Articles Tagged with highway

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Blackwell Law Firm - Alabama Personal Injury LawyersThis month’s TRIAL Magazine discusses a tragic eighteen wheeler crash. What happened in that crash? Around 1:30 am, a large commercial truck slammed into the rear of a pickup truck on a rural stretch of western Interstate. The crash killed a young mother and one of her children. Another child was left severely injured. The evidence at trial in that case revealed the commercial truck never slowed or took any evasive action before slamming into the pickup truck.

That case raised significant questions involving issues of independent contractors as drivers, control over drivers and company safety programs. If you need a lawyer in a trucking injury case, you should find one who understands these issues. Why were these issues in that case? The company (a worldwide distribution company) hired drivers it called “contractors” or “independent contractors.” Yet, the company did not treat these drivers as independent contractors. Instead, the company controlled every detail of driver operations down to the details of how to park the truck. As many lawyers know, it’s not what the company calls its people, but rather, the realities of control. While the company controlled all aspects of driver operations, it had NO driver safety training requirements or programs. That’s a classic case of profits over people. If you put drivers on the highway and control their actions for your profit, you should also exercise some safety responsibility for them.

We drive alongside big trucks everyday on our highways. Many trucking companies and truckers care deeply about safety. But, not all of them do. Next time you see a company name or logo on the side of a large truck, ask yourself:  Does that company have a REAL safety program to prevent needless injury?

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Commercial Truck

Truck Side Underride Crashes Are Deadly For Drivers, Cyclists And Pedestrians

Many of you have experienced it. You are driving down the Interstate. Suddenly, you are side-by-side with a large commercial truck. The vehicles are just feet from each other. You look over. Those trucks look really big when you are right next to them. If you are driving a passenger car, it could almost fit underneath that big truck. Almost. What happens when a car actually crashes into (or under) the side of a large commercial truck? Underride crashes with commercial trucks present some of the most devastating physical injuries. An NBC news report says it all:

Side Underride Crashes Kill 200 People A Year. Will Congress Act?

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highway-1666635_1920-300x200Truck crash cases are very different than car accident cases. This is true for several reasons. Commercial trucks can cause much more physical damage.  Commercial trucks also operate and maneuver differently than cars. Face it — that truck is much heavier and bigger than your car.

The differences don’t stop with weight, size and maneuverability. Commercial truck drivers often feel pressure to drive long miles for long hours to make deliveries. Truck driver fatigue is a major safety issue. So is truck driver health. I’ve written previously about both of these serious safety issues affecting highway safety.

Don’t forget, trucking companies and their drivers are also subject to specific safety regulations. We could discuss these differences over many blog posts. Here, I want to discuss briefly just one. That is — The Rapid Response Team!

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersLook at the drivers around you. Do you see many of them staring at their phones instead of the road? I do. I also talk daily with clients who suffered serious personal injuries in car crashes caused by these distracted drivers.

Distracted driving is a frequent topic for us. We have long-advocated an approach to the problem that involves safety laws, education and technology. All three approaches are needed. Safety laws help but they do not solve the problem by themselves. That’s our opinion.

A new study by a California company, Zendrive, supports our belief that safety laws alone cannot solve the problem of distracted driving. You can read about the recent Zendrive study at the website for the Claims Journal an insurance industry periodical. You can also read about the study in a recent Bloomberg article. Each separate article provides interesting insights into the study. According to reports, Zendrive monitored several million drivers. Before I discuss some of the actual results, the Claims Journal article notes Zendrive “is likely discounting the danger” since it only records phone use when the device is actually moving around inside a car. In other words, if your phone is mounted to the dash, your use may not have been recorded. What are a couple of the interesting facts reported by the Claims Journal and Bloomberg articles? Here are a couple:

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersWhat is Alabama’s Move Over Law? The law began as a protection for police helping or citing motorists along the highway. We have all seen a police officer on the roadside doing his or her job. The officer must stand just feet from cars traveling at high speeds. It is a very dangerous position. Many police officers have been injured or killed over the years by passing motorists. If you ask any law enforcement officer, they will admit this is one of the scariest parts of their job.

Eventually, our original Blue Light Law was amended to include other workers who must also perform their jobs on the side of our highways. These include paramedics, firefighters, wrecker drivers, utility workers, sanitation employees. All of these individuals work at significant personal risk.

