September 2011

Visualizing Auto Safety: A Powerful Way to Avoid North Carolina Car Accidents

September 28, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Ever since scientists in the 1950s discovered that the brain has something called a reticular activating system (RAS) that trains our focus, countless gurus, productivity experts, safety technicians, and teachers have focused on the power of visualization.

This blog post will explore a cool and possibly unique approach to avoiding North Carolina automobile accidents. It’s based on the concept that focusing and visualization can lead to success in various enterprises.

If you accept the basic premise that what you focus on becomes your reality, it might behoove you to spend a small but non-negligible fraction of your day focusing on becoming a better, safer driver.

This may seem like overkill. You already know how to drive, right? If you recently got into a North Carolina car accident, chances are, it was the other driver’s fault – or the fault of a malfunctioning part, bad road engineering, etc. This may all be true. You may be right. You may be the world’s greatest driver, the world’s greatest gift to driving. But you may nevertheless benefit from visualizing yourself as an even better, safer driver.

Just look at the math. Auto accidents are one of the leading causes of accidental death in North Carolina and in the rest of the United States. Around 40,000 people lose their lives every year on American roads, and millions more are injured, some severely. Even if a regular visualization exercise only reduced your risk of being in a fatal or serious car accident by five percent over the course of your life, that’s still a pretty significant benefit.

Of course, there are no consistent, controlled studies to demonstrate the efficacy of “safe driving visualization,” so an endeavor like this may or may not work. But it is at least something that policy analysts and safety experts might want to consider.

Imagine Yourself as the Driver You Want to Be

Assume a “best-case scenario” optimistic vantage. In an ideal world, what kind of driving would you do, how would you do it, and what safety measures would you implement? Don’t think about money, time, logistics, or other constraints. Just imagine your “driving life” from a best-case scenario perspective. You can flesh this out at your leisure, but start to find concrete, emotionally resonant goals, such as:

• You drive half as much as you do right now, on average;
• You have the safest car out there, with all the latest bells and whistles, like ABS, airbags galore, etc.;
• You only drive during safe hours and avoid driving during the most dangerous times, such as Friday and Saturday nights and holidays like New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday;
• You take “refresher” drivers education courses once every five years to solidify your knowledge and skills.

Once you identify your goals, reflect on them during meditation or during your morning and evening routines. Ideally, write down your goals on paper so you can reinforce them repeatedly.

For help with a specific accident question, connect with a North Carolina auto accident law firm.

More web resources:

Visualization and goal setting – how to get started

How to drive less

Protecting Children from North Carolina Car, Truck and Motorcycle Accidents

September 26, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Your children are your lifeblood. You’ve bent over backward to nurse them, educate them, and protect them from the scary and dangerous aspects of the world. You would like even more help on the “preventing North Carolina car accidents” front.

Below, we’ve compiled some battle tips to help you and your family engage in practices that protect your precious little ones from North Carolina car, truck, motorcycle accidents.

• Rear-facing Car Seats

Most parents know that children under the age of two should be placed in rear-facing car seats. But what happens after age two? Does it make a difference whether the car seat is rear-facing or front-facing? The current scientific consensus suggests: if possible, keep your child facing rear, even after age two. Indeed, some safety experts believe that almost all passengers – including adults! – would be safer facing rear. Obviously, this does not include drivers.

• Limit Driving

How far away is your day care or school? Is it 10 minutes away, 20 minutes away, further? The more miles you drive with your children, the greater the chance that you will get into an accident. It’s simple statistics. Obviously, you don’t want to make yourself nuts. We live in a practical world, and you need to make some tradeoffs. If you don’t drive anywhere with your child, how will he or she attend school, go to practices, etc.? But if you spend some time analyzing what you can do to spend fewer hours behind the wheel with your child, you’re going to benefit. Even if you only shave off 2,400 miles a year – roughly 50 miles a week – that’s 2,400 miles fewer per year that you are at risk for injuries and accidents.

• Minimize “Behind the Wheel” Distractions

Most conscientious parents know not to talk or text on the cell phone with or without a child in the car. But children themselves are self-perpetuating distractions. You can’t help that. But you can do things like keep idle chatter to a minimum, hammer home the message that when you are behind the wheel you need to concentrate, and prohibit children from watching movies or playing noisy video games unless they wear earphones (so you don’t get distracted by the stories or sounds). Don’t be afraid to be strict here – distracted driving is a real and tangible killer.

• Teach Your Children Good Safety Habits from an Early Age.

