Ever Shortening Hospital Stays…

You probably know someone who had a major hospital procedure who returned home just a day or two later. It’s a story that’s becoming more and more common.
Did you know length of stay is tied at least in part to how hospitals are paid?

As recently as 1980 – the average hospital stay lasted 7.3 days. Now it’s approximately half that amount of time.

What happened?

For one – Medicare stopped paying hospitals for the cost of a stay and started paying tied to a patient’s individual diagnosis.   Under this new “system”, hospitals are paid the same for a given diagnosis whether a patient stays one day – or four. In other words – actuaries (people who compile and analyze statistics – using them to calculate payments) began deciding for doctors and patients when a patient was healthy enough to be discharged – all without seeing the individual patient involved. This change effectively shifted financial “risk” from the government to hospitals – making it more profitable for hospitals to limit time of care – often regardless of patient needs.

Put simply – shorter stays mean greater profit for hospitals.

What has all this meant for patients and their families?

New challenges for caring for loved ones and readmission rates on the rise.

Why are rates rising?

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Newly Discovered Child Car Seat Dangers Revealed…

If you are like most parents or grandparents – you probably bundle up your little ones when the weather turns cold, before you secure them in their car seat.

One would think that is a “best practice” – right?

Investigators at NBC just released the results of a test looking at just how safe children dressed in winter coats and belted into their car seats really are in a car accident. The results are disturbing.

It turns out that loosening the straps of a children’s car seat to accommodate a bulkier coat makes it much more likely your child will come tumbling out of both their car seat and their coat in a car crash.

So what are the options?

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National Highway Safety Agency About to Get Teeth

In a rare moment of bipartisanship – the U.S. House of Representatives just passed a $305 billion highway bill that is expected to be passed by the U.S. Senate and signed by the President.

In that bill are provisions to strengthen the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA was established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970 with the mission of achieving the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety.

Sadly – it has often failed to do that job well. And consumers have paid a terrible price.

Provisions in this new highway plan are intended to give the agency new powers and larger budgets in the hope that the number of unsafe cars and trucks – a leading cause of car accidents in the U.S. – can be reduced.

Here is a summary of the key provisions of the bill:

  • The cap on civil penalties that can be levied by the NHTSA will be tripled to $105 million.
  • The agency’s defect investigations budget will be tripled – from $10 million per year to $30 million annually.
  • Rental companies will be strictly forbidden from renting cars with unfixed recalls.
  • Whistleblowers who report concerns about serious safety violations at car companies and suppliers will be rewarded with up to 30% of the collected penalties if that information leads to a fine.
  • A grant program will be set up for states – allowing them to set up systems to inform consumers of open recalls when those consumers are renewing vehicle registrations.
  • Auto dealers will be required by law to notify consumers of active recalls when visiting for service.
  • Auto makers will be required to provide part numbers for all defective parts involved in a recall.
  • NHTSA will be given the authority to investigate developing in-car alerts systems for consumers that signal when a recall has been issued.
  • The Secretary of Transportation will issue a directive authorizing auto makers to use a variety of electronic platforms to inform consumers whenever there is a recall.

The last decade has witnessed an alarming rise in the number of automakers and parts suppliers knowingly selling products to consumers that were both defective and dangerous. Perhaps this new highway bill will help stem that tide.

If you’re ever injured in a car or truck accident of any kind, whether or not it was caused by a defective product, know that the Connecticut car accident lawyers at RisCassi & Davis have been assisting drivers injured in accidents for 60 years. And we have received both state and national recognition for our work in this area. If you are ever in a car accident of any kind and would like a free consultation with one of our Connecticut car accident lawyers, please contact usThere is no obligation.

Are Driverless Cars Really an Option?

driverless_cars

Photo credit: Department for Transport (DfT) / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Imagine what earlier generations of Americans would say if they could see and experience the technologically advanced cars of the 21st century?   From onboard radar systems, to night vision technology, advanced camera systems and self driving capabilities – cars are becoming technological wonders.

One of the major factors driving this startling pace of technology advancement is auto safety –reducing the number of car accidents. And one of the most important components in these new cars is their advanced computer systems – capable of not only aiding those driving the cars – but also capable of communicating with other vehicles and with local traffic control systems. It is these systems that will form the backbone of a driverless car world.

