March 2012

Are Automobile Fumes More Deadly Than North Carolina Auto Accidents Themselves?

March 30, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Auto accidents in North Carolina and elsewhere in our union take the lives of 40,000 million a year, injure millions more, and lead to untold indirect costs for the victims, their family members, their coworkers and associates, and society as a whole.
But what if automobiles are even more deadly as instruments of pollution than they are as instruments of destruction?

This may sound far-fetched. After all, 40,000 deaths a year is an enormous amount. But it is at least possible, given some science and suggestive research, to build a case that the pollution exuded by cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other transportation vehicles causes or contributes to thousands of deaths in the U.S. every year – perhaps more.

Witness, for instance, pretty scary epidemiological evidence that shows that people who live within a mile or so of Los Angeles’ notoriously congested freeways (like the 405) are substantially at greater risk for diseases like heart disease, asthma, and other respiratory problems. Now, not every person who inhales the pollution from the 405 is going to get heart disease and die from it. But the quality of life certainly might be affected. That person might have less energy. That person might be less able to think effectively and deal with emergency situations. So if the pollution itself directly kills, say, a few hundred people in the Los Angeles area alone annually (making those numbers up), maybe the indirect effect of the pollution could wreak yet more havoc.

Imagine, for instance, a person who lives in an apartment that’s abutting the freeway – who inhales massive amounts of particulate matter and toxins every day – and thus suffers deterioration in cognitive capacity. It’s easy to imagine that that person would get hurt at work easier or more easily lose his balance and slipping and suffer a terrible slip and fall. If you extrapolate and really think about the indirect consequences of our exposure to pollution – particularly in major cities like Los Angeles and goodly sized cities like Raleigh – perhaps our safety experts should be focused not just on car accident prevention in North Carolina but also on car pollution prevention.

Whether or not you agree with this thesis, hopefully you are getting to appreciate the holistic nature of auto accident science. As a victim – or a family member of a victim – in a recent car crash, you probably have a very specific way you’ve been thinking about the accident. You “know” who might be to blame, what kind of compensation you deserve and so forth. But to get best results, you need to look at your problems from different angles and get advice from objective, qualified resources, like a North Carolina auto accident law firm.

More Web Resources:

Air Pollution in Los Angeles near the 405

How bad is our automobile pollution problem?

Should We Wear Helmets While We Drive? and Other Intriguing North Carolina Car Accident Prevention Questions

March 25, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

The North Carolina car accident prevention experts may be a little too boxed in and wanting for creativity. We typically think about auto safety prevention only in terms of the conventional wisdom about it – that people need to wear seatbelts more often, that drivers need to drive slower, that drivers need to stop text messaging and driving DUI, that roads need to be better built, that car parts need to be more durable and regularly inspected, etc.

There is nothing wrong with these conventional ideas about auto safety – provided that we subject them to rigorous scientific tests and make rational actions based on the data that we collect. But it’s very easy in the world of science and auto accident prevention to make logical errors that can redound to lead to more injuries/deaths… as well as lot of wasted time and opportunity. For instance, as intrepid researcher Tom Vanderbilt argued in his book, Traffic, the wide adoption of air bags should have led to a significant across the board decrease in injuries. But it didn’t. Vanderbilt theorizes that drivers who bought safer cars took extra liberties – drove a little bit faster, followed other cars a little more closely – because they felt safer. This slightly more reckless driving offset the safety related improvements.

The moral is: We need to be very, very careful when it comes to how we think about North Carolina car accident prevention. Along those lines, it certainly wouldn’t hurt us to theorize about “out of the box” solutions for car accident safety, such as:

•    Why not mandate that automobile drivers and passengers alike wear helmets for extra protection against head injury?
•    Why not publicly humiliate randomly selected “jerk drivers” to dissuade other would-be “jerks” out there from doings things like weaving across four lanes of traffic in one turn without even using a turn signal?
•    Why not conduct rigorous experiments to test which highway speed limits lead to the least fatalities and most driver satisfaction?
•    Why not experiment with an education campaign to encourage drivers to eliminate not just some distractions (e.g. cell phone conversations) but all distractions in the vehicle — such as conversations, listening to the radio, etc – to see whether a completely “distraction free” environment would enhance safety and driver focus?

These are obviously just speculative strategies. But it is important to think outside of the normal conventional ways of thinking about auto safety, if we want to really make major progress in reducing the terrifying numbers, such as the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration statistic that 40,000 Americans die every year in auto crashes.
For help dealing with a specific accident, connect with North Carolina car crash law firm today.