Again, this probably goes without saying. But you’d be surprised at how many parents don’t actually train their kids effectively for walking in parking lots (always hold mommy’s hand!), crossing the street (always look both ways before crossing!), and so on.

• Avoid Driving When You are Fatigued, Angry, Overwhelmed, on Medications, etc.

Only drive if and when you feel you are in shape to do so – even if that means cancelling a play date, skipping a practice, or keeping your child home from school. Don’t be foolish, and don’t take unnecessary risks.

For help with specific questions regarding an incident or accident, connect with a powerful, competent North Carolina car accident law firm.

More web resources:

More information on the front-facing versus rear-facing car seat dilemma

Safe driving tips for parents

What Really Caused Your North Carolina Car Accident?

September 22, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

You or a family member recently got into a car accident in North Carolina. Whether it was a devastating crash that resulted in serious injuries or even fatalities, or it was just a bit more than a simple fender-bender, your mind has been furiously “reconstructing” what happened and trying to figure out what went wrong and who should be to blame.

Obsessive fretting after the fact is normal for North Carolina car accident survivors – and for victims of any traumatic circumstances. The brain does not like uncertainty and incomplete pictures. It strives to fill in the details, even if those details are inaccessible, poorly rendered, or based on lapsed or biased judgments.

This can be a big problem because the law likes to deal with absolutes and objective facts – so-called “evidence.”

If you believe that your accident happened because of XYZ, and XYZ turns out to be colored by your imagination, biases, personal speculation, or bad evidence – even partially so –the defense could highlight your logical errors or lapses in judgment. Your case could suffer, and you could wind up being unable to collect much-needed compensation for your medical bills, lost work time, damage to your vehicle, and so on.

For instance, if you recall seeing a blue Honda Civic drive away after a hit and run, and the defendant actually owns an orange Honda Civic, your lapsed or “colored” memory gives an otherwise clearly guilty suspect room for legal maneuvers.

Victims misremember not only small details about their accident but also big details – such as who cut off whom, how much time the accident took, what the weather conditions were, and on and on.

Also, our lapses and misremembrances tend to get more colorful and blurry as time goes on.

For all those reasons and more, you should connect with an experienced North Carolina car accident law firm immediately to get assistance with building your case and making it as bulletproof as possible.

More web resources:

Accident victim’s memory problems

How the brain colors past events

Repetitive Learning: A Hidden Key to Reducing North Carolina Car Accidents?

September 20, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

This blog intentionally focus a lot on the problem of how to curtail North Carolina car, motorcycle, and truck accidents. If we can collectively find ways to make these crashes less common – and less lethal – we could save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce all sorts of indirect costs and stresses on the state’s infrastructure, insurance companies, and, most importantly, the families of North Carolina.

But how do we do so? What measures can be implemented to reduce accident rates? What decisions could we make as conscientious drivers to protect ourselves and others on the road?

One subtle but perhaps extremely useful solution is repetitive learning.

To qualify for a driver’s license in the current system, you typically need to take a drivers education course, pass a test, and go through a few other logistical and legal hurdles. But once you have your license, unless you do something wrong or become very elderly, it can be years if not decades between reinforcing your education.

In some sense, that’s crazy.

First of all, new evidence is constantly emerging that, if properly incorporated into a North Carolina Drivers Education curriculum, could help drivers behave more safely.

Second, the human brain learns best by repetition. This is true of little children, who famously retain more information from watching the same episode of “Blues Clues” five days a week than from watching different episodes of “Sesame Street” five days a week. (You’d think that kids who watched different episodes would retain more information, but the evidence suggests the opposite.)

This is true for adults, as well. Think back to the last time you really, really, really wanted to learn something. You likely didn’t read over whatever you needed to know once and then forget about it. You likely spent some time, studying, restudying, testing, and retesting yourself. If there is something we really want to get done in our lives, we persevere. We constantly bring it up in our thoughts, conversations, journals, and so forth.

Well, don’t we all want to clamp down on North Carolina car accident rates?

If so, doesn’t it make sense for us to engage in Drivers Ed more than once in every 20 blue moons?

Sure, instituting more regular Drivers Ed tests and courses could be costly and possibly annoying. We all have lives to live, and few of us want yet another bureaucratic encumbrance. But wouldn’t the benefits of incentivizing more frequent Drivers Ed relearning and retesting far outweigh the costs of a minor annoyance every five years or so?

The moral here is that creative solutions abound, but we need to open our minds to seemingly outlandish suggestions (e.g., let’s all take Drivers Ed again… and again… and again…) if we want to see substantial progress on the safety front.

For help with specific legal questions, connect with a North Carolina car accident law firm.

