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  • What your doctor may not be telling you about inferior vena cava filters

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    Patients who are at high risk for developing blood clots are regularly given inferior vena cava filters in Chicago hospitals and around the nation. While the filters have been used for years in this application, recent studies are starting to question not only the potential side effects of the IVC filters and their efficacy, but also the way doctors are handling their use and removal following treatment.

    Why are IVC filters necessary?

    Some patients are more susceptible than others to forming blood clots within their blood vessels. According to University of Michigan Department of Vascular Surgery, this is a potentially dangerous condition known as deep vein thrombosis. DVT can develop anywhere in the body, but is most common in the legs and thighs. If the blood clot breaks loose and travels through the veins it could block blood flow to the lungs in a condition known as pulmonary embolism. If large enough, the clot could block blood flow in and around the heart itself. This condition can cause patients severe chest pain, organ damage, and often results in death. Pulmonary embolism-related deaths are estimated to occur 200,000 times every year in the U.S.

    Years ago, doctors developed inferior vena cava filters for treatment of patients who do not respond well to, or are unable to safely use anticoagulants. The inferior vena cava is the largest vein in the human body. All deoxygenated blood from the body’s lower extremities is carried through the IVC back to the heart and then into the lungs where it becomes oxygenated once more. All blood that passes through the lower body must pass through the IVC to reach the heart. The filter is designed to catch and hold onto clots that pass through the IVC in order to prevent them from traveling to the heart and lungs, causing large, fatal pulmonary emboli. Over time, enzymes in the blood break down the clots on the filter, and blood is left clot free.

    Inferior vena cava filter placement

    According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, when a filter is placed within the IVC, surgeons will utilize either the femoral vein in the groin or the internal jugular vein in the neck to act as a transport to the IVC. Using special tools, contrast dyes, and x-rays, the doctor guides a special catheter containing the filter until it is in place in the IVC just below the kidneys. If there is already a clot in the IVC, placement may be moved above the kidneys. The doctor then deploys the filter, which stays in place in a pressure fit against the walls of the vein, and removes the catheter.

    A study: potential complications without any benefits

    A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine found that these filters may not be as safe as many healthcare professionals once believed them to be. Researchers highlighted the severe lack of concrete data from randomized controlled trials that demonstrate the long-term safety and efficacy of using these IVC filters. Currently, there is nothing that indicates that the benefits of these filters outweigh the potential harm they may cause, and placing the filters may be a form of medical malpractice in some situations. The study included a review of 952 patient records, all of which included patients who received retrievable IVC filters. Findings include the following:

    • Eight percent of patients who had an IVC filter in place still developed DVT.
    • 5 percent of patients with an IVC filter in place developed pulmonary embolism.
    • Many patients received their filters after they could have begun receiving anticoagulant therapy.
    • Patients developed severe complications with their filters in one percent of cases. These complications include filter migration along the IVC, the formation of large, potentially deadly clots at the filter site, and perforation of the IVC or other veins. While these cases could indicate the use of a defective medical product, even one percent of total cases indicate that more than defective products are to blame.
    • Of 679 patients with retrievable filters, only 8.5 percent were successfully removed.
    • 3 percent of attempted removals of the filters failed.

    Overall, half of venous thromboembolism events that occurred in patients with IVC filters happened in those who received their filter as a preventative measure but did not show any actual signs of DVT at the time. Researchers conclude that the use of IVC filters to prevent and treat DVT and their resulting migratory clots does not promote optimal outcomes because rates of DVT and venous thromboembolism remain high even after filter placement. The potentially harmful practices of leaving the retrievable filters in place and failure to use anticoagulant therapy at the right time were factors in the researchers’ findings. Additionally, the researchers called for more studies detailing the long-term effects of unretrieved removable filters.

    Additional research

    Another study found in the journal Circulation followed 400 patients eight years after their permanent IVC filters were placed to prevent pulmonary embolism. Researchers found that these filters reduce the risk of patients developing pulmonary embolism, but increased the likelihood that they would develop DVT. Additionally, there was no change in the survival rate between those with filters and those without. This may indicate that systemic use of IVC filters in the general population for prevention is not proper, and may cause patients unnecessary harm.

    Federal warnings

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received nearly 1000 reports of adverse events involving IVC filters, many of which they attributed to extended use of retrievable filters. In response, the FDA issued a warning reminding doctors that these devices that are intended for short-term use and recommending that they be removed immediately once the threat for pulmonary embolism has passed. With nearly 20 percent of retrieval attempts failing, however, doctors and patients should both consider the potential consequences of IVC filter use prior to their implementation.

     

     

     

     

     

  • Increased awareness of tractor-trailers could prevent truck accidents

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    Trucking collisions can be among the most severe accidents that occur on the roadways of Illinois. These incredibly large vehicles travel at high rates of speed and cover billions of miles across the nation every year, so serious injury or death often result from accidents in which they are involved. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 4,000 people were killed and 104,000 people were injured in trucking accidents in the U.S in 2012. An analysis of the data found that when a large truck and regular motor vehicle are involved in an accident, any fatalities that occur come from the occupants of passenger vehicles in 73 percent of cases. Knowing the likely severity of any trucking accidents that may occur, motorists can increase their awareness of tractor-trailers and help prevent these accidents before they happen.

    Understanding truck behavior is key

    In order for drivers to prevent themselves from being involved in a trucking accident, they must understand how a truck moves and how the driver must handle the vehicle. According to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, one key to preventing rear-end truck accidents is to ensure that a safe stopping distance is maintained at all times. Motorists are unable to see around large trucks and thus may be unaware of the potential dangers that may lie ahead in the road.

    For an average sized commercial tractor trailer weighing 80,000 pounds and traveling at 44 miles per hour under ideal weather conditions, the stopping distance could be as long as 430 feet. That is nearly twice the length of a football field and 91 percent longer than the distance required for an average passenger vehicle. If a truck has to stop suddenly, a car that is following too closely will be unable to stop or change courses before colliding with the truck. Simply following a truck with a 3 second distance can help ensure that motorists are not caught unaware.

    Avoid blind spots

    To prevent commercial truckers from rear-ending motorists, they should always ensure that they keep the trucks headlights in their rear-view mirrors. If drivers are any closer than that, they may not even know there is a vehicle there because of the large blind spot that exists at the front of the vehicle.

    Other blind spots are found at the rear of the truck as well as on both sides. The safest way for motorists to pass a large truck is to do so on the left, and only after ensuring that the driver has had the opportunity to see the passenger car. A general rule is that if a driver cannot see a trucker’s face in his mirrors, the trucker cannot see the motorist’s vehicle.

    Motorists who have been unable to prevent an accident due to truck driver negligence can find relief for the damages they have sustained by contacting a Chicago personal injury attorney. They have the skills and knowledge necessary to help successfully negotiate and litigate these claims.

  • Blindness and SSD benefits

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    Blind individuals in Illinois face myriad daily challenges, including supporting themselves financially. Blindness introduces unique medical expenses and often prevents gainful employment. Fortunately, Social Security Disability benefits and special work programs may be available to help people who are considered legally blind or meet other criteria.

    Disability evaluation

    The Social Security Administration considers people with total vision loss disabled. These people will receive benefits if they meet non-medical criteria when applying for SSD benefits. Individuals with limited remaining vision may still meet the definition of blindness or otherwise qualify for benefits. The SSA may consider the following conditions disabling:

    • Statutory blindness. If corrected vision in the better eye is 20/200 or less, the individual is considered legally blind. Visual field contraction to an angle of 20 degrees or less in the better eye also constitutes statutory blindness.
    • Poor visual efficiency. The SSA includes visual efficiency as a recognized impairment in its book Disability Evaluation Under Social Security. Efficiency less than 20 percent is automatically considered disabling, as is a visual impairment value greater than 1.00.
    • Low vision. People who do not meet the above criteria can still qualify for benefits through a medical-vocational allowance. The SSA will evaluate the person’s ability to work despite the vision impairment before awarding benefits.

    Individuals who are considered legally blind qualify for special programs and provisions. Individuals with other visual impairments are not eligible unless their conditions worsen into statutory blindness.

