Although texting while driving is already banned in many states, one state is considering taking this safety measure to the next level. Nevada could potentially pass a legislation which would grant law enforcement officers the ability to search through drivers’ cell phone usage history after a car crash.
While drunk driving accidents have been on the decline over the past three decades, many states across the country are starting to strengthening their regulations in the hopes of preventing the reported 11,000 people killed in such accidents nationwide.
Last December, Utah lowered their legal driving blood alcohol content limit to 0.05% in hopes of decreasing the amount of D.U.I arrests. At an average of 30 D.U.I arrests/day, Utah already holds the record for the lowest number of daily D.U.I. arrests across the country. Already recognized as the most heavily restricted state for alcohol distribution/consumption, this new legislation has angered many, including those from the American Beverage Institute, a trade group that is working with bars and restaurants against the new law. “Someone with a 0.05% blood alcohol level is not meaningfully impaired,” says the managing director, Sarah Longwall.
For the third year in a row, there have been more than 40,000 traffic deaths throughout the United States. Although this number is startlingly high, there has been a slight downward trend over the past two years.
In 2017, the traffic death toll of 40,231 decreased by slightly less than 1% compared to 2016’s count of 40,327. The National Safety Council reports that 2018 is down another 1% with an estimated 40,000 traffic fatalities.
Adolescents are known to take chances, succumb to peer pressure, overestimate their abilities, and have emotional mood swings. Each of these behaviors can increase the likelihood for the teenage driver to be involved in an automobile crash. Investigations have shown that “the cause of teenage crashes is not the skill with which they can drive, but the judgment they exercise while driving,” according to an editorial in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic casualties fell by 1.8% for all of 2017. This came as a welcome relief after the sharp rise in deaths in the past several years. The National Safety Council states that from 2014 to 2015, traffic fatalities rose 7%, which marked the steepest two-year increase in over 50 years. 2016 brought an additional increase of 7%.
Statistics show that teens are among the most dangerous drivers. This is not news to any of us. Many teens are just irresponsible, while others simply don’t have the experience necessary to be good drivers. The fact is that drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are the most dangerous drivers. According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, for each mile driven, teen drivers are approximately four times fore likely to be involved in an accident with another driver. They’re also involved in four times more fatal accidents than drivers between the ages of 25 and 69. Teens account for about ten percent of the population, and twelve percent of all fatal car wrecks.
So given these statistics, the question becomes, “Who is liable for these driving mistakes – the teen, the owner of the vehicle or the teen’s parents?” The following are some situations to consider when answering that question.
A Teen Crashes a Family Vehicle
Chances are, a teen is driving a vehicle that’s owned by the parents or guardian, who can be held liable for “negligent entrustment.” Further, most states will hold parents liable for damages while driving a family car under what is known as the “family car doctrine.” But even if states don’t have this doctrine, parents may be found negligent and responsible for the damages.
A Teen Crashes a Friend’s Car
If a friend owns a car and allows a teen to drive it, that person may be held liable for damages if the teen is involved in an accident. This is called “owner’s liability” in some states. A driver injured by the teen may sue both the teen and the vehicle owner. However, chances are the owner or his insurance company may end up paying for damages.
An Uninsured Teen Is in a Crash
Often insurance plans have a separate policy for uninsured motorists. This is beneficial for victims, and also means that insurance companies may make the teen pay for damages. If the teen driver is on the vehicle owner’s insurance policy, both parties’ insurance companies would work out the claims based on the owner’s policy limits and coverage of damages.
But with this scenario, injured parties and their insurance companies can sue any of the parties involved – owners, teen drivers, parents – to collect damages to themselves, their vehicle or their property.
If you live in the Dallas area and have had an accident involving an uninsured teen, your next step should be to contact a Dallas car accident attorney.
Chevrolet has been sending a safety engineer across the county to raise awareness of the risks of drowsy driving. Fatigued driving accidents are commonplace and particularly dangerous because a sleepy driver is slower to react and brake or swerve to avoid a collision. A drowsy driver may actually nod off behind the wheel and crash at full speed.
Chevrolet is asking local and national journalists to try the car manufacturer’s drowsy driving simulator. It consists of a 23-pound suit to cause the sluggishness your body feels when fatigued, and goggles that replicate frequent blinking associated with drowsy driving.
“As you get tired, the way we can tell is by your percent of eye closure, so every 10 seconds, the goggles close for one second; this represents being a medium level of drowsy, and mimics your eye pattern when you’re tired,” Maureen Short, a human factors expert and senior safety engineer for Chevrolet, told an NBC News reporter. “If you’re truly drowsy and you nod off, it can be 2 to 4 seconds of eye closure at a time.”
