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In our practice, we see a lot of car crash victims. We see the pain and the consequences of crashes every day. The road can be a dangerous place. Many of us are also parents who have or will have children on those roads.

Stats on Teen Driving Deaths

Causes of Teen Traffic Accidents

Distracted Driving Apps

Behavior Tracking Devices

10 Tips for Parents and Teens

If you think teenage children of attorneys are significantly different from anyone else’s, let us assure you that they are not. However.

We do have the advantage of context, knowledge, and perspective. We know what’s out there to influence teen drivers, good and bad. We have seen the tragic effects of car crashes on families. We hope that, by sharing, we can help you and your teenagers make the road safer for everyone.

The Stats Quo – Teen Driving Fatalities in North Carolina

The first step to solving a problem is to admit you have one. Perhaps your teen is a conscientious driver – that’s absolutely terrific! But they may have friends who aren’t, and no one wants their friends to become a statistic. Especially one of these.

North Carolina’s Teen Fatality Rate Is 64% Higher Than the National Average

It’s the third-highest rate in the country at 2.36 teen driver deaths per 10,000 licensed drivers under 19 years old. For perspective, there were 42 teen driver deaths in North Carolina in 2017. In New York, a state with 42% more licensed teen drivers, there were only 19.

Teen Driver Deaths Rose By 12% in 2020 – a Year With Less Driving

According to the North Carolina Highway Patrol, a total of 142 teens died on North Carolina roads between January 1 and November 20, 2020. While we do not know the methodologies used to gather the data, that number dwarfs the number of teen fatalities recorded by the North Carolina Department of Transportation in 2019, which was 80. We’ve already analyzed the effect of COVID-19 on car crashes, but if these numbers are comparable, they’re alarming.

In 2019, 47% of Teen Fatalities Regardless of Driver Age Were Unbelted

The NCDOT’s annual Crash Facts book shows that teens, whether drivers or passengers, are still engaging in risky behavior and not wearing their seat belts. Why they were not buckled in is a matter of speculation, but we believe it may come down to two factors: teens are more prone to risky behavior, and/or they are not getting proper example behavior from their parents.

Teen Traffic Deaths: Distractions, Drinking, or Other?

If a random person were asked the cause of teen driving deaths, the two most common answers would likely be drinking and distractions. But does actual data bear that out?  The 2019 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey notes that among U.S. high school students that drove, 5.4% of those drivers drove when they’d been drinking in the past 30 days.

Meanwhile, the same study revealed that 39% of those teen drivers texted or emailed while driving in the past 30 days. Additionally, 43.1% of U.S. high school students surveyed said they did not always wear a seat belt when riding in a car they weren’t driving.

Among the most dangerous distractions teens face on the road are other teens, namely passengers. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics indicate that the presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk for unsupervised teen drivers. In other words, without an adult in the car with them, teens distract each other. Further, the data showed that the crash risk increased with each additional teen present.

Teen Deaths and Injuries on North Carolina Roads (and Their Causes)

In North Carolina, in 2019, alcohol was noted as a factor in 446 crashes in which a teen was injured, with nine fatalities. On the other hand, distracted driving was noted as a factor in 2,145 crashes in which a teen was injured, with five fatalities. Speed was noted as a factor in 1,327 injury crashes and 33 deaths. It’s worth noting that these need not be mutually exclusive – a drunk, distracted, speeding teen driver may well check all the boxes.

This all begs the question: is there anything we can do to help ensure our teens are safe on the roads, given their inexperience behind the wheel?

Distracted Driving Apps Might Help Curb Teen Car Accidents and Deaths

Practically every teen has a smartphone. They’re more apt to have social media as well. And that’s hard for teens to ignore. That ping they hear which signals them to reach for their phones? It’s addicting. Physiologically addicting. Read this fascinating blog to find out why our brains can prevent us from ignoring the ping.

Leave it to technology to solve a technology problem. New apps are approaching the issue in a number of ways to ensure we’re focused on the road and not the phone. According to DMV.org, these apps offer safety features that can:

  • Mute text alerts
  • Send calls to voicemail
  • Send auto-replies via text that the person is driving and cannot respond
  • Some will even send alerts to parents

With numerous apps that can help curb distracted driving, we cannot review them all, and we do not officially recommend any particular one. You should investigate all the options and choose the one with the features that meet your specific needs and work on your specific phone.

You can search your app purveyor of choice to see what’s on offer (including searching for the apps below), read reviews, and compare features. Here are some which offer more interesting ways to cut distracted driving than simply a locked phone.

Note that mobile service providers like AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon may offer apps and features designed to help limit texting and driving. Ask your carrier about those apps and features.

OneTap works much the same way as AT&T Drivemode. It prohibits texting while driving, manages your texts and calls while you’re on the road, and lets those texting you know that you’re driving.

OMW aims to eliminate one of the most common reasons for texting while driving – requesting or sharing an arrival time. The app lets you invite people to follow your trip, know where you are, and about when you’ll arrive.

Lifesaver is a parent-controlled app that locks a connected phone when a car is in motion. Once the vehicle comes to a stop, the phone is unlocked and can be used.

Down for the Count is an app that actually rewards teens for safe driving habits through a pledge system. Teens pledge to drive safely, and others can sponsor them. The more safe miles they travel, the more they’ll earn from their sponsors.

DriveSafe.ly® is an app that will read your texts and emails to you. It will announce callers by name and has auto-on functionality. You can set it to auto-respond as well, so you never need to interact with your phone while driving.

Devices That Track Driving Behavior

Apps are entirely software-driven solutions. There are, of course, ways around them and leave it to teens to know how to circumvent the technology. If you’re looking for something that doesn’t necessarily depend on their phones, you might consider a hardware-based solution.

Again, we’re not endorsing anything. You should always investigate and consider any solution to decide if it meets your particular needs. There are options available online, but you should do your due diligence and research them heavily. While most of the apps are free, the devices are likely to require purchase.

One such option is TRUCE, which offers a device/system/app package that can record braking, acceleration, speed, cornering, and key driving events, showing the scores on the app for the driver – or the driver’s parents – to view. This Bluetooth technology device attaches under the rearview mirror and pairs the teen’s app with the cell phone to help curb impulses to check, chat, or text. The phone screen goes into a screen-lock mode when the car starts moving, and only 911 or designated phone numbers are accessible. This technology can also rate driving patterns and phone usage on a scoring system.

Some vehicles come with features that enable you to track driver behaviors, limit speed, and reduce the distraction of a cell phone. That’s right – the car itself may have features to encourage safer driving and reduce distractions. You may have access to a feature that could keep your teen safe and not even realize it.

And while there are apps available, your phone may include standard features that accomplish much of what you want! Features in Android and iOS already allow for device tracking, and there are some parental controls built-in (though many focus on content and not necessarily use while driving). Investigate these features, and see if they’ll do what you need them to do.

Distracted Driving Organizations and Initiatives to Raise Awareness and Change Behavior

Change comes from within, so the saying goes. Some would consider apps and devices that regulate or monitor behavior to be treating the symptom and not the cause. There are programs and initiatives designed to educate young drivers and stop bad behaviors before they start.

End Distracted Driving offers education, webinars, statistics, resources, and information to help others promote safe driving habits. Our firm has partnered with EndDD.org and the American Association for Justice (AAJ) to offer a distracted driving educational program to area high schools.

It has been exceptionally well received by more than 300,000 students in 44 states and Canada. And it is recognized by traffic safety experts, including the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Governors Highway Safety Association, as one of the most effective programs for teens.

The program results from efforts of psychologists and teen safe-driving experts to integrate behavioral science, behavior change theory, and teen-targeted persuasion principles specifically designed to avoid any potential teen backlash of feeling as though someone is trying to restrict their freedom and rights (which may happen with apps or devices).

People Against Distracted Driving aims to raise awareness and reduce distracted driving among teens. The organization is on Facebook and Twitter.

Driving Skills for Life is an initiative through Ford Motor Company that seeks to train teen drivers and asks them to take a safe driving pledge. Impact Teen Drivers is a non-profit dedicated to helping keep teens safe on the road, and also asks teens to take a safe driving pledge.

Many Organizations, One Goal: Safer Teen Drivers

There are dozens of these organizations, and all of them share the goal of safer roads for teens. It’s easy to get involved, and they have many resources that you can use to discuss safe driving habits and the dangers of distracted driving with your teen.

Almost every auto insurer has some program aimed at teens, offering resources, pledges, and even apps and devices to help parents and teens create and maintain safe driving habits. Good behaviors are often rewarded with lower insurance premiums or even rebates.

