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How motorcyclists stay safe on winter roadways

Few things are more fun than hitting West Virginia’s roadways on the back of a motorcycle. Every time you climb behind the handlebars of your bike, though, you must understand your increased risk of sustaining an injury. 

Motorcycle accidents in West Virginia are about on par with the national average. While there are usually more riders on the road in summer months, the state’s climate allows for year-round riding. If you routinely ride on winter roadways, though, you must take additional steps to stay safe on your bike. 

FMCSA notes rise in dump and ready-mix delivery truck crashes

In West Virginia and throughout the country, the trucking industry is experiencing more and more accidents. This is due to the prevalence of bad driving habits like speeding, distracted operation and fatigued driving. All of these issues have been compounded with the lure of by-the-load incentives.

Another factor, experts say, is a poor effort to prevent truck accidents. This is contrasted with the early 2000s, which saw a decline in accident rates due to improved technology and more effective driver safety campaigns. However, some are working to cut down on fatigued driving and improve in-cab monitoring technology.

EHRs linked to medical malpractice

West Virginia residents who have been subjected to medical negligence should be aware of a study that found a link between malpractice and electronic health records, or EHRs. The study, which was published in Health Affairs, revealed that more than half of pediatric safety errors were related to these records. For example, the study found that one physician ordered five times the recommended dose of a medication because the electronic health record did not alert properly.

The lead author of the study, who is also the director of the National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare, explained that the usability of EHRs plays a major role in medication errors. For example, the visual display can become cluttered, raising the odds that mistakes will be made. The record may also fail to provide feedback when a medication is improperly prescribed.

Several conditions commonly misdiagnosed in women

Misdiagnosis is a common problem for women in West Virginia who seek medical care with symptoms that could be attributed to many different issues. People who suffer harm due to a misdiagnosis or other medical error might be entitled to compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses or other damages. Among the conditions that are commonly missed in women because of equivocal symptoms are diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, thyroid disease and heart disease.

Diverticulitis can be missed by doctors when women seek treatment because they have serious bloating. Bloating can be the result of stress, the menstrual cycle or other causes. Because of the number of causes of bloating, doctors might misdiagnose it. Serious bloating might mean the patient has diverticulitis, a bacterial infection or ovarian cancer. Irritable bowel syndrome, too, is commonly misdiagnosed because it can look to medical professionals like a symptom of premenstrual syndrome. IBS might cause stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, gas or cramping. Dietary changes and low-dose antidepressants can be effective against IBS once it is accurately diagnosed.

HOS rules blamed for contributing to rise in trucking deaths

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires that commercial truckers take a 30-minute rest break after eight consecutive hours of driving. Many in West Virginia and across the U.S. complain that this rule is inflexible and that the result is more truckers speeding to meet deadlines. Some also say that if they could drive straight through their 11-hour shift, they would not be so drowsy by the end.

These complaints come in the wake of a recent increase in large-truck fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 4,761 people, including about 1,300 truckers, were killed in large-truck crashes in 2017. That's 392 more lives than the previous year. It also marks a 29-year high.

Conditions that mimic Parkinson's may cause treatment delays

Many West Virginia patients may be diagnosed with Parkinson's disease based on their symptoms. These symptoms typically include trembling, weakness, muscles that feel stiff and walking with an unsteady gait. Unfortunately, because the symptoms of Parkinson's disease also mimic those of other illnesses and conditions, people may be misdiagnosed and receive the wrong treatment. Getting the correct diagnosis and beginning treatment as soon as possible gives patients the best prognosis.

The symptoms of Parkinson's disease are similar to many disorders, but mainly mimic two -- essential tremors and drug-induced Parkinson's disease. Essential tremors, which are also known as benign essential tremors or familial tremors, is a movement disorder that causes brief, uncontrollable shaking in the hands. Essential tremors may also be experienced in the neck, head, voice box and in the lower body. There is a treatment for the tremors, but it is different than Parkinson's treatment, so it's important the correct diagnosis is made.

What is the state doing to keep motorcycle riders safe?

Motorcycles are a popular way to get around. While they only account for 3 percent of all vehicles on the road, there are many people who are loyal biking enthusiasts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes a significant rise in motorcycle-related crashes and deaths from 2011 to 2016. Motorcycle fatalities account for 13 percent of all motor vehicle accident fatalities.

Every state passes motorcycle laws to keep motorcyclists safe on roads and highways. Knowing the laws in West Virginia before you decide to purchase that new hog is essential.

Malpractice premiums and claims on the decline

Doctors in West Virginia might pay as much as $50,000 to $200,000 per year in medical malpractice insurance premiums, but the rate is not rising. This contrasts with the turn of the century when rates were going up as much as 25 percent. The average jury award was $3 million, and this drove some companies out of the business, leading some doctors to struggle in search of coverage.

One of those companies was St. Paul Cos. In 2001, when it ended malpractice coverage, it was the largest in the business, and over 40,000 physicians were affected. The trend today is for more physicians to work for large practices or hospitals, which help pay some of the malpractice insurance premiums.

Understanding LBD

West Virginia residents who suffer from Lewy body dementia, or LBD, may have their condition misdiagnosed. That's because the condition's symptoms are very similar to well-known diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Even though almost 1.4 million people in the United States are believed to have LBD, many medical professionals are not familiar with the condition.

LBD is a complex and progressive disorder of the brain. With this condition, Lewy bodies, or abnormal deposits of the alpha-synuclein protein, accumulate in the parts of the brain that oversee movement, cognition and behavior. It is a progressively debilitating disease that impacts the autonomic function of the body, including temperature regulation, bladder function, blood pressure control and bowel function. People who suffer from LBD are also likely to act out their dreams or have visual hallucinations.

Tractor-trailers with automatic braking systems are rare

Automatic emergency braking systems are either standard or optional equipment on many of the passenger vehicles available in West Virginia and around the country, and car makers have vowed to equip all of their vehicles with this potentially life-saving technology by 2022. However, few semi-tractor trailers are fitted with such systems despite evidence suggesting that they are highly effective and an alarming increase in truck accident fatalities over the last two decades.

The National Transportation Safety Board made the first of at least 10 calls for NHTSA to mandate commercial vehicle automatic emergency braking systems in 1990. The agency says that the technology is currently being tested and evaluated in the field. This testing is expected to be completed within the next two years according to the agency. Logistics industry trade groups have opposed a new regulation. Organizations including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say that new rules should be implemented on a voluntary basis.

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