April 2013 Archives

April 24, 2013

Knoxville Injury Lawyers: The Dangers of Daydreaming and Driving

As we near the end of distracted driving month, our Knoxville car accident lawyers wanted to make it a point to discuss a form of distraction that is too often overlooked: daydreaming.
It's likely almost everyone has done it at some point, and it's not difficult to understand why. Driving becomes such an entrenched part of our routines, that it's hardly something we even think about. Many drivers are basically running on autopilot behind the wheel, with their energies and attentions focused on what has to get done for work, where the kids have to go after school, the fight with their spouse, what's being made for dinner and a million other details.

Your mind may be moving as fast as your car, but it's not actually taking in everything around you. When this happens, you're at an increased risk of a motor vehicle accident. A recent study conducted by the University of Bordeaux in France found that of 1,000 drivers who were hurt in car accidents, more than half reported their thoughts had been somewhere other then the road in the moments before the crash.

This is noteworthy because while distractions like texting and driving have received so much attention, we rarely talk about the phenomenon of daydreaming distractions. We've been able to legislate a limit on certain kinds of driving distractions. For example, most states now have some kind of law against texting while driving, with some even having regulations on handheld cell phones. Many places too have graduated driver's license laws that force new drivers to limit the number of under-21 passengers in a vehicle at any one time, the idea being to limit the distracting conversation that so often leads to teen wrecks.

But we can't legislate thoughts.

Part of the biggest problem, according to psychologists who have studied the issue, is that so many of us allow our thoughts to drift without even realizing we're doing it. So while you can take steps to physically stop yourself from picking up the phone and texting while you're driving (by putting it out of reach, for example), it's harder to police your own thoughts.

That doesn't mean you're powerless.

Dr. Paul Atchley, professor of psychology at the University of Kansas who studies multitasking and distraction effects on driving, offers the following tips on how to best avoid a daydreaming-while-driving crash:

  • Bear in mind the risk. It's easy when we're going through the daily routines to forget what a risk we take every time we get behind the wheel. Reminding yourself each time you get in that you're entering a potentially dangerous situation might help you to maintain your focus a bit better.

  • When you find yourself starting to wander mentally, particularly when you're alone, engage yourself in games that will help you better focus. For example, "I Spy a Distracted Driver." See if you can spot other vehicles that are obeying traffic signals, remaining in their lanes or coming to a complete stop. This has the added benefit of prompting you to drive more defensively.

  • Tell your passengers to speak up if they see something and don't feel you're reacting fast enough. Most people don't say anything because they don't want to be annoying or a "backseat driver." But if they have your permission to let you know when they see a potentially dangerous situation, it's safer for everyone.

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April 17, 2013

Triple Fatality Knoxville DUI Suspect on Trial for Vehicular Homicide

At the same time a 23-year-old University of Tennessee Honors graduate was getting behind the wheel of his vehicle after drinking, a young, pregnant mother was heading out to help a friend who had run out of gas.
Their worlds collided violently when that 23-year-old student slammed into the young mother, killing her, her unborn child and another good Samaritan. The Samaritan was a 45-year-old man who lived nearby and had stopped to see if the women needed assistance.

Our Knoxville personal injury lawyers, like so many in this community, encourage you to drink responsibly as we head into the heart of the spring and summer travel season.

A reconstructionist expert with the Knoxville Police Department testified there is no indication that the young driver even touched his brakes or made any effort to stop after the crash. Instead, he fled to his nearby residence, where detectives found him a short time later. By the time they arrived, officers said there was evidence that the defendant had already attempted to wash the blood from his sport utility vehicle.

The woman who had run out of gas was not injured, but she took her own life several months later.

The crash occurred last spring. The defendant is now on trial on 11 felony charges, including three counts of vehicular homicide, DUI, reckless endangerment and hit-and-run. The emotional trial has been heavily covered by local media. One of the latest revelations came from the student's roommate, who testified that the driver admitted to being drunk that night when he arrived back home.

The defendant's lawyer is attempting to argue that while his client was drinking, he was not legally drunk. It's going to be a hard-sell defense, but even if he's successful, it doesn't change the fact that three innocent people are dead as a result of gross negligence.

Many times in cases like this, regardless of the criminal trial outcome, survivors of drunk driving crashes will pursue civil action.

Criminal cases are all about penalties that the defendant must pay for his crime against society. Civil cases are about repaying damages to you for your great loss. This may include out-of-pocket medical expenses, medical bills, actual or potential lost earnings, emotional distress and pain and suffering. Survivors who have lost a spouse or child or parent may also sue for loss of companionship or services.

While nothing will ever bring your loved one back, the idea is to help restore you, to whatever extent is possible.