10 Tips for Families: Parents and Teens are a Safe Driving Team

  1. Start discussions early, well before teens reach driving age. A lot of teens look forward to the rite of passage that is driving. Why not get a head start on safety, skills, and frank discussion?
  2. Communicate openly with teenage drivers about expectations and responsibilities.
  3. Take a pledge with your teen, like this one from the Centers for Disease Control or the YES! I WILL family pledge and safe driving agreement from EndDD.org.
  4. Set a good example for your teen driver. Do you drive the speed limit, wear your seatbelt, and avoid dangerous behaviors (such as texting and driving)? Teens who see their parents engage in risky or reckless behavior behind the wheel may be more likely to engage in such behaviors themselves.
  5. Know what risks teens face. Joyriding, texting and driving, not wearing seatbelts, and drinking and driving are all dangerous behaviors your teen could engage in. Don’t forget speeding, which is another dangerous behavior typical to teens. Establish rules and enforce them, and don’t ignore any warning signs or opportunities. For example, during the holidays, alcohol may be more accessible, so keep an eye on your teen.
  6. Drive with your kids for longer than required. Although North Carolina, like many other states, has a graduated licensing program, it can never hurt to spend more time with your teen while he or she is learning to drive. Studies show it can take as many as 1,500 miles of driving in all conditions before a teen has enough experience to be considered a competent – and safe – driver.
  7. Monitor your teen. We’ve already discussed apps that reduce the opportunity to drive distracted and monitor teens’ behavior behind the wheel. You might also consider a device like a dashcam.
  8. Take advantage of the features already built into your devices and vehicles. Many phones already have tracking features built into their operating systems. Some vehicles have features integrated into their entertainment systems that enable you to track and monitor the car, control features, and so on. You may already have everything you need, so read the owner’s manuals and do your research.
  9. Enroll in an education course with your kids. Driver education programs exist that can be really helpful in reminding both teen drivers – and their parents – how to stay safe on North Carolina roadways. Not only can they help develop young drivers’ skills, but they could also even net you a discount on your insurance premium.
  10. Give teens the tools to become safer drivers. You can find them with a bit of searching. For example, teendriving.aaa.com/NC has tips for parents and safety resources for teen drivers.

Safer Teen Drivers, Fewer Family Tragedies

We see more than our fair share of car crash tragedies. We have to help families pick up the pieces often. Many of these tragedies are entirely preventable. We want more teens driving safely and responsibly, so we see fewer family tragedies.

We admit that as parents, we sometimes get frustrated if our kids don’t answer our calls, especially when we don’t know they are driving.  But we’d rather them get to their destination safely and then respond rather than try to answer and wreck on the way.

Talk to your teen(s). Help them develop their skills. Set a good example, and communicate openly. Driving is a privilege, after all. You can’t guarantee their safety on the road, but with a bit of help, they’ll be able to better watch out for themselves.

Eating and Drinking While Driving Can Be Dangerous Distractions

Next time you pass someone on the road who is texting while driving, don’t be so quick to judge. At least, not if you have ever eaten a burger or sipped a soda while you were driving. Because eating and drinking are driving distractions, too.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims that 8% of fatal crashes and 15% of injury crashes in 2018 were reported as distraction-affected crashes. That equates to 2,841 people killed and an estimated additional 400,000 people injured – all from distracted driving. And eating and drinking are considered to be driving distractions by the NHTSA.

But … you justify it to yourself. Eating while driving is part of every soccer mom’s weekly routine, right? And doesn’t every morning rush-hour commuter and tired trucker do it? And what about family road trips – surely that’s ok?

Eating on the go has become as American as apple pie. Thanks to the drive-thru, eating in our cars has become commonplace – routine, even. It is woven into the frenzied fabric of our everyday lives so intricately that we don’t think twice about it, let alone consider it a “distraction.” Yet many of us have never stopped to consider if we may be putting others (or ourselves and our passengers) in harm’s way as we careen down the road in a minivan full of little sluggers, while we force down yet another McNugget.

How Common Is Eating Behind the Wheel?

Eating on-the-go in our cars is pervasive. The fast-food drive-thru is so ingrained in American culture there’s even a national holiday celebrating it. July 24th every year. Here are some startling facts:

  • According to the CDC, 36% of adult Americans get food each day at a fast food restaurant.
  • There are over 204,000 fast food restaurants in the U.S.
  • These fast food restaurants serve roughly 50 million Americans every day and bring in $110 billion in annual revenues.
  • A Stanford University study says that over 20% of Americans’ meals are eaten in the car.

Why Eating Behind the Wheel Is So Distracting

There are many reasons why eating while driving is so dangerous. One major reason is that, when you eat behind the wheel, you are multitasking big time. You may not know just how little it takes for us to become unfocused while multitasking. Here’s a quick multitasking exercise that can help you determine just how good you are. (Spoiler alert: you’re not as good at it as you thought you were.)

Fewer Than Two Hands on the Steering Wheel

Driver eating a large burger while driving may increase his chances of a wreck.

Eating and driving almost always leads to driving without both hands on the steering wheel. Drivers must unwrap fast food items, apply sauce packets and condiments, clean up spills and crumbs, throw away trash, and more – all while trying to steer the car.

Even if you bring your own food to eat in the car, you may be handling lunch boxes with zippers that get stuck or Tupperware with lids that won’t open. Your hands are busy. But not busy doing what they should be doing, which is driving.

Eyes Off the Road

If your hands are off the wheel when you’re eating, your eyes probably are, too. What happens when a pickle falls off your burger? Our eyes (and hands) are trying to find that pickle instead of trying to keep our car on our side of the road. And chances are your mind is not on your driving at all at this point. It is on that pickle.

With your eyes off the road, you can easily miss changes in road patterns or road conditions, road signs and warning signs, or even other drivers who may be trying to find their own pickle while driving.

Slower Reaction Times

With your hands, eyes, and mind off the road, your reaction time will naturally be much slower. This contributes to the potential for collisions as drivers cannot always react in time to make the necessary maneuvers to avoid car accidents.

One university study, entitled ‘Two Hands Better Than One,’ found that drivers’ reaction times when eating increased by 44%, compared to their non-distracted counterparts. (And by increased, we mean got slower.)

Passengers With Food

We know that having rambunctious or loud passengers can result in distractions. But we don’t often think about how passengers who are eating can affect our ability to focus. Driving-Tests.org states:

“A backseat full of friends chowing down on burgers and fries can be just as distracting as enjoying some drive-thru fare yourself. The smells and sounds of passengers eating while you are attempting to concentrate on the important task of driving, not to mention offers of fries and ‘bites,’ can tempt you to turn around and take your eyes off the road.”

Car Clutter and Food Wrappers

Every time you pick up fast-food, you are left with a pile of paper bags, napkins, empty cups, straw wrappers, and more. Oftentimes, this trash is tossed to the floorboard to be picked up “later.” “Later” typically takes a while to come around and, slowly, the food wrappers and trash on your floorboards can create a hazardous, cluttered environment. Have you ever had a water bottle roll around your car? That bottle could easily get caught between your brake pedal and the floorboard.

According to one insurance company:

  • Loose objects can fly through the air if you have to stop suddenly – creating 20x the punch they normally would and potentially causing injuries to you and your passengers.
  • Loose objects rolling around your car can be distracting all by themselves. Garbage from food or drink can pose health hazards, becoming home to nasty bacteria that generally increase in hot weather. This can lead to multiple health problems, including E.coli.

Even an odor (rotting food and trash) or sight (trash piling up and making your car an eyesore) can be distracting and take your mind and eyes off the road.

Tips to Try to Avoid Eating and Driving

Treating your vehicle like a dining room is asking for more than just a big mess. Here are some tips to avoid the mess – and the potential mess of dealing with a car crash.

Eat Before You Leave

Wake up a few minutes earlier and eat your granola bar before getting in your car and heading to work. It may be slightly less convenient, but I can guarantee you it is way more convenient than dealing with a car wreck.

Make Your Car a Snack-Free Zone

Keep snacks like granola bars or fruit snacks out of your car. Some people keep snack foods in the glove compartment or center console. But if you don’t have food there, you won’t be tempted to eat it in a non-emergency setting – like when you’re driving.

Eat in the Parking Lot or the Restaurant

Eating in a parking lot or in the restaurant – or even pulling off the road to eat a snack – could save a life (even yours) by keeping you focused on your driving.

The 10 Worst Foods to Eat Behind the Wheel

If you absolutely have to eat behind the wheel, try to make the situation less distracting by using more accessible containers, keeping your trash in check, and avoiding certain messy foods. Here’s a list of the 10 worst foods to eat while driving, as reported by Drive-safely.net.

The top 10 worst foods to eat while driving include chocolate, soda, donuts, burgers, tacos and coffee.

  • Chocolate
    It may not be as bad as other foods because it isn’t something you can spill. But chocolate can leave stains and fingerprints that tempt us to clean them up, which is another major distraction when driving.
  • Soda
    Any drink can be distracting because you risk a real mess if you spill. Soda, because of its sticky nature, may be one you want to avoid, especially opening the can. We’ve all gotten sprayed with Sprite or Diet Coke, and it is not something that we want to happen in our car.
  • Donuts
    Jelly, cream-filled, or powered donuts can lead to a messy end-result. Use that willpower and resist the Krispy Kreme drive-thru on your next road trip.
  • Fried Chicken
    Fried chicken is greasy. A driver eating it is likely going to be cleaning their fingers or trying to wipe grease off the steering wheel. Consider eating your KFC inside or in the parking lot before pulling back onto the interstate.
  • Barbecue
    Like fried chicken, barbecue is extremely messy with its hot, dripping sauces. Getting it all over your hands, car, or clothing can be a major distraction.
  • Hamburgers
    Hamburgers are hard to resist on a road trip. But burgers have many parts – pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, bacon – all of which can slide out of the bun and make a mess in your car. And no one wants ketchup on their khakis.
  • Chili
    Hot chili on your clothes, hands, and car can not only be distracting, but it can be painful. Don’t let yourself get burned or distracted by eating chili. Some years ago, a driver of a Metro bus in Cincinnati hit two pedestrians because he was looking down to throw away his cup of chili. One was killed, the other was injured.
  • Tacos
    Tacos are hard enough to eat when you’re not driving. The mess will likely create an even bigger mess in your car. One driver crashed into two parked cars and flipped his own car onto its roof because he was eating a taco and brushing crumbs off his lap, thus causing the collision.
  • Soups
    Eating hot soup in your car is a bad idea. Period. It’s easy to spill, a mess to clean up, and depending on how hot it is, dangerous if you spill it on yourself.
  • Coffee
    Who doesn’t drink coffee in their car? Everyone needs a pick-me-up from Starbucks or McCafe, but hot coffee can burn your mouth or your hands, which can certainly take your focus off the road.

Keep in mind that many food-related car crashes happen in the morning during the rush to work. One driver was eating breakfast while driving 50 mph through an area already occupied by first responders. His breakfast distraction caused a second collision.

Are You Breaking the Law if You Eat and Drive?

No. In the United States, eating while driving is not prohibited by law. However, most distracted driving laws are interpretable, making it a very gray area.

One police officer put it this way: “Would I pull someone over if they have some french fries in their hands? No. But if someone is eating a sub, swerving all over the road? For sure. And I have.”

Importantly, North Carolina is a contributory negligence state, meaning you may be barred from compensation if you were in any way negligent in contributing to the accident.

For example, if you were in a car accident, and it was found that eating or drinking contributed, you could very well be considered negligent and denied potential compensation. Even worse, you could face legal action.

So, is eating and driving illegal? No, but it is certainly safer not to, and you could potentially be held liable if you contributed to an accident.

Now You Know – So What?

First, don’t be a distracted driver – of any kind. Try to find ways to avoid eating behind the wheel. It’s not as hard as you think. It could be as simple as setting your alarm five minutes earlier in the morning. It may not be convenient to you at first, but it could save your life or someone else’s.

Second, be a conscientious passenger. Help the driver keep his or her eyes on the road, even if food is involved.

And finally, encourage others not to eat or drink while driving so they can keep both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road. Distracted driving is dangerous, claiming more than 3,100 lives in 2019 in the U.S. Almost all of these tragedies are preventable.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation from NC Personal Injury Lawyers

Far too many people are injured because of distracted drivers – including those eating while driving. If you or someone you know was injured by a distracted driver, please contact us or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation. Our car accident attorneys can help you seek the compensation you may deserve. We are here for you 24/7.

If you have ever wondered, “How many beers can I drink and drive?” or “Can I drive after three beers?” there are many factors to take into consideration.

A 180-lb man may be able to drink 3.5 regular 12 ounce beers in one hour and keep his Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) under the legal limit of .08%. Similarly, a 140-lb woman may be able to consume 2.5 regular beers in an hour and maintain a BAC of less than .08%.

Keep in mind that these numbers are general estimates that assume that the average regular beer has a 5% alcohol by volume (ABV) level, and they do not take into account other factors. The following are known contributing factors to BAC levels:

  • an individual’s metabolic rate
  • age
  • food consumption
  • and more

There are also plenty of craft IPAs, stouts, and ales available with higher ABV levels which would impact the amount you can consume and stay under .08%. On the other hand, light beers have an average ABV of 4.2%, so the same 180-lb man and 140-lb woman may each be able to drink an additional beer in that hour timeframe and potentially keep a BAC lower than .08%. (And remember, there is no limit to the number of non-alcoholic beers you can drink!)

So those are the facts, but not all the facts. Read on for a closer look at the consequences of drinking and driving, plus some North Carolina-specific information that everyone should be aware of.

The Reality of Drunk Driving

You’ve probably seen the ads: “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.” And seen plenty of DWI statistics. But unless you have personally felt the effects of drunk driving or you work as a personal injury lawyer representing actual people whose lives have been ripped apart by the real devastation a drunk driver can cause, it probably doesn’t hit home.

But home is exactly where drunk drivers hit – and hit hard.

Families shattered. Children and teens’ lives cut short. Relatives left permanently disabled. Severely disfigured. Brain damaged.

I’ll never forget my first DWI case in particular, involving a registered nurse on her way home from a long shift at the hospital.

My client was leaving work where she routinely aided her patients. The other driver – the drunk driver – was considered a heavy drinker. The drunk driver ran a red light, striking my client in the driver door. My client was unable to work for months due to a shoulder injury.

While we were not able to turn back time and prevent the collision from happening, we did everything we could to help our client. We sought money from the drunk driver to try to:

  • “fix” our client’s shoulder with surgery
  • “help” our client after her surgery with physical therapy to try to regain her mobility and strength
  • “make up for” the intangibles our client suffered in the form of pain and suffering

Also – as a collision involving impaired driving – we sought money from the drunk driver to “punish and deter” him from getting behind the wheel and putting someone else in the community at risk of serious injury or death.1

Drunk Driving: U.S. Facts

So here are those national statistics again. Read them. But this time read them knowing that each statistic represents a real person.

Drunk driving facts including frequency of accidents and deaths, and the worst time of the day.

  • NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts reported that in 2018, every 50 minutes a death occurred as a result of a drunk driver whose blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.08 or higher.

That’s 10,511 deaths.

