April 25, 2013

Distracted Driving Month Educates: News Shows We Still Have a Long Way to Go

The National Safety Council (NSC) joins other safety organizations through April as safety advocates promote Distracted Driving Awareness Month.The hope is to draw attention to the serious public health problem presented by drivers who aren't paying attention.

While the public education and enforcement efforts during Distracted Driving month address different kinds of driver distraction, the focus is on cell phone use and NSC urged all drivers to sign a pledge to drive cell free.1417191_hand_holding_mobile_smart_phone.jpg

Our Montgomery, car accident lawyers know that the majority of drivers are aware that driving distracted is dangerous and yet they do it anyway. It's likely that many drivers underestimate the actual risks they face... risks that are clearly illustrated by some of the stories in the news even as Distracted Driving month comes to a close.

Distracted Driving: It Really is This Bad
One of the biggest issues that makes distracted driving so dangerous is that drivers on the road may not be aware of just how common it is for people to drive without paying attention. A recent study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows 660,000 drivers in the United States may be driving while using their cellular phone at any given daylight moment. This means if you are in the car and it is light out, you are sharing the road with 660,000 people who might be talking or texting.

Since any use of a wireless device can make an accident four times more likely, and since using a cell phone to text can make an accident 23 times more likely, the fact that there are 660,000 drivers on the road with a cell in hand is cause for very serious concern. It is no wonder U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood described distracted driving as a "serious and deadly epidemic on America's roadways."

As if the news that thousands of drivers were on their cell phones wasn't bad enough, another news story during Distracted Driving month indicated that some drivers may even be doubling up on the danger. The story reported by NBC involved an Alabama man who was driving his car with his knees while he was "double texting."

The double-texting Alabama driver had a 3-year-old in his vehicle's backseat, along with prescription drugs and $4,500. He said he had been double texting since he was 15-years-old.

Clearly, this recent information shows how bad the problem of distracted driving has become in the United States. As the NHTSA indicates, there were more than 3,300 deaths in 2011 attributed to distracted driving. There were also 387,000 injuries in crashes where a driver was distracted.

The losses from these accidents and injuries are too great to measure when considering the pain of the family members left behind. Distracted Driving Month can hopefully help people to become more aware that distracted driving is never OK and can start to chip away at the number of people driving while distracted. If some drivers are starting to double up on this dangerous behavior, it is clear that the real risks associated with distracted driving have not yet hit home.

Continue reading "Distracted Driving Month Educates: News Shows We Still Have a Long Way to Go" »

April 20, 2013

Jackknifing Accidents Put Alabama Drivers at Risk

Recently Alabama.com reported that all eastbound lanes of Interstate 20 were blocked off near Brompton. The lanes were blocked off after an accident occurred involving an 18-wheeler. 1165921_a_long_truck.jpg

Our Montgomery truck accident lawyers know that accidents involving large trucks can be extremely dangerous. While this single-vehicle accident did not cause injury to any drivers, resolving the problems caused by the accident still necessitated assistance from police and hours to cleanup, causing headaches for motorists.

18-Wheeler Jackknife Accident Highlights Risks
Jack-knifing occurs when a truck and the trailer that is attached to it get out of sync. As a result, the trailer attached to the back of the truck essentially folds onto itself, turning sideways. The truck, with its sideways trailer, can resemble a V or an L shape instead of the trailer extending behind the tractor.

Jackknifing happens for many different reasons but the most common cause of jackknifing occurs as a result of a loss of traction. The point at which the tire hits the ground is a static contact point because the road isn't moving and the tire itself isn't moving at that exact moment.

If a road is slippery, however, then the tire might skid along the road instead of gripping it. There will no longer be static friction because the tire will be moving at the time when it hits the ground, leaving no static point between two fixed objects. All that will be left to keep the wheel on the ground is sliding friction, which is not nearly as powerful as static friction.

When the tires of the truck's trailer have no static friction, then they may just keep sliding along the road and have insufficient traction to stop. At this point, if the truck driver tries to hit the brakes in order to cause the trailer to stop, the risks are further exacerbated. The wheels can lock and because there is no static friction, the trailer may swing outwards in a sideways direction. This is called jackknifing.

Commercial drivers need to drive carefully, watch the trailer for problems, and be careful about how they brake their truck in order to avoid a jackknifing accident. This is why only experienced drivers with commercial driver's licenses should ever be operating 18-wheelers or any large trucks. This is particularly true of trucks towing tandem trailers.

