October 2010 Archives

October 28, 2010

North Carolina State Fair displays wrecked vehicle involved in fatal Asheville car accident blamed on teen's text messaging

Our Raleigh injury attorneys commend the highway patrol for displaying at the North Carolina State Fair the car driven by a teenager killed in an Asheville car accident while text messaging earlier this year.

As we continue to report, car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. When it comes to dangerous driving habits, teens are at risk for all of them, including distracted driving drunk driving, speeding, not wearing seat belts and riding with too many passengers in the vehicle.
But they are at particular risk for distracted driving car accidents caused by cell phones and text messaging. The government reports that teen drivers are more likely to text while driving than any other age group on the road. Nationwide, the government blames distracted driving for 5,474 deaths and 448,000 injuries last year.

Sixteen-year-old Ashley Johnson was on her way to an after-school volunteer session on May 10 when she was killed in a car accident while trying to read a text message, according to the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

Her car crossed the centerline and collided head on with a pickup truck.

Her father, Amos Johnson, hopes his daughter's crumpled BMW will help fairgoers understand nothing in a text message is worth dying for.

A recent survey by AAA found that about half of all teenagers admitted to either texting or using a cell phone while driving.

"Somebody's going to see this car, and they're going to stop texting and driving. I know they will," Amos Johnson said.

Continue reading "North Carolina State Fair displays wrecked vehicle involved in fatal Asheville car accident blamed on teen's text messaging " »

October 27, 2010

Driver accused of fatal Charlotte, North Carolina drunk driving accident served little prison time

The Charlotte Observer is reporting that a man charged with a fatal drunk driving accident in Charlotte served just a year in prison for six prior DUI convictions.

Our Charlotte car accident attorneys frequently report on the dangers of drunk driving. Nationwide, one-third of all fatal accidents involve a drunk driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2008, 11,773 of the nation's 37,423 fatal crashes involved alcohol.
-North Carolina drunk driving accidents killed 500 of the state's 1,433 traffic deaths.

-South Carolina drunk driving accidents accounted for half of all traffic fatalities, 463 of 920 deaths.

In fact, South Carolina ranks among the worst states in the nation when it comes to drunk driving accidents. And, with 35 percent of fatalities linked to alcohol in North Carolina, neither state is up for any awards when it comes to combating the dangers. These high-profile cases involving drivers who face few consequences do not aid in the fight against those who insist upon climbing behind the wheel after having too much to drink. This driver should not even have been out of jail, let alone on the road driving drunk.

In this case, the at-fault driver's DUI record stretched back more than a decade. When convicted, he received fines, short jail stays, rehab and probation. On Sunday, Monroe police say he sped away after being pulled over for driving erratically. Police followed as the suspect drove down Secrest Shortcut Road in Union County, northwest of Monroe.

There, the suspect hit a vehicle head-on, while driving about 65 mph. A 41-year-old father of two, who was on his way home from portraying Jesus at a church pageant, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The 29-year-old driver is now behind bars on a $500,000 bond. He is charged with DWI, second-degree murder and other driving offenses. His criminal record shows he has been arrested at least 18 times in North Carolina, including writing bad checks, assault and false imprisonment. He was awaiting charges of felony child abuse.

He was first charged with DWI in Union County in 1998, when he was 17 years old. He was convicted again in 2000, 2001, 2004 and twice in 2006.

Continue reading "Driver accused of fatal Charlotte, North Carolina drunk driving accident served little prison time " »

October 26, 2010

North Carolina truck accident kills 5

A North Carolina semi accident has claimed the life of five motorists. NBC4 reported that four died in the pileup Sunday night on I-26. News Channel 7 reported that a 5th victim later died as a result of the accident in Henderson County and that a sixth person remains in critical condition.

The 48-year-old driver is facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of assault inflicting serious bodily injury. Additional charges are possible.
Nine cars were involved in the chain-reaction collision just before 11 p.m. Sunday near the Airport Road exit, according to the North Carolina Highway Patrol. The crash closed the highway for more than 7 hours.

Authorities report that seven vehicles were stopped on the highway for another accident involving a dump truck when a tractor-trailer approaching from the rear did not stop and hit three of the vehicles without slowing down. The force of the accident slammed six vehicles into each other and another tractor trailer parked at the front of the accident. The at-fault semi dragged one of the vehicles through the median before finally coming to rest.

