March 21, 2013

Tennessee Car Accident Toll on Roadside Signs Faces Opposition

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (DOT) has recently begun using the 151 electrical highway signs in the state to send a message to drivers. The message: people die every day from car accidents. The DOT is sending this message by posting on the sign the total number of traffic fatalities in the state, year-to-date.

Our Knoxville accident lawyers know that there are thousands of people who die on the roads each year and that there are many more who suffer injuries as a result of car wrecks. Unfortunately, many drivers don't really think about these tragic deaths and may not pause to consider that their driving choices could have very real consequences. By posting the fatality count, the Tennessee DOT hopes to make drivers more aware. However, not everyone agrees with this controversial new effort.

Controversy Over DOT Signs
According to WBIR, there are some people in the state of Tennessee who are complaining that the electronic count of the number of car accident deaths is too gruesome. The electronic signs were traditionally used to announce things like lane blockages, and some do not believe that they should now be used to count up the number killed in traffic collisions.

Others, however, believe that these DOT signs are serving an important purpose and hopefully saving lives. The sister of one drunk driving victim, for example, indicated that she believes that the signs are a reflection of real people who were lost and are more than just statistics. She is an advocate for the signs because they remind drivers of those who have been killed.

Are the Signs Working?
According to WBIR, officials indicated that it is a good thing the signs are drawing so much discussion, even if the talk focuses, in part, on the controversy. Because people are talking about them everywhere, the signs are drawing attention to the high number of car accident deaths in Tennessee and making people think.

The signs may already be having a positive effect on reducing the number of deaths occurring in the state. As WBIR reports, there were 1,013 car accident deaths in Tennessee in 2012. This was 75 people more than the number who died in 2011, which is a huge increase. However, the majority of this increase occurred in the first portion of the year before the signs were put up.

During the first three months of 2012, there were 64 more deaths than during the same period of time in 2011. If the disturbing increase in auto accident deaths continues at this pace for the rest of the year, then it is likely that more than 1,200 people will lose their lives in Tennessee accidents.

After the signs began counting fatalities, however, the number of car accident deaths leveled off. Although this is anecdotal and more studies will need to be done on an ongoing basis to see if the signs are really playing a role in reducing the number of deaths, it is clear that reminding people of the consequences of car accidents cannot hurt efforts to reduce the risks we all face on the road.

Continue reading "Tennessee Car Accident Toll on Roadside Signs Faces Opposition" »

March 14, 2013

Tennessee Teen Car Accident Fatalities Highest in the Nation

Figures recently released by the Governors' Highway Safety Association indicate that Tennessee is No. 1 in the country (tied with Indiana) for the most teen car accident fatalities. objectsinthemirrorseemfar.jpg

Our Knoxville car accident lawyers know that this is a distinction desired by no one. More must be done to curb this troubling rise, though it's worth noting the same pattern was recorded nationwide. Overall in the U.S., teen traffic fatalities rose from 201 in the first six months of 2011 to 240 in the first six months of 2012. That's a nearly 20 percent increase.

In Tennessee, we reported nearly three times as many fatalities, from six teen fatalities in the first six months of 2011 to 16 in the first six months of last year. In all, the teen fatality numbers increased in 25 states, saw a decrease in 17 states and saw no change at all in eight states. Of those that increased, six states - including Tennessee - did so by more than five deaths, which is statistically significant.

This represents a shift in the trend we have seen recent years. Officials had hoped that graduated driver's license programs, bans on behind-the-wheel texting and cell phone use for teens, and awareness initiatives were working to turn the tide. But it doesn't appear to be enough, as ever-evolving technology means that distractions remain a top problem for teens behind the wheel. Additionally, the report indicates, far too many 16-and-17-year-old drivers and passengers aren't wearing their seat belts.

We may also have the economy to blame for some of it. Improvements mean that more teens have access to jobs, which means spare cash which translates to gas money. More teens are on the road when the economy is growing.

The number of fatalities involving 16-year-old drivers compared to 17-year-old drivers was about the same. The report indicated that in the first half of 2011, there were 107 16-year-old driver fatalities, compared to 116 involving 17-year-old drivers. In the first half of 2012, there were 86 fatalities involving 16-year-old drivers, versus 133 involving 17-year-old drivers.

More definitive data will show annual trends and is expected to be released later this year.

Jacqueline Gillan, president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, has been quoted as saying that the results of this study should be a strong motivator for governors and state legislators to push and approve stricter teen driving laws.

It appears that such measures do actually make a difference. In 2000, there were more than 430 drivers age 16 who were killed that year. That figure had been slashed to less than 175 by 2011. Same thing with 17-year-old drivers, of whom about 565 died in traffic crashes in 2000, compared to 250 total in 2011.

While legislators have an important role in this, parents do too. Set a good example for your teen driver by obeying all local driving laws and refraining from cell phone use or texting while you're driving. Spend time with your child - up to 100 hours in the car, with your teen behind the wheel - teaching him or her how to drive. Give him constructive critiques and teach him to keep his temper in check. Set and stick to consequences for bad behind-the-wheel behavior.

