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5 Defensive Driving Strategies That Help Prevent Car Accidents

5 Defensive Driving Strategies That Help Prevent Car Accidents

If you haven’t been involved in a fender-bender, consider yourself fortunate. According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2016, there were more than 7 million police-reported traffic crashes. More than 37,000 people died in these accidents, and more than 3 million people were injured.

Some of the most common car accident causes are preventable. These include:

  • Not paying attention to other vehicles
  • Failing to adapt to changing road conditions
  • Following other vehicles too closely
  • Ignoring blind spots
  • Driving while impaired
  • Allowing emotions like anger to influence unsafe driving behaviors
  • Ignoring dangerous driving conditions

Defensive driving is the safest driving technique that requires that drivers stay alert and aware of their surroundings and adapt accordingly. Using defensive driving strategies helps drivers avoid problems unsafe drivers or road conditions can cause.

As we’ve learned in the cases that we’ve helped clients earn more than $800 million in settlements from, when it comes to driving, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Here are some defensive driving strategies you can use to avoid a costly accident – not just in terms of money, but in terms of human safety.

1. Focus on Driving

Don’t text, don’t look down at your phone, and don’t turn around to talk to the passenger in the back seat. Don’t eat food or apply makeup while driving.

Keep your eyes focused on the road and changing traffic conditions. Observe speed limit changes, the state of the road and any obstacles, traffic controls and cars in front of, behind and next to you.

5 Defensive Driving Strategies That Help Prevent Car Accidents2. Make Safety the Top Priority

You may encounter unsafe driving behaviors that tempt you to react unsafely, as well. For example, if someone is tailgating you on a freeway, you may want to speed up to create some distance, but that just makes you speed, as well.

If another driver is swerving, following you too closely, changing speeds erratically or driving in another way that is unsafe, don’t react – avoid the driver and move away from them.

3. Assume the Worst

You may be an impeccable driver, but you can’t count on other drivers to be as safe as you. That’s why you should always follow all traffic laws, which are in place to keep motorists safe.

In addition to paying attention to unsafe driving behaviors that are happening, you should take extra precaution while driving in case something dangerous happens unexpectedly. Be sure to:

Leave at least one car length in front of you and the next driver in front of you for every 10 miles per hour you are driving, in case the driver stops suddenly or decreases speed for some reason.

Drive the speed limit.

If you need to change lanes, do so early and check your blind spots before merging, so you can avoid a driver speeding up and preventing you from doing so safely.

Use turn signals and obey all traffic controls.

Even if you have the right of way, yield for drivers when it appears they won’t yield for you. Remember that some reckless drivers will run red lights or fail to let you pass in front of them.

Constantly scan your surroundings to identify any unsafe behaviors you want to avoid. Don’t just look directly in front of you. Be aware of conditions down the road to anticipate how to react to them.

5 Defensive Driving Strategies That Help Prevent Car Accidents4. Never Drive While Impaired

Alcohol, illegal drugs and even some prescription drugs can all impair your ability to drive alertly. Follow all directions to avoid driving after taking certain prescription drugs. Never drive while intoxicated, because that will slow down your reaction time.

You should also avoid driving while sleepy. As we’ve covered, drowsy driving is a significant hazard to you and other motorists.

Avoid driving while your emotions are heightened, as well. Anger could cause you to drive aggressively, while even a positive emotion like euphoria could make you feel more confident in using reckless driving behaviors.

5. Maintain Your Car

Finally, one of the easiest ways to increase the safety of your driving is to make sure your car is in perfect working condition. A car that breaks down in the middle of the freeway can cause car accidents. If your windshield wipers don’t work, and it starts raining, your visibility will suffer. Proper car maintenance goes hand-in-hand with safe driving behaviors.

Are You a Victim of Someone’s Unsafe Driving?

If another driver’s aggressive or unsafe driving habits caused a car accident where you were seriously injured due to their negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the Birmingham car accident attorney team at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums for a free car accident consultation.

What Role Do Employers Play in Fatigue-Related Car Accidents?

