94 percent of car crashes are caused by human error; autonomous vehicles may be able to help

September 30, 2020 | 6:00 am


In 1980, generally considered to be the deadliest year on U.S. streets, over 50,000 people were killed on U.S. roadways. Fortunately, with safety features like airbags added to vehicles, stricter seat belt laws, and campaigns that stigmatized impaired driving, the rate of deaths went down significantly.

But over the last several years, we have seen a slight increase in traffic deaths again. Pedestrian fatalities also increased by 27 percent over the last decade. Experts believe the increase is due to Americans driving more, with overall vehicle-miles traveled reaching an all-time high in 2017.

One way to reduce the amount of crashes, experts say, is to reduce the number of humans behind the wheel. After all, 94 percent of crashes are caused by human error, according to U.S. Department of Transportation.

Self-driving or autonomous vehicles might be able to help.

This is great news for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and others on our roadways. Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles each year represents hundreds of innocent victims of motor vehicle crashes where human error is the primary cause.

 

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES & SAFETY

Autonomous vehicles could boost the global economy by $7 trillion, significantly reducing traffic accidents and saving more than 600,000 lives annually, according to a study by Intel. Additionally, experts say autonomous vehicles could virtually eliminate the need to use police resources to enforce traffic safety laws and more officers could concentrate on reducing the most serious criminal activity.

So how do autonomous vehicles work? In autonomous vehicles, multiple sensors like cameras, radar, and GPS are continually scanning, collecting and sending data to the main system to be analyzed. As the car moves, data is continuously updated with new inputs from the sensors as they feed the algorithms, or “brain,” of the system. Decisions are made almost instantaneously based on the data the system receives.

Before the vehicles launch, however, autonomous vehicles must first survive rigorous testing in complex driving environments, traversing billions of miles of multiple road conditions and weather scenarios.

 

DRIVER-RELATED CRASHES

First, it’s important to take a look at the causes of crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reviewed and separated driver-related factors that contributed to the crashes into five categories:

  • “Sensing and perceiving” errors included things like driver distraction, impeded visibility and failing to recognize hazards before it was too late.
  • “Predicting” errors occurred when drivers misjudged a gap in traffic, incorrectly estimated how fast another vehicle was going or made an incorrect assumption about what another road user was going to do.
  • “Planning and deciding” errors included driving too fast or too slow for the road conditions, driving aggressively or leaving too little following distance from the vehicle ahead.
  • “Execution and performance” errors included inadequate or incorrect evasive maneuvers, overcompensation and other mistakes in controlling the vehicle.
  • “Incapacitation” involved impairment due to alcohol or drug use, medical problems or falling asleep at the wheel.

The researchers also determined that some crashes were unavoidable, such as those caused by a vehicle failure like a blowout or broken axle.

 

STUDIES

Safety experts say fully autonomous vehicles would have to be driven hundreds of millions of miles and sometimes hundreds of billions of miles to demonstrate their reliability in terms of fatalities and injuries, according to an Elsevier study called, “Driving to safety: How many miles of driving would it take to demonstrate autonomous vehicle reliability?”

Another study, by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, states that autonomous vehicles might prevent only around a third of all crashes if automated systems drive too much like people.

One company called Waymo logged 10 million self-driven miles, making it the leader for self-driven miles on U.S. streets. While its vehicles have been involved in dozens of crashes, none caused no serious injuries. For example, one Waymo vehicle bumped a bus while going 2 miles per hour. In accident cases with injuries, the human driver was reported to have been at fault.

In the United States anyway, people are gaining trust that self-driving vehicles will made a positive impact. Two thirds of the Americans who took part in a Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv study believe that self-driving cars are the way of the future, according to the Motional Consumer Mobility Report.

Are you ready for them?

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Students receive scholarships, sponsored in part by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, in 9th Grito de Dolores celebration

September 23, 2020 | 6:00 am


Twenty-five students received college scholarships during the 9th annual “Grito de Dolores” celebration hosted by the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, sponsored in part by Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

This year’s Grito de Dolores commemorated the 210th Mexican Independence Day. The local socially-distanced celebration was pre-recorded in front of the Liberty Bell in downtown Bakersfield, and presented virtually on Sept. 15 on Telemundo.

The event included folkloric dancers, mariachi and banda music groups, and a scholarship recognition ceremony honoring 25 Kern County students and scholarship recipients, awarded by the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Education Foundation. Learn more about the scholarships program below.