Continue reading "Tennessee Teen Car Accident Fatalities Highest in the Nation" »

March 7, 2013

Knoxville Truck Accident Nearly Killed Trooper Now Results in Charges

It's been almost a year since a trucker from Florida fell asleep at the wheel of his rig in West Knoxville, slamming into a police cruiser that then burst into flames, critically injuring the sergeant inside. truck1.jpg

Now, our Knoxville truck accident lawyers understand that truck driver has been indicted by a grand jury on criminal charges of aggravated assault, reckless driving, reckless endangerment and failure to drive within a single lane of traffic.

The 57-year-old truck driver admitted to emergency responders that he had been so tired just before the wreck, he had been splashing his face with cold water to stay awake. He had been hired by the Orlando-based trucking agency just two weeks before.

Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in the crash.

Immediately after the wreck, the truck driver ran to the aid of the officer, helping to pull him from the cruiser, with the help of paramedics who happened upon the scene on their way back from transporting a different patient to the hospital. Paramedics also suffered burns as a result.

The trooper inside the burning vehicle, meanwhile, nearly died. He had his emergency lights flashing and was parked on the shoulder of the highway when the crash happened. Although it was touch-and-go for some time, he was later transferred to a rehabilitation facility, where he underwent months and months of intensive physical therapy. He has since returned home, but he has not been able to go back to work.

The truck driver is reportedly working to negotiate some sort of plea deal, though the details of what that might look like aren't yet clear. The driver is said to be devastated by the crash and wracked with guilt over the injuries suffered by the trooper.

No doubt, most people who are involved in fatal or near-fatal accidents don't set out that day to do so. But truckers who fail to adhere to hours of service restrictions or continue to drive when it's obvious even to them that they are too tired to do so must be held accountable. In cases where the company's scheduling prohibits adherence to federal hours of service operations, they too need to be held accountable.

According to the the AAA Foundation, it's not just truck drivers, either. While nearly all drivers surveyed in 2012 reported that driving drowsy was a risk to their safety and was unacceptable, almost a third admitted to being so tired behind the wheel within the last month that they could barely keep their eyes open.

It's estimated that about 17 percent of all fatal crashes involve drivers who were sleepy.

Every single driver has a responsibility to ensure he or she is alert and oriented to the road ahead. If you need to pull over and take a nap, do so. Here are some key warning signs that you need to stop driving:

  • Your eyelids are getting heavy or you have difficulty keeping your eyes open and focused;

  • You are having trouble keeping your head up;

  • You find yourself rubbing your eyes or yawning;

  • You are missing traffic signs or signals or driving past your exit;

  • You can't remember the last few miles you drove;

  • You have drifted from your lane or hit the rumble strips.

Continue reading "Knoxville Truck Accident Nearly Killed Trooper Now Results in Charges" »

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.

Continue reading "Tennessee Traffic Deaths Spiked in 2012" »

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.

Continue reading "Knoxville Crashes, Distraction, Target of Digital Billboard Ban" »

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.

Continue reading "Tennessee Rollover Crashes Pose Heightened Fatality Risks" »

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.

Continue reading "Knoxville Crash Involving 4 Cars Began With Disabled Vehicle" »

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.

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December 27, 2012

Tennessee Accident Risks to Increase with Retiring Wave of Boomers?

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has a pamphlet on its website called Decisions for Tennessee's Senior Drivers. The purpose of the pamphlet is to help seniors (and their families) make an informed choice about whether the senior is still capable of driving.

This pamphlet is published because Tennessee recognizes that seniors may at some point lose their ability to drive safely. The fact that senior drivers do become a potential hazard is a cause for concern, and this issue will become a very important one as baby boomers age and the make-up of the driving population changes. 833820_hands.jpg

Our Knoxville injury attorneys believe that understanding the impact of an aging population on the roadways is very important. While one recent status report published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that the aging population may not present the increased accident risk that everyone feared, it remains important for every family to keep an eye on the behavior of aging loved ones in their lives.

IIHS Data and the Changing Driving Mix
According to IIHS, there is a coming increase in the number of potentially eligible drivers (those in the U.S. over aged 15). From 2010 to 2030, the number of people who can drive legally in the U.S. is expected to increase by almost a fifth.

Despite this increase, the number of drivers within the majority of age groups will be declining. Data is kept on the number of drivers within each five-year age group (i.e. 15-19 year olds; 20-24 year olds and so on). In upcoming years, the number of potential drivers in each of these different five-year age groups will be declining (so the number of 15-19 year olds will go down; the number of 20-24 year olds will go down, etc.).

This decline, however, does not apply to those five-year age groups over age 65 (i.e. 65-69 year olds; 69-71 year olds, etc.). This means that those in the 65+ age groups are going to represent a larger percentage of the driving population.

This changing mix of drivers matters because, historically, those over age 70 had a higher rate of fatal crashes per mile driven than those under age 70. Further, although teen drivers ages 15-19 had the most insurance claims of any group, the number of claims declines from 19 straight through until age 65, when the number of claims starts to increase again. More older drivers, therefore, may mean more injuries, insurance claims and traffic deaths.

