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October 3, 2012

Older Driver Safety in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia

According to the Associated Press, older drivers are on the road more than ever before. Nearly 34 million drivers are 65 or older. By 2030, deferral estimates show there will be about 57 million, making up about a quarter of all licensed drivers.

Older drivers have the highest rate of deadly crashes per mile even though they don't drive as often as younger drivers. Measured by miles driven, older drivers crash rates begin to rise in their 70s and even more in their 80s, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Health Issues can also impair older drivers. Health issues such as: arthritis and dementia, slower reflexes and they also use multiple medications, which can impair their driving. On average, about 60% of seniors voluntarily cut back their driving. Most avoid driving at night, on interstates and during bad weather. Older drivers seem to have more difficulty with intersections, making left turns, and changing lanes and/or merging. This is due to their gradual decline in vision and reaction times that come with aging.

In the District of Columbia seniors are required to have more vision tests, are required to renew their licenses more often than younger drivers and starting at the age of 70, older drivers must submit a doctor's certification that they are healthy enough to drive every time they renew their licenses. In Maryland, the Motor Vehicle Administration requires all people, starting at the age of 40, to take eye exams, and in Virginia, starting at the age of 80, drivers must renew their license in person and also pass an eye exam.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a national guideline for older driver safety earlier this summer. The proposal recommends that every state needs a program to improve older driver safety, doctors should be protected from lawsuits id they report a possibly unsafe driver and driver's licenses should be renewed in person after a certain age. These recommendations would push states to become more consistent and have safer roads.

August 7, 2012

Automobile Fatalities on the Rise in Virginia

In the first three months of 2012 traffic deaths in the state of Virginia have jumped by 13.5 percent, compared to last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). So far this year, there have been 403 reported automobile accident related fatalities. The reason for the higher number of deaths this year is because a lot of the automobile accidents involved multiple fatalities per accident.

The number of traffic deaths nationwide has also increased. According the to the NHTSA there have been an estimated 7,630 automobile related deaths in the first three months of 2012, making it the second largest year-to-year quarterly increase in fatalities since the NHTSA started recording traffic fatalities in the mid 1970's.

The fact that we had a mild winter also has something to do with the increase in motor vehicle accident fatalities. That is because the milder the weather the more people go outdoors and drive. Severe weather keeps people off the roads, but milder weather conditions make people want to travel more.
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According to the Federal Highway Administration, vehicle miles traveled in January, February and March of 2012 increased by about 9.7 billion miles, 1.4 percent more than 2011. That means that the more miles traveled, the higher the risk of being involved in an automobile accident, therefore; drivers need to be more careful and practice safer driving, which include, but at not limited to, making sure one is buckled up, giving oneself plenty of time to get to your destination and never drive while impaired by alcohol, drugs and/or when tired.

February 13, 2012

Truck Accidents on the Rise Nationwide

Commercial truck accidents are on the rise and there has been an increase in the number of people killed in motor vehicle accidents involving commercial trucks nationwide. In 2010, there was an increase in fatal commercial and large truck accidents. The increase was 8.7 percent when compared to 2009 statistics reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This percentage means that in 2010, 3,675 motorists were killed as a result of accidents involving commercial trucks and buses.

This is an alarming rate when one considers that in 2010 motor vehicle fatalities decreased from previous years. The information provided by the NHTSA is causing safety groups and trucking industries to analyze and study ways to prevent future accidents from happening. These groups are urging the Senate to pass the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act of 2011. This new bill would add several new safety regulations for truck and bus operators. It would require commercial drivers to use electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) in order to monitor their hours of service and reduce truck driver fatigue, it would increase the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) power to stop truck companies from re-opening once they have been closed down due to safety issues, and the new bill would also allow the alcohol and drug testing records of commercial operators to be disclosed to their employers. All the new regulations in the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act of 2011 would decrease the number of commercial truck and bus accidents.

If you are a loved one has been involved in an motor vehicle accident involving a truck, contact our office immediately so we can advise you of your options and help you obtain compensation for your injuries and other losses.