At our office, we have seen the tragic results of drivers who refuse to slow or move for emergency personnel. Several years ago, we represented the family of a young paramedic struck and killed by a passing driver. This paramedic was helping a hurt motorist on the shoulder of the Interstate. Despite flashing lights from two patrol cars and the ambulance, a reckless driver sped down the icy highway without slowing or moving to the far lane. The driver lost control. He struck the paramedic, killing her.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Helping Truck Accident VictimsYou have been driving a dark stretch of rural Interstate or highway in Alabama at night. You have car trouble and must slow or stop. Suddenly, you are struck from behind by a large commercial truck.

It’s not a farfetched scenario. Some people must drive at night for work. Others choose to take long trips at night when our roads are less congested. If you have driven at night on the Interstate in Alabama, you will also see many large eighteen wheeler trucks. On poorly lit stretches of rural highways, it is absolutely essential that all drivers can see. And, all drivers must see far enough ahead to stop safely when necessary.

This is the exact scenario of some recent clients. A family was traveling through Alabama on the Interstate. While on a rural stretch of the roadway, they blew a tire and their SUV flipped. None of them suffered injuries (at this point). As they were trying to exit the overturned SUV, a large eighteen wheeler struck them. This rural stretch of Interstate was largely flat but unlit. The commercial trucker took no evasive action until just before the impact. He tried to swerve only at the last moment before the crash. He did not see the SUV or people in his path until too late. Why did the trucker not see the objects right in front of his truck until it was too late? After investigating the scene and vehicles, our experts concluded the trucker was driving too fast. He was overdriving his headlights. He did not see the distressed family in time to avoid a tragic crash. That crash left a family without a wife and mother.

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roundabout-39394_1280-300x300It’s been almost 30 years since I was a Freshman at the University of South Alabama (USA). Driving on campus meant regularly using the large roundabout that connected my dorm to the academic buildings. For most students at USA (back then), this was the first roundabout ever seen. The design was largely unknown in Alabama. Since then, the concept has grown in use due to traffic and safety issues.

Now, I regularly drive the roundabout in downtown Huntsville near the civic center. Yet, you still see some drivers hesitate as they approach — uncertain as to a road design unfamiliar to them. After watching an uncertain driver at that roundabout yesterday, I decided to write this post.

Roundabouts are a frequent safety feature of roads in Europe. In the United States, they are less common. But, the number of roundabouts is increasing. Are roundabouts a safer alternative that reduces serious roadway injuries? Highway experts say, YES. While the focus of my blog is personal injury and safety, highway experts say roundabouts provide several important benefits.

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2543453615_9e9b04de1b_z-300x225We share our roads and highways with large commercial trucks on a daily basis. These large commercial trucks have rear guards to protect passenger cars. If you rear-end an eighteen-wheeler, you are protected from going under the back of the truck. Why do large trucks not also have side guards? That’s a question safety advocates have long asked.

Commercial trucks can have a very high ground clearance. I’m sure you’ve been in the lane next to a large eighteen-wheeler. If you are in a small passenger car, you may even look over and think that your entire vehicle could go under the truck. That is the danger. In a side impact, a passenger car can slide under the body of the truck. That causes the truck body to crash through the car windows and into the passengers. A simple collision can become deadly. These under-ride crashes can cause horrible head and upper body injuries, including decapitation. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated almost 300 car passengers were killed in side-impact collisions with a semi-truck in 2016.

We need to remember — Deadly side impacts are not limited to passenger cars. In urban areas, commercial trucks frequently share our roads with pedestrians and bicyclists. A Department of Transportation study also revealed a substantial number of death in side crashes involving both pedestrians and bicyclists.

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truck-1565478_1920-300x201What are the most common causes of fatal occupational injuries? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 data, the six top causes of work-related deaths include:

  1. Transportation incidents
  2. Injuries due to workplace violence from people or animals
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Blackwell Law FirmDistracted driving is a huge problem on Alabama highways — much worse than reported. In a prior post, I discussed a study that analyzed distractions due solely to cell phones. That study, limited just to cell phone distraction, revealed distracted driving causes far more crashes than reported by government data. Of course, cell phones are not the only distraction causing crashes on our highways. Drivers face numerous other distractions. We discuss these distractions on our law firm website and in many of our blog posts.

How can we reduce distracted driving injuries? Outside the courtroom, our firm is committed to advocating for highway safety. Safety advocates have largely focused on three areas to combat distracted driving — education, law enforcement and technology.  When it comes to technology, you would expect car manufacturers to lead the charge for safety. Do they? Not always. General Motors (GM) is actually introducing an App called Marketplace that creates more risks of distracted driving crashes. A number of safety advocates share my concern with GM’s actions.

What is GM doing? GM has created a touchscreen App that will be included in new car models and will allow drivers to shop while driving. Here is what USA Today reported about the new touchscreen App: