Our Frightening Highways
July 23rd, 2012
I-85 accident, from CharlotteObserver.com
What do you fear most about driving in North Carolina? I have friends who refuse to drive anywhere in the Triangle from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm because of the extreme traffic on most of the major roadways… and I have been known to go out of my way to avoid driving on I-40 between Raleigh and Chapel Hill because of the dangerous merge patterns.
Recent news stories of highway crashes have highlighted some of the major problems HensonFuerst Attorneys has been investigating, our “Wreck Complicators”:
1. Defective highway construction. This can include improper lane design, construction defects, guardrail defects, and other physical problems related to roads. If you know of a section of road that is a frequent site of car wrecks, it is quite possible that the road design is defective. Insurance companies will try to blame it on driver error, but accidents continually happen on the same stretch of road, there’s more than driver error to blame. Think of it like a sidewalk where one of the concrete slabs has heaved up. Under ideal circumstances, people will see the uneven pavement and step over it–but many, many people will trip and become injured. Even excellent drivers can get in an accident if they have to merge unexpectedly…or if road conditions force them to stop abruptly…or if they don’t see traffic ahead due to a sharp bend in the road.
2. Tractor-trailers. While most tractor-trailer drivers are safe and responsible on the road, some are not…and the wrecks they cause are devastating. Truck drivers have guidelines that require them to rest after a certain number of hours on the road. Unfortunately, some trucking companies “encourage” their drivers to alter their logs and drive longer than is safe (or risk losing their jobs). Then, after driving for 24 hours straight, amped up on caffeine or even amphetamines, even good truck drivers can become lethal weapons on the road.
3. Fires and explosions. Cars are not supposed to catch fire or explode, no matter what the impact. That’s something that is only supposed to happen in movies. In real life, cars that catch fire or explode during a wreck may have a defective design. That’s something we actively investigate for our motor vehicle accident clients.
Here are two scary examples that, together, seem to incorporate all three of our Wreck Complicators.
Last week, seven people were injured–including two who had to be freed from a crushed car–in a four-vehicle crash on I-85 near Charlotte, NC. According to an article on CharlotteObserver.com, the wreck was started by a car that cut too close in front of a large truck. The truck driver slammed on the brakes, causing a chain-reaction wreck that included an SUV, a small Ford, a tractor-triler, and a pick-up truck.
That accident was bad enough, but what makes it part of our Wreck Complicators is that it happened at nearly the same spot as a fiery fatal wreck five days earlier. In that accident, also on I-85, a woman was killed when her SUV was hit from behind by a tractor-trailer–the driver apparently didn’t notice that traffic had slowed. The SUV burst into flames.
These stories cover it all: A highway with multiple accidents pointing to a possibility of defective construction…tractor-trailer driver not stopping in time, pointing to the possibility that the driver was not safe…and an SUV that burst into flames after being hit from behind. These Wreck Complicators should all be investigated and considered by attorneys representing the injured victims, or the family of the woman who perished.
What HensonFuerst Is Doing
At HensonFuerst, we pay close attention to Wreck Complicators. In fact, we are actively investigating dangerous highways in North Carolina, with the hope that defects can be corrected before more people are injured.
Among the most dangerous roads in North Carolina: I-77 in Surrey County, I-85, I-75, I-95, and I-40. In the coming three years, we predict that another stretch of road will join the ranks of the infamous: I-40 and I-440 south of Raleigh. An 11.5-mile stretch of road will be repaired, requiring closing lanes, adding auxiliary lanes, and otherwise making a mess of travel on this road. (To read more about the construction, see the article on WRAL.com: Construction to clog interstate)
In addition, HensonFuerst is diligent in reviewing all the facts of each accident to see if the Wreck Complicators are part of the story. If so, we factor them into the way we seek justice and compensation for our clients.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a motor vehicle wreck and you would like to explore your legal options, please feel free to contact HensonFuerst anytime, day or night, at 1-800-4-LAWMED. Or visit our webpage for more information and an online consultation request (www.lawmed.com/AutoAccident/). Life Doesn’t Wait…call HensonFuerst today.
NC Troopers Crack Down on Distracted Drivers…Finally!