July 5, 2011

New Traffic Law in Virginia Effective July 1, 2011

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Virginia drivers, under the age of 21, could have their license suspended for a year if they get behind the wheel after drinking alcoholic beverages. These underage drinkers and drivers will face stiffer penalties for driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .02% or more. Violators will have their license suspended for a year and will receive either a fine of up to $500 or 50 hours of community service.

April 5, 2011

4 Common Causes of Truck Accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that almost 3,500 people were killed in the U.S. as a result of heavy trucks collisions, in 2009. Truck accidents are cause by various factors, but for of the most common causes of truck accidents are:

Driver Fatigue
Commercial truck drivers have deadlines to keep, and so they tend to drive for long periods of time and travel further than is safe. When a driver travels for long periods of time it becomes harder to pay sufficient attention to driving conditions and to respond properly to changing circumstances.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) came up with a set of regulations for commercial truck drivers to follow. The Hours-of Service (HOS) regulations states that after 10 consecutive hours off-duty, a truck driver may only drive a maximum of 11 hours, if carrying property. Also, the FMCSA limits the number of hours commercial truck drivers can drive in a seven or eight day period. New regulations, however, will be published by July 26, 2011, by the FMCSA.

Distractions
When drivers are distracted, the likelihood of an accident increases. Most drivers in the U.S. are not allowed to send text messages while driving, according to the Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA). More than half of the United States has laws established forbidding texting while driving. The FMCSA, however, prohibits all commercial truck drivers from texting while behind the wheel.

Poor Road Conditions and Maintenance
When road conditions are bad, most drivers try and spend less time on the road. Truck drivers, however, have strong incentives to drive through all kinds of weather in order to arrive by their scheduled deadline.

Truck maintenance is also important. Properly maintained vehicles are safer to drive then those that have defects.

Other Drivers on the Road
Truck accidents are not always the result of the truck drivers fault; sometimes other drivers on the road contribute to truck accidents. Some vehicles try and go around trucks, or miscalculate when driving near or around trucks. You must remember that trucks have bigger blind spots than regular vehicles and therefore a driver must keep a proper distance between themselves and the truck.

December 27, 2010

If Google Cars Drive Themselves, Who Would You Sue?

Google-Car-auto-toyota-prius.jpgGoogle has developed a new car called the "Google Car". It is a Toyota Prius that is equipped with software that allows it to drive itself. The Google cars use video cameras, installed on the roof, radar sensors and laser range finders to travel through traffic on its own. These cars also navigate the road by using detailed maps. According to Sebastian Thrun, a Google software engineer, "Our automated cars use... Google's data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by our cars when mapping their terrain."

The Google car was made with the intention to help prevent traffic accidents, free people's time, reduce distracted driving and drunk driving, and reduce carbon emissions. So far, the Google Car, has traveled about 140,000 miles and has only been involved in one traffic accident, a rear-end.

Google has yet to determine when these Google Cars will be available to the general public, but when they are, a question arises, if there is an accident, who would you sue?. The current statutes and case law in the United States were written for cars with human drivers, in order to determine the liability in an automobile accident. Therefore; once these Google Cars are put out on the market, laws would need to change.
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There are three factors that could determine liability in case of an automobile accident:

1) Google - the author of the software used by the Google Car;
2) Toyota - the current and only car Manufacturer of the Google Car; and
3) The Owner of the vehicle.

Liability would be determined on the type of accident and could have one or more of these parties at fault. The legal process would examine who is at fault. For example, was it a software issue or a mechanical failure? A software issue would be if the program made the wrong decision and caused a crash, and a mechanical failure would be if a part used to build the Google car was defective or malfunctioned.

All in all, the Goggle Car was created to make driving and roadways safer. In 2008, the NHTSA reported that there were 37,261 automobile fatalities. Lets hope that if and when the Google Car is put on the market it will lower the yearly number of deaths in the United States.