What Role Do Employers Play in Fatigue-Related Car Accidents?

Generally speaking, the less sleep you get, the more likely you are to have an injury at work. According to the US National Health Interview Survey, when people get less than seven hours of sleep, injury incidence increases with each hour less.

  • For workers who sleep 7 to 8 hours a night, annual injury incidence is 2.27 percent
  • For workers who sleep 6 to 7 hours a night, annual injury incidence is 3.62 percent
  • For workers who sleep 5 to 6 hours a night, annual injury incidence is 5.21 percent
  • For workers who sleep less than 5 hours a night, annual injury incidence is 7.89 percent

Proper sleep is essential to all workers, especially those who operate heavy machinery, including cars and large trucks. In some cases, when an employee is driving while on the clock for work, an employer’s negligence may be to blame for work car accidents. Here are some things to be aware of.

What Role Do Employers Play in Fatigue-Related Car Accidents?The Dangers of Driving While Fatigued

Drowsy driving is a serious threat to motorists. A 2018 study by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found drowsy driving is a factor in nearly 10 percent of serious car crashes resulting in injuries, airbag deployment or significant property damage. While the federal government reports up to 2 percent of all accidents occur because of drowsy driving, this recent study indicates the number is likely much higher.

When people drive while drowsy, the following risks occur:

  • Drivers become less attentive
  • Reaction time slows
  • Drivers are less likely to make safe driving decisions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports most adults need at least seven hours of sleep a day to stay safe. However, in some work situations, employers may negatively impact sleep time, putting their employees and others on the road in danger.

What Role Do Employers Play in Fatigue-Related Car Accidents?Fatigued Driving Risks in Work Situations

Any time an employee takes the wheel, there’s a risk that they’re doing so while drowsy, whether because of a personal decision or because of employer instructions. A 2017 study published in the medical journal Sleep reports work factors that influence drowsy driving incidence include:

  • Working long and irregular hours
  • Working multiple jobs
  • Working night hours

The study reports factors like these are especially prevalent in the medical community. Extended work shifts increase crash risk by 9.1 percent, the study finds. Long shifts, which last more than 12.5 hours, increase drowsy driving incidence by double frequency. Nurses who only work night shifts are more likely to experience drowsy driving. The study reports any employee who experiences similar work situations may also be at risk for drowsy driving, not just those in the medical field.

The study also found drivers who drive through monotonous locales or drive on lengthy routes are particularly susceptible to drowsy driving dangers. These are the types of schedules and routes truck drivers typically encounter.

Safety + Health magazine reports workers in the oil and gas industries also face drowsy driving risks, since these types of workers often make lengthy trips between work sites and work extended shifts.

How Employer Negligence Contributes to Drowsy Driving

In any work situation, the employer is responsible for creating a safe working environment and keeping employees protected from harm. This relates to driving while on the job, too.

Proper precautions to keep employees who drive while on the clock safe include:

Self-Regulation for Fatigue

Employers should train employees on the warning signs of fatigued driving, which include yawning, frequent blinking, short-term memory loss or neglecting road cues, drifting, and hitting guard rails. If an employee is tired while driving, they should be empowered to stop the vehicle in a safe place and rest.

Frequent Breaks

Employers should mandate frequent breaks when employees are driving for long stretches of time.

Only Mandate Driving When Necessary

If an employer can facilitate transportation for an employee where they are not driving, such as a flight or public transportation, the employer should do so.

These types of driving policies should apply to any worker who has to drive, not just truckers. For example, if an employee has been in an out-of-state business meeting all day and then is forced to drive an hour to an airport to catch a red-eye flight, the employer is putting that employee in danger of fatigued driving. An accident could occur on the way to the airport that was caused by employer negligence.

Employers can stay protected by creating thorough driving policies for employees that include guidelines for fatigued driving.

If an employee does experience a serious car accident, and fatigue due to employer negligence is a factor, the employee should contact a Birmingham car accident attorney. Legal action may be the right path to choose in order to not only secure just compensation, but also to help ensure other employees are protected and are not pressured to drive while fatigued.

How Trucking Companies Can Prevent Large Truck Accidents

The trucking industry poses a threat to passenger vehicle drivers on the road, because of the sheer size of large truck vehicles and the power they wield in overtaking other motorists. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute reports the majority of fatalities in accidents with large trucks are those of people in passenger vehicles. Trucking companies and their drivers are key to preventing large accidents and keeping everyone roads safe.

Some of the most common factors prevalent in trucking accidents include:

  • Slow braking: Loaded tractor trailers take up to 40 percent farther to come to a complete stop compared to cars
  • Hazardous road conditions: Because large trucks require longer reaction times because of their size and braking capabilities, wet and slippery roads pose a threat
  • Fatigue: While it’s legal to drive up to 11 hours at a time without resting, drivers may exceed that amount of time or neglect taking breaks when tired

No amount of business is worth putting others in danger or taking people’s lives because of negligence. A trucking business should follow these steps to prevent trucking accidents and ensure motorists are protected.

Follow All Legal Regulations

All mandates set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), including commercial licensing and registration, should be followed. The Truck Size and Weight regulations provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration must be adhered to. Besides obtaining proper permits and licensure, vehicles should be regularly inspected to ensure they’re operating at optimal performance. Testing should focus on proper tire performance, engine functionality, proper electrical wiring and braking, and overall truck functioning.  All safety equipment, including lights and reflectors, should all work properly to protect truck drivers and other motorists.

Hire Responsible Drivers

Before a driver is hired for your company, you should delve into their entire driving history to identify any potential risks. Hire thoughtfully by doing diligent research, rather than favoring quickness in filling roles. Any potential hire who has driven under the influence in the past is a red flag, while you should also be wary of drivers who have moved from company to company without working at one for a significant period of time. A driver with a spotty record may put your company at more risk in a lawsuit if that driver is involved in an accident.

Require Proper Rest

Sleep and rest should always be prioritized over productivity. Besides requiring drivers to follow legal rest regulations, your company should eliminate incentives for driving faster or farther. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports drowsiness decreases attention to the road, impairs reaction time and affects decision-making ability, all factors that are essential to safe driving in any vehicle.
Because large trucks require even more time for safe braking and reactions, staying alert at all times is vital.

Ban Distractions

Drivers should never be allowed to use a technology device while driving, like a smartphone, and use of mobile phones and texting is prohibited, according to FMSCA regulations. Any communication to the driver should be received hands-free, and drivers should be encouraged to pull over and stop before making any calls. Listening to music and talking with passengers should also be discouraged.

Implement Better Training

Driving a large truck is incredibly different than operating a passenger car. Besides requiring your fleet of drivers to obtain proper licensure, you should also institute additional training, since poor driving decisions contribute to crashes. Truck driving is the deadliest job in the United States, according to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounting for more than a quarter of work-related fatalities. Go the extra mile by recommending regular training so all drivers can operate at their best level.

Properly Secure Hazardous Materials

In the event an accident does occur, adding to bodily dangers is the release of any hazardous materials, such as chemicals or explosives. Anything that is dangerous and is transported should be securely stowed so that it doesn’t spill onto people or the road in an accident. A truck should be properly labeled as carrying hazardous materials, as well, and should only travel on roads they’re legally allowed to.

Stay Protected in a Trucking Accident

Even when owners take all the proper precautions for their vehicles and driver safety, an accident may still occur. It’s important that a victim of a trucking accident contact an experienced truck accident injury attorney that understands all the rules and regulations that should be followed for their state. If you have been the victim of a large truck or 18-wheeler an attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf of the victim.  

Large Truck Accidents More Common Than Previously Thought

You’re probably at more risk to be in an accident with a large truck than you may think. According to the 2016 Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus Statistics released by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the registered number of large trucks in America increased 3 percent year-over-year in 2014, to nearly 11 million large trucks. They’re also involved in more accidents, as the report found 476,000 vehicle crashes in 2014 involved large trucks or buses, a 22 percent year-over-year increase.