February 1st, 2012
Wednesday, February 2, is Groundhog Day. Two important things will be happening: Puxatawny Phil and groundhogs everywhere will be looking for their shadow… and NC State Troopers will begin cracking down on distracted drivers.
According to an article on WRAL.com, nearly 58,000 people are involved in a distracted-driving crash in North Carolina every year…more than 13,000 are injured…and 119 people die. Got that? People die because someone is texting (even though texting is illegal), or talking on a cell phone, or reading, or eating, or adjusting the radio, or applying makeup.
“I see a lot of people driving with their elbows on the steering wheel, texting with one hand,” Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Gordon said.
Troopers will be conducting a two day campaign, looking for distracted drivers. They will focus on portions of Interstates 95, 85 and 40 from the Virginia state line through Wake, Durham, and Johnston counties.
It’s a shame that we need a special campaign to stop distracted drivers. People shouldn’t die because another driver decides to answer a phone call.
To read the full article on WRAL.com, click here: Crack Down
If you have been involved in a car wreck and would like to discuss your legal options, please visit the HensonFuerst Attorneys website at http://www.lawmed.com/north-carolina-auto-accident-lawyer.php. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
Top Motor Vehicle Story of 2011
December 30th, 2011
Of the hundreds of blogs we write each year, hand-down the number one motor vehicle story of the year is about DWD—Driving While Distracted. The National Safety Council estimates that about 23% of all motor vehicle crashes can be attributed to talking on a cell phone or texting while driving. That’s about 1.3 million crashes per year. In fact, just talking on a cell phone—even hands-free phones—increase the risk of a crash fourfold. That statistic makes DWD the biggest motor vehicle story of this year…or any other year in recent memory. (To read any of the blogs, click on the title and you’ll be taken directly to the story.)
In addition to blogs, we also create videos about important health, medical, and legal topics. To see all of our available videos, please visit our YouTube channel here: HensonFuerst YouTube Channel. Here are links to some of our motor vehicle and car wreck videos:
File Under: Really, Sherlock?
October 10th, 2011
Here at HensonFuerst, we are big fans of scientific research. Scientists are some of the unsung heroes of society. So it is with all due respect that we find ourselves having to say: Was this research really necessary?
Decades of research have shown that drivers who drink alcohol have an increased risk of being involved in a car wreck. By now, it seems intuitive to say that any alcoholic or drug-induced impairment affects judgment and driving ability. Which is why we’re not sure why this research research was necessary. It seems like more money being spent to state the obvious
According to an article in ScienceDaily, researchers at Columbia University examined the link between marijuana use by drivers and risk of a car wreck. Results showed that drivers who test positive for marijuana or report driving within three hours of marijuana use are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes. They also found that the more marijuana smoked, and the more frequently it is smoked, the higher the risk.
This is important because the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that over 10 million people age 12 or older are estimated to have driven under the influence of illicit drugs in the prior year.
The analysis indicates that 28% of fatally injured drivers and more than 11% of the general driver population tested positive for non-alcohol drugs, with marijuana being the most commonly detected substance.
We believe that it is important to crack down on all forms of impaired driving, regardless of whether the impairment is due to marijuana, prescription drugs, alcohol, texting, or even talking on a cell phone. Impairment is impairment. It seems that a better use of research funds would be to find more ways to get people to understand that message, and to prevent impaired driving in the first place.
To read the full article on ScienceDaily, click here: Marijuana Use May Double the Risk of Accidents for Drivers
To learn more about what you can do in the event of a car wreck injury, visit our website at http://www.lawmed.com/. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
Study to Examine Driving in Triangle Area
August 10th, 2011
An article on WRAL.com reports that a federal project will be studying the driving behavior of about 3,100 people in six states, including our own. The goal is to discover the underlying causes of crashes and traffic congestion, and eventually to reduce driving fatality rates. The project, called the Second Strategic Highway Research Program’s Naturalistic Driving Study, or SHRP2, is the largest coordinated safety program every undertaken in the United States.
Researchers will install cameras in cars to record drivers’ movements, and radar on the front of the cars to measure the cars’ proximity to other cars and objects.