  • Among those fatalities, 67% were in crashes in which at least one driver in the crash had a BAC of .15 g/dL or higher – or roughly six to eight drinks in an hour.
  • Those 10,511 deaths represented 29% of all traffic fatalities for that year! Simply put, drunk drivers were behind about a third of all traffic deaths!
  • The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2018 was 4 times higher at night than during the day.
  • The highest rates of drunk driving occur among drivers aged 21-34. This age group makes up 52% of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal collisions.

Drunk Driving: North Carolina Stats

Unfortunately, 3,848 people were killed in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver in North Carolina between 2009 and 2018. The state also had higher alcohol-impaired driving death rates than the U.S. for every age range, as well as for both sexes, in 2018.

This same year, North Carolina drivers who reported driving after drinking too much in the past 30 days (1.3%) was less than the national average (1.7%).

North Carolina death rates by drunk drivers are higher than the U.S. average for each age range.North Carolina drunk driving death rates are higher than the U.S. average for both males & females.

Am I Liable If I Serve Alcohol to Guests?

You may be. North Carolina law says that when an intoxicated guest causes an accident, the injured party may be able to seek damages from the host if certain conditions exist. So pay attention to the amount you serve your guests and read this list of Ten Way to Minimize Your Liability When Hosting a Holiday Party.

Drunk Driving Links Worth Sharing

We know what alcohol does to the body and brain – it slows our reactions, blurs our vision, makes us brave, and sometimes compels us to take unnecessary risks. Here are some links worth sharing with friends, family, and others – especially teens and twenty-somethings.

And, it bears repeating, if you’ve been drinking, call a cab, or Uber or Lyft. Contact a sober friend or relative. Use public transportation. Use your head – DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE!

 

Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers. When teen drivers have other passengers in the car, the risk of a fatal car crash doubles. And teenagers are more prone to have a collision during the first months of licensure. Now, North Carolina roads may see an influx of teen drivers who have not even had a road test.

New Law Puts Untested Teen Drivers on NC Roads

Governor Roy Cooper recently signed a bill that allows teen drivers to get their limited driver’s license without a road test during the coronavirus pandemic. House Bill 158 permits the NC Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to temporarily waive the requirement of a road test for young drivers attempting to obtain a Level 2 limited provisional license. The road test will now be administered after 6 months of violation-free driving with their provisional license. According to the NC DMV the road test will be waived provided that the teen drivers meet the following criteria:

  • Be 16 or 17 years old
  • Have their Level 1 Limited Learner Permit for at least 12 months
  • Have completed at least 60 hours of supervised driving, including time at night
  • Have no moving violations or seat belt/cell phone violations within the last six months
  • Have coverage under a liability insurance policy

Rules of Level 2 Limited Provisional License

If the above criteria are met, the teen driver will be able to get their Level 2 Limited Provisional License. However, there are still several regulations that drivers must abide by, including:

  • Drivers must be at least 16 years old, but less than 18.
  • Drivers may drive without supervision from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. and at any time when driving directly to or from work or any volunteer fire, rescue, or EMS activities.
  • Supervising driver must be seated beside the driver during restricted times.
  • Only one passenger under the age of 21 is allowed in a motor vehicle when the driver is the holder of a Level 2 license.
  • There is no limit on passengers under the age of 21 if all passengers in the vehicle are members of the driver’s immediate family or members of the same household as the driver.
  • If there is a supervising driver in the car, the passenger restriction/limit does not apply.

Negligent Entrustment

As mentioned above, parents have a stake in ensuring their teens are qualified to be on the road, because they can be sued directly if an accident occurs. Parental liability is created under the doctrine of negligent entrustment, which says a parent can be liable when their teen causes a car accident if the parent knew, or should have known, that the teen driver was a danger to others on the road.

With driving road tests being waived, this exposes many parents to liability. For example, if you give your teen driver minimal highway driving experience and then allowed them to drive on the highway with the level 2 license, and they cause an accident. In this situation, the parents are potentially liable for any damages resulting from the accident.

Vicarious Liability

Parents can also be on the hook for an accident their child caused through the legal doctrine of vicarious liability. Through vicarious liability, the parent will be liable for the wrongdoing of their teen driver if the driver is acting under direction and authority of the parent. In North Carolina, under vicarious liability, parents can be held liable if their teen driver causes a car accident while fulfilling any family “purpose” or “use.” This purpose can be almost anything, as long as the parent has control over the teen driver’s use of the car.

For instance, if a parent asks the teen driver to go to the gas station to fill up the car, the parent could be liable if the teen were to cause an accident during that drive.

NC Personal Injury Lawyers Evaluate Your Case FREE

If you are injured in an accident caused by a teen driver, you may be entitled to compensation. As you can tell, getting in an accident with a teen driver can be a very complicated legal situation. That’s where we can help. Here at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we have experienced North Carolina car accident attorneys who know how to navigate complicated legal problems like these. For a FREE case evaluation, call us today at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online and chat with a live representative.

