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Drivers and Homeowners Beware, Red-Flag Warning in Effect Across Orange County

March 12, 2014,

High winds, warmer temperatures and extremely low humidity have combined to create the perfect environment for fires to start and spread throughout Orange County today. The National Weather Service believes sustained winds will blow at around 40 mph with gusts up to 60 mph, bringing potential for extreme fire behavior and have therefor issued a red-flag warning across the county until late this afternoon.

241 fire.jpgMotorists should take the following precautions while a red-flag warning is in effect:

  1. Never pull over in dry grass.
  2. Ensure trailer chains don't drag on the ground.
  3. Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained.
  4. Have proper tire pressure to avoid driving on wheel rim.
  5. Never let your brake pads wear too thin.

Home owners should take the following precautions while a red-flag warning is in effect:

  1. Residents should make sure they have 100 feet of defensible space around structures.
  2. Clear dead weeds and vegetation.
  3. Remove leaves and needles from gutters.
  4. Trim branches 6 feet from the ground.
  5. Never mow or trim dry grass on a Red Flag Warning Day. (Mow before 10 a.m. on a day when its not hot and windy).
  6. Never use lawn mowers in dry vegetation.

Should you or someone you has been injured because of a car or premises liability accident, it is in your best interest to contact a competent personal injury attorney. It is often the case that another driver or property owner will deny any responsibility or wrongdoing for the incident. I can meet with you or the victim and determine the liability of the driver or property owner and any potential insurance company. Cohn & Swartzon has been handling car accident and premises liability personal injury lawsuits for over 25 years for individuals and families in and around Orange County, California and surrounding areas, including Santa Ana, Irvine, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Yorba Linda, Anaheim, Fullerton, Brea and the surrounding communities.

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Long Beach Heightens DUI Patrols; Other Cities Likely to Follow

January 16, 2014,

In an effort to keep the streets safer, the Long Beach Police Department's DUI Enforcement Team will setup DUI checkpoint across the City this Saturday. Beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday and continuing until 3 a.m. Sunday morning, the officers will setup many checkpoints across areas with a high frequency of DUI related arrests.

Thumbnail image for empty bottes beer.jpgLast year California drunk-driving deaths increased for the first time in six years, a trend that many authorities are looking to stop. One can expect other cities to follow the lead of Long Beach, in the hopes to crack down on DUI related accidents.

While there are many types of accidents that can occur on the road; ones caused by drunk drivers are some of the worst. Drivers who consume too much alcohol have severely reduced response times and impaired decision-making processes. Combine these elements with a fast moving vehicle and you have a recipe for disaster.

Drunk drivers are often completely unaware of their surroundings and can swerve unpredictably, drift into lanes, drive too fast or too slow and fail to stop at either red lights or stop signs. Other drivers are often unaware of the drunk driver's condition until it's too late.

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High Winds Create Dangerous Conditions Across Southern California

January 14, 2014,

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning across Southern California as dry and windy conditions are setting the stage for high fire danger from Sunday to at least Thursday morning.

241 fire.jpgWind gusts over 60 mph have been reported as a ridge of high pressure has pushed into Southern California. In situations like this, drivers must be extremely alert and aware of dangerous conditions. Just yesterday a 45 foot tall tree collapsed under the pressure of the wind near a San Bernardino school, creating a very dangerous situation for cars.

In order to help prevent further dangerous situations, CAL FIRE has the following tips for drivers this week:

  • Never pull over in dry grass.
  • Ensure trailer chains don't drag on the ground.
  • Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained.
  • Have proper tire pressure to avoid driving on wheel rim.
  • Never let your brake pads wear too thin.

Drivers who do not obey these heightened security risks can be held liable for their actions if they cause injury to another person. For, if it can be proven that someone else's negligence or carelessness caused your injury, they will be liable for your damages. At Cohn & Swartzon, it is our duty to prove this. We encourage you to bring your personal injury case to our accomplished attorneys at Cohn & Swartzon, regardless of the type of accident or injury you have suffered from.

