Category Archives: Safe Driving

New anti-texting legislation to take effect in West Virginia

The new texting-while-driving legislation which was passed in West Virginia is set to take effect on Friday, June 8, 2012.  West Virginia is now the 41st state banning texting-while-driving.

However, the law does not apply just to texting, but also to talking on the cell phone.  On June 8 texting or using a hand-held cell phone becomes a secondary offense – meaning that cops are not supposed to pull you over just for that offense, but they can ticket you for that offense if they pull you over for some other reason.  On July 1, 2012 it becomes a primary offense.

At this point it is important to make sure new vehicles you buy are equipped with bluetooth hands-free cellular technology.  If not, you will want to buy a bluetooth headset if you must talk on your cell phone while driving.

Automobile Accident Statistics and Injury Prevention

Between the years of 2000 and 2005 there were over 6 million auto accidents in the United States. In each of those years approximately 2.9 million people were injured and over 42,000 people were killed. About 115 people are killed every day in vehicle crashes in the United States. In 2007 there were approximately 300 million people in the United States. Of the people killed in automobile accidents in 2007 approximately 20% were passengers. In 2007 approximately 5,000 people were killed in motorcycle accidents. Also, in 2007 approximately 4,600 pedestrians were killed in accidents involving motor vehicles. There were 255 million vehicles registered and approximately 200 million licensed drivers.

The motorists advocacy group AAA reports that accidents cost $162 billion each year. The cost of auto accidents to each American is more than $1,000 a year. Also, according to AAA car accidents involving drivers 15 to 17 years of age cost society more than 34 billion in medical expenses, property damage and related costs in the year 2006. 15-18 year old drivers were involved in 974,000 crashes that injured 406,427 people and killed 2,541. According to the Center for Disease Control motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among U.S. teens, accounting for 36% of all deaths in this age group.

So, what can be done to protect motorists from injury and death caused by motor vehicle accidents? The answers to this question are as follows:

  1. Don’t’ drink and drive. Don’t ride in a car when the driver has been drinking.
  2. Require your teenagers to enroll in driver safety programs.
  3. Drive large vehicles. Full sized passenger cars weighing over 4000 pounds have a lower injury and fatality rates.
  4. Lower your speed. Speed kills.
  5. Practice defensive driving.
  6. Stricter enforcement of traffic laws.
  7. Make drivers who cause accidents criminally and civilly responsible.
  8. Lower the center of gravity on Vans, SUVs, and pick-ups to prevent roll over accidents.
  9. Incorporate some form of roll cages in vehicles.
  10. Incorporation of more safety glass in vehicles.
  11. Restricted licenses for the elderly and those with poor vision.
  12. Better highway design. Fix the bad roads before we build new ones.
  13. Raise insurance rates for at-fault drivers and lower them for safe drivers.
  14. Better DMV reporting of traffic infractions to insurance companies.
  15. Use of and incorporation of safety equipment such as seat belts, air bags, side curtain air bags, crumple zones and energy absorbing bumpers.
  16. Don’t drive if you’re tired.
  17. Raise the driving age to 19.
  18. Require drug and alcohol testing for all traffic infractions.

 – John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.

Insurance Company Issues Report on Deer-Vehicle Collisions in West Virginia

Erie Insurance issued a report a few days ago on the PRNewswire detailing the rise in deer-vehicle collisions in West Virginia. Generally, across the country deer-vehicle collisions cause more than 200 deaths, tens of thousands of injuries, and up to 1.1 billion in property damages. But across the country, deer insurance claims have declined over the past 10 years. But the report notes that deer insurance claims frequency is highest in West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

In West Virginia, deer collisions have been on the rise for the last two years. Erie notes that in 2007, claims increased 11 percent. Apparently, in Wirt, Pleasants, Calhoun and Pocahontas Counties, drivers are three times more likely to hit a deer than in other parts of West Virginia.