December 6, 2010

Drugged Drivers Increase Fatal Car Accidents Nationwide

Out of the 21,798 drivers who were killed in motor vehicle accidents in the United States in 2009, 63 percent of them were tested positive for drugs, and according to a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, 18 percent of them tested positive for drugs.

Drug data was collected Nationwide and analyzed by the NHTSA as part of a Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The types of drugs reported were over-the-counter medicines, prescription drugs and illicit drugs as well.

Previous reports by the NHTSA have shown that alcohol and drowsiness are some of the leading causes of fatal traffic accidents, but this new report will begin to explore the role that legal and illegal drug use play in accidents. This report has shown that drug involvement in fatal motor vehicle accidents is indeed increasing nationwide. This report will pave the way for more research and could ultimately lead to the establishment of standardized testing methods that would look into drug involvement and fatal accidents.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has also published various reports that offer a look at roadway risks and show ways that lives can be saved. One IIHS report estimates that 7,440 driver deaths could have been prevented had blood-alcohol content levels been below .08%. The report also states that ignition interlock systems are one way to fight the problem of blood alcohol.

The ultimate solution would be that if you are impaired, whether it be from drowsiness, lack of sleep, alcohol use or legal or illegal drugs, it is best to not get behind the wheel and let someone else drive. Do not put yourself or others at risk of an accident and/or an untimely death. Common sense and caution need to be put at the forefront of your decision making and you need to give your keys to someone else. If you are impaired, Do not drive!

November 30, 2010

What States Have the Safest Roadways in the U.S.?

The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) released a report in early October 2010 that shows that the two safest roadways are in Washington and Oregon, according to their 2010 ENA National Scorecard of State Roadway Laws. The District of Columbia has a score of 12, Maryland a score of 11 and Virginia a score of 9.

The 2010 ENA National Scorecard ranks states based on 14 types of legislation that address such things as seat belt use, motorcycle helmet requirements, devices to prevent drunk driving and cell phone use laws. States receive one point for each type of legislation they currently have. Oregon and Washington both had a score of 14, making them the safest roadways to travel in the United States.

Date collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that someone dies in a car crash in the US every 12 minutes and someone is injured, taken to and treated in an emergency department for injuries as a result of an automobile accident every 10 seconds. These injuries and deaths are preventable through roadways laws and enforcement of these safety laws, it is the passing of these safety laws that save lives.

Twenty six states and the District of Columbia have passed or enacted laws that prevent the entering, sending, reading or otherwise retrieving data for all drivers using wireless communication devices (i.e.: cell phones). 5,474 people died in 2009 as a result of distraction-related automobile accidents, according to the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration (NHSTA). This means that 18% of annual fatalities are a result of distracted drivers nationwide.

To view the full 2010 ENA National Scorecard and State Roadway Laws report please visit www.ena.org.

November 2, 2010

New 2010 Crash Safety Ratings System Presented in Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday, October 5, 2010 an updated 5 Star Vehicle Safety Rating System was introduced. The new rating system has tighter standards which may make some previously 5 star rated vehicles less safe. The new system evaluates how vehicle perform in front, side and rear crashes. Another change that will take effect is that the crash tests dummies used will now also resemble women drivers. Safety measures will also allow and include for more crash avoidance and prevention. The upgraded system will also evaluate side pole crash testing and crash prevention technologies.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
is recommending that all consumers purchase vehicles with crash avoidance technologies that meet the new 5 star rating system. The new technologies include forward collision warning, lane departure warning and electronic stability control.

The new rating system can be further reviewed at http://www.safecar.gov/.

September 14, 2010

As Vehicle Deaths in MD Fall, Alcohol Related Deaths Increase by 12%

The number of alcohol related deaths in Maryland has increased by 12%, even as the national count declined. Non-alcohol related deaths in Maryland in 2009, declined by 7%. That means that 44 fewer people died in automobile accidents in Maryland in 2009, than in 2008.

The decline in automobile deaths may be associated with fewer drivers on the road, due to the recession and unemployment. People may also be taking less road trips and therefore there is less congestion on the roads and less chance for multiple car crashes, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In 2009, 162 people died in alcohol related accidents in Maryland, while in 2008, only 145 died. Nationally, however, more than 30,000 lives are being lost a year on our highways, and a third of those involved drunk driving.

Spokesperson for Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, Shaun Adamec said, "O'Malley would continue to seek stiff penalties for drunken drivers and repeat offenders, and would support the ignition interlock bill if it is reintroduced. The Governor is also committed to investments in the first responder network, including $50 million for new medevac helicopters."

Despite safer automobiles, safer highways, better trauma facilities and more seat belts being used in the United States, Marylanders still drink and drive. Police Officers arrest over 25,000 people a year for drunk driving, in Maryland. Of these, more than 300 are during Labor Day weekend.

Spokeswoman for AAA in Maryland, Christine Delise said, "the organization will continue to advocate for more use of ignition interlock devices for repeat DUI offenders, as well as first time offenders with excessive blood alcohol content."

Lets hope that all these changes and stricter law enforcement will lower the number of both automobile accident deaths and alcohol related accident deaths, not only in Maryland, but nationwide.



September 7, 2010

Costs of Traffic Accidents Have Increased in the United States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study that shows; that the costs associated with injuries from automobile crashes is more that $99 billion a year, nationwide. These costs include medical care costs and loss of productivity costs. Of this, $58 billion was due to fatalities, $28 billion for nonfatal injuries that required hospitalization, and $14 billion was for people treated as outpatients at hospitals. The study was released in August 2010. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this number increases considerably when you factor in higher insurance premiums, taxes and delays in travel, to nearly $230.6 billion. Grant Baldwin, Director of the CDC's Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention said, "This study highlights the magnitude of the problem of crash-related injuries from a cost perspective."

Injuries to occupants of motor vehicles, is about $70 billion, motorcyclist $12 billion, pedestrians $10 billion and Cyclists $5 billion.
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Injuries and deaths from traffic accidents, however, have been falling. The lowest level since 1961 occurred in 2008, but traffic accidents are still the 9th leading cause of deaths worldwide. It is expected that by the year 2030 deaths caused by traffic accidents will become the 5th, surpassing diabetes, HIV/AIDS and Heart Disease. In the United States, 15 to 16 fatalities as a result of traffic accidents occur per every 100,000 people.

Motor vehicle-related injuries and deaths are preventable in the United States, if more laws were implemented that require helmets for motorcyclists, stricter seat belt, drug, alcohol and texting laws, as well as increasing teen rules until the age of 18.

August 30, 2010

Drunk Driving On the Rise in MD, DC and VA

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is spending over 13 Million on ads and teaming up with about 11,000 police agencies for Labor Day Weekend. It is reported by the government that there are about 17 million drunk drivers a year in the United States, much of which have deadly results.

David Strickland, Administrator for the NHTSA said, "We have got to go more to close the gap between believing that drunk driving is a threat and actively doing something about it."

The message in Virginia is clear: "Drunk Driving, Over the Limit, Under Arrest."
A government survey conducted in 2010 shows that 1 in 5 people admit driving just two hours after drinking, while a quarter of drunk drivers report drinking at least 3 times a week. The survey also shows that 1 in 10 people knowingly get into a vehicle with a drunk driver.

The Director of the Maryland Highway Safety Office, Mr. Vernon Betkey, said, "If we eliminated drunk driving on our highways, and also had 100 percent seatbelt usage, we would cut the amount of fatalities we have by one half."

August 23, 2010

Safety Belts Installed in Motorcoach Buses Traveling Between D.C. and N.Y.

Motorcoah Buses.jpgThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced today that they have proposed a rule that would require motorcoach buses to have lap/shoulder belts installed while traveling between Washington, D.C. and New York, in order to lessen the risk of riders being through about in the event of a crash.

Motorcoach buses are defined as; "intercity, tour, or commuter buses having a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds that seats at least 16 passengers and has at least two rows of forward-facing seats behind the driver." according to Ray LaHood, Transportation Secretary of the NHTSA.

The rule would not include urban transit buses and large school buses. The NHTSA says that fewer crashes resulting in the ejection or fatality of passengers occurs less on urban buses. Small school buses (less than 10,000 pounds) will be required to have lap/shoulder belts beginning on January of 2011.

According to NHTSA officials, up to eight lives would be saved and 114 to 794 injuries prevented each year if the installment of lap/shoulder belts was implemented on motorcoach buses. Federal data shows that 19 motorcoach passengers are killed each year. The installation of the belts would reduce the risk to passengers by 77%. The NHTSA is committed to saving lives and making sure that travelers reach their destinations safely.
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This proposed rule is open for public comment for the next 90 days and would go into effect three years after the rule is passed.

August 11, 2010

Child Booster Seat Law In Maryland

Child Booster Seat.gifEffective June 30, 2008, the state of Maryland, put into effect a New Child Booster Seat Law, which requires all children in Maryland to ride in an approved child booster seat until the age of 8, reach a height of 4'9", or weigh over 65 pounds. This new law also requires that children between the ages of 8-16 be secured in seat belts. Also no child under the age of 16 is allowed to ride in the back of pickup trucks.

Booster seats are intended to provide a platform that lifts the child up off the vehicle seat in order to improve the fit of the child in the adult safety belt.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the U.S. The use of child booster seats for children ages 4-7 reduces the risk of injury from a car accident by 59% compared to using a seat belt without a booster seat.

Each year, an average of 500 children ages 4-7 die and thousands more are injured as a result of automobile accidents. According to the Partners for Child Passenger Safety, booster seats can substantially reduce the risk of death and injury to children through the age of 7. The National Highway Transportation Safety Agency's National Survey of the Use of Booster Seats states that only 25 % of children were properly secured in a booster seat.
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Here are some helpful ways to determine when a child is ready to move from a child booster seat to a regular seat, according to the Safety Belt Safe and Safe USA.:

- the child, seating flush against the back of the seat, can bend his/her knees over the seat edge comfortably;
- the should belt rests between the neck and shoulder when seated;
- the lap belt is across his/her lap, not riding up on the abdomen or down on his/her thighs, when seated;
- the child is mature enough to remain in the correct position for the duration of the ride.

The fine for violating the law is $25 in the state of Maryland. 17 states, including Maryland and the District of Columbia have implemented the new booster seat law.


July 26, 2010

Ticketed in Maryland: What Are Your Options?

Once the ticket has been written, you have two easy steps you can take: Pay the ticket or appear in court.
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When you are issued a ticket and the officer checks the "Notice to Appear" box, you have three of the following options:
- Plead "guilty" and pay the fine. Be aware however, that a plea of guilt results in the charge becoming part of your driving record. You have 15 days to pay the ticket. If the ticket is not paid within 15 days, you will automatically receive a trial date set by the court.
- Wait for trial notice and appear in court. At trial, you and the officer that issued the ticket have the opportunity to appear in court and testify in front of a judge. If you are found guilty, you have the right to an appeal within 30 days. If you do not appear at your trial, the Motor Vehicle Administration will suspend your driver's license.
- Plead "guilty with an explanation". This option gives you the opportunity for a hearing. At the hearing you can request that the fine be reduced or waived.

"Must appear" tickets are given for more serious infractions, such as, driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated, driving on a suspended license, etc. , according to the District Court of Maryland.

The Maryland General Assembly has passed a new law that will come into effect on January 1, 2011. This new law requires anyone who wants a trial to formally request one. The state will no longer automatically send you a trial date notice for a traffic violation. Once the law goes into effect, you have 30 days to respond by either, paying the fine, requesting a hearing or requesting a trial date. When you request a trial date, the District Court will give you a date and time to show up in court, in front of a judge. You may bring witnesses and any evidence to prove your case.

The previous law was changed because the courts were receiving complaints from various jurisdictions about officers wasting time appearing at trials where the defendants did not appear. The new law states that failure to take one of the above options means the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) can and will suspend your license.