But is there a potential downside to all of this technology? Could these systems actually be capable of making travel less safe and car accidents more likely?

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Why Young Drivers Have More Car Accidents…

It’s long been known that adolescent drivers are more likely than adult drivers to have car accidents. And most of us think we know why they do… inexperience.

Well – researchers have recently looked at data to try and gain a better understanding of why teenager drivers crash and here is what they’ve found:

  • Peer relationships shape teenage behavior. Adolescents sometimes act irresponsibly when they are in groups – a result of peer pressure. These pressures can impact driving behavior in dangerous ways.
  • Teenagers tend to exhibit optimistic bias – thinking bad things won’t happen to them – resulting in poor decision making and dangerous behavior.teen_driver_distraction
  • Hormonal shifts in males and cultural beliefs about maleness and driving fast lead to dangerous driving behavior.
  • Teenage drivers tend to be emotional and the mood swings of adolescence seem to adversely affect driving behavior.
  • Good parenting matters. A study of 2,000 young drivers in Michigan found that the level of parental monitoring and permissiveness was strongly associated with driving behavior. Permissiveness in general and early adolescent drug/alcohol use (before the age of 15) linked to parental permissiveness of this behavior was associated with a higher risk for car accidents.
  • There appears to be a subset of the population that is known as sensation seekers, individuals who enjoy risky behavior. Teenagers in this group appear much more likely to drive at dangerous speeds and experiment with drugs and alcohol and drive while impaired.
  • Yes – experience matters. Researchers have found that new drivers experience about 5.9 car crashes for every 100 licensed drivers during the first six months of driving; a rate that subsequently falls to 3.4 car crashes per 100 drivers for the next six months, and then to between 1.3 and 3.0 crashes per 100 drivers for the months following. Another study looked at environmental factors like narrow roads, curves and steeply graded roads and their impact on accident rates. In this study, 16 year old drivers showed a greater likelihood of crashing than older drivers.
  • Speed (and poor judgment) kills. In one recent study – teenage drivers – both boys and girls, reported driving at speeds of 80 miles per hour or more in the last year.
  • Distractions are a menace – and getting worse. We have written extensively about the influence of cellular technology on driver safety. This factor is a significant problem for both adult and teen drivers – but a particularly dangerous one for inexperienced drivers.

So, what is a parent to do?

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So How Do You Hold Your Steering Wheel?

Do you remember your mom or dad reminding you as a young driver to hold the steering wheel of your car at 10:00 and 2:00? Or maybe it was your driving instructor? We were all told that holding the wheel in that fashion would give us more control over the car and help us avoid car accidents.

Well – that was then and this is now…and things have changed!

Though it may be hard to remember, cars 20 or more years ago had large diameter steering wheels. They were larger in part to give the driver more leverage when turning. Newer vehicles now actually have significantly smaller steering wheels with airbags embedded in their centers. These newer cars also have much more efficient power steering assist mechanisms.

What does that mean for you?

Safety officials now recommend that drivers hold their steering wheels at 9:00 and 3:00 or even 8:00 and 4:00.

With this hand placement you gain better vehicle control (fewer car accidents) – with no risk that air bag deployment will blow your hands and arms into your face causing injury.

Are Some Days Deadlier For Teen Drivers Than Others?

teenage_drivingTeens as drivers can be a dangerous group and they cause a disproportionate share of car accidents.

There are many reasons why. There’s the newness of the mechanical aspects of driving. There’s the intoxicating aspect of new freedoms (independence from parents and home). And there is the unfamiliarity with unpredictable environmental conditions (rain, snow, fog, sunlight, darkness, etc.) and with the odd behaviors of other drivers that no driver education program or parent can fully teach.

But are some days in fact more dangerous for teen drivers than others – days when more teenage car accidents occur?

Yes.

The first week of driving is particularly dangerous. And then there are what police call “the 100 deadliest days” – Memorial Day to Labor Day.

On average, over 50% of drivers killed on our highways in car accidents during these 100 days are our youngest drivers.

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