Erie offers 10 tips for “bucking” the deer-vehicle collision trend:

1. Stay alert, awake and sober.
2. Always wear your seatbelt and drive at a safe, sensible speed for
conditions.
3. Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors
to deter deer.
4. Deliberately watch for deer — including the reflection of deer eyes and
deer silhouettes on the shoulder of the road — particularly when driving
late at night or early in the morning.
5. Use high-beam headlights at night when there is no opposing traffic.
6. If you encounter a deer, assume nothing, slow down and blow your horn to
urge the deer to leave the road.
7. If you see a deer in or near your path, brake firmly but stay in your
lane.
8. Never swerve your vehicle to avoid striking a deer — if a collision is
imminent, hit it while maintaining full control of your vehicle.
9. If you do strike a deer, and are uncertain whether or not the deer is
dead, keep your distance.
10. If the deer is blocking the roadway, contact the Game Commission or a
local law enforcement agency.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney

Tragedy Often Strikes on Prom Night – 12 Tips For Teens Driving on Prom Night

A tragic story from the Associated Press, as carried by the Charleston Daily Mail:

A Northern California mother is dealing with a double tragedy after her daughter was killed during a weekend prom date and her son was severely injured in a car crash. Jennifer Carrigan and Steven Furtado were found dead Sunday by Carrigan’s mother at a house in Chester, about 150 miles north of Sacramento. Both were 18.

When told of his sister’s death, 20-year-old Billy Carrigan headed home from Berkeley. Shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday, just before he reached Chester, Billy Carrigan crashed his Toyota Tacoma pickup truck into a stand of pine trees along Highway 36.

Read the entire article here.

The article did not mention how or why the daughter was killed, but it is a tragic story and it is one of dozens each year that illustrate the dangers of teen drivers – especially on prom night. Sadly, every year Americans hear reports of prom-goers getting into car accidents as a result of drinking and driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has worked passionately since 1980 to lower these statistics. It’s been a successful campaign, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which reports that drinking and driving among teens dropped 35% from 1990 to 2005.

Nationwide insurance company published a list of 12 tips for driving on prom night that every teen should read:

For teens:

– Always wear your seatbelt and make sure everyone in the car does, too.

– Concentrate and drive defensively. There are likely to be a lot of impaired drivers on the road prom night.

– Have directions to the dance — even drive by the location during daylight hours — if the prom is not held at your school so you know where you’re going.

– Understand that the average vehicle weighs 3,000 pounds. It may be easy to drive, but it’s still a heavy hunk of metal.

– Never allow someone who has been drinking to drive, no matter how confident the driver is about his abilities. It’s not worth the risk.

– Remember that tired drivers are dangerous, too. If you’re barely awake, you shouldn’t be behind the wheel.

– Call home to get a ride. No matter what time it is, parents would rather pick you up than have you drive in a dangerous situation.

– Take your cell phone to prom so you have one in case of emergency.

– Take a spare pair of comfortable shoes with you for driving so you don’t have to hit the brakes while wearing unfamiliar high heels or bulky dress shoes.

And for parents:

– Make sure you know where your child is going to be during prom and at the after-prom parties.

– Don’t allow too many prom-goers into one vehicle. (More passengers means more distractions.)

– Consider a limo or an adult driver to chauffeur students — someone who has more experience driving at night and someone who is not hopped up on prom night adrenaline.

Read the entire publication here.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.

School Bus and Car Collide in Greenbrier County

From the Register-Herald:

Yet another accident involving a school bus loaded with children, this time in Greenbrier County, WV.

A Greenbrier County school bus with seven children aboard collided with another vehicle Wednesday in what school officials called a “minor accident.”

Superintendent John Curry said the accident happened in the Ft. Spring area about 4:30 p.m.

“We had a bus going around a blind curve and the bus and the car side swiped,” Curry said. “Nobody was hurt and the seven middle school children aboard were all transported home by their parents, who lived close by.”

No citations were issued by police.

Its odd that the police did not issue any citations. One of the drivers had to have been left of center in order for them to have collided – assuming this was a two-lane road. Regardless, both are probably at fault. If you are going around a blind curve, you have to slow down and approach with caution, keeping as far as you can on your side of the road – especially if you are driving a school bus. Fortunately none of the children were injured. It amazes me how children come out of the school bus crashes with no injuries, despite the fact that these buses don’t even have seat belts (to my knowledge).

Read the full article here.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.

Drowsy Driving Leads to Many Car Crashes in West Virginia, Though Most Can Be Prevented

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a great resource for automobile safety and can be very useful to a car accident lawyer when researching specific causes of car accidents, such as drowsy driving. On their website, they have several FAQ’s that deal with drowsy driving in particular.