Our North Carolina injury lawyers frequently report the dangers large trucks pose to other motorists on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that one of every nine fatal accidents involves a tractor-trailer or other large commercial truck on the road.

In 2008, nearly 400,000 large trucks were involved in accidents that claimed 4,229 lives and injured more than 90,000. North Carolina trucking accidents claimed 143 lives while South Carolina tractor-trailer crashes killed 81.

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October 23, 2010

Teens have enough to learn about driving safely without distractions leading to North Carolina car accidents

The National Safety Council reported in January of 2009 that approximately 1.6 million car accidents were caused in 2008 due to text messaging and cell phone use. The NSC has determined that using a cell phone while driving increases your chances of having a North Carolina car accident by four times.

In this third of three blogs for Teen Safe Driver Week (Oct. 17-24) we look at the dangers of distracted driving among teenagers.
Teenagers have so much to learn in their first few years behind the wheel. They are not very experienced and are sure to be nervous. They are still learning how to coordinate everything that they have to do and everything they must concentrate on from flipping on the turn signal to paying attention to other drivers and keeping with the flow of the traffic. They certainly don't need any further unnecessary distractions that could cause a terrible car accident. With the popularity of cell phone use amongst teenagers, especially text messaging, it's important that they understand the risks of distracting behavior behind the wheel.

Although many states have banned text messaging while driving, many people continue to do it. Of course cell phones are not the only distraction that teens face while driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration parents should have rules in place not to mention harsh consequences for breaking them.

You should discuss the many other distractions that could possibly cause a traffic accident, including too many passengers in the car, using the radio or other in-car electronics, eating, drinking, grooming or looking at outside distractions. If there is an emergency they should pull the vehicle over at first chance in order to contact someone. As the homecoming season approaches, having a limited number of passengers allowed in the vehicle will certainly deter further distraction.

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October 21, 2010

Parents have the power to influence their teens good decisions, help avoid North Carolina car accidents

Statistics show that every ten minutes Mothers Against Drunk Driving help's an individual who has been a victim of drinking and driving. It is further reported that one in five teens are binge drinkers and only one out of 100 parents know or believe their teen is partaking in binge drinking.

Educating your teen about the dangerous outcomes of drunk driving and knowing the signs to look for if your teen is drinking can help you prevent a horrifying and possibly deadly North Carolina car accident .
We encourage you to speak to your teen about the dangers of drunk driving during Teen Safe Driver Week Oct. 17 to 24 and to continue the message into the holiday season. This is the first in a three-blog series that will also touch on the dangers of drinking and driving and distracted driving among teenagers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that car accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers ages 15 to 20. Nationwide, 6,428 motorists died in accidents with teen drivers in 2008. North Carolina car accidents involving teenagers killed 250 people.

There are obvious signs to let you know if your teen may be drinking. Your teen could be drinking if you find that they been skipping school or is suddenly secretive; their grades begin to suffer; or they start using mouthwash, mints, or gum regularly. If you begin to find alcohol missing in your home or if you find alcohol hidden in their room, your teen could be drinking.

With homecoming and the holidays right around the corner, teens may find themselves in a situation where they feel peer pressure to drink. As a responsible parent there are steps you can take to prevent your teen from drinking and being involved in a drunk driving car accident. Communicate with your teen; don't just talk to them but also listen to their concerns and ideas. Know who your teen's friends are and where and how they spend their time together. Have rules in place and be sure your teenager understands the penalties if they are broken.

Don't underestimate the power of your parenting. According to MADD, in 2008, the GfK Roper Youth Report conducted an online survey of kids up to the age of seventeen. Seventy-nine percent of the kids surveyed said that their parents had a significant influence in their decision to drink.

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October 19, 2010

89,000 North Carolina teen drivers expected to participate in 2010 "Click It or Ticket" seat belt campaign