    Earnings and work programs

    Individuals with statutory blindness can earn greater monthly income without losing eligibility for SSD benefits. For 2014, the monthly earnings limit is $1,800, compared to $1,070 for other applicants. When considering blindness and disability, the SSA also lifts hourly work restrictions for self-employed individuals. In contrast, self-employed people with other disabilities cannot receive benefits if they work over 80 hours per month.

    If blind individuals start working enough to exceed the monthly income limit, they are treated differently than other SSD recipients. Rather than terminating benefits, the SSA suspends payments. Then, during any month in which earnings fall below $1,800, benefit payments resume. To qualify, individuals must be older than 55. They also must perform less-skilled work than they did before the disability began.

    The SSA also lets legally blind individuals request a “disability freeze.” This is available to people who work but earn less income than they used to, due to the constraints of the disability. The SSA excludes the reduced earnings when calculating the individual’s average lifetime earnings to determine SSD benefits. This ensures that the individual is not “penalized” for working while disabled.

  • Illinois workers’ compensation and injuries incurred in another state

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    As the labor force in America becomes increasingly mobile, out-of-state worker injuries have become a serious issue for many employees. Workers’ compensation law differs from one state to another, making such cases more complicated than typical injury claims. Illinois workers who incur injuries in another state have the right to compensation for lost wages, medical treatment and vocational rehabilitation. In many cases, employees can file for benefits under Illinois law even if their injuries occurred in another state.

    When are workers permitted to file claims in Illinois?

    Employees may file Illinois workers’ compensation claims if they can prove that one or more of the following applies to them:

    • They were hired under a contract drawn up in Illinois
    • Their primary workplace is in Illinois
    • Their injuries were incurred during employment within Illinois

    Injured workers in these situations have the right to file a claim under Illinois law, even if they are not currently Illinois residents.

    How does Illinois handle out-of-state medical claims?

    Many employees who file for Illinois workers’ compensation choose to seek out-of-state treatment. Illinois law recognizes that injured workers may need to pursue medical care in their current state of residence, and legislators have responded to the increasing number of out-of-state workers’ compensation claims by revising the calculations made in such cases. Claims made through June 2011 were paid either according to the fee schedule in the employee’s state of residence or at 76 percent of the total cost of treatment and lost wages. Starting in July 2011, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission requires out-of-state treatment to be paid either according to the normal Illinois fee schedule or according to the schedule in the state of residence, whichever of the two is lesser.

    Filing a claim outside Illinois

    Some injured Illinois workers choose to file a claim in another state. In these cases, medical treatment is compensated according to the law of the state where the claim is filed, even if some or all of the actual treatment takes place in Illinois. Because of this important distinction, insurance providers and employers must know where claims are filed. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission keeps records of all past and present claims on file in the Public Information Unit. Cases opened since 1983 can also be examined on the IWCC website.

    According to records kept by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 3 million American employees were injured on the job during 2013. If you have suffered a broken bone or another disabling injury at work, call a workers’ compensation lawyer today to find out more about your rights.

  • October 2014 In the News

    On October 14, 2014 Howard Ankin worked with iconic Chicago horror show host Svengoolie. (View a photo from a previous meeting)

    On October 10, 2014 Howard Ankin spoke at the Museum of Broadcast Communications to a packed house for the “35 Years of Svengoolie” event. (View the Svengoolie blog post)

  • Trucking companies can be held responsible for a truck accident

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    When Chicago drivers take to the roads, they put an immense amount of trust in the other motorists with whom they are driving. A negligent individual can make a choice that results in serious injury for those around them at any moment. This is especially true for the drivers of large commercial vehicles. Due to their enormous size, commercial trucks are among the most deadly vehicles on the roads. For this reason, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has created specific regulations to which commercial drivers must adhere. Failure to do so could cause a serious accident in which other motorists are killed and negligent drivers face severe civil and criminal penalties.

    Fleet Maintenance

    Proper maintenance of a commercial fleet is one of the most basic tenets of maintaining roadway safety. If a vehicle does not undergo routine maintenance, motor carriers are unable to fix broken or improperly maintained parts before they cause or contribute to a truck accident. The FMCSA requires that every commercial vehicle pass an inspection at least once every year. The requirements for inspections can be met over time through periodic inspection programs offered and administered by individual states, roadside inspections performed at weighing stations in which inspectors adhere to Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Alliance inspection standards, at commercial garages that adhere to federal standards, or through self-inspection performed by the motor carrier or driver.

