June 2012

Leveraging Peer Pressure to Reduce Teenage Auto Accidents in Charlotte

June 28, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Teenage auto accidents in Charlotte and beyond often prove both frustrating and tragic.

Ask any insurance company about the risks associated with being a young driver, and you will be blown away. Young drivers may have less mature brains than do older drivers. In addition to the impulsivity and passions of youth, these drivers also deal with temptations that the typical 49-year-old doesn’t contend with – seeing peers race through suburban Charlotte at night, getting invited to late night parties with all sorts of shenanigans going on, etc.

On top of that, teenagers are still learning how to drive. And any time you learn a new activity, you must process through a learning curve of some sort – a time period when you make errors and course correct in an innovative process. Traditional pedagogy about North Carolina auto accident prevention tends to focus on tactical “stuff.”

In other words, educators try to scare teen drivers into “understanding” what can happen if they abuse their driving privileges. They provide basic knowledge and training about vehicular use and maintenance. And so forth. But the teaching process is often a battle. If an “old fuddy-duddy” teaches good driving habits, and a teenager’s cool friends are engaged in crazy “envelope pushing” behavior, the safety experts are going to be fighting an uphill battle for control of the teenager’s metaphorical “driving soul.”

Perhaps a better way to approach teenage driving safety is to use peer pressure as a leverage point!

Educators, in other words, might want to ask themselves “how can we make it socially unacceptable for teenagers to drive drunk or drive while texting?” For instance, driving without a seatbelt no longer makes you a “cool kid.” Why? Is it because cool kids don’t rebel anymore? Not by a long shot. It’s because it’s no longer socially acceptable to rebel in that way – i.e. by not wearing your seatbelt.

Imagine if it were similarly socially unacceptable to text while driving or to drink and drive? Teenage peer pressure would just shut these problems down, wouldn’t it?!

Just a thought.

If you or someone you care about was hurt in a car accident, connect with the team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo today for free and fair consultation.

Charlotte Auto Accidents: Not Everyone Will Agree With What You’re Doing

June 26, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

As a Charlotte auto accident victim, you’re seriously contemplating taking legal action against a driver who hit you, an insurance company, or some other party — perhaps even a municipal agency in charge of keeping the roads safe. You may very well have a sound case. However, you cannot control other people’s reactions to your legal actions!

For instance, say your case becomes highly publicized – and potentially controversial. There is a likelihood that anonymous people writing about the case on the internet may write things or speculate about you in ways that you don’t particularly like. If your case becomes a big battle, legally speaking – that is, it becomes “interesting” from a legal perspective and thus attracts different lawyers to comment on it – you can also expect to read positive and negative opinions about your case and your situation.

The positive reviews are nice to read. But the negative feedback can easily be dispiriting.

It’s important to remember that, even with good effort and a strong sense of equilibrium, it can be difficult to “tune out” the haters, particularly if someone says something that touches you or cuts to some insecurity you have about the case or about yourself in general.

Step one to managing this frustration is to get good, experienced people on your team.

The seasoned auto accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo, for instance, can help you parse your options and figure out what might be resourceful next steps to take.

Do be aware that getting a recovery for your medical bills and time off of work may not be simple or easy – even if you have a very solid case and a terrific legal team fighting for you.

You may hit bumps in the road.

But when you do, remind yourself about the positive things in your life, and focus intensely on why you want to achieve the results you want to achieve. When we dwell on our purpose – when we understand what’s motivating us to do what we are doing – we can often overcome obstacles that otherwise might undermine our perseverance and lead us to settle for less than ideal results.

Michael A. DeMayo Scholarship Entry Becomes Public Service Announcement

June 25, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

One of the entries into the annual Michael A. DeMayoScholarship program has been posted as a public service announcement on YouTube. The one minute anti drinking and driving video was uploaded by Doorway Films Cinema in April of last year and so far has garnered 702 views.

DeMayo, founder of the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo in Charlotte, NC, handed out the fifteen scholarship awards for 2012 just last month. One of the purposes of his scholarship is to give high school kids a chance to raise awareness about one of the most difficult issues they face – underage drinking and driving. Students from twenty three counties across the Carolinas have the option to compete for one of the $2,500 scholarships by making a presentation about this issue. It can be in the form of an essay, a website, a brochure, a power point presentation or a video.

The subject of this particular entry video, peer pressure, directly addresses one of the main causes of the epidemic that claims so many young lives and shatters so many families. Although the very term “peer pressure” usually indicates a negative, i.e. teens being influenced to do detrimental things by their peers, this video makes the case that peer pressure can also be turned in a positive way. Peer pressure is an ongoing fact of teenage life, but kids can influence their peers not to drink and drive and save lives by doing so.

In just sixty seconds, the homemade, inexpensively produced video makes a very effective point, complete with a background “music” track and graphics. It presents the startling statistic that teen drinking and driving kills eight kids every day.

Michael DeMayo has various other community service programs that address this same issue, most notably his Arrive Alive! Don’t Drink and Drive program which is presented in area high schools. His firm also has participated in fundraising efforts for the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving. DeMayo is impressed each year by the effort and ingenuity of the students who enter his scholarship competition, and believes that their combined efforts do have the capacity to make a real, grass roots difference.

Between the dedication of the high school seniors applying for the Michael A. DeMayo scholarship and the viral nature of the internet, these presentations do indeed have the potential of being seen by many people. They certainly can make a difference. It would be amazing for teen peer pressure to turn the other way, against underage drinking and driving!

As DeMayo says, the best accident is the one that never happens!

Watch the YouTube video here.

Click here to see the presentations made by the 2012 Michael A.DeMayo Scholarship winners.


North Carolina Car Accident Confusion: Feels Like You’re Moving Backwards?

June 21, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

The journey towards success with a North Carolina auto accident lawsuit is rarely linear.

In other words, it rarely goes in a straight line. Instead, sharp “plot twists” abound.

For instance, a legal technicality may suddenly “show up” and completely change the dynamics of your case, including its focus, timeframe, likelihood of success, etc. These dramatic shifts can happen quickly; they can be positive or negative for you or a little bit of both.

The same is obviously true for your medical recovery. For instance, say you hurt your ankle. You might feel like you’re “getting better and better” with each passing day – only to have a really bad day and “re-twist it” again. Suddenly your recovery will take an additional six months!

The point is that, even with the best planning, you can’t predict with certainty where and how “plot twists” will happen. Instead, you need to find a good team – and a good support network – to help you become resilient in the face of surprising obstacles.

Because obstacles are headed your way, whether you’re ready for them or not.

If you need help understanding the nuts and bolts of what to do next and how to avoid sources of uncertainty, the team at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo is standing by to help you.

Outthinking Yourself to Prevent another North Carolina Auto Accident

June 19, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

You recently got hurt in a North Carolina auto accident.

Whether you sustained massive injuries and perhaps tragically lost a loved one in the crash; or you suffered a more prosaic (but still very annoying) accident, such as a rear-end collision that gave you whiplash, you need help, resources, and courage to rebuild your life.

While a good law firm, such as the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo, can give you a free case evaluation and help you make serious progress towards getting a recovery, you also are probably looking towards the future. More specifically, you want to know what you should be doing (or you should stop doing) to limit your likelihood of getting into another Charlotte auto accident and maximizing your and your family’s safety behind the wheel.

Outthinking Yourself – A Surprisingly Effective Tool

Most drivers understand and accept certain road safety fundamentals. For instance:

•    Always wear your seatbelt;
•    Do not drive your car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or prescription medications;
•    Get enough rest before getting behind the wheel;
•    Avoid chatting on your cell phone – and especially text messaging – while driving;
•    Get your car checked regularly and don’t drive a broken or mis-performing vehicle;
•    Pay attention to the road and other drivers;
•    Etc.

But our safety knowledge often fails us!