Mexican Independence Day is Sept. 16 each year. The Grito, which occurred in the small Mexican town of Dolores, was the rallying call made by a Roman Catholic priest in front of his church to the battle against Spain.

 

SCHOLARSHIPS

The Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles each year sponsors student scholarships presented during El Grito celebration. Other sponsors included Adventist Health, Carlos A. Alvarez, M.D., Bank of the Sierra, Beautiful You Medical Aesthetics, Clinica Del Valle, KGET/Telemundo Valle Central, Valley Republic Bank, Valley Strong Credit Union, and XM Garcia Law.

The sponsors, in partnership with the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Education Foundation, awarded 25 $250 and $500 scholarships to local students in pursuit of higher education, and who are giving back in various ways to our community. This year, the foundation received nearly 100 applications from students throughout Kern County.

“These students are some of the brightest in Kern County, who care about their futures and their community,” said Jorge Barrientos, KCHCC Business Education Foundation board member and Chain | Cohn | Stiles marketing director. “The KCHCC Business Education Foundation, along with the sponsors, is proud to annually award these scholarships to our local students to help them in their trek to make their goals a reality.”

The scholarship winners were:

  • Dayana Aguilar
  • Guadalupe Alcala
  • Isabel Angulo
  • Aydee Arredondo
  • Mia Faith Arredondo
  • Karen Vianney Garcia Barbosa
  • Juliana Garcia Cruz
  • Sergio Flores
  • Arly Galindo
  • Estefany Garcia
  • Haylee Gonzales
  • Dory Garnica Guttierez
  • Isaac Larroque
  • Cindy Maldonado
  • Ariana Naranjo
  • Azuzena Ortiz
  • Stephanie Pantoja
  • Karla Perez
  • Priscilla Perez
  • Daniela Ortiz Samayoa
  • Jacqueline Olivia Sala
  • Briana Salas
  • Jesus Trujillo
  • Ivan Vielma
  • Cynthia Villanueva

Scholarships are offered by the KCHCC Business Education Foundation annually in the fall. For more information on future opportunities, please visit kchcc.org.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles participates in community ‘Real Talk’ discussions focused on race relations in America

September 16, 2020 | 10:00 am


Following the death of George Floyd while in police custody, and the nationwide protests that followed, Bakersfield College aimed to bring us all together. With the help of local media personality Danny Morrison, the college organized a full week of conversations, events, and celebrations for Juneteenth, a commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

BC continued with a two-week virtual series called “Real Talk” to discuss racism and violence, and ways to overcome these issues; to “Light A Candle” and “Shine A Light” so to speak.

“It is a dark and confusing time, which makes it harder to see how to move forward,” Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian wrote on her blog. “But as Bakersfield College Renegades, we owe it to our community, to our veterans, and we each owe it to George Floyd, to join together, listen with humility, and to bring light that can illuminate the way ahead.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles was proud to join in on the conversations as well. Attorney Matt Clark joined Morrison and Bob Prater — author of “A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation” — to discuss white peoples’ roles in the ongoing racial conversation. Topics during the discussion included the Black Lives Matter movement, white identity, white supremacy, exploitation, and reverse racism.

“We understand this is a process and that people of color and people of all religions and races and backgrounds and creeds and socioeconomic backgrounds can all come together as one,” Morrison told local media about the series.

You can watch the full discussion at this link on the Chain | Cohn | Stiles YouTube page, or below.

And you can watch all of the “Real Talk” discussions on the Danny Morrison Media Facebook page by clicking here.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Bakersfield 2020 virtual ‘Walk Like MADD’ – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – aims to raise funds to combat impaired driving during pandemic

September 9, 2020 | 11:16 am


To register for the 2020 Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, click here.

Like many nonprofits, MADD Kern County has severely been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, losing a large percentage of funding intended to fight against impaired driving in our community.

In fact, MADD California has lost over 80% of annual revenue, forcing drastic cuts that continue to disrupt grassroots programs and services, officials said. Meanwhile, impaired driving, unfortunately, continues to be one of the leading causes of fatalities and injuries on our roadways.

In a unifying event, MADD California is hosting a virtual Walk Like MADD this year, under the hashtag #OneMADDCalifornia, in an effort to continue fighting to end this 100% preventable crime. In Kern County, the 7th annual Bakersfield virtual “Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash” – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – will be held on Oct. 10, and is aimed to raise funds for Kern County’s local educational programs and prevention services, raise awareness of the DUI problem in our local communities, and provide support to local victims and survivors of drunken driving crashes.