IIHS data, however, indicates that this may not be the case. The institute reports, for example, that there has been a 30 percent decrease in the rate of fatal auto accidents involving those ages 70+ during the years 1997 to 2008. Further, they report that data shows that the number of claims per 100 miles driven is going to remain largely steady. This number is expected to stay between 6.12 claims/hundred insured cars to 6.16 claims/100 insured cars. The slight increase, they say, is attributed to the fact that there are more drivers in general, not just more older drivers.

Keep Your Family Safe
While the aggregate data may show no increased risk of a driving population that continues to age, this is just one study. Seniors should be realistic about when they can no longer drive. And families should be watchful in case a senior doesn't recognize that he/she is no longer capable of operating a vehicle in a safely.

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December 20, 2012

Knoxville Injury Attorneys Urge a Safe New Year

On December 5, 2012, the Director of the Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Office joined state and local law enforcement in an event honoring the memories of those who lost their lives to drunk driving in the state. HobNob Franklin reported on this event, which was part of law enforcement's efforts to curb drinking and driving over the holidays.

Unfortunately, drinking and driving is rampant over the year-end holiday period, with Auto Guide reporting that New Year's is the worst day of the year for drunk driving accidents. Our Knoxville personal injury attorneys urge every driver to remember how dangerous drunk driving is and to make sure to stay safe and sober on New Year's and every other day of the year. 741831_man_and_his_beer.jpg

Drunk Driving a Holiday Risk in Tennessee
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 257 people were killed in accidents involving an intoxicated driver in Tennessee in 2011. While these 257 deaths occurred throughout the year, New Year's is an especially dangerous day due to the large volumes of people on the road and the large number of those who choose to drive drunk. In fact, according to Auto Guide, nearly half of the drivers involved in fatal New Year's crashes were intoxicated at the time.

Tennessee law enforcement is trying to cut down on the number of drunk driving accidents and injuries or deaths that occur over the holidays. The press conference to honor those killed by drunk drivers was just the beginning of their efforts. The Governors Highway Safety Administration, as part of their Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, has also announced that there will be increased patrols as well as increased public safety announcements warning of the dangers of holiday drunk driving.

Stay Safe and Stay Sober
Getting pulled over for drunk driving would be bad news, but getting into an accident and hurting someone would be even worse. To avoid both fates and to make sure you have a safe holiday:

  • Either avoid drinking at your celebration or take a designated driver with you.

  • Consider alcohol-free celebration events where you won't have to worry about driving drunk.

  • Have money for a cab and a phone number to call one in case you get stuck without a ride.

  • Watch your friends for signs they might be drunk and make sure they don't drive.

Parents of teenagers also need to take special steps to make sure their kids don't drink and drive. Drive On recently published an article indicating that one in ten teens responding to a survey had driven while under the influence the prior New Year's Eve. Be sure you check where your kids are going to be, confirm that they'll be supervised, and offer to drive them yourself so they don't get into a car with someone who is drunk.

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December 13, 2012

Fewer Tennessee Traffic Accident - Higher Risks for Bicyclist, Pedestrains, Motorcyclists

The overall number of traffic accident fatalities dropped about 2 percent in 2011, according to statistics released this week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

However, we saw increases in the number of accident fatalities among bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. Still, officials boast about this being the lowest overall number of road deaths since statistics were first recorded back in 1949.
"Even as we celebrate the progress we've made in recent years, we must remain focused on addressing the safety issues that are continuing to claim more than 30,000 lives each year," says NHTSA's Administrator David Strickland.

Our accident attorneys in Knoxville understand that officials continue to push safety campaigns as a means of education the public and reducing the risks. Unfortunately, all of these campaigns are useless without the participation of travelers. According to Ray LaHood, the Secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation, officials have been pushing their distracted driving campaign for years now. Still, distracted driving saw a near 2 percent increase in 2011.

Tennessee was recognized in the recent NHTSA press release for being one of the states with the highest decrease, seeing about 85 fewer fatalities in 2011 than in 2010, but we're still falling victim to accidents involving our more vulnerable travelers. Drivers are just too caught up in themselves nowadays to keep their full attention on the road.

If you look closely at the trends from both 2010 and 2011, you'll see that people were traveling less in 2011. We were all feeling the effects of the struggling economy and higher gas prices and we traveled less because of it. Travelers were also looking for more cost effective ways to get around, causing more people to use bicycles, motorcycles and their own two feet -- hence the increase in the number of these kinds of fatal accidents.

Another contributor to these kinds of accidents is the design of many of our roadways. They were created with one thing in mind -- getting vehicles to where they're going fast! Not many of our roadways were created with considerations for bicycles or pedestrians. The design of these roadways put these travelers in serious risks for accidents.

Tennessee may have seen a more than 8 percent decrease in the number of traffic accident fatalities from 2010 to 2011, but we're far from done. We're calling on all travelers to be more cautious out there. No one goes out looking for an accident, but they happen. Drivers are asked to be more cautious of other travelers on our roadways. Remember that we all have rights to our roadways and those rights need to be respected. Slow it down, drive with compassion and help to make out streets safer for everyone. It's completely achievable, but it takes a group effort.

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