Posted On: June 30, 2011

Technology Increases Risks for a Distracted Driving Car Accident in Alabama

According to a recent study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, nearly 40 percent of surveyed students admitted to using mobile phone applications while operating a motor vehicle, according to UAB News. Many of these students still participate in the dangerous activity even after they’ve almost involved themselves in a serious car accident in Alabama because of it.

“The participants seemed to understand that using mobile apps while driving is dangerous, and some have even experienced motor vehicle crashes while using mobile apps, but they continue to do it,” said University of Alabama student Lauren McCartney, who conducted the survey.

Our Birmingham injury attorneys are proud to report that this study will be presented in August to the 119th American Psychological Association (APA) convention in Washington, D.C. It’s encouraging to hear about students getting involved in driver safety. With concerned students on our local campuses, we may have a chance to reduce the number of fatalities caused by dangerous and careless driving habits. Our driving future may not be doomed after all.

“The technology is evolving so rapidly that science hasn’t caught up to looking at the effects that mobile app usage can have behind the wheel of a car,” says McCartney. “But something needs to be done because in psychological terms, Internet use involves substantial cognitive and visual distraction that exceeds talking or texting, making it much more dangerous.”

Currently, 33 states have already banned text messaging while driving. No states have yet to ban the specific use of mobile Internet while driving.

“Driving a car is an incredibly complex task for humans to complete safely. There are enormous cognitive, perceptual and motor tasks an automobile driver must complete, frequently very quickly and with split-second precision,” says Schwebel. “A driver using his or her smartphone is clearly distracted, both visually and cognitively, and really should not be driving. The fact that 10 percent of college students with smartphones ‘often’ are using them while driving is astounding — the fact that 35 percent ‘sometimes’ do is equally concerning.”

Since June of 2009, accidents that were caused by distracted driving have been recorded by the state's electronic crash report system, called eCrash. According to Alabama Live, there have been more than 1,400 wrecks reported that involved a distracted driver using a cell phone or another electronic device in the past 13 months.

"Although the available data is limited, there are many examples of vehicle crashes where distracted driving was a factor," ADECA Traffic Safety Program Manager Bill Whatley said in a prepared statement. "We urge Alabama drivers to recognize that anything that distracts you from driving your vehicle is reckless behavior that endangers us all."

A fairly new organization, Alabamians Against Distracted Driving (AADD), aims to combat this problem. They were established after US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s requested participation from public-minded citizens.

He asked for their assistance and requested they become involved in the “anti distracted driving” movement. AADD aims to educate drivers about the dangers of texting while driving and of the danger of using a cell phone while driving, even if it's a hands-free device. Drivers using cell phones are 4 times more likely to be involved in a car accident.

"Texting has been the big explosion," said Michael Bassett, administrator of driver's education for the state Department of Education. "We tell them if you are going to text, you need to pull over to a safe place. If there's someone else in the car, they are the ones who need to be using the phone, not the driver."

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Posted On: June 29, 2011

Our Birmingham Injury Attorneys Wish You a Safe and Happy 4th of July!

The 4th of July holiday weekend is approaching and our Birmingham personal injury attorneys would like to wish everyone a happy and safe Independence Day. It is important to remember to be safe and cautious during this celebratory weekend as your risk of injury faces a steep increase.

When you think of the 4th of July, of course you think of fireworks. According to the Birmingham-based United States Eye Injury Registry, there are roughly 12,000 fireworks-related injuries that are treated in U. S. hospital emergency rooms each year. It is estimated that every year as many as 400 Americans suffer permanent vision loss in one or both eyes because of firework injuries in Alabama and elsewhere.

"The best way to enjoy fireworks this Fourth of July is to leave them to the professionals," says Doug Witherspoon, M.D., director of the Ocular Trauma Center at University of Alabama at Birmingham Callahan Eye Hospital.

Firework safety tips to keep you save this 4th of July:

-Refrain from using bottle rockets.

-Do not allow children to play with fireworks, or even sparklers.

-Always keep water nearby, either in a bucket of water or from a hose.

-Always have an adult present.

-Never relight dud fireworks. Let them sit for 20 minutes and then soak them in water.

-Don't drink and use fireworks. Always have a designated lighter.

-Never mix fireworks.

-Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.

-Make sure that the person lighting fireworks is wearing eye protection.

-Use fireworks as they're instructed.

-Only light one firework at a time.

Residents are also urged to celebrate safely near water, whether on a boat or in your backyard pool.

In 2002, according to Alabama Department of Public Health, there were more than 60 pool drowning deaths in our state. Drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death in Alabama for children under the age of 15.

In 2007 alone, there were nearly 3,500 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States. These pool-related drownings average out to about ten occurring each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than half of all drowning victims that are treated in emergency rooms end up needing hospitalization. Nonfatal injuries can turn out to be severe. These types of drownings can cause brain damage that can result in long-term disabilities. These disabilities can include memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning.

When celebrating by the pool, remember these safety tips:

-Always use the buddy system when swimming.

-Never let children swim without supervision.

-Do not use rafts, water wings, inner tubes or any other air-filled swimming aid as a safety device. They are not designed to protect children from drowning.

-Enroll your child in professional swimming lessons as early as possible.

-Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). This lifesaving strategy can help to keep victims alive until paramedics arrive in the event of an emergency.

A number of residents and visitors will be hitting the water on a boat over the long holiday weekend as well. We urge all boaters to take every safety precaution as a day on the water this weekend is could result in serious -- if not fatal -- injuries. In 2009 alone, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that there were more than 4,700 boating incidents. Nearly 4,000 boaters were reported to have been injured and more than 700 died.

Of those who were injured, 9 out of 10 of them were not wearing life jackets Most boating fatalities that happened in 2008 were caused by drowning with 90 percent of victims not wearing life jackets. The remainder of boating fatalities were caused by trauma, hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, or other causes.

Discover Boating offers these safety tips to you if you're going to be out on the water during this 4th of July weekend:

-Check the weather. Be sure to check TV and radio forecasts before venturing out on your boat and keep an eye on changing weather conditions once you're on the water.

-Abide by waterway speed limits.

-Be respectful of navigational aids and buoys.

-Be sure to travel with someone, aside from yourself, that is familiar with your boat’s handling, operations, and other boating safety tips.

-Avoid alcohol. You're twice as likely to be involved in a boating accident when alcohol is involved.

-Learn to swim. Check with your local American Red Cross or other safety advocates for training programs and instructional classes in your area.

-Enroll in a boating course. This will help to you become familiar with boating safety rules of operation.

-Free vessel safety check. The US Coast Guard offers free boat examinations to ensure the presence and condition of safety equipment that is required by State and Federal regulations.

We hope that you have a fun and safe holiday weekend and make sure you check out some of the great Alabama 4th of July events.

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Posted On: June 28, 2011

AAA Helps Teach Teens to Avoid Car Accidents in Alabama

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is now offering a new website to residents across the United States. What's so special about this new website, Keys2Drive: The AAA Guide to Teen Driver Safety, is that you can choose to view information that is specific to your state. That's right, the site offers information customized for Alabama.

Our Alabama injury attorneys understand how important this tool may be. It is critical for parents to work along with their teen as they learn how to drive. This website offers step-by-step instructions from choosing the right driver education program to deciding when solo driving should be permitted. This will help to ensure the safety of your teen on our roadways because you will know how to prepare them for every possible hazard.

Car accidents in Birmingham and elsewhere throughout the country are the number one cause of death for teens. Car accidents take the lives of more teens than homicide, suicide and cancer combined. It's just as deadly to send your teen off in a car with a sibling, a teenage neighbor or another teen driver. Research shows that even the smartest and most intelligent teens have an increased risk of being involved in a fatal accident. The only thing that may lower these risks is experience.

Tips for parents to help teach their young, teen driver:

-Lead by example. Always drive as you wish them to drive.

-Always wear your seat belt, use your turn signals and obey speed limits to illustrate the importance of abiding by roadways rules.

-Allow your teen plenty of supervised driving time.

-Allow them to drive in a number of conditions. While it may scare you now, it can help to ease your nerves later.

-Be sure you encourage your driver with positive reinforcement. Yelling at them while they're behind the wheel of a motor vehicle will only intimidate them and negatively affect their driving abilities. Give credit where credit is due.

-Stress the importance of not drinking and driving. Although they may not be old enough to drink, it doesn't mean that they won't.

