January 2013 Archives

January 31, 2013

Rain, Snow on Knoxville Roads Heightens Hazards

Knoxville traffic collisions are expected to be on the upswing over the next few weeks, due to a tumultuous mix of intermittent rain and snowstorms throughout the region. treeswithicecrystals.jpg

Our Knoxville injury lawyers understand the roads have been slick, slippery, icy and snow-laden - causing major traffic jams, a flurry of accidents and a request by authorities to stay home when the roads warrant it.

At one point, Knox County dispatchers were so overwhelmed with injuries caused by car accidents, they asked drivers involved in non-injury accidents to trade numbers and report those crashes to police once the weather had cleared.

The conditions were so bad that the local Knoxville Area Transit was only running limited snow routes, entirely bypassing streets that weren't deemed safe for travel.

Parents of schoolchildren throughout Knox County flooded local news sites and police substations with concerns that their children had left school at 2:30 p.m., yet had not made it home two hours later. As it turned out, at least one school bus got stuck in the snow. Thankfully, no injuries were reported.

Weather forecasts are predicting "a little bit of everything" before the week is out - snow, wind, rain, thunderstorms - mixed with a bit of sunshine here and there.

At the same time, a huge swath of U.S. 441, also known as the Newfound Gap Road, on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park - has completely disappeared, having been swept away by recent flooding amid record rains. In fact, it's about 50 feet deep and the size of a football field. No word yet on how long repairs are going to take.

Meanwhile, a rock slide on Alcoa Highway has shut down that road indefinitely as well. Rock slides are more common when there are dramatic temperature changes, accompanied by increased precipitation.

A spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation had one word for the weather of late: "Interesting."

The fact is, motorists are going to have to be prepared for anything. The National Highway Safety Administration offers the following advice to help you in unpredictable weather:

  • Get your car serviced. Have it checked for bad worn hoses, leaks or any other replacements or repairs.

  • Check your battery. When the temperature drops, your battery power does as well. It can be tougher to get your vehicle to start if the weather is below freezing.

  • Check your cooling system. When coolant freezes, it expands and it can damage your car's engine block. Make sure you have enough, make sure the kind you have is designed to work in colder temperatures and have a mechanic check it out for leaks.

  • Fill your windshield wipers. The fluid can go quickly in just a single snowstorm. This could prove fatal if it happens while you're driving. Fill it up, use no-freeze fluid and keep extra in the vehicle, just in case.

  • Double check your floor mat. If it isn't correctly installed, it could interfere with your ability to operate the accelerator or brake, leaving you at greater risk of a crash.

  • Look over your tires. In optimal conditions, you'd still inspect them about once a month. If there is significant or uneven wear, it's time to get new ones.

  • Plan your travel route. Check the road conditions, weather and traffic and plan to leave early if need be so you don't feel pressured to speed and you know your planned route.

  • Stock your vehicle. Essentials in winter include snow shovel, ice scraper, abrasive material (sand or kitty litter) for if your car gets stuck in the snow, jumper cables, flashlight, warning devices, blankets, cell phone charger, food, water and necessary medicine.

Continue reading "Rain, Snow on Knoxville Roads Heightens Hazards" »

January 24, 2013

Tennessee Traffic Accident Prevention -- Tougher Laws Needed

Last year, the federal government passed a multi-billion dollar initiative known as MAP-21 to improve roadway safety across the country. The act offers grants, tax breaks and matching dollars to those states that pass certain legislative measures aimed at improving roadway safety. road.jpg

However, our Knoxville accident lawyers have learned that many states - including Tennessee - haven't taken the government up on all of the incentive dollars available. Of more critical importance is that such lack of action is increasing the risks motorists face on the road.

A number of these measures, including graduated driver's license programs, distracted driving prevention and enhancement of drunk driving penalties, have multiple benefits. For starters, laws like these save lives and reduce injuries. This in turn reduces both the actual and societal cost of crashes, including less resources expended by emergency responders, law enforcement and the health care industry. And finally, there is federal funding available to not only cover implementation costs but to exceed them, providing a boon for cash-strapped state governments.

Nationwide, the cost of motor vehicle crashes topped $230 billion last year, according to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which recently released its "2013 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws" annual report. In Tennessee, the costs topped $4.6 billion.

Although our state was given a high "green light" rating for overall road safety improvement laws, there are still numerous areas where we're lacking.

In 2011, there were nearly 950 traffic fatalities in the state. In the last decade, there have been roughly 11,500.

Among the laws that we're lacking, according to the research group, are:

  • A GDL program requiring teens be at least 16 to obtain a learner's permit;

  • A GDL program requiring restrictions for teens driving at night;

  • A GDL program requiring drivers be at least 18 years-old to obtain an unrestricted license;

  • An Ignition Interlock program for all DUI offenders, not just repeat offenders;

  • A law requiring mandatory BAC testing for drivers involved in fatal crashes;

  • A law banning open alcoholic beverage containers in vehicles.