“Now more than ever, our community needs to come together in the fight against impaired driving,” said David Cohn, managing partner at attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “The pandemic has not put a stop to DUI crashes in Kern County, and victims still need help. Join us, surviving victims of DUI crashes, families and friends of deceased victims, local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, first responders, advocates, and other community leaders and members to march, rally and run for the cause.”

 

VIRTUAL ‘WALK LIKE MADD’

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with 4,300 DUI arrests in 2018, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s more than 11 DUI arrests per day. About 15 DUI drivers are on the road at any given moment, with a peak between midnight and 3 a.m., where there are nearly 80 DUI drivers in Kern County. Sadly, many impaired drivers weren’t stopped in time, and instead caused major damage to innocent lives through DUI crashes. In fact, for the rate of DUI-related fatal collisions per 100,000 people, Kern County ranks highest in the state and second highest in the nation.

Bakersfield’s Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash is our community’s chance to do something about impaired driving in our community, and proclaim, “No More Victims.” You can help by signing up for the 5K (walk or run), or as a team captain. You can even get involved if you aren’t able to attend by signing up as a “virtual walker,” or by asking a donation toward a participant or team who has been affected. All funds raised from this event stay in Kern County.

MADD California will host a weeklong impactful event from Oct. 3-10 streamed on each Walk Like MADD website and at @MADDCalifornia YouTube, Instagram and Facebook pages. Live and pre-recorded videos will highlight stories from our families on “Why I Walk,” activities will include a mediation/yoga segment, bingo, and Law Enforcement Challenge, and speakers that are key stakeholders in our communities will be featured.

Registration is now open. After Sept. 10 the registration fee is $25 for adults and $20 for youth. The registration fee will go towards your participation, team fundraising goal, and a goodie bag that includes a MADD mask. A packet pick up drive thru will be held on Saturday, Oct. 3, at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, 1731 Chester Ave. (Time location is TBD).

For more information, to register and to donate, go to walklikemadd.org/bakersfield, or on Facebook at Bakersfield Virtual Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash.

 

PRESENTED BY CHAIN | COHN | STILES

Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes, serving as a presenting sponsor. Since the law firm’s involvement with the first Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, MADD Kern County has raised nearly $400,000 to help local victims of impaired driving crashes. For its work, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been recognized and honored on several occasions:

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • Attorney Matt Clark has been awarded the MADD “Pursuit of Justice” award. Clark is a founding board member and organizer for MADD Kern County’s Advisory Board and event planning committees, regularly speaks at local Victim Impact Panels intended to prevent repeat DUI offenses, and has done pro-bono legal work for victims of DUI crashes.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, has been awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by MADD California.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Chad Boyles earns two awards for young professionals

September 2, 2020 | 9:44 am


One thing is for sure: Chad Boyles, personal injury lawyer with Chain | Cohn | Stiles, is someone we should all be watching.

Boyles has recently been selected for inclusion in two listings awarded to young professionals: the Best Lawyers in America “Ones to Watch” list, and also in Bakersfield Life Magazine’s annual “20 Under 40 People to Watch” issue.

Learn more about these two recognitions below:

 

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch

The “Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch” recognition is given to attorneys who are earlier in their careers (5 to 10 years in practice) for outstanding professional excellence in private practice in the United States. It’s part of the “Best Lawyers in America” program, which is the oldest and most respected guide to the legal profession, based on 77 areas of expertise.

Boyles joins two other lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles who have been honored by the Best Lawyers program. David K. Cohn, managing partner at the law firm, has been selected into the personal injury litigation category of Best Lawyers in America, while James A. Yoro, senior partner at the firm, was selected into the workers’ compensation law listings. This year they are also the only two attorneys in the greater Kern County area to be listed. You can view David Cohn’s “Best Lawyers” profile by clicking here, and you can view James Yoro’s profile by clicking here.

Attorneys named to the U.S. News & World Report’s “The Best Lawyers in America” are recognized by their peers in the legal industry for their professional excellence in specific practice areas. For the 2020 edition of The Best Lawyers in America, more than 8.3 million votes were analyzed, which resulted in more than 62,000 leading lawyers being included in the new edition, about 5 percent of lawyers in private practice in the United States. Unlike some other attorney directories and awards, lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed, and inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles was also selected for inclusion in the “Best Law Firms” list by U.S. News & World Report, another “Best Lawyers” program which recognizes law firms for “professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Additionally, achieving a ranking “signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.”

