The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced a new safety campaign to reduce the rate of fatal auto accidents among teenage drivers. The campaign, called “5 to Drive,” encourages parents to discuss one safety topic each day with their teenage children. The five topics are:
- Refraining from cell phone usage, including text messaging
- Refraining from carrying passengers
- Obeying the speed limit
- Refraining from alcohol consumption
- Wearing a seat belt at all times while driving or riding
Auto accidents are the number one killer of American teens, according to the NHTSA. In 2011, 2,105 teens lost their lives on U.S. roads.
The good news? That number represents a huge improvement over the course of the last few years. From 2007 to 2011, the number of teen driving fatalities has fallen by 43 percent. Unfortunately, some markers have remained steady during this time period, including the percentage of teen drivers killed in auto accidents with positive blood alcohol concentrations (27 percent), the percentage who were speeding when they died (35 percent) and the percentage who were unrestrained (53 percent).
The NHTSA also says that distraction was a factor in 12 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers. Both cell phones and teenage passengers contribute to distractions for young drivers.
Teen passengers also play a unique role in creating peer pressure, which is likely to lead teen drivers to engage in risky behavior they might otherwise avoid. For instance, the agency found that in fatal crashes in which the teen driver was not wearing a seat belt, nearly 80 percent of that driver’s teen passengers rode unrestrained. Another study found that having one teenage passenger increased the likelihood that a teenage driver would engage in risky behavior by 2.5 times. Having multiple passengers increased the likelihood by three times.
If you have a teen driver in your household, speak with them regularly about the topics listed above and about defensive driving skills. Teach them that, as a driver, they must exercise maturity. They are responsible for their own safety and that of their passengers.
When your teen has a learner’s permit, take every opportunity possible to allow him or her to drive under your direct supervision. This is by far your best chance to instill safe driving habits that will stay with your child for life.
A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) covering auto accidents involving pedestrians shows that in 2011, for the second year in a row, the number of pedestrian fatalities increased from the year before. In response, the Department of Transportation (DOT), which includes the NHTSA, announced the availability of pedestrian safety grants to cities with high rates of pedestrian deaths.
The DOT named 22 cities eligible for the grants. Unfortunately, Tampa is not on the list, despite ranking second in the nation in pedestrian fatalities in a survey by Transportation for America, a nonprofit transportation safety organization. Four other Florida cities – Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, and Orlando – made the list and are eligible for the grants.
The grants are limited in size and scope and will not be used to make any upgrades to infrastructure. They total $2 million and are intended for education and enforcement initiatives.
Another tool available to communities to improve pedestrian safety is a new NHTSA website called “Everyone is a Pedestrian.” The site brings together resources and tips that communities can use to keep pedestrians safe, such as information to help parents teach children about safe walking, reports on effective existing projects to improve safety, and guides for community safety advocates.
“Pedsafe,” a project of the Federal Highway Administration, is another website available to communities with pedestrian safety issues. It contains suggestions for engineering, education, and enforcement initiatives, including case studies of actual implementations of those ideas.
“We continue to see high rates of pedestrian fatalities in major cities and across every demographic,” said David Strickland, administrator of the NHTSA, in the agency’s announcement. “To help stop the recent increase in deaths and injuries, we need everyone to play a role in pedestrian safety. Working with partners on the federal, state, local and individual level, we hope to turn this concerning trend around.”
One attention-grabbing fact in the recent NHTSA report is that alcohol played a role in nearly half of all auto accidents in which a pedestrian died. That means either the driver or pedestrian had been drinking. And over one third of the pedestrians killed were legally drunk.
According to NHTSA reports, pedestrian fatalities declined each year from 2005 to 2009. Despite this mitigating factor, a two-year trend of increasing deaths should not be taken lightly. It is the responsibility of safety groups, individual drivers and pedestrians, and all levels of government to work together to improve the safety of our roads for all users.
Each year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration makes a detailed analysis of auto accident statistics in the U.S. Compiling and studying the data takes a long time, and the full reports are not ready until about 18 months after the end of the calendar year. But a preliminary report on auto accident fatalities in 2012 has just been released, and the early indications are a bit troubling.
The NHTSA estimates that 34,080 people died in auto accidents on U.S. roads in 2012. If that estimate holds true, it represents an increase of about 5.3 percent over 2011 fatalities, which numbered 32,367. What many do not realize is that the U.S. has enjoyed a decrease in traffic fatalities each year since 2005, when the figure was 43,510. Last year will therefore likely mark a break in a strong and very positive trend in safety.
Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased by 0.3 percent to 9.1 billion and therefore only account for a small portion of the increase. The estimated fatality rate per VMT for 2012 is 1.16 per 100 million VMT, up from 1.10 in 2011. In plain English, this means that U.S. drivers are driving slightly more, but dying at a higher rate for every mile spent behind the wheel. Like the total number of fatalities, the fatality rate declined each year from 2005 to 2011.
The number of miles driven varies throughout the year. People drive more during the summer and holidays. The hazards of the road vary as well – more accidents occur during rainy and snowy months. Therefore, it is useful to compare accidents from a given quarter of one year with the same quarter from the previous year. The NHTSA report illustrates the strength of the earlier downtrend in traffic fatalities by showing that from 2006 to 2010, there were 17 consecutive quarters that showed a year-over-year decline. That is the single longest unbroken downtrend since the agency began compiling auto accident statistics in 1976.
Although any increase in traffic deaths is disheartening, this report should be taken in context. Deadly accidents have fallen steeply over the past several years. The U.S. is making significant strides in road safety. Hopefully, 2012 statistics will turn out to be an anomaly and fatal auto accidents will continue their longer-term downtrend in 2013 and beyond.
Florida has enacted a ban on texting while driving, but critics say the law has no teeth.
Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law on May 28, 2013. The ban prohibits the use of cell phones for sending text messages or email while driving under most circumstances. But “most circumstances” comes with a number of exceptions. The law does not apply to drivers at red lights or in traffic jams. And drivers may still use phones for navigation, weather, and music, and they may also use voice-to-text applications.
But the biggest weakness in the law, some say, is the fact that violation of the ban is a secondary offense. That means that police cannot pull over a driver whose only offense is texting – they must commit some other infraction, such as speeding. They could then be ticketed for speeding and/or texting. Police also cannot require drivers to hand over their phones to show whether they have been texting or emailing. Enforcing the ban may therefore prove quite difficult.
State legislators have tried for years to pass a ban, but Republican leaders in the House have thwarted the efforts. This year, new House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, broke the gridlock when he indicated his support for the legislation.
Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, the bill’s sponsor, defended the measure, saying the fact that texting is a secondary offense will not affect the public’s perception of it.
According to a recently-published study by Cohen Children’s Medical Center, texting while driving is the leading cause of death for teenagers, claiming the lives of more than 3,000 teens each year. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said that texting contributed to nearly 200 crashes in Florida last year. And the National Safety Council said that texting contributes to over 100,000 crashes per year in the U.S.
The law goes into effect on October 1, 2013. A first-time offense carries a $30 fine and is a nonmoving violation. A second violation within 5 years of the first carries a fine of $60 and is a moving violation.
Regardless of the state of the law, drivers as individuals need to take personal responsibility for their safety. This means not only the careful and judicious use of cell phones and other electronic devices in cars, but also defensive driving to protect oneself against the ever-present threat of others’ unsafe driving.
Thirteen lawsuits were recently filed against the state of Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles from family members of people who were killed on Interstate 75 or from individuals who injured in those accidents. Eleven people died on Interstate 75 near Gainesville on January 29, 2012.
It is highly unusual for such a large number people to die in auto accidents in such a short period of time. The numerous crashes occurred in the early morning when a mixture of smoke from wildfires and fog gathered in the area and decreased driver visibility in an area of roadway that also was unlit. A highway patrol officer suggested the road be kept closed due to the unusual conditions, but allegedly, someone higher up in his chain of command decided to keep the roadways open. Six separate fatal crashes in the area, involving six tractor trailers, a motor home, a van and a number of cars. Eighteen people were hospitalized in addition to those that died.
The Florida Highway Patrol later stated that the crashes were unavoidable, while a report from April developed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports that errors made in decision-making by the Florida Highway Patrol contributed to the deadly accidents. The Department of Law Enforcement said there were not enough signs available to provide motorists with much-needed information about the lack of visibility and danger. The Florida Highway Patrol countered that it is the responsibility of the Department of Transportation to provide proper signage. The highway patrol also stated that some motorists did not reduce their speed, even though they were driving into low-visibility conditions, which contributed to the number of accidents. Separate analysis of different reports conducted by the local newspaper did identify alcohol use in two accidents, but there were no injuries or deaths associated with them.
Of course, it isn’t surprising that no state agency wants to accept the blame. The accidents in January caused a tremendous loss of life, which, at this juncture, appear to have been avoidable. The lives lost caused incalculable anguish on the part of family members who lost loved ones. While lawsuits have been filed, it could be many years for the survivors and their relatives to be handed judgment and resolve the suits.