When the trailer of a truck swings sideways, it can cause the truck to tip over. The trailer that swings sideways can also hit other cars, causing a serious accident. In this incident where I-20 was shut down, it was simply lucky that there were no other vehicles in the path of the truck that jackknifed so disaster was averted.

Continue reading " Jackknifing Accidents Put Alabama Drivers at Risk" »

April 11, 2013

Montgomery Traffic Safety - Seat Belts Still First Line of Defense

Have you ever gotten in your car and figured you didn't need to buckle your seat belt because you were just headed up the street? If so, you aren't alone. As HealthCanal.com reports, most drivers tend to buckle up more when they are going on a long trip as opposed to when they are staying close to home. 602535_seatbelt.jpg

Unfortunately, our Montgomery car accident lawyers know that most accidents happen close to where you live rather than on long trips. This means that drivers who only wear their seat belts for longer journeys may be more likely to get into a crash without a belt on. This can significantly increase the risk of death in an auto accident.

Drivers Who Don't Wear Seat Belts Set Themselves Up For Disaster
Recently, The Republic reported that more than half of all drivers killed in car accidents in Alabama were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash.

The data on seat belt use and fatalities came from the Alabama Department of Transportation and relates to accidents that occurred in 2012. Of the 424 people who died in car accidents in vehicles with seat belts available, 251 people did not have their belts on at the time of the accident. Further, 59 percent of the 513 people who died in car accidents in 2012 were not wearing their seat belts at the time when the fatal crash happened.

Many of these people were likely involved in accidents close to where they lived, since drivers who stay nearby are more likely to skip the seat belt. In fact, researchers from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute discovered that:

  • 72.7 percent of occasional seat belt wearers buckled up on trips with an average speed of 30 miles per hour. Trips at this average speed were more likely to be journeys around town.

  • 89 percent of occasional seat belt wearers buckled up on trips with an average speed of 50 miles per hour. These trips were more likely to be longer trips or road trips as opposed to casual trips around town.

The researchers used the drivers' GPS devices to confirm that drivers who were traveling at the lower speeds were more likely to be traveling on local roads while drivers traveling at higher speeds were more likely to be traveling on interstates and going further away.

Researchers also indicated that drivers who rarely buckled up would do so if forced to by legal deterrents such as laws mandating the use of seat belts and giving law enforcement the authority to pull people over for failure to wear a belt.

In Alabama, people sitting in the front seat are required by state law to wear seat belts. Kids between the ages of 6 and 15 must also wear belts while children under the age of six must be in a federally approved child seat when in the car.

Alabama, therefore, tries to take steps to make drivers buckle up whether they are traveling nearby or going on a longer road-trip. Yet, many drivers fail to do so despite the laws and some of the drivers who chose not to buckle up pay for this decision with their lives.

Continue reading "Montgomery Traffic Safety - Seat Belts Still First Line of Defense" »

April 4, 2013

Speeding is the Leading Cause of Car Accident Deaths in Alabama

In Alabama, every road has a speed limit that drivers are expected to follow. These speed limits exist for motorist safety. Our Montgomery accident lawyers know that the faster you are traveling, the greater the chances of becoming involved in an auto accident. High-speed crashes are also more likely to be deadly because a car that is moving faster will collide with more force. speedlimit.jpg

Unfortunately, many drivers choose to exceed the speed limit despite the dangers. As a result, speed is the number one factor in causing Alabama car accidents that result in fatalities. A recent article published on the website of The News Courier also indicated that speeding combined with high traffic volumes can be especially deadly.

Speeding & High Traffic Don't Mix
When analyzing crash data in Alabama from 2007 through 2011, it is easy to identify certain specific areas where a high number of fatal accidents occur. The high rates of death in these areas can be explained by both the traffic congestion and by the fact that drivers often exceed the speed limit within these particular locations.

The News Courier identified six of the locations where there are an abnormally high number of fatal accidents. These locations include:

  • Interstate 20/59 at Arkadelphia Road. Along Arkadelphia Road, there are around 40,000 cars each day while the Interstate has upwards of 140,000 travelers. Twelve crashes and 13 deaths occurred in this area.

  • Interstates 65 and 459. These areas saw more than 100,000 cars each day. Seven crashes occurred in this high-traffic pocket, resulting in ten fatalities.