Once suited up, participants in the drowsy driving simulation were asked to drive at a test track. “My instructions to keep the car at a constant 20 mph suddenly became a whole lot harder, and I found myself struggling not to ride the brake,” New York Daily News reporter Dan Gessner wrote. “Sharp corners became dreadful, and the weights on my arms, legs and chest weren’t helping either.”
The test drives were at 15-20 mph. Short reminded the NBC reporter, who complained of slowed reaction time due to the fatigue-mimicking weights, that at 60 to 70 miles per hour on a highway the fatigued driver covers a lot more area while reacting more slowly, which greatly increases the risk.
The Risks and Signs of Fatigued Driving
Driver fatigue may contribute to 9.5 percent of all motor vehicle crashes and 10.8 percent of crashes serious enough to be reported to police — far more than federal estimates indicate, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says.
In the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll, 60 percent of adults admitted to driving while drowsy and 37 percent admitted to having nodded off or fallen asleep while behind the wheel. A more recent Sleep Health Index published by the foundation found that 3 percent of Americans — equal to 7 million people — admitted to having fallen asleep at the wheel within two weeks of answering the survey.
Fatigued Drivers Put Everyone on the Road at Risk.
Part of the problem is that drowsiness occurs over time. Drivers can miss its signs until they are fatigued, which damages their decision-making — including deciding whether to stop driving.
Signs that you are fatigued and should not be driving include:
- Repeated yawning. Yawning indicates a brain not fully awake trying to stimulate itself by increasing oxygen intake. Repeated yawning means your body needs sleep.
- Repeated blinking. As you tire, your eyes dry out, and blinking is a means of wetting them. The inability to keep your eyes open is also a matter of the muscles in the eyelids being overly stressed. As you instinctively reach to rub your eyes, it is like rubbing a sore calf or arm muscle to keep going.
- Memory lapse. If you suddenly feel like the last couple of exits or last few miles went by without notice, you are too tired to be driving. Lack of sleep impairs the ability to focus and learn, which are required before short-term memory can occur.
- Lane deviation. Going back and forth within your lane, drifting from lane to lane and/or hitting the rumble strips on the side of the road indicate you are not controlling the vehicle. Your fatigue is causing you to be unable to focus and/or handle the physical task of steering correctly.
- Unsafe driving. Making mistakes or driving badly, like creeping up on a vehicle and tailgating, braking suddenly and too hard or for no reason, or missing a speed limit change, stop sign or other signage may indicate that you are dozing off.
Your vehicle may have safety features that indicate problems related to drowsiness, such as lane departure warning, lane-keep assist or collision warning and automatic braking. If such a warning was to alert you once, it should serve as a wake-up call. But if you are warned more than once, you are likely incapable of fully waking up, and should not be driving.
Technology Trying to Tackle Fatigued Driving
Eventually, vehicles may be equipped with technology that specifically addresses drowsy driving.
Several manufacturers, including Audi, Mercedes and Volvo, already offer warning systems that monitor a vehicle’s movements, such as steering wheel angle, lane deviation, time driven and road conditions, according to The New York Times. Other manufacturers and automobile suppliers are working on technological solutions that focus on driver behavior to warn of fatigue before it creates a driving hazard.
The Japanese company Sumitomo Riko Co. Ltd. has developed a new seat cushion that uses conductive rubber electrodes to detect when a driver becomes fatigued and is at risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
Meanwhile, Panasonic has developed an in-car system that detects driver drowsiness with a camera and sensors that measure the driver’s blinking, facial expressions, heat loss from the body, and the car’s internal lighting. It adjusts the car’s internal environment – temperature, air flow, brightness — to help rouse the driver.
The Solution to Drowsy Driving? Stop!
Regardless of driver assistance technology, unless and until cars are equipped with drowsy driver lock-out systems, it remains drivers’ responsibility to pull over and stop when they are fatigued. It is a mistake to rely on tricks such as caffeinated drinks (coffee, power drinks, etc.), opening a window for a blast of cold air, or turning up the music.
AAA recommends that drivers:
- Travel at times of the day when they are normally awake.
- Avoid heavy foods before driving.
- Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment.
For longer trips:
- Take a break every two hours or every 100 miles.
- Travel with someone who is rested, and take turns driving.
- Do not underestimate the power of a quick nap. Pulling into a rest stop for 20-30 minutes of sleep — but no more — can help keep you alert on the road.
Contact Us About a Fatigued Driving Accident in Dallas
If you have been in a car wreck in Dallas Forth Worth Metroplex at the fault of someone else, fatigued driving may have been a contributing factor. The Reyes Browne Reilley Law Firm knows how to look for evidence of fatigued driving and prove that a drowsy driver caused your car accident. Contact us today – we can provide a free legal consultation and start developing your case immediately.
Count Paul Snyder among those who believe distraction, more than vehicles themselves, is responsible for the increase in pedestrian fatalities.
“I think the answer to it is really social patterns, you know, having very little to do with cars,” said Snyder, chair of the transportation design program at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies.
In the search for explanations for a dramatic rise in pedestrian deaths, Snyder is among those who believe that drivers or walkers not paying attention while in traffic, whether it is to glance at smartphones or elsewhere, are to blame. Pedestrian fatalities have risen 46 percent since 2009 while overall traffic deaths are only up 11 percent.
Snyder points to improvements that have made vehicles safer even when they strike pedestrians. The changes have included adding space under the hood to provide more cushion against the hard parts around the engine.
Automakers have also lowered bumpers on many vehicles so that in the event of a collision with a walker, they strike at leg level, not in a way that knocks a pedestrian up on a hood, though many pickups and SUVs have profiles high enough to strike average adults at chest level.
When it comes to distraction, the proliferation of the smartphone is central to the crisis. The Governors Highway Safety Association has noted that the number of active cellphones in use in the U.S. between 2010 and 2016 increased by 236 percent.
Distraction hard to prove
Distracted driving, however, is extremely difficult to track because most people will not admit to doing it, and crash data on the subject is believed to be incomplete.
But several indicators suggest it’s a full-blown crisis.
Reports of drivers using their phones to send and read text messages, check email or watch videos are not unusual, but all of those activities, when they happen behind the wheel, can be extremely risky.
Even touch-screen systems in many new vehicles pose problems, putting motorists at risk of crashes. A recent study funded by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, examined 30 vehicle infotainment systems and found that all of them are distracting to some degree.
Distraction was “very high” on 12 of the systems, “high” on 11 and “moderate” on seven. None of the systems generated “low” distraction, according to the researchers.
Walkers with phones are at risk. Pedestrians with their eyes glued to their phones might walk into the street without checking for oncoming traffic.
U.S. emergency room visits blamed on phone use spiked 83.5 percent from 17,851 in 2007 — the year Apple introduced the iPhone — to 32,755 in 2016, according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.
Watch the road
Ron Van Houten, a psychology professor at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, however, said texting or talking by themselves are not the problem.
“The issue that’s new is the people actually taking their eyes off the road to do things,” said Van Houten, who has done extensive study on traffic and pedestrian safety. He said distraction and speed are likely factors in the increase in pedestrian deaths.
Van Houten has researched how high-visibility enforcement of traffic rules for drivers affected yielding to pedestrians in Gainesville, Florida. The study results released in 2013 and a follow-up effort released last year found that enforcement has a significant impact. The follow-up also found a “statistically significant decrease” in pedestrian crashes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently examining the effect of electronic device usage on pedestrian deaths. The agency has said that no studies show “a direct link between the behavioral effects of distraction and pedestrian crash risk.” Overall, though, NHTSA says motor vehicle crashes involving distraction lead to many deaths and injuries.
“My greatest concern is when both the pedestrian and the driver don’t see each other,” said Richard Retting, director of safety for Sam Schwartz Consulting, who conducted a study on pedestrian safety for the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Who’s to blame?
Susan Heck, a writer living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said she was recently driving down a neighborhood street when a teenager using his phone “stepped out right in front of me.”
“He was doing stuff on his phone,” she said. “If I had not stopped I would have hit him. The sad thing was he looked up at me like, ‘What’s wrong with you, lady?’ ”
That scenario raises questions about blame. Many drivers are quick to note the many times they have seen distracted pedestrians crossing streets with their eyes on the screens in their hands. That notion even prompted Ford to launch an ad campaign for its precollision assist feature with pedestrian detection for the 2017 Ford Fusion.
The campaign used the term “petextrians” to describe people who text and walk, and included comments from a Ford engineer noting how startled he and others have been “to see how oblivious people could be of a 4,000-pound car coming toward them.” The campaign elicited outrage from pedestrian advocates who equated it to blaming the victim.
Van Houten, the Western Michigan professor, said context in vehicle/pedestrian interactions is crucial.
Drivers have a greater share of the responsibility than pedestrians because drivers are the ones operating a dangerous piece of equipment, Van Houten said.
Society, he said, already recognizes a difference, because not everyone is able to obtain a driver’s license. Anyone who is physically able, however, can be a pedestrian, and no license is needed to cross a street.
“People just need to be more careful,” Van Houten said, noting that drivers do not have a right to strike people with their vehicles. “You can’t unload (the responsibility) to the pedestrian. (It’s) not a fair trade.”
Author: Matt Howerton, Published: 07/10/18, originally from the WFAA
DALLAS — As rental scooters begin to share the streets with bikes, cars, and buses in Dallas, a California attorney already handling over a dozen cases involving the two-wheeled transportation says to get ready for accidents to start piling up.
At the end of last month, council members from the City of Dallas passed regulations for bike share companies that many in the city have been clamoring for.
They also gave the green light to a six-month trial run for electric rental scooters—which can travel up to 15 mph after the rider pays a fee.
