Archive for the ‘Be Safe’ Category

Stepping Up To The Plate

June 12, 2014
The 1991 Columbia Little League Giants (your's truly standing in the back with glasses and no hat)

The 1991 Columbia Little League Giants
(your’s truly standing in the back with glasses and no hat)

I was 10 or 11 years old when I stepped from the on-deck circle and looked up the third baseline to get the sign from coach. I hated coming to the plate in these situations. This time was even worse. This time we were down by a run. It was the last inning. The tying run stood on third base. I certainly wasn’t the strongest batter on the team, one might even say I was one of the weaker ones. Coach knew this. Despite my weakness swinging the bat, I was good at laying down a bunt. Coach knew this too. My heart pounded into my throat when I received his sign. Hopeful I had misunderstood, I kept looking, waiting for clarification. Again it came. Coach called the suicide squeeze.

I knew that as soon as the opposing pitcher began his windup, my teammate would sprint from third base toward home plate. He’d be halfway down the baseline when the ball reached the plate. That’s the suicide part. If I don’t do my part, he’s a goner. My part? Square my shoulders, level my bat, make contact with the ball, and run toward first base. No matter what. If everything went as planned, my teammate would cross home plate before the third baseman or the pitcher could retrieve my bunted ball and make the out. That’s the plan anyway.

Nervously, I entered the batter’s box. My knuckles white with anxious courage. I could hear my heart beat in my ears. From the corner of my eye, I saw my teammate begin his trusting sprint toward me. The ball left the pitchers hand. It was time-the moment the game was riding on. Everything I had learned depended on this moment. My team depended on me.

I squared my shoulders. I leveled my bat. Wait! I was in luck, the pitch was a ball! Low and outside! Relieved, I pulled back my bat, grateful I had escaped near certain embarrassment.

Before the catcher even caught the ball, I realized what I had done. I saw my teammate running toward home, a look of surprise and amazement on his face as he realized what I’d done. I had one job. Make contact with the ball. When the moment came, my youthful inexperience and inability to handle the pressure of the situation overcame my training and the expectations of everyone who depended on me. I stepped back from the batter’s box just in time to allow the catcher to easily tag my teammate for the second out of the inning.

A few strikes later, I walked back to the dugout. Frustrated and discouraged, I had struck out for the last out of the game. Game over. At least I went down swinging.

What does one of my childhood’s most shameful moments have to do with anything?

This week marks “the moment” in the lives of many of you high school seniors. After donning cap and gown, you will walk up to the batter’s box. You will step up to the plate with all your training and experience. You will take everything we taught you-everything you learned from parents, teachers, and classmates and you will give this suicide squeeze we call life your best effort. Your part?  Make contact-make those choices that will allow those around you, especially your friends, to safely reach their destination. Wherever that might be.

Along the way, you will face a bad pitch. A bottle of alcohol. A heavy accelerator pedal. A couple of out-of-town parents.

You will probably face several bad pitches and you will have to make the right decisions.

When bad pitches come, and they will come, remember your training. Remember what you’ve learned at school and what your parents taught you. You can handle bad pitches. Square your shoulders and make the safe decision. Make the decisions-the decisions that help your friends reach their destination safely.

If you stumble, if you make a bad choice, if you fall, fix it. Get up, step up to the plate, stand tall and fix it. Make the better choice. You have your whole lives ahead of you. Make the choices that will keep your game going. Be the player your teachers and parents taught you to become.


You Can’t Text 9-1-1 in Clark County….YET.

May 16, 2014

911Much has been circulating throughout the news and in social media about being able to text 9-1-1 from your cellular phone.  You’ve probably heard that you can now text 9-1-1 because yesterday, May 15, 2014, was the deadline for mobile carriers to be technologically ready to allow consumers to text 9-1-1 for emergencies.


Even though you may be able to text to 9-1-1, many government agencies are not yet prepared to receive the text messages.  This is the case with Clark County.  The Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA) is currently working on equipment upgrades that will allow it to receive text messages here in Vancouver and the surrounding Clark County area.  They’re not there yet.  Currently, if you try to text 9-1-1 you will receive only a bounce-back reply from your carrier telling you that your text message was not received by a CRESA.

If you’re in an emergency, CRESCA suggests a voice call anyway–its better for the exchange of information and to allow a more efficient response time. That said, its important to know and understand that even if you’re in a situation where you’d prefer not to use your voice (I can think of many, but would rather not), a text message won’t do you any good and should not yet be relied upon as a method of calling for help or assistance.

Hopefully none of us (or our friends) will have to contact 9-1-1 anyway, but if we do, its important to be informed and to know and understand how to call for help in an emergency. Be safe.


Just Turn Right

March 17, 2014

Right-Turn-Only-Traffic-Sign-K-1829I don’t normally publicize my own wrong-doings and misdeeds. What’s the point? I need to do it this time. This may seem trivial to some and possibly unnecessary to most. To me, this is important.

Friday I went to a church activity (I’m one of the leaders of the church I attend). During a break my wife and I were talking to a mother and her daughter in our congregation. You see, the daughter, “M,” and my daughter, Hannah, go to the same elementary school and we are quite close with her family. Each morning before work, I drop Hannah off at school. Last week “M” was volunteering as a student crossing guard. You know, the ones with the bright “STOP” signs on the wooden pole that walk out when students are crossing the street. During the conversation, I mentioned to “M” that I saw her but commented that she didn’t see me. Exasperated, she exclaimed that she did see me. She added that as I turned left out of the school parking lot, the adult crossing guard was “maaaaaad at me.”  I asked why, and she explained that the crossing guard was upset that I didn’t obey the “Right Turn Only” sign that was clearly posted. Confused and somewhat taken aback, I countered (I’m now arguing with an 11-year-old) “but tons of people turn left there, not just me….What did I do that was so much worse than what everybody else did?”  Her reply, was simple and piercing. “Nothing, she gets mad at everybody that turns left there.”  We bantered back and forth as I tried to explain and justify my defiance. My wife added there was even a recent plea in the school newsletter. In the end, I’m not sure how the conversation ended, but ever since it did, I have been unable to shake the guilt and remorse I feel.

First, I’ve been a poor example. I realized the poor example I was setting for “M” and all the other children when I  obey some laws and choose to break others. I magnified my poor example by my attempts to explain away my disobedience. That was not fair to her, and for that I apologize. Obedience to the law is mandatory, and nobody—especially me—is above that requirement. She was the example to me when I should have been to her. I’m sorry “M.”

If not for ourselves, we owe obedience to the driving laws (and other safety rules) to our children. I still remember the time my mom got a speeding ticket. Even though my mom was generally a good driver, this single experience justified my teenage choices to blatantly disobey speeding laws. “If mom can do it, why can’t I?” With every rule we parents choose to break, we justify our children’s future disobedience. We must demand obedience from ourselves today if we ever expect obedience from our children tomorrow.

Second, I’ve been a hypocrite. As a personal injury attorney, a safety advocate, and a community blogger, I preach adherence to safety rules, all of them. Whether related to speed, direction, following distance, impairment or distractions these rules are necessary to keep us safe and to protect us from harm. Me must follow them–there is no option or justification for disobedience. This applies even to the rules that “everybody breaks” or the laws that seem, to us, unimportant.

I shudder to imagine the potential consequences of my choices. Fortunately, the only effect was an embarrassing realization that I was a poor example to someone who looked up to me and a poor example to the adult who knew I should have acted more responsibly. Thankfully I can apologize to them and make more responsible driving choices in the future. Luckily my choice to disobey the law did not cause greater harm or injury to one of my daughter’s classmates. I couldn’t fix that result.

I’m happy to say that I turned right this morning. Thanks “M.”

Washington Cyclists are More Protected After Yesterday’s Supreme Court Ruling

January 31, 2014
Bollards installed near the I-205 bridge in May 2013, after a woman drove nearly two miles on the I-205 bike path

Bollards installed near the I-205 bridge in May 2013, after a motorist drove nearly two miles on the I-205 bike path

Many cyclists have faced the same danger that paralyzed cyclist Susan Camicia.  I know I have; countless times.  Susan was severely injured while bicycling along the bike trail on I-90.  As she approached an intersection, she had to veer to the left to avoid striking temporary fencing that had been installed by a construction contractor to prevent public access to a nearby construction site.  After navigating around the fencing, she looked up, just in time to see a wooden post that was erected to keep vehicles from entering the paved bike path.  Unfortunately she was unable to change her direction before striking the pole. She fell from her bike and as a result was rendered paraplegic. She brought a claim for injuries against the contractor who installed the fencing (for allowing the fencing to protrude onto the bike path) and the city (for allowing the dangerous condition to exist on the property).  The city responded that it was immune from liability under RCW 4.24.210–which provides immunity from liability for unintentional injuries to landowners who “allow members of the public to use [the land] for the purposes of outdoor recreation…without charging a fee of any kind therefor[e].”  Surprisingly, the trial court agreed with the city and granted summary judgment against Ms. Camicia.  On appeal, the Washington State Court of Appeals reversed the decision and held that the city was not entitled to summary judgment.  The city appealed.  The case made it all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court.  Yesterday, in Susan Camicia v. Howard S. Wright Construction Co. and City of Mercer Island, the court issued a ruling that better protects Washington’s cyclists.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) originally built the I-90 bike trail in the mid-to-late 1980’s.  Like many other bike paths in Washington, small wooden posts were originally installed at intersections with city streets to prevent vehicles from entering the asphalt trail.