In any type of motor vehicle accident, you’re in, factors such as injuries and damage warrant getting in touch with a lawyer so you can secure the compensation and justice you deserve. When you’re dealing with a large truck or 18-wheeler it is much larger, and far more dangerous, than a small car or even SUV, hiring a trucking accident attorney is essential in any type of accident. Not only is there another driver to deal with, but handling the case against the trucking company, or truck manufacturer, or even the company that hired the truck driver involves complicated legal actions that only an experienced lawyer will be able to navigate.

With factors such as the exponential rise of e-commerce increasing the demand for delivered goods, expect shipping truck presence on the road to also increase. Business Insider reports freight revenue is expected to grow 75 percent by 2026. Be aware of what to do if you’re in an accident with a large truck now, so you can be better prepared in the unfortunate circumstance that it happens to you or a loved one.

Causes of Large Truck Accidents

One of the reasons why seeking help from an attorney in a large truck accident is so vital is because there are detailed nuances related to causation that may affect your case. While the National Center for Statistics and Analysis 2017 Traffic Safety Facts report found 2 percent of large-truck drivers in fatal accidents had high blood alcohol concentrations, often the size of the vehicle contributes to a crash, as well as factors like improper sleep or poor driving.
Large truck accident factors include:

  • Poor braking or maneuverability: The size of the truck requires more distance in-between it and another vehicle in order to properly brake or turn to avoid hazards or collisions. Driving too close to another car or not paying attention to road conditions can lead to an accident.
  • Driver fatigue and distracted driving: Truck drivers who are not fully alert of road conditions at all times put themselves and other drivers in danger. Federal driver regulations set a standard for how much sleep a driver needs before getting back on the road. Like distracted driving in other vehicles, use of a smartphone while driving poses a threat to reaction time.
  • Equipment failure: Large trucks require regular documented maintenance for optimal driving. The truck should be able to perform perfectly in a variety of conditions to protect other motor vehicle operators as well as the truck’s driver.
  • Improper responses to other drivers: Truck drivers are supposed to be professional drivers.  For this reason, they should be among the most experienced drivers on the road.  However, for a variety of reasons (impairments, distractions, lack of proper training), large truck drivers do not always appropriately respond to the routine actions of other drivers.   

In addition to these causes, a truck that is carrying or pulling along heavy cargo also poses a threat to other drivers who may be impacted by it. Combustible cargo may cause an explosion in an accident. Cargo that is hazardous in other ways (such as chemical cargo) may also pose a threat, while a trailer that is being pulled may be the force that impacts the driver.

As you can see, many factors may be present at the same time in an accident. For someone who is a victim, hiring an experienced lawyer to help deal with a traumatic situation like this will give peace of mind that all factors are examined thoroughly and taken into account.

Actions to Take Immediately After an Accident with an 18 Wheeler.

Because of the magnitude of the impact, a large truck has in an accident, calling emergency services immediately is the crucial first step. You will also want to make sure the accident scene is documented with photographs of the scene, yourself, other passengers, the vehicles in the accident and the driver’s license and license plate of the truck driver. Also, be sure to notate anything that sticks out or could pertain to the accident including what the truck driver says to you (and a license plate number in case the driver abandons the scene), as well as obtain contact information from all witnesses.  If you cannot take photographs, ask someone to do so for you.  

Secure medical assistance from emergency services. Getting thoroughly evaluated at the emergency room by a medical professional is wise in any accident, because you may experience injuries that may not be immediately apparent, but that require treatment. Usually, radiographs, such as CT-scans, x-rays and MRIs, are vital to diagnose any head, brain, neck, or back trauma. Additionally, proper diagnosis of injuries provides for the proper treatment which helps determine whether these injuries are permanent or lasting in nature, or may require surgical intervention.

You’ll want to contact your insurance company immediately. We recommend you contact an attorney, who can obtain appropriate evidence and who will be instrumental in securing information to determine possible negligence and cause, including violations of driving and log regulations.

Being in an accident with a large truck is stressful and scary. A professional with expertise in this area will alleviate the burden of building a strong case for you and will help you to get the compensation you deserve.

Pittman Dutton and Hellums

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