April 2011

Tragic North Carolina Car Accident Leaves Five Dead

April 28, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

On April 17, a fatal North Carolina auto accident left five people dead, and officials are still trying to figure out what caused the catastrophic crash and how future, similar accidents might be prevented.

The massive storms and tornadoes that struck North Carolina over the weekend may have played a role. But authorities currently believe that the weather may have had only a minimal impact on the crash. Among the dead are an adolescent boy, a man, a woman and two infants. Forensic investigators believe the accident happened late afternoon in Croatan National Forest. A highway patrol trooper who investigated the scene believed that the speeding contributed to the crash. Tire marks left near the scene of the crash suggest this possibility.

All of the victims had been wearing safety restraints – with the exception of the man. Officials speculate that perhaps he undid his safety restraint to try to rescue (unsuccessfully) the other people. The vehicle flipped and fell into a canal and then sunk. The rains and water “almost completely submerged” the vehicle.

When you read about catastrophic, emotionally gripping North Carolina auto accident stories, like this one, you can’t help wanting to “blame someone” for what went wrong. This is a proper reaction to have. But it’s important to strive to identify the true root cause (or causes) of a crash.

For instance, although it’s hard to tell much from this accident report, many different factors might have been at play. Perhaps the driver had been speeding. Or perhaps his accelerator pedal got stuck due to a defect in the automobile’s engineering. Perhaps another car – long gone from the scene – swerved in the way and caused the vehicle to maneuver and flip off the road. Perhaps the way the road was engineered was problematic – that is, there should have been a warning sign to slow down or to look out for a blind curve. So the defective road engineering, in this case, might have to blame.

All of this is to say, that if you or someone you care about wants maximum compensation from an accident – including medical bills and time off of work – a creditable and experienced North Carolina auto accident law firm should help build a strategy for you. The more strategic your quest for compensation, the easier and more effective your road forward will be.

More Web Resources:

Accident in Croatan National Forest

More on the Tragic Crash

Massive Storms and Tornadoes Cause North Carolina Auto Accidents…and Worse

April 26, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

On Saturday, April 16th, 25 tornadoes touched down in NC, causing North Carolina auto accidents and lots of other mayhem.

The death toll for the storms has been climbing. On April 20th, Fox News reported that the toll had climbed up to 24, after a women died from tornado-related injuries. President Barack Obama declared 18 counties in the state “major disaster areas” on Tuesday, and officials estimate that at least 800 homes got destroyed or severely damaged by the weather. Volunteers in Raleigh and elsewhere have been pouring money, time, and other services into the rehabilitation effort.

And while some tragic, potentially weather related North Carolina car accidents have been reported, it’s likely that most of the crashes and other mayhem have gone under the radar simply because there is so much damage to report about.

Can we learn any general lessons to prevent future damage and/or to speed up the rehabilitation process for those who got hurt or who suffered property damage in this storm?

It’s hard to extrapolate. And that’s perhaps a lesson in and of itself.

When we read about stories, such as tragic auto accidents, plane crashes, product defects, et cetera – it’s natural tendency to want to “prevent something like this from ever happening again.” And, yes, that’s a good sentiment. But it’s easy to “over extrapolate” and put in place measures that can actually have detrimental long-term effects.

For instance, to use an absurd example, we all know speeding contributes to North Carolina auto accidents. So why not lower speed limits to, like, 30 miles per hour everywhere? This would slow all cars, trucks, and other traffic down to a crawl. But it would save many lives — and isn’t that what’s most important? What’s the rush?

Actually, it’s not so simple! If you eliminated speeding, you would precipitate indirect impacts on the state’s economy. For instance, businesses would suffer, meaning that people would earn less money and therefore would not be able to afford high quality healthcare. Thus, there could be an indirect impact on the quality of healthcare… and you would see increased rates of disease. Also, people legitimately in a rush – for instance, a pregnant woman who needs to get to the hospital, or something – might not be able to make to their destinations in time, etc.

The general point here is that mourning tragedies is a humane and compassionate thing to do. But when you make the leap from “mourning” to “prescribing policy” you have to be very, very, very careful to avoid accidentally doing more harm than good.

A North Carolina auto accident law firm can help you unravel your rights as a car accident victim and develop the best strategy to get compensated.

More Web Resources:

Big NC Storm Update

25 Tornadoes

Could the “VIP for a VIP” Program Reduce North Carolina Auto Accidents?

April 20, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

According to WECT, this past week, the North Carolina Highway Patrol has been traveling around to high schools throughout Columbus County in a bid to tamp down on the number of North Carolina auto accidents through its “VIP for a VIP” program.

Dismayed by statistics that suggest that over 276 teens have died in just four years, highway patrol officers want students to appreciate on a visceral level the dangers of driving while distracted. As prom season approaches, troopers, families, and school administrators alike worry about potential drug and alcohol abuse.

Students will be asked to sign something called a “zero tolerance contract” for drugs and alcohol. The VIP for a VIP program (stands for “vehicle injury prevention for a very important person”) includes a disturbing life-like reenactment of a fatal auto accident — students have to watch this. So first they listen to facts and figures about the dangers of inattentive, DUI, and careless driving; then they see the brutal consequences of ignoring safety measures.

The big question is: Will the VIP for a VIP program work?

In theory, it all sounds nice. The idea is simply to train students to be alert to dangers and to “get the message to sink in” using graphic demonstrations of the power of autos to kill and maim.

The utility of such programs, however, can be difficult to measure.

Will North Carolina auto accidents among teens decrease after the rollout of this program? And even if the numbers get better, can you credit the program, or might another factor be responsible? Picking out “cause and effect” in a car accident data can be a fraught business. If you blame the wrong cause, the adjustments you make to policy can have dangerous affects.

Consider the old tale about the drunk searching for his keys under a street light. A police officer comes up to him and asks “Is this where you dropped your keys?” To which the drunk replies, “No, but this is where the light is.” The moral here is: it’s easy to “look where the light is.”

But to prevent accidents, we might do well by expanding our view of possible policy solutions. For instance, instead of just instructing teenagers once about the dangers of DUI and driving while text messaging; perhaps teens should be put through a series of programs – one every few months or so. This way, their visceral understanding of auto accident dangers won’t wane over time. After all, good data suggest that human beings need to re-learn new ideas multiple times. One exposure to scary information about car crashes may not be enough. We may need to show kids the dangers many many times before they deeply get it and change their habits accordingly.

If you or someone you care about has been hurt and needs legal advice, connect with a North Carolina auto accident law firm to go over your rights and figure out strategies to get fair compensation.

More Web Resources:

VIP for a VIP program

North Carolina Highway Patrol

Absolutely Tragic North Carolina Auto Accident Takes Life of Kindergartener

April 18, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Last Saturday, a horrific tragedy struck when a careless motorist crossed the center line and killed a 6-year-old flower girl on her way to a wedding – this heartrending North Carolina auto accident is difficult to describe, and its trauma will echo for a long time.

According to an AP report, 6-year-old Ava Kendall was killed and two bridesmaids were injured “when their car was hit head-on by another vehicle as they drove to a wedding in North Carolina.” Prosecutors are considering charging the driver of the other vehicle, 39-year-old Mupin Wu Cummings. Ava was going to be a flower girl at the wedding of her babysitter. When the bride heard the news of the accident, she fell stricken and collapsed in grief.

The AP story pointedly ends on a note of remembrance for the lost 6-year-old: “the vivacious, red-haired flower girl was remembered for her love of cowboy boots and the color pink.”

What can we learn from this absolute tragic North Carolina car accident? Is there really anything to learn, or is it just another example of the awful and arbitrary nature of tragedy?

Before we dive into the policy, let’s first reflect on how difficult it is to dissociate our emotions about stories like this from our intellectual responses. No one wants the situations like this to occur. We want any possible perpetuators punished – not just including potentially Ms. Cummings, but also possibly the maker or manufacturer of defective parts that might have caused her to swerve across the road or even the municipal agency responsible for engineering the roads such that accidents like this could happen.

But as urgently and as feverishly as we want to take action to stop tragedies like this, we also need to reflect on the dangers of acting hastily or acting without good information. The law of unintended consequences can lead to terrible situations. For instance, as science journalist Gary Taubes reviewed in his 2008 book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, unfounded fears that dietary fat can cause heart disease led the USDA and other governmental health institutions to recommend that Americans replace fat in their diets with sugar, including high-fructose corn syrup. Today, tremendous amounts of research suggest that high-fructose corn syrup and other sugars may cause or contribute to a health ailments, including the obesity and diabetes epidemic (also often referred to sometimes as a same epidemic, the “diabesity” epidemic).

This is an example of the law of unintended consequences. Sometimes, in the attempt to right a terrible wrong, we can make policy decisions that end up back firing.

The general moral here is that we must take time to reflect upon the profound tragedy of situations like this kindergartener’s death. But we also must be vigorous in demanding policy solutions that truly respond to the problems that we have — and that rely on good data and testing to ensure that they best suit the public’s needs.

Have you been hurt in a car crash? Connect with a North Carolina Car Accident Law Firm today. More Web Resources:

Ava Kendall tragedy
Law of Unintended Consequences

Another Near Terrifying North Carolina Auto Accident – A Tractor-Trailer Blasts through Guardrail and Smashes a Car

April 14, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

While most of the internet this week has been lighting up with stories about the 2×4 North Carolina car accident (this blog covered that story in a separate post), another tremendously scary crash occurred Wednesday morning in Forsyth County on Highway 52.

A tractor-trailer going northbound flew through a guardrail and collided with a Honda Civic zipping the opposite direction. Police reported that the tractor-trailer crash occurred around the Bethania Rural Hall exit at around 9 in the morning. Amazingly, no injuries were reported from the wreck: a crash that brutal — involving a truck and a car slamming head-to-head on the freeway — could easily lead to multiple fatalities. By noon, the North Carolina Department of Transportation had reopened Highway 52 to traffic.

This week, most bloggers, reporters, and other people who follow North Carolina car accident news spilled a lot of ink analyzing Wendy Cobb’s “scariest car cash ever” as well as fatal auto accidents in Asheville, Rockingham, Jasper, and Pickerington.

Obviously, all fatal crashes are terrible tragedies; they deserve to be reported on. But it’s as important to talk about non-fatal crashes as it is to discuss the tragedies. Many events in this tractor-trailer crash “went wrong” but, amazingly, no one got injured. Safety systems worked to preserve human life. Accident experts must study both failures and successes to improve engineering. Otherwise, if you only look at what goes wrong, you might accidently engineer out features that improve overall safety.

A North Carolina car accident law firm can help you understand the root causes of a car crash. Competent and experienced attorneys can also pinpoint how best to seek compensation for your damages, wages lost, and other costs and build a strategic blueprint to maximize the speed and effectiveness of your quest for compensation.

More Web Resources:

Tractor-trailer crash at Bethania Rural Hall exit

Wendy Cobb 2×4 crash video

Horrifying Video of Near-Fatal North Carolina Car Accident Becomes YouTube Super Hit

April 11, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

A North Carolina car accident became a national phenomenon this week – racking up over half a million hits on YouTube… and that was before the driver involved in the crash, Wendy Cobb, appeared on Today with Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer.

Wendy Cobb had been cruising on the highway in Cleveland County, going approximately 45 miles per hour, when a nearby truck drove over a 2×4 lying in the road, sending the board rocketing towards her car. The 2×4 pierced the windshield, nearly killing Cobb, who just happened to be recording traffic on her cell phone.

After the ordeal, Cobb’s son suggested that his mom post the footage of her North Carolina car accident on YouTube. He thought maybe it would reach 1,000 hits. Thanks to a hat tip from Jalopnik, an auto blogger, however, the story gained heat quickly and drove the YouTube video viral. Cobb had been filming because she believed that the trucks ahead of her were “holding up traffic” — she wanted video evidence of their misbehavior.

Reaction from the blogosphere has not been all wine and roses for Cobb. Many commentators pointed out that Cobb was asking for trouble by driving so close to the trucks. Likewise, videotaping while driving is never recommended. Fortunately, Cobb escaped her accident unscathed. But many other North Carolina drivers are not so lucky. This blog often reports some truly terrible tragedies along those lines.

The story over Cobb’s epic 2×4 accident raises interesting, almost philosophical, questions about accident law and about its capacity to protect our families from harm on the roads. No matter how safely we drive, factors out of our control can emerge seemingly out of nowhere.

It’s nearly impossible to predict when and where you might encounter debris on highways – such as hubcaps, mattresses, trash, and stray 2x4s. And if you do get injured by debris, it can be very difficult to identify the culprit and bring him or her (or a company) to justice. For instance, in Cobb’s case, perhaps a local construction worker forgot to tether his 2x4s to his truck. So one slipped off and landed on the highway. A good forensic specialist might, in some situations, be able to trace the board back to the negligent driver. But linking that negligence with injuries associated with a 2×4 accident would be very hard.

The broader point here is that, if you or someone you care about has been injured or has suffered property damage, a North Carolina car accident law firm can help you unpack your legal options to collect compensation and to hold various parties accountable.

