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Albuquerque New Mexico Personal Injury Law Blog

Esurance studies prevalence of distracted driving

Drivers in New Mexico are probably aware that distracted driving is a common hazard on the road, and it may not be just from other drivers. A new study from Esurance, the insurance company, shows that distracted driving is more prevalent than some think. Even those who claimed that they rarely drove distracted were found in the study to engage in distracting behavior.

Out of the more than 1,000 drivers who participated in the Esurance survey, over 90 percent said they considered texting, emailing and browsing for apps to be distracting, yet more than half of those with a daily commute admitted to engaging in these activities. The study claims that the longer the commute, the greater the chance of distracted driving. It also claims that drivers of newer vehicles are more prone to distractions because of the various safety and entertainment features they come with.

Small number of workers report workplace harassment

Sources indicate that only 10 percent of people who are victims of harassment in the workplace in New Mexico and the rest of the country will file an official complaint. Their reluctance to do so is linked to the belief that their concerns will not be taken seriously or that they will be retaliated against. According to a 2016 report issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, both concerns have grounds.

A spokesperson for the EEOC states that companies should modify their training to stay abreast of current social norms. As sexual harassment was made illegal in 1986 with the passage of Title VII, ensuring that sexual harassment is curtailed has more to do with how the training on the subject is approached, new social norms and how the issue is discussed.

Motorcyclists, stay safe on New Mexico roads

With great weather most of the year, New Mexico can be an ideal place for motorcyclists to get on their bikes, hit the highways with the wind at their knees and enjoy the scenic routes or just a group ride with friends.

The diverse terrain and environment of New Mexico beg to be admired, and what better way to do it than by traveling on a motorcycle. But this reverie isn’t always perfect, because motorcyclists face numerous road hazards that sometimes lead to fatalities. Slick conditions, potholes and distracted drivers are a few of the things motorcyclists must deal with while on the road.

Making roads safer

When compared to other developed countries, the U.S. does not rank favorably with regard to road safety. In 2016, 37,461 people died in car accidents, an increase in the number of road-related deaths in the U.S. over the preceding year by 5.6 percent. This increase has been felt in 39 states across the United States, including New Mexico, a state that also has the nation's highest rate of pedestrian deaths.

Fortunately, there is much that can be done. To start with, a new report issued by the National Governor's Association details how governors can play a pivotal role in bettering the situation. The report, entitled 'State Strategies to Reduce Highway and Traffic Fatalities and Injuries: A Road Map for States," stresses the importance of better coordination between state agencies as well as consolidating said agencies' efforts to increase road safety.

OSC issues memos on whistleblower protections

Federal employers and employees in New Mexico should be aware that the Office of Special Counsel has issued three new memos regarding whistleblower policies and guidance. The memos were released on Feb. 1.

The first memo issues a reminder to federal agencies that they must update their training and education programs to reflect new requirements outlined in the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. The law provides new retaliation protections for federal whistleblowers who report abuse, fraud and waste. It also mandates that agencies increase awareness of the whistleblower protections available to federal employees and increase disciplinary measures against supervisors who attempt to retaliate against whistleblowers.

Rettaliation included in nearly half of all EEOC claims

New Mexico residents filed fewer civil rights complaints against their employers last year according to the federal agency in charge of regulating anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. New Mexico is not an outlier as the number of claims nationwide also declined, which has been the trend since 2010. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released its report of claims enforcement data for fiscal year 2017, which ended in September.

Retaliation against workers for engaging in protected behaviors remain the most commonly cited category of claim with nearly half of all complaints (48.8%) asserting some sort of retaliatory action against employees. Retaliation is a non-specific claim that usually accompanies allegations of other discriminatory behavior such as racial, gender or age related discrimination which are the most common categories of specific rights violations reported to the agency. An employer is guilty of retaliating against an employee if it makes unfavorable employment decisions motivated by the employee's having made complaints about the workplace environment. As part of its mission, the EEOC helped employees recover $398 million from employers while initiating 84, 254 claims in 2017. While overall numbers decreased from 2016, the percentage of claims related to sexual harassment and discrimination increased slightly, with 30.4% of all new claims asserting some sort of gender-based complaint.

Most drivers use cellphones while behind the wheel

Motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted drivers have become worryingly commonplace in New Mexico and around the country. While many issues are to blame, some road safety advocates are pointing fingers at smartphones and sophisticated navigation systems. Vehicles traveling at highway speeds cover a distance as long as a football field in just 5 seconds, and a recent Consumer Reports survey suggests that an alarming number of drivers routinely take their eyes off the roads for far longer.

More than half of the motorists polled by Consumer Reports admitted to using their cellphones to watch videos, browse websites and send text messages while behind the wheel. Wireless service providers including Verizon, Sprint and AT&T as well as electronics manufacturers like Apple have introduced features that disable distracting smartphone functions while vehicles are in motion. However, critics say that these added features do little real good because using them is voluntary.

Car insurers may begin using smartphone data

New Mexico drivers who use their smartphones while behind the wheel may end up paying more in insurance than those who do not, but the technology must still be approved by state regulatory agencies. Motorists will also have to allow insurance companies permission to use the data.

The findings of a unit of Allstate called Arity supported research that says drivers are more dangerous when they use their phones. Arity reached this conclusion after analyzing data from hundreds of thousands of drivers making 160 million trips. By also analyzing claims data from Allstate, Arity found that distracted drivers cost Allstate significantly more than drivers who were not distracted. Not only are drivers who are using their smartphones more likely to be distracted, but they tend tend to be in worse and thus more costly crashes.

Speed can be deadly on the road

New Mexico motorists are facing a greater risk on the roadways, as traffic fatalities have grown significantly over the last few years. A number of contributing factors have been ascribed to this, including the greater number of drivers as well as the popularity of smartphones increasing distractions among both drivers and pedestrians. On the other hand, a National Transportation Safety Board posits that speeding is the primary factor in the upswing in fatalities.

The study looked at traffic deaths between 2005 and 2014, and concluded that speeding is a major cause of fatal car accidents. The NTSB considered that 112,580 deaths during the study period were attributable primarily to speeding, a number that is roughly similar to the death toll taken by drunk drivers in the same period. In the report, the NTSB argues that speeding and drunk driving share similar risk profiles that escalate the likelihood of fatal or serious injury crashes.

Whistleblower who was fired after reporting fraud settles

After decades, Americans have started to let their guards down when it comes to banks. More than likely you have a checking or savings account at your bank’s local branch -- but not all people feel that banks are trustworthy.

And, they may be onto something. Over the years, at least one bank attempted to cover up internal scandals by firing the employees who reported them. Is your bank an exception to the rule?

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