Drowsy driving is not just a problem in West Virginia. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year, resulting in an estimated 1,500 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.

Definitions of drowsy driving generally involve varying uses and definitions of fatigue, sleepiness, and exhaustion. For the purpose of the discussion at hand, drowsy driving is simply driving in a physical state in which the driver’s alertness is appreciably lower than it would be if the driver were “well rested” and “fully awake.”

The inability of a sleeping driver to try to avoid crashing makes this type of crash especially severe. Some studies have found people’s cognitive-psychomotor abilities to be as impaired after 24 hours without sleep as with a BAC of 0.10%, which is higher than the legal limit for DWI conviction in all US states.

I have included some of the more important FAQ’s from their website:

What are the warning signs of drowsy driving?

Some warnings signs you may experience that signify drowsiness while driving are:

The inability to recall the last few miles traveled,
Having disconnected or wandering thoughts,
Having difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open,
Feeling as though your head is very heavy,
Drifting out of your driving lane, perhaps driving on the rumble strips,
Yawning repeatedly,
Accidentally tailgating other vehicles,
Missing traffic signs.
In fact, drowsy drivers sometimes drive so poorly that they might appear to be drunk. In a survey of police officers conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly 90 percent of responding officers had at least once pulled over a driver who they expected to find intoxicated, but turned out to be sleepy (and not intoxicated).

What are the specific at-risk groups affected by drowsy driving?

The specific at-risk group for drowsy-driving-related crashes comprises people who drive after having not slept enough, qualitatively or quantitatively. If you’re tired and you’re driving, you are at risk. In general, individuals who are “most at-risk for being at-risk” of drowsy driving include:

Young People : Sleep-related crashes are most common in young people, especially those who tend to stay up late, sleep too little, and drive at night – a dangerous combination. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the State of New York found that young drivers are more than 4 times more likely to have sleep-related crashes than are drivers over age 30.

Shift Workers and People with Long Work Hours : Shift workers and people who work long hours are at high risk of being involved in a sleep-related crash. The human body never fully adjusts to shift work, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The body’s sleep and wake cycles are dictated by light and dark cycles, and generally will lead one to feel sleepy between midnight and 6 AM. For more information, see the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Strategies for Shift Workers.

People with Undiagnosed or Untreated Sleep Disorders : Approximately 40 million people are believed to have some kind of sleep disorder. Many different sleep disorders result in excessive daytime sleepiness, placing this group at high risk for sleep-related crashes. Common sleep disorders that often go unnoticed or undiagnosed include sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome. You can learn more about these and other sleep disorders by visiting the National Sleep Foundation web site.

Business Travelers : Business travelers struggle with jet lag, a common sleep disorder that causes sleepiness and negatively affects alertness. “Jet lag” as well as long work hours put these weary travelers at increased risk for sleep-related crashes.

Finally, it is important to realize that although these specific groups of people are statistically most likely to be involved in drowsy driving crashes, one who does not fall into any of these groups is by no means “immune” to drowsy driving. “Average drivers” who don’t happen to be under age 30, working the night shift, traveling for business, or suffering from sleep apnea are still at risk if they drive while fatigued.

What about coffee? Won’t that keep me awake?

Not necessarily. The “perk” that comes from drinking a cup of coffee may take a half hour or so to “kick in,” is relatively short in duration, and will be less effective for those who regularly consume caffeine (i.e., most people). If you’re very sleepy, and rely on caffeine to allow you to continue driving, you are likely to experience “microsleeps,” in which you doze off for four or five seconds, which doesn’t sound like long, but is still plenty of time to drive off of the road or over the centerline and crash.

Read the entire article here.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.

Ten Tips to Prevent Car Accidents on West Virginia Roads

Many car accidents can be avoided on our dangerous West Virginia roads. The best recovery from a car accident is to never have been involved in one in the first place. Here are ten tips on preventing car accidents from Edmunds.Com, the full article for which can be found here.

1. Avoid the “fast lane.”
2. Keep your eyes scanning the road ahead.
3. Beware of blind spots.
4. Drive with your hands in the 9 and 3 o’clock position.
5. Move the steering wheel closer to your body.
6. Judge a driver by his/her car’s condition.
7. Know your car’s limits.
8. Keep your car in good shape.
9. The nighttime is not the right time.
10. Attend a racecar driving school.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.