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New Modes of Transportation: The Liability Issues
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Today, certainly in urban and suburban areas, everyone seems to have a new set of electric-powered wheels!  Scooters and bicycles in a variety of shapes and sizes. While adults can power along at 20 mph, more children are turning to foot-powered scooters and all this on top of traditional bicycles which are proliferating via bike-share programs.  Add to this the prospect of semi-autonomous and eventually self-driving vehicles plus drones and the specter of flying cars, getting around is becoming crowded and potentially somewhat out of control.

Injuries as a result of electric bikes and scooters are increasing with use and this is confirmed by studies in the Netherlands and Israel where there has been longer use.  There have also been some notable fatalities with autonomous vehicles.

How safe are these “vehicles” for public use?  Currently, there is no clear answer. Regulators, insurance companies, and bike/scooter rental companies and automobile manufacturers continue to work on the issues.  For the short to medium term, we will clearly be in a major transition stage for personal transportation. As an attorney, I am curious as to how it all will evolve. I wonder how much freedom and control the individual will have versus the autonomous vehicle? What will be the outcome of AI and machine learning when vested with critical decisions – some of which could be life or death? Will people be forced to use autonomous vehicles? How much choice will we have?

Currently, there are no fully autonomous vehicles operating in the U.S. but, several now have features that include lane and speed/distance control, a level of avoidance monitoring and parking assist.  As we pioneer these new forms of transportation some accidents are inevitable.  What is fascinating is that perhaps for the first time, the driver may not necessarily be at the center of the litigation. The software could be implicated, not just in terms of executing a move but, its role in the decision process by which it was determined. Suddenly the law will enter the deep world of AI where the machine begins to learn and modifies and autonomously modifies the original parameters set by the programmers. It may well be that a plaintiff will need to hire a lawyer and a philosopher!

Next month, I will be delving further into these issues in my blog and other social media platforms.

Increased Traffic Fatalities, Increased Premiums
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Driving has become more dangerous according to the National Safety Council.    According to the NSC, a nonprofit organization that tracks highway safety, traffic deaths have increased 14%.   This increase followed years of decline.   Both Geico and Allstate will be raising premiums to counter this expenses associated with additional claims.   Industry analysts predict that the increased premiums will continue to more than just this year.

A few factors apparently are causing the increase, including the advent of texting, as well as increased driving due to increased employment.  Most States have laws on the books to combat texting and cellular devices while driving, however, these laws do not seem to be stopping the new phenomenon.  According to the NSC, one in four automobile accidents involves cellular phone usage.

Economic factors are also causing increased driving including substantially lower gas prices and more people working.    The more people working, the more people driving to work and the more people with additional income that can be spent on driving not associated with work.   The prior decline in deaths was caused by better made vehicles, stricter enforcement of drunk driving laws, and more frequent use of seat belts.

One possible way to combat the distractions involving cellular phone usage is the driverless vehicle.    But don’t expect driverless vehicles to be at your local dealer anytime soon.   While some States have already passed regulations guiding the industry, no State is permitting driverless vehicles for the average driver.

Do I Have to Ride in The Bicycle Lane if There Is One?
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The law requires that you ride in the bicycle lane or if there is no bike lane, as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway . There are a few exceptions, including where reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, anima, surface hazard, turn lane, or substandard width lane which makes it unsafe to continue along the curb, edge or bicycle lane. The other exception to this rule is when overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction. A few other exceptions are when preparing for a left turn or if the lane is too narrow to share safely with another vehicle. The last exception is when the bicyclist is traveling at or near the same speed as other traffic.

I loaned my car to a friend who was involved in a Florida car accident. Am I liable if my friend was at fault?

Under Florida law, the owner of the vehicle is always responsible for the damages caused by that vehicle. The fact that you loaned your car to someone else does not absolve you of responsibility. The fact of the matter is the driver, your friend, might actually also be responsible for part of the damages. However, you will not be off the hook.


Increased Traffic Fatalities, Increased Premiums

Driving has become more dangerous according to the National Safety Council.    According to the NSC, a nonprofit organization that tracks highway safety, traffic deaths have increased 14%.   This increase followed years of decline.   Both Geico and Allstate will be raising premiums to counter this expenses associated with additional claims.   Industry analysts predict that the increased premiums will continue to more than just this year.

A few factors apparently are causing the increase, including the advent of texting, as well as increased driving due to increased employment.  Most States have laws on the books to combat texting and cellular devices while driving, however, these laws do not seem to be stopping the new phenomenon.  According to the NSC, one in four automobile accidents involves cellular phone usage.

Economic factors are also causing increased driving including substantially lower gas prices and more people working.    The more people working, the more people driving to work and the more people with additional income that can be spent on driving not associated with work.   The prior decline in deaths was caused by better made vehicles, stricter enforcement of drunk driving laws, and more frequent use of seat belts.

One possible way to combat the distractions involving cellular phone usage is the driverless vehicle.    But don’t expect driverless vehicles to be at your local dealer anytime soon.   While some States have already passed regulations guiding the industry, no State is permitting driverless vehicles for the average driver.