March 2011 Archives

March 31, 2011

Habitual offenders frequently responsible for North Carolina drunk driving accidents

There is a continued effort being made by organizations and government officials to reduce the number of drunk driving accidents in North Carolina and elsewhere in the country.

Habitual offenders are a growing concern of our personal injury attorneys in Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Charlotte because drivers who drive drunk seem to do so over and over, even after being involved in a car crash.

We previously posted on our North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Blog about a new Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) which is currently in the developmental stages and is being sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Once implemented, DADSS will prevent habitual offenders from getting behind the wheel to drive under the influence. The system will automatically detect when a drivers' blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over the legal limit of .08 and prevent them from starting the vehicle.
The Governors Highway Safety Association recently reported about the most recent effort made by Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which concluded an extensive study on ignition interlocks. The CDC Community Guide reviewed 15 studies on ignition interlocks before concluding that the system helps prevent previous DWI offenders from being re-arrested for driving under the influence. Vehicles installed with ignition interlocks decreased the chances of repeat offenders driving under the influence by approximately 67%.

The NHTSA reported in 2009 that 32% of total traffic fatalities for the year were caused by drunk drivers driving with a BAC of .08 or higher. There was an average of one drunk driving related death every 48 minutes in 2009. It was reported that drivers involved in fatal crashes with a BAC of .08 or higher were 8 times more likely to have a previous conviction for driving drunk than drivers with no alcohol detected in their system at the time of the fatal crash.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of CDC, notes, "Each day, more than 30 people die because of alcohol-impaired driving. We know that interlock devices can save lives. More widespread use will reduce alcohol-related crash deaths and injuries."
NHTSA, GHSA, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving are all organizations that have joined the CDC in support of ignition interlocks. These devices allow offenders to drive when it is safe and legal to do so. No matter what your age, or what the circumstances are, motorists should never get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol.

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March 27, 2011

Government delays backover safety rules- children and older adults most at risk of Carolina car accidents

As a follow-up to a previous post on our North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Blog regarding the government's proposal to reduce backover accidents, our Asheville personal injury lawyers note the government has now decided to delay implementation of the program.

There are approximately 300 deaths involving Backover accidents in North Carolina and elsewhere in the country each year. A high percentage of victims in these kinds of accidents involve senior citizens and children ages 5 and under. A popular location for backover accidents is in merchant parking lots or in the driver's own driveway.
Back in December 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation responded to Congress' request to find enact the new safety regulation as part of the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Act of 2007. The proposal was to expand the required field of view for vehicles weighing up to 10,000 pounds so that when driven in reverse, the driver could see directly behind the vehicle. The proposed option of rear mounted cameras or in-vehicle displays were to begin installation in new models by September 2012.

Automakers would be required to have 10 percent of new vehicles comply by 2012, 40 percent by 2013, and 100 percent compliance in all new models by 2014.

The Detroit News reports that once again, the government is backing down after a meeting with representative from the automotive industry. The article states that the Obama Administration needs more time to finalize the proposal. The original deadline for the proposal was March 1st but the U.S. Department of Transportation stated they needed more time to evaluate comments made from the public during the recent open period.

The new regulations are estimated to cost the auto industry between $1.9 and $2.7 billion annually, which is a more probable reason for the delay amid pressure by groups like the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Rest assured that consumers will ultimately pay the price for new safety regulations. It is expected the regulations will increase the cost per vehicle by as much as $203. We think that's a small price to pay to save a life.

The government continues to seek the opinion of victims, public interests groups and industry leaders before making a final decision on the new regulations, as recently reported by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A day long forum was held to hear the views of many interested parties.

"Safety is our top priority and the steps we are proposing, with the public's help and input, will reduce back-over fatalities and injuries not only to children, but to the elderly, and other pedestrians," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

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March 25, 2011

Speeding, defective roads, a common cause of North Carolina car accidents

You may have noticed the consequences of a long winter with lots of snow and ice is that roads have become more dangerous with pot holes and large cracks or build-up from plow trucks and salt. Some highways and interstates in North Carolina are dangerous all the time and are considered prime locations for car accidents in Hickory, Statesville and elsewhere in the state.

