behavior than those who drink only alcohol.

Several states around the country are not waiting for the Food and Drug Administration to pull these products off the market. Many states have banned caffeinated alcoholic beverages like Four Loco. The company that manufactures Four Loco has said that it will stop adding caffeine to its beverages.

California product liability lawyers expect the FDA to have a bigger fight on its hands. While it has written the letters to just four manufacturers of these products, there are estimated to be more than two dozen manufacturers of these beverages on the market.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Drowsy Driving Has Same Effect on Los Angeles Motorists As DUI

A new study confirms that driving while fatigued or sleepy has the same effect on a motorist as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also indicates that drowsy driving may be much more prevalent in the American population than we know. For instance, the study showed that 41% of all respondents had driven fatigued at least once. Besides, the study indicates that one in six of all fatal car accidents in the US are linked to drowsy driving.

And yet, there's none of the aggressive legislation against drowsy driving that there is against drunk driving. Every state in the union has laws that prohibit driving under the influence of alcohol. However, when it comes to drowsy driving, only the state of New Jersey has laws banning the practice. Even New Jersey's laws ban drowsy driving only when the driver has been without sleep for 24 hours before causing the accident.

It's enough to make Los Angeles DUI attorneys wonder about the difference in the treatment of drunk driving and drowsy driving, even though the latter is on the increase, while accidents related to intoxicated driving have been decreasing steadily over the past decade.

Could it be that drunk driving charges are easier for cops and enthusiastic law enforcement officers to stick on unsuspecting citizens? Breathalyzers are easy to rig, and blood tests can be fudged. Every day in California, hundreds of people are pulled over for unrelated offenses, administered a breathalyzer test and then arrested or charged with DUI. Meanwhile, possibly hundreds of motorists, too sleepy to keep their eyes open, drive by, increasing their risk of an accident with every second they are on the road.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

San Diego Appeals Court Upholds Ruling in Firefighter Employment Lawsuit

An appeals court has upheld a ruling from last year which awarded damages to four firefighters in San Diego who had been forced to participate in the Gay Pride Parade in 2007 in Hillcrest.

The four firefighters have always maintained that they were forced by their superiors to take part in the parade in Hillcrest, a predominantly gay neighborhood in San Diego. During the trial, the firefighters testified that the entire experience left them completely uncomfortable. They were harassed during the parade, and were the subject of catcalls. They also saw half naked men simulating sex acts along the parade route. The experience left the firefighters with physical stress-related effects, including headaches, irritable bowel disorder and anxiety. The firefighters say they had given the fire department enough notice that they didn't want to participate in the parade. In fact, the department was aware at least four days before the parade that the four men were not interested in participating.

The four fighter fighters sued the city of San Diego, and won a total of $34,300 plus more than $500,000 in legal fees. The city appealed, and now an appeals court has also upheld that ruling. In 2008, the San Diego Fire Department changed its policies to require that only volunteers take part in the parade. The firefighters say that it was never a question of money, but they only wanted to make a point about government employees not being forced to participate in events that go against their beliefs.

In a volatile political atmosphere, the case has also evolved from one involving employees, employers and Los Angeles employment attorneys to those involving faith and the broader issue of homosexuality. The firefighters were represented by lawyers from the Alliance Defense Fund, an alliance of Christian attorneys that aims at defending the right of people to live according to their faith.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Technology and the Trucking Industry

 Commercial trucks, big rigs, tractor-trailers, semis - however referred by name are a big necessity on the highway. It is the most common way wholesale goods are shipped cross state as well as cross country. However, their sheer size among the crowds of smaller commuter vehicles makes them very formidable and often quite dangerous on the roads.

Perhaps the best way to ensure safety is through driver education - both for drives of trucks and those sharing the freeways, highways, and streets. Operators of trucks do need special licensing, and must also keep driving time under guidelines. These drivers spend hours upon hours on the road, and their skills are well developed - but driver distractions and fatigue seem to be common causes of truck accidents where drivers were held responsible. For those sharing the road, drivers must remember to give trucks plenty of room, and try to pass on the left side instead of right side. Another common problem occurs when car or motorcycles attempt to pass between trucks and the curbside when the large trucks are making turns (the truck often need to swing wide in order to avoid having the rear wheels clip the corner curbs or lamposts).

One way the tucking industry has changed - the use of technology. A few examples:
  • GPS systems for routing and tracking
  • "Black boxes" for recording events
  • Electronic speed governors
  • Active braking
  • Traction control
Hopefully, advancement will continue in technology - but the best way to prevent accidents will always be common sense and proper planning. Proper maintenance, knowledge of the roads, respect of the weather and driving conditions and driver rest can be implemented instantaneously.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Three Persons Killed in Los Angeles County Plane Crash

Investigators are still trying to determine the causes of a small plane crash in Los Angeles County that killed three persons. The crash occurred last week. The plane crashed into a horse corral in North Los Angeles County, and burst into flames. The plane, a single-engine Cirrius SR22 was on its way from Van Nuys to Parker, Arizona when it went down. Two persons were confirmed dead immediately, while the third died later.

While much of the focus on airline safety tends to revolve around commercial airlines, the fact is that almost no week passes without at least one fatal private plane crash somewhere in the country. In fact, federal agencies are now beginning to turn their attention to the problems facing passengers in private and charter planes.

These crashes involving smaller planes often do not involve multiple fatalities, or end with the same kind of severe damage and property loss that arises out of a commercial plane crash. As a result, they don't hog as much media attention. There is little space devoted to a crash that kills one or two people. However, private plane safety could be a matter of even greater concern than commercial airline safety, simply because of the large total number of people killed every year in these accidents in the US.

Besides, the Federal Aviation Administration regulations that apply to commercial airlines are more stringent than those applied to private aircraft and charter aircraft. There are widespread violations of safety rules, especially those involving pilot work hours. California plane crash attorneys have been very concerned about reports from pilots of small commercial aircraft, who speak of being forced to fly a plane beyond their permissible work hours, or being forced to work to their maximum duty limits, regardless of sleep rhythm patterns.

Thanks to the efforts of airline safety advocates and California plane crash attorneys, commercial airline safety is a hot button topic these days. We need to divert some of that attention to private aircraft safety too.

Monday, 1 November 2010

USCIS Unveils New Secure Naturalization Documents

A few months after unveiling high-tech, secure green cards, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has unveiled new, safer and more secure naturalization documents.

These documents are used by naturalized citizens to obtain passports and other legal documents. In the past, these certificates were filled in manually, and personal photographs were merely stuck onto the document. Now, in the newer version, all important information will be embedded into the certificate. The new document will also come with factors that make it harder to duplicate.

Earlier this year, Los Angeles immigration lawyers had also been impressed with the new design for green cards. Green cards are for those immigrants who have managed to obtain permanent residency status in the US. The new cards come with a personalized holographic image, and a laser engraved fingerprint. According to immigration officials, the redesigns of both the green card and the naturalization documents were long overdue. The design of the green cards has not been updated since 1988, and the naturalization document designs have remained the same since 2003. Even the 2003 design did not add any security features to the design.

California immigration lawyers believe that the new designs will help prevent fraud. The newer secure green card and naturalization documents should allay the concerns of critics who believe that the agency’s document designs promote fraud. Meanwhile, the agency continues to have its critics who insist that the verification process is not strong enough to justify any redesign.