More Web Resources:

Summary of Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic

Out of the Box Safety Ideas

Auto Accident in North Carolina – Firefighter Swiped by Car

March 19, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

An auto accident in North Carolina on Highway 52 (in King, NC) shook up the King Fire Department and sent Lieutenant Les Collins to Wake Forest Baptist Hospital with significant injuries. According to news reports, 59-year-old William Blythe drove into a coned off area and smashed into a fire department car before hitting the volunteer firefighter. The impact was so hard that it threw Collins 100 feet. Amazingly, he was not killed by the impact – news reports said he was listed at stable condition at the hospital.

Blythe was arrested and charged with reckless and careless driving. Interestingly, Blythe was only travelling at 30 miles per hour when he hit the firefighter. Thirty miles per hour may not seem like a lot. But it was clearly enough force to send the man flying 100 feet – a third the length of a football field.

Can we learn any lessons from this scary accident?

Lesson #1: Drivers can EASILY get confused and behave recklessly or carelessly. Even though the firefighters put up traffic cones and engaged other precautions “by the book,” the risk preparation was not enough to protect them from Blythe’s erratic driving.

As this blog explored in a series of posts on “caveman driving,” the reality is that human beings did not evolve to travel at speeds of 30 miles per hour and above. Back in our hunter-gatherer days, maybe we reached 20 miles per hour during a dead sprint chasing after game. But we certainly did not command vehicles weighing several tons; and we did not drive those vehicles at speeds of 30, 40, 50, and 80 miles per hour.

Our society does a pretty good job inculturating drivers – teaching them the rules of the road, getting them to behave safely, etc. – but these rules can break down in an untold number of ways. The consequences can be tragic – physical injuries, emotional trauma, and long-term financial/logistical hassles often result. From a certain perspective, it’s kind of amazing that we can drive the way we drive. We’ve engineered our roads and cars exquisitely well to protect ourselves from our own evolutionarily wired failings.

That said, when the system breaks down, injured victims need help. If you or someone you care about was recently hurt in a North Carolina truck, car, or bicycle accident, you may benefit significantly from talking with an auto accident law firm in North Carolina.

More Web Resources:

Triad firefighter hit by car at accident scene

Putting car speeds into context

The Ethics of Reporting on North Carolina Car Accidents

March 16, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

It happens every day: North Carolina car accidents occur. Reporters, bloggers, lawyers, and others weigh in about what they think happened and what they think “ought to be done” to fix the situation, compensate those hurt, and prevent similar crises from recurring.

Sure, it’s important to have a flourishing, open conversation about car accident safety and prevention. If we did not share information, exchange opinions, test theories against one another, etc., we would be doomed to repeat past mistakes.

On the other hand, there comes a point at which reporting about auto accidents in North Carolina becomes exploitive. What’s the value of the reporting? Is it simply to serve advertisers or to market a message? If so, that can be ethically dubious. On the other hand, if you are trying to provide a valuable message to people – extract lessons from the accident, draw meaning from it, reference it in a compassionate and mindful way – then said reporting can be powerful and helpful. Here are types of value that we can extract from examining North Carolina auto accident news stories:

•    Lessons in “what not to do”: The more that we reflect on bad habits and behaviors – driving DUI, driving recklessly, driving with a poorly maintained car, etc. – the more conscious we and our readers will be of our own driving weaknesses, and the more likely we will be to eliminate them or at least mitigate them.

•    Lessons for the greater good: An accident can highlight problematic systems and processes. For instance, if a reporter notices that one intersection in North Carolina tends to be a magnet for accidents, then by noting this coincidence and alerting the appropriate authorities, we might be able to reengineer the road to make it safer.

•    Lessons for what to do after an accident: In so many cases, victims of accidents panic after the event, which negatively impacts their ability to collect compensation, hold people to justice, and position themselves to feel better, long term, about their case. For instance, a victim might leave the scene of an accident without getting a police report or fail to document potentially helpful witness statements. By drawing attention to what victims could have done better to help themselves, reporting can serve a good purpose.

More Web Resources:

The ethics of reporting on accidents

Crowdsourcing North Carolina Truck Accident Prevention?

March 15, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Truck accidents in North Carolina have society wide consequences.

