Welcome to Millar & Mixon: May 31, 2016LAWYERS FOCUSED ON SERIOUS CAR, TRUCK AND MOTORCYCLE INJURIES
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Millar & Mixon Personal Injury Attorney Blog
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that at any given daylight moment, 660,000 drivers are using cellphones or manipulating other devices. But these are not the only activities distracting drivers.
Distractions include any activity that diverts a motorist’s attention from the primary task of driving. Texting, for example, increases the risk of a car accident by 23 times, according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. But many other distractions can also be hazardous, endangering drivers, passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists.
The NHTSA identifies three main categories of distractions:
- Visual – Taking your eyes off the road.
- Manual – Taking your hands off the wheel.
- Cognitive – Taking your mind off what you are doing.
Common driver distractions are:
- Texting. One of the most dangerous distractions, texting while driving is completely banned in 44 states plus the District of Columbia. Texting involves all three main types of distractions – visual, manual and cognitive – and is by far the most frightening distraction of all.
- Talking on the phone. Dialing, answering the phone when it rings, talking and listening are simple actions that take your mind off the road and at least one hand off the steering wheel. While 11 states and the District of Columbia have banned all cellphone use by drivers, the problem is still present. A motorist who is cognitively distracted by a phone conversation is liable to run a red light, rear-end another car or change lanes without using a signal.
- Eating and Drinking. Fast food joints are just an exit away, and when the hunger pangs strike, it’s easy to swing off the highway for a snack or a meal without getting out of the car. But when you eat while driving, you are likely to take your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road.
- Talking to passengers. The occupants of your car can pose a visual and cognitive distraction. They may try to make eye contact during conversations, and when you turn your head to look at them or try to see them in the rearview mirror, you take your eyes off the road and risk crashing.
- Grooming. Many people try to save time by waiting until they are in the car to comb their hair or put on make-up. A driver checking his appearance in the rearview mirror takes his eyes off the road long enough to create a dangerous situation.
Others activities, including checking maps, using a navigational system, watching a video, adjusting the car’s temperature controls, radio or CD player, or reaching for something on the passenger seat or floorboard can also be dangerously distracting.
Distractions along the road, such as highway construction or a wreck, can also take your focus away from driving and your eyes off the road in front of you.
Fatigue can lead to the cognitive distraction of daydreaming or zoning out.
In 2012, 3,328 people were killed and an estimated 421,000 people were injured in crashes caused by driver distractions, according to distraction.gov, the government website on distracted driving.
A driver’s primary obligation is safety behind the wheel. Steering a vehicle requires full attention and focus. Drivers should never engage in any activity that takes their eyes off the road for more than a second. In some circumstances, even a second or two can mean the difference between making it to your destination safely and having a devastating car accident.
Drivers who do not maintain their tires may face liability if those tires cause an accident resulting in property damage, injury or even death.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website safercar.gov reports that worn tires cause nearly 11,000 crashes and 200 deaths annually.
As tires age, they lose their tread and their structural integrity, increasing the likelihood they could blow out or skid and cause a car accident. And summertime heat makes bad tires worse.
Worn tires create problems with control, braking and ease of handling in a number of situations including:
Heat – The grooves in the tires help with traction and they allow airflow, which helps keep the tires cool. As the tread wears down, tires can heat up. Heat causes tire rubber to break down and fail.
Punctures – A thick tire tread protects the tire casing from being punctured. When the tread is worn thin, a piece of glass, a nail, or metal can cause a puncture. A puncture could lead to a sudden, dangerous blowout and possibly a crash.
Hydroplaning – When it rains, the tires’ deep tread will bite into the water to create traction and hold your car on the road. Worn tire tread will cause your tires to glide across a wet surface, or hydroplane. It doesn’t take much water to cause a car to hydroplane, making it nearly impossible to control.
Leaks – Tires with worn tread are likely to lose air pressure due to leakage, which affects steering, braking and fuel economy.
