September 2010 Archives

September 30, 2010

Text messaging ban may not reduce risks of North Carolina car accidents

The Washington Post reports that motorists are largely ignoring state-passed laws banning drivers from text messaging while behind the wheel.

Our North Carolina personal injury attorneys and wrongful death lawyers frequently report on the dangers of text messaging while driving and the patchwork of laws aimed at forbidding the practice. North Carolina bans drivers from text messaging; South Carolina has no such law. Thirty states have issued bans and eight others forbid all use of hand-held cell phones by drivers.
The Post reports it has been almost 150 years since the first speeding law took effect, and enforcement has limited effects on those motorists who still insist upon speeding. Speeding, distracted driving and drunk driving are the leading causes of fatal car accidents nationwide.

A report by the Highway Loss Data Institute compared four states that prohibit text messaging with four states where it is allowed and found no significant reduction.

"The point of texting bans is to reduce crashes, and by this essential measure the laws are ineffective," said Adrian Lund, president of the research group and of the affiliated Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has thus been critical on the hyper-focus given distracted driving, saying it is taking focus away from developing new safety technologies and otherwise working to improve driver safety.

Not surprisingly, the federal government disagrees, having focused an enormous amount of time and resources on the dangers of distracted driving, and text messaging in particular.

"This report is completely misleading," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Distracted driving-related crashes killed nearly 5,500 people in 2009 and injured almost half a million more. Lives are at stake, and all the reputable research we have says that tough laws, good enforcement and increased public awareness will help put a stop to the deadly epidemic of distracted driving on our roads."

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September 29, 2010

Wet weather increases risk of North Carolina car accidents

With all of the rainy weather, and the remnants of the season's 16th Tropical Depression slated to hit the coast late this week and into the weekend, it's a good time to review safety tips for driving in wet weather.

CBS 9 recently made this video report. The truth of the matter is that avoiding a North Carolina car accident is often about defensive driving, and that is particularly true in inclement weather.

The following tips are adapted from Edmunds:

Allow more travel time: Wet roads require a slower pace and make hurrying particularly dangerous. Flooded roads could also delay your arrival.

Be extra cautious after a dry spell: Engine oil and grease build up on the road during dry weather and can be an added danger when water is added to the mix.

Brake early and often (and with less force): Brakes react differently in wet weather. They may also grab with force. Applying brakes gently and early will not only give you more time to stop, it will allow more time to gauge how your vehicle reacts and to react accordingly.

Stay toward the middle of the road:
This will often allow you to avoid the deepest water at the side of the road and to avoid washed out road edges. Be careful of oncoming traffic, however.

Avoid cruise control:
The effect of wet roads could make your vehicle accelerate unexpectedly. It also makes a driver less vigilant and often requires extra time to return your foot to the pedals.

Avoid standing or running water in the road: Do not attempt to drive through water across the road. Electrical systems can be damaged and potholes and other road hazards can be hidden by the water.

Use your headlights: They allow you to see more and for other motorists to see you.

Watch for pedestrians:
They can be hard to see and are likely hurrying to get in out of the rain.

Pull over and wait: If the storm becomes too heavy.

Defog your windows: Keep as clear a view as possible of the road ahead.

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September 28, 2010

Teens at high risk of North Carolina car accident as we heading into Autumn

The case of 16-year-old Ashely Johnson is making news as far away as California after she was killed in a North Carolina car accident shortly after retrieving a text message.

Heather Hurd, 26, was killed after a tractor trailer slammed into nine cars stopped at an intersection in Florida. The truck was doing 65 mph and the trucker was allegedly text messaging at the time.
Our North Carolina injury lawyers continue to report on the risks faced by teenagers behind the wheel. The news is heavy right now because of the government's second-annual Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, D.C., where the federal government's transportation chief -- U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood -- has called distracted driving an epidemic.

Kids are among those most at risk for most poor driving habits and distracted driving is no exception. As we reported on our North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Blog, teens are largely aware of the dangers, they just ignore the risks associated with texting or talking on the phone while driving.

Nationwide, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers ages 15 to 20, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Teenagers are also at increased risk for drunk driving, not wearing safety belts and speeding.

As the seasons change, and our teenagers head back to school, many will be earning the right to drive. We encourage parents to set and adhere to strict guidelines, including curfews and limiting the number of friends who may ride in the car with a teenager at any given time.