 

20 Under 40 People to Watch

Bakersfield Life Magazine’s “20 Under 40 People to Watch” highlights outstanding young men and women whom Bakersfield can be proud of, who possess a hard work ethic, dedication, and a passion for volunteering.

The following profile on Boyles was published in Bakersfield Life Magazine:

Chad Boyles has achieved some remarkable feats for someone his age.

At 35, he was named a partner at Chain Cohn Stiles, Bakersfield’s oldest personal injury law firm. He was a 2019 graduate of Leadership Bakersfield, a 33-year tradition that challenges a group of 32 individuals to step out of their daily lives to help make the community better. Most recently, he was named on Best Lawyers’ “Ones to Watch” list, a peer-reviewed process that highlights lawyers who have been in practice for five to nine years based on 77 areas of expertise.

Despite all that, he still finds time out of his busy schedule to give back.

“It’s important to give back,” he said. “Make time when you can.”

Boyles has spent 33 of his 36 years in Bakersfield, leaving only to attend Whittier College School of Law before returning to his hometown to begin his career as an attorney. It’s a career that combines two things he loves — problem solving and helping people.

“I get to apply No. 1 to No. 2,” Boyles said. “It is definitely a motivation to solve the problem, because I am representing people and helping them navigate a really complex system that would be difficult to do on their own. It feels good at the end of the day when I know that I’ve worked hard and we get a good result for the client.”

Boyles’ involvement in the community allows him to solve problems and help people as well.

As part of the Runner Alumni Mentor Program, Boyles helps mentees figure out what direction they want to go in life. Boyles is also the committee chair for Party in the Park, which raises funds for RAMP as well as scholarships to help students with their education.

“I’m passionate because that’s our future and I want to help guide people,” Boyles said. “It can be a difficult time in your life. You may not be sure what you want to do. I just like helping them get the exposure, helping them decide what career path that they want.”

Boyles wants to be a resource he didn’t have when he was a student. He had to learn a lot through trial and error. One thing he did have, however, was the unwavering support of his parents, who instilled a strong work ethic in him at an early age.

It’s a foundation that motivates Boyles in his professional and personal life, driving him to keep learning, improve at his craft and make time to give back along the way.

“Even though I spend a lot of time at work, I still have time to give to the CSUB Alumni Association and whatnot,” Boyles said. “I did what I could to give back to future generations.”

Boyles also filmed a “Letter to the Community” featured in Bakersfield Life Magazine, which you can watch by clicking here.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles files lawsuit in the case of Wasco High coach convicted of sexual misconduct with student

August 26, 2020 | 10:30 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a lawsuit against the Wasco Union High School District on behalf of a student who was the victim of sexual misconduct by an assistant football coach at the high school.

Miguel Nicholas Saldana pleaded no contest to sending sexually explicit messages to the student, was sentenced to six months in jail, must perform 720 hours of community service and register as a sex offender, according to news reports.

Saldana, who was 23 years old at the time of the offenses, was an assistant football coach at Wasco High School as well as a Kern County detentions deputy. According to Kern County Sheriff’s Office reports, Saldana sent sexually explicit messages and asked for sexual favors from the student, who was 16 years old at the time, through Snapchat. The student then reported the messages to her mother, and then to school administrators.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a lawsuit against the Wasco Union High School District alleging failure to properly supervise the volunteer coach. In fact, Saldana sent messages while he was at football practice and sent sexually explicit pictures of himself while wearing Wasco High attire.

In a reprehensible component in the case, the law firm hired to defend the school district in the case — Robinson & Kellar — threatened in a letter to countersue the victim for as much as $70,000, stating the district was not responsible for the actions of the volunteer coach

“How would you interpret it?” Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark told KGET News. “I mean, it’s a threat, right? There’s a ‘Back off, dismiss your lawsuit or, should you ultimately lose, we’re going to pound you to the tune of $70,000.’”

Clark argues that illegal actions took place on school property, and the school could or should reasonably have known about the behavior. The civil case is ongoing.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is representing the victims of several other student victims of sexual misconduct while at school. The law firm filed claims on behalf of three students who were victims of sexual misconduct by a North High School equipment manager.