At fast speeds on busy highways, loss of control due to a blowout, a puncture, or loss of traction could be catastrophic.
A deadly wreck just south of Atlanta in December 2013 has been blamed on faulty tires, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The driver of an F-150 pick-up truck was killed and a passenger seriously injured when the truck overturned on I-75 December 17, 2013. Both the driver and his passenger were ejected from the vehicle in the crash. No other vehicles were involved.
Police said a mechanical issue with the tires may have caused the pickup truck to overturn.
If you are injured in an accident caused by a car with worn, faulty or degraded tires, you may be able to recover damages from the driver whose car is at fault for failing to replace tires that have been recalled or for failing to follow NHTSA guidelines for tire maintenance and replacement.
A tire manufacturer may also be held liable if the tire causing your accident failed due to poor construction or a manufacturing defect.
You can help keep yourself and your passengers safe on the roads by properly maintaining your own tires.
Here are some tips to help you take care of your tires, especially during hot weather months, when they are most vulnerable.
- Follow the recommended tire pressure found either inside your car door or in the vehicle’s instruction manual.
- Tires can lose one pound per square inch – or PSI – per month. Keep a tire pressure gauge in your car so you can check your tires to ensure proper inflation.
- Watch for your tire pressure monitoring light system on your dashboard and check your tires if the light comes on.
- Check your vehicle’s instruction manual for specific recommendations for tire replacement.
- Monitor the tread on your tires. The easiest way to measure is to use the “penny test.” Simply place a penny in your tire’s tread with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see the top of the head, your tires are worn down to 2/32 of an inch and are ready for replacement.
- Watch for tread wear indicators such as raised sections spaced throughout the bottom of tread grooves. When you can see those sections, your tires should be replaced.
If you or a loved one is injured in an accident in the Atlanta area due to a tire failure and you believe another driver or a third party such as a tire manufacturer or a repair shop may be at fault, consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you determine who is responsible and build a solid case for you.
Starting July 1, slow drivers who hog the fast lanes of Georgia highways may get in trouble with the law. Under the state’s new “Slowpoke Bill” they could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000.
Representative Bill Hitchens, a former Georgia State Patrol commander, introduced the bill, which passed within weeks of its introduction. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed it in March.
The bill grew out of drivers’ frustration with slow drivers who cause traffic backups. Some traffic studies have found that slow drivers may be as dangerous as speeders.
Slow drivers impede the flow of traffic and cause other drivers to become distracted, reckless or even enraged.
Motorists who are driving close to the maximum speed limit of a congested highway do not expect to come up on another driver creeping along in the left lane. The result may be a rear-end collision or multicar pile-up. Or a driver may try to veer around a slowpoke to the right and sideswipe a vehicle in another lane.
Allstate Insurance says slowpoke drivers include those who are:
- Distracted. Driving while using a phone can reduce focus by 37 percent, the government website distraction.gov reports. When drivers take their eyes off the road they tend to slow down. Texting reduces their ability to process other information, including any traffic that suddenly appears in the rearview mirror.
- Tourists. Tourists often drive below the speed limit while taking their time to enjoy the sights. Often they are driving slowly as they try to navigate an unfamiliar area.
- Youth. Young drivers are usually associated with speeding, but they often drive too slowly. As uncertain drivers, they may be unfamiliar with surroundings and scenarios that experienced drivers navigate with confidence, so they travel at a snail’s pace to compensate.
- Senior citizens. Senior drivers experience many conditions that may cause them to drive at a slow pace. They may suffer from arthritis and stiff joints, reducing the amount of pressure they can apply to the gas pedal. Or they may suffer from diminished senses, including hearing and vision, which inhibits their ability to notice hazards, read street signs and gauge distances to other cars and pedestrians.
The National Motorists Association supports laws regulating driving in the left lane. In its Lane Courtesy Fact Sheet, the organization outlines the following benefits of driving in the proper lane:
- Fewer car wrecks. Driving slowly in the passing lane obstructs faster drivers, often leading them to tailgate and weave in and out of traffic. Smoother flowing traffic results in fewer accidents.
