May 2011

Cleaning Up after Your North Carolina Car Accident

May 31, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether a truck dinged you in a Winn-Dixie parking lot or your motorcycle got essentially demolished when a teen gabbing on her cell phone blew through a red light and hit you, your North Carolina car accident has thrown your life into a kind of chaos. What can you do to “dig out” from the destruction and regain a semblance of control, security, and relaxation again?

In terms of dealing with the legal loose ends, a North Carolina car accident law firm can provide systematic guidance, strategic knowledge, and compassionate advice, so that you can, for instance, collect compensation for medical costs that you suffered, property damage to your vehicle, your work wages lost, and much more.

Your insurance company can also (hopefully) give you tools, resources, and, potentially, money to manage the fallout of the accident.

But even with these good support structures in place, you may still face chaos and confusion in your life. You might feel angry about the accident, depressed, overwhelmed by the logistical crisis this has stimulated, and just generally “thrown off your game.”

One good tactic to start to regain some control is to simply get out of every concerning thought you have out of your head and down onto paper or onto a computer document. This way, you don’t have to try to brainstorm solutions in your head. You can literally see what’s bothering you and then make an action plan to resolve the biggest concerns.

Give yourself permission to write down as much as you want — even about vaguely tangential thoughts that may or may not be related to the accident. For instance, your list might look something like this:

• Frustrated that the car is going to be in the shop for two weeks
• Angry that my sister didn’t pick me up after the accident
• How am I going to go to school now?
• My necks sort of hurts. Do I have whiplash?
• Should I go to the doctor? Will insurance pay for it? Or will the other driver pay for it?
• This isn’t fair. Why do these things always happen to me?
• I have to remember next time I go on Waylay Avenue to watch out for drivers like the one who hit me. People are always speeding over there.

Once you have these and other thoughts down on paper, you can start to come up with solutions. For instance, after reviewing your list, you may decide that you need to have a talk with your sister about her actions after the accident; or you may brainstorm an alternative route around Waylay Avenue so that you don’t drive on a road that makes you feel uncomfortable.

More Web Resources:

Getting thoughts out of your head and on paper

Relaxed Control with GTD

Horrific DUI North Carolina School Bus Accident Raises Troubling Questions

May 27, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

The morning of Tuesday, May 17th began like any other in Guilford County. But things took a tragic turn for the worse on Highway 61, as a North Carolina school bus accident near Shoe Road led to two fatalities.

Here’s the rundown on story, courtesy of the WXII12 news website: “The crash happened near Shoe Road at about 8:10 AM as the school bus stopped to pick up a student. The bus driver was waiting for a student to sit down, when a car slammed into the back of the bus, killing both the car’s driver and the passenger.”

According to a highway patrol trooper who investigated, “There was no indication that [the driver of the car] applied his brakes.” He also said a beer can was discovered in the car, leading to the conclusion that alcohol was a factor. He said toxicology reports wouldn’t be available for weeks. “The speed limit along that stretch road is 55 miles per hour. Ingram estimated [the driver’s] speed at between 55 miles per hour and 60 miles per hour.”

Although none of the 18 students on the bus at the time was injured, the students (from Southeast Middle School and Southeast High School) were obviously terribly shaken up – as anyone of any age would be who witnessed a fatal North Carolina bus accident.

The question is: What can we learn from this tragedy? Is this just another chaotic and tragic “blip” – a terrible event that has no ultimate rhyme or reason – or can studying the accident lead us to adopt better policy solutions?

Without really probing the details of what happened – using tools that investigators at a North Carolina bus accident law firm might have, for instance – it may be impossible to extrapolate any lessons… and this itself is a lesson.

Too often, in the face of tragedy, victims demand immediate action and changes to “prevent something like this from ever happening again.” Excellent sentiment, and who could disagree?

But when you jump too quickly to conclusions about what caused what, you can inadvertently cause more problems than you solve. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. But it does mean you need to be very, very, very careful when you design solutions. You must test those solutions. And you must test them in an objective way. And if they don’t work, you need to acknowledge that they don’t work and try something else.

