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The most dangerous thing you do daily is get into a vehicle. Car accidents are a leading cause of death in the U.S., and the leading cause of death for teenagers in America. 32,675 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and it is estimated that the numbers for 2015 will come in even higher. While you cannot control what other drivers do, you can minimize your risk of being in car accident by modifying your own behavior and always being alert to red flag behavior on the part of other drivers.

Red Flags to watch out for on the road would include:

  1. Tailgating
  2. Failing to indicate
  3. Hogging the middle lane
  4. Dangerous overtaking
  5. Hogging the outside lane
  6. Jumping traffic lights
  7. Undertaking
  8. Being slow away from traffic lights
  9. Hesitant braking
  10. Last-minute braking

And this doesn’t even take into count the drunk, distracted and new and old drivers on the roads!

Stay safe out there friends!

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!

 

 

AAhg5c0
AAhg5c0

Did you know you could USE A TEXT BLOCKER FROM YOUR CELL PHONE COMPANY??

This is great news and new to me.  Even if you expose your teen to lengthy lectures and graphic driver’s ed videos depicting the hazards of texting while driving, it can still be difficult for them to put their phone away when they are at the wheel. Numerous cell phone providers trump this temptation with text blocker apps.

According to Sarah Shelton in the US News and World Report, Drive First from Sprint is one of the most comprehensive examples. This free app automatically activates when it detects the phone is moving faster than 10 mph. It silences the phone’s ringer and alerts, and if any texts or calls come in, Drive First sends an automated response saying you are currently on the road. This app also locks your phone, with the exception of three apps you designate (such as navigation or music). It also lets you designate VIP contacts, allowing your family or your boss to connect with you. Parents can log into their Drive First account online and monitor how their teens are using their phones when they’re driving.

AT&T’s DriveMode is a similar free app, silencing the phone’s ringer and sending automatic replies any time your teen is driving over 15 mph. Your teen can easily access music or navigation with one touch from the home screen. DriveMode also sends you parental alerts if your teen turns the app off or adds a new speed-dial number.

You can download either of these apps even if you have a different cell phone carrier, though some functions won’t be available. If your carrier offers a different text blocker app, find out if the app turns on automatically when the car is moving (Verizon’s Safely Go has to be activated every time), and make sure it can’t be deactivated from your teen’s phone.

Distracted driving is the cause for most of the accidents we have.  Help your child stay safe out there!!

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po

It seems everyone is joining in on the recent Pokemon Go craze. The game, which is as close to a real life adaptation of the Pokemon world as anyone could hope for, is played outside using your phone to track down Pokemon and battle other members of the community for ownership of Pokemon gyms. This has sparked a cultural phenomenon bordering on obsession.

The negatives of the game are a little scary, however, and I’ve noticed some bad habits which include people not being aware of their surroundings as they play, despite the game explicitly warning you to do so, people driving while playing, and in some instances bad people using the game to lure in unsuspecting patrons to rob them or worse.

Some lawyers say Pokemon Go, an “augmented reality” game, raises legal issues and public safety concerns. Alabama lawyer Keith Lee, writing at his Associate’s Mind blog, says his legal questions include:

Does placing a Pokemon character on a private property, without permission, affect the owner’s interest in exclusive possession of the property? Does it create an attractive nuisance? Does owning real property extend property rights to intellectual property elements that are placed on it? Is there liability for placing the characters on private property or in dangerous locations?

Michigan lawyer Brian Wassom raises other legal issues in a post for the Hollywood Reporter’s THR, Esq. blog. Augmented reality games can lead to competition for the use of the same physical spaces, disrupting the ability of players and non-players to enjoy the place, and possibly leading to violence, he says. Could government limit the players in a public space? Would that bring a First Amendment challenge?

Wassom also sees a risk of injury for players who are “wandering through the physical world while staring through a phone screen.” New York lawyer Peter Pullano makes a similar point in an interview with 13WHAM in which he raises the possibility of distractions for drivers. “Even though you may be looking for your Pikachu while you’re driving, that’s not going to impress your officer,” Pullano said.

LawNewz points out that the game’s terms of service disclaim liability for property damage, personal injury or death while playing the game, as well as claims based on violation of any other applicable law. The game also has a notice that generally requires arbitration of disputes.

My #1 Tip For Staying Safe While Playing Pokemon Go: DO NOT PLAY WHILE DRIVING!!!