Our North Carolina car accident attorneys are happy to report that more than 300 high schools statewide are now participating in the "Click It or Ticket" program. Participating schools require drivers and passengers to buckle up before entering or leaving their school parking lot. If any vehicle occupants are caught unbuckled, student drivers can lose on-campus parking privileges. The program, which began in 2005, initially enlisted 53 high schools in 16 counties. As of this year, 303 campuses across 94 counties have elected to participate.
North Carolina ranks in the top ten states recognized for its efforts to enact and enforce laws that promote seat belt, child restraint and motorcycle helmet use. It also requires younger drivers to complete a more rigorous driver education and training curriculum before graduating to a fully provisional driver's license. State law requires all drivers and all passengers to wear a seat belt. For drivers or front-seat passengers caught unbuckled, the penalty fee and court costs reach just shy of $135. For back-seat passengers, the fine is $10.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, on average about 5,000 teen drivers aged 16 to 20 are killed each year in car accidents. Of that number, generally more than half are not wearing their seat belts. In 2006, teen drivers ranked lowest among all drivers likely to buckle up with just three out of four drivers or passengers aged 16 to 20 using seat belts. The best way to get a young driver to wear their seat belt is by example.

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October 13, 2010

Government aims to reduce North Carolina car accidents with new 5-star safety rating system

In an effort to educate drivers to the host of new safety technologies being adopted by car manufacturers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports it has upgraded its 5-star safety ranking system to include rollover resistance and front- and side-crash improvement.

As NHTSA administrator David Strickland suggests, drivers should be educated about and open to embracing new technologies aimed at diminishing incidence of injury or death caused during a serious or fatal North Carolina car accident. "We believe electronic stability control, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning offer significant safety benefits and consumers should consider them when buying a new car," Strickland said.
The new system will evaluate 24 passenger cars, 20 sport utility vehicles, nine pickups and two vans in 2011. Because the new evaluation criteria is more rigorous, previously rated vehicles may not earn the same rankings under the new system.

For those considering a new car purchase, Safer Cars offer a few insights and questions to ask before buyers make a final decision. Specifically, learning what the vehicle offers as far as crash-avoidance technology, occupant protection, and anti-rollover stabilization, will give prospective buyers plenty to think about before making a decision. Other crash-protection and avoidance advances to ask about include:

~ Electronic Stability Control (ESC): If a driver starts to lose control while driving on slippery roads, this technology will compensate for under- or over-steering by automatically applying corrective brake pressure to keep the vehicle moving in the right direction.

~ Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW): Respectively, these technologies alert drivers of incidence when either the distance between a moving vehicle and the car in front of it becomes unsafe, or the car drifts outside lane markings.

~ Advanced Frontal Air Bags, Safety Belt Load Limiter and Safety Belt Pretensioner: Sensors automatically evaluate the severity of impact, seat position, occupant size, and seat belt use to determine and adjust for appropriate deployment velocity as crash occurs.

~ Advanced Head Restraints, Side Air Bags and Curtains: Offer additional protection and cushioning response to the head and chest in the event of a head-on or side-impact crash.

~ Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems: Indicates via dashboard warning light if one or more of the vehicle tires becomes underinflated.

The government 5-star safety ratings for new and used cars are available here.

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October 12, 2010

Tractor-trailer accidents a constant threat to North Carolina motorists

Over the span of one week, tractor-trailers were involved in two separate North Carolina car accidents that left one dead and four injured. In Wilbar, a 47-year-old rig driver dumped his load of lumber after his brakes burned out while rounding a downward curve, the Wilkes Journal-Patriot reports. For about four hours, N.C. 16 was shut to north and southbound traffic, and no injuries were reported. The driver was cited for improper brakes.

In Calhoun County, a pile-up involving three tractor-trailers and two passenger vehicles killed one Tennessee woman and sent three - including her 17-year-old daughter - to the hospital. The wreck began when one passenger vehicle collided with a large truck and both vehicles crossed the median and though cable barriers into oncoming traffic along I-26. The Times and Democrat reports that the crash dumped old batteries, sulfuric acid and spilled diesel along the highway.
Our North Carolina commercial trucking accident lawyers know that in 2008, 143 large trucks were involved in fatal North Carolina car accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2008, tractor-trailers were involved in 380,000 traffic accidents nationwide that left 90,000 people injured and more than 4,200 dead. In fact, tractor-trailers were responsible for one-in-nine traffic fatalities. Large trucks are more often involved in multi-vehicle fatal car accidents, and in three out of four crashes involving a rig, occupants of other vehicles were killed.

There are few simple safety tips drivers can implement when sharing road space with an 18-wheeler:

~ The bigger the vehicle, the more expansive the blind spot. For 18-wheelers especially that blind spot is pronounced along the passenger side. Drivers should NEVER attempt to pass a tractor-trailer on the right-hand side.