The 2013 study covers a wide range of traffic safety issues, but given that Tennessee has problems in particular with teen drivers and DUI offenders, we'll focus there.

Tennessee is not alone in its lack of protection for teen drivers. In fact, only 12 states and D.C. have a "green light" rating for teen driving laws, though no state has yet adopted all of the optimal GDL recommendations.

In Tennessee, traffic fatalities from 2006 through 2011 involving a driver between the ages of 15 and 20 topped 1,120. GDL programs allow teens to gradually learn important driving skills in phases, and have proven effective in reducing teen crashes and deaths.

The federal government offers grants for implementation of such laws, provided they include a learner's permit stage lasting six months, during which time drivers are barred from cell phone use behind the wheel. There must also be an intermediate stage that lasts until the driver is 18, during which passengers are limited to one non-family member under the age of 21. Nighttime driving is also restricted.

With regard to impaired driving, Tennessee is the only state in the country to receive the lowest "red light" rating. In 2011, more than 30 percent of all traffic fatalities involved alcohol, with nearly 10,000 people killed as a result.

Incentives to enact drunk driving legislation include money for high visibility enforcement campaigns, interlock ignition programs, improved BAC testing, DUI courts and judicial training programs.

Continue reading "Tennessee Traffic Accident Prevention -- Tougher Laws Needed" »

January 17, 2013

Tennessee Tractor-Tractor Trailers Running Too Fast and Too Heavy

Our Knoxville truck accident lawyers know that speed kills. truck.jpg

That fact is especially compounded when the vehicle that's moving too fast is a tractor-trailer truck and is overweight.

This is why we are in firm support of regulations proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation that would require all heavy commercial vehicles to set their top speed at 65 miles per hour. It's not a formal rule yet, but the department administration has indicated it intends to push such regulation hard in 2013.

That push is further fueled by recent reports like the one out of Atlanta, indicating there are a number of companies that, despite racking up dozens of tickets for overweight vehicles, continue to put overweight vehicles on the road - right beside you and your family. A recent Florida report found an estimated 30 percent of tractor-trailers and dump trucks are running overweight -- that's about 1 in 3! Fines for a first offense are often small and tight budgets have enforcement officers in short supply. Meanwhile, about 1 in 8 fatal collisions involves a large truck.

It's cheaper and there is more money to be made -- even if they got caught and are forced to pay the fine.

This is particularly troubling when you consider that in 2010, more than 3,600 people died and another 80,000 were seriously injured in crashes that involved a large truck. These trucks are defined as having a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more.

Here in this country, there were more than a quarter million of these vehicles involved in traffic crashes in 2010. That represented a nearly 10 percent increase from the previous year.

It's unsurprising that the majority of those hurt in these crashes are those in the other vehicles. In fact, these accounted for approximately three-quarters of the injuries and deaths.

Large trucks account for less than 5 percent of all vehicle miles traveled in this country. But when they are involved in crashes, they have a higher likelihood of fatalities, due to their size. They account for approximately 8 percent of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes. Being overburdened with weight and then speed - makes for a deadly combination.

In Tennessee, large trucks account for approximately 6.5 percent of the roughly 1,400 fatal crashes we see each year. Very few of these incidents involved truckers who had been drinking (about 2 percent). However, about a quarter of all truckers involved in fatal crashes did have at least one prior speeding conviction. That's a higher rate than passenger car drivers, whose rate is about 18 percent.

All of this contributes to the transportation department's recommendation to require trucks to lower their top speeds. Setting these limits won't prevent every trucking accident, but it may go a long way in holding both the drivers and their employers accountable.

Continue reading "Tennessee Tractor-Tractor Trailers Running Too Fast and Too Heavy" »

January 10, 2013

Increase in Sleep Problems Exacerbates Drowsy Driving Dangers

If you are having sleep problems, you aren't alone. In fact, according to new data from Money News, there are as many as 70 million Americans who have insomnia, sleep apnea or other issues that make it impossible to get a good night sleep.

Unfortunately, all of these tired Americans could be putting themselves in danger. Getting an insufficient amount of sleep contributes to obesity, high blood pressure and other physical ailments. Of more immediate concern, however, is grave dangers of drowsy driving. 804037_sleeping_wife.jpg

If you are one of those Americans who is facing sleep struggles, it is very important that you understand just how dangerous drowsy driving can be. Our Knoxville injury attorneys understand fatigue is often an undetected factor in serious or fatal traffic collisions. When we are tired, we simply don't react quickly to dangers on the road. A new study shows just how widespread the risks are and is cause for concern for every driver.