  • Interstate 20/59 from 1st Avenue North to Roebuck Parkway. Between 55,000 and 70,000 vehicles travel here daily. Seven crashes, including three single vehicle accidents, occurred and resulted in seven deaths.

  • U.S. 78 from Cherry to Dugan Ave. Six crashes and six deaths occurred in this area where between 40,000 and 45,000 cars travel each day. Two of the deaths were pedestrians.

  • Interstate 65-Interstate 20/59. Traffic counts exceed 125,000 vehicles. Six deaths resulted from six accidents.

  • Interstate 20/59 at Tallapoosa Street. As many as 151,000 cars each day travel through this stretch of road. Five deaths and five crashes occurred here.

These specific areas represent a high number of the total deaths that occurred in Shelby and Jefferson Counties. From 2007 to 2011, there were a total of 537 fatal accidents within these counties and 590 people died. Many of the deaths could have been prevented if drivers did not speed so much through these high traffic zones.

When a driver chooses to speed, he may lose control of his vehicle. He may also be unable to stop or get out of the way if the car in front of him stops or if he approaches an accident or an obstacle. All of these are among the reasons why speeding causes crashes, especially in areas of peak congestion.

Continue reading "Speeding is the Leading Cause of Car Accident Deaths in Alabama" »

March 30, 2013

Bicycle Accidents Put Montgomery Kids at Risk

On March 11, the Montgomery Advertiser indicated that a teenage skateboarder was speeding down a parking garage ramp when he lost control and went into oncoming traffic. Tragically, the fourteen-year-old lost his life in the accident. 1396742_cyclist_silhouette_2.jpg

Our Montgomery accident attorneys know that this tragic accident is not the only one that will involve a young person this spring. In fact, Alabama kids on bicycles, skateboards, scooters and rollerblades are all in potential danger of becoming involved in a fatal car accident or in a car wreck that causes serious injury. As the weather gets warmer and more kids head outside to ride their bikes or play, the chances of an accident increase significantly.

Bicycle Accidents are Dangerous to Alabama Kids
While skateboarding, scooter and rollerblade accidents are all more common over the summer, bicycle accidents are an especially serious risk for kids because so many children ride bikes. Kids also often ride bicycles for longer distances in order to get to the home of a friend or to other recreational activities since bikes provide an effective method of transportation.

Unfortunately, the statistics on bicycle accidents show that kids who ride their bicycles around in the spring and summer might not be having the carefree and safe good time that they and their parents were hoping for. The statistics from Bicycling Info.org reveal that 618 people were killed and 52,000 were injured in bicycle crashes in 2010, with 20 percent of those who suffered injuries ages 16 and under.

Bicycle accidents can be dangerous and lead to a high number of deaths for a lot of reasons. One major issue is that many kids ride in higher-traffic areas or in areas without sidewalks. Some children do not know the rules of safe biking and others refrain from wearing helmets even though they are supposed to. Parents may also have more difficulty supervising their kids when kids are off from school and riding bikes, especially as more parents need to work longer hours due to a tough economy.

Talking to Kids About Bike Safety
While it can be difficult to supervise your children all the time when they are biking, parents need to make sure they are making age-appropriate rules for when, where and how a child can ride a bike. For example, kids who are very young should ride only in the driveway or family yard under supervision. Kids who are older may be allowed to ride their bike to the home of a friend in the neighborhood. However, parents need to make sure they set and enforce limits to keep kids from riding in heavy traffic areas where they are more likely to get hurt.

Children's of Alabama also offers some additional tips on bike safety that parents should share with their children including:

  • The importance of wearing bright visible clothes when riding a bike so drivers can see you easily.

  • The dangers of night bicycling.

  • The importance of being aware of the traffic and riding with traffic in a single-file path.

By educating kids on bike safety and by supervising and setting guidelines, you can hopefully help to keep your children safe. If a driver is involved in an accident that causes your child to be hurt, you may have a right to obtain legal compensation.

Continue reading "Bicycle Accidents Put Montgomery Kids at Risk" »

March 20, 2013

Spring Break Can Bring Increase in Accidents & Injuries

On March 11, Alabama.com reported that six college students were injured after a deck collapsed in Gulf Shores. The kids were on vacation celebrating spring break and there were many people on the deck at the beach home in the West Beach area where they were staying. Five of the kids were transported to the hospital while another was taken for emergency care in a personal vehicle. Their injuries were not reported as life threatening but did include potential broken bones. 749635_footprint_in_the_sand.jpg

Our Montgomery injury attorneys know that each year, thousands of kids come to Alabama for spring break. Some come to vacation at beach destinations while others are simply college kids returning home. These spring break visitors, along with high school students who are off for a week from school, are in danger of getting into a lot of troublesome situations over the course of their vacations. Parents need to be aware of the potential risk of spring break injuries and kids and teens of all ages should know of the dangers they face if they don't make smart choices about how to spend their time off.

