January 2013 Archives

January 27, 2013

Report: Alabama Car Accident Prevention Laws Need Improvement

Our Montgomery personal injury lawyers note a recent national report details the activity of each state legislature over the past year as it relates to car accident prevention and highway safety.roadinnorthernwisconsin.jpg

Alabama didn't fare as well as we would have hoped. It was given a mid-level "yellow light" rating by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which released its "2013 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws" earlier this month.

The state had nearly 900 fatalities attributed to car accidents in 2011, bringing the 10-year total to more than 10,200. Every year, that costs the state an average of $2.8 billion, not only in property damage, but in emergency services, hospitalization, lost wages and disability benefits.

This alone should be enough of an incentive to spur action by our elected representatives. But adding to the persuasion is the fact that federal money is available through the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (or MAP-21) for those states that are successful in the passage of certain traffic safety initiatives. Last year, the federal government approved setting aside billions of dollars for this specific purpose.

When you consider the funds taxpayers have to shell out due to motor vehicle crashes each year (more than $230 billion nationwide), it makes a great deal of sense. That's in addition to the fact that more than 32,000 people were killed in America in car crashes in 2011, another 2.2 million were injured and traffic accidents remained the No. 1 cause of death for young people between the ages of 5 and 24. In fact, some 1,150 children under the age of 14 were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2011.

Alabama is not the only state with work to do. The advocacy group notes that there are 316 laws that need to be adopted in all states and the District of Columbia in order to meet the research group's recommendations for basic safety laws. These measures touch on everything from driver cell phone restrictions to motorcycle helmet requirements to graduated driver's licenses for teens.

Specifically in Alabama, we have our work cut out for us. The recommended laws that we have yet to pass include:

  • A law requiring children age 7 and younger to ride in a booster and/or car seat;

  • A graduated driver's license program for teens that would include provision for 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving, an age 16 minimum for learner's permits, tighter nighttime restrictions, stronger cell phone restrictions and an age 18 minimum for an unrestricted license;

  • Ignition interlock requirements for all DUI offenders - not just those with multiple arrests and convictions.

Booster seat laws have been shown to reduce the risk of injury in children ages 5 to 7 by nearly 60 percent. Those in side-impact crashes were found to benefit the most, with the risk of injury reduced by nearly 70 percent.

With regard to teen driving, we know that young teens (15, 16 and 17) are far more likely than older drivers (even their 18 and 19-old peers) to get into motor vehicle crashes. A lot of that is due to inexperience. That's why graduated driver's license programs are so important. They allow teens to gradually gain the skills needed to be safe drivers.

And lastly, ignition interlock requirements for all DUI offenders should be a no-brainer. If you drive drunk, that's the price you should have to pay. Some people have taken the stance that first-time offenders shouldn't be dealt with as harshly because they may be social drinkers who made a mistake. But Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that most offenders, by the time they receive their first DUI, have already made roughly 90 trips behind the wheel while impaired. The rest of us should not be giving a free pass to those who put all of our lives in danger.

Continue reading "Report: Alabama Car Accident Prevention Laws Need Improvement" »

January 22, 2013

Alabama Gun Accidents & the Risk of Child Injury

A fatal gun accident in Tuscaloosa claimed the life of a 13-year-old boy and coincides with the proposal to lift the federal immunity of gun manufacturers, dealers and trade groups in negligence and product liability lawsuits.

Our Montgomery personal injury lawyers understand that some lawmakers say these entities need to take reasonable precautions to avoid inherent design flaws, improper firearm storage and for putting guns in the hands of those likely to do harm. 1152740_in_war.jpg

In this case, a tragedy happened during a group rabbit hunting excursion at a club in north Sumter County. In addition, there could be an issue of premise liability, and whether the facility was equipped for the safe handling and storage of these weapons. And finally, it could be that the individual whose hand was on the trigger was not being as responsible as would be prudent.