- Better gas mileage. When traffic flows smoothly, vehicles run at an even pace, which improves fuel economy.
- Earlier arrival times. Yielding to faster traffic reduces congestion, and when traffic is flowing smoothly, highways operate at optimum capacity and drivers reach their destinations on time.
- Friendlier motorists. Many drivers become enraged when they encounter left-lane hogs. The courteous act of moving to the right can help curb conflict among motorists.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were more than 5.6 million vehicle crashes in 2012, a 5 percent increase from 2011. This high incidence of wrecks indicates that most people will be involved in an accident at some point in their lives. Most will suffer property damage only, but in some cases, vehicle occupants may be injured or killed.
The most common type of accident resulting from slow driving in the fast lane is a rear-end collision. In this type of accident, it may be difficult to prove who was at fault, though the driver of the car that rear-ended the vehicle in front is usually cited for a moving violation. A driver who strikes another vehicle from the rear and is injured may be able to collect damages by showing that the driver in front violated the law.
If you or someone you love has been harmed because of an accident caused by a slow driver, you may have legal rights and options at your disposal, as it’s quite possible that this slow driver was negligent.
An experienced Georgia car accident attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to prove your accident was caused by a slow driver and will advise you on your legal rights and options.
Vehicle crashes take an enormous toll on the U.S. economy and the financial health of those who are injured or suffer the loss of family members.
The figure includes $277 billion in economic costs – nearly $900 for each person living in the United States – and $594 billion in societal harm from loss of life and pain and decreased quality of life for victims who are injured.
Behavioral factors that contribute to crashes include drunk driving, speeding and distracted driving.
If you have to go to a hospital in an ambulance following a motor vehicle accident, the medical bills will start mounting after the call to 911. Even if you are healthy enough to drive yourself to the hospital, an urgent care facility or your doctor, you will start facing bills while you are waiting for your insurance claim or personal injury case to settle.
The ambulance trip alone can cost more than $1,000 in the Atlanta area. Add more than $2,500 for an emergency room examination, emergency surgery or a single night in the intensive care unit, and your medical costs soar.
If your injuries cause a short- or long-term disability or require additional treatment or therapy over a period of time, your bills will continue to add up.
Your health insurance should cover most of your medical expenses. But if you don’t have health insurance, or if your insurance is not enough to cover all of the cost, you may find yourself in trouble financially.
Georgia insurance regulations require drivers to carry accident liability insurance of at least $25,000 per person for bodily injury, $50,000 per accident for injury to two or more people and $25,000 for property damage.
While Georgia law does not require motorists to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage or Personal Injury Protection coverage, many drivers add this coverage to their insurance policies. Personal Injury Protection coverage can be used to cover out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles, coinsurance or co-pays with your regular health insurance.
Auto accident injuries are painful and expensive. In most cases, you must pay out-of-pocket expenses up front while waiting on a compensation check from your auto insurance. If money is tight, you may be in a precarious situation.
If you don’t have insurance coverage and have to pay your expenses out of pocket, be sure to document every medical-related cost such as:
- Emergency department visits
- X rays
- Over-the-counter medicine
- Hospital stays
- Physical therapy
- Ambulance expenses
- Transportation to and from your medical appointments
If you can’t cover these costs, work out a plan with your health care provider to place a hold on your account, which will keep your provider from calling collection agencies as long as you agree to pay when your injury claim is settled.
Georgia has a statute of limitations of two years for cases involving bodily injury and four years for property damage. You must file a lawsuit or settle your case within these time limits.
Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. More than 30,000 people are killed in crashes in the United States, including approximately 1,200 in Georgia each year, the NHTSA reports.
The best way to avoid the pain, heartache and financial hardship stemming from an accident is to do as much as possible to protect yourself by staying sober and attentive behind the steering wheel and making sure you are buckled in at all times when you are in a vehicle, even for a short trip to the grocery store.
