Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

photo_9135_20090113-300x225Since the legalization of marijuana movement began in the U.S., health and safety experts have been trying to measure the potential impact it would have on traffic accidents. Without ample past reliable data to go off, much of the results so far have been inconsistent. However, according to a new set of studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute, an increase of up to 6 percent in the number of highway crashes has been found in four states where the recreational use of marijuana is legalized. As Providence personal injury lawyers, Tapalian Law feels any uptick in car crashes is reason to sit up and take notice. Our car accident lawyers see clients everyday who suffer from serious injuries incurred in an auto accident. While the latest reports cannot yet prove a direct risk caused by the use of marijuana among vehicle operators, there is a rising trend in these states and any upsurge in car crashes is cause for attention. At this time it is a challenge to accurately test drivers to determine if they are under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Without this hard proof, much more research needs to be done to explore marijuana use and its relationship to vehicle crashes. After this Tuesday’s election, 10 states and Washington D.C. have now legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over the age of 21. Rhode Island has not legalized marijuana for recreational use. Medical marijuana is legalized in 33 states, including Rhode Island.

Results of IIHS Study Linking Legalized Marijuana to Car Crashes

The IIHS studies used police reports and insurance claims to determine auto crashes rose between 5.2% and 6% in states with legalized recreational marijuana, in comparison to neighboring states where marijuana use is illegal. Highway crash data from surrounding states was also compared in an attempt to control for factors like weather and economy. One disturbing find from the study is that while most drivers under the influence of alcohol are driving alone or with other adults, approximately 14% of those confirmed to be using pot had a child in the car. As Providence car accident injury lawyers, this find is very troubling. The IIHS feels this reflects a variance between marijuana and alcohol use and it appears that marijuana use isn’t reserved for evenings and other occasions when adults are more likely to consume alcohol. Experts are uncertain whether this reflects an increase in the use of recreational pot or medical marijuana for pain treatment.  The IIHS is clear however, that there is a “correlation”, a connection, between the rise in crashes once pot became legal, however it is not the same as “causation”, meaning other variables could be involved. One of the difficulties with this study, as with similar reports, is the accuracy in measuring how marijuana use impacts car crashes because law enforcement has a difficult challenge due to the way marijuana works in the body.

photo_103920_20170708-225x300Hundreds of thousands of seniors are hurt or killed in car accidents each year. More than 200,000 drivers over the age of 65 were injured in crashes in 2016, over 3,500 were fatal. Seniors are some of the safest drivers- they are more likely to wear seat-belts, drive sober, and observe speed limits. Yet they are more likely to die in a car crash than other age groups. Behind teenage drivers, seniors have the highest crash death rate per mile driven. With the population living longer, AAA researchers have found that older drivers are now outliving the age when they can drive safely by 7-10 years.  In Rhode Island alone, 20% of drivers are over age 65. The personal injury lawyers at Tapalian Law are always concerned about safe driving habits.  After all, we see clients every day, from new teenage drivers to senior citizens, who suffer from serious car accident related injuries. Our RI injury attorneys know the life-long implications car accident injuries can have on a victim. An aging person’s body is not as agile and flexible as it once was and may not heal from injuries as quickly as a younger person, further complicating the recovery process.  It may be a difficult or embarrassing topic to broach with aging parents. And that’s probably why over 80% of aging drivers never talk to a doctor or family member about it. Typically, when they do it is often too late and happens after a crash or near-collision while on the road.

Why Are Seniors More Likely to Die in Car Crashes?

Fatality rates for older drivers are 17% higher than for 25-64-year-old drivers. Seniors are more likely to die in a car crash than younger people, largely due to having more fragile bodies and underlying medical conditions that can worsen injuries and hinder recovery. But it’s not just the plain fact of old age that can impair older drivers and cause auto accidents. Many other aspects of aging can impede safe driving habits.  As personal injury accident lawyers, we see medication side effects or health circumstances frequently factor into car accidents involving older adults. Over 75% of drivers age 65 and older use one or more medication which can potentially impact their driving ability. As we age, it is common to experience vision changes, hearing loss, delayed reaction time, and mind and cognition impairment. Weaker muscles, decreased flexibility, and reduced range of motion can affect and restrict the ability to hold and turn a steering wheel and press the gas or brake. Arthritis affects half of the middle-aged population and 80% of those in their 70’s. It can cause crippling joint inflammation making the turning, flexing, and twisting needed to operate a motor vehicle and react quickly, painful or physically impossible.

photo_41811_20151002-300x208For most, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer in Rhode Island and beyond. Commonly, a weekend filled with cookouts, celebrations and often, alcohol. Alcohol and impaired driving plays a huge role in why Memorial Day weekend is one of the deadliest weekends for auto accident fatalities. For the second year in a row, the National Safety Council (NSC) is predicting over 400 roadway related deaths this holiday weekend. With the excitement of warmer weather and an extra day off work for some, there are more people driving on the road. As Providence personal injury lawyers, Tapalian Law knows that driving and alcohol are a deadly combination and see the severe injuries related to auto accidents every day.

