Articles Tagged with distracted driving

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Blackwell Law Firm - Helping Accident Victims
Elderly driving is a sensitive topic. It is a very sensitive topic for many families dealing with elderly relatives. We all value our independence and freedom. Driving is a key part of living independently. Yet, the topic has been on my mind lately. I have been preparing two car accident cases for trial involving serious crashes caused by elderly drivers. In one, the elderly driver crashed into five separate cars on a highway in Huntsville. She should have stopped driving long before the car crash.

I understand the difficulty in talking to our elderly loved ones about their driving. How do you tell your parents or grandparents it may be time to consider driving alternatives (or giving up their keys completely)? I’ve had those conversations with several elderly relatives. Many of my elderly relatives live in and around Decatur, Alabama. One by one, we have had the conversations necessary to prevent them from hurting themselves or someone else on our roads.

How does aging affect safe driving? The aging process can affect safe driving in many ways. Here are a few:

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Blackwell Law Firm -- Help For The Injured
Distracted driving is a major cause of needless highway injuries and deaths. Months ago, I wrote that parents must lead by example in order to reduce the rate of teenage distracted driving. My prior post is Distracted Driving: Parents Must Lead By Example. In that earlier post, I wrote:

Our public safety officials have worked hard to educate young drivers on this issue. However, education of our young drivers is much less effective if we don’t lead by example. It is difficult in a busy world to not be distracted while driving. Yet, we must work hard to practice safe habits that our children will see and absorb.

A new survey reveals parents may be a large part of the problem. According to the new survey, “parents are the most distracted drivers on our roads.” Ford Motor Company surveyed drivers in New Zealand and Australia. According to the results:

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photo by U.S. Air Force
Is the ban on texting and driving in Alabama effective? In a recent post, I discussed two shortcomings with Alabama’s current distracted driving law.

  • Our current law is limited in application. Our current law applies to portable devices removable from the car. And, it applies simply to texting or typing activities. As I discussed in my prior post, the use of electronic devices has expanded far beyond simple texting or typing activities. In our practice, we’ve seen accidents caused by drivers actually surfing the internet while driving. We even had one client hurt by a driver who was watching a movie on a portable device while operating a car. Our law should be written to encompass unreasonably dangerous distractions beyond the simple act of texting. I understand – we cannot anticipate every bad act. But, we can keep the law up to date with advances in how people use portable devices.
  • Our current law contains minimal penalties. What is the first-time offender penalty for a texting and driving citation? It’s $25. The penalty for texting and driving in Alabama provides almost no deterrent to drivers.
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photo by Montgomery County Planning Commission
The Problem Of Distracted Driving

Distracted drivers cause many deadly car accidents on Alabama highways. Despite efforts to educate the public (and especially young drivers), accident statistics continue to show a growing problem. The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) reported:

a 14 percent increase in traffic fatalities over the past two years — the largest two year increase in more than 50 years.

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Photo by KSAT 12
In recent days, we again saw the deadly toll of distracted driving on our highways. A church choir in Texas was returning from its annual retreat when the unthinkable happened. A pickup truck suddenly veered from its lane and into the path of their bus. The two vehicles collided head-on. According to news reports, thirteen senior citizens from the same church died in the crash. One church member survived the crash itself but currently remains in critical condition from her injuries.

The photographs and video of the crash scene are difficult to view. The vehicles look like mangled pieces of steel destroyed by the impact. But, this was not an accident. It was avoidable. The pickup truck driver chose to disregard completely the safety of others and caused the deadly crash. What choice did this driver make? He chose to drive distracted for miles down the highway putting many lives in danger. He chose to put his attention on texting instead of the roadway.

Distracted driving leaves a path of destruction across the highways of Alabama and all other states. In Alabama, we recently saw a driver receive jail time for a deadly distracted driving crash. In Georgia, a commercial truck driver plowed into a car of nursing students causing another deadly crash.

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Photo by Mark Goebel
In June, I wrote a post discussing distracted driving by commercial truck drivers. You can read the post here: Distracted Driving And Commercial Trucks — A Deadly Combination. That post discusses a terrible distracted driving case where a truck driver crashed into a group of nursing students.

The crash killed five nursing students and severely injured others. Afterwards, the trucking company quietly settled claims from the families of the nursing students killed. However, one of the severely injured nursing students and her lawyer prepared for trial.

In January, a jury awarded $15 Million to this surviving nursing student. The student suffers from a traumatic brain injury caused by the crash. I have two instant takeaways from the jury verdict.

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Over half the teenagers in a recent poll admitted seeing their parents check mobile devices while driving. In another survey of adults, 95% of the adults who admitted driving while distracted also admitted they do so in front of their children. These are disturbing statistics. As parents, we set a powerful example for our children. Our children watch and learn from our actions.