If a big rig flips over on 95 Northbound, for instance, the crash could cause fatalities and injuries and choke off traffic for hours. Truck accidents put pressure on insurance companies, devastate lives, and lead to regulations that have the potential to disrupt commerce. In other words, it’s in everyone’s interest to reduce these accidents and minimize the property damage and injuries caused by them. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all contribute to this safety effort?

Is crowdsourcing the answer to the North Carolina truck accident prevention dilemma?

“Crowdsourcing” refers to using large groups of people to solve complex problems. People use crowdsourcing to unravel mathematical mysteries, beat complicated video games, play grandmaster level chess, and even solve political and economic problems.

Crowdsourcing, when correctly positioned and deployed, can be such an effective tool. So why don’t we use this concept to beef up our truck accident prevention measures?

A Recipe for Success

To effectively deploy any kind of accident prevention solution – crowdsourced or otherwise – we need to start by thinking about the purpose. WHY might we want to reduce truck accidents and/or limit the damage that these accidents cause? The likely answer is that these accidents exact an unacceptable toll on us – they disrupt and destroy the lives of our fellow citizens.

The next step is to identify the underlying principles that should govern the crowdsourcing venture. For instance, we may have cost constraints or time constraints that we want to focus on. Or we may want to start with a small accident-prevention crowdsourcing project first. Or we may want to do some research to find out “what works” on a practical level before applying it broadly.

Once we’ve figured out the purpose and principles of the project, we can begin to think about “best case scenario” outcomes for it. If the crowdsourcing accident prevention really succeeded, what would that look like? What systems, structures, and processes would be in place? By how much would we be able to reduce truck accidents? How much money would be saved?

Once we have our vision mapped out, we can begin to solidify plans and an appropriate organizational structure and actions required to bring it to fruition.

For powerful insights and strategy to help you succeed with your case, connect with an auto accident law firm in North Carolina.

More Web Resources:

Crowdsourcing 101

Examples of How Crowdsourcing Can Work To Solve Problems

Small Factors Add Up and Cause North Carolina Car Accidents

March 9, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

When we discuss North Carolina car accidents, we often oversimplify. For instance, you may learn about a driver who fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed into a school bus. You’d thus be likely leap to blame the driver’s lazyness or negligence for the catastrophe. This analysis might be correct. But we should not overlook simple, subtle, small things that can accumulate to create enhanced risk for accidents.

Consider, for instance, the fact that national holidays like the 4th of July, New Year’s Eve, and Super Bowl Sunday are more “dangerous” than normal days of the week. Why? The hypothesis is that more drivers, on average, drink and party on those days. Thus, there are more drunken drivers on the road. Thus, there are more drunk and driving related accidents.

Sounds simple enough, right?

But this idea hides a complex lesson. For instance, say in a typical town, you would have 20 DUI crashes on any given day; on a national holiday, you’d have 40 DUI crashes. But it’s not like only 20 people “got more drunk” than they normally would. The town’s population, as a whole, drank more than normal. So what you are seeing with these stats is a threshold effect! There probably were A LOT of people who drank a little more than they normally would. But the vast majority didn’t get into accidents because they did not reach the accident threshold – a combination of luck, genetics, etc.

We almost always pay attention to evidence above this threshold – seeing the DUI driver who caused an accident – but we don’t have a way of measuring the “dog that didn’t bite” – the DUI driver who got home safely.

Here is another way to think about this. Most people would never riot at a bar. But imagine if you’re at a bar, and your team wins. Suddenly people start getting rowdy and crazy and throwing chairs. You might “join the fun” and throw a glass or tip over a barstool or do something out of exuberance to be part of the crowd. You would never normally do that. But the social permission changes your behavior.

The moral is: we need to pay attention to small cumulative “things” that provoke us and misbehave on the road – driving under the influence of medication, for instance, or driving while fatigued, or driving long distances on roads that you are not used to driving on, etc. All these below the radar factors can influence your ability to drive safely.

If someone hurt you or someone you love in a car crash, an experienced car accident law firm in North Carolina can help you create a strategy to obtain justice and substantial compensation.

More Web Resources:

Small Causes Add Up To Big Effects

The Threshold Effect

Seeing the Humanness of Other Drivers to Prevent North Carolina Car Accidents

March 4, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

According to journalist and traffic research specialist, Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic, one major cause of car accidents in North Carolina and elsewhere is our inability to appreciate the “humanness” of other drivers in the road.