~ Before crossing into the lane in front of a tractor-trailer, make sure you can see road space between your car and the rig in your rear-view mirror. This should give the rig driver adequate time to stop without striking your vehicle in the event of an emergency. Keep in mind, the bigger - and heavier - a vehicle is, the more time it takes to for that vehicle to come to rest.

~ Don't tailgate a tractor-trailer. A big-rig driver can only see what is in their mirrors when it comes to side and rear views. Only when you can see mirrors along both sides of a tractor-trailer, are you visible to a big-rig driver.

Continue reading "Tractor-trailer accidents a constant threat to North Carolina motorists" »

October 11, 2010

National Teen Driver Safety Week aims to reduce risk of North Carolina car accidents

October 17th through the 24th is National Teen Driver Safety Week and we join the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in urging parents to speak to their kids about the dangers of poor driving decisions.

Understanding the causes of why teen drivers are involved in such a high number of North Carolina car accidents, can help parents address these issues with their teenagers.
In 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported to Congress that 3,490 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 20 were killed in car accidents across the U.S. Of all of the drivers involved in fatal accidents in 2006, a staggering12.9% were teenagers.

The NHTSA states that teen drivers are less experienced are more prone to be distracted; they talk on their cell phones, send text messages, and do not wear their seatbelt. Through the month of October many teens will be celebrating homecoming with their friends and could possibly have access to alcohol even though they are not old enough to buy it themselves. It is important for parents to educate and talk with their teenagers in order to help them make good decisions and keep them safe.

Talk with your teen about not using the cell phone while driving. With the homecoming season approaching it is also important that parents be responsible in reducing the access their teens may have to alcohol. Parents can find helpful information here to make sure their teenage drivers are as safe as possible .

Here is a safe driving contract for North Carolina teenagers.

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October 10, 2010

Driver fatigue common cause of North Carolina car accidents

Sleep loss has been blamed for a massive, multi-vehicle 2009 Oklahoma pile-up that left 10 dead and numerous others injured. The accident stemmed from a tractor-trailer rig driver whose shift-work schedule disrupted his sleep pattern, the Joplin Globe reports.

Our North Carolina car accident lawyers know it isn't just commercial drivers who are at greater risk of driver fatigue. According to a 2005 study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 168 million drivers - about 60 percent of the registered driving population - admit to driving while drowsy each year. Of those, 37 percent say they have fallen asleep while driving with one-third of those acknowledging it happens as often as once a month. In all, 11 million drivers own up to being involved in a car accident or near miss due to driver fatigue.
It is now believed that fatigue plays are role in 10 to 30 percent of all traffic accidents, costing the U.S. economy $12.5 billion annually in lost wages, medical expenses, property damage and quality-of-life compensation. Annually, driver fatigue has been linked to about 100,000 traffic accidents, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities.

Studies have shown that being awake for 18 hours brings the same level of impairment as having a BAC level of .05; and being awake for 24 hours doubles that effect to .10. The legal limit for a driver to be charged with impairment is .08. Tired drivers tend to be more stressed, more impatient and are more likely to driver faster and make poor judgment calls while on the road. The bottom line is this: the less sleep a North Carolina driver gets, the more likely they are to be involved in a Carolina-area drowsy-driving car accident.

Younger drivers (aged 18 to 29) are far more likely than any other age group to drive while tired and men are more likely to drive while drowsy and fall asleep while driving than women. Of particular risk are adult drivers with children at home, shift-workers and those who regularly get six hours or less sleep per night.

In an effort to raise awareness and reach out to drivers nationwide, the NSF offers some detection and planning tips to help prevent drowsy driving and save lives. Among other things, they recommend drivers avoid alcohol and medication (prescribed or over-the-counter) if they are getting behind the wheel.

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October 7, 2010

Drive Safely Work Week highlights risk of North Carolina car accident while on the job

Drive Safely Work Week runs from Oct. 4 to 8 as safety advocates encourage employers to enact policies aimed at reducing the risk of distracted driving car accidents.

Our North Carolina injury lawyers and workers' compensation attorneys know that car accidents are among the leading causes of serious and fatal work accidents. Nationwide, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that transportation accidents were responsible for more than one-third of all fatal work accidents in 2009, accounting for 1,682 of 4,340 fatal job accidents. Transportation accidents in North Carolina accounted for 47 of 125 fatal work accidents.
"Businesses across the United States are recognizing the impact of this problem on their employees and are beginning to adopt anti-distracted driving policies," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "The materials in this kit are designed to help advance your company's effort against distracted driving."