In cases of drunk drivers, it's also possible for claimants to seek damages from third parties. For example, if the defendant was under the age of 21, you may pursue damages from whoever served or sold him alcohol. If he was drunk and had just left a bar, you may be able to seek damages from the bar for failing to serve alcohol responsibly.

It's important to remember the consequences of drinking and driving as we head into summer. If more drivers pictured themselves standing trial for killing a family, fewer might take the chance when it comes to climbing behind the wheel after having too much to drink.

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April 10, 2013

Knoxville Car Accident Prevention: Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April may historically be known for its showers, but our Knoxville car accident lawyers know it is fast becoming recognized for something else: Raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.
It's no coincidence that this is the same month of prom preparations and spring fever, when young folks especially are eager to enjoy the warming weather. But more people behind the wheel inevitably are going to mean more crashes. Further, it seems that with regard to distracted driving, we're getting worse - not better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that, in 2010, one in five young drivers were observed behind the wheel using a hand-held electronic device, usually a cell phone.

Fast-forward to this year. That figure has doubled. It's now two in five young drivers.

And there is more bad news.

Anytime you're on the road, every other driver you pass will answer a phone call. One out of every four drivers you pass will make a phone call. Of the young drivers you pass, three out of every five will pick up the phone to answer a call. One-third of those same young drivers will make a call.

It's terrifying when you consider the effect that such action has on a person's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. People have this skewed perception that, while distracted driving is dangerous when other drivers do it, it's acceptable for them. They fail to see how much their own ability to drive safely is eroded when they are talking or texting behind the wheel.

While all distractions can significantly detract from your safety, not all distractions are created equally. Texting involves visual, manual and cognitive distraction. That is, when you are texting, you are not looking at the road, you are not holding onto the wheel with both hands and you aren't thinking about the road ahead of you.

And yet, it's becoming a more common phenomenon.

The NHTSA reports that, at any given moment on U.S. roadways, some 660,000 motorists are talking on their phone. That's about five percent of all licensed drivers, though consider that not every licensed driver is on the road at any given moment.

Even more troubling are the statistics for manipulating a mobile device while driving. That is something right at this moment being engaged in by 1.18 million drivers, or about nine percent overall.

This is deeply troubling, particularly when you consider that most people KNOW this is not a good idea. Three quarters of Americans support a ban on cell phone use while driving and 95 percent support a ban on texting while driving.

Yet, half of us right now are answering a phone call while driving. A quarter of us are placing a call. Nearly 700,000 are texting in the driver's seat.

This disconnect must stop. The only way we are going to make a difference is by having every individual make a pledge to put their phones out of reach before each and every trip. Don't assume you are one of those who can do it safely. Those people don't exist.

It starts with you.

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April 3, 2013

Accident Highlights Tennessee Railroad Crossing Safety

On April 2, 2013, the Journal Express reported that a woman and three children were involved in an accident with a train. Two of the children were killed in the accident and the surviving child is fighting for his life.1414287_beware_of_train.jpg

Our Knoxville accident attorneys know that train accidents are often fatal due to the tremendous size of the train and the force at which the train can hit. It is important that crossing equipment around trains be kept in good working order and that drivers and pedestrians behave in a smart and safe manner when they approach train tracks.

The Batavia Train Accident
According to the Journal Express, a state patrol officer indicated that the woman involved in the accident drove around the stop arms at the railroad tracks at shortly after 6:00 P.M. When the woman entered the tracks, her mini van was hit by a train that was headed west.

There were three children in the van at the time when the accident occurred, although law enforcement has not confirmed that the van driver was the mother of the children. Two of the children, ages 5 and 4, were killed, and the 2-year-old child and the 25-year-old driver were both being treated at a nearby hospital at the time of the article.

The Journal Express also reports that the investigation into how the accident happened is ongoing. The officer interviewed said that he believed everything was working at the time of the crash, including the horns and stop arms signifying the approach of a train. Further, he indicates that there was a train on one of the other tracks.

However, while this may be the case, it is advisable for the parties involved to conduct an independent investigation to ensure that the truth is discovered. The fact is that the railroad infrastructure throughout the United States is aging. Numerous states are under federal mandate to improve railroad crossing safety. Far too many crossings are unarmed. When warning systems do exist, they are often antiquated or inadequate.

If equipment fails, even once, at a train track, then someone could get seriously hurt. In this case, for example, the young woman driver with three children in the van might not have even been aware that a train was coming if the warning system malfunctioned. This is particularly true at night or when visibility is otherwise reduced.

Staying Safe at Train Tracks
The warning systems, including stop arms and auditory warnings, are the keys to preventing train accidents. Drivers should also be cautious when approaching a train track and should stop several feet back from the track and out of the way when a train is approaching.

By steering clear of train tracks, never stopping on the track, and looking both ways carefully before crossing train tracks, drivers can do their part to prevent becoming involved in a serious accident.

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