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Automotive Safety

view of bayshore drive in tampa florida at dusk

Traffic Safety Measures on Tampa’s Bayshore Blvd

By | Automotive Safety, Car Accident, Pedestrian Accidents, Traffic Law | No Comments

In May 2018, a mother and toddler were tragically hit and killed by a speeding motorist along Tampa’s scenic Bayshore Boulevard. This senseless and unspeakable loss of life inspired cries for a more pedestrian-friendly roadway. These concerns were recently heard at a city council meeting where Bayshore Boulevard was discussed. The popular roadway, favored by pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike, has been under the microscope after the terrible incident on May 23rd. While it seems like changes can’t come soon enough, fortunately, the city has elected to make multiple changes in a 3 phase project, with efforts aimed at making this busy boulevard a safer place for the community.
Bayshoure Boulevard

Speed Is an Issue

Bayshore Boulevard is a scenic stretch of roadway that runs along Hillsborough Bay in Tampa, Florida. It’s a popular choice for commuters and pedestrians because of its proximity to the water and its long – and mostly straight – stretches of road. The speed limit was recently lowered from 40 miles per hour to 35 in an effort to reduce dangerous speeding. In addition to the speed reduction, the city has also replaced the signage with new, more visible markers in addition to painting the new speed limits onto the roadway itself.

This certainly isn’t enough to deter people from racing along the roadway, which was the cause of the accident that took place in May. A mother was pushing her 2-year-old daughter along in a stroller when the incident happened. Three people were arrested after the collision, being charged with street racing, reaching speeds of 102 miles per hour. In an effort to reduce these kinds of reckless driving events, the city is also going to be narrowing the lanes, creating a wider, more buffered bike path. As the roadway narrows and the bike path is widened, traffic should naturally slow. At least that is the intended result. Both lowering the speed limits and narrowing the roadways should improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians that continue to take in the beautiful scenery offered by the boulevards alternative travel methods.

Lighted Crosswalks

Lighted Crosswalks

Expected to be finished in October, the city is also installing several lighted, pedestrian-activated crosswalks, something many community members feel has been sorely missing and long overdue. Adding several more crosswalks is still under consideration as these improvements continue their development.

Other Improvements

Conspicuity plaques, or signs that inform motorists of road rules, are also being placed along the roadway to promote safety awareness. The city is also working to fix the sidewalk gaps that exist on the west side of Bayshore Boulevard, increasing the pedestrian safety along the walkway. As part of the 3 phase implementation of this project, the city is planning to add more bike lanes south to Gandy Boulevard, providing cyclists more commuting options.

More Work Still To Be Done

Bayshore Boulevard is hardly the only dangerous roadway in Tampa, as many citizens pointed out at the recent city council meeting. Bay to Bay Boulevard is yet another dangerous and crowded route. In any case, the city is taking action and considering more alternatives as a way to make the city safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike. As Tampa continues to grow, the safety of the people that inhabit the city becomes ever more crucial, especially on the roadways which are increasingly dangerous. What’s clear is that it shouldn’t take a tragic loss of life for the city to take action. Bayshore Boulevard has long been dangerous to those that travel on it. It remains to be seen if these new changes will reduce accidents, but it’s a start for a roadway that has long needed more safety improvements.

Motorcycle Safety Gear Recommendations

By | Automotive Safety, Motorcycle Accident | No Comments

Certain pieces of safety equipment are designed to help protect a rider’s body from serious injuries if a motorcycle accident occurs.