If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident in the Atlanta area, or anywhere in Georgia, do not sign anything from an insurance company before consulting a qualified, experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer who can help you navigate the labyrinth of laws and get the financial resources you need to recover and get back on your feet.
In the United States, more children die from injuries suffered in car accidents than from any other cause. At least a third of these deaths are preventable if parents would only use child safety seats correctly.
Vehicle crashes in 2011 killed more than 650 children age 12 and younger and injured more than 148,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. About one-third of the children who died were not buckled in.
According to the CDC, each year more than 618,000 children ages 12 and younger ride in vehicles without using a child safety seat, a booster seat or even a seat belt.
Car seat use reduces the risk of death for infants under 1 year old by 71 percent and cuts the risk of death for older kids by 45 to 54 percent. But car safety seats and booster seats aren’t effective, and can even do more harm than good, if parents buy the wrong style or install them incorrectly.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that three out of four children are not as secure in car seats as they should be because the seats are not used properly. According to the CDC, a study of 3,500 car and booster seats showed that 72 percent were misused to the extent they could increase a child’s risk of injury during a crash.
Choose the Right Safety Seat
Parents can help keep their children safe by learning how to choose an appropriate safety seat, how to install it correctly and how to buckle their little passengers in securely. It is up to parents to educate themselves on the types of restraints required for their children from infancy until they are teenagers.
Parents should understand and use car seat safety ratings. The NHTSA has a five-star rating system that evaluates car seat instructions, installation, labels and features.
Child passenger restraint requirements vary based on a child’s age, weight and height, and come in three stages: rear-facing infant seats, forward-facing child safety seats for toddlers and booster seats for older children.
All 50 states have safety seat laws, with fines for violations ranging from $10 to $500 for first offenses. In Georgia, children younger than 8 must be properly restrained in an appropriate child passenger safety seat or booster seat while riding in a car, van or pick-up truck. A first offense carries a $50 fine and driver’s license points. A second offense can draw a fine of up to $100.
As long as children are using safety seats, parents should stay up to date on maintenance issues, defects and recalls and be ready to act on them. Parents should also carefully monitor safety seat fit as their children grow and replace the equipment as needed.
Children follow examples, and parents can help keep their kids safe into adulthood by being role models and always wearing their own seatbelts.
On Memorial Day, we honor the United States veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the freedoms we enjoy. Many families celebrate the holiday by making the first getaway of the season to visit friends and family. More than 8 out of 10 people travelling during the holiday weekend go by automobile.
With so many people on the road, Memorial Day is a holiday associated with many car accidents. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates 382 motorists will lose their lives over the holiday weekend, which begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 23 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 26.
In addition to the fatalities, the NSC predicts nearly 41,000 people will suffer injuries requiring medical care.
AAA predicts holiday travel this year will reach a new post-recession high, with 31.8 million motorists taking to the highways. With more vehicles on the road, the risk of being involved in a crash will rise along with traffic volumes. It is projected to be the highest volume since 2005—a year when 32 people died in traffic accidents in Georgia during the holiday weekend.
Last year, during Memorial Day weekend, the Georgia State Patrol investigated 650 crashes that caused six deaths and 366 injuries, according to the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
The most effective way to stay safe and enjoy your Memorial Day weekend travel is to buckle up. Georgia State Troopers will be conducting roadside checks and high visibility patrols and focusing on seat belt violations as well as drunk drivers.
Studies show that seat belt use could save 139 lives over the holiday, according to the NSC. Sobriety also saves lives, and in towns and counties throughout Georgia and the rest of the United States law enforcement officers will be patrolling the roadways and setting up checkpoints to make sure motorists are not drinking and driving.
Leaving your cell phone out of sight will help you avoid the temptation of texting or making calls while driving.
Here are some tips to help keep you safe and your holiday weekend enjoyable:
- Wear your seatbelt, and make sure your passengers are buckled in too. Small children should be restrained in age-appropriate safety seats.
- Don’t drink and drive.
