Car Accidents

Roudabouts reduce congestion and save lives

Town planners in Texas and around the country are staring to propose building roundabouts instead of installing traffic signals or stop signs at busy intersections. Roundabouts, which are extremely common in Europe, improve road safety and reduce traffic congestion, but they remain rare in the United States. However, that is likely to change in the years ahead as the benefits of roundabouts and the drawbacks of traditional intersections become clearer.

Intersections are dangerous because traffic approaches them from different directions. This means that drivers who fail to notice or ignore red lights often strike other vehicles with great force. Roundabouts eliminate this risk because all of the vehicles that use them move in the same direction and travel at significantly slower speeds. According to a study released by the Federal Highway Administration that was compiled with the assistance of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, replacing an intersection with a roundabout reduces collisions by 37%, injuries by 75%, and fatalities by 90%.

Roundabouts can also drastically reduce commute times and improve the flow of traffic. Towns and cities that have built roundabouts report improved air quality and far fewer rush-hour backups. The mayor of an Indiana town ordered 126 roundabouts to be built after noticing how efficient they were while studying in England. He says the roundabouts have reduced traffic accidents in the town by 40%.

Road users injured in car accidents that take place at intersections often suffer catastrophic injuries that prevent them from working for weeks or months. When pursuing civil remedies on their behalf, experienced personal injury attorneys may seek compensation for this lost income as well as other financial setbacks like property damage and medical bills. If the negligent driver responsible for causing the accident ran a red light, attorneys may use images captured by cameras mounted to traffic signals to establish liability.

Teens are the most likely drivers to be distracted

Just like most young adults around the country, Texas teenagers can’t wait to get behind the wheel and feel the freedom and independence that driving brings. Of course, with that comes the responsibility to act safely and properly while behind the wheel, which, for many young people, is a little slower to develop than the enthusiasm for driving itself. In recognition of this, although young people who otherwise qualify may get a learner’s permit at age 15, every driver under 21 must go through the Graduated Driver License Program, which bestows increasing driver status based on time and good driver performance with the ultimate goal of earning an unrestricted license.

Despite Texas’ GDL and similar teen driver safety programs throughout the U.S., researchers who have monitored drivers’ behavior while in their vehicles over a two-year period have concluded that teenagers are the likeliest drivers to be distracted and the most prone to be involved in car crashes. It’s fitting that these findings were released to coincide with Teen Driver safety Week as anything that can be done to raise awareness and help decease teen driver risks is most surely welcome.

Distraction can come in many forms, but it is most closely associated with cell phone use while driving. The research broke down cell phone usage to more specific tasks, such as texting, browsing and calling, for example, which were all high on the distraction list. However, the number one distraction was when the driver’s attention was diverted to something external to the vehicle, such as rubbernecking.

Every driver, no matter his or her age, is charged with the responsibility to drive reasonably. Driver distractions can lead to motor vehicle accidents, and often, it is not clear which driver was at fault. A personal injury lawyer can assist those injured by the negligence of others.

Higher speed limits linked to more traffic fatalities

As a large state, Texas presents motorists with long stretches of road. That’s why lawmakers have chosen to raise speed limits over the years. One road even allows people to travel at 85 mph. Forty-one states have increased speed limits since the national 55 mph rule ended in 1995. Researchers looking at the possible link between higher speed limits and increased traffic fatalities determined that 36,760 extra deaths occurred nationwide due to higher speed limits.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analyzed data about traffic deaths from 1993 to 2017. Researchers adjusted their calculations to control for factors such as wearing seat belts, driver age and unemployment rates. They discovered that traffic deaths went up by 8.5% for every extra 5 mph allowed by the speed limit. The IIHS study concluded that a 55 mph speed limit would have prevented approximately 1,900 fatalities in 2017.

The Auto Test Center run by Consumer Reports agreed that higher speeds contributed to deaths involving motor vehicles. The death rate would have been even higher except that technological advances in vehicle design and safety systems have reduced traffic deaths overall.

Lawmakers typically approve higher speed limits because they are supposed to save busy people time. Safety advocates argue that time savings are minimal and not worth the risk of allowing for faster travel. Someone traveling at 70 mph compared to 65 mph during a 100-mile trip only gains between 6 and 7 minutes of time.

Traveling above the speed limit can represent negligence when the guilty party causes an accident. A car accident victim could recover financial damages from the responsible driver. Legal counsel could help a plaintiff understand rights and avoid accepting an inadequate insurance settlement. The attorney might collect evidence to strengthen the personal injury claim and file a lawsuit.

Unpredictable fall weather adds to driving dangers

The fall weather in Texas is not as treacherous as it is in some other parts of the country, but drivers in the Lone Star State may still be wise to take extra precautions when days start to get shorter. Falling leaves and rain showers can make road surfaces extremely slippery, and traffic is heavier during morning and afternoon commutes when schools and colleges are open.

Accident rates are higher during the twilight hours as drivers tend to react slowly to diminishing visibility and a setting sun can be dazzling. This taking place during the evening commute is one of the reasons fall driving is so hazardous. The sudden and severe thunderstorms that are common in many parts of Texas in the fall add to the dangers. Morning drives can also be perilous in the fall due to patches of lingering fog.

Steps drivers can take to avoid a fall accident include allowing more time for their journeys, watching out for children or wildlife in the roadway, and lowering their speeds. They should also check weather reports before setting off and allow other vehicles extra space when the sun is setting. Checking air pressures regularly is also prudent as tires contract and expand in the fall when temperatures change quickly.

Human error is a factor in most car accidents, but the drivers responsible are rarely eager to admit that they were at fault. When police reports contain no firm conclusions, personal injury attorneys pursuing compensation on behalf of accident victims may conduct investigations of their own. Attorneys or their investigators may visit accident scenes to look for cameras that could have recorded the events in question and talk to witnesses that police officers may have overlooked. They could also have the vehicles involved inspected for signs of shoddy repairs, defective safety equipment, or neglected maintenance.

Road rage incidents are becoming worryingly common

There were 80 fatal car accidents nationwide linked to aggressive driving in 2006 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. By 2015, that number had grown to 467. Road rage incidents in Texas and around the country are often blamed on angry young men, but a survey conducted by the American Automobile Association in 2016 suggests that the problem is far more widespread. A worrying 80% of the motorists polled by the organization’s Foundation for Traffic Safety admitted that they had engaged in aggressive and dangerous behavior triggered by anger within the preceding 12 months.

More than half of the drivers polled by the AAA said that they deliberately tailgated slow-moving vehicles and almost half admitted to yelling obscenities at other road users. An alarming number of the respondents also admitted to even more dangerous behavior such as cutting another driver off intentionally or speeding up or slowing down to prevent other vehicles from changing lanes or merging safely.

Some experts have blamed the rise in road rage on the stressful lives modern Americans lead, but others say that these incidents are often triggered by distracted drivers who stare at cellphone screens instead of paying attention to what is going on around them. The best way to avoid road rage is to allow plenty of time for trips and keep distractions to a minimum. Drivers who are prone to angry outbursts should also take steps to reduce stress levels behind the wheel such as listening to calming music and giving other road users plenty of room.

Experienced personal injury attorneys may advise drivers who have been involved in a motor vehicle crash to do all that they can to keep their tempers in check if they plan to pursue civil remedies. This is because juries may be less sympathetic to a plaintiff who reacted with anger or violence even if the evidence clearly shows that the defendant was at fault.