5 Essential Pieces of Riding Gear for All Conditions

  • DOT Approved Helmets: Wear a properly fitted helmet and replace it every five years. A helmet reduces a rider’s risk of death or traumatic brain injury by at least 40% if he/she is involved in a crash. Helmets can be customized for unique style. While full-face helmets offer the best protection, open face helmets offer more life-saving protection than no helmet at all. Florida does not require riders to wear helmets, but we strongly encourage riders to wear them.
  • Long / Reinforced Pants: Always ride wearing long pants that cover the ankle. Exposed ankles can be burned by hot exhaust and engine parts. Consider purchasing special reinforced motorcycle pants. Some varieties are designed to withstand a slide across pavement at high speeds. Others are fitted with protective panels in the hips and buttocks. Protective pants can reduce or eliminate road rash injuries in the event of an accident.
  • Vibrantly Colored Jackets / Helmets: Bright yellow and orange stand out at considerable distances. If you prefer dark riding leathers, a brightly colored or white helmet may still provide a strong contrast against dark clothing and can help a rider to stand out. If black gear is not a necessity, consider a vibrant riding jacket or protective jackets with reflective trim/panels. Riders might also add a reflective belt or vest over existing gear when riding at nighttime.
  • Riding Gloves: At minimum, leather riding gloves can protect a rider’s hand from potential road rash injuries. Several common motorcycle clothing outfitters offer reinforced nylon, composite, and Kevlar gloves fitted with protective panels in the palms and knuckles. In a crash, a rider may instinctively put his/her hands down to break a fall or to stop from sliding. Gloves with reinforced palms may protect hands from being torn apart in the event of an accident.
  • Boots / Protective Shoes: Boots or heavy duty hiking / construction shoes offer the best protection. Full size boots covered by protective pants provide a rider the best insulation against ankle burns. Boots are more likely to hold up and protect feet in the event of an accident. Boots or shoes with a heel are recommended for motorcycles of all makes. The heel provides a stronger grip point and helps to keep a rider’s foot secured over the foot peg. Heeled boots also provide the ideal positioning for a rider to pivot the foot on the peg and shift gears or apply the brake.

52 Injured in California Tour Bus Rollover Crash

By | Automotive Safety, Car Accident, Distracted Driving | No Comments

A California tour bus carrying casino-bound passengers crashed near Irwindale early on August 22nd on California’s 210 Freeway. The bus overturned following a two-vehicle crash, sending 52 passengers to nearby hospital emergency rooms.

Early investigation results, conducted by California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officers, revealed that the bus driver, a 55-year-old California resident, was at fault for executing an unsafe lane change. The bus was eastbound in the number one lane when it moved right into the number two lane.

However, the driver allegedly failed to properly check his mirrors and did not see a white Hyundai Elantra in the number two lane. Most tour buses are equipped with mirrors allowing the driver to view any vehicle that might be on either side. The bus struck the Elantra from the side and then veered all the way to the right, off of the roadway where it then overturned. The bus landed on its side and slid several feet beside traffic lanes. 51 passengers, along with the driver, were temporarily trapped inside.

All occupants had some form of injury. 32 people had minor cuts and bruises, 11 experienced moderate injuries, and 5 elderly passengers were seriously injured. Traffic was blocked for miles as a total of 7 patients were rushed by helicopter medevac to regional hospitals. All 52 occupants were treated for injuries and at least 12 were transported by ambulance to nearby hospitals.

Initial reports cite the tour bus company, Da Zhen Travel, to be in the 56th percentile. In the past 24 months, a few of its drivers had received traffic citations while operating company buses. Da Zhen is likely to face several personal injury lawsuit claims from many of the passengers aboard the overturned bus.

Reference:

San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Hit and Run Fatality on I-4

By | Automotive Safety, Car Accident, Hit & Run | No Comments

Stephen Hughes, 61, of Kissimmee was killed in a fatal hit and run crash on August 22nd. During the Orlando morning rush hour, Hughes’ 2008 Hyundai Accent skidded off the interstate and struck a palm tree. The car wrapped around the tree, killing the driver. The Hyundai was travelling eastbound on 1-4 in Orlando near a semi-wooded stretch of road.

An accident eye-witness told investigators that a gold-colored sedan was seen driving recklessly near Hyundai just moments before the wreck. Early details indicate that the Hyundai may have been struck by the gold car or was otherwise run off of the road. Officials are calling the accident a hit-and-run fatality, but are investigating any possibility of road rage. Eastbound lanes of 1-4 were closed for over five hours to allow investigators access to the scene. Authorities are still looking for the other gold-colored car involved in the crash.

Stephen Hughes was a history and social studies teacher at nearby Lake Eola High School. A local parent in the Lake Eola district, Cindy Hamilton, offered praises to Hughes:

“Mr. Hughes first year at Lake Eola was our first year at Lake Eola. All three of my kids had Steve for three years each. He was a great teacher and a natural…he knew what it meant to be a teacher and how to listen to kids.”

Orlando police and Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) have continued with a full investigation and ask anyone with information about the driver of the gold-colored car to call Crimeline at 1-800-423-8477.

References:

Orlando Sentinel – http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-fatal-crash-orlando-i-4-20130822,0,5317514.story

Insured Driver Tired of Paying for Uninsured

By | Automotive Safety, Car Accident, Insurance | No Comments

According to the Sun-Sentinel, a 35-year resident of South Florida is upset because she has been rear-ended twice by drivers with no insurance. She told the paper that it is time to take action to prevent incidents like this from taking place.

“They are out there, and they are going to hit you and injure you. We, the citizens who live by the rules and laws, are paying for it,” she explained to the paper.

Earlier this year, an Insure.com analysis found that Florida auto insurance rates are a bargain compared to other states. Its average annual premium of $1,364 resulted in a 2013 state ranking of 34th, below the national average of $1,510. But rates may have been even lower if there were less uninsured drivers.

The Sunshine State was ranked among the highest uninsured motorist rates in the U.S. in a study by the Insurance Research Council released a few years ago. The IRC reported that approximately 23 percent of Florida drivers are uninsured, the fifth highest percentage of uninsured drivers in the nation. Researchers predicted that this rate would likely increase in the future with the economic downturn.

Uninsured motorist coverage is not required by law, but it may be worth considering, especially if you’re worried about getting into an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. UM coverage can pay for expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

If you have been injured in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver that was at fault, it may also be wise to consider contacting a qualified personal injury attorney to discuss your legal rights.

Are Grandparents Safer Drivers?

By | Automotive Safety | No Comments

Driving may get more difficult as people age and vision begins to decline with vision sometimes declining, but children may actually be safer with grandma or grandpa at the wheel, a study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests.

Parade magazine reported that, although adults have a similar accident rate, accidents involving senior drivers resulted in less serious injuries. Most children were reported to have been restrained at the time of the crash. However, children in grandparent-driven vehicles were less likely to use optimal restraints than in parent-driven vehicles. Despite this factor, children in crashes with grandma or grandpa driving were at one-half the risk of injuries than those in crashes with mom or dad at the wheel.

“These results suggest that there are some unaccounted-for protective grandparent driving style characteristics,” the study stated. “An extensive literature exists on older drivers, suggesting that as a group, they are more risk averse than younger drivers but suffer from perceptual deficiencies and problems judging and responding to traffic flow.”

The study also indicates that grandparents may be more cautious on the road because they have ‘precious cargo’ in the vehicle.

The cross-sectional study of motor vehicle crashes that occurred between 2003 and 2007 involved children aged 15 years or younger, with cases identified through insurance claims and data collected via follow-up telephone surveys. It concluded that grandchildren seem to be safer in crashes when driven by grandparents, but safety could be enhanced more if they followed current child-restraint guidelines.

Tips for Choosing the Correct Child Safety Seat

By | Automotive Safety | No Comments

While today’s vehicles are equipped with air bags and advanced onboard crash computers designed to protect adults in a crash, using a properly sized child safety seat is the best way to protect a child in case of an accident. All fifty states require that children of the ages three and below be secured in car seats when riding in privately owned vehicles. Kentucky requires the use of a child seat for children less than 40”-tall, regardless of age.

Safety seats come in a wide range of sizes to properly fit during each stage of a child’s growth. While many brands and models offer a variety of comfort features and washable fabrics, parents should ensure that whichever model they select meets certain age and size-specific design criteria.