Unfortunately, our policy culture appears to be so politically driven, at least in the field of accident prevention, that we collectively have a difficult time coming up with actual solutions that will really save lives, save money, and generally help to make people’s lives more wonderful. The solution is not to do nothing nor to do “something.” Is to do SMART somethings, measure the effects objectively as best as you can, and keep testing and measuring. Safety is a process. It’s not a one-time fix.

More Web Resources:

WXII12 news item on bus accident

Safety is a process. It’s not a one-time fix

Planned North Carolina Train Accident Excites the Imagination of Boys throughout the State

May 25, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

On May 23rd and May 24th, the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rail division (along with state troopers) conducted a mock North Carolina train accident to help train emergency workers in Rocky Mount. According to a local news source, www.grenwichtime.com, authorities staged the wreck between train and car to help “teach local officials how to clear the tracks quickly so trains can keep running while also conducting a proper investigation [as well as] to emphasize safety at rail crossings.”

North Carolina train, truck, and bus accidents are often catastrophic and injury causing. This much is obvious. But why?

The answer is not just that these vehicles are “bigger.” It’s that the collisions tend to be serious mismatches. An 18-ton truck smashing into a four-ton sedan is a David versus Goliath type mismatch. The truck wins big time. And this means that the forces at work tend to be far more intense than they are in “standard” passenger-car-on-passenger-car accidents.

Confused? Let’s do some simple math. According to basic laws of physics, force (F) equals an object’s mass (M) multiplied by its acceleration (A). Hence we get the famous equation, F=MA. Without getting too much into the details of the physics, force can also equal a change in momentum. Momentum is an object’s mass (M) times its velocity (V). So when a 20-ton truck goes from 60 miles per hour to zero miles per hour in, say, five seconds, it exerts a force 10 times greater than a 2-ton vehicle going from 60 miles per hour to zero miles per hour in the same time frame (5 seconds).

To repeat: that’s ten times the force!

And it’s not just the fact that trucks, trains, buses and other large vehicles impact greater force “vectors.” The angles at which collisions occur can impart what are known as torsional forces – basically rotational forces – that can do their own kinds of damage.

All this is to say that, if you or someone you care about has been hurt or killed in a roadside crash, a North Carolina train, truck, and bus accident law firm will likely need to investigate exactly happened, talk to experts, do some accident reconstruction, and probe the details of what went wrong to get you compensated for injuries, funeral expenses, lost wages, and other costs.

More Web Resources:

North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rail division

Momentum is an object’s mass (M) times its velocity (V)

How Reporting on North Carolina Auto Accidents Impacts Driver Behavior

May 20, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

When you read about North Carolina car, truck, and bus accidents on the web (or check at the local news), you may think that you’re participating in a relatively harmless, if voyeuristic, activity. But research suggests that the news itself can have a profound impact on the rates and kinds of accidents that occur.

This may seem like a paradoxical, somewhat crazy, statement. But research in a variety of fields backs it up. Reports about teen suicides, for instance, may increase the number of (similar) teen suicides in their wake. Similarly, if a blog or news report discusses a North Carolina car accident – such as an elderly driver running a red light and getting hurt – this may indirectly (and inadvertently!) causes a spike in very similar kinds of accidents.

What’s going on here?

Theories abound. One interesting idea is that news reports make certain kinds of disasters more salient in people’s minds. This additional salience may be enough to “tip” people into committing accidents. For instance, in the teen suicide example… perhaps there is always a population of teens who are on the verge of harming themselves. If a teenager sees a news report about a person very much like himself or herself committing suicide, he or she may get an indirect psychological suggestion that says this kind of behavior is “okay” – and that signal may be just enough to give the teen “social permission” to commit suicide… as awful as that sounds.

Likewise, if you’re a 65-year old woman, and you read about a 60 something year old woman who gets into a car accident, you may be psychologically “persuaded” to take more risk.