This is as dangerous, if not more dangerous than texting and driving. Again, I don’t want you to end up in a car accident because you do a U-Turn and jump over a median to catch a Pidgeotto.  I promise you there will be another chance to catch one that doesn’t involve you risking you being in an accident.

Stay safe out there friends!!

YOUR #ocalaaccidentandinjurylawyer, Marianne Howanitz

no see zones
no see zones

Ready to hit the road this summer? There’s nothing fun about driving next to an 18-wheeler. They’re big and they have a frightening tendency to drift in and out of your lane more often than you’d like. But sharing the road with a big rig need not be a nightmare — there are things you can do to make it easier on yourself and your friendly neighborhood truck driver.

Michael Taylor, transportation special programs developer for the Tractor Trailer Training Program at Triton College in River Grove, Ill., says the top five pet peeves truckers had with fellow motorists are:

1) Riding in a trucker’s blind spots. Trucks have large blind spots to the right and rear of the vehicle. Smaller blind spots exist on the right front corner and mid-left side of the truck. The worst thing a driver can do is chug along in the trucker’s blind spot, where he cannot be seen. If you’re going to pass a truck, do it and get it over with. Don’t sit alongside with the cruise control set 1 mph faster than the truck is traveling.

2) Cut-offs. Don’t try to sneak into a small gap in traffic ahead of a truck. Don’t get in front of a truck and then brake to make a turn. Trucks take as much as three times the distance to stop as the average passenger car, and you’re only risking your own life by cutting a truck off and then slowing down in front of it.

3) Impatience while reversing. Motorists need to understand that it takes time and concentration to back a 48-foot trailer up without hitting anything. Sometimes a truck driver needs to make several attempts to reverse into tight quarters. Keep your cool and let the trucker do her job.

4) Don’t play policeman. Don’t try to make a truck driver conform to a bureaucrat’s idea of what is right and wrong on the highway. As an example, Taylor cited the way truck drivers handle hilly terrain on the highway. A fully loaded truck slows way down going up a hill. On the way down the other side of the hill, a fully loaded truck gathers speed quickly. Truckers like to use that speed to help the truck up the next hill. Do not sit in the passing lane going the speed limit. Let the truck driver pass, and let the Highway Patrol worry about citing the trucker for breaking the law.

5) No assistance in lane changes or merges. It’s not easy to get a 22-foot tractor and 48-foot trailer into traffic easily. If a trucker has his turn signal blinking, leave room for the truck to merge or change lanes. Indicate your willingness to allow the truck in by flashing your lights.

By taking simple common-sense steps to protect yourself and your family when driving near large trucks, traffic fatalities will continue to drop. Over the years, the trucking industry has improved the quality of truck drivers by making it more difficult to qualify for and keep a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Mandatory drug testing has also been instituted. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published the following data in 2008. The intoxication rate for drivers involved in fatal accidents was:

27% for motorcycle riders- 23% for light truck drivers (pickups and SUVs, that is)-23% for passenger car drivers-1% for truck drivers

Still, more work must be done to combat tightly scheduled deliveries, overbearing stacks of paperwork and driver fatigue caused by federal regulations that work against the human body’s natural circadian rhythm.

Should you, or someone you know be injured or killed in an accident with a big rig, make sure to contact an attorney that specializes in these types of accidents and make that call as soon as possible to preserve your rights.

Stay safe out there friends, Marianne

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images

So you’re ready to “head out on the highway, looking for adventure” (showing my age there!) this summer?  Independent women are more and more finding themselves traveling our country’s roads alone for pleasure.  While it is wildly thrilling to be the only one in the car, singing along to your personal playlist, and stopping only when you want, where you want, I want to make sure you stay safe out there my friend!  Below are my Top 10 Safety Tips for Single Women on Road Trips.