We're still learning more about this case, so it remains to be seen. Hunting accidents in Alabama are tragic. However, most of the emphasis when it comes to gun violence is being placed on mass shootings. Certainly the gun industry is facing heat like it hasn't in several decades. Alabama has a long and proud history of gun ownership and support for guns. However, gun ownership comes with a responsibility to prevent accidental injuries, especially those involving children.

According to local news reports, the eighth-grader was with a group of fellow teens who had just finished their trip. They were reportedly putting the guns away and believed the weapons were empty when one accidentally went off, killing the young teen.

Authorities are not pursuing a criminal investigation, and are instead treating the incident as an accident.

Of course, the legislative proposal to repeal the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act is in direct response not to this, but rather to the fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, in which 20 elementary students and six adults were killed by a lone gunman who ambushed the school.

The 2005 law was initially passed by the National Rifle Association and other gun enthusiasts, who complained bitterly about the expense of battling these sorts of negligence lawsuits.

But perhaps the bigger issue is neglect with regard to gun owners who don't properly store their weapons or teach their children gun safety. In fact, accidental child deaths caused by guns are not rare - being among the top 10 leading cause of death for all child age groups outside of newborns and infants. In 2010, there were a reported 114 child deaths and 3,060 nonfatal incidents involving guns.

In order to prevent these types of incidents, proper gun storage and education is key. As a general rule, if you have guns and small children, make it a point to:

Keep your guns locked;

Keep your guns unloaded;

Keep your ammunition locked;

Keep your ammunition in an area separate from your gun.

You also want to make it a point to teach your child the importance of extreme caution around weapons. Try to use specific examples, such as what to do if a friend shows you a gun or if they see a gun in a classmate's backpack or if they find one while playing outdoors.

Continue reading "Alabama Gun Accidents & the Risk of Child Injury" »

January 10, 2013

New Report Quantifies Drowsy Driving Risks in Alabama

In November, our Montgomery injury lawyers discussed our support for Drowsy Driving Prevention Week and the risks associated with exhausted drivers behind the wheel. We mentioned that drowsy driving is dangerous for everyone, including teens and professional drivers, and discussed that drowsy driving can be just as serious as driving drunk.

Now, a new report is out indicating that drowsy driving awareness is more important than ever. The New York Times covered the report in a January 4th article and the details are enough to make any driver concerned. 897022_taking_a_nap_v2.jpg

Drowsy Driving a Widespread Risk
With around 730 fatal accidents in 2009 attributed to drowsy driving, government researchers decided to take action to get a little more information about the scope of the problem. According to the New York Times, an epidemiologist working at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention undertook a widespread survey on the dangers of drowsy driving.

The survey involved numerous detailed questions about daily activities including sleep habits, work habits and driving habits. The study was administered to 147,000 adults across 19 different states as well as the District of Columbia and it shed a lot of light on just how many people are choosing to drive when they are fatigued. According to the survey respondents:

  • Approximately 4 percent of adults nationwide admitted that they had fallen asleep while they were driving.

  • Men were more likely to report driving while fatigued than women.

  • At least five percent of drivers between the ages of 18 and 44 admitted to drowsy driving. Youth were the largest group of drowsy drivers.

  • The number of people driving while fatigued declines with age. Only 1.7 percent of people aged 65 and older reported driving while drowsy.

  • Snoring and short sleep duration were both associated with a greater likelihood of drowsy driving. Snoring may be a sign of obstructive sleep and breathing challenges while sleeping, which can help to explain why those who snore are more likely to be tired behind the wheel.

These statistics should be cause for concern for every driver. Although 4 percent of people falling asleep behind the wheel may not seem like much, when you consider how many drivers there are, that is millions and millions of people who might be nodding off.

Is There Hope for Curbing Drowsy Driving Dangers?
While the new survey reported in the New York Times indicates that the dangers of drowsy driving are quite widespread, there is hope that people are getting help and trying to improve their sleeping habits, which could curb drowsy driving risks.

On December 19, for example, Money News reported that more Americans than ever before have been seeking help for sleep disturbances.

