Distracted Driving Awareness: Turn Off Phones While Driving

Distracted Driving Lawyer Tennessee

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, in an effort to reduce car accidents and injuries on Tennessee roads. Stillman and Friedland are asking you—have you been reducing distractions while driving? Since so many of us spend hours on the road daily and weekly, we get comfortable using the car as an extension of our living space. However, unlike time at home or in the office, driving requires constant concentration. An AAA poll indicated that these days 80% of drivers feel endangered on the road by others who are driving distracted. This fear has risen with increased use of cell phones. The most distracted and vulnerable are inexperienced teen drivers, who have the highest likelihood of texting and driving.

A study cited by the AAA notes that when switching attention from a non-driving activity back to the road, the “latency” phase may be as long as 27 seconds. What that means is that the driver has effectively relinquished his or her chance to react and avoid an accident. If you are traveling at just 30 mph, you can travel nearly 400 yards in that time. At freeway speeds around 60 mph, the distance is doubled, and a 15-second latency period has about the same effect as that nearly 30 seconds at the slower speed. Those lost seconds represent more than enough time and space to cause an accident. Most accidents happen in much less time—think of an instance in which swerving or braking suddenly kept you from rear-ending the car in front of you. You probably reacted in under 5 seconds.

While phones are major culprits for younger age groups, other behaviors are just as dangerous. Think about these as “non-driving activities”, because anything that you do that is not “just driving” means that the driver is, in effect, absent. As you can imagine, we see many cases where not having those crucial few seconds to react may cause death or months of pain and injury to oneself and others, and may result in criminal charges as well as costs and court time for the negligent defendant.

Have a look at activities that can be deadly and destructive while driving, and see if you need to change your habits:

Distracted Driving Attorney Tennessee
Infograph Credit: dmv.org

All three types of distractions take your focus away from the road. Many non-driving activities involve a combination of different types of distractions. Notice that texting has all three types of distraction, which is why it is so problematic. Shaving or putting on make-up involves both manual and visual distractions. Eating, adjusting your radio or music, and reaching for items in the car take away from your manual operation of the car as well as your visual focus.

Waze and GPS are great for getting you to your destination, but if you keep looking at the device you might not “arrive alive”. Set the device and acquaint yourself with your route before you get going, and follow the voice commands instead of reading the map while driving.
Don’t forget that people are also distracting. Trying to deal with kids acting up is both a visual and a cognitive diversion when you look to see what is going on, and get stressed dealing with squabbles. For teens, fewer passengers in the car mean fewer accidents. Never let your teenager play chauffeur for more than one friend at a time. Statistics consistently show that the more kids there are in the car, the higher the chance that an accident will occur.

The old adage “keep both hands on the wheel” is good advice to keep you in “just driving” mode. Remember that when you are behind the wheel, other activities can wait until you arrive at your destination. Save multi-tasking for when you are not driving. Delegating communications to a passenger is another option.

As personal injury attorneys, our business is helping those who are suffering because of others’ failure to focus on driving safely and responsibly. We urge you to look out for yourself and others not only during April, but all year round.

Because we care…

Stillman and Friedland
Tennessee Accident Attorneys

Why You Need a Car Accident Attorney: Case Basics

Do Insurance Companies Work To Help You?

Car Accident Insurance Tennessee
Public Domain Image: US CBP

As personal injury attorneys, Stillman and Friedland work all the time with insurance companies, negotiating to get the best compensation for their clients. While clients see insurance companies as service providers, it is important to remember:

• Insurance companies make money primarily by receiving premium payments and investing funds, and
• Insurance companies lose money by paying claims.

While the ins and outs of the insurance business are slightly more complex than those two basic statements, this is the reality that all our clients deal with when trying to receive compensation for injuries. Obviously, the insurance companies must provide a service in return for payment, but if they can keep overall claims payments lower, their profits will be that much greater. More money in your pocket means less in theirs.

In most cases, your attorney is trying to get a personal injury settlement from the other party’s insurance company. However, in quite a few cases, a client will be facing his or her own company. How does that work? In cases where a client is injured by a reckless or negligent uninsured driver, and the client had the foresight to purchase uninsured motorist insurance, the attorney will be pursuing a claim against the client’s own insurance company.

Tennessee, as we have discussed in previous posts, is one of the top 10 states for uninsured motorists in the U.S. With 20% of Tennessee motorists illegally driving without car insurance, that means one in five cars on the road carries no insurance. New penalties for driving uninsured introduced at the beginning of 2016 include a tripling of the fine to $300 and having the car impounded. In addition, the new statute makes it a misdemeanor to provide invalid (false or expired) insurance documentation. A new state computer system and compliance requirements for insurance companies will aid police and state troopers so they can verify insurance coverage.