- Pay attention. Don’t text or make calls on your phone, and avoid other distractions such as reading maps, setting your GPS devices, eating and grooming when you are behind the wheel.
- Slow down and respect posted speed limits.
- Drive defensively. Pay attention to other motorists on the road and avoid erratic drivers.
- Don’t tailgate the vehicle in front of you.
- Make frequent stops and rotate drivers on long trips. If you are too tired to drive, stop and get some rest.
- Be patient, and allow extra time for travel. Traffic will be heavy and there may be delays.
- Let someone know your travel plans and the time you expect to arrive at your destination.
Your summer vacation will get off to a good start if you practice safety on the road.
New cars must be equipped with rear visibility technology by mid-2018 under a rule that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says will reduce fatalities and serious injuries from backover car accidents.
The U.S. Department of Transportation proposed the regulations in 2010, two years after Congress called for changes in response to accidents involving drivers who backed their vehicles over young children, causing fatal injuries.
In an average year, backover accidents cause 15,000 injuries and 210 deaths, according to the NHTSA. Many of these accidents occur in driveways or parking lots and affect the most vulnerable victims – children under five years old and senior citizens.
The new rule will start phasing in camera installations on 2016 vehicles and will apply to all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds by May 1, 2018.
The agency projects backup cameras will save 58 to 69 lives per year when the mandate goes into full effect.
The NHTSA estimates it will cost between $43 and $45 to install cameras on vehicles equipped with an appropriate display screen. It will cost approximately $132 to $142 to install a rearview camera system along with a display screen.
The new regulation requires backup technology to provide a view of a 10-foot by 20-foot area directly behind the vehicle. Kidsandcars.org, an organization that advocates for the safety of children around cars, defines a “blind zone” as the large area around vehicles where backover or frontover accidents are most likely to occur. These blind zones usually measure 7 to 8 feet wide and 20 to 30 feet long.
In today’s marketplace, most new vehicles are available with a backup camera as an option, and they are already popular.
In addition to keeping kids and other pedestrians safe around cars, backup cameras allow for better visibility in busy parking lots and make parallel parking easier.
Tips for Avoiding Backover Accidents
The NHTSA website Safercar.gov offers tips to help you keep kids and others safe around vehicles.
- Before moving your vehicle, walk around and behind it to make sure the area is clear and make sure you can see every child in the vicinity standing in the yard or on the sidewalk before you start driving.
- When your car is parked in the driveway, set the emergency brake and teach children that the area around your car is not a playground.
- Supervise children around vehicles. Have another adult help supervise them before you start driving
- Train your children to move away from a vehicle when a driver gets in or when the car starts up.
- Watch out for small children and remember: the smaller the child, the harder it is to see him or her. Kids ages 12 months to 23 months are among the most vulnerable.
- Make sure you look behind your vehicle and back out of your driveway slowly in case a child suddenly dashes into your path
- If kids are playing in the area, it is a good idea to roll down your car windows as you back out so you will be able to hear if anyone calls out.
- Keep the area around your driveway clear. Remove toys and sports equipment and trim bushes and hedges for maximum visibility
Never leave children alone in or around cars. Keep the doors locked and keep keys and remote openers out of reach.
A driver whose pick-up truck rear-ended a school bus in Albany, Ga., told police he was reaching to change his radio station at the time, WALB reported recently. The accident, which occurred when the bus was stopped to drop children off, sent the bus driver, the truck driver and nine children to a local hospital.
The AAA Foundation names distracted driving as one of the top traffic safety issues for drivers. In its annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, the foundation reports that more than 80 percent of drivers cite distraction as a serious problem that makes them feel unsafe on the roadways. The organization points out that the federal government estimates that distraction contributes to 16 percent of all fatal crashes, leading to around 5,000 deaths a year.
As technology becomes more sophisticated, safety experts are more concerned than ever about the dangers of distracted driving.
