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New Mexico Legal Issues Blog

AAA: 'Explosion' of dashboard technology proves very distracting

A new study by AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety raises serious questions about all the new "infotainment" technology automakers are packing into new vehicles. The study found that, even where the in-vehicle technology was less distracting than a cellphone app, it caused more distraction overall because it was used more.

It's getting worse, according to the University of Utah professor who performed the study for AAA. He said that prior studies have indicated the problem, but that an "explosion of technology" may be putting people at serious risk.

12 women accuse jailed New Mexico psychiatrist of sexual abuse

In July, a New Mexico psychiatrist was arrested on six counts of criminal sexual penetration as well as five counts of criminal sexual conduct. The sexual abuse occurred during "visits to his office during office hours that were part of supposed treatment," according to a Farmington police detective. The doctor was denied bond and is awaiting trial.

This month, according to the Courthouse News Service, that same psychiatrist has been sued by twelve women who claim he coerced them into discussing their sex lives and performing sexual acts on him. He allegedly told them it was a part of therapy.

Study: Off-road vehicle use may expose riders to asbestos

A recent meta-analysis of 15 prior studies and reports found that off-road vehicle (ORV) use is associated with asbestos exposure. That means there is a risk that riders could develop mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, and other diseases.

The problem is that ORVs kick up a lot of dust, and asbestos has been found to occur naturally in the Appalachian mountain range and ranges throughout the West and Southwest.

Bicyclists and motorists: the battle for road space

Most road lanes were designed for one car to navigate comfortably. Increasingly, we see roads with bike lanes, but these are by no means universal. Many bikes and motor vehicles are forced to share spaces that do not offer either a comfortable amount of space to navigate.

Too many riders are inadvertently sideswiped by passing vehicles or pushed so far towards the curb that they run the risk of hitting debris, potholes or stationary parked cars. How can you position yourself to prevent injury while biking New Mexico's roads?

Crime rates up for second year but still near historic lows

According to the FBI's most recent "Crime in the United States" report, violent crime rose noticeably in Albuquerque between 2015 and 2016, but only modestly nationwide. Experts say the national rise in violent crime is driven by spikes in a few cities and the overall rate remains near historically low levels. The FBI points out that this is the first time in a decade that the violent crime rate has risen in two consecutive years.

It's important for the public to understand the context of these increases because people often have false beliefs about the prevalence of crime. The reality is that all the forms of violent crime measured by the FBI are near historic lows. When the public concludes the nation is in the midst of a crime wave, it is often tempting to restrict civil rights as a result.  

EpiPen makers accused of failing to investigate defective devices

EpiPens can be a lifeline in deadly situations. An EpiPen directly injects epinephrine, immediately alleviating life-threatening allergic reactions. With so much at stake, it is important that the device functions correctly. However, the makers of EpiPen have been accused by the FDA of neglecting to investigate malfunction complaints.

EpiPens failed to activate in situations ending in death

Is your loved one's nursing home prepared for an emergency?

Hurricane Irma slammed into South Florida on Sept. 14. The next day, eight residents of the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills died. The facility did not seek evacuation even though the air conditioning was knocked out by the storm, and some elderly and disabled people are medically sensitive to heat.

The investigation into what happened at the Florida facility is ongoing. Unfortunately, you don't have to be in the path of a hurricane to need emergency preparedness. Skilled nursing facilities across the country are required to have emergency plans in case they need to evacuate, and the emergency could just as easily be an ordinary power outage, heat wave or fire.

Trucking industry wants in on self-driving vehicle regulation bill

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill meant to make it easier for self-driving cars to get on the road -- and to block states from restricting them. The bill is now before the Senate Commerce Committee, and the trucking industry has urged lawmakers to include autonomous commercial trucks in the legislation.

Currently, the proposal only applies to motor vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds, but a Senate proposal could add large commercial trucks.

Hawkes family seeks default judgment against city in death case

The family of Mary Hawkes, the 19-year-old who was shot down by police in 2014, has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Albuquerque. They claim a series of unlawful searches and seizures, along with Albuquerque Police Department negligence, led to the young woman's wrongful death.

This week, the family asked a judge to issue a default judgment against the city. A default judgment typically occurs when one party fails to respond to a lawsuit, fails to appear at trial, or acts in such a way that it is in the interest of public policy to deny that party further rights in the suit.

Traffic deaths down in first half of year, still higher than 2015

Preliminary estimates sow U.S. traffic fatalities were slightly lower during the first half of 2017 than over the same period last year. Unfortunately, they remained 8 percent higher than in 2015. Worse, the 2016 number was a 6-percent jump over 2015 and represented the largest two-year increase since 1964. Moreover, the fatality rate typically goes up in the second half of the year.

This information comes from the National Safety Council, which has been tracking U.S. fatality trends for nearly 100 years. The group estimates that 18,680 people have already died on American roads since January -- and 2.1 more were seriously injured.