February 2011 Archives

February 27, 2011

Speed-Limiters missing link in recent initiatives aimed at reducing Carolina trucking accidents

Road Safe America has added an excellent point to the spate of recent news on commercial trucking safety, when it points out speed-limiters are critical to reducing the number of serious and fatal North Carolina trucking accidents.

Nationwide, more than 380,000 commercial trucks are involved in crashes each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration More than 200 fatal crashes occurred in the Carolinas in 2008, the last year for which comprehensive data has been made available.
Our Charlotte trucking accident lawyers reported recently on our North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog that the government is updating hours-of-service restrictions aimed at keeping fatigued truckers off the road and has proposed adding data recorders to track compliance. Currently compliance is tracked using the honor system and hand-written log books, which has made a mockery of safety as truckers who are paid by the mile continue to push themselves to the limit and beyond.

Road Safe America points out speed-limiters continue to save lives throughout Europe and in other parts of the world, and must be part of the equation in this country. Without them, truckers forced to comply with hours-of-service rules tracked by data recorders will simply make up for lost time by speeding.

"(Speed-limiters is a) key rule that safety advocates believe will save hundreds - maybe thousands - of American lives annually," said Steve Owings, Co-Founder and President of RSA.

Early this year, the NHTSA finally filed a petition to have the limiters set at 68 mph on commercial trucks. The issue has lingered for years. A petition was also filed in 2006.

"The European Union Countries, Japan, Australia and the heavily-populated provinces of Canada all have laws requiring that speed governors be set at top speeds ranging from 55 mph to 65 mph -- Their rate of truck crash related fatalities is lower than ours and we need to catch up," Owings said.

Owings and his wife, Susan, founded Road Safe America after their son, Cullum was killed by a speeding trucker while stopped in a traffic jam.

Continue reading "Speed-Limiters missing link in recent initiatives aimed at reducing Carolina trucking accidents" »

February 25, 2011

Raleigh car accident illustrates tragic consequences of drinking and driving

The tragedy playing out in a Raleigh courtroom illustrates the senseless pain and suffering endured by North Carolina drunk driving victims.

Our personal injury lawyers in Raleigh, Winston-Salem and elsewhere in the state understand the pain and devastation drunk drivers too often leave in their wake. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports one-third of the nation's fatal car accidents are caused by drunk drivers. In 2009, a total of 10,839 motorists were killed in drunk driving crashes.
Alcohol was involved in 430 of the 1,314 deadly North Carolina car accidents in 2009. South Carolina car accidents involving alcohol claimed 423 of 894 lives -- or nearly half of all those killed on the road.

A 44-year-old father of two is on trial in for a September 2009 drunk driving accident in Raleigh that claimed the life of an aspiring ballerina, the News & Observer reports.

Prosecutors are seeking enhanced penalties against the driver by attempting to prove he acted with "malice." That consuming large amounts of alcohol and speeding down the road in a vehicle constitutes second-degree murder. Police say his blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit and that he was speeding down Strickland Road at twice the speed limit.

Court testimony reveals he was headed home to make a dinner date with his wife and friends after spending the afternoon golfing and drinking at the Raleigh Country Club. He was driving near Lead Mine Road when he slammed his silver Mercedes into the back of a Hyundai, killing the 20-year-old victim. She was a resident of Winston-Salem and a member of the Carolina Ballet.

The defendant is a former facial plastic surgeon who has since surrendered his medical license and entered rehab.

Continue reading "Raleigh car accident illustrates tragic consequences of drinking and driving" »

February 23, 2011

Data Recorders will result in fewer tractor-trailer accidents in the Carolinas

In a sign the government may finally be getting serious about the risks of North Carolina trucking accidents and tractor-trailer accidents elsewhere in the nation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is moving to require data recorders to track hours-of-service compliance.

Our personal injury lawyers in Statesville and throughout North Carolina are in full support of this long overdue move on the part of the government. As we reported earlier this month on our North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog the government is moving to update hours-of-service regulations meant to keep fatigued truckers off the road.
But those regulations have long been rendered meaningless by an outdated system of hand-written log books used to track compliance. The data recorders would do so automatically and will almost certainly make a dramatic dent in the 380,000 large trucking accidents the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports each year in the United States.

"We cannot protect our roadways when commercial truck and bus companies exceed hours-of-service rules," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "This proposal would make our roads safer by ensuring that carriers traveling across state lines are using EOBRs to track the hours their drivers spend behind the wheel."