Despite putting more teeth into the laws, we have yet to see any resultant reduction in rates of uninsured driving. Again, as we noted in a previous post, these drivers have higher accident rates, and rarely have assets which could be liquidated to provide compensation in lieu of insurance. This is why we always recommend that clients purchase high-limit uninsured motorist coverage.

While uninsured motorist coverage is your best bet, clients must recognize that they are now in an adversarial position vis-à-vis their own insurance provider. To pursue a successful claim, they must keep the following pointers in mind:

• Allow the attorney to be the sole contact to the insurance company
• Provide honest and complete information about prior injuries
• Use health insurance to cover medical expenses; your attorney can negotiate discounts on bills and increase the amount of the settlement that you keep.
• Seek consistent medical treatment for as long as needed, beginning in the immediate aftermath of the accident, and continuing treatment as recommended by your health care providers.

Remember, an experienced attorney knows your case’s value and the usual rate of financial recovery for your case. At Stillman and Friedland, we are here to offer expert advice and make sure that you get not the minimum insurance companies offer, but the settlement you deserve.

For your reference, we have included the relevant portions of the Tennessee amendments to the law regarding uninsured motorists:

SECTION 3. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 55-12-139(c)(2), is amended by deleting the language “one hundred dollars ($100)” and substituting the language “three hundred dollars ($300)”.

SECTION 4. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 55-12-139(c)(3), is amended by adding the following language as a new subdivision: A violation of subdivision (c)(1) is a Class A misdemeanor [Note: This means the perpetrator may be sentenced to up to one year in prison], if a person acts to demonstrate financial responsibility as required by this section by providing proof of motor vehicle liability insurance that the person knows is not valid.

SECTION 5. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 55-12-139(c), is amended by adding the following language as a new subdivision (4): (4) If the driver of a motor vehicle fails to provide evidence of financial responsibility pursuant to this section, an officer may tow the motor vehicle as long as the officer’s law enforcement agency has adopted a policy delineating the procedure for taking such action.

As always, feel free to contact our office regarding the above information or anything else related to personal injury/auto accident cases. We are here to help.

Because we care…

Getting a Jump on Motorcycle Safety

Motorcyle Accident Lawyer Tennessee
Public Domain Image
Stillman and Friedland would like to remind you that May is Motorcycle Safety Month. In this post, we will give you tips to so you can get a head start on sharing the road safely with motorcycle riders. Spring weather brings out more motorcycle enthusiasts as weather conditions improve. Let’s review some basic safety information from the National Safety Council:

While motorcycles are only 3% of total vehicles on the road and less than 1% of total road traffic, motorcyclists accounted for 15% of all traffic deaths and 18% of all occupant deaths in statistics available in recent years. One reason for this is obvious — without the protective shell of a car or truck, riders are directly exposed to collisions. Other reasons for increased fatalities among motorcyclists are higher rates of alcohol consumption and speeding. Older riders are more vulnerable to fatal crashes, and the age of motorcycle riders has gone up as more Baby Boomers continue to enjoy the open road. For other drivers on the road, smaller, less visible motorcycles present a challenge, but excessive speed and delayed or poor response due to intoxication add even more risk.

Your challenges as a driver are:

• Awareness: be prepared to respond to unexpected motorcycle traffic
• Avoid distraction: Keep fully focused on the road
• Check your blind spots before turning or changing lanes
• Observe the rules of the road: Do not violate motorcycles’ right-of-way

Motorcyclists:

While it is still rainy, here are some great pointers for safety and visibility that also apply for better weather:


Video: Competition Accessories

Keep in mind these essential points as you ride more with better weather:

• Always wear a safety-certified helmet
• Keep your headlight on at all times
• Be “road aware” for changing conditions such as potholes, rain or debris
• Never forget that you are barely visible for most drivers; ride to avoid surprising drivers
• If you are coming back to motorcycling, even after a hiatus of several months, carefully review the rules of the road—consider a review course to brush up
Baby Boomers, ride cautiously if you are “new again”. Older riders make up 35% of motorcycle crash fatalities.
• Be sure of your skills and doubly cautious before taking passengers on your bike.

Stillman and Friedland hope that you will take time to review basic road safety with motorcycling in mind. Whether you yourself ride a motorcycle, or are just sharing the road, it is a good idea to keep these precautions in mind and share them with other drivers in your family, especially younger and newer drivers.