  1. Take your car to the auto shop first—Before starting out on any road trip, always take your car in for service. Make sure your car is “road ready,” and that your oil is changed, tires are in good shape, antifreeze and the heater all working and there is not a lot of junk in your trunk (stop snickering). Start out fresh and clean!
  2. Always let someone know where you are—Though you may enjoy the freedom of feeling “lost” on the highway, it’s always best to check in with a family member or friend so someone always knows where to find you.  Texting is a quick and easy way to share your whereabouts, just not while you are driving. Sending a selfie of you in front of significant landmark signs can be fun, too.
  3. Notify credit card companies—Some credit card companies will block your card if they see “suspicious” activity like continuous gas charges. Inform companies that you will be traveling so they do not cut off your credit and leave you stranded without easy access to money. This happened to me!
  4. Keep cell phone charged—Before you start out on the road each day, charge your cell phone so it is ready for use in case of emergencies. You can also buy a portable battery to extend the phone’s life in case there is not a charger handy or use a car charger.
  5. Listen to weather reports—Be aware of the weather conditions where you are traveling and prepare accordingly. Many times, I have had to pull off to the side of a road and wait for a storm to pass. Be safe and be prepared.
  6. Always have maps and know how to read them—GPS systems may not always be reliable; carry current road atlases with you and know how to read them as a backup resource. Trace out alternative routes. Always have a Plan B route figured out in case your original highway choices are closed or backed up with traffic.
  7. Stop at places that are busy and well-lit—Look for locations that have other people around. Do not stop at deserted, dark places. It’s always a good idea to look like you know where you are and where you are going. If you have to ask for directions, casually ask employees at the establishment instead of random strangers. Be careful of walking and using your phone, these unaware moments can sometimes present opportunities for crime.
  8. Don’t stop for someone stranded on the side of the road—Though you may feel compelled to assist someone in trouble, if you’re alone, don’t stop unless you are sure it’s safe. It’s always a good idea to get to a safe place first and then call for help for the stranded driver, dialing 911 is helping out enough.
  9. Should your car break down, keep windows rolled up and do not open the door to strangers who stop to “assist” you. Make sure you have a current roadside assistance plan and contact them to come out to help you. Ask to see their ID for the service before getting out of the car when they arrive.
  10. And last, but certainly not least, do not pick up strangers—Do not offer rides or agree to share a room with anyone you don’t know. Though you may think the person you are helping is harmless, you can never fully know someone’s true intentions after just a few minutes of conversation. It’s hard to get rid of someone later, so don’t get into this situation by picking them up in the first place.

Hope this was helpful.  Now, go hit the road and have some fun adventure time!

YOUR #ocalaaccidentattorney,

Marianne Howanitz

www.ocalaaccidentlaw.com

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unnamed

The more information your attorney has about your case, the more quickly and completely you can be compensated for your medical expenses and pain and suffering. Documenting accidents, site situations, and road conditions has proven priceless in dealing with and settling claims.  It has often changed the outcome of resulting lawsuits and helped establish just settlements.

To ensure a complete, speedy resolution to your case, make sure your lawyer has all the information and documentation he needs to pursue a settlement. If the accident happened a while ago that information may include:

  • Your vehicle, insurance, and driver’s license information.
  • Details of the accident, including:
    • Date, time, location.
    • Weather and traffic conditions.
    • Information about other vehicles, drivers and passengers.
    • Names and contact information for witnesses and copies of any accident or incident reports filed.
    • Any pictures you have taken at the scene. Sometimes the law enforcement officer takes pictures, make sure to get copies of those, also.
  • Copies of traffic tickets writtenat the scene and information about any charges brought against drivers involved, including DUI charges.
  • Physician reportand medical records related to the accident.
  • X-rays and test results related to injuriesfrom the accident.
  • Information about pre-existing conditionsor injuries that may have been exacerbated by the accident.
  • Record of expensesfor ongoing medications, treatment, and therapies.
  • Any other expenses incurred because of the accident, including transportation costs.
  • Documentation of days, hours and wages lostbecause of the accident.
  • Copies of all correspondencewith insurance companies related to the accident.

It is always helpful to keep a personal injury diary to note appointments, expenses, contacts with the insurance company and your general feelings and medical condition following the accident. Also, keep track of your medical mileage for re-imbursement.

Keep your attorney up to date and let them know about new doctor visits, Radiology visits or surgeries that you have scheduled.  An email to paralegal is usually sufficient so they can get updated records.

Stay safe out there friends!

multitasking
multitasking

Myth #1:  Drivers can multitask.

Reality:  Contrary to popular belief, the human brain cannot multitask. Driving and talking on a cell phone are two thinking tasks that involve many areas of the brain. Instead of processing both simultaneously, the brain rapidly switches between two cognitive activities.