According to the Money News Article, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine announced that it has accredited its 2,500th sleep center. This is a record high since the first center was accredited back in 1977 and there are now five times more sleep centers than were in business a decade ago. The increase in the number of centers has been prompted by more Americans than ever being proactive in solving problems related to insufficient sleep.

As Americans increasingly seek treatment for problems impacting their sleep, the hope is that there will be fewer drowsy drivers on the road and that the roads will become a safer place for everyone.

Continue reading "New Report Quantifies Drowsy Driving Risks in Alabama" »

January 3, 2013

Alabama Traffic Safety: Make Safe Driving Your 2013 Holiday Resolution

On the last day of 2012 before the New Year dawned, Alabama.com took a look at some resolutions from some big names throughout the state. Resolutions from Tuscaloosa officials and business owners, as well as from UA Athletes, included things like being on time, working harder and eating healthier. One thing noticeably absent from the list, however, was a resolution to be a better, safer driver in 2013.

Each year, millions of people throughout Alabama and the United States make downright bad driving decisions. These decisions put the drivers, their passengers and every innocent person on the road in danger. Our Montgomery accident attorneys want 2013 to be the year when people become safer drivers by doing more to avoid preventable accidents. To that end, we urge everyone to make smarter, safer driving choices and to make a resolution to avoid some of the most dangerous driving behaviors. 1396134_new_year_13.jpg

Resolve to Avoid These Dangerous Driving Behaviors in 2013.
If you are ready to make a commitment to becoming a safer driver in 2013, here are a few things that should be a part of your New Years 2013 resolution:

  • Resolve not to speed. Going over the speed limit was the cause of 2,666 Alabama traffic crashes in 2010 according to Alabama Traffic Crash Facts.

  • Resolve to slow down -- even BELOW the speed limit if you have to in order to be safe for the current road conditions. In 2010, there were 4,836 Alabama crashes caused by a driver going too fast for conditions. This is even more crashes than caused by going over the posted speed limit.

  • Resolve not to text and drive or to drive distracted. Distraction.gov says that a person who texts and drives is 23 times more likely to crash than someone not distracted.

  • Resolve never to drink and drive and never to let a friend drive drink. Alabama Traffic Crash Facts show 4,784 accidents in 2010 attributed to a driver being under the influence.

  • Resolve to obey safety laws at intersections and to yield when it isn't your turn. 15.2 percent of all Alabama crashes in 2010 were caused by a failure to yield, according to Alabama Crash Facts. This means 19,508 accidents listed a failure to yield as a primary accident cause.

  • Resolve to exercise extra care with night driving. According to Alabama Traffic Crash Facts for 2010, 49.4 percent of fatal crashes occurred at night.

  • Resolve to be on the lookout for bikes and pedestrians at all times. In 2010, seven people died and 169 were injured in bike accidents. Young kids tend to be at the greatest risk when it comes to bike and pedestrian crashes with Alabama Traffic Crash Facts reporting that kids 15 and under were the victims in 27 percent of bike crashes causing injury.

  • Resolve not to tailgate or follow too closely behind others. Alabama Traffic Crash Facts show that 17,268 crashes in 2010 were caused by tailgating. That's 76 percent of accidents.

  • Resolve to wear your seat belt all the time, every time. Alabama Traffic Crash Facts reported that the chances of being killed in the front seat was 46.4 times higher for people not wearing a seat belt when involved in a car crash.

If you stick to all of the items on this list, you can make sure you are never a menace on the roads.

Of course, accidents can still happen if other people fail in their obligations. This is why you should spread the word about your safe driving resolution to all of your friends and family members and encourage them to make 2013 the year they resolve to be a safer driver. If you spot someone engaged in dangerous driving behavior, be sure to steer clear... and if you are hurt in an accident due to a bad choice that another driver makes, be sure to take legal action to hold that bad driver accountable.

Continue reading "Alabama Traffic Safety: Make Safe Driving Your 2013 Holiday Resolution" »

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