Elderly Drivers: How old is TOO old to be behind the wheel?

As we grow older, we become more aware of our own mortality and that of our parents.  As we watch them age, we start to notice the little changes, such as forgetting where they left their glasses or keys and then the bigger changes such as failing to take their medication, or falling.  At this point, we start to wonder how safe it is for them to drive.  We worry about their safety and the safety of others.  Although some people remain mentally sharp with strong vision, reflexes and physical abilities well into their 80s and 90s, others start to show deficiencies in their 50s.

Data shows that senior citizens account for 5% of people injured in traffic crashes, 13% of all traffic fatalities and 18% of all pedestrian fatalities.  The number of elderly drivers is expected to triple in the United States over the next 20 years, according to smartmotorist.com.  Some states require mandatory driving tests after a certain age or require physicians to disclose conditions that could affect driving ability.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway (IIHS), older people stand a greater chance of becoming a fatality in a traffic collision due to fragility and health issues.  Between 1997 and 2006, the death rate for older drivers declined steadily with no definitive reason.  So other than expecting your parents to self-limit their driving, how can we assure our parents are as safe as they can be on the road, as well as not endangering others?

First, watch for warning signs such as fearful and nervous driving, difficulty staying in the lane of travel, trouble paying attention or slower response to unexpected situations.  Keep informed regarding your parent’s medical conditions and medications, and talk to your parents about how they feel about their driving abilities and focus, as well as their vision.  If you have concerns regarding your parent’s driving, try to discuss the safe ability to drive with your parents’ physicians or take the keys and/or the car away and arrange for alternate transportation.  Remember that the ability to drive is closely connected to a person’s feeling of independence and dignity, so be cognizant of this when addressing the issue of elderly driving.

Spooktacular Safety Tips for Halloween

Fall brings many recreational activities such as football, trips to the pumpkin patch, hayrack rides and, of course, Halloween.  As a child growing up in a small Nebraska town in the late 70s and early 80s, Halloween was fun and fairly safe.  The worst we had to worry about was scraped knees or getting sick from eating too much candy.  As time went by and we became more aware of how dangerous the world was becoming, we had to increase our safety.  We began to realize it was no longer safe to go out alone and could not eat unwrapped or unsealed candy.  As we think of safety this Halloween season, remember not to overlook those basic rules.  Always carry a flashlight and travel in groups.  This year expand your safety to include some less obvious safety risks of Halloween.

Costumes have changed a great deal over the years.  My first costume was Jiminy Cricket, which was basically a cheap plastic mask and green smock.  The days of the mask have been overtaken by face paint and makeup.  Be sure to test the paint or makeup on a small patch of skin prior to Halloween night to avoid an unnecessary trip to the emergency room and look for face paint that has the FDA approved list of color additives, especially if your child tends to have allergies.  Ensure that all makeup has been removed with soap and water prior to going to bed to prevent a breakout or staining on your clothes or skin.  Be aware that although cosmetic contact lenses may look cool, they can lead to very serious eye infections.  Remember never to share contact lenses with friends or family members and always wash your hands when putting contacts in or taking them out.

If you or your child chooses a mask in lieu of paint, remember to check the mask for sharp edges and make sure there is enough room in the mask to breathe comfortably.  Adults should limit intake of black licorice as it can cause potassium levels to fall which can lead to abnormal heart rhythms or heart failure in adults.  Obviously certain activities can also increase your susceptibility to germs, such as bobbing for apples or sharing drinks or food at a party.  Remember that the cold and flu season has already begun and these activities can spread germs.

If you choose not to trick or treat with your children, be sure to check your state’s website for sex offenders and do not allow your children to trick or treat at these houses.  Make sure you know the route your children are taking and if possible, make sure an adult travels with the group of trick or treaters.  Ensure that your children understand there is a firm curfew on Halloween night, so you know when your children are supposed to be safely home.  Make sure your children have a cell phone available to call if they are delayed.  Warn your children about the flammable nature of clothing they may be wearing and advise them to keep their distance from lit jack-o-lanterns.

Lastly, ensure your children know the difference between a harmless trick and vandalism or criminal behavior.  Above all, remember to warn your children not to get into a car, enter a house or even talk to strangers.  If they are approached by a stranger and feel uncomfortable, they should scream and run away as fast as possible.  All children should know how to safely cross the street and to look out for smaller children.  Halloween should be a fun time for the entire family, so be careful and enjoy the holiday!

Nebraska Dog Bites Fall Under Strict Liability Statute

They are man’s best friend.  They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent.  Although the majority of time dogs are docile and friendly, they sometimes can be dangerous.  Dogs can be aggressive, sometimes lacking malicious intent, but causing serious injury or death nonetheless.  In Nebraska, dog owners are liable for any and all damages to anyone except a trespasser under a statutory strict liability.

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 54-601 sets forth dog bite liability.  As dogs are personal property for all intents and purposes, the owner of a dog is liable for any and all damages that could accrue (1) to any person other than a trespasser by reason of having been bitten by such dog or dogs and (2) to any person, firm, or corporation by reason of such dog or dogs killing, wounding, injuring, worrying or chasing any person or persons or any sheep or other domestic animals belonging to such person.  Owners become strictly liable for the actions of their dogs.

The Nebraska dog bite statute also applies to scratches, knock-downs and other attacks.  In 2009, the Supreme Court clarified the legislative intent in Underhill v. Hobelman, 279 Neb. 30, 34 (2009).  Underwood demonstrated that not only does Nebraska’s dog bite statute apply to bites, but any means of injury.  A potential exception is the dog that causes damages during playful and mischievous acts.  Donner v. Plymate, 193 Neb. 647, 649-650 (1975).  Nebraska recognizes a strict liability standard for nearly all dog bites.  Donner determined that, when read together, the terms “killing”, “wounding”, “worrying” and “chasing” implied the dog was acting aggressively.  The Nebraska statute does not require the injury to be inflicted maliciously, however.

Nebraska’s strict liability statute on dog attacks and dog bites allows for recovery for damages without a showing of negligence on the part of the owner.  If you have been bitten by a dog, make sure you file a dog bite report with the Nebraska Humane Society.  You will want to gather the following information:

1)   Information about the dog that bit you, including name, age, address, color, breed and vaccination history (if available).  You may be able to find some of this information on the bite report completed by the Nebraska Humane Society.  Do NOT attempt to approach the dog again to obtain this information on your own.  You could risk further injury.

2)   Information about the owner of the dog, including name, address and phone number.

3)   Name of the dog’s veterinarian.

4)   Photos of the dog bite and the area of the attack.  If your clothing was torn, take photographs of the damage to your clothing, as well as keeping the clothing.  You may need it at a later time.

5)   Copies of any medical bills you receive as a result of treatment for the bite or attac

It is important to hire an attorney early in order to protect your rights.  Dog bite claims have time limits in which to bring your claim, so be sure to contact an attorney with experience handling dog bite claims.

Lawyers Against Hunger

Inserra & Kelley will again be hosting the Lawyers Against Hunger turkey giveaway to support our community.  This year’s event will take place on November 26, 2013 between 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. in the No Frills Supermarket parking lot located at 50th & G Streets in Omaha, NE.  You must have a ticket from the Omaha Food Bank distribution in order to pick up a turkey.  If you have a ticket, be sure to complete the back side with your name, address, phone number and email address as we will be drawing for a $100.00 No Frills grocery giveaway at 5:30 p.m.  You do not need to be present to win.

Iowa Department of Transportation Proposes Regulation of Traffic Cameras

If you are operating a motor vehicle in the State of Iowa, you know speeds are carefully monitored.  Last week, the Iowa Department of Transportation published new rules requiring cities and counties to provide proof there’s a critical safety concern at a specific location before traffic monitoring cameras would be allowed at that location.  The proposed rules will be presented at a public hearing at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday at the Iowa Capital in front of a committee of five Republicans and five Democrats who provide legislative oversight on state agency rule making.

If you would like to comment on the proposed rules, please send your suggestions to the Department of Transportation prior to October 29, 2013.  The rules could go into effect as early as February 12, 2014.

At the current time, nine Iowa cities and Polk County use automated cameras to ticket motorists for minor traffic infractions, such as running a red light or violating posted speed limits.  The cities included are:  Cedar Rapids, Clive, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Muscatine, Sioux City and Windsor Heights.  Some of these cities use permanent cameras on highways or Interstates, while others use mobile cameras mounted in vehicles parked alongside state roads.

Although opinions vary on how cost effective and efficient this process is, law enforcement contends roads are safer when drivers know their actions are being monitored.  Although the rules would provide some oversight and regulation to the use of the cameras, some politicians and citizens would like to see a permanent ban on the traffic monitoring cameras.

Hunting Safety Prevents Tragic Accidents

The fall season brings many fun activities including football games, Halloween and, of course, hunting season.  In Nebraska, big game hunting seasons begin in late August and continue through the end of January.   Whether you prefer to hunt with a bow and arrow or with a hunting firearm, following standard safety rules can prevent serious injury and even death.   In 2012, there were nine hunting incidents in Nebraska, including eight resulting in personal injury and one fatality.  One of the incidents resulted from illegal hunting activity.

Nebraska law  requires all persons age twelve through twenty-nine years of age who hunt with a firearm or crossbow to complete a firearm hunter education program.  An approved hunter education course includes a minimum of ten hours of classroom instruction, or independent study sufficient to pass an examination given by the commission followed by the student’s participation in a minimum of four hours of practical instruction in the areas of safe firearms use, shooting and sighting techniques, hunter ethics, game identification and conservation management.

Some basic hunter safety tips can keep you and your entire hunting party safe.

  • Assume your weapon is always loaded and avoid pointing a weapon in any direction you do not wish it to be fired;
  • Keep your safety on and point the barrel of your firearm down when walking with or transporting a firearm;
  • Make sure you can identify your target before discharging your weapon, avoiding any area where humans are present;
  • Wear safety orange and a brightly colored hat when hunting to avoid blending in with your surroundings and accidentally being mistaken for wildlife;
  • Ensure your target is deceased prior to putting them into or strapping them onto your vehicle;
  • Never hunt with small children;
  • Do not climb up or down a tree or over a fence with a loaded gun.  Pass your gun to a hunting partner with the safety on and allow them to hand it to you when you are in shooting position;
  • Stay sober and avoid mind-altering drugs before or during your hunting session;
  • Look beyond your target to avoid striking something other than your target should you miss the primary target;
  • Whenever possible, hunt with a buddy or ensure someone knows your hunting path and schedule of when you expect to return;
  • When using a tree stand, wear a safety belt;
  • Test all your hunting equipment to ensure it is working properly and you know the correct way to operate all equipment;
  • Store and transport your ammunition separately from your firearm;
  • When not in use, keep both ammunition and firearms under lock and key;
  • Never shoot at a sound or movement;
  • Store both firearms and bows in cool, dry places;
  • Carry a safety kit and first aid kit, including a waterproof fire-starting kit to avoid hypothermia if you get wet or stranded in an area you are not familiar with;
  • Make sure your vehicle is in good working order and stocked with safety gear, including survival rations, rope, a flare gun, space blanket, hand axe, whistle and small compass; and
  • Carry your cell phone in a waterproof plastic bag when hunting so if an emergency arises, you can call for help.

With proper preparation and observation of safety procedures, you and your hunting party can enjoy the sport and avoid a preventable tragedy.