Take the classic example of the act of walking and chewing gum. There is a common misconception that because people appear to simultaneously do both that they can just as easily talk on their cell phones and drive safely at the same time. The truth is that walking and chewing gum involve a thinking task and a non-thinking task. Conversation and driving are both thinking tasks.

Myth #2 Talking to someone on a cell phone is no different than talking to someone in the car.

Reality: A 2008 study cited by the University of Utah found that drivers distracted by cell phones are more oblivious to changing traffic conditions because they are the only ones in the conversation who are aware of the road. In contrast, drivers with adult passengers in their cars have an extra set of eyes and ears to help keep the drivers alert of oncoming traffic problems. Adult passengers also tend to adjust their talking when traffic is challenging. People on the other end of a driver’s cell phone cannot do that.

Myth #3 Hands-free devices eliminate the danger of cell phone use during driving.

Reality: Whether handheld or hands-free, cell phone conversations while driving are risky because the distraction to the brain remains. Activity in the parietal lobe, the area of the brain that processes movement of visual images and is important for safe driving, decreases by as much as 37% when listening to language, according to a study by Carnegie Mellon University. Drivers talking on cell phones can miss seeing up to 50% of their driving environments, including pedestrians and red lights. They look but they don’t see. This phenomenon is also known as “inattention blindness.”

Myth #4 Drivers talking on cell phones still have a quicker reaction time than those who are driving under the influence.

Reality: A controlled driving simulator study conducted by the University of Utah found that drivers using cell phones had slower reaction times than drivers with a .08 blood alcohol content, the legal intoxication limit.

There is a simple solution – drivers talking on cell phones can immediately eliminate their risk by hanging up the phone, while drunk drivers remain at risk until they sober up.

Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration | University Of Utah | The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety | National Safety Council

 

RonshayDugansFSAPic0902
RonshayDugansFSAPic0902

Our sincere condolences goes out to the family and friends of Joseph Grzeca. The day before yesterday Joseph was killed when a semi driver ran a red light on U.S. 301 near Summerfield, Florida and T-boned a pickup.  And then yesterday a Peterbuilt semi jack-knifed on I-75 closing it down for hours.  FHP stated that the driver “failed to drive in a safe and prudent manner”.  As an accident and injury attorney and a board member of the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America (APITLA), a national association of committed lawyers who have joined together to help eliminate unsafe and illegal interstate trucking practices, I am especially saddened and upset when this happens in my own community.

While large trucks make up less than 4% of all vehicles on US roadways, they account for over 12% of all traffic fatalities and this number has risen steadily since 2009.  Why is that?  It can be a number of reasons; negligent maintenance of trucks, unqualified truck drivers, unsafe management practices of trucking companies, but the truth is the number one safety problem in the interstate trucking industry for the last 30 years has remained the same:  fatigued truck drivers.

Even little Ronshay Dugans (pictured above), and her family’s best efforts, could not save Joseph Grzeca.  On Sept. 5, 2008, a school bus that belonged to a Boys and Girls Club was stopped in broad daylight when a cement truck plowed into the back of it in Tallahassee, Florida. Eight-year-old Ronshay Dugans was killed. The truck driver was reportedly drowsy when he got behind the wheel. Ronshay’s family worked tirelessly to get Florida’s legislation to pass a law that officially recognized that driving while fatigued is as dangerous as driving while under the influence and declaring the first week in September “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week”.  During this week, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Department of Transportation are encouraged to educate the law enforcement community and the public about the relationship between fatigue and performance and the research showing fatigue to be as much of an impairment as alcohol and as dangerous while operating a motor vehicle.

If you think driving drowsy is no big deal, listen to Leroy Smith’s view on the issue. Smith is a former official with the Florida Highway Patrol. “It is just as dangerous as drunk driving; just as alcohol and drugs could impair one’s normal faculties, so could sleeplessness and drowsiness. It could also slow one’s reaction time,” Smith reported to 10 News in 2010.

What is even more upsetting to me is that since the enactment of the Ronshay Duggans Act  in 2011, I have deposed many law enforcement officers who were in charge of investigating large truck related fatal accidents and they never heard of the Ronshay-Dugans Act!  Additionally, they failed to investigate the medical conditions, dispatch patterns, or any other risk factors related to fatigue driving of the truck driver.  If the log books looked in order and the toxicology screen came back negative there was no further investigation into the issue of whether trucker fatigue played a role in the fatal crash.  While drowsy driving may initially be difficult to detect, you can look at the facts of a case and, in retrospect, fatigue is the only explanation for the actions or inactions of the truck driver the moments before and after a fatal crash.

If a friend or relative is involved in a fatal or catastrophic truck accident, act quickly to get the advice and protection of an accident attorney with experience in investigating and litigating claims against trucking companies. Time is of the essence as critical evidence, such as event data recorders, dispatch records and on-board video tapes can be lost or destroyed if not preserved through prompt legal action.  These are businesses that don’t make money unless they “keep the wheels rolling” and don’t want to be slowed down or saddled with what the media would describe as “frivolous claims”.

To all the safe trucking companies and truckers out there, I thank you for doing your part in keeping our roads safe for all of us.  To those unsafe trucking companies and truckers, please change your ways and follow the rules and regulations that are already in place.  They may save your life as well as others.  But if you injure or kill someone because of your unsafe practices and I’m hired on the case, you better believe that I’m coming after you with everything I’ve got.  Be safe out there!

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images

Working the night shift is a known health hazard. Scientists theorize that staying awake at night goes against our natural circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock, which is why people who work after hours are more prone to heart attacks, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke and depression.

According to Anna Almendrala, who is a Healthy Living editor for the Huffington Post, the drive home after a night shift can be hazardous too, which confirms a small but compelling new study involving a global team of researchers from Boston and Australia. They conducted daytime driving tests on a closed driving track among 16 night shift workers who had just come off the job. The study found that the volunteers’ driving was dangerously worse after work than if they’d had a full night’s sleep.

Six of the participants (37.5 percent) had 11 near-crashes during the driving test, which required the safety supervisors to use their emergency brakes to prevent a collision. The researchers terminated the two-hour driving test early for seven participants (43.8 percent) over concerns for the safety of everyone in the car. Based on the numbers, the researchers suggest that the night shift workers and their employers find a way for workers to get home that doesn’t involve getting into the driver’s seat of a car, or come up with strategies to reduce drowsiness after a shift.

“These findings help to explain why night shift workers have so many more motor vehicle crashes than day workers, particularly during the commute home,” said study co-author Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, in a statement.

The study is the first time researchers have assessed the impact of night shift work on driving in real vehicles, as opposed to using a simulated method.

After sleeping almost eight hours the night before with no shift work, the 16 participants had zero near-crashes — and all finished the agreed-upon two-hour driving test. But when participants went through the same test after a night shift (at this point, it had been an average of 13 hours since their last sleep), there was a statistically significant increase in lane drifting, slow eye movements and “microsleep episodes” — temporary shut-eye that last more than three seconds.

All of the near-crashes occurred after at least 45 minutes into the driving test. About 15 percent of workers in the U.S. drive more than 45 minutes each way of their commute, the study notes. The researchers wrote that the safety supervisors who accompanied participants on these driving tests could tell that the workers were drowsy and impaired within the first 15 minutes of the drive.

The experiment, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted on a driving track that belongs to vehicle insurer Liberty Mutual Insurance. In an emailed statement to The Huffington Post, the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety said that they hope “a deeper understanding of the mechanisms involved in drowsy driving can lead to effective prevention strategies that would help alleviate this major public health concern.”

There are several limitations of the study. One in particular is that the driving tests took place on a closed driving track with a simple design relative to real streets. Even though this means the participants were driving real cars, they were not encountering real-life commuting challenges like the behavior of other cars, pedestrian traffic and complex road navigation. The additional challenges of a real commute may actually serve to enhance wakefulness in drivers, as the higher stakes might force them to be more alert, the researchers note.

The study’s observation methods — like having to stop the driving test every 15 minutes to survey the driving participants, asking the drivers to attach EEG electrodes to their heads to measure the microsleep episodes and making them wear special glasses to measure the speed of their eye movements and how long they blinked — may have artificially made the participants more alert than they’d normally be on a real drive home. Yet, Czeisler points out, all these conditions, the monitoring measures and added social pressure, couldn’t keep about 44 percent of participants alert enough to complete the driving test.

“This was real driving in an actual car, putting everyone involved in the experiment at considerable risk,” he said. “And yet the impairment still came through, which shows just how strong the biological drive for sleep is.”