Some large carriers -- including J.B. Hunt and Knight Transportation -- already use the electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs). The proposed rule would mandate their use among more than 500,000 carriers nationwide. Those found in non-compliance could face fines of up to $11,000 per offense.

"This proposal is an important step in our efforts to raise the safety bar for commercial carriers and drivers," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "We believe broader use of EOBRs would give carriers and drivers an effective tool to strengthen their HOS compliance."

We agree. The practice of paying truckers by the mile has made a farce out of the current system of tracking hours-of-service compliance and is just another reason why it is critical to consult an experienced lawyer when a Carolina trucking accident leads to serious or fatal injuries.

Continue reading "Data Recorders will result in fewer tractor-trailer accidents in the Carolinas" »

February 21, 2011

North Carolina motorcycle accident a reminder of wintertime dangers

A Burlington, North Carolina motorcycle accident has seriously injured a Greensboro police officer, the News-Record reports.

Our personal injury lawyers in Greensboro, Winston-Salem and elsewhere in the Carolinas see a fair share of serious and fatal motorcycle accidents through the winter months. While year-around riding weather in Texas, Florida and California make them the most dangerous states in the nation for motorcycle riders, the weather in the Carolinas can be spotty when it comes to winter riding.
And that can increase the risk that a motorist will not be watching for motorcycles during good riding weather.

In this case, the 37-year-old was riding his Kawasaki on North Fisher Street shortly after 4 p.m. when a 2000 Pontiac reportedly failed to yield the right-of-way and struck the officer in the intersection.

The rider was taken to UNC Hospital, where he was listed in fair condition. The driver was cited for failure to yield the right of way by Burlington Police.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 159 riders were killed in North Carolina motorcycle accidents in 2008. South Carolina motorcycle accidents claimed 115 lives.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation provides a library of safety tips for riders and motorists alike.

Continue reading "North Carolina motorcycle accident a reminder of wintertime dangers" »

February 19, 2011

Fewer North Carolina bicycle accidents good news for riders

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration just released comprehensive information on bicycle accidents for 2009, showing the number of fatal North Carolina bicycle accidents declined by 50 percent.

Our personal injury lawyers in Raleigh, Charlotte and elsewhere in the state understand the economic downturn has been responsible for much of the across-the-board reduction in traffic fatalities. But the significant reduction in bicycle accidents is particularly good news given the increasing popularity of riding for both recreation and fitness.
A total of 630 riders died in bicycle accidents in 2009 and another 51,000 were injured. That's down significantly when compared to the 716 that died in 2008. North Carolina bicycle accidents killed 16 riders in 2009, compared to 32 in 2008.

South Carolina bicycle accidents claimed 11 lives, compared to 14 in 2008.

Nationwide, it's the first time since 2003 that fewer than 700 riders have been killed. While many associate bicycle accidents with injuries to children, young people only account for about 1 in 6 bicycle accidents. The average age of cyclists killed has climbed to 41.

About 1 in 3 riders killed in accidents are ages 35 to 54 and most are men.

North Carolina cycling safety tips include:

-Use lights, reflectors and reflective tape when riding after dark.

-Wear brightly colored clothing.

-Motorists should yield to cyclists at intersections.

-Be especially mindful of cyclists when pulling out of a parking lot or driveway.

-Use caution when opening a car door or pulling out of a parking space.

-Allow at least three feet between your vehicle and a rider.

-Remember that riders have the same rights to the road as a driver of a passenger car.

Continue reading "Fewer North Carolina bicycle accidents good news for riders " »

February 17, 2011

Hours-of-Service Rules reduce risk of North Carolina Trucking Accidents

Our personal injury lawyers in Charlotte and elsewhere in North Carolina support plans by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to toughen hours-of-service rules aimed at preventing fatigued truckers from causing deadly accidents on Carolina highways.

North Carolina tractor-trailer accidents typically result in serious or fatal injuries to innocent motorists on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports more than 380,000 large trucks are involved in serious or fatal accidents on the nation's roads -- accounting for about 1 in 10 fatal crashes, despite making up just a fraction of the traffic on the road.
A total of 143 fatal trucking accidents in North Carolina were reported in 2008. South Carolina reported 81 deadly wrecks involving large commercial trucks.