A recent CNN story titled Distracted While Driving:  Parents do it, too discusses some of the statistics about adults driving while distracted in front of their children. The CNN article tells the story of a mother who caused a fatal collision when she picked up her phone to see a text. The story is difficult to read. It’s difficult to read about the death of another person. But, the article is difficult to read not just because of the death involved. It’s difficult to read because the mother who caused that death cares deeply about her children and community. It’s a tragic story of the deep and lasting effect upon the person at fault. The mother in the story did something she knew to be unsafe – reading a text while driving. Now, she suffers daily knowing the results of her lapse in judgment.

I’ve included a section on my firm website discussing distracted driving. I’ve also written a number of blog posts on the topic. In recent blog posts I’ve discussed the first criminal case in Alabama against a distracted driver. Distracted driving is a deadly problem throughout the United States. Education and technology are both important in reducing the rate of distracted driving. Our public safety officials have worked hard to educate young drivers on this issue. However, education of our young drivers is much less effective if we don’t lead by example. It is difficult in a busy world to not be distracted while driving. Yet, we must work hard to practice safe habits that our children will see and absorb.

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A recent Al.com article started with the title – Why Driving in Alabama is a Frightening Proposition. Naturally, I took the bait and clicked on the article. Maybe the article would tell us “why” Alabama has a high rate of accidents compared to other states? I hoped it would. But, the article did not live up to its title. While the article did use data to claim Alabama is the 5th most dangerous state for drivers, it did not tell the reader “why” our roads are especially dangerous. The article provided no insight as to why we have a high rate of traffic-related injuries and deaths. Yet, the reasons for these injuries and deaths are exactly what we should be discussing and correcting.

Let’s look at some of the major causes of driver injury. Distracted driving is a major safety issue on our roadways. We see distracted driving injuries every day at our law firm. Is distracted driving an issue that makes Alabama more dangerous than other states? Probably not. While distracted driving causes many traffic injuries and deaths, it is an issue both in Alabama and elsewhere. Impaired driving is a major safety issue on our roadways. Is impaired driving an issue that makes Alabama more dangerous than other states? Probably not. Communities throughout the United States struggle with similar substance abuse and addiction issues. So, what makes our roads more dangerous for drivers? Why is Alabama more dangerous than other states? I wish the Al.com reporter had explored the issue.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post titled Alabama’s Highway of Death. The post discusses the inclusion of Highway 431 through Alabama on a list of the most dangerous roads in the world. That’s right, our stretch of Highway 431 is included in a list of dangerous roads that scale mountains, run along canyons and are regularly covered in a sheet of ice. Clearly, the other roads have much more dramatic dangers. Why was Highway 431 considered such a dangerous road? In my prior post, I provided five reasons why Highway 431 is dangerous for drivers. These five reasons also play a large role in the high rate of automobile accidents throughout Alabama. They are:

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A recent criminal case may be a first for our State. According to prosecutors, it may be “the first time Alabama’s texting and driving statute has been applied in a manslaughter case.” We previously discussed a commercial truck case in Georgia on this blog where both a driver and his trucking company were criminally indicted.

At the Blackwell Law Firm, we frequently help individuals injured by a distracted driver. While we don’t handle criminal cases, we do work hard to hold negligent and reckless drivers accountable for the personal injury damages they cause. We work hard to get compensation for our injured clients. Texting. Checking emails. Using social media. Looking for objects in the car. These are all normal activities but NOT when driving. They are all forms of distracted driving that have injured our clients in recent years.

It’s rare for a car crash to result in a criminal charge. But, sometimes the conduct is so extreme it is warranted. What happened in this case to warrant a criminal charge of manslaughter? It was an April morning. A young girl was struck head-on and killed. The driver who caused the wreck told police he looked down “momentarily” and when he looked up it was too late to stop for the car in front of him. So, he swerved into oncoming traffic and struck the young girl head-on. That was the driver’s story at the scene. If true, he was certainly negligent in his driving. Yet, the truth was much worse.

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A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study places the annual cost of automobile crashes at $871 Billion. That’s a figure so large, it’s almost unimaginable. Although huge, this money is nothing compared to the suffering and loss of life from car crashes. As the U.S. Transportation Secretary said:

No amount of money can replace the life of a loved one, or stem the suffering associated with motor vehicle crashes.

The NHTSA study recorded some 32,999 highway deaths and 3.9 Million injuries in just one year. According to the study, just three driver behaviors accounted for over half of all automobile accident costs. These bad driver behaviors and my comments on each are: