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.
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.
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.
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.
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.