"A fatigued driver has no place behind the wheel of a large commercial truck," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We are committed to an hours-of-service rule that will help create an environment where commercial truck drivers are rested, alert and focused on safety while on the job."

The government may talk tough but its actions have not matched its words. Far from toughening restrictions, the hours-of-service rules were actually relaxed in the final days of the George W. Bush Administration. And an antiquated system of hand-written log books makes the system ripe for abuse.

The new rules would permit 60-or 70-hour work weeks after 34 hours of down time. Work days would be 14 hours, with 10 or 11 hours of drive time permitted.

"In January, we began this rulemaking process by hosting five public listening sessions with stakeholders across the country," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "This proposed rule provides another opportunity for the public to weigh in on a safety issue that impacts everyone on our roadways."

Commercial drivers found in violation could face fines of up to $2,750. Trucking companies could face penalties of up to $11,000 per violation.

Continue reading "Hours-of-Service Rules reduce risk of North Carolina Trucking Accidents" »

February 14, 2011

Infant product recalls can lead to North Carolina injury

Our Carolina injury attorneys have been closely monitoring a host of safety recalls issued this month involving infant equipment.

To date, more than 3 million units, involving products from newborn mittens to baby video monitors to bassinets to car seats have been recalled due to reported incidences of infant injury or death.
Recalls began on Feb. 11, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission along with Summer Infant Inc. announced a voluntary recall of about 1.7 million video baby monitors after two infants suffered strangulation deaths from the video monitor electrical cords. The recall spans 40 models sold at major retailers between January 2003 and February 2011. Monitors were priced between $60-300.

CPSC and Summer urge parents who own one of these products to make sure the electrical cord is at least 3-ft. out of reach of a child. Summer is providing owners with updated warning labels.

The second recall alert was issued on Feb. 14 by the National Highway Safety Administration warning parents and caregivers that Dorel Juvenile Group was recalling 794,247 child safety seats. It was determined that a sticking harness release button could prevent the car seat from locking in place, thus increasing the risk that a child would be injured in a car accident.

According to Dorel, the defect is specific to seats with a Center Front Adjuster that were manufactured between May 2008 and April 2009. The recall includes infant, convertible and booster child restraints. To date no injuries have been reported and DJG is offering parents a free remedy kit of non-toxic lubricant.

On Feb. 15, Nurses Choice along with the CPSC issued a recall of 4,700 newborn keepsake mittens made of white cotton with "2011" decorations glued on one side. Again, no injuries have been reported, but there are choking hazard concerns because the decorations can be pulled off.

Finishing off the lot was a Feb. 16 recall of about 500,000 Burlington Basket Company bassinets which can collapse if the cross-bracing rails are not fully locked into position. CPSC and Burlington report there have been 10 incidents where the bassinets have collapsed. Two infants received minor injuries and no fatalities have been reported. Wal-Mart and other major retailers (including online retailer Amazon.com) sold the $50 bassinets between January 2003 and August 2010.

Parents have been instructed to stop using the bassinet until they determine the cross-bracing support rails are locked. Burlington has provided a video on proper bassinet assembly on their website.

Continue reading "Infant product recalls can lead to North Carolina injury" »

February 12, 2011

Enforcement efforts reduce risk of North Carolina car accidents caused by speed, drunk driving

North Carolina traffic safety campaigns resulted in the issuing of 622,413 criminal and traffic citations in 2010, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Our personal injury lawyers in Charlotte and throughout the Carolinas frequently report on the risks associated with serious or fatal North Carolina car accidents during periods of peak holiday travel. The enforcement campaigns aimed to increase enforcement during such periods, and thereby reduce the risk to motorists.
"These lifesaving campaigns educate our citizens on several key highway safety issues and prove effective in enforcing our traffic laws," said State Transportation Secretary Gene Conti. "I appreciate the time and dedication law enforcement agencies put forth during the campaigns and for making our roads a safer place to travel."

The annual total included 16,096 arrests for drunk driving and 51,754 citations for safety-belt and child passenger safety violations. Police also issued 175,250 citations for speeding and made 6,485 fugitive arrests.