    In order for an inspection to be considered valid, it must provide the following information:

    • The name of the person who performed the inspection
    • The motor carrier
    • Inspection date
    • VIN of the vehicle being inspected
    • All components included in the inspection

    A sworn statement certifying the accuracy and integrity of the inspection is required, and all reports must be kept on file for a minimum of 14 months.

    Detailed regulations are also in place dictating the types of equipment that trucks must use and how they are to be used.  Parts included in maintenance regulations include headlights, reflectors, hazard warning signals, lighting devices, power supplies, fog lamps, wiring systems, brake systems, window construction, and nearly any other part on a truck, whether seemingly minor in importance or essential for successful operation of the vehicle.

    Consequences of an improperly maintained vehicle

    When trucks are not properly maintained, serious accidents often occur. NBC Chicago reports that an Illinois man who was recently traveling with a friend in Wisconsin on a fishing trip was killed when a tire flew off of an oncoming commercial vehicle and crashed through the man’s windshield. He was a passenger in the vehicle, and his friend, who was driving, was not injured in the accident. The victim’s family stated that he was likely killed instantly from severe blunt force trauma. Law enforcement officers know that the tire came from a large utility truck or trailer, but are still searching for the vehicle to which it belongs.

    Improper loading and securement

    Improper loading can also present unique dangers to those on the nation’s roads. The FMCSA details cargo securement rules for all commercial vehicle drivers. Securement systems must be capable of meeting performance requirements when a vehicle applies the brakes, when it is turning, and when it is speeding up. When these actions take place, large amounts of force are placed on the cargo and it has the potential to come free from its constraints if not properly secured. This could cause the load or its components to spill over onto the roadway, which could be disastrous for the motorists around the truck. If a load comes free from its constraints, it may also shift its position on the truck, leading to a dangerous imbalance. This imbalance could cause the truck to easily tip over or jackknife when a driver makes an overzealous course correction, suddenly turns, or even when passing through an area of high wind.

    Time limitations

    An area of particular concern for trucking companies is ensuring that their drivers are rested while on the road. The FMCSA has issued detailed guidelines which limit the number of hours a driver can spend in service. Truckers are prohibited from working more than 14 hours each day, and no more than 11 of those hours are to be spent behind the wheel. Drivers cannot work more than 70 hours a week unless they prove that they have rested for 34 consecutive hours, including two nights of rest from 1-5 a.m. Truckers are also required to take a 30 minute break within the first eight hours of each shift.

    Many truck drivers are paid by the load, so they can potentially increase their earnings by increasing speed and the amount of time they spend hauling freight. Additionally, many motor carriers pressure their drivers to make certain deadlines that would require an unsafe amount of time behind the wheel or unsafe speeds. These incredibly detailed regulations are necessary to keep truckers and their motor carriers from placing profits above safety.

    Effects of sleep deprived drivers

    The consequences of what can happen when drivers do not adhere to FMCSA rest regulations have never been more publicly known due to the recent trucking accident involving comedian and actor Tracy Morgan. The well-known entertainer was traveling in his limo on the New Jersey Turnpike when it was hit in the rear by a tractor-trailer. The collision crushed the back of the limo, killing Morgan’s friend and colleague James McNair and sending Morgan to the hospital with critical injuries. Investigators discovered that the driver of the truck had been awake for more than 24 hours prior to the incident. He is currently facing vehicular homicide and assault charges.

    Those who have sustained injuries due to the negligence of a truck driver should contact a personal injury attorney in Chicago immediately. An experienced trucking company liability attorney can help victims receive the compensation and closure they need in order to reclaim their lives.

     

  • Pedestrians often victims of hit-and-run accidents

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    No excuse for fleeing drivers

    Across Chicago and the nation, law enforcement officers and other legal professionals witness the rate of hit-and-runs as it continues to climb every year. The best car accident lawyer teams are increasingly faced with many pedestrian injury cases involving a driver who fled the scene. While these matters are complex and drivers make the choice to flee based on many factors and causes, the law in all 50 states is clear: no amount of justification can rectify leaving another person to die in the road.

    Hit-and-run rates on the rise

    According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, hit-and-run accidents have seen a 13.7 percent increase since 2009. The most sobering part is that these increases came at a time when the overall traffic fatality rate decreased 4.5 percent. The American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety further analyzed the relevant data and found that these accidents make up 20 percent of all pedestrian fatalities. Moreover, 60 percent of hit-and-run fatalities victimize pedestrians.

    Tragic stories of loss

    Fox 2 Now reports that a 16-year-old Granite City, IL boy and two of his friends were recently walking to a friend’s house when the group was struck by a car. The boy was thrown 30 feet and died on the way to the hospital while one of his friends suffered a bruised spleen and broken leg. The driver never stopped his car or offered the injured pedestrians any kind of aid. Law enforcement officials believe they have found the driver, however, and have taken the 26-year-old man into custody. Officers state that had the driver stopped and rendered aid, he would not be facing charges now because it appeared it really was an accident.

    Toughening laws

    Many cities are seeing a sharper increase in hit-and-run accidents than the rest of the country. According to USA Today, Los Angeles is facing an epidemic where nearly half of all collisions within city limits involve a driver who then flees the scene of the accident. The national average is 11 percent. LA Weekly estimates that 20,000 hit-and-runs occur there every year, with 4,000 ending in death or injury. Those who have been drinking, who don’t have a valid license, and the very young are the most likely to flee when they realize what has happened.

    Many states are toughening laws in an effort to keep the numbers from getting any higher. They include tougher sentences and closing previous loopholes that encouraged drivers to flee in some situations.

    Finding relief

    Those who have been injured during a hit-and-run accident can find relief from their financial and emotional injuries by contacting a Chicago personal injury attorney. Attorneys can help guide patients through the claims process and get them the compensation that they need in order to heal and move forward with their lives.

     

  • Electronic records and medical errors

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    Many hospitals, clinics and medical offices in the Chicago area have been transitioning to a completely digital system for all of their patients’ health records. With federal law demanding that doctors and hospitals make the switch by 2015, many have already taken the opportunity and the offered incentives and completed the transition. With the new setup, however, many patients and healthcare workers are raising concerns they have over the potential errors that these new electronic records often cause, which in turn lead to serious consequences for patients.

    Easy errors are likely

    The ease with which doctors and nurses can make mistakes with electronic medical records has become alarming to many within the healthcare system. Nurses are particularly aware of the dangers and have begun speaking up about the high likelihood for mistakes. With a simple click of a button, patients can undergo unnecessary surgeries, receive improper medications, or fail to receive treatment because their intended treatment was improperly documented in another patient’s file. Each of these errors could easily result in the death of a patient.

    Prescription errors more likely

    Some opponents to electronic medical records point to prescription mistakes as one of the most obvious ways that the technology can lead to patient harm. Bloomberg reports that the nature of the computer programs used to manage the health records are the most suspect in these cases. Drugs and dosages are often chosen from drop-down menus, making it very easy for healthcare workers to accidentally choose the wrong prescription drug or the wrong dose of the right drug. In some cases, computer programs have ordered medications for patients without being prompted to do so by medical personnel.

    Instances of real harm

    The potential for harm is real when medical records are not properly maintained, and these medical errors can be fatal. An elderly Pennsylvania woman recently died after she failed to receive her proper medication while being treated in the hospital. The woman’s son, who is a doctor, took her to the hospital to be treated for stroke. While there, he saw that her medications were correctly listed on her electronic chart. However, a few days later when her regularly contained heart condition began to flare up, he checked again and the prescription drug used to maintain her heartbeat was no longer on her chart. The woman suffered clotting, hemorrhaging and needed emergency brain surgery. She died a short time later.

    Patients who have been injured due to the mistakes of medical personnel using electronic records can find relief with the help of a Chicago medical malpractice attorney.  They can help patients recover from their actual injuries as well as the financial injuries that often accompany medical malpractice claims.

  • Can platooning technology prevent trucking accidents?

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    Cases a Chicago truck accident lawyer sees daily 

    A Chicago truck accident lawyer understands that thousands are killed every year due to accidents with large trucks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 104,000 individuals were injured and 3,900 killed in 2012 due to accidents involving large commercial trucks, numbers that saw increases from the year before.  In 2012, large trucks had a greater chance of being involved in a fatal multiple vehicle crash than a fatal single crash. A semi-tractor trailer’s ability to cause so much damage exemplifies just what makes these vehicles so dangerous. In efforts to reduce the number of injuries and fatal accidents, researchers have developed a technology that they call platooning in which vehicles can travel in a safer environment on the nation’s highways.

    What is platooning?

    According to the CEO of the company responsible for the technology, platooning is when two vehicles travel in succession with linked communications and data systems. ABC News reports that the link allows the vehicles to synchronize their acceleration and braking in a way that may increase safety and create a better environment for fuel economy. Drivers maintain complete control over steering their respective trucks and can break away from the platoon at all times.

    The CEO believes that platooning technology and safety go hand in hand, and trucks engaged in this symbiotic relationship may help drivers avoid the conditions that create accidents.  Using sensors from each truck, data is collected and sent in real-time to a central operations center for analysis. In addition to data on current weather and highway conditions, as well as other factors, the system determines when trucks are able to safely platoon, how fast they should be traveling, and how much distance should be kept between the two vehicles.

    Initial reception

    Even though the developing company has a serious interest in making sure the technology is successful, initial reception of the platooning technology has been very positive with many other agencies backing up the company’s claims. Law enforcement, a leading trucking organization and highway safety experts have overseen recent tests of the system, and many of the claims from the developers appear to be legitimate. One key feature that excites many agencies is the stopping time that the system creates. Normal reaction time for a driver is between 1 and 2 seconds. The platooning system reacts and begins to slow its trucks in just a fraction of a second. Researchers and agency officials alike believe that if the system proves itself, it has the potential to prevent many fatal crashes in the future.

    Unfortunately, the technology is not now available and trucking accident fatalities are likely to continue at the same rate as previously seen. Those who have already been injured in a trucking accident can contact a Chicago personal injury attorney to get information, start the claims process, and receive the compensation they need.

  • Study: Voice-activated vehicle systems cause distraction for drivers

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    Hands-free does not necessary mean safe

    When drivers opt to put hands-free devices and technology in their vehicles, they often do so under the impression that they are increasing safety for them and all those around them. This idea may come from attempts by local, state and national campaigns to end the highly prevalent practice of texting and talking on a cell phone while driving, something a motorcycle crash lawyer knows is potentially deadly. Although the intent behind these campaigns was well-meaning, switching to hands-free devices may not be the way to increase safety after all. According to recent studies by the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah, the use of voice-activated systems within vehicles could be a huge contributor to distraction for many drivers.

    About the studies

    During the two simultaneous studies, researchers examined various infotainment systems from common auto brands and as well as the voice system found on popular smartphones that can be used to perform a variety of functions such as navigation, texting, posting to social media sites, and noting appointments on a calendar, all without touching or glancing at the device. Each system was graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 showing no distraction and 5 being as distracted as individuals performing complex math and verbal problems. Testing was performed by 162 volunteers and university students while in three separate settings: a lab, a driving simulator, and in cars in local neighborhoods.

    Results

    The smartphone system received the worst rating at 4.14. Two drivers using the smartphone voice system rear-ended other vehicles in the driving simulator portion of the testing.  Among the infotainment systems, scores varied from a reasonable 1.7 to a very distracted 3.7. Four infotainment systems were found to be more distracting than talking on a regular cellphone.

    Researchers found that the most distracting systems made errors despite clear and distinct commands from drivers. This increased frustration levels and the amount of cognitive functions required to use the devices; drivers had to spend a lot of mental energy thinking about how to say things in the proper way to get the systems to do what they wanted.

    Lack of regulation

    Despite the clear dangers that these systems place on motorists and all those around them, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has only issued voluntary guidelines for automakers to follow when providing these built-in systems to buyers. This increases the likelihood that accidents causing serious injury will continue to occur because of these distracting devices. Those who have been injured due to the distraction and negligence of another driver should contact a personal injury attorney to discuss their claim for compensation.

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