More web resources:

Blues Clues versus Sesame Street

Repetition is key to human learning

Clean up Your Dirty Car to Prevent North Carolina Car Accidents

September 15, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Gross, slimy, trash-filled automobiles are North Carolina auto accident hazards.

We all intuitively know and admit this. But how many of us keep our vehicles clean and ready for road action? Look at your car right now. Is it dirty? Is it filled with old toys, gum, candy, food, papers, clothes, etc.?

Dirty cars contribute to accidents in more than just the obvious ways. Here are some reasons why a filthy automobile can get you into trouble on NC roads.

• If your windshield, rearview mirror, side-view mirror, or back windows are full of dirt, gunk, bird poop, insect remnants, and other nastiness, you will have more difficulty seeing traffic, merging, engaging in emergency maneuvers, and so on;

• Do you have kids’ toys rolling around your vehicle? Imagine what might happen if one of those toys rolls under your brake or accelerator pedal while you are on the highway;

• Driving in a really smelly, “close” car can cause concentration problems. If you are riding around with open paint cans or other garbage that aerosolizes fatigue-inducing compounds, inhaling this gunk can weaken your concentration and even cause you to black out behind the wheel;

• “Broken windows syndrome” effects. Sociology studies show that people are far more likely to “misbehave” in public – do things like littering, etc. – if their immediate environment is gross. For instance, if you are walking in a stadium where there’s litter all over the place, you will probably think nothing of adding to the litter by dropping trash on the floor. If your car is gross, filthy and overrun with garbage, you may be more likely to conceptualize yourself as someone who doesn’t take good care of your stuff, and that could subconsciously influence your ability to make safe decisions while on the road.

Of course, although prevention should be the cornerstone to reducing North Carolina car accidents, nothing you can do will provide absolute protection against disaster. Fortunately, you can tap into resources, like a reputable North Carolina car accident law firm, to make sense of your needs and responsibilities and begin to rebuild your life.

More web resources:

Broken windows theory.

Dirty cars equals dangerous cars.

Annoying Drivers Who Probably Cause More North Carolina Car Accidents than We Realize

September 12, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Statistical analyses of North Carolina car accidents probably don’t paint the best picture.

Sure, institutions like the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) aggregate accident reports and statistics to give us clear directions about things to do (buckle our seatbelts, e.g.) and things to avoid (drive under the influence, text while merging onto a busy road, e.g.). But our intuition tells us that the picture should be far more complex. In other words, some factors that cause or contribute to North Carolina car accidents are probably not caught by the “dragnet” of statistical analyses – these elusive factors are important but cannot be pinpointed by research.

Here is an analogy. In physics, only about four percent of all the matter in the observable universe is baryonic matter – the stuff that makes up the stars and us. The rest of the matter/energy is contained in stuff that we can’t perceive, even with our most adept scientific tools: dark energy and dark matter.

And, in much the same way, probably the deepest, most important causes of North Carolina car accidents are “below the surface.”

Perhaps one of the most important of these factors is jerky drivers. Not jerky as in “herky jerky” but rather jerky as in “boy, that driver was a total jerk!” jerky.

Jerky drivers are different from careless, negligent, reckless drivers. A reckless driver may zoom through a red light, cut you off in traffic, or tailgate you to the point that you feel a self-destructive urge to slam on your brakes to just send a message. (Obviously, don’t do that.)

Here are some examples of what “jerky” drivers do.

• Change lanes without using turn signals;

• Play thumpity thumpity thump music loud enough and with enough bass to shake their car as well as your car and several cars around you;

• Allow their cars to degrade until they are dilapidated, so you get the feeling the windows and doors may fall off the car at literally any moment;

• Generally act aggressively without breaking any laws or venturing over into negligence/careless territory;

• Do annoying things, such as flash their lights at you or flash hand signals at you as a way of conveying frustration or anger;

• Beep at you and other people without due cause.

Comedian Louis C.K. has a wonderful bit about the perils of jerky drivers. In the bit, Louis talks about a traffic jam he was in, where cars were backed up for like a mile. The driver behind him honked specifically at Louis (as if the jam was his fault) and yelled, “Move!” The driver got so mad at Louis that he got out of his car, walked up to Louis’s car, banged on the window, and demanded that Louis move. To move would have required Louis to perform a miracle of Moses-like proportions, splitting the traffic so he could drive forward.

Although Louis’ nemesis technically didn’t do anything illegal, he acted in a jerky way, transforming an already stressful situation (traffic jam!) into something much worse and possibly more dangerous.