When we get out on the road, we either willfully forget what we have learned or we “make exceptions.” For instance, maybe you go on a very long road trip – 1,000 miles – to see a relative in Missouri. You know that you should stop and take breaks, but you really want to get there in time, so you just guzzle a gallon of Starbucks, cross your fingers, and hope that your heart doesn’t explode and that you make there in one piece. You might “get away with it.” But you have taught yourself a very dangerous lesson – that it is possible to “get away with it.”

To “outthink yourself,” you need to engage in what some experts have called “meta thinking” – that is, you need to think about how you think about your driving.

There are many “thinking tools” you can use to get to the bottom of potential bad habits and behaviors and beliefs. A great place to start is a “driving journal” – a daily or weekly journal that you write in for two or three minutes a day about your driving experiences. You can use this journal to identify repeating patterns in your life (for better and for worse). You can also use positive affirmations, hypnosis, meditation, and other tools to alter how you think about your driving habits for the better.

No matter what tools you choose, however, remember that the best time to make course corrections to your “driving mentality” is not right before you get behind the wheel – it’s at a time and a place when you can soberly and critically reflect on your needs and your idealized outcomes – without any “impatience of the moment” (e.g. “I got to get to my sister’s house in time for Thanksgiving dinner, etc.”) getting in the way.

How Can We Think Better about North Carolina Car Accident Issues?

June 14, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

One of the common themes we’ve been discussing here on this North Carolina auto accident blog recently is this idea that car accident prevention is a problem that ultimately requires an integrated approach.

In other words, the causes and consequences of auto accidents are pretty straightforward. But why these events happen and what can be done, at general level, to prevent them or to make them less deadly and damaging is not so straightforward.

Often, things only glancingly related can prove pivotal.

For instance, famous research shows that simply publicizing certain kinds of fatal accidents can lead to epidemics of similar types of accidents within a population. For instance, say there’s a big story in the news about an elderly woman who drove off a bridge at night. In the days and weeks following this story, don’t be surprised to read about “copy cat accidents” – examples of other elderly woman driving off of other bridges or structures.

This phenomenon sounds very strange! But it’s been shown again and again.

Human beings are social creatures. We are very easily influenced, even by very indirect messages. If you were to look at one of these “copy cat” crashes outside the context of this phenomenon, you might never make a connection to the original accident. It’s only by going through the data – by looking at an accident from many different angles and points of view – that you can really discern the “upper level causes” and contributing factors.

So, what does this all mean on a practical level?

If you’ve been hurt, or if someone you know and love was injured or killed in a North Carolina auto accident, what is the takeaway from this insight? The lesson is at once intuitive and not so intuitive: you need to be able to examine what happened to you – and what might have caused it – from diverse points of view.

It’s very difficult for any injured victim to do this because a victim, by definition, lacks perspective. That’s why it’s often useful for victims to work with an experienced, reputable Charlotte auto accident law firm, like the team at Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo. Our team can help you get clear on diverse causes that might have contributed to your situation.

Underage Drinking Just One of the Many Hazards for Teen Drivers

June 13, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Having just finished his annual Arrive Alive! Don’t Drink and Drive presentations to hundreds of local area high schools students, attorney Michael A. DeMayo is keenly aware of the pressures and dangers to our young people when they first hit the highways. As a personal injury attorney for over twenty years, DeMayo knows all too well that traffic accidents are currently the leading cause of death for teens not just in North Carolina but nationwide.

Young drivers age 16 to 19 of both sexes have the highest rates of crashes and traffic violations of any age group on the roads.

Aside from underage drinking and driving and simple inexperience, there are various other factors that lead to these tragic accident rates among our teens. According to DeMayo, these include:

  • Low risk perception and high risk taking: Teens tend to feel invulnerable, and frequently underestimate the risk of accidents in situations that older and more experienced drivers perceive as dangerous. They have overconfidence in their driving abilities leading to risky behaviors such as speeding, making illegal turns, ignoring traffic signs and signals and not yielding to pedestrians.
  • Lack of seat belt use: For various reasons, teens buckle up less often than more mature drivers. Various studies have determined that one of the reasons is “seat belts aren’t cool.”
  • Carrying passengers: Teens are easily distracted by having friends in the car, particularly males. They are more likely to take risks when friends are in the car, possible also due to the wanting to look “cool” factor. Michael DeMayo reports that crash risk, along with fatality risk, increases 3.6 times for teens 16 – 17 when they drive with passengers.
  • Night driving: Another area where inexperience comes into play. This has several causes, including tiredness, driving at night is simply more difficult, not to mention teen tiredness or sleep deprivation, and the fact that night driving is frequently recreational, including the use of alcohol or other recreational drugs. After 9pm, the crash rate for teenage drivers is three times higher.
  • Cell phone use: Again, texting or talking on the phone while driving raises the accident risk for all age groups, however teens are even more vulnerable due to their lack of driving experience.

Although Michael A. DeMayo’s Arrive Alive public service program is specifically aimed at educating teens to make different choices about drinking and driving, he knows all these other factors play a large part in teen accidents as well. Parents can make a big difference in their teens’ lives by starting them off with great driving skills and instilling a level of respect for the dangers of the roads, along with understanding their responsibilities.

The Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo will continue to spread the word to teens about responsible driving. For parents who would like some assistance, we have compiled the following resources:

  • National Safety Council – Alive at 25 Program for Teens and Parents
  • Teen Safe Driver Program – Including a Safe Driver Pledge
  • Keys2Driver – AAA Teen Driver Safety Program
  • NHTSA – A Comprehensive Approach to Teen Driver Safety
  • Teendriving.com – Hundreds of Safe Driving Tips

How to Prevent Drowsy Driving in North Carolina – Once and for All

June 12, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether you recently got into an auto accident in North Carolina, or you’re just searching for smarter safety tips to protect yourself, your family, and other people on the road, you might benefit from considering the hazards of drowsy driving. In a recent blog post, we talked about the dangers of something called microsleeping – where you fall asleep for a few seconds while appearing to be “awake.” Microsleeping can have devastating consequences, in that it slows your reaction time. Also, most people who micro sleep have no idea they are doing it!

Microsleeping is just one of the myriad hazards of driving while not rested. Some researchers out in Australia, for instance, tested drivers who had stayed up for a full 24 hours. They found that these tired drivers exhibited a level of impairment that was actually greater than the impairment the typical Charlotte DUI driver exhibits. Scary stuff, indeed.

So what can we do about drowsy driving, on a practical level?

The pat answer is “get more sleep.” This is obvious enough. And it’s true. If you notice that you are flagging behind the wheel, take that as a serious sign to pull over, rest, and perhaps stay the night. Caffeinating yourself can temporarily work, but not always. And caffeine often takes some time to “work,” due to the biochemistry of how caffeine impacts the brain’s dopamine centers.

Unfortunately, most tips for drowsy driving offer little more than short-term fixes.

The advice out there offers little more than “band-aid” solutions to problems that have already occurred. Although these tips can be useful in a pinch, they do not “get at” the deeper potential structural problems with your driving habits and behaviors.

For instance, if you’re only getting four or five hours of sleep a night because of a crazy work schedule, then you’re guaranteed to confront the drowsy driving dilemma again and again, until you fix the larger schedule issues with your life.

Recognizing this reality provides new opportunities and new challenges. Now, the question of how to prevent drowsy driving becomes a broader question: how should you reengineer your life, so that you are generally less fatigued, more alert, and more capable of recognizing when you might potentially have an issue?

It’s obviously harder to give general solutions to this integrated kind of problem!

While you can tell basically any drowsy driver to “take a nap by the side of the road”; what do you tell an over-stressed mom of three who needs to work two jobs and drive 45 minutes from one to the other job? There might be good advice for her. But that advice is not necessarily generalizable. And therein lies a challenge. People need highly specific guidance beyond the traditional band-aid like solutions to drowsy driving.

Given these issues — and the stakes for your life and well being — you might find it useful to spend time thinking about your driving habits, journaling about them, and brainstorming ways to prevent yourself from getting into vulnerable situations in the future.

If you have been involved in an accident in Charlotte or elsewhere in North Carolina, the team here at DeMayo Law can give you a free and confidential evaluation of your case.