A Guideline to the Four Types of Child Safety Seats

Using a child’s car seat correctly starts with selecting the appropriate seat configuration for your child’s height and weight. The back seat is statistically the safest place for children and experts recommend the use of child safety seats in the back seat at all times unless your vehicle does not have back seats. The four steps below identify the recommended progression of seat types along with each corresponding age group to help maximize safety:

  1. Rear-Facing Safety Car Seat (Birth – Month 12): Babies under 12 months should always ride in rear-facing safety seats. “Infant-only” seats can only be used as rear-facing and some can also be detached from the base, doubling as portable hand-carry baby seats. 3-in-1 convertible seats offer more longevity and also have higher height and weight limits for the rear facing position.
  2. Forward Facing Safety Car Seat (Years 1 – 3): Your child should be kept in the rear-facing position until the maximum height and weight limits are exceeded. Once the child has grown beyond rear-facing limits, switch to a forward-facing seat with a harness. Convertible seats can be reconfigured to face forward.
  3. Booster Seat (Years 4 – 7): Again, your child should remain in a forward facing seat until the manufacturer’s maximum height or weight limit is exceeded. Next, move to a seat specifically designated as a child booster seat. Most booster seats allow the seat belt to be secured in front of the child rather than the separate harness used with car seats.
  4. Seat Belt (Year 8 – Height Maturity): Use your child’s booster seat until he/she is big enough to be properly fitted with a seat belt on its own. Proper fit means that the lap belt lies naturally and snugly across the child’s upper thighs, not across the abdomen. The shoulder belt should fit comfortably across the shoulder, or the collarbone, and chest. It should not cross the neck or touch the face. Never allow the children to tuck the shoulder strap behind them.

General Tips for Maximum Safety at All Ages

  1. Always read through your child safety seat’s manufacturer instructions and your vehicle’s owner manual to learn how to operate a child car seat. Your car’s owner’s manual will indicate if it is equipped with the LATCH system. The LATCH system offers the safest method of securing a child seat. If the LATCH system is not equipped, follow the instructions on properly securing the child seat using the rear seat belt.
  2. It is important to keep your child in each safety seat as long as possible. Do not progress to the next seat-stage until manufacturer’s height and weight requirements are exceeded.
  3. The back seat is the safest place for a child. Keep your child riding in the back seat through at least age 12.

References:

Parents Central – Car Seats & Booster Basics –http://www.safercar.gov/parents/RightSeat.htm

Baby Center – Car seat safety: The biggest mistakes parents make, and how to avoid them – http://www.babycenter.com/0_car-seat-safety-the-biggest-mistakes-parents-make-and-how-to_64875.bc

16 AUG / 2013

Children, Gun Safety, and the Law

ELIZABETH MUNRO

In the wake of the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting tragedy, gun control has again become a national focal point and subject of heated disputes. Other high-profile incidents, such as the shooting of Sanford teen Treyvon Martin by a neighborhood watch member, have placed the state of Florida and its firearm laws under the public microscope.

Firearm safety seems to have a common, direct connection to children’s safety. Gun violence is an unfortunate component of American society and law enforcement, but the topic receives special attention and varying arguments when the controversial topic involves children. There are strong arguments that are in favor of exposing kids to firearms and promoting gun safety/awareness at a young age. Some parents argue that teaching kids about firearms properly reduces firearm accidents because it removes the curiosity and taboo associated with them. Others argue that guns and safety training are unnecessary.

Florida and Child Access Prevention Laws

Florida is one of several states with Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws. It is a misdemeanor offense to allow or to fail to stop a child under the age of 16 from gaining access to firearms. Firearms in the home are required to be secured in a locked box, container, or secured by a gun lock. This also applies to relatives who may have children visiting their homes regularly.

The state of Florida imposes additional criminal liability on the firearm owner in cases where the firearm is improperly secured and the child is caught in possession of the firearm in public and/or uses the firearm in a threatening manner.

Local News and Child Accident Statistics

In early May, a 3-year-old Tampa boy died after he was shot in his uncle’s apartment. The boy, Jadarrius Sprights, was believed to have removed a loaded 9mm handgun from his uncle’s backpack in the living room. The boy’s uncle, 29-year-old Jeffrey Walker, apparently left the loaded weapon unsecured in the backpack. Jadarrius accidentally shot himself while handling the gun. Walker purchased the gun legally and holds a CCW permit, but has been arrested and charged with Culpable Negligence under Florida’s Child Access Prevention (CAP) law. Under Florida CAP law, Walker was responsible for securing the handgun with a gunlock or inside a locked container, or otherwise preventing access to the gun, while it was in the same living space as his nephew. If convicted, Walker faces potential prison time associated with a third degree felony.