For help with a specific auto accident problem, connect with an experienced North Carolina car accident law firm.

More web resources:

Funny Louis C.K. YouTube clip

Catalog of other “jerky” drivers

Theories for Solving North Carolina Car Accidents – The “Just So Story” Problem

September 8, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Policymakers, pundits, and others concerned with the tragic problem of North Carolina car accidents are desperate for solutions. We all want to decrease the number of people killed and injured on North Carolina roads. We want to make vehicles safer. We want to engineer roads that will be easier to use, and we want to make driving conditions more “humanistic” – to borrow philosophy from Tom Vanderbilt (author of the opus Traffic).

So, in many senses, we are all on the same team.

Where legislators, pundits, analysts, and others in the North Carolina car accident community disagree is on the tactical/strategic level.

We all have pet theories about what causes car accidents and what you can do to prevent them or at least make them less lethal. Some popular theories address driver distraction: you can be lethally distracted by literally dozens of things, from pure fatigue to the radio to drugs or alcohol. The list goes on. Other theories focus on road design. Still other theories discuss car safety engineering. And yet others ruminate over how engineers can adapt safety mechanisms to coordinate with the “caveman-like” brains of the typical North Carolina drivers. (This is not an insult – we evolved in Paleolithic times to deal with Paleolithic conditions – chasing woolly mammoth and the like, not driving 200 miles per hour in a Ferrari.)

It’s crucial that we, as a community, parse out these various theories, compare them, discuss which strategies work and which don’t, assess them using the best science available, educate the public, and constantly refine and think about various accident prevention paradigms.

Having said all that, we must be mindful of our human tendency to create “just so stories” to support our philosophies about car accident prevention.

Once you become set on a certain way of thinking about car accident prevention, you will tend to see all the data and evidence in terms of that paradigm. If you think distracted driving is the main problem, for instance, you will suddenly be focused on all the science that supports the distracted driving paradigm, and you will ignore work produced by people who favor other hypotheses that focus on road design or on treating other drivers humanely.

In a subsequent post we will probe how to get beyond this “just so story” problem and make real progress toward solving the pernicious problem of auto accidents and injuries and deaths on our state’s roads.

On a more pragmatic and actionable note, if someone you care about has been hurt in a crash, it’s in your interest to connect with the North Carolina car accident law firm to discuss your needs and possible recourse.

More Web Resources:

Tom Vanderbilt’s blog

just so stories

Beyond “Just So Story” Theories: A Unified Solution to End (or Reduce) North Carolina Car Accidents

September 5, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

The “just so story” problem affects scientists and thinkers across all domains – not just people who focus on North Carolina car accident prevention.

As we discussed in a previous post, the “just so story” problem is a fundamentally human one. When we get an idea in our minds about how to solve a problem or how to look at the world – what Thomas Kuhn might describe as a “paradigm” – we tend to see all new evidence and data through that paradigm. This can be useful if the paradigm is correct or close to correct. But it can be dangerous if your perspective is warped or if the data simply doesn’t agree. And it can be particularly dangerous in that bad ways of framing problems like North Carolina car accident prevention can persist even in the face of what should be (objectively speaking) compelling refutations.

For instance, say you believe that seat belts are irrelevant to car accident injury prevention. Most people don’t believe this. Decades ago, this was actually conventional wisdom. Seat belts were seen as an extravagance or possibly even a danger. And because you are still locked into the “seat belts are irrelevant” paradigm, your tendency might be to completely ignore studies, anecdotal evidence, etc., that showcase the power of seat belts to save lives.

Dangerous stuff.

So, how do we get around this “just so story” problem?

Step 1 is to be humble. We all have a tendency to oversimplify because that’s just human nature.

Step 2 is to go for quantity of analysis. In other words, the accident prevention community should seek to compile all the theories that just might be relevant, irrelevant, or interweaving before rendering judgments.

Step 3 is to use rigorous science to analyze and test different ways of framing the problem. Science is all about refuting what you think you know. So, if you think that seat belts are irrelevant, science can help you figure out whether that idea is preposterous. For instance, if carefully controlled studies show that people who wear seat belts survive accidents better and with fewer injuries, that data could be a refutation of the “seat belts are irrelevant” idea.

Finally, we can’t live and drive in a vacuum. We need to make decisions.

If someone you know or care about was hurt in an accident, you might need immediate help. A North Carolina car accident law firm can give you the guidance, advice, and resources you need to get your life back on track, make sure that wrongdoers are held responsible, and get you just compensation for your injuries and property damage.

More Web Resources:

Thomas Kuhn

“seat belts are irrelevant” paradigm