“We’re actually getting in the car with the driver to see what’s happening prior to the crash,” said Martha Wilaby, Triangle site manager of the Second Strategic Highway Research Program’s Naturalistic Driving Study.
The study is recruiting drivers of all ages, but would like to find more drivers under age 25 and older than age 65. Study participants in North Carolina must live within 50 miles of Morrisville, own or lease a qualifying vehicle, and be willing to complete questionnaires and allow driving data to be collected every 3 to 6 months for the duration of the study, which could last up to about 2 years. (Click here for a link to qualifying vehicles: Eligible Vehicle List)
The study is still recruiting. To be considered for participation, contact Martha Wilaby, at 919-388-3424, or MarthaWilaby@westat.com.
To read the full study on WRAL.com, click here: Study looks at behavior of Triangle drivers
Hit-and-Run Driver Urged to Stop Running
June 21st, 2011
According to a report on WRAL.com, a woman driving a 4-door, light brown Honda Accord crashed into a bicyclist in Fuquay-Varina. She stopped to ask “Are you okay?” but sped off without waiting around for an answer.
The bicyclist, Joe Natale, was thrown into a ditch by the impact. He was banged up and bruised, but lived to tell the story.
“The sound was horrific. I remember sliding and hearing plastic from the bike getting torn up,” he said. “I said, ‘God, don’t let somebody else run over me.’”
The North Carolina State Highway Patrol are actively looking for the driver, and anyone who knows anything about the accident is encouraged to contact the police. One important clue: The crash broke the sideview mirror off the woman’s car.
Sharing the Road
There Mr. Natale is hoping that his pain can serve to remind drivers of the rules of the road. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) has “Share the Road” rules designed to keep cyclists safe.
Motor vehicle drivers are reminded to:
- Use signals to make sure cyclists and other drivers can anticipate movements.
- Leave a minimum of 2 feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist on the left, and don’t move back to the right until safely past the bicycle.
- Not pass on the crest of a hill or at a curve in the road where you cannot see at least 500 feet ahead.
- Wait until the cyclist has cleared the intersection before making a turn, and don’t make a right turn in front of a cyclist you have just passed.
- Slow down when passing a cyclist, and try not to make any startling sounds or movements.
- If there is oncoming traffic, wait until the traffic has gone by before passing the cyclist.
- When approaching an oncoming cyclist at night, dim your lights.
Bicyclists are reminded to:
- Follow all the same rules of the road as motorists, including riding on the right side of the road.
- Use signals to warn motorists of your movements.
- Yield to other drivers and pedestrians, as appropriate, at intersections, alleys, and traffic circles.
- Move to the right to allow lawfully operated overtaking vehicles to safely pass.
- Remain aware of your surroundings, and try not to make any sudden or unexpected movements.
To read the full WRAL.com article about the hit-and-run crash, click here: Wake Bicyclist Urges Driver Who Hit Him to Come Forward
To read the NC-DOT rules of the road for motor vehicle operators and cyclists, click here: Share the Road
HensonFuerst has a particular interest keeping cyclists safe: We’re cyclists ourselves. We even have a HensonFuerst Cycling Team, which rides for fun and participates in fundraising efforts for various organizations, including the American Diabetes Association (the Tour de Cure) and the Brain Injury Association of NC (the Ride for the Rock). Plus, we represent too many cyclists who have been injured as the result of negligent motorists. We urge everyone–cyclists and motorists–to Share the Road for safety.
For more information about HensonFuerst and our cycling team, visit our website at www.lawmed.com. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
Congress Looks at Bus Safety Regulations
June 14th, 2011
In May, a bus crash on Interstate 95 resulted in the deaths of four people, with 54 injured. According to the police, the bus ran off the road and overturned, coming to rest upside down on its roof. (Reuters)
In March, a bus also traveling on Interstate 95, this one returning to Manhattan from a Connecticut casino trip crashed in the Bronx, skidding into a highway sign post. The post entered through the front window and sliced the bus from front to back along the window line. Fifteen of the 31 passengers died, seven others were injured. (NBC New York)
Now, in a rare show of solidarity, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are trying to figure out how to crack down on rogue motor coach operators without over-regulating an industry made up predominantly of small businesses. According to an article in The Miami Herald, Anne S. Ferro, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the motor coach industry said that:
… she wants more regulatory authority over passenger bus companies, including in-route inspections and complete safety audits before buses hit the road. Federal officials also want to regulate online brokers, the websites that sell many low-cost, intercity tickets. And they want to increase penalties from $2,000 per violation to $25,000, she said.