From December of 2012 to May of 2013, at least 71 shooting deaths have claimed the lives of children under age 17.

  • 40 of those deaths were unintentional/accidents, 31 were alleged homicides
  • The average age of the victims was just under six years old
  • At least 29 accidental deaths occurred when a child under 17 pulled the trigger
  • Florida was the leading state for most child deaths (four accidents, five alleged homicides)

Nearly all of the 40 accidental deaths were violations of CAP laws and may have been prevented by the use of gun locks or locked cases.

References:

Citrus County Sheriff Firearms Guide (pdf) – http://www.sheriffcitrus.org/pdf/FlFirearmsGuide.pdf

Summary of State Child Access Prevention Laws (pdf) –http://www.leg.wa.gov/Senate/Committees/LAW/Documents/SummaryOfStateChild

AccessPreventionLaws.pdf

WFLA (.com) – http://www.wfla.com/story/22188603/three-year-old-boy

Mother Jones Magazine – http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/05/gun-deaths-children-newtown-caroline-sparks-crickett-firearms

Dram Shop Laws in the State of Florida

By | Automotive Safety, Car Accident, Drunk Driving | No Comments

A dram shop law or statute is a term associated with liability for injuries caused by drunk drivers. Many states have enacted a dram shop law, but limitations and conditions vary from one state to the next. In general, dram shop laws refer to the idea that establishments which serve alcohol, like bars and nightclubs, have a responsibility in preventing drunk driving. If a drunk driver was served alcohol in one of these establishments and later gets involved in an accident and causes injury or property damage, the victim can potentially pursue a liability claim against the serving establishment.

Dram Shop Statute Specifics in Florida

Florida’s dram shop law, statute 768.125, reads as follows:

“…a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or who knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person.”

This means that a drunk-driving accident victim can only pursue a claim against an alcohol-serving establishment if one of two specific conditions applies.

  1. Underage Drinking: If the driver is under the lawful drinking age (21 in FL), serving establishments bear the burden of responsibility in verifying legal drinking age in all customers as well as denying service if they suspect use of a fraudulent ID. If an underage driver is served alcohol, then leaves the establishment and causes an accident, any party injured in that accident can pursue a legitimate claim against the establishment under current Florida dram shop law.
  2. Knowingly Serving an Alcoholic: If an accident is caused by a person habitually addicted to alcohol, any person injured by the accident may be able to pursue a liability claim against the establishment if they can prove the bartender or manager was aware of the driver’s status as an alcoholic and elected to serve alcohol to that individual.

These claims can be more difficult to pursue due to the burden of proof. Proving habitual addiction to alcohol can be done by accessing the driver’s arrest history. Evidence of court-ordered alcohol rehabilitation programs, as well as multiple intoxication-related arrests, may serve as proof. However, an investigation must also prove that the establishment was aware that they were serving drinks to an alcoholic. Most times, bartenders might not pry into touchy subjects like alcoholism and may not be aware of a patron’s status as a diagnosed alcoholic.

Summary of Dram Shop Law Intent

Florida’s Dram Shop law has been criticized by some as weak or relatively ineffective, but others may view the law as effectively limited to protect bars and restaurants from indirect liability associated with individual acts it cannot possibly control. The law aims to hold establishments responsible for areas of clear responsibility for public safety– such as serving any underage patron or knowingly serving someone who has a problem with alcohol.

Many bars and restaurants choose to protect themselves further by participating in and strongly advocating taxicab ride programs for intoxicated patrons. Many bartenders are also trained to look for signs of intoxication and will often take proactive steps to prevent inebriated patrons from getting behind the wheel.

References:

Online Sunshine – 2012 Florida Statutes – http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0700-0799/0768/Sections/0768.125.html

Specialized Automotive Equipment for Disabled & Elderly Drivers

By | Automotive Safety | No Comments

Spinal cord injury (SCI) patients and other people living with mobility limitations may not be aware of the many kinds of adaptive driving devices and equipment available to them. Nerve damage can create a loss of muscular control or sensation of pressure at or below the injury site. Muscular rigidity can also impact function in the arms or legs.