The rules are simple, you can’t ride on sidewalks in the Central Business District (which includes Deep Ellum and Downtown Dallas), and you can’t ride on a street where the speed limit is over 35 mph.
Companies like LimeBike and Bird both dumped hundreds of scooters almost immediately after everything went through.
They must meet permit requirements, and if complaints are made to 311 about scooter litter in right of ways—they must collect them.
Council members plan to reevaluate the scooters after the six-month run is over.
The scooters have already arrived in many cities across the U.S., and have been met with both warm and critical welcomes.
Let’s look at California, they’re very common in areas like Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
But videos are already starting to pop up on YouTube of riders getting into accidents.
In Santa Monica, a city bus nearly ran over a rider when he crashed and rolled into the bus’s lane. Footage from the bus’s surveillance system captured the heart-stopping incident.
GROWING ACCIDENTS IN L.A.
In Beverly Hills, a personal injury attorney said he’s currently handling at least 24 cases involving rental scooters.
It was added that two to five calls per day are receive from people who were involved in accidents and want to lawyer up.
Most of the time people report to him that their scooter malfunctioned, accelerating and not stopping, causing the rider to crash. Riders have also reported brakes simply not working.
Many clients being represented are involved in accidents with cars.
It is reported many accidents happen while crossing an intersection, and someone hit them, or riders have been hit at a stop sign, or someone is at a red light not paying attention and the rider gets hit.
Figuring out who’s liable and who pays up can be an insurance nightmare. It is new territory for attorneys and insurance companies, much like Uber and Lyft were.
Bird and LimeBike are required to have at least $500,000 per accident in liability coverage in the City of Dallas, but the companies can only be held liable if it can proven the cause of an accident was due to scooter malfunction.
It has been reported that several cases involve riders who injured themselves after crossing over poorly maintained streets or sidewalks.
Riders in Dallas won’t be able to sue the city or county when it comes to situations like that thanks to sovereign immunity.
However, a rider that gets into an accident near a construction zone with insufficient signage or warning could sue the contractor behind the job.
A PROBLEM FOR BIG D?
Possibly. It’s only a matter of time before riders start calling personal injury offices with a host of issues no one has even thought about.
In cases where riders get into an accident with a car and they’re not at fault, things are pretty simple because the driver’s insurance (if they have any) should take care of things.
But if a rider causes an accident or is hurt by their own negligence, they may not have any coverage at all.
To put it simply, car insurance will not cover you on a scooter if you’re at fault.
The LA Times recently wrote about a woman who broke her arm on a rental scooter—and fell off because she was avoiding an accident.
In that article, the Times reported that her health insurance and car insurance pointed fingers about who would cover what.
Not to mention, even though Bird and Lime Bike encourage helmets– there are no laws in Dallas requiring them for electric scooters. The only helmet ordinance in place is for cycling, and it only impacts minors.
Council Member Phil Kingston said the city will revisit the scooters by the end of the year. If there are issues, he said they will be addressed before moving any further.
However, as a rider, it’s good to know any consequences before hopping on.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, just shy of 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2016 in traffic accidents, 11 percent higher from 2016 and 22 percent higher than 2015.
Each year about 2 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists. In a majority of bicyclist deaths, the most serious injuries are to the head, highlighting the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet.
A total of 817 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2015. This represents a 13 percent increase from 2014 and the highest number of bicyclist deaths since 1995.
Pedestrian deaths have increased by 10 percent between 2015 and 2016. Both of these are more than any other category of traffic-related fatalities, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The cause of this deadly trend has been greatly debated, with different groups pointing to a stronger economy and hence more cars on the road, more people walking to work or for recreation, and distraction due to the skyrocketing use of smartphone technology. Meanwhile, most efforts to prevent distraction are focused on motor vehicle drivers and passengers rather than pedestrians and bicyclists.
The United States has seen a 60 percent increase in commuter biking during the past decade, but with this increase comes risks; deaths among bicyclists age 20 and older have more than tripled.
The National Safety Council encourages all bicyclists to follow these rules to keep safe:
- Get acquainted with traffic laws; cyclists must follow the same rules as motorists
- Know your bike’s capabilities
- Ride single-file in the direction of traffic, and watch for opening car doors and other hazards
- Use hand signals when turning and use extra care at intersections
- Never hitch onto cars
- Before entering traffic, stop and look left, right, left again and over your shoulder
- Wear bright clothing and ride during the day
- If night riding can’t be avoided, wear reflective clothing
- Make sure the bike is equipped with reflectors on the rear, front, pedals and spokes
- A horn or bell and a rear-view mirror, as well as a bright headlight, also is recommended
If you have been injured in a cyclist or pedestrian crash, it is important to remember there are legal resources here to help. Call the law offices of Reyes Browne Reilley today and get the compensation you deserve.