Arrests/citations per enforcement period:

St. Patrick's Day: 38,303

Spring Speed: 61,766

Drive Smart/Work Zone: 22,764

Seat Belt: 88,839

Fourth of July: 49,235

Labor Day: 111,668

Child Passenger Safety: 11,460

Halloween: 19,319

Fall Speed: 78,229

Holiday Drunk Driving: 140,830

Continue reading "Enforcement efforts reduce risk of North Carolina car accidents caused by speed, drunk driving" »

February 10, 2011

Fatal Carolina bicycle accident leads to homicide charge

Reckless homicide charges have been filed in the wake of a horrific Carolina bicycle accident that killed a doctor and injured four other cyclists in October. As we reported recently on our North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, a series of bicycle v. car crashes in the Carolinas has authorities discussing ways to reduce the risk as summer approaches.

Our North Carolina personal injury lawyers understand the serious and fatal injuries too often suffered by cyclists who are struck by careless motorists. Drivers need to remember that cyclists have the same rights to the road as the driver of a passenger vehicle. Failure to respect those rights can have dire consequences for both the rider and the at-fault driver.
Carolina Cycling News reports the rider in this case struck five cyclists on Beech Island Avenue while driving his SUV. He told investigators from the South Carolina Patrol that he was reaching for something in his car and did not see the riders.

He faces 10 years in prison and a mandatory driver's license revocation if convicted. Among the victims was a U.S. Army Major and orthopedic surgeon who died Sunday at the age of 38.

"The charge of reckless homicide is a correct choice for this case, and the Palmetto Cycling Coalition is grateful for the work that the Department of Public Safety and Solicitor Strom Thurmond Jr. have done to ensure Dr. Burke's family sees justice," said Rachael Kefalos, PCC Executive Director. "It is a tragedy to lose someone so young and with so much potential to offer the world."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 32 riders were killed in North Carolina bicycle accidents in 2008. South Carolina accidents claimed 14 lives.

Continue reading "Fatal Carolina bicycle accident leads to homicide charge " »

February 8, 2011

Red-light cameras credited for fewer North Carolina car accidents

A recent study of red light camera usage reveals a near 25 percent drop in the number of fatal car accidents linked to intersection crashes across 14 cities with populations of 200,000 or more that had cameras installed, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports.

The IIHS estimates that had all large cities installed cameras as many as 815 deaths could have been prevented between 2004 and 2008, the period of the study. During that time, 159 lives were spared in communities with red light cameras. Car accidents tied to running a red light claimed 676 and left more than 110,000 people injured in the U.S. in 2009. Since 2000, more than 500 cities across the nation have elected to install red light cameras, despite their perceived unpopularity.
Our car accident lawyers in Charlotte and Carolina personal injury lawyers know that while most Americans support the installation of red light cameras, there is a very vocal minority who don't. Critics of the devices often cry "big brother" and denounce the traffic safety initiative as a privacy violation and tax on drivers.

Supporters say red light cameras are cost effective way to police, enforce and prevent both running red light crashes and fatal car accidents at intersections.

While result across each of the 14 cities varied, all but two saw a significant drop in the number of fatal car accidents where cameras were in place. In Chandler, Ariz., the number of red light and intersection-linked fatal car accidents dropped a whopping 79 percent. Curiously, Raleigh, N.C. and Bakersfield, Calif. both saw increases. City and law enforcement officials believe this phenomenon may be tied to the increase in population in both communities.

In 2008, 33 South Carolina motorists were killed and another 3,583 were injured in serious or fatal Carolina car accidents where "disregard for signs or signals" was determined to be a primary contributing factor. Another 207 fatal car accidents that left 14,000 injured were tied to intersection-related crashes, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety reports.

In North Carolina, the N.C. Department of Transportation reports that 21 people died and another 6,662 were injured in crashes where drivers failed to stop on red. In addition, North Carolina drivers were involved in 231 fatal intersection-linked crashes that injured more than 19,800. In total, more than 42,800 North Carolina car accidents were tied to intersection crashes in 2008.

Continue reading "Red-light cameras credited for fewer North Carolina car accidents" »

February 6, 2011

Fires at two North Carolina commercial properties raise questions of liability

In less than a week, two commercial building fires - one in Warrenton, the other in Durham - destroyed a farm supply store and an architect office. Our injury attorneys in Charlotte know that more than 1.3 million fires were reported in the U.S. last year, causing $12.5 billion in property damage alone.

With that in mind, it is the responsibility of business owners and commercial property managers to secure and maintain fire and smoke safety equipment to protect office workers and customers by installing smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems and implementing fire safety protocols and practicing fire drill evacuations.
The National Fire Protection Association reported more than 3,000 people died and another 17,050 were injured in vehicle, structural or outdoor fires in 2009. The NFPA estimates that a fire department responded to a fire every 23 seconds and a structure fire was reported nearly every minute. Every 2 hours and 55 minutes of 2009 a person died due to fire related injuries.