Edwin Rodriguez faces 13 counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child 14 or 15 years old. Investigation reports state that Rodriguez sent sexually explicit messages to at least eight students through social media, and had sexual contact with several of them. He is in custody on $335,000 bail on the two cases. A trial has been scheduled for Sept. 18.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, or know someone who has been sexually abuse or assaulted at the hands of someone in authority, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

MADD Kern County awards ceremony, sponsored by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, honor locals fighting against DUI crimes

August 19, 2020 | 5:00 am


Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Kern County recently recognized and honored our local law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and other community members for their valiant efforts in helping stop DUI crimes during the past year. Chain | Cohn | Stiles was proud to be a key organizer, sponsor, and supporter of this event.

The 2020 MADD Kern County Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition was held July 30 during an online ceremony featuring guest speakers and award-winners. In all, more than 60 officers, personnel from the Kern County Prosecutor’s Office and others from throughout local agencies were awarded. Awards were also handed out to the investigator of the year, victim advocate, top probation officer, top law enforcement officers, and “Community Champion.”

“It’s important that we honor the people who are helping keep our streets safe from impaired drivers,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “These impaired drivers have shown to cause tremendous damage to our local community. It’s possible these award-winners have saved the lives of our own friends and family members who are driving on the same roadways.”

Watch the full virtual awards ceremony by clicking here.

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with nearly 4,200 DUI arrests in 2019, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s more than 11 DUI arrests per day. For the rate of DUI-related fatal collisions per 100,000 people, Kern County ranks highest in the state and second highest in the nation.

The awards ceremony is organized by MADD Kern County volunteers, and made possible by the financial support of local sponsors: Clinica Sierra Vista, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, and various media supporters. Additionally, everyone is encouraged to take the “$5 Challenge” to donate to MADD Kern County. All funds raised stay in Kern County to help innocent victims of DUI crashes free of charge, help raise awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and helps fund other MADD Kern County programs.

MADD is celebrating its 40th year with #OneMADDCalifornia, a tribute to the grassroots organization that started the cultural revolution that made drunk and drugged driving unacceptable.

“We ask that you take a stand with #OneMADDCalifornia to envision a future with No More Victims,” MADD California officials said in a statement. “Each arrest is a life saved and MADD awards our officers’ service as they dedicate their own lives to keeping our roads safe.”

Drunk and drugged driving is America’s deadliest crime. In 2018, 10,511 people were killed in impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (29%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. More than 1,000 Californians alone lost their lives due to this 100% preventable crime.

The awards ceremony is one of two MADD Kern County signature events aimed to bring awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and fight toward ending DUI crimes locally. The second event is the Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, taking place virtually this year on Saturday, Oct. 10.

 

DRIVER SOBER

The high-visibility national enforcement campaign, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” runs from Aug. 21 through Sept. 7 (Labor Day) in an effort to spread the word about impaired driving dangers and to work together to get drunk drivers off the roads and help save lives.

During this period, local law enforcement will show zero tolerance for impaired driving as departments increase the amount of officers on ours roads. In Bakersfield, officers will be conducting saturation patrols, looking for drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, driving aggressively or distracted, and making sure drivers are properly licensed.

“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is supported by California Office of Traffic Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles awards 11 drivers education scholarships in new ‘Guided Partners in Safety’ (GPS) program

August 12, 2020 | 5:00 am


The Law Office of Chain | Cohn | Stiles has awarded 11 drivers education scholarships as part of the new “Guided Partners in Safety (GPS) Scholarship” program.

The scholarships program aims to support a new generation of teen drivers, build guided partners in safety, and help pay for student driver’s education training, while keeping safety at the forefront. Over 150 area high students applied for the inaugural “GPS Scholarship” program. The winners, chosen based on grades, essay impact, and financial need included:

  • Roger Alvarado – Wonderful College Prep Academy
  • Jennifer Cazarez – South High
  • Fatima Garcia – Golden Valley High
  • Jessica Gamino – West High
  • Mayeli Gutierrez Ibarra – Foothill High
  • Allan Morales – South High
  • Leslie Cholico Navarro – Arvin High
  • Emily Ortiz – Foothill High
  • Martin Tellez – Highland High
  • Tiffany Wright – Highland High
  • Heidi Vega – Mira Monte High School

Being able to obtain permission to drive will benefit the students in various ways, they shared in their applications. West High student Jessica Gamino said, “I’ve wanted to get a job … If I could drive, so many opportunities could be available to me.” Roger Alvarado, of Wonderful College Prep, said he wants to drive to help his family, and prepare for adulthood.

