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Summer is actually the deadliest time to drive in West Virginia

Winter roads can present a host of risk factors, including invisible black ice and drifts of snow. Commutes can take much longer, and it's easier to lose control of your vehicle and end up in a crash. However, winter actually isn't the most dangerous time of the year to drive. That honor falls to the summer months.

There are many factors that contribute to the increase in fatal crashes during the summer. While you may not be able to control the actions and decisions of other drivers on the road, you can take steps to reduce your overall risk while driving.

Cases of black lung disease increasing among miners

Black lung disease has impacted the lives of more miners in West Virginia and elsewhere than originally thought, according to a new study. The authors of the study say the disease is a "real phenomenon."

Researchers from the University of Illinois examined government benefits claims filed by black lung patients dating back to 1970 and identified over 4,600 severe cases of the disease. More than 50 percent of the cases were filed within the past 16 years. Further, they found that black lung cases increased significantly each year in central Appalachian states, with West Virginia experiencing a 30 percent increase. Kentucky and Virginia each experienced 16 percent increases.

Truck crashes, and the most common injuries

With so many commercial trucks traveling across West Virginia and the rest of the U.S., drivers may be wary sharing the road with them. Truck accidents may end in death, usually for the occupants of the passenger vehicle; in fact, occupants of the smaller vehicle make up 97 percent of all fatal crashes between trucks and passenger vehicles. When the occupants survive, they often have to cope with long-term physical and emotional trauma.

Spinal cord injuries are a common injury in truck accidents. The vertebrae can be crushed, compressed, fractured or dislodged by the impact, and nerves may be damaged. Nerve damage results in either temporary or permanent paralysis, which typically means lifelong treatment and medical expenses. When other bones in the body, such as in the legs and arms, are broken, victims may require multiple surgeries before achieving a full recovery.

FMCSA: 2016 saw 3 percent rise in fatal truck crashes

The presence of commercial trucks on the roads of West Virginia, as in other states, can make a lot of drivers anxious. Truck accidents usually result in serious injuries or death for those in passenger vehicles. Though safety measures and technology have kept the crash rates down, there has still been a noticeable increase. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a new report showing a 3 percent rise in fatal truck crashes in 2016.

According to the report, 4,213 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes in 2016, compared to 4,074 the previous year. The number of fatalities increased from 4,094 to 4,317. At the same time, the truck involvement rate remains steady at 1.46; this means 1.46 trucks involved in fatal crashes for every 100 million miles traveled. Most accidents took place on weekdays between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. when visibility is at its poorest and drowsiness is at its height.

Insurtech startup creates device for improved worker safety

In West Virginia and all around the U.S., far too many workplace accidents occur regardless of the industry. Companies and insurers across the nation pay out hundreds of billions of dollars each year in workers' compensation benefits while across the world, workplace accidents result in over 1,000 deaths every day and over 500 injured every minute. From slip, trip and fall hazards to exposure to harmful chemicals, some risks are foreseeable, and some not.

Based in Des Moines, Iowa, the insurtech startup MākuSafe has recently developed a wearable safety device, a band that workers wear that records environmental and other data essential to any efforts to improve workplace safety. That data includes changes in lighting and temperature, close calls and hazardous situations. A cloud platform stores all the data and makes it consumable for workplace safety managers, who can, in turn, implement preventative measures as they see fit.

Research provides more evidence of seat belt safety benefits

The seat belt laws in West Virginia are among the most lenient in the nation, and police officers in the Mountain State are only able to ticket drivers for not being properly restrained after pulling them over for another motor vehicle violation. Road safety advocates have called for every state to pass primary seat belt laws for both front and rear seat passengers, and research published recently in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health provides yet more evidence about the safety benefits of buckling up before every trip.

It is well established that seat belts can prevent serious head injuries and save lives, but the researchers wanted to find out what kind of protection they provide vehicle occupants against serious liver damage. The spleen and liver are the organs most often injured in car accidents; liver injuries are of particular concern because the liver is crucial for life and, unlike the spleen, cannot be removed.

Fatal Polish earthquake highlights risk faced by coal miners

Coal mining remains one of the most profitable industries in West Virginia. Many people work in this critical industry that helps provide energy. Many more have loved ones who work in coal mining. The potential for injury or even death on the job is a constant worry both to coal miners and the people who care for them. Mining in general is not a particularly safe occupation, but coal mining combines the danger of working deep underground with the risk of inhaled particulates.

Occasionally, a news story will highlight the risks involved in the coal industry. After all, fatalities related to coal mining may be on the rise these days. These tragic stories often remind those who work in coal mining to remain cautious while at work. They can also remind their loved ones about the risks the miner takes every day at work.

Software company could help reduce truck driver fatigue

The commercial trucking industry employs more than 7 million people, with nearly half of those employees driving the trucks. With truckers clocking in as much as 70 hours in an eight-day workweek, it's no surprise that driver fatigue is a hazard in the industry. Every year in West Virginia and across the U.S., an estimated 100,000 crashes occur because of truck driver fatigue.

However, a software startup founded three years ago may be able to help in reducing the number of these crashes. BlyncSync was created by a group of Oklahoma University graduates in order to improve safety for truck drivers and reduce turnover rates, which sometimes exceed 90 percent. The founders also make it their goal to improve relationships between truck drivers and their dispatchers.

Goal announced by NSC to reach zero fatalities by 2050

Many people are killed in large truck crashes in West Virginia and the rest of the U.S. each year. The National Safety Council is working together with the Road to Zero Coalition in an effort to reduce the number of fatalities in truck accidents and other types of motor vehicle accidents to zero by 2050.

The National Safety Council reports that an average of 100 people in the U.S. die in motor vehicle accidents every day. In an effort to combat this problem, the Road to Zero Coalition, which involves 675 partners, was formed. A report was released by the Rand Corporation about the methods that can be used to accomplish the goal of zero deaths by 2050. Data shows that there is a long way to go, however. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that there was a 5.4 percent increase in large truck accident deaths in 2016 with 4,317 fatalities. There was a similar increase in traffic fatalities during that year of 5.6 percent.

Do you know how to drive safely on the highway?

As a resident of West Virginia, there's a good chance you spend a lot of time driving on both highways and back roads.

Of course, there's a big difference between driving 70 miles per hour on a highway and 15 miles per hour on a back road. If you don't take a unique approach to each situation it's possible you could increase the likelihood of being part of an accident.

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