If you are like most North Carolinians, you count down the days until you can be relaxing on a beach or lake having fun in the sun. What most people don’t dream of is being involved in a boating accident caused by alcohol. The unfortunate reality is that these happen far more frequently than anyone would hope. Luckily, by following our list of safety tips below, you may be able to prevent a tragedy.

Summer can be broken up into three major holidays:  Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. North Carolina Law Enforcement has labeled these holidays the three most dangerous and busy weekends of the summer. Pairing with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAAD), they are conducting their 10th annual “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign to help raise awareness and keep everyone safe.

MADD, Boating, and NC Law Enforcement Sobriety Checkpoints

Founded in 1980, MADD is a nonprofit organization grounded in their passion to put a stop to drunk driving, wherever it might happen. This year marks the 10th annual “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign hosted by MADD, The NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and State Highway Patrol. North Carolina law enforcement plays an essential part of this campaign by conducting sobriety checkpoints.

These checkpoints will look very similar to a standard traffic stop. If you are out on the water, a police or sheriff boat will flash their lights and slowly approach your boat. They may ask for your license and registration. During this interaction, they will be on the lookout for obvious signs of alcohol in the driver: glassy eyes, slurred speech, slow motor skills, etc. They will also take inventory of the other passengers on the boat. If someone seems to be in need of medical help, the officer may order the driver to take them to shore or summon aid.

Are North Carolina Laws Regarding Drinking and Driving Different on a Boat than in a Car?

NC laws regarding alcohol consumption behind the wheel are focused on one number: 0.08. Similar to driving a car, a boat driver cannot have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) at or above 0.08.

What about the other passengers? With the exception of liquor, it is legal to have an open container on a boat. In contrast, if you were to have an open container in a car, you could be facing a suspended license or jail time. On a boat, it’s perfectly fine.

Does this increased flexibility mean that driving a boat is easier than driving a car? Absolutely not. On the road, drivers can quickly brake or change lanes. On a boat, there are no brakes, only neutral. Sometimes, especially if the current is guiding the boats together, there is no way to stop an accident from happening. Adding alcohol to this situation slows drivers’ reaction times and impairs judgement, further increasing the chances of an accident. This is why it is crucial for drivers to yield, keep their distance, and stay sober.

5 ways to stay safe on the water including yielding, knowing checkpoints and the local police number

How to Prevent Alcohol Related Boating Accidents

The risk of encountering a drunk driver on the water shouldn’t ruin your holiday plans. Follow these strategies to make the most of your time while staying safe.

  1. Don’t let anyone drive your boat if they have been drinking.
  2. Keep an eye on other drivers to see if they may be driving under the influence. Such behaviors can include: driving very slow or very fast, having no regard for the boats/people around them, cutting off other drivers, and many more.
  3. Be aware that you may go through a sobriety checkpoint. Be polite and accommodating.
  4. Yield to other boats, watercraft, and swimmers.
  5. Know the number of your local police, the Coast Guard, and local boat services to call if you believe there may be an unsafe driver on the water.

North Carolina Personal Injury Attorneys Evaluate Your Claim Free

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident on the water, don’t hesitate to call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online. Our team of experienced personal injury attorneys is ready to help, and we’re here to answer your calls 24/7.

Weather and Auto Accidents – Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers)

Can the weather cause an accident? If you're injured in an accident, the answer matters

So, what happens if you’re injured in an accident during, or caused by, severe weather conditions? For a skilled analysis, we’ve asked James Scott Farrin shareholder and litigation attorney Hoyt Tessener for his perspective. His answers may surprise you.

The Weather, the Road and Personal Injury

Can the weather be at fault for an accident while I’m driving?

Yes. The weather can be at fault for a wreck but only under unusual circumstances. For example, the road could be poorly constructed. The weather can also be a contributing factor if for example the vehicle goes into a defective guard rail. 

If another driver is involved, how important is it to determine fault, and how is it determined?

It is very important to determine fault. Initially, fault is determined from the crash report that is prepared by the investigating law enforcement officer. It is always important to call the police whenever there is a wreck. However, the law enforcement officers may make a mistake or enter the wrong codes. Fault is ultimately determined in a negligence case by what a jury of twelve people decide.

Can’t it even be the weather’s fault?

If the weather is at fault, it is an accident.

Does it matter if there are severe weather warnings? Does that make me more responsible for my choice to drive in that weather or does it matter?

If you are driving during severe weather, you may be contributory negligent. If the weather comes upon you suddenly or upon somebody else suddenly, then it can be what is described as a sudden emergency. A sudden emergency is a heightened standard of care. Basically we all have an obligation to drive and operate a vehicle as a reasonable person would in the same or similar circumstances. If you are hit with sudden adverse weather, the standard becomes driving as a reasonable person would in those same or similar circumstances – the adverse weather.