The Perils of Micro Sleep – A Major Cause of North Carolina Auto Accidents?

June 7, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

What causes many North Carolina drowsy driving accidents? The answer may be something that very few people have heard of: micro sleeping.

When human beings get really fatigued, and they try to stay awake through that fatigue, the brain can use automatic mechanisms to override your willpower to stay awake. Scary stuff!

Consider, for instance, the phenomenon of micro sleeping. Essentially, when you prevent yourself from sleeping for long enough, the brain begins to “shut itself down” in short little bursts. You lose consciousness. You actually go into REM sleep for seconds a time. This appears to be the brain’s way of sending out an SOS — “I need sleep pronto!”

It’s probably a very good thing that we have the capability to microsleep, since it allows the brain to replenish even when we must stay awake for survival reasons. But if you are a driver, microsleeping can be incredibly dangerous. During these little bursts of sleep – when you are completely unconscious – you can travel great distances, especially if you’re zipping along at or above highway speeds. Depending on how fast you travel and how long you micro sleep, you can go 100 feet or longer while totally unconscious.

And remember: people who microsleep often have no idea that they are sleeping! They think that they’re awake. If you talk to them, they will tell you “I’m fine, I’m awake.”

When you combine this microsleeping danger with real world highway events that require snap judgments – i.e. immediate reactions – you can see how the whole thing can lead to chaos.

If you microsleep, for instance, at a moment when you need to make a sharp corrective turn on an icy Charlotte suburban street in the middle of winter, your reaction time will be seriously delayed, and you will have a greater chance of getting into a crash.

How do you know whether microsleeping was involved in your car accident?

The Charlotte auto accident team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo can help you investigate and understand what happened in your accident. Whether someone hit you at a stop light, or you were a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone who nodded off behind the wheel, our experienced team is standing by to provide a free and confidential case evaluation for you.

Charlotte Car Accidents – Are We Getting the Root Cause Right?

June 5, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

What causes Charlotte car accidents? If you Google around, you’ll get the standard “obvious” answers: driver inattention, driver distraction, vehicle problems, problems with automotive components, problems with road design or engineering or maintenance, etcetera.

But does saying something like “driver inattention leads to accidents” give people meaningful, actionable information?

Perhaps. But perhaps not.

On one hand, you can look at statistics that support this view. People agree when you tell them that “not driving distracted/while drowsy” makes sense. But these people will still go out and do these things anyway.

As a result, we must conclude one of two things:

1. People, for whatever reason, are unwilling to take good advice.

2. People aren’t being given the right advice.

Everyone’s default assumption is that number one is true – that people drive drowsy or drive under the influence or drive while yapping on their cell phones due to ignorance of what those behaviors will ultimately lead to.

But what if there’s another explanation?

What if we simply lack systems and processes to help us avoid certain kinds of behavior?

Let’s make that more specific. Consider a highway trip along the East Coast from, say, Charlotte to Southern Florida. That’s over 1000 miles, but it’s a trip that many North Carolinians make on a fairly regular basis, especially during vacation season. So we have a culture, in other words, that makes it acceptable for people to drive 1,000 miles in one “sitting.” Not only does our culture make it acceptable but it also actively encourages this behavior. In fact, we have whole industries – the trucking industry, for instance – that encourage drivers to go long distances with minimal rest to get jobs done, move products and services, etcetera.

When accidents happen, we often blame the negligent drivers – for instance, the fatigued or medicated trucker. And that may be a fair thing to do. But if we really want to solve the root cause of many auto accidents in North Carolina, we need to possibly reconsider reengineering the broader structures and super structures that encourage people – or at least permit people – to engage in behaviors like drowsy driving or driving unextended trips without breaks.

Yes, we can blame a negligent or careless trucker for a single accident. And if you’ve been hurt by a trucker or by a bad driver, the team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo can help you. But if we want to go beyond simply managing auto accident crises and move towards solving them, then we need to be open to the possibility that we may need to make major structural and cultural changes to our driving habits and beliefs about what the road is all about.