Are Sleep Disorders on the Rise?
Money News reported that around 70 million Americans are suffering from sleep issues; it also indicated that many of those who have sleep problems are trying to get the help they need.

In fact, so many Americans have sought help that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine announced in December that they'd accredited their 2,500th sleep center. With this new accreditation, the number of sleep centers has significantly increased since the Academy started accreditation in 1977. In just the last ten years alone, the number of sleep centers has doubled.

While it could be seen as good news that more sleep centers mean more people are getting help with their sleep problems, the increase in demand for medical services related to sleep problems can also serve as an indicator that the problem of sleep interruption is becoming more widespread.

Why Are More Tired People a Problem?
Anyone who has trouble sleeping, including those working to overcome their sleep disorder, need to be aware that their fatigue can have consequences. If a drowsy person gets behind the wheel, this increases the chance of an accident significantly since the driver may be likely to nod off. A fatigued driver will also be less capable of thinking clearly or reacting quickly in an accident. The dangers of drowsy driving are so significant that drowsy driving may be just as serious as drunk or impaired driving.

Unfortunately, a new study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention discussed in the New York Times indicates that many people are engaging in this dangerous behavior. The study was conducted across 19 states and D.C. and involved asking 147,000 people to complete detailed questionnaires. According to the data collected:

  • More than 5 percent of younger drivers (ages 18-44) said they'd fallen asleep while they were driving in the past month preceding the survey.

  • 1.7 percent of drivers 65 or older said they'd fall asleep in the preceding month before the survey.

  • 4.2 percent of all drivers surveyed reported falling asleep at least one time while driving in the month prior to being surveyed.

With so many people falling asleep, it is easy to see why there were 730 deadly crashes in 2009 that involved a fatigued driver. Unfortunately, with more people than ever before facing sleep problems, the number of drowsy drivers -- and of drowsy driving deaths -- may only continue to increase.

Continue reading "Increase in Sleep Problems Exacerbates Drowsy Driving Dangers" »

January 3, 2013

Tennessee Traffic Safety: Resolve to Be a Safer Driver in 2013

Auto accidents happen every day in the state of Tennessee. Unfortunately, a huge number of these crashes happen because drivers are careless, aggressive or irresponsible in the decisions they make behind the wheel.

Our Knoxville personal injury attorneys believe that if everyone made a commitment to driving just a little bit more carefully, thousands of lives could be saved. As such, we encourage every driver to make an important New Years Resolution in 2013. We urge you to resolve that this year you'll stop dangerous driving behaviors and make an extra effort to be safe behind the wheel. 1308588_motorway_at_twilight.jpg

The Tennessee Department of Safety Office of Records and Statistical Management keeps track of car accident data. In 2008, they released a comprehensive report on Traffic Crashes in Tennessee by Driver Actions and County. This report took a look at the top driver-related factors that led to crashes between 2003 and 2007. Using this report, we've identified some of the most dangerous driving behaviors that you should resolve to avoid in 2013.

Dangers Driving Behaviors to Avoid in 2013
According to the crash data from 2003 to 2007:

  • A failure to yield the right-of-way was a contributing cause of 169,636 traffic accidents. To avoid these types of crashes, make a resolution to always come to a complete stop at a stop sign or at a red light intersection. Resolve to look carefully at the intersection before entering and not to cut other drivers off or try to make a quick turn when you aren't certain of the other car's speed. We pass dozens of intersections each day with indifference. The truth of the matter is that these are the most dangerous locations on the road.

  • A failure to stay in the proper lane or running off the road was a driver-related contributing factor in 157,321 traffic crashes. Failure to remain in your lane can occur for a lot of reasons, from speeding and losing control of the car to not paying attention to the road, to inclement weather conditions. Resolve to always paying careful attention and driving at a safe speed for road conditions.

  • Following improperly was a factor in 151,765 accidents. This refers to tailgating or following too closely behind the car in front of you. To avoid accidents caused by following improperly, resolve to leave a safe distance between your car and the vehicle in front. Usually, three to four seconds is a safe distance, which means when the car in front of you passes a fixed object, you shouldn't pass that same object until at least three to four seconds have passed. This will give you plenty of time to stop and avoid a crash.

  • Driver inattention was a contributing factor in 52,707 crashes. To avoid these types of accidents, make a resolution to always pay careful attention to the road. Don't use your cell phone, definitely don't text, don't enter info into a GPS when driving and don't do other things that cause you to take your eyes off of the road.

These are some of the most dangerous driving behaviors that lead to a high number of crashes. You should resolve not only to avoid these behaviors but also to exercise reasonable caution and care and to obey all safe driving rules in 2013. By making, and keeping, this resolution, you can do your part to keep yourself safe on the road.

Continue reading "Tennessee Traffic Safety: Resolve to Be a Safer Driver in 2013" »