A 6-year-old boy was seriously injured in an accident on Interstate 10 in Santa Rosa County in western Florida on Friday night. The driver of a Ford F-150 veered off the roadway onto a shoulder to avoid a vehicle directly in front that slowed suddenly. In the process, the truck’s driver from Crestview struck a tree near the road. The 6-year-old boy was in the truck at the time of the accident and was seriously injured. Minor injuries were sustained by five others, including one adult.
Injuries sustained in accidents like this can be deceptive. What first seemed to be a superficial cut or bump may progress into internal pains or symptoms like dizziness or a loss of balance. If such problems emerge later, it is very important that they are documented correctly at the time of the accident because, if they are not, there may not be a sound basis for pursuing a legal case.
In this particular instance, the driver who caused the truck to veer off the road to avoid a rear-end collision was at fault. She was charged with impeding the flow of traffic, failure to display registration and failure to provide proof of insurance. The official documentation of these charges and the police investigation is what allows a case to be made and prosecuted.
Similarly, if someone is injured in such an accident, all of the medical details must be documented properly, so the victims can bring a case to court if there is good reason. Victims of personal injury sometimes don’t know the full extent of their injuries until after the accident. Soft tissue injuries, vascular injuries and even traumatic brain injuries may not appear immediately, and yet their diagnosis and documentation is key information in a personal injury case.
And in an accident like this one where children are involved, the consequences of an injury are greater. Children’s bodies and minds are growing at a continuous rate, and untreated medical injuries could interfere with their physical, mental and social development. Having a competent Florida personal injury attorney can help cover the finances required to care for victims of auto accidents.
Zephyrhills, Fla. – The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles latest crash statistics show that Pasco County had 5,780 auto accidents and 79 fatalities in 2009. Most of injuries came from a vehicle rear-ending another vehicle. After that, vehicles hitting at an angle caused the worst injuries. Intersections and exit ramps were the site of the most accidents.
“Auto accidents can be extremely frustrating and leave you with injuries, insurance issues, and car repairs,” said Zephyrhills auto accident attorney Robert Alston. “You need someone to look out for your best interests as the insurance company is not going to go out of their way to help you.”
An accident with an uninsured motorist can be a tough experience to go through, too. Estimates show that in Florida, nearly 24 percent of drivers do not have insurance. That is why it is so important to be proactive and make sure you have an insurance policy with adequate coverage and limits. The right kind of insurance coverage can protect against an uninsured motorist, and ensure that coverage is adequate for bodily injury and medical expenses, property damage and personal injury protection.
Auto accident lawyers recommend that anyone who is involved in a serious accident should contact an attorney who is knowledgeable with automobile policies and coverage. “Insurance adjusters want to settle your claim quickly and oftentimes for the least amount of money,” said Alston. “At their urging, you may sign a document or give a statement without knowing the consequences.”
A qualified Zephyrhills auto accident lawyer wants their clients to focus on getting their injuries healed and returning as much as possible to a normal routine. It is crucial to work with an experienced attorney and a medical professional until a plateau is reached. “You never want to settle just to get closure on your case,” said Alston. “Some injuries aren’t evident until weeks or months down the line.”
An auto accident attorney calculates the true compensation a client will need long after the case is over. Some auto injuries do require routine procedures or medication to get an individual healthy again.
Robert Alston has practiced auto accident law for more than 10 years and prior to law school was a licensed insurance agent. He knows the importance of fighting for a client’s rights to get the compensation and benefits they need during this traumatic time. The Disability Law Firm is renowned for their successful track record in auto accident cases throughout Pasco County and Tampa Bay.
Zephyrhills, Fla. – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has started a new safety rating system for 2011 model year vehicles. The ratings involve tougher crash tests and crash warning systems, which provide consumers with one overall safety score. Passenger cars, sport utility vehicles, vans and pickups are all tested.
The NHTSA admitted that most vehicles were getting a four or five star rating, so these new, stricter standards will show the differences more easily to the consumer. Four collision tests – frontal, side-impact, rollover and the new side pole collision – will replicate what happens to most vehicles during an accident. Safercar.gov will post the ratings on their website as the sticker that will show the safety rating is still being devised.
With the new rating, older vehicles from 1990 to 2010 should not be compared to the new safety numbers. Only newer vehicles have these crash avoidance technologies and safety standards, so the NHTSA decided to focus on them to help individuals make smart buying decisions.
“Now this great program has gotten even better by making it easier to compare the safety performance of vehicles not only in terms of crash survivability, but in terms of avoiding crashes in the first place,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.
Every year, more than five million driving accidents occur and 32,788 people die as a result. Close to three million people suffer moderate to severe injuries. Despite the efforts of the NHTSA and automakers, crashes still happen. Most are due to poor driver performance of the at-fault driver. Some of the injuries are not detectable right after the accident, but occur weeks or months later. Individuals should seek medical attention and legal counsel immediately to maintain their health and uphold their rights.
The most common injuries include head trauma, spinal cord injuries, bone fractures, burns and internal organ injuries. A skilled auto accident attorney will fight for their client’s rights to get compensation for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
“You do not want to go for a quick settlement with your insurance company, as they will oftentimes want to force you into accepting an inadequate amount,” said Zephyrhills auto accident attorney Robert Alston. “We want to make sure all your health needs are met and push for full and fair financial compensation.”
The Disability Law Firm is well versed in negotiating with insurance companies and getting clients access to quality medical care. Robert Alston has more than 10 years of proven auto accident case results and prior to law school was a licensed insurance agent.
Zephyrhills, Fla. – The recent deaths of two Central Florida youths show the danger of “ghost riding” and other car stunts. Car stunts might look cool on reality shows, YouTube, and in the movies, but they are causing more accidents and heartaches for families and friends who are affected by their deadly consequences.
Nearly 100 people have died because of car surfing, with an estimated 70 percent of incidents involving young men, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Even slow speeds of five miles per hour can cause injuries and fatalities, as any loss of balance or bump in the road can force the rider to fall from the vehicle.
Car surfing is when one person hangs out of the vehicle or rides on top of it, on the bumper, or on the running boards. Ghost riding involves a person standing or dancing on the exterior while the vehicle is in motion. Skitching is when someone uses a skateboard, roller skates, or other device to hang onto a moving vehicle.
“Vehicular homicide is a very serious verdict for a stunt that usually starts out as innocent fun,” said Robert Alston, Zephyrhills auto accident lawyer. “Only professionals in controlled environments should be attempting this in a vehicle.”
Alston has represented many clients and cautions that the only way to be safe in a vehicle is to be restrained with a seatbelt, with proper vehicle maintenance and have a driver that is fully capable of driving safely. He has dealt with cases involving inexperienced drivers, improper tires, and incorrectly loaded vehicles in his more than 10 years of auto accident law practice.
“People underestimate the danger of holding onto a moving vehicle,” said Florida Highway Patrol Sergeant Kim Montes. “Moving vehicles are not toys.”
The paramedics from the Tampa, Fla. based Street Smart program know the effects of serious auto accidents. Each time they go into a school, community, or military base, it does not take long for the violent photos and videos to emphasize how deadly choices and automobiles can be. The Tampa Bay branch of the Stay Alive From Education (S.A.F.E.) does the presentations so that individuals can learn the lesson of each crash – were seat belts worn, drugs or alcohol involved, cell phone being used, or drivers not paying attention.
Florida has one of the highest rates of automobile accidents. Many times drivers and passengers not only have financial damage, but physical and mental pain and suffering. Oftentimes, this pain might not be debilitating in the weeks after an accident, but months and years later it can produce frustrating chronic pain.
Some insurance providers will want to settle quickly in order to protect their costs, so individuals are advised to get legal counsel early to protect their rights. Experienced auto accident attorneys have medical experts and estimators to project future losses and costs that are a result of an auto accident. Insurance coverage is complex, so an auto accident attorney who is skilled in auto policy coverage is a huge benefit. No matter what an individual drives – car, truck, or motorcycle – they will benefit from having an attorney while navigating through their claim.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that car accident injuries can affect every part of the body and no two accidents are the same. The top injuries are:
Whiplash – involves soft tissue injuries that effect ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Rear and side impact accidents are the most often cause and many symptoms get worse with time.
Back Injuries – from sprains and strains to herniated discs and fractured vertebrae, back injuries must be taken seriously. These injuries can prevent physical movement and even make sitting in an office chair impossible for long lengths of time.
Psychological Injuries – Post-traumatic stress disorder can result in a fear of driving and are common effects of a serious automobile crashes.
Brain Injuries – bruising or bleeding of the brain can drastically impair brain and body functions. Traumatic brain injuries are caused when an external force injures the brain. Individuals and their caretakers should be diligent about checking for memory loss, chronic headaches, as well as loss of smell, taste, and dexterity.
Auto accident attorneys know the importance of fighting for their clients’ rights since accident injuries can require the need for physical therapy, in-home care, medical equipment, surgery, and numerous physician visits. At The Disability Law Firm, their professional excellence and notable track record for auto accident clients is the peace of mind individuals deserve. Their lead Tampa and Zephyrhills auto accident attorney, Robert C. Alston, has practiced injury law for more than 10 years and prior to law school was a licensed insurance agent. He knows all the ins and outs of auto insurance coverage and what rights and benefits are available.