Tips for Staying Safe Over Spring Break

Some of the possible risks faced by high school and college kids celebrating their time off include:

  • Drunk driving accidents. Kids driving home from bars, parties or even a day drinking at the beach could hurt themselves or others.
  • Car accidents. Even teens who aren't drunk could potentially be at risk of auto accidents over spring break. With out-of-town visitors and kids off from school, there are more people on the roads and kids tend to drive more. These factors both cause accidents. Further, the more children in the car, the greater the risk of a crash occurring. Kids cruising around with their friends or visiting Alabama on a spring break road trip could make choices that hurt themselves or others.
  • Pedestrian crashes. Kids frequently walk the bars and beaches as they celebrate spring break. These kids are at risk of becoming involved in a pedestrian accident, especially if they are intoxicated or don't know where they are going and they wander into an unsafe area.
  • Drowning accidents. Kids may spend their spring break days at the pool or at the beach, and could potentially become the victim of a drowning accident at either location. Drowning accidents can happen when kids swim after having too much to drunk, or if kids swim in areas with a dangerous undercurrent.
  • Sexual assault. Teens who are out having a good time could find themselves the victims of either date rape or stranger rape. When kids have too much to drink, this can set them up for a bad situation where they are unable to give consent but get forced into sexual encounters. It is important for girls not to put themselves into a dangerous situation and for guys to remember that intercourse with a person too drunk to consent can still count as rape even if the girl doesn't affirmatively say no.

Parents need to talk to their children about all of these potential spring break dangers. Kids also need to be aware of the fact that the choices they make over spring break could have an impact on the rest of their lives.

Continue reading "Spring Break Can Bring Increase in Accidents & Injuries" »

March 10, 2013

Montgomery Construction Accident Highlights Trench Work Dangers

A man conducting pipe repairs for the Alabama Department of Transportation in Bay Minette, about two hours south of Montgomery, was rushed to the hospital following a trench collapse. workhelmet.jpg

Our Montgomery construction accident attorneys understand that he was working in a hole when the dirt that surrounded him began to collapse. Other workers on the site were able to respond quickly and dig him out to safety.

But such incidents should never happen in the first place if those who manage the sites are adhering to the guidelines set forth by the U.S. Occupational Health & Safety Administration.

The fact is, excavating is well-known to be one of the most dangerous jobs on a construction site. The greatest risk in a trench is a cave-in, like what happened here, and these incidents are much more likely than others on a job site to result in worker deaths. Consider that one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car. Entering an unprotected trench is akin to walking into an early grave.

In addition to a cave-in, other potential problems workers in a trench might anticipate would be:

  • Falls;

  • Hazardous atmospheres;

  • Falling loads;

  • Mobile equipment failures.

If the trench you are in is more than five feet deep, there needs to be some sort of protective system in place to prevent a collapse. The only exception would be if the excavation site is comprised entirely of stable rock.

Trenches that are 20 feet deep or more need to be outfitted with a protective system that is designed by a professional, registered engineer. Safe access and egress devices have to be set up for workers in any kind of trench that is more than 4 feet deep.

Some other basic general guidelines that need to be followed in trench work includes:

  • Keeping all heavy equipment far away from the edges of a trench;

  • Any excavated soil or other materials should be a minimum of 2 feet away from the edge of the trench;

  • Site supervisors need to know where the underground utilities are located before the digging even starts;

  • With trenches greater than 4 feet deep, supervisors should be testing for potential atomospheric hazards, like low oxygen levels, toxic gases or hazardous fumes;

  • Make sure the trench isn't positioned under raised or suspended materials or loads;

  • If there is a situation or condition that could have altered the stability of the trench (such as heavy rain), it needs to be re-examined;

  • Everyone working inside the trench should be outfitted with bright, reflective clothing.

OSHA actually recommends that trenches be looked over every day by a "competent person" before a worker goes inside. This would be an individual who knows how to identify any existing or predictable dangers or working conditions that could pose a risk to employee health or safety.

Continue reading "Montgomery Construction Accident Highlights Trench Work Dangers" »

March 5, 2013

Alabama Teen Driver Deaths Spike in 2012

The Governors Highway Safety Association recently released a report with deeply troubling statistics. carspeed.jpg

Our Montgomery car accident lawyers understand that teen driver deaths were up nearly 20 percent in the first six months of 2012 (as compared to the same time frame in 2011). Alabama saw one of the greatest increases of all, with a 400 percent rise in the number of these tragedies.

The study was conducted by researcher Dr. Allan Williams, formerly the chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Fatality figures were collected for every state and Washington D.C.

The increase wasn't entirely unexpected, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had predicted that there would be a roughly 8 percent increase in the number of overall traffic deaths. However, the fact that we have 16- and 17-year-olds dying at an even more rapid rate is alarming.

And the fact that Alabama saw such a sharp increase - from 3 deaths from January through June 2011 to 12 in the same time frame in 2012 - leaves us deeply saddened. It also fuels our commitment to raising awareness of this issue, especially as we head into spring break, prom and graduation celebrations - all of which have historically been prime times for drunk driving, distracted driving and drowsy driving for teenagers.

Alabama was one of just six states in the country that saw such an alarming increase.

Researchers say part of the problem could be that the benefit we saw as a result of enacting graduated drivers licensing programs are beginning to level off, having been in place for a few years now.

Another factor is likely the improvement in the economy. At the height of the recession, teens were competing for low-wage, entry-level jobs with older adults with more experience. These lack of opportunities and income meant teens had less gas money so they weren't on the road as much. Now that we're beginning to see a shift, they are on the road more often, and that's more opportunities for crashes.

Some of those with a bit of extra income may likely be gearing up for spring break. For many, that could mean several-hour stretches on the road (which can lead to drowsy driving) with a handful of friends in the car (ample distraction).

Prom and graduation too are times when we tend to see increased risk, often due to drunk driving.

One thing that the GHSA noted that several other states are doing is hosting brief parent orientations to driver's education courses for teens. This is something Alabama doesn't do, but in light of the increase, it's certainly something we feel would be worth exploring.

Another point that really needs to be driven home to teenagers is that distracted driving is a deadly serious concern. It's gained a lot of attention from the media in recent years, and we worry that teens are becoming numb to it. Yet distracted driving continues to be a very real problem, especially among teens.

Last year, Alabama legislators enacted a ban on texting while driving, so we hope that year-end figures may reflect a decline as a result.

But parents can and should remain involved. First, there are a number of apps, both for iOS and Android phones that will lock the text and other functions if the vehicle is moving faster than 10 miles per hour. Also being a good example and following through when your child breaks the rules can be quite effective.

Continue reading "Alabama Teen Driver Deaths Spike in 2012" »

February 22, 2013

Tuscaloosa 5-Year-Old Killed in Pedestrian Collision

A kindergartner was killed earlier this month when she and her older cousin were hit by a truck while crossing the street near their home. sign1.jpg

Our Tuscaloosa pedestrian accident attorneys are heartbroken for the family of this 5-year-old, who reportedly died at the hospital after being rushed there by the driver of the truck.

According to local police, the driver is not expected to be charged with a crime. News reports indicate that the driver was stopped at an intersection, then proceeded forward and immediately realized he had hit something. He stopped, realized he had struck both girls, loaded them both in his truck and called 911 as he raced to the hospital.

It's unclear at this point whether there is anything the driver could have done differently to have prevented this incident. The 14-year-old cousin later told investigators that she believed the driver of the truck had stopped for her and the younger girl, which is why she proceeded into the intersection.

She too was injured, though she is expected to make a recovery. In a testament to what a small world we live in, the driver of the truck actually knows the family of the girl who was killed.

While the investigation is still ongoing, it highlights the importance of teaching our children pedestrian safety from a very young age. We know it may not prevent injury or wrongful death in every case, but we have a responsibility to do the best we can to arm them with information that will prompt them to use caution around moving vehicles.

Safety advocates suggest the following:

  • When your child is still a toddler, begin teaching her that she must always hold an adult's hand when near the road and must never enter the road alone.

  • Explain to even young children the importance of paying attention to their surroundings when they are out walking - especially when crossing the street.

  • Make sure children know that they must always stop, look and listen before stepping into the street.

