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What to Do After an Accident

Car accidents often have at unexpected times. Knowing what to do after a motor vehicle accident happens can help you later, if recovering damages becomes an issue. Here are some tips for motorists that have been involved in car accidents.

Steps to Take

When an accident happens, taking the proper steps can mean the difference between a smooth recovery and an extremely difficult one. The first step to take is to put safety first. Ensure that everyone involved is okay and if necessary, seek immediate medical attention for anyone who is injured.

After ensuring everyone’s safety in your vehicle, you will probably be talking to the other driver. Do not admit fault during this conversation, as it could be used against you later. After an accident talking with the other party is also important in order to ensure you have each other’s insurance information, vehicle descriptions, driver information and phone number and addresses.

Also, drivers will want to see if there were any witnesses to the accident. Bystanders at the scene may provide crucial testimony if it becomes needed at court. Be sure to obtain their contact information so that you will be able to easily find them later.

Making notes and taking pictures of the accident is also a crucial step. Having solid proof of the details will make for a smoother process down the line. It is often easy to skip this step with the confusion of the event, but the information may prove to be an advantage later.

The next step is to talk to the insurance companies of the parties involved in the accident. Keep in mind that the insurance company may not be necessarily looking out for your best interests. Do not simply settle your case without speaking to an experienced personal injury attorney. You may have injuries that require life-long care, and settling early could prevent you from obtaining compensation to pay for this care.

When to Take Legal Action

When you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, it is important to seek the assistance of an attorney that has handled these types of cases in the past. Personal injury attorneys know the ins and outs of the system and are able to navigate through a claim quickly. It is important to know the options that are available to you, and how you can protect yourself during this time.

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The silent epidemic of driving while fatigued

The problems of driving while under the influence and distracted driving are well-known. There are online campaigns, print ads, television commercials and advocacy groups all aimed at stopping these dangerous practices. So-called “drowsy driving” – driving without adequate sleep or rest – is not nearly as well-publicized, but the fact remains that it can be just as deadly.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 2.5 percent of annual fatal car accidents are attributable to fatigued drivers.

Polls performed by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) report that over half of drivers surveyed admit that they have driven while sleepy in the past year, and about 28 percent of drivers admit doing it in the past month. Nearly 20 percent of drivers polled admitted to actually falling asleep behind the wheel in the last year.

A startling comparison

Several research studies have shown that driving while fatigued shares many characteristics with drunk driving. For example, driving after having been awake for about 18 hours produces slowed reaction times, poor judgment and lack of focus akin to having a .05 blood alcohol content (BAC). Once a driver has been awake for a solid 24 hours, his driving performance equals that of someone driving with a .10 blood alcohol level, which is beyond the legal BAC limit of .08 set by all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Helpful hints

Americans are always on the go these days. We have constant access to information, we live with our smart phones and tablets in our hands, and, thanks to DVRs and streaming technology, we can watch our favorite television shows at any time. As a result of our increasingly electronics-filled world, most of us are chronically sleep-deprived. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between seven and eight hours of sleep for every adult, and between nine and hours for adolescents. Getting less than that and getting behind the wheel puts us, our passengers and other motorists at risk.

Millions of Americans are currently suffering the physical and cognitive impact of an undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorder like chronic insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea. These people don’t get adequate rest when they are asleep, leaving their bodies and their brains more susceptible to the effects of fatigue while awake. If you suspect a sleeping disorder, seek treatment. On a related note, if you are prescribed medication to help you sleep, ensure that you have sufficient time to rest before taking it; if the medicine will make you sleep for eight hours, don’t take it if you only have four hours to rest. The lingering intoxicating effects of the medication will increase your chances of having an accident.

If you start falling asleep at the wheel, feel your eyes getting heavier, are yawning constantly, drift out of your lane or find yourself unsure how you got to your current location, it is time to rest. You need to find a safe place to either get some sleep or at least take a quick nap. A full night’s sleep is best, but even 15-20 minutes of napping could give your brain and body enough rest to let you finish your journey safely.

Should you or a loved one be injured in an auto accident with a fatigued driver, you have legal rights. To learn more about holding a drowsy driver accountable for his or her actions, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area today.

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Tennessee’s lenient texting law disqualifies it from federal funds

After several years of coverage by the media, the American public is now considered to be on notice about the dangers of reading, sending or composing text messages while driving. Statistics like the study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which found such behavior triples one risk of being involved in a car accident, has been cited in many news stories of the past three or four years. Yet, despite the fact that texting and other forms of distracted driving was responsible for 3,331 deaths in 2011, many people cannot put down their phone while driving.

As a result of the reluctance of many people to put safety first, many states, including Tennessee, have passed laws banning texting while driving. However, does the current law go far enough to reduce the number of texting-related accidents? According to the federal government, the answer is a resounding no, as Tennessee was recently denied hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal highway grants.

Lax law to blame

Under the recent federal highway safety law, Congress appropriated $17.53 million to states to be used to fight distracted driving. The funds were to be distributed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to states that have banned texting while driving. Many of the states use the funds to pay for highway safety such as drunk driving or seatbelt checkpoints as well as advertising safety campaigns.

