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Summer time and the driving is easy! Getting ready for a road trip this summer?  Check out these timely tips to keep you and your family safe on the road to paradise.

  1. Get your car serviced.

Regular maintenance such as tune-ups, oil changes, battery checks, and tire rotations go a long way toward preventing breakdowns. If your vehicle has not been serviced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, schedule a preventive maintenance checkup with your mechanic right away.

  1. Check your tires and replace your wiper blades.

Before a road trip, most people fill up the tank, gather snacks and make sure the kids are set up with movies and games. What about your tires? Even if not prompted by a warning light or unusual sounds, always double check your tires’ air pressure and tread depth before an extended trip, as healthy tires improve gas mileage and save money at the pump.

  1. Keep your eyes on the road.

One of the easiest ways to avoid accidents, wrong turns or other highway mishaps is to stay focused. Cell phones are most often responsible for distracted driving, one-third (33 percent) of Americans regularly take phone calls while on the road, and one in 10 drivers (11 percent) admit to texting while driving. To help put this risk into perspective, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports texting while driving on the highway is equivalent to driving blindfolded for the length of an entire football field.

  1. Observe speed limits – driving too fast or too slow can increase your chance of being in a collision.

That being said, also, never drive too fast for conditions or overdrive your headlights.

 

  1. Make frequent stops. During long trips, rotate drivers. If you’re too tired to drive, stop and get some rest.

Most experts agree that you shouldn’t drive more than 2 hours without stopping for a break.  Also, be aware of any medications that you may be taking, such as antihistamines, that may be impairing your ability to stay alert.

  1. Be respectful of other motorists and follow the rules of the road.

Leave plenty of room between yourself and other cars.  Be especially careful around semi-trucks, don’t cut in front of them too closely as they require much more room to slow down or stop than cars do.

  1. Who ya gonna call?

Even the most prepared and proactive drivers can end up on the side of the road because of unforeseen driving events. Whether it’s a flat tire, dead battery or overheated engine, have a backup plan for a roadside service such as AAA.

By following these quick tips and guidelines to safety, you can go full steam ahead to wherever your destination this summer may be! And should you or someone you know be injured in an accident, remember me-YOUR #accidentattorney.

Marianne Howanitz

 

driving-anxiety

Last week I wrote about a young client of mine who developed an intense fear of driving or being a passenger in an automobile after she was involved in a rear end collision that injured her.  Many of you expressed a similar fear, so this week I researched to find some helpful tips to overcome, or at least alleviate, this common fear.

If you are someone that would like to overcome a driving fear, these tips from Jennifer Johnson may be very helpful. If you are the type of person who would rather run in the opposite direction in order to avoid driving or if you find yourself wobbling on jelly-legs whenever you try to open the driver’s door, it is possible that you are suffering from driving anxiety. Here are some tips on how you can cope with driving anxiety…

Relaxation Techniques

Deep breathing exercises are one of the most effective relaxation techniques for anxiety disorders.

Self-talking and positive affirmations are another relaxation technique that you can make use of while driving.  Tell yourself some words of encouragement such as “I can do this and I will be at my destination very soon and safely!”

Another self-talk technique is to tell yourself your reason for driving and outline the details or purpose for the trip.  The key here is to try to relax yourself by distracting your mind and keeping it away from any negative thoughts that will only exacerbate your feelings of anxiety.

Think of the good points for your purpose of driving. Are you excited about your arrival or the event coming up?

There are also self-help driving programs that have been helpful to many.

Observe Mindfulness While Driving

You need to observe ‘mindfulness’ all throughout the duration of your trip. Don’t allow your anxiety to make you lose focus whilst driving! Once you notice your hands starting to grip the steering wheel more tightly and your mind is telling you about impending accidents…stop your thoughts and get back to rule number one. Use relaxation techniques.

Choose A Driving Companion

People who are suffering from driving anxiety should carefully choose someone to keep them company while driving.  It should be someone whom you trust and someone who is very much aware of your anxiety and completely understands your condition.

This person must also be prepared to help you relax and stay calm.

Avoid those people who do not understand your anxiety or those who will only be causing you more stress and anxiety behind the wheel. Even if it is a husband or wife…if they are not supportive…do not drive…let them. Only drive with people who can help…not hinder. If you also hate being a passenger, say positive affirmations and deep breathe.

Know When To Take Driving Breaks

If you are experiencing driving anxiety, it is best to take several breaks behind the wheel. For example, you can take a break every 30 minutes of driving. You can either have someone else drive the car or you can look for a safe place to park for a few minutes.

You may increase the length of time for driving and shorten the time for your breaks once you notice yourself improving. If you are in a hurry, allow a trusted friend or someone else to do the driving for you.

Anxiety First Aid Kit

Another important thing that you must remember before you start driving is to check whether your anxiety first aid kit is complete.  Make sure that you have your bottle of water, cell phone with its charger and your relaxation CD inside the car.  It would also be best to have your own GPS so you can easily find your way back especially when you are driving to unfamiliar places.

Avoid Taking Anti-Anxiety Medications

Anti-anxiety medications may effectively relieve your anxiety. Unfortunately, most of these anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications cannot be taken while driving.  Taking these medications before or during driving is not recommended and will only increase your risk of accidents.

There are other tips too, such as progressive muscle relaxation for driving anxiety. There are self-help programs too and in my opinion these natural anxiety relief techniques are the best!

I sincerely hope this is helpful! Stay safe out there friends!

YOUR #accidentattorney Marianne Howanitz

 References

  1. http://www.theravive.com/blog/post/2011/09/25/Coping-With-Your-Driving-Anxieties.aspx
  2. http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/types/driving
  3. http://www.wikihow.com/Overcome-a-Driving-Phobia
  4. Anxiety relief techniques blog by Jennifer Johnson

family-car-trip-snow

Many of us choose to travel during the holidays by automobile, traveling to visit relatives or taking a winter vacation, but with the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation, taking the family vehicle is dangerous. In 2013, 360 people died on Thanksgiving Day, 88 on Christmas Day, and 343 people on New Year’s Day  according to Injury Facts 2015. Alcohol-impaired fatalities represented 31% of the totals. There are other dangers out there too friends.

Here are some great, simple tips from AAA and myself to help make your drive a smooth one, so you can arrive at your destination safely and without incident.

  1. Ensure your vehicle is properly maintained. If maintenance is not up to date, have your car and tires inspected before you take a long drive.
  2. Map your route in advance and be prepared for busy roads during the most popular times of the year. If possible, consider leaving earlier or later to avoid heavy traffic.
  3. Keep anything of value in the trunk or covered storage area.
  4. If you’re traveling with children, remind them not to talk to strangers. Go with them on bathroom breaks and give them whistles to be used only if the family gets separated.
  5. Have roadside assistance contact information on hand, in case an incident occurs on the road.
  6. In case of an emergency, keep a cell phone and charger with you at all times. AAA and many other companies offer smartphone applications that enable motorists to request help without making a phone call.
  7. Of course, never drive more than 8 hours straight. Fatigued driving is the same as drunk driving.
  8. And lastly, but certainly not least, NO TEXTING!

With a little prep, you can leave the road-trip stress at home and arrive safely to enjoy your holiday with family and friends.

Teen driver in good mood with black car, selective focus on eyes
Teen driver in good mood with black car, selective focus on eyes

When a teenager gets a driver license, it signifies freedom and the lure of the open road. But with this newfound freedom comes a host of new situations and possible problems that most teen drivers have never encountered before. It’s a good idea to review these scenarios with new drivers in your family, and discuss how to handle them before they happen for real.

From traffic stops to road rage, here’s a primer on what you need to tell teen drivers as they take to the roads.

  1. What to do when you’re stopped by a police officer
    Safely pull to the side of the road, turn off your car, roll down the window and keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden moves or argue with the officer. Do your arguing in traffic court.

 

  1. How to deal with a flat tire
    Pull completely off the road, even if it means destroying the tire. Call roadside assistance and let that person change the tire. If you have a spare (many cars now only have an inflation kit) and know how to change the tire, make sure you are out of traffic and in plain sight of oncoming traffic before changing it yourself.

 

  1. What to do when the “check engine” light comes on
    If there is any change in the car’s performance, any mechanical noises, smoke from the tailpipe or electrical smells, stop the car and call for assistance. If there are none of these symptoms, take the car to a dealer and let them diagnose the problem. However, if you just bought gas, the light might just be indicating that the gas cap is loose. Tighten the cap and continue driving. The light should go off on its own.

 

  1. How to deal with a friend who is about to drive under the influence
    Don’t get in the car. Do anything not to drive with an intoxicated person, and that includes calling your parents for a lift or paying for a taxi. Your next move is to try to prevent your drunken friend from hurting themselves or someone else.

 

  1. What to do after an auto accident
    If the car is drivable and there are no serious injuries, turn on your flashers and pull safely out of traffic. Call the police to report the accident. Exchange insurance information with the other driver but refrain from discussing the accident and who is at fault. Make notes and use your cell phone’s camera to take pictures of the cars involved.

 

  1. How to drive in rain
    Reduce your speed and leave more room between your vehicle and those in front of you. Understand how to handle skids. Understand that a car might hydroplane on a rain puddle on the road and learn how to react to driving with reduced traction and visibility.

 

  1. How to avoid road rage situations
    Understand the severe consequences to you, your car and your driving record when minor disagreements escalate to life-threatening situations. When someone offends you, take a deep breath and know that your anger will dissolve in minutes. Don’t anger other drivers by cutting them off or tailgating. If you’ve inadvertently angered another driver, don’t get drawn into interacting with them. Ignore them or, if necessary, change your route. Finally, repeat this phrase: It’s just not worth it.

 

And lastly, but most important of all:

  1. How to drive safely

Distracted driving is fast becoming one of the country’s biggest health concerns.

As more and more drivers text while on the road, distracted driving crashes are steadily increasing year over year. In fact, the Center For Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 8 people are killed every day in the U.S. as a result of crashes involving a distracted driver.

However, distracted driving doesn’t just mean texting and driving. You can be distracted by one of many activities.

Distracted driving means driving while not fully paying attention to the road. Many people think of texting and driving or talking on the phone when driving; however, you can also be distracted by:

  • Reaching for your phone.
  • Changing the music.
  • Using an app.
  • Checking your GPS or map.
  • Taking a photo.
  • Checking email or posting to social media sites.
  • Eating and drinking.
  • Putting on makeup/grooming.

Even talking to a passenger in your car can be a distraction. You are distracted ANY TIME your mind and/or your eyes are off the road.

Even if it’s just for a brief text, the results can be deadly. Consider the following statistics:

  • When you send a text, you take your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds. That’s the time it takes to drive the length of a football field going 55 MPH! (U.S. Department of Transportation).
  • At any moment during the daylight hours, about 660,000 drivers are handling cell phones or other electronic devices while driving in the U.S. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).
  • You are 3 times more likely to get into an accident when distracted driving by manipulating a mobile device (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute).

 

While these are all great tips for new drivers, I hope everyone found something of value in it.  I know I will be downloading an app for my phone!

 

20121213hitandrun1
20121213hitandrun1

When you are the victim of a hit and run accident, you likely feel angry and confused, and it can be unclear how to get compensation for your damages and injuries. However, there are steps you can take to create a smoother experience, should you be in this unfortunate situation.

Gather as much information as you can to help police and your car insurance company identify the other vehicle. Try to find and get contact information for any witnesses.

If you have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage and/or collision coverage, your provider may cover the damage in a hit and run and compensate you or any of your passengers for any injuries.

 

What Is a Hit and Run Accident?

A hit and run accident is any accident in which a driver intentionally leaves the scene without providing contact information.

Examples of hit and run accidents include:

  • A car hits you and speeds off.
  • A driver hits your unattended parked car and leaves no contact information or way of collecting damages.

What to Do After a Hit and Run Accident

While you’ll likely be feeling immense stress if you’re a victim of a hit and run, it will help to stay as calm as possible and gather as much information as you can.

Having more information:

  • Increases the chances that the police will catch the driver who hit you.
  • Helps your car insurance company make decisions about your claim.
  • First, get as much information as you can about the car that hit you, such as:
    • Make,
    • Model,
    • License plate number.

Finally, take the following steps before leaving the scene:

  • Write down the time and location of the accident.
  • Take pictures of the accident scene.
  • Take pictures of your car, especially if another car’s paint is visible on it. (This will help you prove that you are not attempting to defraud your insurance company.)

If the hit and run occurred when you were away from your parked car, jot down as much information as you can, such as:

  • Time,
  • Location,
  • Damage.

Who Pays for Hit and Run Damage and Medical Care?

This depends on certain factors, including whether the fleeing driver was identified and what state you live in.

Payment for hit-and-run claims usually comes through your own car insurance. In most states, the coverages in question are uninsured motorist bodily injury and uninsured motorist property damage, which essentially act as the at-fault (in this case, hit-and-run) driver’s liability coverage. Uninsured motorist bodily injury helps pay for injuries caused by a hit-and-run accident, while uninsured motorist property damage covers damages to your car.

The good news is that these coverages are relatively affordable, and they offer significant financial protection from the uninsured (or hit-and-run-committing) drivers up to the limits you select.

YOUR #accidentattorney,

Marianne Howanitz

Sources:  dmv.org and esurance.com

asheville
asheville

Heading out for a trip to see the fall foliage? Make sure that you check out the condition of your tires before you leave.  For many drivers, there is nothing more frightening or potentially dangerous than a tire blowout at almost any speed. While the number of tire-related crashes has dropped dramatically since 2008, when all new vehicles were required to have automatic tire pressure monitoring systems, these numbers still remain high. The stats do not lie, as tire blowouts and flats result in nearly 11,000 collisions and 200 fatalities each year.[1]

With all the advances in safety standards and technology, why are tire blowouts still such a significant safety issue? According to Traveler’s Insurance, one reason may be that since blowouts are now a rarer occurrence, when they do happen, drivers are less prepared to handle them and react properly. When a tire blows out, it can take about ¼ second before your ride suddenly becomes a struggle to avoid an auto accident. How you react can make all the difference in how the situation resolves itself. The first step is staying calm and in control of your vehicle.

What Does a Tire Blowout Sound Like?

Expect to hear three key sounds that may vary depending on your specific situation. First, you may hear a loud boom or bang of the tire popping reverberating through your car. You may then hear a whooshing sound or the sound of the air quickly escaping from the tire, and finally, a repeated flapping or flopping of the deflated tire hitting the road.

What Does a Tire Blowout Feel Like?

When a tire explodes at speed, first you will feel the vehicle slow down, then it will pull strongly to the left or right depending on which tire burst.[2] If it was a front tire that burst, you will feel the force mostly within the steering of your vehicle. With a rear tire, you will feel it more in the seat or body of the car. Whether the blowout occurred in the front or back, your response should be the same in either situation.

How to Drive Through a Tire Blowout

According to the National Safety Council and other safety experts, there are some important tips and best practices to remember if you experience a tire blowout.

  • Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.
  • Do not slam on the brakes.
  • Let your car slow down gradually.
  • Pull to the side of the road once you have slowed to a safe speed.
  • Activate your emergency flashers.[3]

What to Do After a Tire Blowout

After a blowout, only exit your vehicle if you are certain you are safely off the road and out of harm’s way. Turn your emergency flashers on to alert other drivers, and put out reflective cones or triangles if you have them. If it is not safe to change the tire where you are, or you are unsure how, call for roadside assistance.

Also keep in mind that a spare is only recommended for emergencies and should not be driven for long distances or at high speeds. Take the time to read your owner’s manual to learn where your spare tire and necessary tools are located. Your manual may also provide instructions on how to change a flat tire. It is a good idea to be familiar with these procedures before you get stuck on the side of the road.

How to Prevent a Tire Blowout

The good news is that many tire blowouts are preventable with the proper effort and attention. Most occur from May through October when the road surface is the hottest, resulting from an underinflated tire, excessively worn treads, or an overloaded vehicle. A simple, routine inspection of your tires to check for slow leaks, wear and tear, and proper pressure is important. Keeping your load light, within your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations (found in the same spot as the recommended tire pressure), can help too.[4] 

So head on out for a great fall adventure, and stay safe out there friends!

YOUR #accidentattorney,

Marianne Howanitz

[1] http://www.safercar.gov/tires/index.html
[2] http://www.ntb.com/tires/Tire-Blowout-Education.j

[3] http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/Resources/Pages/WhattoDoIfYouHaveaBlowoutontheHighway.aspx
[4] http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/how-to/repair/why-blowouts-happen-and-how-to-avoid-them-15832078

 

senior-woman-looking-for-low-back-pain-relief-380x250
senior-woman-looking-for-low-back-pain-relief-380x250
My office often gets calls from accident victims that felt fine immediately after the accident and by a week later are in some serious pain.  Vehicle accident injuries can be late-appearing. Here’s how to protect your health and your legal rights.

 

Almost any car accident is a traumatic event. From catastrophic collisions to fender-benders, there is a lot of force involved when a vehicle hits (or is hit by) something. Often, when people are in a car accident that seems minor, they do not notice any injury symptoms right away. This happens for a variety of reasons. In this article, we’ll help you understand the importance of monitoring your injuries following a car accident — for your physical well-being and to protect your legal rights.

Shad Withers, writing in the legal blog Nolo.com, had some really good advice that I would like to pass on to my friends.

 CAR ACCIDENTS ARE EXCITING

Not “exciting” in the fun sense, more from a physiological perspective.

Sometimes athletes get injured during a game, and they continue to play without noticing the injury until the game is over. That is because their bodies are generating adrenaline and endorphins. These two chemicals operate to super-charge our bodies and even block pain.

Most car accidents will create a similarly heightened level of excitement. Your body will generate adrenaline and endorphins, which means you feel increased energy and (possibly) a lack of pain. Just because you feel fine immediately following a car accident, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are fine. Once the release of those chemicals subsides, the pain from any car accident injuries could start to set in.

SOFT TISSUE INJURIES AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT

A soft tissue injury refers to damage done to parts of the body other than bone. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments are considered “soft tissue.”

Car accidents, even low-speed ones, generate a lot of force. Drivers and passengers often come to a sudden stop right along with the vehicle in a car accident; or they may get thrown around the passenger area. This places a lot of stress on joints and other vulnerable areas of the body.

Perhaps the most common — if not the most recognized — type of soft-tissue injury is “whiplash.” This refers to an injury to the neck muscles when the head is suddenly, and forcefully, thrown forward and then back.

Soft tissue injuries typically result in pain, swelling, and reduced mobility, but these symptoms may not show up immediately. They can take days, even weeks, to manifest. In addition, soft tissue injuries are not visible on an X-ray. This makes them more challenging to diagnose and document. Getting proper medical treatment is the key first step, at or even before the first sign of pain or discomfort (more on this below).

CONCUSSIONS AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT

Your brain is well-protected by your skull and the fluid inside of it. However, if you strike your head, or your body is violently jolted, your brain may strike the inside of your skull with great force. If this happens during the course of a car accident, you may sustain a concussion.

Concussions can be very serious, and the symptoms do not often show up immediately. Sometimes the symptoms are obvious (such as disorientation or even loss of consciousness), but they can also be more subtle. Here is a list of concussion symptoms:

  • clouded thinking
  • inability to concentrate
  • difficulty remembering new information
  • headache
  • blurry vision
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • lack of energy, and
  • abnormal sleep patterns (sleeping more than usual or less than usual)

If you exhibit any of these signs following a car accident, you may have a concussion; and you should seek medical attention.

SEE A DOCTOR AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT

Following a car accident, you should see a doctor if you feel any level of pain and discomfort. It may even be a good idea to get checked out even if you feel fine. Your doctor will be in the best position to determine whether you sustained any serious injuries in the accident. Your doctor can also give you advice on monitoring symptoms of potential injuries, including the sorts of red flags to watch out for.

If you end up making any sort of injury claim after the accident, it’s crucial to be able to document the fact that you sought medical treatment within a reasonable amount of time. If you wait too long to see a doctor, the insurance adjuster is going to argue that you couldn’t have been all that injured.