Our North Carolina injury lawyers want to remind drivers to use caution by not speeding or driving distracted because these kinds of behaviors often lead to serious injuries when coupled with roads that are already deemed dangerous.
WXII 12 reports two teens were killed recently in a fatal crash that took place on Highway 18 at the curve near Falls Road outside of Wilkesboro. Several crashes have occurred at this same location but none had been fatal, until now. Two teens were reportedly coming home from a soccer game where they had been working at a concession stand for their band fundraiser. The teen driver was reportedly speeding and lost control of the vehicle on the two-lane highway, before running off the right side of the road.

The inexperience of young drivers is a common topic on our North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Blog. Teens often become distracted or speed, which can lead to serious injury, or in this case fatality, in motor vehicle crashes. Teens are reminded of the following safety tips to avoid serious accidents on dangerous roadways:

-When driving in an unfamiliar location, slow down to slightly below the speed limit to allow yourself plenty of time to react to road conditions.

-Never drive over the speed limit because trying to dodge pot holes or debris in the road can lead to serious injury. Rollover accidents often occur from speed-related accidents on dangerous roadways.

-Concentrate on the road by not changing the radio station, answering a call, or talking to other passengers in the car.

-Always wear a seat belt, even if you are only driving 50 yards down the road.

-If certain roads are known to be more dangerous in your area, plan an alternate route that can get you to the same destination with less risk involved.

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March 24, 2011

New Rules for Child Car Seats to Help Prevent Injuries in North Carolina Car Accidents

The government announced this week that child restraint guidelines have been revised by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In accordance with recommendations made by American Academy of Pediatrics, the NHTSA made revisions to now categorize child restraints by age, rather than by type of child seat.

Greensboro car accident attorneys know the importance of child safety equipment to families with small children. These families rely on the government, manufacturers of child products, and safety councils like AAP to keep their children safe in order to avoid personal injury from a defective product or injury in a car accident in North Carolina or elsewhere in the country.
Recent studies have propelled the AAP to change car seat policies after showing that children under the age of two, when riding in a forward-facing car seat, have a 75% chance of being injured or killed in a car crash. It is now suggested that children under the age of 2 remain in a rear-facing car seat until they outgrow it. Research indicates that children are 5-times safer in rear-facing child seats than in any other type of seat up until the age of 2.

"Safety is our highest priority," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "The 'best' car seat is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle and one you will use every time your child is in the car."

Following the instructions provided by the car seat manufacturer plays a vital role in keeping your child safe. Child seat restraints have a required minimum height and weight for each product. Rear-facing seats can reduce stress to the spinal cord and neck as babies grow. In a crash using a forward-facing car seat, the child's neck often gets snapped forward and can cause severe neck or spinal cord injuries. Sustaining these types of injuries in a crash can sometimes be fatal and are almost always life-altering.

Governors Highway Safety Association reports that North Carolina law requires children age 7 and under or 80 pounds or less to use a child restraint. Motorists who violate the law face a maximum fine of $25, as well as $136 in court costs and points added to their driving record.

The NHTSA makes the following car seat recommendations for children:

-Car seats should be selected based on your child's age and height, as well as, one that fits in your vehicle appropriately.

-Parents should read the vehicle owner's manual on how to install to the car seat using the LATCH system or seat belt.

-Keeping a child in a car seat as long as possible maximizes their safety as long as they stay within the maximum height and weight requirements stipulated by the manufacturer.

-A child should not be permitted in the front seat before age 13.

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March 22, 2011

Underride Guards Fail in Majority of North Carolina Trucking Accidents

Nothing is more terrifying than the thought of rear-ending a tractor trailer that has stopped suddenly in front of you. Our Greensboro personal injury lawyers know the devastating injuries caused by a passenger car involved in a North Carolina trucking accident.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), confirms that all too often, the underride guards fail to keep vehicles from going under the trailer in a rear-end crash. Serious injuries and many times death from decapitation occurs from the vehicle being sliced in half.
What is an underride guard? It is those flimsy pieces of metal that hang under the back of a tractor trailer.

In 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 4,066 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes. Over 4,200 people died in those crashes and another 90,000 were injured. In large trucks involved in fatal crashes, 74% of the deaths were occupants of another vehicle. In a two-vehicle crash, large trucks are 3 times more likely to be rear ended than other vehicles. Of the 1,892 vehicles involved in fatal crashes in North Carolina, 143 were large trucks.

The IIHS looked at 1,000 real crashes, from 2001 through 2003, where 115 involved a vehicle rear-ending a tractor trailer. In those crashes there were 28 occupant deaths. In 23 of the 28 cases where an occupant was killed there was catastrophic underride. Only 25 cases had no underride at all.