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Important New California Traffic Laws in 2014

January 3, 2014,

The start of a new year brings new opportunities, new aspirations, and more realistically, new traffic laws. While your resolutions and goals for the year may not include being a safer driver, it is important to be aware of the new regulations that drivers must now follow.

Thumbnail image for 20100401_police-ticketing-driver_614mz.jpgBicycle safety

One of the most significant and progressive new laws to take effect in 2014 concerns passing distances granted to bicyclists. It will be unlawful for any part of a motor vehicle to come within 3 feet of a bicyclist. However, if it's not possible for a motor vehicle to remain outside the 3-foot buffer zone, the driver is required to slow to a "reasonable and prudent speed and only pass when no danger is present to the bicyclist." This new law takes effect on September 16th.

Distracted driving

As already discussed in a previous post, there will be a clarification of California's distracted driving law which has now made it illegal for young drivers under 18 to use voice-activated texting, handheld, or hands-free calling. Any use of a cell phone is prohibited for these young drivers.

Hit-and-run collisions

Another law that takes effect in 2014 is related to the statute of limitations in hit-and-run collisions. Now, a criminal complaint can be filed within three years of hit-and-run crimes that result in death, permanent injuries or serious injuries. In addition, law enforcement will also have one year to file criminal charges against hit-and-run drivers after they have been identified as suspects in serious crashes.

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New California Law Closes Loophole for Teenage Drivers Using Hands-Free Text Messaging

December 27, 2013,

Starting in early 2013, California drivers were allowed to use hands free text-messaging software while driving provided it did not distract the driver from the road. However, many opponents to this new cell phone loophole were outraged that teen drivers were not excluded from this new legislation.

texting-while-driving.jpgA new law that takes effect in 2014 will close this loophole for teenage drivers, disallowing them to use any voice-responsive apps such as "Siri" to get around the ban on texting and driving.

Kelly Browning, who heads the Sacramento-based group Impact Teen Drivers, is one of the many safe-driving activists who pushed for the new law. According to her, "When the law passed last January it was allowing anybody to use voice-activated text technology. So our purpose here was to make sure that our newest, novice drivers were excluded from that."

Statistics show that car crashes in the U.S. are more common among young drivers than any other age group. Hopefully, this new law makes the road safer for all drivers.

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More Errors Found in Orange County Crime Lab DUI Tests

November 26, 2013,

In another blow to the Orange County Crime Lab's credibility, researchers have found another error in testing blood-alcohol levels related to many DUI cases over the last few months. Two weeks ago, the lab acknowledged another mistake that could directly affect many DUI cases over the last five months.

Thumbnail image for 1156122_another_beer.jpgThe Orange County Sheriff's Department believes this new error affects over 100 cases. Over 900 people already convicted of a DUI since May or with currently pending cases have been contacted by the district attorney regarding these errors.

It is important to revisit recent DUI cases to see what impact these errors in testing may have in the case. Ultimately, these many mistakes at the Orange County Crime Lab are going to place many doubts in the minds of jurors.

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Tips for Driving Safe During Heavy Rains

November 22, 2013,

Over the last few days, Orange County has witnessed torrential downpours that have saturated local roadways and created dangerous driving conditions across southern California. Since it seems like more rain is on the way, motorists should take greater precautions when driving in such conditions. The Automobile Association of America recommends the following actions to remain safe in such a treacherous environment:

  • Slow down: Motorists should drive slowly, particularly through puddles. Hitting several inches of water at high speeds can cause a driver to lose control of the car.
  • Keep your distance: A car needs two to three times more stopping distance on wet pavement, so allow extra following distance between cars. If the car skids and control is lost, do not slam on the brakes. Instead apply the brakes with a steady, light but firm pressure.
  • rainy day.jpg
  • Use the center lanes: When driving during heavy rain, use center lanes of the road (without straddling the yellow line). Avoid outside lanes where water collects at curbside.
  • Avoid distractions: Motorists are advised to minimize eating, drinking, cellular phone use, or tuning the stereo, particularly in the rain. If it's necessary to engage in these activities, pull over and stop in a safe place.
  • Stay informed: Tune into radio and television weather reports to know where flood warning areas or traffic congestion might be located. If possible, avoid these areas.
  • Park in a closed garage: This reduces condensation and moisture on vehicle windows.
  • Drive cautiously: Avoid passing other vehicles and changing lanes, if possible.
  • If stalled or a crash occurs: Attempt to exit the freeway or pull onto the shoulder and turn off lights so other motorists don't mistakenly drive into you.

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Orange County Crime Lab Misstated Blood-Alcohol Results Over Five Months

November 7, 2013,

A flawed testing system in the Orange County Crime Lab reported inaccurate blood-alcohol readings for a period of five months. These inaccurate readings may put into question the evidence surrounding hundreds of criminal drunken driving cases over this period.


Authorities state that the error in the testing system was so small that the results in the vast majority of these criminal drunken driving cases will not be in question. However, the fact that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was intoxicated while driving still raises some questions.

In situations like this where the validity of scientific equipment comes into question in criminal cases, it is extremely important to obtain proper legal representation to navigate the legal hurdles ahead.

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Dense Fog Across Southern California Creates Dangerous Driving Conditions

October 21, 2013,

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a dense fog advisory alert across many parts of Southern California over the weekend and into this morning. The NWS stated that very low visibility will likely make Monday's early morning commute more treacherous on streets and freeways.Thumbnail image for

Since most drivers do not have the luxury to postpone their commute, the California Department of Motor Vehicles provides the following tips for staying safe in the fog:

  • Drive with lights on LOW beam. High beams will reflect off the fog, creating a "white wall" effect.
  • Reduce your speed - and watch your speedometer. Fog creates a visual illusion of slow motion when you may actually be speeding.
  • Avoid crossing traffic lanes.
  • Travel with the drivers window partially open. Listen for traffic.
  • Watch for CHP pace cars to guide you.
  • If your car is disabled or you cant continue, pull well onto the shoulder and turn off lights. Move away from your vehicle.

Motorists are expected to drive cautiously in dangerous situations such as fog and can be liable for injuries or damage caused by unsafe driving.

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New York Gets Tough on Distracted Drivers & Texting - Will California follow?

September 27, 2013,

Distracted driving is an increasing problem in the United States. The State of New York has pushed its enforcement of its distracted driving laws. According to MSN news, traffic ticket violations for New York driving has increased four times compared with last year. The increased enforcement includes officers driving next to vehicles in high-riding SUV's while watching for drivers whose gaze is on their laps. Will other states like California follow suit?

no-cells-1131636-m.jpgThe State of New York is taking new tactics in the "anti-texting game." Governor Cuomo unveiled recently a new campaign to make "rest stops" into "text stops." Approximately 300 signs are being added to the highways encouraging drivers to pull over to text. Along the road drivers will now see displayed signs such as: "It Can Wait. Next Text-Stop in 5 miles." The goal is to prevent distracted driving car accidents.

Many applaud these "anti-texting" actions against texting while driving, realizing that texting and driving is as dangerous as drinking and driving. However controversy has sprung up on New York's new tactics. Others argue that the new signs and tax dollars spent on the anti-texting campaign are a waste of money, stating that people who text while driving in the first place are trying to save time and asserting that these people won't take the time to pull over at a rest-stop to send a 2.5 second text, then get back on the highway.

Due to new laws, police are now allowed to pull drivers over soley on the basis of texting. New York is imposing increased fines and DMV penalties for drivers caught texting and driving. "Those convicted face stiffer fines, as high as $150 for the first offense, and younger drivers with probationary licenses can lose their licenses for 60 days." Also, Driver's license points assigned to the offense rise from three to five - which is the same number of points given for reckless driving, and is more points than a minor speeding ticket, which is only three points. "Any driver with more than six points on New York driver's license in an 18-month period has to pay a "driver responsibility assessment" of at least $100 a year for the next three years." These violations could make a driver's car insurance rates increase too.