Please sit down and have a detailed conversation with your teenager about the expectations. And frequently speak with them about the dangers as we head into the homecoming and holiday season.

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September 27, 2010

New statistics for 2009 show distracted driving car accidents an ongoing danger in North Carolina and elsewhere

While the number of distracted driving car accidents declined last year, amid a nationwide reduction in serious and fatal car accidents, the federal government still blames distracted driving for more than 5,400 deaths and nearly half a million injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Our North Carolina car accident lawyers frequently report on the dangers of distracted driving, including text messaging and cell phone use behind the wheel. Now, a new report by the government shows that distracted driving was responsible for 16 percent of all fatal car accidents in 2009.

A total of 5,474 people were killed and 448,000 were injured in accidents caused by distracted driving. Only drunk driving and speeding were blamed for more deaths on the nation's roads. As the nation's second-annual Distracted Driving Summit was held in Washington last week, the numbers prompted U.S. Transportation Secretary to label the issue an "epidemic in America."

"These numbers show that distracted driving remains an epidemic in America, and they are just the tip of the iceberg," said LaHood.

Part of the challenge is that many states do not routinely report whether distraction contributed to an accident. Thus, safety advocates believe the real number of serious and fatal accidents caused by distracted driving could be much higher.

Another issue is the patchwork of laws enacted by states. Some 30 states currently outlaw text messaging while driving -- North Carolina does, South Carolina does not -- leading to driver confusion.

Meanwhile, the percentage of traffic fatalities associated with distracted driving is on the rise, increasing from 10 percent to 16 percent during the last five years.

Studies show that young drivers are at particularly high risk with 16 percent of drivers under the age of 20 admitting to driving distracted.

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September 17, 2010

North Carolina child injury lawyers urge parents to participate in Child Passenger Safety Week

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued findings late this week that show too many children are not using appropriate child restraint and booster seats.

As our North Carolina child injury lawyers reported, authorities are urging parents to use Child Passenger Safety Week as an opportunity to review tips for keeping your child safe in and around vehicles.
Last year's traffic data found that vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for young people ages 3 to 14. Each day, an average of four children are killed and almost 500 are injured in traffic accidents.

"Make no mistake about it: child safety seats save lives," said Secretary LaHood. "Children who graduate too soon from their safety seats are at risk of serious injury. Parents and caregivers should ensure that safety seats are installed correctly and should always use them. Their children depend on it."

Parents are encouraged to have their child safety seats inspected. Here is a list of child safety seat inspection stations in North Carolina and South Carolina. Additionally, it is important to remember that child safety seats are not all built the same and that moving a seat from one vehicle to another can change how effectively the seat functions. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently rated more than 70 child seats based on how well they fit a wide variety of vehicles.

"We're urging everyone to get their children's safety seats inspected to make sure their kids are properly protected on every trip, every time. When it comes to child passenger safety, there is absolutely no room for error," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

Once children outgrow the forward-facing safety seats -- usually about the age of 4 or 40 pounds -- they should ride in booster seats until the age of 8 or until they reach 4'9" tall.

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September 16, 2010

Speeding, alcohol a deadly combination in North Carolina car accidents

An early Saturday morning single-vehicle accident in Brunswick County killed three and sent one passenger to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, where he remains in stable condition. Law enforcement believe that alcohol, speeding and a failure to buckle-up were factors in the fatal North Carolina car accident. The three victims, who were not wearing seat belts, were ejected from the 2001 Chevy pickup, which rolled at least twice before stopping, the Star News reports.
North Carolina ranks among the top-five states in the nation for highest speeding fines - hitting speeders with up to $500 for a first offense, and a chance at jail time, Forbes reports. In 2009, 517 people were killed in North Carolina speed-related car accidents. Nationwide, speeding is among the most common causes of car accidents with an estimated economic cost of $40.4 billion per year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In 2008, speed-related car accident across the U.S. were linked to 31 percent of all fatal crashes -- claiming 11,674 lives. Mixing alcohol with speeding is a particularly deadly combination and was responsible for 41 percent of car accident fatalities nationwide. Young men aged 15-25 are most likely to be killed due to speeding and were involved in 37 percent of fatal car accidents in 2008. They were also less likely to be wearing seat belts than their non-speeding counterparts which further increases their chances of not surviving a car accident.

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