After a series of governmental studies in which both the Federal Highway Administration and the Washington State Department of Transportation determined that the bike trail was “primarily for transportation and…an integral part of the local transportation system” and only “minimally and fairly insignificant[ly] used for recreational purposes, WSDOT determined the bike trail was not a public park or recreation area and later transferred the trail to the City of Mercer Island.  As a part of the sale, the contract stated: “It is understood and agreed that the…property is transferred for road/street purposes only, and no other use shall be made of said property without obtaining prior written approval of [WSDOT].”

Despite the above, and in response to Ms. Camicia’s injury claim, the City alleged that it “understood the trail to be primarily recreational in nature” and that recreation immunity follows even  if the land is used for “incidental recreational use.”  Distinguishing many cases relied upon by the city, the Supreme Court disagreed.  The court held:

To establish entitlement to recreational use immunity, the City must prove its portion of the I-90 trail is open to the public for outdoor recreation. Whether the City allowed the public to use the trail for purposes of outdoor recreation is a contested factual issue. Because the trier of fact [the jury] could find that the I-90 trail is open for the public purpose of transportation rather than recreational use, the Court of Appeals correctly held the City was not entitled to summary judgment in its favor.

Essentially, the Court precluded the blind application of recreational immunity unless the landowner (here the city) can prove the land was actually opened for recreational use and not transportation. I, like you, have ridden many times on trails in Vancouver (the Salmon Creek Trail, Padden Parkway Trail, and Burnt Bridge Creek Trail come to mind initially) and in Portland (the Springwater Trail and the Marine Drive Bike Path are fun), that have faced dangers (whether deteriorating asphalt, trail hazards, overgrown bushes and trees, or other unimaginables). Knowing that the cities who own these bike paths cannot simply hide behind the recreational immunity statute offers some level of protection–and assurance that they will keep these trails safer for our use.

As always, remember to be safe out there.

You can see more about Ms. Camicia and her story here (as well as her endorsement for “Outdoors for All”, an organization that provides recreational assistance for those with disabilities).

10 Commonly Misunderstood Rules of the Road

January 22, 2014

In high school, I missed just one question on my Utah State Driver’s Education written test. I still remember the question:

QUESTION:  When passing another vehicle, how many miles per hour can a driver exceed the posted speed limit?

a) 3 mph

b) 5 mph

c) 10 mph

d) None of the above

Looking back, nearly *cough* twenty years, I still cannot believe I answered “B.” But back then, as a 16 year-old high school student, the trickery was too much for me to resist—the answer just “sounded right.”

I have since realized that this same basic principle happens on our roads nearly every day. Many times we follow “a law” that is not actually “the law” and frequently doesn’t even resemble the law. We do this for the same reason I missed the question above; because it “sounds right” or because we “think” its right. Perhaps you are a more knowledgeable driver than I, but there are definitely some commonly misunderstood driving laws that we could all better understand. Many of these laws are state specific, so outside of Washington these rules may not apply:

  1. Cell Phone Use: By now you are aware that it is against Washington law to “send, read, or write a text message” while operating a moving vehicle. RCW 46.61.668(1). Fewer know that a person “does not send, read, or write a text message when he or she reads, selects, or enters a phone number or name in a wireless communications device for the purposes of making a phone call.” RCW 46.61.668(1). Remember, it is against Washington law to hold “a wireless communications device” to one’s ear while operating a motor vehicle. RCW 46.61.667. So to sum it all up, a driver can look at their phone, dial a number, and hold a conversation so long as the driver does not put the phone to his or her ear or send/read a text message.
  2. Four-Way Stops: I’m not sure how much of this is lack of knowledge, and how much is lack of execution, but this definitely seems to be misunderstood, or perhaps ignored. When two vehicles approach or enter an intersection at approximately the same time, “the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.” RCW 46.61.180.
  3. Stop Signs: Again, I think we all “know” this principle, but here it is good to actually know the specifics. Upon approaching a stop sign, a driver must come to a complete stop behind the “clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering a marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway.” RCW 46.61.190. Additionally, after coming to a complete stop, the driver must proceed through the intersection “in a careful manner and at a reasonable rate of speed not to exceed twenty miles per hour.” RCW 47.36.110.
  4. Left Turns: This law answers the question unanswered by the “four way” stop law above—who has the right of way when two vehicles arrive at an intersection at the same time from opposite directions. “The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left…shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.” RCW 46.61.185.
  5. Emergency Vehicles:  Whenever an “emergency vehicle” is “making use of audible and visual signals” or when a “police vehicle” is “making use of an audible signal” every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and “shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.” RCW 46.61.210.
  6. Cross-walks Signals: Pedestrians facing a “WALK” or walking person symbol, may cross the crosswalk in the direction of the signal. Pedestrians facing a flashing “DON’T WALK” or hand symbol shall not enter the crosswalk. RCW 46.61.060.
  7. Yellow Lights: Washington law on this point is relatively unique. In many states, yellow either means “hurry up and stop” or it means “hurry up and go.” A yellow light in Washington means only that “the related green movement is being terminated or that a red indication will be exhibited immediately thereafter when vehicular traffic shall not enter the intersection.” RCW 46.61.055(2). Essentially this means that a driver facing a yellow light “may proceed through intersection when he can do so before the yellow light turns red.” Brummett v. Cyr, 45 Wa.2d 904 (1960).
  8. U-Turns: In Washington, U-turns are allowed except where signs indicate they are not allowed. Still, U-turns are not allowed “unless such movement can be made in safety and without interfering with other traffic.” Further, U-turns are not allowed where “such vehicle cannot be seen by the driver of any other vehicle approaching from either direction within five hundred feet.” RCW 46.61.295.
  9. Embracing Another While Driving: This is a fun one. It is “unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle upon the highways of this state when such person has in his or her embrace another person which prevents the free and unhampered operation of such vehicle.” RCW 46.61.665. It’s worth noting, that violating this rule is complete evidence of reckless driving.
  10. Slow Moving Vehicles: Even I learned something while writing this. So I will end, where I began, with passing a slower moving vehicle. First, “no person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced sped is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.” RCW 46.61.425. However, a driver travelling behind another who is “driving at less than the legal maximum speed” down a road, with only one lane of traffic in each direction, “may exceed the speed limit…at only such a speed and for only such a distance as is necessary to complete the pass with a reasonable margin of safety.” RCW 46.61.425. When performing such a pass, the driver must return to his lane of travel as soon as practicable and before coming within two hundred feet of any approaching traffic. RCW 46.61.120.

The important thing to remember is to be safe on the roads; to drive in a manner that is respectable and courteous of other drivers and to pay attention to your surroundings. As my mom always told me, “just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

Though the content of this post is entirely mine, it was first featured in Vancouver Family Magazine.  It is used here with permission.

Have You Heard About the New 2014 Child Safety Seat Installation Recommendations?

January 8, 2014

IMG_2137As a father of four children, my wife and I literally use the spectrum of child safety seats in each of our cars. My oldest son, Caden, has been out of a booster for some time. My youngest three children are still in varying levels of child safety seats. Hannah is in a booster, Jaxon is in a front-facing car seat, and Allison is in a rear-facing car seat. Despite our over eight years of experience using/installing child safety seats, new government recommendations made us reconsider our installation habits.

Like many of you, we find the convenience and ease-of-use of the LATCH system to be so much easier than strapping the car seat every time we get in the car. If you’re unfamiliar with the LATCH system, a brief explanation may be necessary so we’re on the same page. On most modern cars, the rear seats are equipped with metal braces that can be found by running your hand between the seat back and the bottom of the seat. Most new child seats are equipped with an attachment that clips to the metal braces making it much quicker and easier to secure your child’s safety seat than using the standard safety belt installed in your car.  Importantly, as your children grow, it may no longer be safe to use the LATCH system in your car.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the government agency that oversees motor vehicle transportation, now recommends that the LATCH system only be used until the combined weight of the child and the car seat exceed 65 pounds.  Once this occurs, the LATCH system may not be strong enough to secure the child seat if you are in a collision. In other words, if the LATCH system fails in a collision, your child, though secured in their child seat, may become a projectile inside your car. Needless to say, that is not a very safe place for your child to be!