However, not everyone is on-board with stronger regulations:
…bus industry representatives and some members of Congress said too much regulation would hurt legitimate, well-run companies. Small companies with fewer than 25 motor coaches made up 95 percent of the industry and accounted for about 40 percent of passenger miles traveled, according to a committee memo.
We believe that strong legislation is needed. Buses don’t provide passenger safety equipment–no seat belts, no air bags. The only way to keep passengers safe is to make sure that the vehicles are road-worthy and that the drivers are trained, licensed, sober, and rested. Unfortunately, high-quality vehicles and drivers are more expensive than cut-rate versions. We know how the free market system works–operators will choose low-cost over high-quality unless standards and mandatory inspections are required by legislation.
To read the full article about bus safety regulations, click here: http://www.miamiherald.com/.
Three Common Mistakes Made by Teen Drivers
April 21st, 2011
Compared with middle-aged driver, teen drivers are 10 times more likely to be involved in a car wreck. There have been lots of theories why, but now we know the actual reasons. Researchers analyzed information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 795 serious crashes involving drivers who where 15 to 18 years old.
Their report, published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention, showed some information that might be useful in preventing teen crashes and injury:
- About 75% of all serious crashes in which a teen was a driver were caused by the teen.
- About 46% of teen errors were recognition errors–being distracted, not checking mirrors often enough, or misjudging the speed of other cars when making a left turn.
- The next most common error, which accounted for 40% of teen errors, was decision error–these include following too closely or driving too fast for condition.
- 8% of errors were performance errors, such as losing control.
According to an article in The New York Times, when teens learn to drive, they learn the basics—how to stay in a lane, how to park, how to turn—often in a deserted parking lot or on a sunny day. In addition, parents should also give driving lessons in the dark and during inclement weather. In addition, parents should also teach driving judgement through something called “narrative driving”:
…the adult drives while giving a teenage passenger a play by play. Point out examples of unsafe driving, explain why you are changing lanes or slowing down, announce when you are checking the mirrors, and explain how you are reacting to information. Show the prospective driver how you deal with distractions like a disruptive child in the back seat without taking your eyes off the road.
“It’s helpful to talk out loud about what you’re seeing and doing,” Dr. Durbin said [Dennis Durbin, co-director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia]. “It sensitizes your teen to the fact that there is a lot more going on up here in the front seat than he thought there was.”
Suggestions also include making sure children get enough sleep, and if not, that they not be allowed to drive that day. It’s about keeping kids safe…and alive.
Decide to Drive
April 12th, 2011
Last year Aaron Brookens of Beloit, Wisconsin, then 19, was driving home at 75 miles an hour after spending a weekend with his girlfriend when he decided to send her a text message — and wound up pinned under a semi. The toll: two broken femurs, a broken kneecap and ankle, nerve damage to both legs, and a lacerated spleen, kidney and liver.
Numerous operations and a lengthy rehab later, Mr. Brookens knows he’s lucky to be alive. “No one thinks it will happen to them,” he said on Wednesday at a news conference convened by the orthopedists.
That anecdote is one of many reported in article by health guru Jane E. Brody in The New York Times, which reports on a new campaign–another campaign–designed to battle distracted driving. This new effort is the Decide to Drive campaign, sponsored by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). The goal is to point out that there are many distractions that can pull a driver’s focus from the road, more than the highly publicized distractions of texting and talking on a cell phone.