Warm Weather Holidays Deadlier for Auto Accidents

Car travel has the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation. The summer holidays, including Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, correspond with a higher number of roadway vehicle accidents and roadway fatalities than the cold weather holidays. In Rhode Island and the New England area, we associate the winter time with more car accidents due to snow and ice. However, the summer holidays have a higher per day fatality rate than do Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s when considering the entire country. Winter holidays may also be associated with more air and train travel while car travel is more likely in the summer months increasing the number of drivers on the roads and highways. As it is throughout the year, drunk driving is a huge contributing factor in Memorial Day weekend car crashes.

file0001647280363-300x225Rhode Island recently joined the ranks of six other states to ban a particular style of highway guardrail, the Lindsay X-LITE, due to concerns over the barriers crash safety. The X-LITE guardrails are believed by some to cause potential death or personal injury in car accidents by piercing, or impaling, the vehicles that come into contact with the barrier during a car crash. Several fatal crashes in the U.S. have involved this style of guardrail and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation plans to remove all of them “out of an abundance of caution”, per DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin.

Rhode Island Fatality Due to X-LITE Guardrail

There is one known fatality in Rhode Island involving the X-LITE guardrail. The auto accident fatality took place in Glocester, RI in May 2016. According to the police report, a 29-year-old Massachusetts man driving a pickup truck struck a 10-foot section of the guardrail, rode over the top of the barrier into a utility pole and down an embankment into a tree. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. However, Glocester Police Chief Joseph DelPrete attributes the cause of the accident and its severity to excessive speed, as opposed to a faulty barrier. Chief DelPrete states the truck was driving 90mph on a tight road. The RIDOT did not review this particular incident or determine whether the guardrail is a safety hazard.

photo_40353_20150826-300x205With countless safety options available on newer vehicles today, it is understandable the choices can be overwhelming. However, it’s worth taking the time to understand, even in simple terms, what options are available as many of them are expected to, or have already proven to, assist in preventing car crashes resulting in serious personal injury or death based on National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA) studies.  In Part 1 of our personal injury blog on Driver Assistance Technologies- Sorting Through the Options, we explained the features of Automatic Emergency Braking Systems (AEB), Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking (PAEB), and Backup Cameras, or rearview cameras. In May 2018, backup cameras will be mandatory on all new vehicles. As of now, backup cameras are the only one of these technologies that will be required shortly, but as further crash and safety studies become available, the NHTSA may add further features to the list of required technologies to be mandatory in new vehicles. In Part 2 of this Tapalian Law personal injury blog, we will look at the features and benefits of Forward Collision Warning Systems, Lane Assist or Lane Keeping Support Systems, Blind Spot Detection, and Automatic Crash Notification Systems (ACN or Call 911). These selections are available as options on many of the newer vehicles today.

Forward Collision Warning System (FCW)

How They Work: A forward collision warning system works by using sensors to detect a vehicles speed, speed of the vehicle in front of it, and the distance between the two vehicles with the goal of avoiding or mitigating a rear-end crash. If the rear vehicle is getting too close to the stationary or slower moving automobile ahead of it, the FCW system will warn the driver of an impending crash so the driver is alerted to apply the brakes or steer in another direction to avoid a potential accident. The type of warning may be an audio or visual alert.

technologyIn 2016, over 37,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents. The majority of fatal crashes each year are due to driver error, or driver choice, and most are preventable. In addition to awareness programs bringing attention to drunk driving and distracted driving, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) is fervently promoting motor vehicle technologies that can potentially reduce the number of crashes caused each year that result in death and personal injury. We often hear about these new automobile technologies, but the choices can be overwhelming and confusing, especially if you are not a technology buff. In this Tapalian Law personal injury blog we will break down some of the options recognized by the NHTSA and explain how they can support motorists with further awareness and hopefully decrease the number of harmful auto crashes causing death and personal injury in Rhode Island and all over the U.S. If you are in the market to purchase a new vehicle, many of these features are currently available on newer vehicles as special options so you may want to explore these features further to determine what safety technologies are most important to you when shopping for a new car, truck, or SUV.

Automatic Emergency Braking Systems (AEB)

How They Work: Automatic Emergency Braking Systems, also called AEB, use a combination of sensors to detect an impending forward crash with another vehicle in time to avoid, or reduce, the effects of the crash.  Once an impending crash is sensed, the first step in the system is to alert the driver, (possibly by sound, display on the dashboard, or both), to take corrective action. If the driver does not take action to avoid the crash, the AEB system may take over and automatically apply the brakes to prevent or diminish the impact of the crash.

photo_39856_20150805-300x199Rhode Island traffic fatalities are at their highest since 2008, with 83 traffic related fatalities seen in the state in 2017. This is a jump from 51 traffic deaths seen in 2016 and 2014 in Rhode Island. Ironically, 2015 saw the lowest number of traffic fatalities in RI, 45, since 1992 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). With increased auto safety features and public awareness campaigns about safer driving practices, one would expect to continually see a decrease in injuries and deaths from car accidents each year. So, it is alarming to see an uptick of 63% in just one year. As Providence car accident lawyers who see first-hand the pain and trauma caused to the injured and families of auto accident victims, we are left wondering why the increase in motor vehicle fatalities in 2017?