The IIHS conducted its own testing using 3 trailer guards that comply with the current U.S. rules. Two of the trailers were also in compliance with the more stringent rules of Canada that exceed the U.S. standards for strength and energy absorption.

In tests that involved a vehicle traveling at 35 mph crashing into the guard dead center, only 1 guard (that met Canadian standards) kept the vehicle from going under the truck. When any of the guards were hit off center, severe underride took place.

"Under current certification standards, the trailer, underride guard, bolts, and welding don't have to be tested as a whole system. That's a big part of the problem. Some manufacturers do test guards on the trailer. We think all guards should be evaluated this way. Underride standards haven't kept pace with improvements in passenger vehicle crashworthiness. Absent regulation, there's little incentive for manufacturers to improve underride countermeasures, so we hope NHTSA will move quickly on our petition," says Adrian Lund, Institute president.

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March 14, 2011

Compliance with Safety Regulations an Issue for Experienced Attorneys Handling North Carolina Trucking Accidents

Our Charlotte trucking accident lawyers wonder if the disclaimer change on Safety Measurement System data was heavily influenced by the trucking industry.

Recently a settlement agreement with three trucking associations was reached, thus ending litigation over information published on the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) website.
"CSA is a safety-critical program that helps to reduce commercial motor vehicle-related crashes and save lives," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "Through this settlement agreement, we addressed the concerns raised by petitioners without compromising the CSA program and its safety benefits."

The trucking associations that filed the suit were: Air & Expedited Motor Carriers Association (AEMCA), The National Association of Small Trucking Companies, Inc. (NASTC) and the Expedite Alliance of North America (TEANA). FMCSA agreed to change CSA's Safety Measurement System (SMS) public website regarding how to display commercial motor carriers' safety performance.

The FMCSA, by March 25, 2011, will make the following key changes to the SMS public website:

-ALERT symbols displayed in orange on the SMS website, will be replaced with a symbol that is a gold triangle with an exclamation mark inside.

-The disclaimer language on the SMS website will be revised to read:
"The data in the Safety Measurement System (SMS) is performance data used by the Agency and enforcement community. A (gold triangle with an exclamation mark inside) symbol, based on that data, indicates that FMCSA may prioritize a motor carrier for further monitoring. The (gold triangle with an exclamation mark inside) symbol is not intended to imply any federal safety rating of the carrier pursuant to 49 USC 31144. Readers should not draw conclusions about a carrier's overall safety condition simply based on the data displayed in this system. Unless a motor carrier in the SMS has received an UNSATISFACTORY safety rating pursuant to 49 CFR Part 385, or has otherwise been ordered to discontinue operations by the FMCSA, it is authorized to operate on the nation's roadways. Motor carrier safety ratings are available at and motor carrier licensing and insurance status are available at ."

The safety records of truckers and trucking companies is frequently an issue in the event of a serious or fatal accident. A company with a poor safety record -- or a driver with numerous safety violations -- should be made to answer questions in court. An experienced North Carolina tractor-trailer accident lawyer understands the many complex state and federal regulations under which truckers and trucking companies must operate. If companies and drivers put as much effort into ensuring the safety of the motoring public as they do into fighting government regulations, fewer people would surely die on the nation's roads as a result of the 380,000 commercial trucking accidents that occur each year.

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March 11, 2011

Sleep gamblers take big chances - Another risk factor for drowsy drivers in Carolina accidents

North Carolina researchers at Duke University have found a correlation between sleep deprivation and risky behavior; just one more reason drowsy drivers may be at high risk for car accidents in Charlotte and throughout the Carolinas.
Time Magazine reports sleepy brains tend to make overly optimistic gambles.

Our car accident attorneys in Charlotte, Asheville and throughout the Carolinas have reported on the dangers of drowsy driving before. Nationwide, nearly half of all drivers admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point. One in 10 admitted to having done so in the past year.
"When you are behind the wheel of a car, being sleepy is very dangerous. Sleepiness decreases awareness, slows reaction time, and impairs judgment, just like drugs or alcohol, contributing to the possibility of a crash," said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. "We need to change the culture so that not only will drivers recognize the dangers of driving while drowsy but will stop doing it."

This latest study by Duke University found those who had pulled an all-nighter were more likely to take risk gambles with money. Brain scans showed that brain activity increased in the brain's reward centers while activity declined in the area processing negative outcomes.

