February 2013 Archives

February 28, 2013

Tennessee Traffic Deaths Spiked in 2012

Nearly 1,120 people lost their loves on Tennessee roads and highways last year, according to preliminary data, representing a nearly 9 percent increase in a single year. longstraighthighway.jpg

Knoxville personal injury attorneys urge every driver in the state to take note of the new traffic fatality statistics and to make a renewed commitment to safe driving as we work to bring the number of deaths down in 2013.

State officials are touting the fact that the number of deaths is the third-lowest dating back to 1963. But the fact that we saw such a sharp increase, despite the measures laid forth in the governor's 2012 Highway Safety Performance Plan, is troubling. As the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security put it: We must do better.

The agency has reportedly invested millions of dollars in state and federal funds for anti-crash efforts in the last year. That included electronic messaging centers with signs warning drivers against engaging in some of the hazards known to be more common - texting behind the wheel, drinking and driving, drowsy driving, etc.

The state department of transportation wanted drivers to think about the risks. (The method is a bit counterintuitive, though, considering moves by local county commissioners to ban digital billboards due to the distraction they cause motorists.)

In any case, it doesn't seem efforts were successful. For example, the number of DUI arrests in the state shot up by more than 25 percent from 2011 to 2012. Early numbers indicate nearly 250 people died in alcohol-related crashes in the state. That's a 24 percent increase from the year before, though it is worth noting that impaired driving deaths fell by about 32 percent from 2007 to 2011 in the state.

Another major concern for traffic officials is lack of seat belt usage. People without a seat belt accounted for nearly 53 percent of those killed in motor vehicle accidents last year.

Other major contributing factors included speed (which was a factor in 141 fatal crashes) and distracted driving (a factor in 56 fatal crashes).

Sadly, the number of teens killed on Tennessee roads increased by more than 10 percent last year. Officials primarily blame distracted driving.

Also worthy of alarm is the fact that the number of motorcycle deaths in our state has tripled in the last 14 years -- up more than 21 percent just in the last year. There were 138 motorcyclists killed in Tennessee in 2012, compared to 114 the previous year.

These disturbing upward trends weren't just in Tennessee, either. The National Safety Council reported that throughout the country, traffic deaths climbed by 5 percent last year (not including December, for which final figures aren't yet available). Many nearby states also had marked increases, including: Kentucky, North Carolina, Missouri, Virginia and Georgia.

Unfortunately, so far this year, we're on the exact same trajectory. Some 36 people died on Tennessee roads as of January 16. That was the exact same number as had been tallied at the same time last year.

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February 21, 2013

Knoxville Crashes, Distraction, Target of Digital Billboard Ban

Although some say that the moving, flashing, scrolling mass of letters and images on huge roadways signs amounts to a form of blight in and of itself, that wasn't the direct aim of Knoxville County Commissioners in banning conversion of traditional billboards to digital format. emptybillboard.jpg

Knoxville car accident lawyers know it had more to do with distraction and contribution to crashes along our commercial thoroughfares and highways.

We aren't the first city to ban such billboards.

In December, a Los Angeles appellate court ruled that some 100 digital billboards throughout the city have to come down, finding that the permits obtained for them are invalid, as the city council had signed a deal with the firms in a closed-door session, despite an already-existing ban on digital conversions.

Numerous other cities have taken a similar stand.

The states of Maine, Vermont, Alaska and Hawaii ban billboards altogether - including the digital kind.

Part of that has to do with the 1965 Highway Beautification Act, which was passed with the goal of limiting commercial advertising along America's highways. However, five years ago, the Federal Highway Safety Administration ruled that digital billboards don't violate that act, despite the clear wording that bans "moving," "flashing" or "intermittent" lights.

That ruling was head-scratching, but many cities - Knoxville included - have taken the issue into their own hands. Of course, the issue of whether it is a real distraction is unclear. It hasn't been studied a great deal. what we do know is that it only takes a moment of distraction to result in fatal consequences.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration focuses its distraction message on actions for which drivers are inherently responsible: Texting, talking on the cell phone, grooming, eating or drinking, using a navigation system, watching a video or fiddling with the radio. However, the thing about digital billboards is that drivers don't have a choice but to look at them. The eye can't help but be drawn to strobe lights along the roadway.

A 2009 study by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials found that digital billboards are unsafe, as they attract a drivers' attention for extended periods of time, which has proven to be dangerous. Although the billboard industry categorically denies this, the whole point of these signs is to attract attention. Otherwise, why put them along the roadway?

In Knoxville, commissioners decided to strike a compromise on the issue, though they were sharply divided on the three proposals. While the group did sign a measure that will prevent conversion, it did not approve two other laws. One would have put a ban on all new billboards, and the other would have meant the elimination of all electronic message boards - even those in front of banks or other businesses that scroll the temperature and time.

But those latter two aren't dead entirely. They have been forwarded to the county's planning commission, which is expected to conduct further study and report back to the commission in April.