DO NOT SETTLE RIGHT AWAY

Following a car accident, the other driver’s insurance company may contact you and try to get you to sign a release of any claims you might have. The insurance company may even offer you a sum of money to entice you to sign the release.

You should wait until you have been fully evaluated by a medical professional before signing anything the adjuster puts in front of you. You should also wait long enough to make sure all injuries from the car accident have fully manifested themselves. Your doctor can help you determine how long this needs to be. If you sign a release, and an injury shows up later, you cannot then go back to the insurance company and ask them to pay for your medical treatment. You waive your legal right to pursue that compensation when you sign the release.

If you’ve suffered significant injuries after a car accident, or you just want to make sure the claims process goes smoothly, you may want to talk with an experienced attorney. Learn How an Attorney Can Help with a Car Accident Claim.

My staff and I are always happy to answer questions about your accident you may have free of charge. And if we can’t help you, we may be able to point you in the right direction.

Stay safe out there friends!

YOUR #accidentattorney,

Marianne Howanitz

 

tailgating1
tailgating1

A great many drivers on the road represent threats to your safety and well-being. But there are numerous ways of minimizing your chances of having a collision with an unsafe driver. Defensive driving is a big part of car safety and you should always be practicing it, until it becomes second nature.

A cardinal rule that will help you stay out of collisions is: Don’t tailgate. Tailgating is the cause of innumerable accidents, many of them serious. No matter how fast you’re going, you should be able to stop safely if the car in front of you were to slam on its brakes. Any closer than that and you are in a danger zone. So the faster you’re traveling, the more room you’ll want to leave between your car and the one in front of you.

More space gives you:

  • More time to react and brake or steer if something unexpected happens;
  • Better visibility around the vehicle ahead;
  • More room to maneuver and lane change if there is a delay or obstruction in your lane;
  • A smoother ride because you no longer need to brake abruptly;
  • Better fuel economy and reduced vehicle wear because you are now driving more smoothly.
  • Keep a safe distance. While it is never safe to tailgate any vehicle on the highway, following too close is particularly dangerous around large trucks and buses because the size of these vehicles prevents you from seeing the road ahead and having sufficient time to react to slowing or stopped traffic or another obstacle.

Following too closely is always the cause of multi car pileups on freeways and other roads. Besides, it’s illegal. So don’t tailgate. And if you’re being tailgated take action to get the tailgater off your back. If possible, move to another lane. If you can’t do that safely, slow down gradually. Don’t hit the brakes – you could cause an accident involving yourself, and you could also trigger a bad case of road rage. Just gradually slow down until the driver behind you takes the hint and decides to either back off or go around.

Stay safe out there friends!

 

 

women-motorcycles-jeans-brunettes
women-motorcycles-jeans-brunettes

So, how do motorcycle insurers come up with their rates, anyway?

Believe it or not, they base their premiums on sound statistical data that helps them determine the likelihood of you filing a claim (and costing them money). Insurance companies consider a number of factors, including:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Vehicle type
  • Marital status
  • Accident history
  • Driving record (moving violations)
  • Annual mileage
  • Credit score

In general, those who are younger than 25, female, married, live in a rural location, don’t ride much, drive a safe but inexpensive bike, and have a clean driving history and great credit are treated to the best rates.

Motorcycles are fun and fuel efficient. That’s not news to anyone who’s ridden one. But neither is the fact that they’re also way more dangerous than a car. The cold reality is that motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die in a crash than people in a car, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). And nearly half of all motorcycle deaths are the result of single-vehicle crashes.

The numbers are even scarier for older riders, who are increasingly taking up or returning to motorcycling after many years. Because of slower reflexes, weaker eyesight, more brittle bones, and other disadvantages, riders over 60 years old are three times more likely to be hospitalized after a crash than younger ones.

Still, many enthusiasts enjoy a lifetime of riding without injury. The key to optimizing your odds is to be prepared and avoid risks. Keep in mind that 48 percent of fatalities in 2010 involved speeding, according to the IIHS, and alcohol was a factor in 42 percent. Eliminate those factors and you’ve dramatically reduced your risk and hopefully, your rates.

Be safe out there friends!