Regarding non-residential property specifically, there were 103,500 non-residential fires in 2009 that killed 105, injured 1,690 and caused an estimated $3 billion in property damage. In addition there were 90,000 apartment fires that caused $1.2 billion in property damage while claiming 465 victims and leaving 3,350 injured.

According to Firefighting News, the owner of the architect firm dropped in his office last Sunday morning to check messages when he noticed smoke and called authorities. Five trucks and 21 firefighters responded and extinguished the fire within 10 minutes of arrival. The fire, which began in a storage room laden with architectural drawings, also damaged the next-door suite.

WRAL-TV5 reports a fire at Southern States Farm & Garden called in around 6 p.m. Wednesday evening was still ablaze Thursday morning causing fire officials to call for school closures and the evacuation of area homes and businesses (the county library among them) within three-blocks of the blaze.

Because the supply store sold hazardous and flammable materials - fertilizers, ammunition and propane included - firefighters called for evacuations after becoming concerned about air quality issues and the risk of storage tank explosions. Additional fears of contaminating the town's water supply with chemical-laden runoff led to firefighters monitoring the fire as it burned itself out.

It is believed the fire began in the rear of the building and a preliminary investigation has ruled out foul play. Crews from eight fire departments responded to the blaze.

Continue reading "Fires at two North Carolina commercial properties raise questions of liability " »

February 2, 2011

Professionalism goes a long way toward reducing risk of Carolina car accidents


Complaints filed against North Carolina drivers of state-owned vehicles have more than quadrupled since 2006, but little comes from reporting sketchy behavior of drivers to the state.
A review of a decade's worth of complaints by the Charlotte Observer revealed that out of 5,242 complaints, just two state workers have had their driving privileges revoked. In one case the driver was observed engaging in a sex act while in a state van. In the other, the driver was nabbed for speeding. As our injury lawyers in Charlotte have noted in an earlier post to our North Carolina Car Accident Blog, speeding is the leading cause of serious or fatal North Carolina car accidents.

In all other complaints, drivers denied allegations. In these instances drivers are rarely disciplined.

Government officials attribute the jump in filed complaints to good Samaritan gadflies using a prominently-displayed bumper sticker hotline and online complaint form to report questionable behavior. They also cite the economy as a motivator making people "extra vigilant these days" and more likely to report seeing a state vehicle somewhere it might not belong (like in a mall parking lot).

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded a driver distraction study tied to commercial vehicles. An in-depth analysis evaluating the role of simple, moderate and complex driver distractions as contributors to serious or fatal car accidents nationwide determined that 78 percent of commercial vehicle traffic crashes are linked to some form of driver distraction. As mentioned, distractions were ranked by their complexity.

Simple distractions include:
~ Adjusting/removing sunglasses or reading glasses.
~ Smoking or using chewing tobacco.
~ Interaction with other occupants.
~ Adjusting jewelry or clothing.
~ Personal grooming.
~ Sipping from a drink.

Moderate distractions include:
~ Using or reaching for an electronic device, such as a radio.
~ Eating.
~ Looking back into the cabin, or reaching for something in the back seat.
~ Lighting, looking for or putting out a cigarette.
~ Looking outside the vehicle but not at the road (scenery, animals, other drivers).
~ Talking on a hands-free phone.

Complex distractions include:
~ Sending a text message.
~ Writing on a pad.
~ Reading a map.
~ Dialing a cell phone.
~ Reading paperwork.
~ Rummaging through a bag or sack.

Summary finding determined the best way to help commercial drivers address the issue of distracted driving is through onsite education and awareness initiatives. Talking with employers and employees about the potential crash risks associated with even the most mundane tasks can help save lives.

The U.S. DOT also recommends fleet safety managers develop and implement a ban on use of in-vehicle electronics while a driver is on the road. In house improvements include designing dispatching mechanisms and instrument panels that are more easily accessible and user-friendly.

Specifically, drivers should:
~ Restrict use of dispatching devices.
~ Neither text nor manually dial a cell phone.
~ Not read, write or look at map.

Continue reading "Professionalism goes a long way toward reducing risk of Carolina car accidents" »