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February 15, 2013

Tennessee Rollover Crashes Pose Heightened Fatality Risks

Recently, near the Tennessee border in Kentucky, two people - including a passenger from Knoxville - were critically injured in a rollover crash on Interstate 24 near mile marker 79. rollovercrash.jpg

Our Tennessee auto accident attorneys understand that the 25-year-old driver for reasons unknown lost control of his vehicle, crossed the median, became airborne and rolled several times before landing upright in the median.

The driver and his passenger were flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital in Tennessee, and their injuries were believed to be life-threatening. Another vehicle rollover, this one in Nashville, reportedly snarled multiple lanes of traffic on Interstate 40 near mile marker 223. Tennessee transportation officials reported an overturned sport utility vehicle in the roadway, though thankfully there were no serious injuries.

Rollover incidents like these happen every single day in Tennessee, and they pose an increased risk of serious injuries or fatalities. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that while any kind of vehicle has the potential to rollover, narrower, taller vehicles have a greater propensity for it. These would be vehicles like vans, pick-up trucks and SUVs, which have higher centers of gravity.

In looking at the overall causes of rollovers, however, human error is almost always a factor. The DOT reports that fatal rollovers are more frequently attributed to excessive speed than fatal crashes that don't involve rollovers. It's estimated that approximately 40 percent of all deadly rollover crashes are the result of high speed. What's more, three quarters of all fatal rollovers happened on a road where the posted speed limit was higher than 55 miles per hour.

Another troubling trend involves alcohol. The DOT posits that almost half of all rollover crashes resulting in death somehow involved alcohol, even though not all of those technically crossed the 0.08 percent BAC legal threshold for intoxication.

While one might think that highways would be the most frequent site of rollover crashes, in fact rural roads are the more common location. That's likely because these roadways have no barriers or dividers that would serve to stop a vehicle from tipping over should it leave the roadway. In fact three-quarters of all fatal rollover crashes happen on rural roads.

Rollovers also tend to be more fatal than other types of crashes. Of the more than 9 million traffic accidents recorded in 2010, only a little more than 2 percent involved a rollover. And yet, rollovers accounted for approximately 35 percent of all passenger vehicle deaths that year. That is more than 7,600 people who lost their lives in rollover crashes.

By far the most common type of rollover is called a "tripped" rollover. This is when the vehicle leaves the road and slides sideways after the tires either strike an object or dig into soft soil. If this is done at a high rate of speed, the sheer force can cause the vehicle to roll multiple times.

In addition to being cautious about your vehicle's rollover rating, prevention is often just as simple as slowing down, refraining from drinking behind the wheel and avoiding distraction and driving in inclement weather.

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February 8, 2013

Knoxville Crash Involving 4 Cars Began With Disabled Vehicle

Having your car break down is never a good experience, but it can also be deadly, particularly if it happens on the highway and you don't act appropriately. girlpushesthecar.jpg

Our Knoxville car accident attorneys understand that a recent four-car pileup on I-40 E on a Friday evening was the result of a domino effect, kicked off by a blown tire.

According to local police, the tire came completely unhinged from the first vehicle in the midst of rush hour traffic. The vehicle ground to a halt, with the wheel ending up next to it and obstructing another lane.

As officers raced to the scene, another vehicle braked hard to avoid hitting the broken down car. Behind that driver was another who had reportedly been following to closely and the two collided, with two others slamming into those shortly thereafter.

Rescue crews had to use specialized equipment to pull the accident victims from their vehicles, and three were rushed to the hospital. Thankfully, no life-threatening injuries were reported.

Officials said the crash is a cautionary tale of the importance of maintaining your vehicle and knowing what to do in the event of an emergency. The fact is we're likely seeing more of these incidents these days, as cash-strapped Americans are hanging on to older vehicles longer. Researchers at R.I. Polk conducted a study last year that found drivers of used vehicles were keeping them on average for 50 months - compared to the average 32 months recorded in 2003.

Still, the money you save by refraining from purchasing a new car should really be put into the maintenance of the one you have. As this case shows, such action may be critical. Other preventative measures include mapping your route before you leave, keeping abreast of inclement weather conditions, minimizing your distractions and remaining alert.

If you do break down, AAA recommends the following action:

  • Make a quick assessment of where you are as you realize your vehicle is causing problems and may break down. This is going to be important when you call for help.

  • Get off the road. In most cases, you want to get as far off the street to the right as you possibly can. If you're on the highway and you're closer to the left median, go there instead but only if necessary.

  • If you can't get off the road, turn on your emergency flashers. If you think you may be likely to be hit from behind, get out.

  • If you do get out, make sure you are watching for oncoming traffic, as the other drivers may not be able to see you fast enough to stop.

  • Don't take the risk of trying to push the car off the road if there's a probability you could be struck while doing so.

  • Whatever you do, don't stand directly behind or in front of the car. What will happen is you will end up potentially blocking your lights and reflectors, putting you at high risk for injury.

  • Use a cell phone to call for help from a safe location - whether that is in your vehicle or well out of the way of oncoming traffic.

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