Do these law implementations in New York seem like they would work? Should California and other states look to their example and set similar rules in their state and turn "rest stops" into "text stops?" The "anti-texting game" is a hard battle to win, and every state in America deals with the problems - car crashes and personal injury and even fatalities caused by distracted drivers. Any strategy or new law that can help save lives is a step in the right direction.

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Preventing Road Rage Nursery - Driving Slogans for Kids

September 5, 2013,

Does the term "Road Rage Nursery" ring a bell? Apparently the back seat of the car is now being called a road rage nursery. It is described this way, by the youth organization CARR or Children Against Road Rage - "Children, as passengers in cars and buses, are at risk of absorbing the hostile attitudes and risky practices of their adult drivers. This is an unconscious cultural transmission from one generation to the next that is injurious to the children now and later, when they become aggressive drivers."

slow-as-550392-m.jpgRoad rage is getting worse in this country, due to a combination of more driver interactions, greater diversity of drivers and increased cultural norm for aggressive driving behavior on the highway.

CARR provides traffic safety and proper road behavior materials and lessons for teachers to use with children. Activities include a Driving Awareness Form, surveys defining aggressive driving, driving observation exercises, checkmark lists for kids to take in the car to rate good and bad passenger behavior, and a worksheet on finding examples on TV programs of examples of bad drivers (which isn't hard to do). On TV kids see drivers taking their eyes off the road, cars chasing other cars, people jumping out of cars, cars trying to get away from police, and the list goes on.

Providing tools for children to learn good passenger behavior one way parents and teachers can help children to grow up to be responsible, safe drivers. Examples of good behavior on the list are: sitting quietly, acting calm, wearing your seatbelt, not distracting the driver, observing road conditions, etc. Examples of bad passenger behavior include: making noise or yelling, fighting, changing seats, not wearing a seatbelt, complaining about traffic, throwing something out the window, and more.

One tool parents might try is the use of "driving slogans" with their kids. Here are some examples:

  • Just go with the flow, no matter how slow

  • Drive smart, put a smile in our heart

  • They made a mistake? Give them a break!

  • Don't fight - drive right! Don't do wrong - just sing a song! Don't swear - learn to care!

  • Think bad, feel bad, be bad. Think nice, feel nice, be nice. It's your choice!

  • Drive under the influence of awareness. It may save a life.

  • Have you tried the right lane lately? It's nice and relaxing.
  • My favorite is the last one, "Have you tried the right lane lately? It's nice and relaxing." Maybe some of these slogans should be made into bumper stickers for people to put on their cars. Try out some of these slogans or encourage your kids to make up there own when locked into traffic or moving slowly. Or, try some mood changers with your kids such as singing, talking to your kids, listening to calm music, enjoying the scenery around you, and counting your blessings. Practicing good driving behavior is a win-win for everyone - you are preventing traffic accidents and personal injury, you are keeping yourself calm and in a good mood, and most importantly teaching your kids patience and setting the an example of good driving behavior instead of promoting road rage.

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    Beware of Leaving Small Children Alone in a Car

    August 15, 2013,

    In a news story in the Los Angeles Times this week, a man stole a car out of a women's garage with a 2-year old and dog inside. Although the incident occurred in 2011 in Aliso Viejo, the message of children's safety while being left alone in a vehicle even for a few moments is a relevant concern today.

    toycar-117663-m.jpgHave you ever gotten your kids in the car, or strapped a baby into its car seat in the car out in front of your house then dashed back inside to grab something for a quick moment? Such is the case of a pregnant Aliso Viejo mom. In this case the car was still in her garage, and the garage door was open and the keys were in the car. Also, there was a convicted criminal lurking nearby waiting for his chance to steal a car. When the mom went back into the house to get her son's sippy cup, a man was backing out of the garage with the 2-year old boy and the dog in the car and knocked the woman to the ground when she started to scream.

