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Murrieta Personal Injury Law Blog

Drowsy driving just as dangerous as drunk driving

Drowsy driving is prevalent in California and across the U.S. In fact, a study by the American Sleep Foundation found that around 50 percent of adult drivers engage in drowsy driving. Worse, 40 percent of drivers admit they've fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point in their lives, and 20 percent admit they've fallen asleep while driving within the last 12 months.

There is some dispute over the exact amount of drowsy driving crashes that occur on U.S. roads each year. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that there are approximately 100,000 drowsy driving car accidents reported by the police annually, which resulted in 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries. However, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that there are 328,000 drowsy driving accidents each year. Of those accidents, 109,000 caused an injury, and 6,400 involved a fatality. No matter which set of numbers is most accurate, it's clear that drowsy driving poses a major danger to American motorists.

Teenage drivers, licenses and safety

California parents who have teenagers who have just begun driving should be aware that there is a high chance of their offspring being responsible for a motor vehicle accident during their first months of having a driver's license. According to a study that was conducted jointly by the National Institutes for Health and Virginia Tech University, the likelihood that teenagers will experience a collision or a near miss with another vehicle during their first three months of driving by themselves is eight times more than during the last three months in which they have a driver's permit and are driving with an adult.

For the study, the researchers obtained the participation of 131 parents and 90 teenagers. The subjects were monitored from the moment they obtained a learner's permit to the end of the first year in which they had a driver's license. The vehicles of the teenage drivers were equipped with dash cams so that both the driver and road could be observed. The vehicles also had software installed that was used to record braking and speed. The results of the study indicated that teenagers are more likely to brake too sharply, accelerate too fast and make turns too hard, all of which can result in accidents and near-misses.

Wrongful death lawsuit filed against duck boat operator

California residents may have read about a July 19 accident involving a World War II-era duck boat that claimed the lives of 17 people in Missouri. Relatives of two of the victims have filed a lawsuit against the tour operator involved seeking $100 million in damages and have called for the amphibious craft to be banned. The lawsuit mentions six other accidents involving duck boats, including a 1999 sinking in Arizona that claimed 13 lives, and it alleges that the National Transportation Safety Board has branded the vehicles unsafe.

According to the wrongful death lawsuit, the NTSB came to this conclusion after an investigation into the 1999 tragedy revealed that the canopies fitted to many duck boats can trap passengers in an emergency. Attorneys representing the families say that duck boat operators have failed to heed calls from the NTSB and safety advocacy groups to remove these canopies. Duck boats, which can operate on land or water, were originally designed to ferry troops and equipment between warships and landing areas during the Second World War.

Study reveals states where truck drivers are safest

California residents who drive commercial trucks for a living may be wondering which states are the safest for them and which are the most dangerous. Verizon Connect, a fleet management systems provider, has studied this very question. It analyzed the behavior of drivers from more than 6,200 of its fleet customers, including small and mid-size businesses with 2 to 200 light vans, pick-ups and big rigs, between October 2015 and September 2017.

From this, Verizon Connect found that the safest states are on the East Coast, with Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New York forming the top five. This is despite well-known traffic problems down Interstate 95 and elsewhere. Vermont also had the least number of drivers with "lead foot." On the other hand, the most dangerous states were in the Midwest and the South: Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kentucky and Mississippi.

The link between commercial truck drivers and drowsiness

Drowsy driving is a danger that many people in California are familiar with. Drowsiness can impairs judgment, reaction times, cognition and the sense of distance, and if the driver falls asleep, he or she is liable to collide with other vehicles or with pedestrians and even swerve off the road. It's estimated that over 100,000 accidents occur every year in the U.S. because of driver fatigue.

It becomes an even greater issue when the driver in question is behind the wheel of a big rig. On account of the massive size and weight of commercial trucks, any collision will turn out the worse for those in the passenger vehicle; it may lead to catastrophic injuries or death. Incidentally, truck drivers have the highest risk for drowsiness.

Cellphone use may be responsible for spike in pedestrian deaths

The Apple iPhone was first introduced in 2007. Since then, cellphone use in California and the rest of the U.S. has skyrocketed. Over the same period, pedestrian deaths have also sharply increased. Traffic safety experts believe the two phenomena are linked.

In the decade since the iPhone hit the market, cellphone-related emergency room visits in the U.S. jumped 83.5 percent, according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. Between 2010 and 2016, cellphone use across the country spiked by 236 percent, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Meanwhile, pedestrian fatalities have spiked 46 percent since 2009. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says no studies have demonstrated a "direct link" between cellphone use and pedestrian deaths, many experts believe the trends are closely related.

GHSA report reveals alarming rise in drug use by drivers

Police departments in California and around the country use breath testing equipment to reliably determine whether or not a driver is intoxicated by alcohol, but no such test currently exists to identify marijuana impairment. This is a problem because drug tests performed on motorists killed in accidents discovered traces of the drug 38 percent of the time according to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The GHSA report indicates that rates of alcohol impairment among fatally injured drivers has actually fallen slightly to 38 percent in 2016 from 41 percent in 2006. However, marijuana and opioid use by motorists appears to be soaring. More than half of the drug tests performed on fatally injured drivers revealed traces of one or both of these drugs. The problem is made more difficult by a lack of reliable science linking THC levels with impairment.

July 4 worst day of year for fatal car crashes

As is the case throughout the rest of the country, most people in California use the Fourth of July as a time to relax and celebrate their personal freedoms. The annual holiday is also when many individuals take to the roads to do things like visit friends and family or attend fireworks celebrations and other events. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Esurance estimate that it's the worst day of the year for fatal car accidents.

As for the leading auto accident cause, the Institute notes that 40 percent of all highway deaths that occurred from 2007 to 2011 involved driving while intoxicated over the Independence Day weekend. This doesn't include other factors that may contribute to accidents, such as distracted driving and not obeying speed limits.

Brake Safety Week plans full Level I inspections for trucks

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has planned a week-long brake inspection spree for Sept. 16-22. Commercial vehicle operators in California can expect full Level I inspections of their braking systems. The nationwide safety event aims to identify unsafe vehicles and educate all operators about the compliance standards for their brakes.

Last year, the alliance ran a one-day brake inspection spree. That event resulted in inspectors taking 14 percent of inspected vehicles out of service. A news release from the CVSA emphasized the public safety hazards posed by malfunctioning or poorly maintained truck or bus brakes.

How new tech could prevent distractions on the road

Considering the popularity of smartphone use, distracted driving is a major problem in California. That's why several phone providers offer free apps that can silence all incoming communications and keep users from texting when a car is in motion. However, most of these apps do not prevent all outgoing communications. New technology may be able to address this problem more thoroughly.

One device developed by the Colorado-based Katasi can be plugged into a car and link the user's phone to a cloud. Called Groove, the device allows the phone provider to block all incoming communications, including calls, messages and social media updates, as well as prevent the driver from sending such communications. All messages appear once the car is turned off. Unless customized, the device does not block navigation and music streaming.

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