Although Tennessee’s law met most of the requirements to receive the federal funds, it fell short in one area: it did not have a provision for repeat offenders. Under Tennessee’s texting ban, violators are guilty of a Class C misdemeanor and can be subject to fines up to $50 and court costs of up to $10. However, this punishment remains the same for first-time and repeat offenders. Since there was a condition that the state enact a texting law that provides for escalating punishment for repeat offenders in order to receive the funds, Tennessee’s law was considered too lax for the state to qualify.

In response to the failure to secure the funds, State Rep. Jon Lundberg recently announced that he plans to introduce legislation in 2014 to beef up the law. According to Lundberg, his proposal would increase the fine for first-time offenders to $250. Additionally, his proposal would increase the fine for subsequent offenders. Finally, his proposal would punish drivers convicted of texting while driving with points on their license.

Consult an attorney

Although Tennessee’s current texting while driving law may leave something to be desired as far as punishment goes, it is likely that no law, no matter how stringent, could prevent all persons from engaging in this risky behavior. Fortunately, there are legal remedies available to those who are injured by a driver texting or engaging in other carelessness.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident and suspect driver distraction is to blame, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can investigate the cause of the accident and fully advise you on your right to compensation for your losses under the law.

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Study: drivers who text just as dangerous as drunk drivers

The dangers of texting while driving have received a copious amount of attention in the media lately-for good reason. After all, those who text or use hand-held devices while behind the wheel are four times more likely to be involved in a car accident. If this fact were not enough, a recent study found that texting while driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.

Specifically, the study, which was recently published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, found that texting while driving is just as dangerous as driving with a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit.

For the study, researchers from various universities used a driving simulator to compare drunk driving and texting while driving. One group of participates used headphones and a microphone to simulate a hand-free cellphone. The other group had a blood alcohol level that was over the legal limit. In the simulator, each group had to ensure that their virtual vehicle stayed within its lane and traveled at a speed between 37 and 50 miles-per-hour.

The researchers found that when the hands-free group was merely having a conversation, they drove with the skill of a person with a blood alcohol level that was well below the legal limit. However, when the conversation became more involved, the participants drove like someone who was almost at the legal limit. When the participants used their phone to text, they drove with the skill exhibited by someone well over the legal limit.

Tennessee’s response

To help combat the danger that texting while driving and other distracting behavior causes, Tennessee has banned texting for all drivers. In addition, young drivers and bus drivers are prohibited from using cellphones at all. A violation of the texting law is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine up to $50.00 plus court costs.

As it can be difficult for law enforcement to determine whether a driver is texting (or merely dialing a phone number), the Tennessee Highway Patrol has rolled out a campaign where state troopers drive a tractor-trailer to enforce the law. Using a tractor-trailer gives the trooper an unfettered line of sight into other vehicles. If the trooper driving the truck sees texting or other reckless behavior, he or she radios ahead to another trooper to make the traffic stop.

In addition to the fine, those who text while driving can face a civil lawsuit, should their negligent behavior result in an accident. In Tennessee, those who are injured by such drivers may be entitled to recover the costs of present and future medical treatment, loss of wages and pain and suffering. If you or a loved one has been injured by a careless driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn about your right to compensation.

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Studies link teens’ reckless driving to video games

Studies indicate violent, mature-rated video games and racing games may increase unsafe driving behaviors when teens get behind the wheel.

Young drivers in Knoxville, Tennessee, have the same responsibilities when behind the wheel that older and more experienced drivers do. However, statistics show that many teens are not necessarily mature enough to handle their vehicles safely. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of a fatal crash is three times higher for drivers ages 16 to 19 than it is for drivers 20 and older. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of teens in America.

There are a number of behaviors listed by the CDC that raise the likelihood a teen will be involved in a car accident. According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, one of these, reckless driving, may be connected to video games.

Violent games could lead to accidents

Beginning at age 14, the 5,000 teens who participated in the APA’s study identified the types of video games they played. When they began to drive, they also reported their driving behaviors. The study continued through the age of 18.

Although self-reporting studies are not always conclusive, researchers found that many of those who played adult-rated games promoting dangerous behaviors consistently participated in the following risky activities behind the wheel:

•· Speeding

•· Ignoring traffic signals

•· Tailgating or weaving in and out of traffic

•· Crossing a double line

•· Not wearing a seatbelt

•· Failure to yield

According to the results, rebelliousness and thrill-seeking behaviors appear to be directly linked to both the video games and to incidents such as traffic stops, drinking and driving and motor vehicle crashes.

Speeding associated with racing games

According to Geico.com, other research appears to verify the APA’s findings. Two studies evaluated the effects of simulated racing games on teens’ driving habits. In both cases, results indicate that these types of video games are directly related to an increased likelihood that the drivers would speed. A third study linked games that simulated races to aggressive driving behaviors.

Researchers did note a benefit virtual races could have that violent games do not: They may improve a gamer’s response time to traffic situations. However, the perceived benefits must be weighed against the considerable risk. To help teens engage in better driving behaviors and avoid the consequences of a collision, experts recommend that parents limit screen time and ensure that the games are turned off well before the teen gets behind the wheel.

An accident involving reckless behavior can change a teen’s life forever. Those who sustain injuries from the crash may hire a car accident attorney to receive compensation for medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering.