Car Accidents

Report finds distracted driving on the rise across U.S.

Traffic safety experts say that distracted driving in Texas and elsewhere is becoming more dangerous than drunk driving. According to a new report, the problem is linked to America’s growing cellphone use.

Earlier this year, the third annual Zendrive distracted driving report was released. It found that the number of phone-distracted drivers roaming U.S. roads doubled in 2018. Research shows that these drivers are oblivious behind the wheel around 28% of the time. Currently, approximately one in every 12 drivers is thought to be consistently distracted by phone use behind the wheel.

In December, Forbes combined the Zendrive data with a consumer survey to find out how U.S. drivers view distracted driving, cellphone use and traffic safety. The magazine found that nearly all drivers believe they are safe drivers. However, in an example of cognitive dissonance, most drivers also admit that they frequently use their phones while behind the wheel. This can be a major hazard when traveling at highway speeds. After all, drivers who look at their phones for just a few seconds at 70 mph can go hundreds of yards while completely zoned out. Because of this, it is no surprise that distracted driving is associated with an 83% increase in all types of car accidents.

Texas residents who are injured in auto accidents caused by distracted drivers might have grounds to take legal action against the driver who caused the collision. With the help of an attorney, it might be possible to prove that the second driver was using his or her cellphone or was otherwise distracted in the moments leading up to the accident. As a result, the injured victim might be awarded compensation for a variety of damages, including medical expenses, physical therapy bills, pain and suffering, mental anguish, property damages and other related losses.

Research links opioid use to higher car accident risks

Researchers who studied more than 18,000 fatal two-vehicle accidents in Texas and around the country discovered that the drivers responsible for causing the crash were more than twice as likely as the other motorists involved to be under the influence of opioid drugs or alcohol. The study, which was published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open in February 2019, was based on Fatality Analysis Reporting System data. The FARS database is maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The most common cause of the fatal accidents studied was drivers who failed to stay in their lanes. While alcohol consumption has been a thorny road safety problem for decades, opioid use has become a major cause of accidents only recently. In 1993, drivers under the influence of opiates were involved in only about 2% of deadly car accidents. By 2016, that figure had more than tripled to over 7%.

The results of the study have been criticized by doctors and pain management experts who point to research showing that individuals who take prescription opioids develop a tolerance for the drugs and can operate motor vehicles safely. They say the accidents studied were more likely caused by individuals abusing rather than using medical opioids. Critics of the study also say that the kind of injuries people take drugs like hydrocodone and oxycodone to treat can also impair the ability to control a motor vehicle.

Toxicology tests are generally only performed on drivers when signs of intoxication are obvious or the injuries suffered in car accidents are severe. When representing clients who have been involved in less serious crashes, attorneys with experience in motor vehicle accidents who suspect that drug impairment may have played a role could use subpoenas to obtain the medical records of the driver responsible. While simply being prescribed narcotic medications would not be enough to establish impairment in a criminal court, it could help attorneys to meet the less strict standard of proof in a civil lawsuit.

Distracted drivers are a major threat on the road

The dangers that motorists and pedestrians face on Texas roads may be intensified when drivers are distracted. Studies have shown the impact distracted driving has in causing auto accidents that lead to death or injury. One study showed that every day, around nine people die in automobile accidents linked to distracted driving. That same study showed that around 100 people are injured because of distracted driving each day.

There are a number of activities and things that can divert a driver’s attention off of the road. The most common source of distracted driving in the modern era is a person’s cellphone. States have enacted laws outlawing driving while using a cellphone. Still, almost 50% of people in one survey said that they use their phone to check social media, send text messages and chat while they are driving. About 60% of people admitted to using their cellphone at least one time while driving.

The number of distracted drivers may be affected by the technology found in modern vehicles. Touchscreens are common, especially in higher-end vehicles. Customers seem to love having this technology in their vehicle, so it is unlikely that automobile manufacturers will remove this technology because they want to keep their customers happy.

Owing to the devastating effects that distracted driving is having, some car manufacturers are coming up with systems that use a combination of AI and visual intelligence to monitor how a person drives and to alert the driver when they are engaged in practices that might be diverting their attention from the road.

Many car accidents caused by distracted drivers could have been avoided. When a person is the victim in one of these accidents, they may benefit from talking to a personal injury attorney. The attorney may be able to review their case and help identify the negligent party. An attorney may interact with insurance companies and others with the goal of getting their client the compensation due for their injuries.

How to stay safe in winter road conditions

Texas residents who have to contend with wet, icy or snowy roads in winter should consider the following safety tips. After all, everyone is supposed to practice safe driving at all times regardless of how harsh the weather is.

It all starts with limiting the number of trips that one makes. Drivers can easily avoid accidents by simply staying indoors. Assuming that they have to head out, drivers are expected to slow down and keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front. A distance of five to six seconds is recommended; in fact, this can be advisable for any season.

The point of slowing down is to maintain what little traction the tires have. To avoid losing control, drivers should gently and gradually accelerate and brake. Accelerating from a complete stop can be especially tricky, so those who are approaching a traffic light may want to keep some momentum rather than come to a stop. Braking is different when a car is equipped with ABS and with features like EBD and BA, so drivers should know the proper techniques.

Traveling on inclines, drivers should neither accelerate nor slow down. They should ideally get all the forward motion they need on the flat portion. Be cautious when reaching the crest because that’s when oncoming traffic will become visible.

Drivers will be liable for motor vehicle crashes if they were tailgating or traveling too fast for weather conditions. As for those who are injured by a negligent driver, they might need to prove the other’s negligence before they can be reimbursed for their losses. This is just one of the steps in filing a personal injury claim, another being the negotiating of a fair settlement. Victims may consider hiring a lawyer for assistance with these and other steps.

Daylight saving time ends, raises risk for drowsy driving

Drivers in Texas may find it harder to stay awake during their commute home in the week following the end of daylight saving time. This change disrupts the body’s sleep/wake cycle and circadian rhythms, and so while the body adjusts, a person will naturally feel tired. However, the risk that this poses for drivers should not be underestimated.

AAA’s 2018 Traffic Safety Culture Index revealed how common drowsy driving is. A total of 27% of the respondents admitted to having trouble keeping their eyes open while driving at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey. Drowsy driving is behind an annual average of 328,000 car crashes, including 6,400 fatal crashes and 109,000 involving injury.

Studies have shown that the day after the end of DST sees more accidents than the day leading up to it. The Insurance Bureau of British Columbia goes further and reports that the two weeks after the end of DST see more accidents during the late afternoon commute than the two weeks preceding it.

Besides drowsy driving, there are the hazards of night driving since the sun sets sooner after DST ends. AAA advises drivers to slow down when making their commute home at night. Drivers should not use high beams around cars or pedestrians. Headlights and windows should be regularly cleaned.

If drivers neglect to be safe on the road, then they will be responsible for any motor vehicle crashes they cause. As for those who are injured, they could file a claim against the negligent driver’s insurance company, but they may want a lawyer by their side. It’s more than likely that victims will face opposition from the company, but an attorney may strive for a fair settlement that covers medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and whatever else applies.