  • Teach your preschooler to stay on the sidewalk. If she is crossing, teach her to first stop, look both ways - twice - and listen closely for oncoming traffic. Walk school routes with them, and have them help you decide when it might be safe to cross the street.

  • Make it a general rule for your child to make eye contact with a driver at an intersection before crossing the street.

  • Instruct your children about crosswalk signs, and what each signal means. Teach her how to press the button and determine when it is safe and unsafe to cross.

  • Teach your child to look both ways even when the signal has given the go-ahead.

  • Make sure your child knows to be extra careful when walking past driveways, especially those that are obstructed or hidden. Same rules apply for crossing street corners and alleys.

  • Elementary school children should be taught about bicycle safety rules, as well as the basics of driving safety. They should have a basic understanding of what red, yellow and green lights mean and how they should react tho them as pedestrians.

Continue reading "Tuscaloosa 5-Year-Old Killed in Pedestrian Collision" »

February 17, 2013

Alabama Trucking Accident Risks Heightened By Bad Weather

A serious accident involving two 18-wheelers on I-459 in Hoover is under investigation by local authorities. dangeroustruck1.jpg

Our Birmingham personal injury attorneys were amazed to learn that no one was hurt in the crash, though we weren't surprised to learn that yet another trucking accident had occurred on the highway.

Although it's not yet clear whether the weather was a factor in this crash, we do know that it occurred just two days after a huge swath of Northern Alabama was under a winter weather advisory from the National Weather Service, with a mix of rain, sleet and snow causing particularly treacherous conditions on elevated roadways and bridges.

This is relatively common this time of year in our state. Although the southern half of the state is noted for its more tropical climate, Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile have been known to drop several degrees below freezing, and in some cases can see a foot or more of snow, according to to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

All of this is compounded by the fact that winter brings shorter days and longer nights. Given that the majority of crashes occur after dark, this combination can be deadly.

Truckers can't be held responsible for the weather, obviously, but they can be held liable for a negligent reaction to it. They are (or should be) trained to know when road conditions or poor visibility requires them to slow down or even pull over. There are also industry-wide federal guidelines with regard to how much weight these vehicles can safely haul and how long of a stretch drivers can safely go before a dangerous level of fatigue begins to set in.

And yet, we continue to see serious crashes resulting from actions and behaviors that are entirely preventable.

It then becomes incumbent upon motorists who share the road with these large vehicles to take safety into their own hands. While you should always drive defensively and without distractions, this is doubly important in the midst of inclement weather and at night.

As you grab your keys and head out the door, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Slow down and leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you.

  • Brake gently to avoid skidding. If you find your wheels locking up, ease off the brake.

  • Make sure your lights are on.

  • Keep your windshield and lights clean.

  • Use your high beams whenever possible - just remember to dim them for oncoming traffic.

  • If the road is icy, refrain from putting the car in overdrive or cruise control.

  • Look away from headlights coming in your direction, as they can temporarily blind you.

  • Use extra caution on bridges, overpasses or roads less traveled. These will be the first to freeze.

  • Don't pass snow plows or sanding trucks.

  • If you suspect your vehicle may not be able to handle the road, stay home. Same goes if you think you might be too tired to drive.

Continue reading "Alabama Trucking Accident Risks Heightened By Bad Weather" »

February 10, 2013

Millions of Vehicles, Car Products, Recalled in 2012, Says NHTSA

Hundreds of recalls alerting consumers to millions of potentially defective vehicles and vehicle products were announced over the last year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. carspeed.jpg

While it's good news that these products are no longer on the market, our Montgomery personal injury lawyers find it appalling that so many companies would put the public in harm's way. Manufacturers, even if they aren't aware of the risk they have posed, have a responsibility and an obligation to fully vet their products before making them available for sale. Vehicles are among the largest investments a family makes, and can take years to pay off. At a minimum, they should be free from defects that could result in serious or fatal injuries.

In addition to the vehicles themselves, the 650 recalls announced last year by those in the auto industry included some 60,000 items of vehicle equipment, which would include things like faulty child safety seats and unsafe tires. In all, the recalls affected nearly 18 million vehicles and vehicle-related products.

To put the scope of this into perspective, assuming no consumer was hit by two vehicle recalls in the same year, that would affect roughly 9.3 percent of licensed drivers, or roughly one out of every 10 you pass on the road.

Maybe it was you?