It sounds completely counterintuitive. After all, you’d think that reading such a report would make you MORE vigilant against that kind of trouble. And perhaps it does that too… for some people. But human beings are, first and foremost, social creatures. And the ways and means by which cultural influences change our behavior are many and mysterious.

Again, these concepts are both somewhat controversial and speculative. But in our hussle and bussle to clamp down on accident rates and protect drivers and pedestrians, we need to look at indirect factors, such as this kind of “social permission giving,” to devise effective policy.

If you or someone close to you has been hurt in a motor vehicle accident, a North Carolina auto accident law firm can work with you to strategize how to get compensated for your medical bills, lost wages, rehab and time off of work.

More Web Resources:

Suicide and the media

Copycat suicide

Will Less Signage = Fewer North Carolina Auto Accidents?

May 18, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

It’s an unspoken belief among policymakers who want to eliminate or at least limit North Carolina motor vehicle accidents that “more guidance is better.” In other words, if you give drivers better protection systems, such as antilock brakes, computer aided navigation systems, and clearer on road signage, these factors will reduce injuries and accidents.

But what if that’s just not true?

As journalist Tom Vanderbilt pointed out in his popular 2007 book, Traffic, motor vehicle operators may actually function at better capacity when they are provided with LESS instruction, not more.

Vanderbilt’s thesis is pretty simple and actually powerfully intuitive: human beings are not evolved to be naturally good drivers. Moving at 60 miles per hour is not something that our paleolithic ancestors were ever capable of doing, unless they managed to hop a ride on a cheetah, in which case they probably didn’t last very long anyway.

Vanderbilt suggests that, as drivers, we often fail to see other drivers as “human.” This causes problems.

Rules of decorum break down. Rules of common courtesy and social respect break down. We are simply not able to process information effectively. What’s more, giving people better navigation systems, brakes, and instructions (through signage) doesn’t help. We simply compensate for this improved responsiveness by taking on more risk. This would explain why the advent of things like airbags and antilock brakes did not deter nearly as many accidents or injuries as industry analysts hoped at the outset.

On the other hand, there is a method that seems to work – creating uncertainty!

For instance, Vanderbilt describes the experience of a European town that decided to eliminate many of its posted signs – including stop signs. Drivers on these roads immediately became uncertain about how to interact — where other cars might be coming from, et cetera. As a result, they compensated. They defaulted back to their natural, human processing systems – their eyes and ears. As a result, amazingly, accident rates went down. Drivers began to see each other as “human” and it had a profound effect.

So what are the ultimate policy lessons? It’s hard to say. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that perhaps we need to be less focused on technologies and more focused on mechanisms to improve our “vision” of other drivers out there as human, just like we are.

Collecting compensation for car accidents is never easy – and plaintiffs can be often filled with frustration and overwhelm. A North Carolina auto accident law firm can help you deal successfully with your accident claim, so you can get the financial help and closure you need to move on with your life.

More Web Resources:

Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic

Do stop signs work?

DWI Driver Seriously Hurts Eight People in North Carolina Auto Accident

May 12, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

On April 23, 26-year old Ryan Boyd zipped through a red light at Johnson Street and Skeet Club Road in High Point, NC – all the while DWI, apparently – causing a serious North Carolina car accident that sent 8 people to the hospital.

Fortunately, as of this writing, no one died in the accident. However, 50-year Maria Velasquez – a mini van driver whom Ryan slammed into – remains in critical condition at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Her five children (as well as a friend) got released from the hospital. Boyd himself remains in the hospital, in serious condition, according to news reports.

You might think that a story about a careless 26-year old hurting a bunch of children while driving under the influence and zipping through red lights might cause at least a few people o “perk up.” But in today’s “info-overloaded” atmosphere, important stories are often crowded out by events like Donald Trump’s press conferences and pointless debates among talking heads on cable news.

Furthermore, when people do discuss tragedies (or near tragedies) in the auto accident world, it’s often in the service of self promotion. Injury lawyers and others often glancingly refer to tragic news stories to try to get hits off of Google and ultimately try to nab clients. While it’s fine and good for blogs to self promote, it’s also important not to trivialize the true human tragedies that arise during these events. Which is why, in this North Carolina auto accident blog, we aim to delve beyond the details of the news to get at substantive issues that might be relevant to potential clients and general readers.

To that end… when you’re looking at this case, one thing that stands out is that Mr. Boyd apparently did multiple things wrong at once. Not only did he drive DWI, but he also ran a red light… and who knows what else an investigation might reveal.

As we’ve talked about before, car, truck, bus, motorcycle accidents often are multifactorial – that is, multiple factors “collect” and set the conditions for accidents. It’s not just that a driver is DUI. It’s that he’s DUI…and he speeds…and he blasts through a red light. Understanding the multifactorial nature of accidents is key to getting compensated from them.

For instance, your North Carolina auto accident law firm will no doubt probe the details of what happened in your crash not just to build a better case, but also to look for other potential defendants. For instance, in this case, perhaps Mr. Boyd tried to stop his car, but his brakes failed, and he thus flew through the red light. If that’s true, then the manufacturer of his brakes could be liable. Not likely, at least according to our intuition. But still possible.

The moral: don’t just rely on regurgitated facts or knee jerk judgments when you evaluate the applicability of news stories to your life.

More Web Resources:

Ryan Boyd accident

Accidents are multi-factorial

Could “Black Boxes” Reduce the Number of North Carolina Auto Accidents?

May 10, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

A compelling article in the Los Angeles Times suggests a cool new method for reducing the number and severity of North Carolina auto accidents – by applying a forensic tactic used in aviation accidents.

EDRs, also known as “black boxes,” could be installed in automobiles to help investigators understand the nature of roadway crashes. Tom Kowalick, a North Carolina professor, working with a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, has been pushing overseers to urge manufacturers to install EDRs in their vehicles. All told, EDRs can measure 86 different data streams — these data can help forensic experts and auto engineers immensely in terms of understanding why crashes happen, how to develop better systems, and much more.

As the auto blog www.auto-mobi.info reports: “making comprehensive data collection mandatory… would cost only around $0.50 per vehicle… [but it] has met regular opposition from auto manufacturers and endured slow progress through the federal bureaucracy.” The blog goes on to report that the NHTSA has inadequate regulations – and even if companies want to install black boxes, “only 15 data elements are mandated.” Fortunately, most vehicles out there can be adapted to record data that can provide powerful and compelling evidence.

Indeed, as auto-mobi reports: “NHTSA relied heavily on available EDR data in its investigation of suspected Toyota auto defects” – if you remember, the Toyota accelerator debacle dominated the news about a year ago.

Until we have better records, however, accident victims will need to rely on more traditional methods to get compensated and to sieve out relevant data and facts. A North Carolina auto accident law firm can provide critical assistance, reduce your sense of “overwhelm” and help you maximize your compensation for your injuries, time off work, and pain and suffering.

More Web Resources:

Tom Kowalick

www.auto-mobi.info post on EDRs and cars

A Novel Approach for Reducing North Carolina Auto Accidents

May 4, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

When you read in the news about North Carolina car, truck, motorcycle accidents, your gut reaction is to demand some kind of response from enlightened authorities. “Something must be done!” you think, when you read sad tales about school age girls getting mowed over by careless drivers chatting on their cell phones.

The question is, what must be done? And who must do it? And how do we measure to see whether our policies actually accomplish what we want them to accomplish?

These are all more complicated questions than you might first think. Collecting and analyzing traffic crash data is notoriously complicated, and there are many ways to go wrong. Indeed, it’s possible to enact policy based on seemingly accurate statistical analyses that nevertheless boomerangs to create more problems and additional accidents.

For instance, in a recent post, we suggested that lowering the speed limit to 30 miles per hour might lead to far fewer crashes, but it would also lead to a massive recession in the state which could in turn indirectly lead to health/medical problems.

All that aside, it’s worth considering a variety of potentially unconventional schemes to get North Carolina auto accident rates down. Here is one interesting idea: Isolate drivers who engage in certain dangerous behaviors and punish them far more severely than they are punished now.