The workplace safety kit for North Carolina employers is available here.

Drive Safely Work Week aims to push businesses to establish cell phone policies to prevent employees from using phones while driving. The campaign also encourages the use of technology, such as call-blocking features, and mass transit as a means of reducing the dangers of job accidents caused by distracted driving.

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October 5, 2010

Kannapolis car accident claims life of North Carolina teen

An early morning head-on collision has claimed the life of one 18-year-old at A.L. Brown High School. After dropping his mother off at work, the Kannapolis Wonders senior linebacker was on his way to school with his younger brother when the crash occurred, the Independent Tribune reports.

Neither the driver of the SUV he struck, nor his brother, was seriously injured in the Kannapolis, North Carolina car accident. Police reports indicate the four-door Honda crossed the center line around 7 a.m. and struck an SUV head-on. Both alcohol and speeding have been ruled out. It is believed that the driver may have fallen asleep behind the wheel.

As we recently noted in a posting to our North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers blog, teenage drivers are the highest risk age group of any driver when it comes to being involved in a serious or fatal car accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 188 young North Carolina drivers - aged 16 to 20 - were killed in fatal car accidents in 2008. Across the board, men were far likely to be killed in a car accident than their female counterparts.

Also in 2008, the NHTSA reports that there were 13.2 million licensed drivers aged 16 to 20 on national roadways, representing a little more than 6 percent of U.S. drivers. While the trend of young drivers being involved in fatal car accidents has dropped more than 25 percent since 1998, nearly 2,800 15- to 20-year-old drivers were killed and another 228,000 were injured in serious and fatal car accidents in 2008.

Please talk to your teen driver about safe driving habits and encourage them to remain proactive behind the wheel. Teaching your teen not to get into the car with a driver who has been drinking, and to avoid traveling in cars crowded with teenagers or with an irresponsible driver, could save their life.

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October 4, 2010

Effectiveness of GDL program targeting North Carolina teen drivers challenged by critics

Our North Carolina car accidents lawyers have been monitoring the ongoing debate regarding the effectiveness of the state's graduated driver licensing (GDL) program for some time now. Proponents say that the step-up program - which incrementally reduces the number of restrictions on our youngest and most inexperienced drivers - is a life saver.

Critics suggest that program demands discourage drivers aged 16 to 18 from participating in the program. Then, once they turn 19, young drivers can simply skip the GDL phase entirely and choose to study for and pass the DMV road sign test and multiple-choice written exam to earn their driver's license.
In North Carolina, benchmarks for 15- to 18-year-old drivers who enroll in the GDL program can take two years to meet, and include the following restrictions and requirements (among others):
~ completion of a driver's education course.

~ passing the written, visual, road sign and road tests.

~ driving only under the supervision of a parent, grandparent or legal guardian.

~ restricted night-time driving.

~ limiting the number of fellow teenagers permitted in the vehicle.

~ categorical seat-belt use requirement for driver and all passengers.

Whether an advocate or a proponent, one simple truth persists: fewer teens are pressing to get their driver's licenses now than over the last 20 years, Auto Week reports. While the reasons for this can be haggled over, it is most commonly believed three main factors are playing a role keeping drivers aged 15-18 from getting behind the wheel.

First, there is social media and digital connection. Given the near constant connectedness that the electronic age affords this generation, kids can text, Skype and IM to stay connected. In short, they don't need to drive.

Second, it's the economy. With fewer drivers' education programs offered at school, students and families are expected to foot the cost of off-campus driver's education. Pair that cost with the price of gas, buying and maintaining a car and the up-to-50-percent increase that comes with adding a teen driver to a family insurance policy, and the price of freedom becomes too burdensome for kids to bear.

Third, the implementation of tighter regulatory controls, such as GDL programs, which, one way or another, remove our youngest - most inexperienced and least mature - drivers from the riskiest driving situations. Specifically, driving at night and driving with any number of their peers in the car.

We frequently report the dangers faced by teen drivers. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens ages 16 to 20, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They simply cannot have too much training and parents cannot over-emphasize the need to remain safe behind the wheel. We encourage parents to speak to their children about driver safety often and to make it a routine part of their interaction with teen drivers.

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