July 2009

Hickory Wrong-Way Accident Involving Eight Vehicles Injures 15

July 27, 2009, by Michael A. DeMayo

A Hickory, North Carolina wrong-way driving accident involving eight motor vehicles on Highway 321 on Saturday has resulted in multiple injuries. According to police, the North Carolina multi-vehicle crash happened after the driver of a Toyota Tacoma started going the wrong way down Highway 321.

The Toyota reportedly crashed into seven cars. 15 people were injured, five serious enough that they were taken to a local hospital. One car crash victim had to be rushed to the hospital with serious head injuries following a head-on collision. The Highway Patrol thinks that the Toyota was also involved in at least two hit-and-run crashes prior to this multi-vehicle collision.

The Hickory multi-vehicle crash was not the only catastrophic traffic collision involving a wrong-way driver to occur over the weekend. In New York, eight people died after a woman in a minivan drove the wrong way up the Taconic State Parkway, striking two cars.

The minivan’s driver, Diane Schuler, her two-year-old Erin, and three of her nieces, Kate Hance, 5, Alison Hance, 7, and Emma Hance, 9, were killed in the wrong-way driving crash. Schuler’s 5-year-old son, Brian, is being treated at a local hospital. Also killed in the wrong-way driving accident were the people riding in one of the cars that Schuler struck: SUV driver Guy Bastardi, his father Michael, and friend Daniel Longo.

It is unclear why Schuler went the wrong way up the freeway for almost two miles. Police say that a number of people contacted 911 to let them know that there was a van going the wrong way. Schuler’s brother says she contacted him a couple of hours before the tragic accident to tell him she wasn’t feeling well.

Wrong-Way Driving Accidents
Wrong-way driving crashes can lead to devastating accidents for the victims involved. Wrong-way can lead to head-on crashes, placing the occupants of both vehicles involved at risk of getting seriously hurt.

Head-on, wrong way crash in Hickory, Charlotte.com, July 26, 2009

Before Taconic crash, mom Diane Schuler told brother she wasn’t feeling well, NY Daily News, July 27, 2009

Related Web Resources:
Proving Fault in Personal Injury Accidents: General Rules, Nolo

Car Accidents Overview, Justia

North Carolina Car Accidents Can Occur Because of Lane Drifting

July 24, 2009, by Michael A. DeMayo

According to the National Safety Commission, lane drifting is a form of careless driving that can cause motor vehicle collisions. Lane drifting is the cause of about 10,000 US traffic fatalities a year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines lane drifting as when a motor vehicle is moving in a generally straight direction but at a slight angle to the lane that it is in. When a driver waits too long to correct his or her course or doesn’t make the correction at all, his or her vehicle may end up drifting into the next lane or in front of ongoing traffic, causing a sideswipe crash or a head-on collision.

Common Causes of Lane Drifting:

• Drowsy driving
• Distracted driving
• Falling asleep at the wheel
• Drunk driving
• Drugged driving
• Overmedicated while driving
• Speeding
• Talking on the cell phone while driving
• Texting while driving
• Daydreaming
• Failing to pay attention to the road

Aside from making sure that your vehicle doesn’t drift into another lane, other ways to prevent North Carolina car accidents include:

• Always pay attention the road.
• Stay out of other driver’s blind spots.
• Check your blind spots for vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, or pedestrians.
• Drive with both hands on the wheel.
• Make sure your car is properly maintained and defect-free.

North Carolina car accidents can lead to serious injuries. To make sure that you receive all the personal injury recovery that you are owed, you should speak with an experienced Charlotte, North Carolina personal injury lawyer as soon as possible so that you are aware of your legal options. Make sure that you write down everything you remember about your North Carolina car collision and don’t talk to the other side’s representation until you’ve spoken with your legal representation first.

Careless Driving Tickets: Lane Drifting – How Sideswipe Crashes Occur, July 21, 2009

Top 10 Editors’ Tips to Prevent a Car Accident, Edmunds.com

Did NHTSA’s Failure to Make Public in 2003 Findings About the Dangers of Cell Phone While Driving Cost Thousands of Lives?

July 21, 2009, by Michael A. DeMayo

According to the New York Times, in 2003 researchers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a study of 10,000 motorists to evaluate the dangers involved with using a cell phone while driving a motor vehicle. The researchers were concerned because of growing evidence that multitasking while driving could be dangerous.