“Many teenagers underestimate the risk of driving and exhibit dangerous habits,” Alvarado said in his application. “By entering driving school I will diminish the risks of danger, assist my family and become independent.

For Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which represents victims of accidents throughout the Central Valley, safety of our youth is a top priority. Auto accidents are the No. 1 killer of American teenagers, according to national statistics. Distracted driving, excessive speed, and lack of seatbelt use are major dangers and causes of teen driver crashes. Additionally, the number of teen drivers nationally is on the decline, with the cost associated to driving as one key factor, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The message of teen driving safety is even more important during the “100 Deadliest Days” – the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when more than 8,300 people have died in crashes involving teen drivers from 2008 to 2018. That’s more than seven people per day each summer.

“Our goal was to help those in need, and reinforce the importance of talking to teen drivers about the responsibilities, rules, and consequences that come with getting behind the steering wheel,” said David Cohn, managing partner and personal injury attorney. “We hope this program will help at least a little in lowering the statistics locally.”

For information on the 2021 GPS Scholarship, please stay tuned to the firm’s social media, including on Facebook @GPSscholarship, at the start of 2021.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Reward offered for information leading to the arrest in July 22 fatal hit-and-run crash

August 5, 2020 | 6:00 am


A reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest of the suspect responsible for the July 22 hit-and-run crash near CSU Bakersfield that killed 65-year-old Deborah Ann Geneau.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles and family of Deborah Ann Geneau is offering a $2,500 reward to the person who helps identify the driver of a 2013-2019 dark gray Nissan Sentra that is suspected to causing the crash on Stockdale Highway near Don Hart Drive. That vehicle turned into bike path parking area across from CSUB immediately after the collision, police said. It has driver’s side damage.

Anyone with information is urged to call 326-3967 or the Kern Secret Witness line at (661) 322-4040.

“I spent yesterday at the mortuary collecting my mother’s belongings, including her crushed earrings and wedding ring. I couldn’t help but think about what the driver of the other vehicle might have been doing yesterday?” said Dawn Elliott, Deborah Ann Geneau’s daughter and only child, in a statement to media. “We really just want this person to come forward, or assistance to find the person responsible.”

Bakersfield Police Department released a new video of surveillance camera angles. The angles include traffic cameras and footage from a Golden Empire Transportation bus that was in the vicinity of the crash, police said. You can view the videos by clicking here.

“At this point, all indications are that this was an accident,” said Ray Pruitt, investigator with Chain | Cohn | Stiles, in a news conference. “But a person made a decision after being involved in a fatal accident to flee the scene. Now that person has to be held accountable.”

At the news conference for media at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, husband Rick Geneau, husband of Debbie, and their daughter Dawn, shared about their loss, and pleaded with the driver who caused the collision to turn him or herself in.

Rick met Debbie met when they were both 14 years old. At the time of Debbie’s death, they had had been married for 45 years.

“You see these lines on my face, they’re not from old age. They’re timelines that I’ve spent with my wife,” Rick Geneau told media. We all miss her deeply … I thought I was the strength of the family. Come to find out she was my strength.”

Our community — friends and strangers — have reached out to the family since the accident. The family is grateful for the outpouring of love, condolences, and support, Rick Geneau said. A GoFundMe page has been set up to pay for funeral expenses. Click here to access that page.

Rick Geneau, in speaking through media, said if the driver turned themselves in, he would stand beside them in court and ask for leniency.

“But if you don’t turn yourself in, I’ll be in court also and I’ll be seeking full prosecution to the max,” he said.

Dawn Elliott told media she feels she’s had to take on her mother’s role and be the strength of the family during this time.

“You’ve not only taken my mom’s life, you’ve taken a piece of all of our lives.”

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CRASH MEDIA COVERAGE

 

REWARD MEDIA COVERAGE

Tips for a safe summer road trip during the pandemic

July 29, 2020 | 6:00 am


Summer vacation may look different for you and your family this year. Many people are deciding on a summer road trip instead to flying to a vacation destination. In fact, U.S. air travel has dropped more than 70% compared to this time last year, according to reports.

But before you hit the road, there are some precautions you should take to make sure you and your family is safe, not only from COVID-19, but also from dangers of the road. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day has historically been known as “100 Deadliest Days,” the most dangerous days for drivers to be on our country’s roadways.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles provides the following tips for a safer summer trip:

 

Plan Ahead

Map out which roads, highways, or states you will pass through. There might be relevant travel advisories you need to be aware of, such as changes to toll collection and rest-area food sales. Call ahead and confirm which attractions and hotels are open. And, of course, never drink and drive.

 

Get Enough Sleep

Driving while drowsy is dangerous because it has similar effects on your body as if you were to drive drunk, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The best way to prevent drowsy driving is to get 7-8 hours of sleep the night before your road trip. Signs to watch out for include:

  • trouble focusing
  • heavy eyelids
  • inability to remember the last stretch of road you drove
  • constant yawning
  • bobbing head
  • drifting from your lane

Drinking coffee and energy drinks are not always enough for tired drivers because the effects do not last long. Switching drivers throughout a road trip is a great way to improve alertness in each individual’s portion of the drive. If switching drivers is not possible, pull over and take a nap.

 

Bring ‘Protection’ 

You’re going to have to touch things, including gas pumps, money, doorknobs on washrooms, and other unexpected things. Carry a big bottle of sanitizer in your vehicle. And while you’re at, bring extra toilet paper in case you or your stops are out.

Don’t forget sanitizing wipes, sanitizing spray, face masks, gloves, and even a thermometer. And keep practicing good and frequent hand-washing. Pack snacks and drinks so you reduce the need to go into rest stops and expose yourself to others.

Just in case, bring any necessary travel documentation, including health insurance cards.

Lastly, according to AAA, it’s a good idea to store an emergency kit in your car that includes a car charger for your cell phone, first-aid kit, blanket, drinking water and snacks for everyone including pets, flashlight with extra fresh batteries, rags or paper towels, basic tools including duct tape, road flares or reflectors, ice scraper or snow brush, jumper cables, traction aid (sand, salt), tarp, raincoat, and a shovel. In the case of an emergency, a tent can provide shelter. And tents can be used just about anywhere.

 

Watch Out For Speeding

During this pandemic, law enforcement has reported a spike in speeding on the country’s highways, and overall more dangerous driving habits. Be careful of dangerous speeding while traveling. AAA suggests drivers practice a system called “R.E.A.D the Road”:

  1. Right speed for right now
  2. Eyes up, brain on
  3. Anticipate their next move
  4. Donut of space around your car (in case you need to make an emergency maneuver)

 

Stay Focused 

Distracted driving is a deadly behavior. Federal estimates suggest that distraction contributes to 16 percent of all fatal crashes, leading to around 5,000 deaths every year.

Have a passenger open your bottle of water or change the song on your phone. Turn on the “Do Not Disturb” function on your phone to limit distractions. Here are a few more ideas of what you can do to eliminate distracted driving from your travels (courtesy of AARP).

  • Unplug: Keep your cell phone on silent and where you can’t see it light up for every notification you receive. If a phone call or text message is really important, it’s best to pull over into a safe location before using your phone.
  • Focus: When you’re behind the wheel, pay attention to what’s happening all around your vehicle. Frequently scan your mirrors and watch your speed.
  • Secure your cargo: Prevent loose items in your car from startling you in the event of sudden braking by securing your cargo. Also, never place smaller items on your lap or on the floor near the driver-side foot pedals.

 

Roadside Safety

July is designated as National Roadside Traffic Safety Awareness Month. Here are few tips for being safer on the road in the case of a breakdown or minor accident:

  • Move to safety: Never get out of the vehicle to make a repair or examine damage on a busy highway. Get the vehicle to a safe, out-of-the-way spot, and then get out of the car if at all possible. And if a dire emergency forces you to get out of your car on a highway, do not stand at the side of the car nearest the traffic. Position yourself on the “shoulder” side of the vehicle, so that your vehicle is between you and the traffic.
  • Call for help: If your car won’t run or if it’s so badly damaged that it can’t be driven, stay in the vehicle and use a cell phone to call for help. Don’t stand outside the vehicle unless absolutely forced to do so. Even then, don’t stand near the flow of traffic.
  • Be prepared: Carry a strong flashlight, flares or reflective triangles in your vehicle so you can mark your location in the event of an emergency, even during the day. Remember to turn on your hazard lights so that other drivers have advanced warning of a problem ahead. To be safe, be seen.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.