For instance, we’ve all had the experience of getting cut off in traffic by a driver who weaves from the far right lane to the far left lane in seconds without using a turn signal – some guy who nearly runs three or four cars off the road at once. If that driver gets pulled over and ticketed, he might get a fine and maybe even points on his license. But he certainly won’t go to jail.

But is that really fair?

If his crazily aggressive behavior had resulted in injuries, then he’d go to jail. But as it stands, he gets away nearly “scot free.” But what if that were to change? What if certain classes of aggressive driving behaviors – perpetrated by recidivist (repeat) offenders — could be walloped with far more aggressive penalties? Would that make a difference? Would it discourage drivers from doing things like weaving across traffic or running through red lights? It’s hard to know. But maybe studies could be designed to shed some light on these issues.

In any event, the general point here is that it might help to broaden our thinking about how to stop accidents.

On a practical note, a North Carolina auto accident law firm can help you with any specific questions you have about how to hold a reckless driver responsible for damages to your property or health.

More Web Resources:

Lower the Speed Limit?

Bad Drivers

3 Unusual Tips to Avoid North Carolina Car Accidents

May 2, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

One of the scary statistics thrown out by reporters who cover the often-tragic news about North Carolina car accidents is the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s estimate that 40,000 Americas die every year in motor vehicle crashes. Millions more get injured, and the threats posed by distracted drivers (yammering on cell phones, et cetera) seem to mount daily.

So, what can you do to protect yourself and your family and reduce your risk not only of getting into accidents, but also of getting hurt?

Here are 3 tips that you may not have thought about before:

1. Give yourself more time to get places.

Think about the converse – giving yourself “not enough” time to make an appointment. When rushed, you will tend to get stressed and engage in slightly riskier behavior – doing things like speeding across an intersection to make a yellow light, going a little faster than you normally would, and maybe acting a little bit more aggressively. When you have plenty of time to get where you need to go, however, you don’t do these things – and you may even pay more attention to your driving. Will this radically decrease your likelihood of getting into a North Carolina car accident? Chances are, not. Maybe, for instance, it reduces your accident risk rate for any one trip by something minuscule like 0.05%. But when you extrapolate that over a lifetime, it can add up to serious “savings” in terms of security.

2. Don’t engage in any distractions – not the radio, not conversations with passengers – focus only on the road.

We think of listening to the radio, talking to passengers, and letting our minds “wander” while we drive as relatively innocuous behaviors. And they very might well be. But we also know that certain kinds of driver distraction – including fatigue, talking on the cell phone, driving while under the influence of drugs/alcohol – are clearly extremely dangerous.

Along the continuum of driver attention/inattention, it’s probably relatively safe to sing along to the radio and chat with the passengers in your car. But it also might be true that there could be some benefit in tuning out ALL distractions. Turn off that radio, stop talking, simply pay as much attention as possible to driving. Now this may seem silly and “overly cautious” – and again, it might be. But maybe you will get some additional safety benefits from being “ultra mindful” about your driving that you wouldn’t ordinarily get. Again, it’s probably like our first example – your safety “benefits” may be extremely minuscule for a single trip – but if you practice this habit over a lifetime, you might shave down your odds of getting into trouble.

3. Minimize the driving you have to do.

This may sound nearly “Anti American” in its sentiment. After all, Americans love the open road, and we love the freedom that motor vehicles provide us. But it’s an odds game. The more driving you do, the more potential you have for getting into trouble. By cutting down on your driving hours – even just a little bit – you will decrease your odds. Think about this basic probability. For instance, your odds of winning a million dollar lottery draw by buying one ticket are very low. But if you purchase hundreds of thousands of tickets, they go significantly up. Clock-in fewer miles, and you will decrease your likelihood of getting into accidents.

If you or someone you care about has unfortunately been in an accident recently, a North Carolina auto accident law firm can help quite a bit. A good legal team can help you get compensation for your injuries, time off, and property damage.

More Web Resources:

How to Drive Less

What ARE Driver Distractions?

 
 

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