The study however, never happened, and researchers opted not to make public hundreds of warnings and research about motorists and cell phone use. Officials say they were worried that revealing the information would anger Congress, whose members had warned the NHTSA to stay focused on gathering safety facts but not to lobby states. Today, all of the research is being made public after Public Citizen and The Center for Auto Safety, two consumer advocacy groups, filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Critics say that the US Department of Transportation’s failure to make the information available sooner has cost lives and allowed cell phone use while driving to become a habit.

Findings included in the research:

• In 2002, 240,000 traffic accidents and 955 motor vehicle deaths were caused by cell phone use while driving.
• A draft letter that was never sent warned states that they weren’t certain that hands-free driving laws would eliminate the accident risk involved with cell phone use.
• The researchers actually wanted to recommend that drivers not talk on cell phones or text message while driving unless in an emergency situation.

While North Carolina law bans text messaging while driving, only school bus drivers and drivers younger than 18 are forbidden to use any kind of cell phone while driving. The state has no law banning handheld cellular or pda devices.

Cell phone use while driving is becoming a common cause of North Carolina car crashes. And for motorists that think they may be minimizing their injury risk by using hands-free cell phones, this may not necessarily be the case.

The National Safety Council just published a new study reporting that it is no less dangerous to talk on a hands-free cell phone while operating a car as it is to drive while holding a cell phone in one’s hand.

Talking on a cell phone or text messaging is considered negligent driving and can be grounds for a Charlotte car accident lawsuit.

U.S. Withheld Data on Risks of Distracted Driving, NY Times, July 20, 2009

Research on cell-phone-use-while-driving quashed by feds, Atlanta Journal Constitution, July 21, 2009

New Study in NSC Journal Shows Hands-Free Phones No Safer Than Hand-Held Phones, NSC.org, July 9, 2009

Related Web Resources:
Using Wireless Communication Devices while Driving, US Department of Transportation, July 2003

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Charlotte Car Accidents: Drivers Likely to Be Involved in Motor Vehicle Crashes Every Eight Years

July 14, 2009, by Michael A. DeMayo

According to Allstate, the average Charlotte motorist will likely be involved in a North Carolina motor vehicle crash once every eight years. Possible reasons why Charlotte car accidents happen are speeding and driver error.

On a positive note, the number of Charlotte, North Carolina car crashes that do occur seems to be going down. According to Charlotte Mecklenburg Police, there have been 17 Charlotte traffic deaths so far this year, which is a lot less than the number of traffic fatalities in 2008. Still, Charlotte ranked as the least safe driving city in North Carolina.

Allstate says Winston-Salem ranked as the safest North Carolina city with drivers likely be involved in a car crash once every 11 years. While Cary drivers are said to be the best motorists in the Triangle. The chances of a Cary car crash happening was 5.6% lower than the national average, with the average motorist only becoming involved in a motor vehicle crash every 10.6 years—making Cary the 33rd safest place to drive in the country.

Durham ranked number 52 on this list—with motorists going 10.1 years between Durham traffic collisions. Meantime, the chances of becoming involved in a Raleigh car collision was 7.1% lower than the national average—with one motor vehicle crash every 9.3 years.

These North Carolina car accident statistics are an important reminder for why it is so important that all motorists drive defensively to protect themselves so that they don’t become involved in a motor vehicle car crash. Yet, driver error and negligence continue to be common causes of traffic accidents despite many motorists’ efforts to protect themselves from personal injury.

Allstate: Cary drivers are best in Triangle, Triangle Business Journal, July 8, 2009

Allstate: Charlotte drivers likely to wreck every 8 years, News14Carolina.com, July 10, 2009

Related Web Resources:

North Carolina Cities

Causes of Some Charlotte, North Carolina Personal Injury Accidents: More than 50% of US Highway Deaths Involve Deficient Roadway Conditions

July 8, 2009, by Michael A. DeMayo

According to Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, more than 50% of US highway deaths and 38% of nonfatal injuries involve deficient roadway conditions. 10 roadway-related accidents happen each minute—that’s 5.3 million accidents a year.