More Web Resources:

Cobb’s accident — shocking YouTube video

Wendy Cobb appears on Today with Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer

North Carolina Car Accident Disaster: Teen Driver’s Texting Leads To High School Tragedy

April 6, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Two weeks ago, a horrific North Carolina car accident struck Columbus County, NC – 16-year-old Taylor Clark was arrested in connection to the death of her classmate, 17-year-old Seth Beaver. The text messaging related accident happened at the intersection of Fertilizer Plant Road and Old Highway 87. According to a WECT report, “troopers say Clark was charged with misdemeanor of death by motor vehicle, failing to yield, and texting while driving. Texting while driving became illegal in North Carolina at December 1, 2009. The law says the vehicle must be in park before you send a text message.”

Studies overseen by Virginia Tech, the University of Utah, and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration all pretty conclusively show that driving while text messaging greatly increases the likelihood of your getting into a serious if not fatal accident. Indeed, some studies suggest that driving while texting can be even more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol and narcotics… believe it or not.

The scientific literature provides powerful suggestive evidence that “driver distraction” increases the likelihood of accidents. These dangerous distractions can include rubbernecking, listening to the radio, chatting on the cell phone (even on a handsfree headset!), fatigue, and even eating and drinking while driving.

That said, while distracted driving (texting in particular) is clearly a problem, what’s the appropriate policy remedy? How can we prevent tragedies like the one that befell Seth Beaver from tearing apart communities like Columbus County?

We need probing and objective analyses to understand our options.

In the face of all the evidence damning texting-while-driving, many states – including North Carolina – have adopted out and out bans of text messaging while driving. This policy prescription obviously makes good sense on surface. The reasoning is: if text messaging increases risk, then just ban text messaging, and you will reduce risk.

But studies last year revealed that this policy may not be delivering results. What’s going wrong? Perhaps people are just flouting the law. Or maybe the policy prescription (amazingly!) is not appropriate.

Perhaps a better solution might be a campaign to make the dangers of texting while driving more salient and emotionally “real” to drivers. For instance, what if young drivers in order to renew their licenses had to watch films about the dangers of texting while driving? This could alter the “culture” of texting while driving among teens — and it is this cultural behavior that likely contributes to a variety of North Carolina car accident injuries.

If you got hurt or injured in a motor vehicle crash recently, a North Carolina car accident law firm can provide critical advice to help you get compensation and to hold liable parties accountable.

More Web Resources:

Taylor Clark Seth Beaver crash

North Carolina’s ban on texting while driving

NC House Debates Radical Measure to Limit North Carolina Car Accidents

April 5, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

In 2008, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute released a study that the nearly gave North Carolina car accident experts whiplash: VTTI found that four out of every five crashes involves driver inattention – and about two-thirds of near crashes also involve inattention. Cell phone use contributes hugely to dangerous inattention, according to the VTTI analysts.

Based on this study and other findings, in 2009, North Carolina made it illegal to text message while driving. A House Commerce Committee spent Wednesday debating an even more draconian measure. According to a March 24th story from the AP, the new measure “would make using a cell phone while driving illegal unless the motorist can talk handsfree… fines would be $100 or more, but wouldn’t lead to driver’s license points that could result in higher insurance premiums.”

Representative Garland Pierce, a Democrat from Scotland who championed the 2009 texting while driving ban, argued passionately for the measure: “we’ve got to send a message… it’s about highway safety – your family and my family – getting home safe at night.”

Not all legislators agreed. For instance, Craig Horn, a Republican from Union, voiced concerns about government overreach: “To me holding a hot cup of coffee is a whole lot more distracting because if that thing spills, we are all going to be hurting.”

But Pierce found support from House Speaker, Thom Tillis, a Republican from Mecklenburg, who said: “there is a compelling amount of statistical data that says distracted driving is causing accidents in the state… it’s increasing insurance rates and it’s having other negative outcomes.”

Media figures and auto safety experts who follow North Carolina car accident news believe that the legislature will take additional actions to control the use of cell phones while driving. Even though legislators like Horn may currently be less than convinced that cell phones are a major problem, the zeitgeist seems to be shifting towards regulating cell phone use.

It’s certainly good to be skeptical about how and whether policy solutions like the one proposed will work. But it’s also important to remember that inaction is its own form of “action.”

The ultimate key isn’t proving that legislation is theoretically right or wrong; it’s being able to react adeptly and flexibly to on-the-ground data. Whatever reforms the legislature institutes, it would be nice to see the state report its progress. Clean, scientifically accurate data can help us understand how various policy remedies do or do not change accident rates.

Stepping back from the policy debate for a second… if someone you care about has been hurt in an auto crash involving cell phones, a North Carolina auto accident law firm can give you resources, strategic help and compassionate service to collect benefits and repair your life quickly.

More Web Resources:

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute cell phone study

Debate over new NC cell phone and driving measure