Until now, researchers thought sleep deprivation mostly hobbled the brain's ability to pay attention. This is the first time research has shown a lack of sleep impacts a brain's decision-making process.

"Sleep deprivation appears to create an optimism bias; for example, participants behave as if positive consequences are more likely (or more valuable) and as if negative consequences are less likely (or less harmful)," researchers concluded.

Such optimism can be costly at the gaming tables. But it can be deadly on the road.

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March 9, 2011

Lawmakers haggle over rules to reduce risk of Carolina ATV accidents

Leave it to lawmakers: Having spent 8 years trying to pass a law that would reduce the risk of Carolina ATV accidents, lawmakers are now holding up the law over debates about whether or not it is strong enough, the State reported.

Our Anderson personal injury lawyers understand the high risks riders face in ATV accidents -- particularly young children. The South Carolina legislature had drafted a law that would require youth training and would limit ATV use by children. However the agriculture committee in the House gutted the measure, permitting children as young as 6 years old to rider four-wheelers, while making exemptions for hunting.
Various versions have been passed around by lawmakers since the death of a teen at a 2003 birthday party. South Carolina is one of only six states that currently does not regulate ATV use by children.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates 450 kids a year are hurt in ATV accidents in South Carolina.

The new measure would:

-Bar unlicensed youths from carrying passengers on ATVs.

-Require training for those under 16.

-Require helmets and protective gear for those under 16.

-Require those under 16 be accompanied by an adult.

North Carolina ATV accidents have killed 64 riders in the past three years, according to the government's ATV Safety website. State law prohibits riders under the age of 8 and limits the size of the machines for older riders. Underage riders must also have an ATV safety certificate.

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March 7, 2011

Authorities hope to reduce risk of Greenville cycling accidents, bicycle accidents throughout the Carolinas

Safety advocates and riders continue to deal with the grim statistics surrounding Carolina bicycle accidents. The Post and Courier reports cycling advocates are trying to use the risks to push elected officials to seek improvements without alienating the growing body of riding enthusiasts, who typically are middle-aged men with money to spend.

As our Greenville personal injury lawyers reported on our North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, separate bike lanes would go a long way toward improving safety for cyclists. Such investment could also reduce congestion and encourage more women and teens to ride.
When it comes to fatal bicycle accidents, only seven other states ranked deadlier than the Carolinas did in 2009.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 16 riders were killed in North Carolina bicycle accidents in 2009; South Carolina bicycle accidents claimed 11 lives. The number of serious and fatal bicycle accidents has declined along with the number of overall traffic accidents nationwide -- from 693 a decade ago, to 630 in 2009. However the percentage of fatalities involving bicycles has increased to about 2 percent of all traffic fatalities.

And advocates believe the number of injuries is drastically underreported as so many of those involved in bicycle accidents never report the incidents to police. Consultants in Greenville are not only talking to law enforcement, they are talking to hospital personnel to learn all they can about cycling wrecks.

Times are changing, but too slowly. Cyclists are beginning to get respect, but not enough. Riders say a reckless homicide charge filed against a 41-year-old Beech Island man is a start. He allegedly drive his SUV through a pack of cyclists, killing a local doctor.

He will face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

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March 5, 2011

Intersections remain a dangerous place for North Carolina Car Accidents

There is no surprise that intersection safety has the attention of many national, state, and local organizations considering almost 21% of total fatalities in 2009 were intersection-related. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration is pooling their resources, along with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), and American Automobile Association (AAA) in hopes of reducing the number of traffic fatalities at intersections.

Injuries and deaths occurring at intersections are serious cause for concern when it comes to North Carolina car accidents.
Our personal injury attorneys in Greensboro and Charlotte know that not much progress has been made over the last 25 years, despite improved safety measures and change in intersection designs. FHWA admits that intersections remain the most multifaceted and most dangerous traffic encounters due to the fact that motorists and pedestrians are crossing and entering from all different locations.

Drivers often speed through intersections when a light turns yellow. In 2009, the NHTSA reported over 4,500 fatal crashes at intersections with traffic control devices such as stop signs or traffic signals. North Carolina reported 75 fatal crashes at intersections with traffic signals and another 85 fatal crashes at intersections with stop signs.

One solution to red light runners is the installation of red light cameras at intersections. Violators going through yellow lights have a snapshot taken of their license plate and are later ticketed for failure to stop. Most North Carolina cities have done away with the cameras. The Charlotte Observer reported last Spring that city officials would like to implement the program again but are torn, knowing that a good percentage of the revenue obtained from tickets would go to Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools and not to maintaining the cameras sufficiently. Annual cost to the city to operate approximately 20 red light cameras is approximately $1.2 million.