    The driver proceeded to drive recklessly in an effort to get away, slamming into a neighbor's garage. The Orange County Sheriff's Department caught up to the car at which point the man jumped from the car, leaving it running. The abandoned car hit a curb and the man continued to run away through he back yards of homes. He was caught and faces 11 felony counts and a maximum sentence in state prison.

    Thankfully the child and dog were rescued from the car uninjured and were returned to the boy's mom. Many worse things could have gone wrong with this accident. The lesson here is to not leave your car unattended with small children in it even for a few moments. It's not likely that this would happen to you, but why take any chances with your child's safety?

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    Newborns are Commonly Not Properly Secured in their Carseats - Including the Newborn Prince

    July 25, 2013,

    The world has royal baby fever. This week, in light of the birth of the third in line heir to the English throne, reports have been flooding the news media that new parents Prince William and Duchess Kate might not have properly secured the newborn Prince of Cambridge into his infant car seat. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MSN.NEWS/ASSOCIATED PRESS.

    _h353_w628_m6_otrue_lfalse.jpgMillions of eyes around the world watched television broadcasts as the Prince was shown to the world for the first time outside the hospital steps in London. Of course, everything was scrutinized - Duchess Kate's appearance - her hair, her dress, the way Prince William placed a hand on her back, if the Royals were smiling, and what the baby looked like. All eyes also watched as Prince William carried the royal baby in his carseat to the waiting black Range Rover.

    Reports are stating that the newborn Prince, who was swaddled in a blanket, was improperly secured under car seat straps that were loosely fastened. Child restraint systems are often used incorrectly and can increase a child's risk of personal injury in the case of an automobile accident. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Car accidents are the leading cause of death in children in the United States.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control provides the following recommendations on preventing injuries to children while riding in a motor vehicle:

  • Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71% for infants, and by 54% for toddlers ages 1 to 4 years.2
  • There is strong evidence that child safety seat laws, safety seat distribution and education programs, community-wide education and enforcement campaigns, and incentive-plus-education programs are effective in increasing child safety seat use.7
  • According to researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, for children 4 to 7 years, booster seats reduce injury risk by 59% compared to seat belts alone.8
  • Child passengers should never be seated in front of an airbag. Airbags can injure or kill children in a crash that might otherwise have been survivable.

    Orange County residents, please be sure to know the proper way to secure your infant or child into his or her car seat or booster seat. Check with your manufacturers safety recommendations for the product and utilize resources available to be knowledgeable about California state laws and be prepared in case of a car accident.

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  • Is Your Car Ready for the Orange County Heat?

    July 1, 2013,

    Summer is here, and that means warm weather and heat waves in Orange County. Are you prepared for high temperatures? Is your car ready for the increase in temperature? MSN Autos news shared a helpful article this week which includes tips for caring for your car in hot weather. Being prepared might help you avoid car accidents or avoid being stuck on the side on the road in the heat with a broken down car. Stop-and-go traffic, high temperatures, extended use of the air condition, road trips - these factors all put burdens on our vehicles in the summer.

    37218_tire_pressure_guage.jpgHere are 5 Recommendations from "Is Your Car Ready for Summer," according to MSN Auto News:

    Replace coolant - Keeping fresh antifreeze in the coolant system is just as important as changing the oil and rotating tires. Old coolant can develop a slight electric charge that can cause premature corrosion inside your engine and radiator. If left unchecked, that can lead to leaks, and it won't be long before you're stuck on the side of the road with an expensive repair bill.

    Check your tire pressure - as road temperatures increase, so will the pressure in your tires. Take the time to give them a close inspection. Once things get warm, any small problem can develop into a flat in a hurry. That can put you, your passengers and those on the road around you at higher risk of a car accident.