Guidelines for Manufacturers
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issued guidelines in 2013 to encourage manufacturers to reduce distractions caused by navigational or infotainment systems installed in new cars. The agency urged car companies to restrict systems that allow drivers to push buttons or manually input addresses or other data while a vehicle is moving. The guidelines do not restrict voice-activated systems, however.
These guidelines are designed to make sure drivers do not take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds at a time.
In February, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia held a forum advising car companies to move faster on implementing standards for in-car technology. Automakers are promoting voice-based messaging as a safer alternative to systems that require drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel to place a phone call or use other mobile devices.
And the trade group Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers actively advocates banning any texting or use of cell phones while driving.
Hands-Free Technology Also Distracting
Motorists experience serious mental distractions when using mobile technology, even when they keep both hands on the steering wheel and their eyes on the road, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Research has found that as mental workload and distractions increase, reaction time slows and cognitive function is compromised. Drivers can miss visual clues, hampering safety on the road.
Infotainment systems in new vehicles are expected to grow five times over by 2018, and AAA is calling for action, using the findings to promote a dialogue with policy makers, safety advocates and the auto industry to ensure these in-vehicle technologies don’t compromise public safety.
The National Safety Council keeps a running count of auto accidents involving drivers using handheld devices. That number ticks up every 30 seconds and in mid-May was approaching 400,000 crashes this year.
Today, more than 40 states, including Georgia, have passed laws banning texting while driving, and some states have banned all use of handheld devices behind the wheel. Georgia imposes a $150 fine for violating its texting law and adds one driver’s license point for each offense.
In April, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced a national advertising campaign and law enforcement crackdown to combat distracted driving. The “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” campaign reminds drivers of the deadly consequences associated with distracted driving, as well as the penalties for violating distracted driving laws.
According to Distraction.gov, the U.S. government website on distracted driving, the following activities are considered distracting:
- Using a cellphone or smartphone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Reading, including maps
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player
The website reports 171 billion texts are sent every month in the United States, and approximately 600,000 Americans are using their phones while driving at any given moment. In 2012 accidents distracted driving killed 3,328 people.
States began enacting seat belt laws in 1985 to require drivers and passengers to buckle up. The laws were controversial at first, but seat belt use has been climbing ever since. As of 2012, the use of seat belts reached 86 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Nonetheless, the National Safety Council says some groups of people are less likely than others to wear seat belts: teenagers; commercial drivers; men in rural areas; pick-up truck drivers, people driving at night and drunk drivers.
Some people still view seat belt laws as infringements on their rights. Some believe air bags offer adequate protection. Others don’t like to wear seat belts for fear of wrinkling their clothing.
Sometimes drivers assume that if they do not travel far, the chances of crashing are slim. And some have so much confidence in their driving skills that they don’t think they will be involved in a crash.
In reality, failure to wear your seat belt may cost you your life if you are in a car crash. And if you survive with injuries, your insurance company may balk at compensating you if were not wearing your seat belt.
In some states, comparative negligence laws mean that victims who are partly at fault for their injuries receive less than full compensation. Under comparative negligence, compensatory damages are reduced by the percentage of fault that you bear for your injuries. Insurance companies may argue that your injuries would have been far less serious if you had been wearing a seat belt.
Laws vary across the country, however. Under Georgia law, if you are injured in an accident that is not your fault, the other driver’s insurer cannot blame you for not wearing a seat belt because that would unfairly let the at-fault driver off the hook. Georgia law does not consider juries to be qualified to determine to what extent the lack of a seat belt had to do with the severity of your injury.
Georgia is one of 32 states with standard, or primary, seat belt laws, according to AAA. This means a law enforcement officer may stop your vehicle and issue a citation if the officer observes an unbelted rider or passenger. Other states have secondary enforcement laws, meaning an officer may issue a seat belt citation only after stopping a vehicle for another offense.
Safety advocates say that standard seat belt laws are more effective at persuading people to buckle up. That’s important, because seat belts are the single most effective safety device for preventing deaths and injuries in a crash, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Seat belt use reduces crash-related injuries and fatalities by 50 percent.