Other things to consider are the manufacturer recommendations of the LATCH system in your car and the manufacturer recommendations of your child safety seat.  These devices may only be approved for a combined weight less than 65 pounds. In such cases, you should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations rather than wait until the combined weight reaches 65 pounds.

While it seems government recommendations are always changing relative to the installation of child safety seats, it is important to remember that millions of dollars of research go into these recommendations every year. They change because it is scientifically safer for our children when new recommendations are followed.

Check the combined weight of your child and their child safety seats. A good rule of thumb, would be to check the combined weight regularly as your child approaches 50 pounds. If your children grow anywhere near as fast as mine, it won’t be long before the combined weight exceeds 65 pounds.

Please, Please, Please Don’t Drink and Drive

October 1, 2013

Dont-Drink-DriveEach month I author a safety column in the Vancouver Family Magazine. Vancouver Family Magazine is a locally produced publication who’s mission is “to strengthen a sense of community by providing Clark County families with comprehensive and locally based resources and information regarding parenting, education, news, community events and personalities, recreation, and more.” A couple of weeks ago, I submitted my contribution to the October issue, entitled “One Drunk Driver“.

In the column I shared recent statistics about those killed as a result of drunk driving. I won’t reiterate those numbers here, (read the article in Vancouver Family Magazine if you’re interested) but will repeat only that in 2011, drunk drivers killed 1,612 friends and family members–passengers inside the drunk’s own car.

That was two weeks ago. This last weekend, there was a single car crash that seems directly related to drunk driving. Sunday evening, around 8:30 p.m., Kenneth Jones was driving east from Vancouver toward Camas when his “vehicle left the roadway about a mile west of the 164th Avenue exit…went down an embankment, hit several large rocks and overturned, landing on its top.” The passenger in his car, Daniel Alexander of Vancouver, was pronounced dead at the scene.

How tragic.

How unfortunate.

How senseless.

Having lost a loved one in a motor vehicle crash myself, the loss is agonizing and forever. I feel for Mr. Alexander’s family and understand the grief and pain they are surely trying to deal with right now.  Whatever struggles and demons Mr. Jones may have endured before Sunday night, he must now add the guilt associated with choosing to drive while intoxicated and thereby taking the life of his friend or family member. I do not have the imagination necessary to calculate the weight of that burden.

As I stated in an earlier post, these crashes are not accidents. They are the final and permanent result of an irrational choice to break rules designed to keep everybody safe.  Please, please, please don’t drink and drive.

Do Your Kids Know What to Do?

September 10, 2013


Every Monday night, my wife and I gather our kids together for a night we call “Family Home Evening.”  Essentially, because we know our lives are too chaotic and way too busy we set aside Monday nights as family time. We often have short lessons to help our kids grow into better people, play games, or talk about important issues affecting our family or our community.

One Monday, about a year ago, my wife and I decided to have a fire drill of sorts. In the middle of our Family Home Evening, without any warning to our kids, we turned on the fire alarm. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! It didn’t stop. The piercing noise was loud and frightened our kids more than I had expected. Soon, after we were able to calm them, we helped our kids to know what to do and where to go if there ever was a real fire.  We practiced a few times and eventually they seemed to feel comfortable with the plan. Their initial chaotic and panicked response turned to reasoned and orderly determination.  I was so happy we took just a few moments to plan and prepare them for something I hope never happens.  That was over a year ago.

Yesterday, I was watching the news before dinner and saw this  segment on KGW News Channel 8: Family Escapes Forest Grove Fire. To sum up the story, a refrigerator caught fire in the garage and burned into the attic. The mother and her four children were able to escape the home and met at the mailbox across the street–just like they had practiced several times before. Proper planning may have saved the lives of any of these young children.

Did you know that each year over 4,000 people die in house fires each year.  Over 500,000 residential house fires are reported each year to fire departments across the country. On average, that’s over 10,000 house fires per state!

My kids are young. Caden is 8, Hannah is 5. Jaxon is only 3.  He probably doesn’t even remember the night we practiced the fire escape plan. We’re probably due for a refresher course. It’ll be good for them (a small part of me wants to see the look of terror on their faces again) and good for us as a family. I’d urge you, especially if you have young children, to make a family escape plan, and make sure everybody knows what to do and where to go if there is a fire in your house. It doesn’t take but an hour or so one evening, and its good quality family time–missing Monday Night Football won’t hurt too badly. I promise.

Hopefully you’ll never need it. But if you do, you can thank me later.

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