According to the National Safety Council, there have been more than 300,000 crashes so far this year…all due to distracted driving. What dangerous distractions are out there, causing drivers to hurt themselves or others? A new website (http://decidetodrive.org/) gives you the chance to read and report on eyes-off-the-road infractions. Some examples:
- Applying mascara and other make-up
- Reading a book
- Opening a bag of potato chips
- Eating a hamburger–with two hands
- Reading a map
- Hunting for music on the radio
- Surfing the Internet on a laptop on the front passenger seat
Horrifying, isn’t it?
If you would like to be part of the solution, follow the AAOS Wreck-less Checklist:
First, Decide to Drive–
1. Consciously make a decision each and every time you get behind the wheel to make all other activities, passengers and priorities secondary to driving.
2. Before you start your car:
- Put on any accessories you may need, such as sunglasses or BluetoothTM ear pieces;
- Adjust seats, head rests, vehicle controls and mirrors;
- Fasten your seat belt;
- Move all reading material away from easy reach;
- Pre-load CDs or mp3 playlists and adjust volume level so your music does not mask the sounds of emergency sirens; and
- Enter an address in the navigation system before you depart or review maps and written directions before you drive.
3. The AAOS, OTA and the Auto Alliance encourage all drivers to simply stop your vehicle — in a safe area — any time there is a distraction that needs your attention, such as retrieving items, having an involved discussion, reading, smoking, or disciplining a child.
4. Do not eat or drink while driving.
5. Keep your eyes on the road.
6. Driving is not the time to apply makeup, groom, polish your nails, or change clothing.
According to The New York Times, the orthopedists’ campaign will try to raise the national consciousness and change future driving behavior by taking their message to schoolchildren, especially those in grades 5 through 8, who may discourage their parents and siblings from driving distracted and refrain themselves when they become drivers. So, if your kids start reminding you to keep your eyes on the road, you’ll know why.
To read the full article in The New York Times, click here: Keeping Eyes on Distracted Driving’s Toll
To report on distracted drivers in your area, click here: http://decidetodrive.org/
And if you were injured in a wreck caused by a distracted driver and would like to explore your legal options, contact HensonFuerst Attorneys at 1-800-4LAW-MED, or visit our website for more information (http://www.lawmed.com/). If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
Five Steps To Eliminating Traffic Deaths
March 29th, 2011
Want to totally eliminate motor vehicle fatalities in North Carolina? Dr. Herb Garrison, head of the East Carolina Injury Prevention Program, knows how…and he has outlined his methods in the latest issue of the North Carolina Medical Journal. The article, written with coauthor Jennifer Smith, is titled: Is Fatality-Free Travel on North Carolina’s Streets and Highways Feasible? It’s Time to Think the Unthinkable.
According to an article published in the News & Observer, there were 1,312 road fatalities last year in North Carolina. Dr. Garrison believes all of those deaths could have been prevented.
“In the emergency room, we see lots of hurt people from car wrecks,” Garrison, 57, told the Road Worrier. “Having fatality-free highways is not an unrealistic goal, but it’s one we need to keep working at every day.”
His provocative 5-point plan for eliminating road deaths is:
- Make 17 the minimum driving age.
- Create special courts for DWE cases to boost conviction rates…and alcohol interlocks mandatory for all DWI offenders.
- Ban hand-held phone use while driving.
- Build more bike lanes and sidewalks.
- Add proven road design elements: more roundabouts at intersections, and make rumble strips standard on road shoulders and center lines.
Dr. Garrison also would like to see stricter enforcement of seatbelt laws and speed limits.
According to the article in the North Carolina Medical Journal:
Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said recently that “society should treat traffic fatalities as a disease to be eliminated.”
We agree. It will take effort on all our parts, but nothing tremendously burdensome. It comes down to recognizing that the way we’ve always done things may not be the best way. It’s easy to get irritated when asked to put down the cell phone, but there is a greater good: The traffic death you prevent may be a family member or a friend. HensonFuerst applauds Dr. Garrison for publishing his insights, and we hope that North Carolina takes steps to move toward his traffic utopia.
To read the full medical journal article, click here: Is Fatality-Free Travel on North Carolina’s Streets and Highways Feasible? It’s Time to Think the Unthinkable.
To read the full newspaper article, click here: News & Observer
And please feel free to visit our website for more information about the legal aspects of motor vehicle wrecks: HensonFuerst