In order to reduce the risk of a serious or fatal accident at an intersection, motorists should use the following safety tips:

-Make sure there are no pedestrians or bicycles trying to cross the intersection before proceeding through.

-Always prepare to stop despite what you think the driver in front of you is doing.

-When approaching a stop sign, make a full stop rather than slow and slide through the stop sign.

-Oncoming traffic has the right away when making a left turn. Always yield until they have safely passed your vehicle.

-If a traffic signal has a direction area for turning, only proceed through intersection on a green arrow.

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March 4, 2011

Separate bike lanes would reduce risk of North Carolina cycling accidents

The most recent data published by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates there were 630 people killed in bicycle accidents in 2009, approximately 2% of all traffic fatalities during the year. North Carolina reported 16 bicycle accident fatalities in 2009, a little more than 1 a month average.

Our personal injury lawyers in Hickory, Asheville, and elsewhere in the state understand that cyclist like to enjoy scenic riding on weekends. But you are reminded to be careful when riding along major roadways next to motor vehicles. The greatest risk of being involved in a North Carolina bicycle accident comes with sharing the roadway with motorists.
Most women, senior citizens, and parents of young children don't feel safe to ride a bicycle on major roadways. Statistics show that 87% of the cyclists killed in 2009 were male and most were between the ages of 45-54. It isn't necessarily that females are more cautious, but rather they choose to bike less than males. Surveys have shown that women would be more likely to ride a bicycle if separate bike paths were established.

A recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek reports that separate bike-only tracks lower injury rates by 28% when compared to lanes riding alongside motor vehicle traffic. Cyclists who are physically separated from street traffic are less likely to get killed or injured on separate bike paths that have well-designed red and green bike signals at intersections.

The Netherlands, a small country with under 17 million residents, has roughly 18,000 miles of separate bike-only tracks. United States has approximately 20 miles of similar tracks but they are mostly found in a few large cities like New York, Seattle and Portland. In comparison, over 25% of the Dutch commute by bike; less than ½ of 1% of Americans commute to work by bicycle.

Most Americans would vote in favor of the implementation of separate bike-only paths in the states. With the surging gas prices and unhealthy lifestyles too many of us lead, bicycling could be a welcomes alternative as long as riders can feel safe while cycling.

Whether you ride for pleasure or as a means of transportation, bicyclists should always remember to wear their helmet and be extra careful when riding alongside motorists on North Carolina roadways.

For more information about bike paths and bike laws in North Carolina, visit North Carolina's Outer Banks.

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March 2, 2011

Carolina trucking accidents frequently caused by drowsy driving

We frequently post on our North Carolina Personal Injury Blog about distracted and drowsy driving.

Last week an early evening head on crash into a tractor trailer killed a 43 year old man. WISTV-10 reported the victim apparently drove into the lane of a tractor trailer and was killed instantly. The scene of the accident was at the intersection of Garners Ferry and McCords Ferry Roads at approximately 7 p.m.
The incident has our car accident attorneys in Anderson and Lancaster wondering if it was caused by distracted driving or a case of a fatigued driver. Either scenario has proven dangerous when it comes to causing Carolina car accidents and accidents elsewhere in the country.

In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported
5,474 people were killed and another 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted driving. Fatigue was a factor in 730 fatal crashes nationwide killing 1,875 people.

A focal point of many news sources recently is distracted driving laws in South Carolina, or the lack thereof. South Carolina is currently one of a few states that does not ban texting while driving. Last month, SC Now reported that lawmakers are hoping to send texters a message with a recent bill proposal. Once passed, the bill prohibits drivers to text and could lead to a $20 traffic fine, $25 surcharge for the state trauma care fund and 1 point added to your driver's license record. In total, violations could cost motorists hundreds of dollars each year as their insurance rates would likely increase with the added point to their driving record.

As for drowsy driving, there is no law, nor even a test for law enforcement to give if violators are pulled over. Yet, most drivers are guilty of driving drowsy at some point. Most of us can determine when we are tired, but similar to knowing when we have had too much to drink, we think we can drive no matter what. Don't let your next car crash be a case of "snooze you lose", if you are tired don't get behind the wheel.

Do your part to avoid a Carolina car accident by not getting distracted or driving drowsy.

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