Making the roads safer is everyone’s business, from government to health care providers to individual drivers:
- State governments can pass strong seat belt laws and make sure those laws apply to everyone in the car, not just those in the front seat. States can also ensure enforcement of seat belt laws and educate the public.
- Health professionals can remind patients about the importance of seat belt use and encourage patients to make seat belt use a habit.
- Individuals can use a seat belt on every trip, no matter how short, and encourage everyone in the car to buckle up, including back-seat passengers.
You may be a good driver with a clean record who has never experienced even a minor accident. But you can’t control other drivers. Statistics relating to drunk drivers and distracted drivers are devastating.
Failure to use a seatbelt contributes to more crash fatalities than any other traffic safety behavior.
If you don’t buckle up, you risk heavy fines, points against your insurance, and pain and suffering for you and your family if you are injured or killed in an accident.
Recently in Gwinnett County, a motorist was arrested and accused of leaving the scene of a fatal collision with an 85-year-old man walking in a crosswalk at an intersection. The driver allegedly ran a stop sign in her Ford pickup truck before striking the pedestrian, the Gwinnett Daily Post reported. The pedestrian later died from his injuries.
Leaving the scene of an accident, or hit and run, is a serious offense. Drivers convicted of hit and run can face heavy fines, mandatory loss of license and jail time in some cases.
Even knowing they face such stiff punishment, drivers involved in accidents may flee for a variety of reasons: a bad driving record, driving drunk, outstanding arrest warrant, no liability insurance, fear of the consequences and just plain panic.
USA Today reported in November that hit-and-run crashes are on the rise across the nation. In Los Angeles in 2009, nearly half of all collisions in the city were hit and run.
The newspaper reported that crash data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed fatal hit-and-run crashes rose from 1,274 in 2009 to 1,449 in 2011, a 14 percent increase.
An analysis by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that one in five pedestrian fatalities are hit-and-runs and that 60 percent of hit-and-run fatalities involve pedestrians.
After a Hit-and-Run Crash
There may come a time when you are on the receiving end of a hit-and-run collision. As you watch the other driver speed away, you may feel helpless. You may panic or feel angry.
You may feel like chasing down the driver, but that is likely the worst action you could take. The threat of road rage could put your life in danger. You may be so shaken up from your collision that you cause another accident.
If you are a victim of a hit and run accident:
Call for help. You have a duty to remain at the scene. Even if you are the victim, you could be charged with leaving the scene of an accident if you drive away to try to track down the person who struck your car.
Record as much information as possible. Take down a description of the vehicle that hit you. Get the make, model and color. Get the license plate number if at all possible. If you can describe the driver, be sure to pass that along to the police. If you are injured and unable to write down these details, try to at least remember your location, the time of the wreck and as many details as possible.
Seek out witnesses. Collect their names and contact information and ask them to make a statement to the police. Your insurance company will use witness statements to help determine which driver was at fault.
File an insurance claim. If you have enough information to identify the guilty driver, you can get the driver’s insurance information. If the driver who hit you has no liability coverage or cannot be located, you can file a claim with your own insurer if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
Contact a lawyer, especially if you were injured or if a loved one was killed as a result of a hit-and-run accident.
Not only do convicted hit-and-run drivers face criminal charges, large fines, and jail time but they can also be held liable for civil damages. A court may award compensation for medical bills, loss of income, property damage, pain and suffering and other damages. Punitive damages, or compensation exceeding a victim’s actual monetary losses, may also be awarded to punish a hit-and-run offender for callous behavior, especially when the failure to stop contributed to a victim’s injuries or death.
If you are injured or if a loved one is killed in a hit-and-run collision, you also may be entitled to money through the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program. The program helps victims and their families deal with the emotional and physical issues associated with a crime and eases the monetary impact by providing financial benefits.
Your Georgia car accident attorney can help you navigate through the aftermath if you have been injured in a hit-and-run collision. Your attorney can deal with insurance companies and help you explore your legal options if the hit-and-run driver cannot be found.