By far, the NHTSA rates the worst offenders as:

  • Toyota (12 recalls affecting more than 5.3 million vehicles);

  • Honda (16 recalls affecting more than 3.3 million vehicles);

  • General Motors (17 recalls affecting more than 1.4 million vehicles);

  • Fort Motor Company (24 recalls affecting nearly 1.4 million vehicles)

  • Chrysler Group (13 recalls affecting more than 1.3 million vehicles).

Other companies with a high number of recalls include BMW (15), Nissan (13), Daimler Trucks (21), Navistar (20), Prevost Cars (16), Blue Bird Body Company (12) and Ducati (10). Most other companies had under 10 recalls.

For Toyota, its recalls included problems with Prius models' steering intermediate extension shafts, which could suffer damage if a sharp turn was made at a slow speed. There was also an issue with the electric motor pumps that could result in a system failure during operation. In another model, there was also a power window problem that posed a fire risk.

Hondas recalls included a roll-away problem after drivers had removed the keys from the ignition. We know of at least two people who were injured as a result of this problem, including one person who suffered a broken leg after being run over by his van even though he had removed the key from the ignition.

General Motors' recalls included problems with fuel leaks - particularly in hot-weather states.

Ford - which had the distinction of the most recalls for 2012 - had to recall some 90,000 vehicles in one instance due to overheating that could spark a fire in two of its best-selling models. At least 13 vehicle fires were reported, though no one was hurt. Others involved a swatch of carpet that could block the gas pedal in its Escape models and others involved coolant leaks from the freeze plugs.

Finally, Chrysler's recalls involved the removal of more than 900,000 Jeeps with airbags that might deploy unexpectedly or without warning while the vehicle was being operated.

Continue reading "Millions of Vehicles, Car Products, Recalled in 2012, Says NHTSA" »

February 1, 2013

Alabama Car Accidents Surge on Super Bowl Sunday

The widely anticipated Super Bowl XLVII Sunday showdown of the San Francisco 49ers versus the Baltimore Ravens will kick-off Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Central Time. beer.jpg

Our Montgomery personal injury lawyers are expecting a great game. Unfortunately, we're also expecting a spike in DUI car accidents this weekend and into the early hours of Monday morning as well.

It's the most popular broadcast on television, with some 130 million American viewers tuning in live each year.

A 2003 study conducted by the researchers at the University of Toronto and published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined nationwide DUI crash statistics for nearly 30 consecutive Super Bowl games.

The study showed that overall, the number of crashes in the hour after the game ends jumps by nearly 70 percent.

Most people would say the reasons why are fairly simple: People drink alcohol when they watch football, and are sometimes irresponsible and get behind the wheel after doing so. This is true, but there are a number of other contributing factors as well. For example, the game doesn't typically end until late in the evening. Statistically, more crashes happen at night and this also contributes to driver fatigue. Additionally, there is a lot of "Monday morning quarterbacking" that goes on during the drive home - replaying all the what-if's and recounting all the best or most disappointing plays. This inevitably contributes to driver inattention.

This phenomena is more pronounced among fans whose team has just lost. In fact, researchers found that while DUI crashes rose by 68 percent in states where the home team lost, they increased by just 6 percent in states where the home team won. Overall "neutral" states saw an increase of about 50 percent.

In general, we know that alcohol is involved in nearly 40 percent of all fatal traffic accidents claiming the lives of 16 to 20-year-olds. Unfortunately, many professional football players aren't setting a prime example for these youth, with many recent headlines chastising the National Football League for its seemingly laissez faire attitude regarding numerous players arrested for drunk driving. USA Today sports writer Jarrett Bell scolded the agency saying it "should be ashamed of its weak DUI policy."

Law enforcement officials have known anecdotally for years that DUI crashes and arrests climbed significantly on Super Bowl Sunday, prompting them to organize checkpoints and roving patrols in an effort to nab offenders. This year will be no different. Alabama authorities have pledged to be out in full force.

Sadly, they won't catch everyone. We encourage all Super Bowl fans to consider the following before kick-off:

  • Before the party starts, designate a sober driver.

  • Pace your alcohol consumption by alternating with non-alcoholic drinks and eat plenty of food.

  • If it comes time to leave and you are drunk or buzzed without a designated driver, call a friend, call a taxi or stay where you are. Whatever you do, don't get behind the wheel.

  • If you see a friend about to drive drunk, intervene.

Continue reading "Alabama Car Accidents Surge on Super Bowl Sunday" »

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" »

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