Road Safety Innovations for Cyclists

Bicycle Accident Attorney Tennessee
Photo: Bill Branson (Photographer) [Public Domain Image]

Stillman and Friedland hope you are enjoying the increasingly warm weather. Despite spring showers, the pleasant weather between rainy spells draws many Tennesseans out for outdoor activities, including cycling.

In today’s post, we will take a look at cycling safety statistics and technology options for Davidson County. Our county rates second in recent years for injuries and fatalities, while Shelby County has had on average the highest rate of cyclist injuries and fatalities in Tennessee. In 2015, the latest year for which we have statistics, 86 people were injured while riding in Davidson County; thankfully, there were no fatalities.

Personal Responsibility: As we have discussed previously, each and every rider should equip him- or herself with a properly fitting and safety-tested cycling helmet, reflective gear, and a clear understanding of the rules of the road. We cannot stress enough the importance of awareness and watching out for traffic on the part of cyclists and drivers. Failure to do so is the leading cause of cycling accidents.

State and Local Safety Provisions: The state of Tennessee has designated cycling trails, but as noted on the website, “All roads suggested are regular roads of the state, county and city highway systems and are used by trucks and cars with no special lanes provided for bicycles.” Cyclists and drivers should exercise caution in these mixed-use areas.

Bicycle Safety Attorney Nashville
Nashville Public Works
Luckily for residents of Davidson County, the county is moving forward to mark bicycle lanes. Another bonus for cyclists is the insertion of green “Bike Boxes”, an intersection stopping zone for cyclists. A NIH study shows that bicycle lanes have multiple benefits, including safety, personal fitness and reduced pollution. The study found that using resources for “bike lanes are more cost-effective than the majority of preventive approaches used today.”

While bicycle lanes with separation barriers are preferred by cyclists, lane markings are a great start to improve cycling safety. The greater the number of miles installed, the greater the increase of cyclist ridership and its associated benefits. New York City installed 45.5 miles of bicycle lanes and it is projected that the resulting increase in ridership was over 9%.

An Australian study also advocates creating bicycle lanes to “reduce crash risk for cyclists”. The same study also found that improving safety at intersections with solutions and technologies was a major goal for improving road safety. Davidson County’s Bike Box is an infrastructure solution that aims to promote better traffic awareness for both cyclists and drivers.

Other technologies include adding smart signs that read the road and detect cyclists. These smart signs light up when cyclists are detected, alerting drivers to the presence of cyclists on the road.

Stillman and Friedland wish you a healthy and safe start to spring.

Because we care…

Mobileye: New Technology Increasing Road Safety for You

Mobileye
Image by Mobileye via YouTube

Stillman and Friedland always have an eye out for the latest road safety developments, to help prevent road accidents. This week’s big news is the acquisition by Intel of Israeli firm Mobileye, the latest and largest buyout of Israeli hi-tech by a major American firm. In addition, Intel will be moving its automotive division to Israel to further develop vehicle safety systems and driverless technology.

One current commercially-available Mobileye system is a combination product which is an add-on to your car. Powerhouse research and development have yielded technology which uses both alerts and automatic overrides to improve road safety. This product is an initial step in autonomous navigation; the Mobileye acts as a co-pilot to the driver, pointing out dangers on the road.

Mobileye has been marketed in Israel as a product which helps seniors drive better, especially those with limited focus and poor night vision. However, it has multiple features which help all drivers, especially these days when distracted driving has become a major cause of accidents, injury and fatalities. Mobileye is a great tool to prevent collisions. The dash-mounted unit alerts the driver with both visual and audio warnings when:

• You are too close to the car in front of you
• You have exceeded the speed limit (the system actually reads speed limit signs on the road)
• You have drifted out of your lane without signaling a lane change
• Pedestrians bicycles, or motorcycles are in your path
• Also, your high-beam headlights are dimmed automatically when cars approach in the oncoming lane.

Obviously, the capability of Mobileye to “read the road” is essential to hands-free, self-driving car technology. Another feature is the capability to utilize crowdsourced data, similar to Waze traffic information. Combining camera feeds with real-time road conditions data means the system has both reactive and anticipatory capabilities. The self-driving option will be available as factory-installed feature, and auto manufacturers are already working with Mobileye.

Here is what that looks like on the road as Mobileye’s co-founder and CTO sits in the driver’s seat with his hands off the wheel and his eyes off the road as the car goes down the highway.

It looks a bit scary, but we will get used to it, as more and more of these cars will be in use in the next two-to-three years. In the end, removing the human error from driving can make us all safer, and reduce the rate of accidents. Readers of this blog will appreciate that this technology will reduce potentially lethal car and trucks accidents. In fact, we hope the biggest initial use will be by commercial and trucking firms.

Looking ahead for you, Stillman and Friedland wish you safe journeys, wherever you go—no matter who or what is doing the driving.

What Is The Value of a Truck Accident Case?

Truck Accident Lawyer NashvilleIn our three-part truck accident series, Stillman and Friedland offered key information on avoiding accident and injury by steering clear of trucks and hazardous situations. In this post we will examine how to maximize your financial recovery in the unfortunate event that you or a loved one are involved in a truck accident.

In review, two components are essential in pursuing your case successfully. The first, which we covered in a previous post, is experience. For truck accident cases, only an attorney with depth of experience can get you the best financial settlement. An inexperienced attorney may miss getting important data, and that may mean that you get less compensation than you deserve.

The second is speed of acquiring information. Truck accidents differ from car accidents in that driver data are often available in the form of company records, but often these records must be obtained as soon as possible after the collision, before they become difficult to obtain. Such records include data on vehicle maintenance, driver hours, training, and many more details involving safety.

Why is truck driver data so important? In car crashes, financial recovery is generally based on the amount of medical treatment, pain and suffering, and lost wages. In truck crashes, policy limits are higher, and in addition, if improper company compliance with rules and regulations is found to be a factor in the crash, the value of your case could be even higher.

The level of cooperation and early assistance from trucking companies is usually poor, and you will need help with property damage to your car, and a rental car while your car is not drivable, or being repaired.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck crash, our advice based on years of experience, is to immediately find an attorney deeply familiar with these cases.

Stillman and Friedland are committed to act swiftly and compassionately on your behalf and to maximize the financial recovery that you deserve.

Record Stops as TDOT Enforces “Move Over” Law

How to avoid accidents and reduce injuries; safe driving techniques

Move Over Law Tennessee
Look Out for TDOT Trucks and Emergency Vehicles
Stillman and Friedland know that most of our clients are well aware of the requirement to pull over for speeding emergency vehicles. But did you know that the Move Over Law also requires that you pull over to the side of the road for TDOT HELP trucks and highway maintenance trucks?

Keeping an eye out for trucks is always a good idea, and now it can help you avoid getting a traffic citation. As you can see in TDOT’s latest update, the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) has been stopping drivers who fail to act according to the law:

The Move Over law, which was passed in 2006, was expanded in 2011 to include “utility service equipment to the list of vehicles for which motorists are required to either slow down or move over”. As the video notes, in a single traffic “sting operation” more than 40 Middle Tennessee drivers were handed citations in less than half day. This is more than half the number of citations that were handed out in Davidson county in all of 2014, the last year of available THP per-county violation statistics.

With a lot of new projects in the works to pay for and a hefty fine of up to $500 per citation, this could just be a handy revenue stream for the state. For drivers, it is a sure bet that it pays to keep an eye out for all trucks, and especially for ER and TDOT vehicles, whenever you are on the road!

Stillman and Friedland remind you to comply with all state laws. If everyone does their part, we all stay safer.

Truck Accidents: Top Avoidance Tips [Part 3]

Truck Accidents Nashville In this post Stillman and Friedland give you our top tips for avoiding truck accidents. As we have noted in previous posts, there are two major points to consider when sharing a motorway with large trucks:

• Trucks have large blind spots; this means that every truck driver is operating with much more limited visibility than a car and their large weight and mass add much greater potential to cause damage. Always keep in mind that your position relative to the truck makes you invisible to the truck driver most of the time. The truck has blind spots in all directions, front sides, and rear.

• Trucks cannot stop as quickly as cars. They have a much longer braking distance, which means that even if they see you, they may not be able to stop in time. Add to this the possibility of slower driver response time due to long hours on the road, and chances of braking to avoid a crash drop even more.

Here are two key situations that according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration characterize a high percentage of truck crashes:

• Rear-end collisions
• Lane changes, and exiting roadway

How can you avoid crashes in these situations? Firstly, just as you would speed up or change lanes to avoid a tailgater, you need to change your position to avoid being immediately ahead of a truck. This is even more important when road conditions are challenging. Remember, smaller vehicles are invisible at short range to the truck driver.

Secondly, always be alert to trucks exiting the roadway or changing lanes. Please note that about 20% more accidents occur when truck move to the right. Why? Truckers, like all drivers, have greater visibility on the driver’s side. Even if you are at a distance from the truck changing lanes or exiting, be alert. Multi-car pile-ups happen when cars are following too closely at too great a speed.

We are looking out for you, because we care!

Gary Taubes’ New Book Offers Healing Information

The Case Against Sugar

Gary Taubes The Case Against SugarIn the interest of helping our clients maximize their recovery, Stillman and Friedland strongly suggest that Tennesseans follow Taubes’ conclusions below and reduce and remove sugars from their diet.

Prizewinning science journalist and best-selling author Gary Taubes has a new book out with an important message on sugar. In short, sugar consumption in the U.S. has literally fed the spread of Type II diabetes until it has reached epic proportions. Many of you may be surprised to hear that until the last century, diabetes was a disease which was rare and even absent in whole populations. Today, the occurrence of Type II diabetes is spiraling upwards in Tennessee, which has one of the highest rates in the U.S. at 33.8% in 2015. Disorders related to diabetes and sugar consumption include high blood pressure, heart disease, gout, GERD, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer. For our personal injury clients, those suffering from Type II diabetes—who are already prone to wound-healing problems—recovery will be an even more challenging process.

Taking sugar out of your diet can improve overall health for you and your family and aid in recovery.

Taubes, who also wrote Why We Get Fat, explains how American scientists discarded valid research confirming the hormonal processes which make carbohydrates, and especially sugar, so particularly fattening. The demonization of saturated fats, and the cheap cost of producing sugar-laden food made for a perfect storm and led to the touting of fat-free, sugar-laden Snackwells and a multitude of other sweetened consumer goods as “healthy”.
The end result of industry products and public health pronouncements is widespread Type II diabetes rates all over America, with Tennessee rated ninth in the U.S. for diabetes sufferers, including many children.

Gary Taubes Interview

For further information, we also recommend reading and viewing:

• Dr. Sarah Hallberg: TED Talk on insulin resistance and overweight
• John Yudkin: Pure, White and Deadly, available as a free online pdf here or in bookstores.
• Robert Lustig: Fat Chance: Fructose 2.0

Better Health Means a Better Recovery.

Because We Care…

Stillman and Friedland Attorneys

Truck Accidents Dangers Continue To Rise [PART 2]

Truck accidents remain a clear and present danger on the roads of Tennessee, and Stillman and Friedland share the concern of many drivers. As we noted in the first part of this series, this is a trend which has continued since 2009.

WATCH:

Truck Accident Attorney Nashville
CNBC Investigations: Collision Course

According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA) preliminary report released in November of 2016,

“In 2015, 4,311 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, an 8-percent increase from 2014… the number of large trucks and buses in fatal crashes has increased by 26 percent from its low of3,432 in 2009…”

The FCMSA also reports that Property Damage Only rates have remained constant or decreased by about 1%.

What policies could save more drivers? A major contributing factors to these accidents is the failure of trucking company safety directors to penalize or fire reckless drivers. In response to this problem, the Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) committed to establishing a database of drunk and/or drugged drivers:

“In 2012, Congress directed the Secretary of Transportation to establish a national Clearinghouse containing CMV operators’ violations of FMCSA’s drug and alcohol testing program in Section 32402 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). This rule implements that mandate and also responds to earlier recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board.”

This information was updated just last month, in December of 2016. As anyone can deduce, the mandate has languished without accomplishing its goal for a minimum of four years, although earlier recommendations also pointed to the need for action.

Obviously, since drivers who fail to drive responsibly are the core of the problem, restricting the number of reckless drivers on the road should be the primary goal of the authorities, whether local, state or federal. A key overall objective is reducing overall drunk and drugged driving, as DUI patterns indicate increases in the number of drugged drivers up between 12.5-20% nationwide.

In addition to getting proven bad drivers off the road, increasing safety awareness and identifying risky behavior may help. This includes spotting companies who engage in potentially negligent behavior. Data from the CDC in 2010 indicates that:

• An estimated 14 percent of long-haul truck drivers reported not using a seat belt on every trip.
• Over one-third of long-haul truck drivers had been involved in one or more serious crashes during their driving careers.
• Long-haul truck drivers who reported not wearing seat belts also tended to engage in other unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding and committing moving violations. They were also more likely to work for an employer that did not have a written workplace safety program.

As trucking continues to be an economical means of transporting goods, and the numbers of trucks continue to remain high, these issues remain a priority for Tennesseans. If you are concerned about keeping unsafe truck drivers off the road, urge your governmental representatives to move clearinghouse legislation forward. For now your best protection is to be alert on the road and steer clear of heavy trucks when you are on the road.