Vanderbilt’s idea appeals, intuitively. It’s true: we often DO behave on the road in ways that we would never behave in real life. Imagine if someone accidentally stepped in front of you in line at the supermarket. Would you scream at them and try to push them out of the way? Not unless you had a serious psychological problem. Yet we often engage in just that kind of that behavior on the freeway. Imagine someone cutting in front of you at an exit ramp. You might feel no compunction blasting your horn and even yelling epithets out the window at the person.

This breakdown of driving decorum could be rooted in evolutionary psychology.

Prior to the advent of modern transportation, people had to deal with one another on normal human speeds. Even when people rode horses or other animals, you at least see the other riders and recognize them as human. But when you see someone tooling around in a Hummer, all you see is the Hummer: you completely miss the person inside the vehicle!

Since we did not evolve to coexist with fast moving, large, potentially lethal objects (e.g. cars, buses, motorcycles, vans, etc), we have a very difficult time emotionally grasping that these vehicles actually contain people inside them who are vulnerable like we are. Our reptile brains just see threatening monster-like automatons.

How do we get around this “can’t see the humanness in other drivers” problem?

You obviously can’t change the world by yourself. But you can influence your own behavior. The next time you’re out on the road, and someone cuts you off or does something that’s untoward, instead of reacting mindlessly with rage and hostility, take a breath. Try to understand the feelings and needs of the person inside that vehicle. You can still be angry, of course. But recognize both your own humanity – including your vulnerabilities – and the humanity of the other driver. You might find yourself surprisingly resourceful and calm in moments where you might otherwise panic and resort to desperate measures.

For help dealing with the consequences of an auto accident, connect with a car accident law firm in North Carolina. Find out how you might be able to get justice and obtain appropriate compensation for your medical bills, lost time at work, injuries, and so forth.

More Web Resources:

The Thesis of Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic

Seeing the Humanness in Other Drivers

The Super Indirect Causes of North Carolina Auto Accidents

March 2, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Why do car, truck, motorcycle accidents happen in North Carolina – or elsewhere?

This is a pretty simple, straightforward question. So you’d think it would have a pretty simple, straightforward answer. Indeed, if you Google a question like this or spend some time thinking about it or talk to safety experts about it, you’ll get the standard “obvious” answers, such as:

•    The roads are poorly designed or engineered or kept up;
•    Drivers misbehave by driving while under the influence, while distracted, while fatigued, etc;
•    Cars, trucks, motorcycles malfunction due to poor maintenance or spontaneous part failure;
•    Acts of god (thunderstorms, lightening strikes, trees being blown into the road in inopportune times, earthquakes, etc.) are responsible.
•    Etc.

These are the more “obvious” causes of North Carolina car accidents. These findings can be helpful. They can tell us that why certain types of vehicles are safer, help engineers develop better components and equipment, and even teach police officers best practices.

However, we’re certainly overlooking critical factors that could make very subtle, but very critical contributions to North Carolina car crashes. These subtle events are often so far removed – so distant, in time and space – from car crashes themselves that we don’t pay much attention to them. But they are there. And if we could find and address these deep root causes, we could make serious inroads into our automotive safety goals.

For instance, consider the problems posed by the North Carolina obesity epidemic. When you are overweight or obese, you are naturally at higher risk for many other diseases, ranging from type II diabetes to Alzheimer’s to cancer. As a result of the obesity as well as associated conditions, you may feel more fatigued, “mentally cloudy” and weak physically. On top of that, you may need to take certain medications to normalize your blood sugar and treat other side effects. These medications can, in turn, have their own negative effects on driving performance. At the end of the day, we know that drivers who drive fatigued or ill or “mentally cloudy” are at higher risk for causing car crashes. So obesity — and the diseases associated with it — almost certainly causes or contributes to many car crashes, if only in a subtle, very indirect way.

All this is to say that, if we can figure out a way to treat obesity and overweight – we might be able to “knock out” one major source of driver error, negligence, fatigue, bad temperament, etc. Consider this thought experiment. Imagine if every North Carolinian lost 20 pounds of excess fat and had more energy and needed fewer medications. Imagine how those North Carolinians would behave behind the wheel – would they be safer or less safe than their formerly overweight selves?

It’s an interesting thought experiment. To deal with a car crash crisis in your life, connect with a thoughtful, experienced North Carolina auto accident law firm.

More Web Resources:

Finding the Secondary, Tertiary, and Quaternary Causes

What Would the Cure to Obesity Mean?