-Talk with them about distracted driving or driving when not focused.

Alabama currently uses the three-stage licensing process for teens. This is a system that allows them to gradually be exposed to complex driving stations. At the age of 15 they are able to apply for a learner's permit. For this they have to visit their local driver exam office with a state-certified copy of the teen’s birth certificate, a Social Security card and acceptable proof of school enrollment or graduation. They then have to pass a written driver’s knowledge test and a vision test.

Next is the restricted license. When your teen turns 16, they will have had their learner's permit for at least 6 months and have completed at least 30 hours of supervised driving. Now they can apply for this intermediate license They also must pass a hands-on driving test, complete a vision test and provide proof of practice driving time. Legal guardians are to accompany their teen to the DMV because they are required to sign the application form.

Last is the unrestricted license. When your teen turns 17, they will be eligible for a full unrestricted license, but they must have held a restricted license for six months and have no violations.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Alabama witnessed nearly 100 teen drivers die as a result of car accidents across the state in 2009. With the proper education, exposure to driving conditions and enough supervised driving, we may have a better chance of saving the lives of teens on our state's roadways.

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Posted On: June 27, 2011

Teens Unite to Raise Awareness of Summertime Trucking Accidents in Alabama and Elsewhere

A large group of teens met in Washington D.C. to help raise awareness about the dangers presented on our roadways each summer and to discuss the increased risks of teen car accidents.These teens pledged to recognize truck's blind spots and pledged to not text behind the wheel or a motor vehicle.

This safe teen driving event was organized by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). Representatives from each organization spoke to students from the area. They discussed the importance of driving safely around big trucks. During the summer months we typically see an increased number of large trucks on our roadways. Unfortunately, this is when we also see an increased number of fatal teen car accidents in Birmingham and elsewhere.

Our Alabama personal injury attorneys understand that teens have much less driving experience than many of us. For this reason, they are much more vulnerable on our roadways and are more likely to be involved in serious -- if not fatal -- car accidents. Their chances of being involved in an accident with a big truck sees a significant increase during the upcoming months as teens are out of school for summer break and many commercial trucks hit the road to take care of business.

What many teens do not know is that a fully loaded tractor trailer needs approximately twice the distance to stop than a passenger vehicle needs. They may not be aware of their large blind spots either. These blind spots are known as "No Zones.” These are areas that motorists must avoid because this is where a truck driver is not able to see them.

“We want everyone to be safe, but as newer drivers, teens must adhere to a few simple rules,” said Anne Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “They are: buckle up, don’t drink and drive; don’t speed, don’t text or use your phone, and steer clear of a truck’s blind spots.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the deadliest driving days for teens ages 15-19 are in the months of May, June, July and August. It is during these four months that nearly twice as many teens died in 2009 on U.S. roadways each day as compared to the rest of the year. During these four months, an average of nearly 16 teens died each day, compared to an average of nearly nine teen deaths a day during the year as a whole.

"Prom, graduation, and summer are fantastic times for youth to celebrate and enjoy. However, with these fun times come unfortunate tragedies,” said Sandy Spavone, President of the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS). “Through education, enforcement, and legislation lives can be saved and injuries prevented."

Drivers ages 16- to 24-years-old make up the age group that has the highest traffic crash death rate in the United States. As a matter of fact, from 2005 to 2009, nearly 4,000 people from this age group were killed in motor-vehicle accidents that involved a large truck.

“Do not expect that having a driver's license is a right that comes without responsibility or risk,” said Steve Keppler, Executive Director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). “Be accountable for your actions, spread the word to your friends and parents, and help create a culture of safety. Most importantly, take the driving task seriously. You never know the impact you can have that ultimately could save your life or someone else's."

Safety tips for motorists sharing the road with large trucks:

-Stay out of a truck's blind spots. If you cannot see the driver, the driver cannot see you.

-Do not follow closely behind a truck. When they let off the gas, they have a tendency to roll backwards.

-Keep both hands on the wheel when a truck is passing you or you are passing a truck.

-Allow trucks enough room to pass.

-Remember that these large vehicles take wider, and longer, turns than normal passenger vehicles.

-Don't cut in front of a large truck. They take a much longer time to stop than a passenger vehicle.

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