    Check the battery - If the battery in your car is older than two-three years, it's only a matter of time before it leaves you stranded. As a battery ages, it keeps less and less of a charge, causing the alternator to work harder. If your battery is still fairly new, take the time to give it a close look. Check for any corrosion or leaks, and clean up anything you see. Few things are more corrosive or bad for the environment than a leaking battery, so if you see a problem be sure to have a qualified shop examine and replace it if necessary.

    Have the air conditioning serviced - If you don't use your air conditioning much during the year until summer, over time, the air conditioning can slowly leak refrigerant, causing the compressor to operate for longer periods than usual and put added strain on your engine. If your air conditioning doesn't feel as cool as it once did, it will pay to have it checked out by a qualified mechanic. A reputable shop can pressure-test the system and properly diagnose any issues before the first heat wave hits. Have your mechanic give it a once-over every year. Hot air blowing out your vents does't help with people's moods or road rage and could be distracting when driving.

    Examine all hoses - Be sure to look over the hoses in the engine. Your vehicle is likely going to be exposed to severe heat as the weather warms up, and that means the coolant system will be under increased pressure to keep everything the right temperature. There shouldn't be any cracks, cuts or odd bulges. Such problems could cause the hoses gives up for good. If you see a problem now, have it fixed quickly and save yourself from frustration on the side of the road.

    If a tire blows out, you could easily cause an accident and have difficulty trying to pull over to the shoulder of the road across lanes of traffic. If your car is broken down on the freeway, you'll not only cause long delays in traffic, you might be in danger from getting hit by other vehicles and suffering damage to your vehicle or personal injuries. Be proactive with your vehicle's maintenance in an effort to prevent being stuck in a dangerous situation on the side of the road.

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    Los Angeles Holds National Title of Most Congested Metro Area

    May 7, 2013,

    Living in Orange County, we all know how crowded it is in the Los Angeles area and in Southern California. Some of us in OC know the best time of day and the best days of the weeks to drive into Los Angeles and when to avoid going there. To the rest of the nation, Los Angeles is now known as the most congested city in America. As reported by NBC News Los Angeles beat out Honolulu in recent research as the worst congested metro area in the country. The 2012 Traffic Scorecard states that the average driver in LA wastes almost a half hour in traffic.

    6C7264240-110715_lacarmageddon.streams_desktop_small.jpgThe congestion score is a compilation of factors including "population density, the average time spent commuting and the percentage of the population that drives to work." In Los Angeles, traffic at peak hours travels at 14 miles per hour adding 26 minutes to what should be an eight-minute drive. According to the report, the average American wasted about 38 hours sitting in traffic last year. Congestion not only wastes time and pollutes the environment, it leads to frustrated and tired drivers and the number of traffic accidents rise.

    Every year, a Top 10 Most Congested Cities List is compiled with their congestion index (which is a metric of how much longer it takes to travel during peak traffic hours than when traffic is clear).

    Top 10 Most Congested Cities:

    1. Los Angeles (28.8)
    2. Honolulu (26)
    3. San Francisco (23.5)
    4. Austin, Texas (20.7)
    5. New York City (19.9)
    6. Bridgeport, Conn. (19.1)
    7. San Jose, Calif. (17.6)
    8. Seattle (17.6)
    9. Washington D.C. (16.4)
    10. Boston (14.7)
    There are some things you can do, when driving in heavy congestion to stay safe and avoid a car accident and personal injury. Even though you are traveling at slower speeds, cars are still moving and stopping and going and drivers need to stay focused and pay attention not to rear end the vehicle ahead of them. This can be hard to do when frustrated and your mind starts wandering to how late you are, or to what you could be doing at home or wherever you are going instead of being stuck in your car. Remain alert and be aware of how easily your mind will wander and try to stay focused on your surroundings to avoid distracted driving accidents. Fender benders are not only prevalent in Los Angeles but are a common problem in Orange County too. OC has its share of congestion even though we are not on the Top 10 List for Most Congested cities.

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