Reasons for Increase in RI Traffic Fatalities

Just as there are a multitude of reasons for car crashes, there are many causes for fatal car accidents and not one cause can be pinpointed. Although we do know that drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving top the list of causes all over the country. Colonel Ann C. Assumpico, the commanding officer of the Rhode Island State Police, will not cite a particular reason for the increased number of RI traffic deaths but emphasizes the importance of drivers being vigilant about driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, wearing seat belts, and avoiding distractions like cell phones. As many Rhode Islanders know, cell phone usage while driving with be outlawed as of June 2018 in Rhode Island. Though we can not predict if this will realize a decrease in traffic fatalities, it may bring extra awareness to the serious issue of distracted driving.

photo_894_20060124-300x200The holidays are a wonderful time in New England and a great time to catch up with friends and family at the myriad of parties and events hosted this time of year. When alcohol is involved though, sometimes the party can get dangerous. Between Christmas and New Year’s, AAA reports two to three times more deaths from alcohol-related crashes than any other time of the year. Fatalities like these are particularly unsettling considering drinking and driving is completely preventable.  Throughout the year, approximately one-third of all auto accident deaths involve alcohol-impaired drivers. This amounts to an average of one alcohol-related driving death every 45 minutes. As Providence car accident injury lawyers, Tapalian Law sees victims hurt every day in car crashes, however these statistics are still startling and serve as a reminder to us all to enjoy the holidays, but do so safely.  Don’t add yourself to these sobering statistics.

Cutting Down on Rhode Island Drunk Drivers

Rhode Island is serious about cracking down on drunk driving. In 2016, the Rhode Island State Police launched a new sober driving campaign dubbed “Beyond the Crash”. The campaign’s message is similar to the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign created years back and many Rhode Islanders recognize the popular slogan. During designated periods, typically during the holidays when drunk driving accident fatalities increase, the RIDOT works with state and local police to create patrols with the specific goal of cracking down on drinking and driving. Most alcohol-related car crashes occur during the evening hours and on weekends.

photo_39111_20150703-300x208In our tech-savvy society, we constantly want faster and better technology. Automakers scramble to keep up with continually updated tech demands by cramming more intricate technology options into our vehicles. Cars used to have only a small number of buttons and knobs. Now, automakers have upped the ante by adding as many as 50 buttons on the steering wheel and dashboard that have multiple functions. As injury lawyers assisting car accident victims, Tapalian Law can easily see how this could increase the levels of distracted driving and realize an increase in car accidents caused by distracted drivers.

Study Shows GPS & Texting Most Distracting Driving Behaviors

Programming a destination into a built-in GPS system takes drivers an average of 40 seconds and is said to be the most distracting activity for a driver based on a study by AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety. At a rate of 25mph, a vehicle can travel the length of four football fields during that short 40 second spurt. As Providence car accident injury lawyers, Tapalian Law knows prior research shows that the risk of a crash doubles when drivers take their eyes away from the road for only two seconds.  Texting was the second-most distracting task performed in the study. Although guidelines recommend that automakers prevent texting from being available while driving, in two-thirds of the 2017 vehicles tested, the test drivers could text while driving. Motorists already have a multitude of distractions in the car, and not just texting and GPS systems. Eating, drinking, changing the radio station, and chatting with passengers can all be distractions to a driver.

photo_39856_20150805-300x199On October 6th, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released fatal crash data for 2016. NHTSA data reports a 5.6% rise in traffic fatalities from 2015. Collected from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, data shows that 37,461 lives were lost on U.S. roads and highways in 2016 and equates to 102 traffic related fatalities, per day. An enormous 94% of serious crashes are related to human error, or human choice. At Tapalian Law, we are personal injury lawyers who pride ourselves on fighting hard to help victims of auto accidents in Providence and the surrounding communities. We make it our duty to seek the just compensation our personal injury clients deserve.

Drunk Driving Crashes Continue to Cause Biggest Number of Fatalities

It comes as no surprise that the biggest culprit of auto accidents deaths is drunk driving, as this has long been the trend. Speeding-related crash fatalities closely follow behind drunk driving deaths. The NHTSA continually creates programs with the goal of expanding awareness of the acute risk of driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Alcohol-related fatalities in 2016 continue to account for a third of all motor vehicle deaths, following the trends of 2015 and 2014. Astoundingly, these accidents accounted for 10,497 deaths in the U.S. in 2016. This is especially tragic as drunk driving crashes are completely preventable. Impaired motorcycle drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher accounted for the type of vehicle most frequently involved in these types of accidents, followed closely by passenger cars and light trucks. The age groups most often responsible for these fatal alcohol-related accidents were ages 21-24 and ages 25-34.

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