The PIRE notes that these figures make it evident that making changes to the roadway environment so that it is more forgiving and protective is necessary to reduce the number of highway deaths and associated expenses. Dr. Ted Miller, who is the principal author on the study, says that if we placed as much attention on improving road safety conditions as we do in convincing people not to drive drunk, “we’d save thousands of lives and billions of dollars” annually.

Findings in the study, called “On a Crash Course: The Dangers and Health Costs of Deficient Roadways,” include:

• Deficient roadway conditions cost $217 billion/year (including $20 billion in medical expenses and $99 billion in quality of life costs).
• This figure is over 3.5 times the $59 billion that governments in the US invest each year on roadway capital improvements.

Among the study’s recommendations that transportation officials can implement to improve road conditions so that injuries will be reduced and lives saved:

• More durable, brighter pavement markings.
• Using breakaway poles instead of non-forgiving poles.
• Placing rumble strips on shoulders.
• Mounting additional safety barriers or guardrails.
• Widening shoulders.
• Adding shoulders.
• Better roadway alignment.
• Widening or replacing narrow bridges.
• Decreasing abrupt drop offs and pavement edges.
• Clearing more space next to roadways.

If you or someone you loved was injured in a North Carolina car crash because of a defective roadway condition, you may have grounds for filing a personal injury case.

Some roadway defects that can lead to Raleigh motor vehicle accidents:

• Poorly designed road systems
• Potholes
• Not enough lighting
• Lack of traffic signs or warning signs
• No guardrails or center dividers
• Improper placement of roadway markings
• Excessively high speed limit for road condition

Some roadway defects that can lead to Raleigh motor vehicle accidents:

• Poorly designed road systems.
• Potholes.
• Not enough lighting.
• Lack of traffic signs or warning signs.
• No guardrails or center dividers.
• Improper placement of roadway markings.
• Excessively high speed limit for road condition.

More than Half of Highway Fatalities Are Related to Deficient Roadway Conditions, PR Newswire, July 1, 2009

Related Web Resource:
Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation

Hickory Car Accident Lawyers: North Carolina Traffic Deaths Drop to 1,433 Fatalities in 2008

July 3, 2009, by Michael A. DeMayo

The US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that even though the number of US highway deaths dropped last year, there is still a lot of work that must be done to keep our motorists safe. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures show a 9.7% drop in US traffic deaths from 41,259 fatalities in 2007 to 37,261 deaths in 2008—the lowest death count since 1961.

Between 2007 and 2008, there were significant declines in drunk driving deaths (13,041 to 11,773), light truck deaths (12,458 to 10,764), passenger occupant deaths (29,072 to 25,351), large truck fatalities (805 to 677), and pedestrian deaths (4,699 to 4,378). The number of motorcycle rider deaths, however, went up from 5,174 to 5,290—as did pedalcyclist fatalities, from 701 to 716.

Also last year, 2,346,000 people were injured in US traffic accidents—a drop from the 2.49 million traffic injuries in 2007. While the number of motorcycle rider fatalities increased, the number of motorcycle riders that were injured went down significantly from 103,000 motorcycle deaths in 2007 to 96 deaths to motorcycle fatalities in 2008.

There was also a decline in the number of North Carolina traffic deaths, with 1,433 fatalities last year compared to 1,676 traffic deaths in 2008.

More North Carolina 2008 Traffic Figures:
• 1,033 passenger vehicle occupant deaths (down from 1,237 in 2007)
• 423 drunk driving deaths (down from 497 in 2007)
• 475 speeding-related deaths (a decline from the 622 fatalities in 2008)
• 160 pedestrian deaths

Also on a positive note, there were less fatalities from January – March 2009 than there were for the same time period last year. The NHTSA says 7,689 people were killed in US traffic crashes for the first quarter of this year, compared to the 8,451 deaths during January – March 2008.

While the overall decline in US traffic deaths is very positive, there are still thousands of people that are injured and killed because a motorist was driving drunk, speeding, talking on a cell phone, text messaging, or impaired by medication or because a vehicle was defective or another party was negligent.

Related Web Resources:
2008 Traffic Safety Annual Assessment – Highlights, June 2009 (PDF)

Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Quarter (January – March) of 2009 (PDF)

State Traffic Safety Information For Year 2008, NHTSA