A patient who has suffered a recent spinal cord injury or nerve damage may suddenly discover an inability to operate basic automobile controls. In comparison, elderly people who struggle with arthritis, joint problems, or muscular degeneration may also experience the inability to judge or apply pressure to the steering wheel or foot pedals. Fortunately, many different types of adaptive equipment are available to make driving safe and easy for people with certain physical limitations.

Innovative Adaptive Equipment for Driver Independence

Adaptive devices can literally make a life or death difference in the driver’s ability to maneuver safely. There are some devices that can be fitted to a regular passenger vehicle without considerable effort or modifications to the existing equipment. Others require professional installation, but do not compromise the vehicle’s integrity in any way.

Hand Controls (Accelerator/Brake): Many variants of a hand operated throttle/brake lever are available for those with impaired leg function. Most devices are installed underneath the steering column or along the center console. Components are routed away from the driver and do not touch the legs or reduce available seating space. Hand levers are seated close to the steering wheel and allow the driver to push forward for braking or pull back for acceleration.

Newer models consist of a pressure ring mounted just inside or behind the steering wheel. Squeezing the right side accelerates the left brakes. These types of hand controls allow a driver to keep both hands on the wheel while braking or accelerating. Additionally, nearly all interior vehicle controls (radio, climate, headlights) can be re-routed and operated through a steering wheel mounted keypad, eliminating the need for a driver to reach across his/her body while operating the vehicle.

Steering Wheel Grips: A special grip or knob can be secured to the steering wheel for easy one-handed operation. Peg and prong variants exist to accompany palm-steering or the use of prosthetics; there’s even an eyelet variant that will accommodate a prosthetic hook. These simple grips and knobs work well alone or in conjunction with accelerator/brake hand controls.

Reduced/Zero Effort Steering: Reduced/Zero effort devices typically modify a vehicle’s existing power steering assembly, making the “assist” more powerful and reducing turning the steering wheel to a fingertip effort. These systems are usually installed in conjunction with a steering knob or grip for safety. This system benefits anyone with limited arm strength or range of movement.

Foot Steering: For those who do not have the use of their arms, a foot steering device can be installed next to the OEM pedals. The driver’s shoe is fitted with an external pin and matches up with a small rotary wheel and is turned using the foot in the same motion as a traditional steering wheel. The driver uses the other foot to operate the brake and gas normally.

Any of the devices described here can be fitted on the majority of existing passenger vehicles. For drivers who require wheelchairs (manual or motorized), a modified minivans or full size van might be necessary. These vans are typically equipped with comprehensive package options including the “bolt-on” equipment already discussed, but may also include chair lifts, turning driver seats, lowered floors, or special anchors/restraints that allow the driver to operate the vehicle directly from a wheelchair.

Tampa Drivers Ranked Among the Worst

By | Automotive Safety, Car Accident, Distracted Driving | No Comments

A writer for Slate put in words what many people already knew: Tampa drivers aren’t the greatest.

Brian Palmer, Slate’s “chief explainer” who has analyzed other serious issues like: “Hurricane Sandy: How to count the fatalities?” recently examined a completely different topic, America’s worst drivers.

He examined insurance mileage and accident reports, the Huffington Post reported, and he also did what many reporters love to do, he looked at the bottom of the annual “America’s Best Drivers Report,” published by Allstate Insurance Company, to instead find America’s worst drivers.

Tampa drivers were ranked fourth worst. Palmer explained that Tampa achieved this ranking since it was consistently poor in various areas as opposed to doing one specific thing horribly:

  • 5th in traffic fatalities
  • 10th in pedestrian strikes
  • 11th in DWI fatalities
  • 18th worst in years between accidents

The number one ranking city for the worst drivers was Miami, which ranked:

  • First in automotive fatalities
  • First in pedestrian strikes
  • First in obscenity-laced tirades of fellow drivers

Other cities that ranked among the top five for the worst drivers included:

  • Philadelphia, PA – No. 2
  • Hialeah, FL – No. 3, and
  • Baltimore, MD – No. 5.
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