Let’s say a storm knocks out power to an intersection and the traffic signals are out. What happens if I get hit and injured while going through that intersection?

The rules of the road always apply. If traffic signals are out, then you have to follow the rules of the road as if there is an intersection with no traffic lights and all roads have stop signs. Everyone is expected to come to a complete stop at the intersection. The vehicle that arrives first goes first and then you circle around counterclockwise. A vehicle turning yields to a vehicle going straight.

What happens if my child is on a school bus during severe weather and is injured in an accident?

A child on a school bus is injured due to severe weather, it is an accident. However, if the bus driver and/or another person is at fault, for example for running a stop light, and your child was injured as a result of the collision, then your child would have a claim. 

The Takeaways: While storms can contribute to an accident, injury caused directly from weather conditions is an act of God. And you can’t sure God. If your actions or reactions cause an accident, you are likely to be at fault just as in normal weather. If someone else’s action or reactions cause you injury, you may have a claim. And, in certain cases, a weather-related accident may be worsened by a defect, such as a bad road or a faulty guardrail. In those case, you may have a claim.

Contributory Negligence Defined
Contributory negligence: n. a doctrine of common law that if a person was injured in part due to his/her own negligence (his/her negligence “contributed” to the accident), the injured party would not be entitled to collect any damages (money) from another party who supposedly caused the accident. Under this rule, a badly injured person who was only slightly negligent could not win in court against a very negligent defendant. NOTE: Some exceptions or exclusions can apply, which is why it is always advisable to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Storms, Wind and Who Pays if You Get Hurt

I’ll get a bit more specific. What if I’m hurt by an actual tornado while driving? They’re freak storms, after all.

If you are driving during a tornado and injured as a result, you would not be entitled to any recovery.

What if a tree from a yard along the street gets blown over and hits my car, injuring me. Does that homeowner have to pay for my injuries?

A tree that is blown over by a storm would only create liability if the tree owner knew the tree was weak or damaged and should have been removed or replaced.

What if that tree is already in the road when I hit it and get injured?

If you hit a tree in the road and are injured, you have no recovery unless someone was chopping down the tree expecting it to fall in a different direction and instead it fell on you as you were driving by.

Let’s say I’m driving on the highway and high winds blow a tractor trailer over, causing me to crash. That’s not my fault, right?

Right. 

When a Storm Blows Over… a Truck
The University of Kansas Department of Engineering performed a study in 2009 to determine the effects of wind on motorists. Full tractor trailers were found vulnerable to being blown off the road in winds of 60mph or more. Empty tractor trailers, on the other hand, were adversely affected in crosswinds of just 15-20mph.

The Takeaways: Storms that have high winds pose numerous risks, but the vast majority of their effects are acts of God. There is little chance that someone is going to be at fault – other than you. The lesson here is not to drive during wind storms. Got off the road!

Water Hazards, From Above and Below

Water is dangerous as well, especially over the road. Let’s say I drive into water that’s covering the road and get hurt. Does it make any difference if there’s a flash flood watch?

If water pools on the road due to a defective road design or maintenance, you may have a claim. If you just drive into standing water, you are responsible for your own actions and would not have a claim. If you have decided to drive during a flash flood watch and you are in an area that is known to flood, you would have no claim.

What if I hit someone trying to avoid the water? Or they hit me trying to avoid it?

If you hit someone while driving, regardless of the reason, it is likely that you are going to be at fault. The same applies for them.

Half a Million Injuries a Year Occur on Wet Roads
According to the U.S Department of Transportation, the seemingly innocuous wet road is one of the most dangerous places to drive. Each year, about 75% of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on wet roads, and nearly half occur while it’s raining. Wet road crashes account for more than 5,000 fatalities and more than 540,000 injuries. Roadway flooding was said to be the greatest source of fatalities.

The Takeaways: Water on the road is a tricky issue. If you choose to drive during heavy rain when there are flood watches and warnings, you could be seen as contributing to the accident – contributory negligence. If the flooding happens due to poor road design, you may have a claim. As always, you are responsible for your choices and actions. A court and a jury will hold you to the standard of what a reasonable person would do in your specific circumstance. And reasonable people do not often drive during flood warnings!

Most people don’t think much about their auto insurance until they need it. There’s a reason that personal injury attorneys exist. Sometimes, even with all the insurance, you have to file a personal injury lawsuit in order to receive fair compensation. Where does that compensation come from?

If you’re injured in an accident in North Carolina, there are generally four (4) types of automobile insurance coverages that may come into play. These four coverages are liability coverage, uninsured motorist coverage (UM), underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) and medical payments coverage. Both liability coverage and uninsured motorist coverage are mandatory coverages for all drivers under the North Carolina Motor Vehicle Safety and Financial Responsibility Act. The others are optional.

What Is Liability Insurance and What Does It Do?

Liability Insurance covers your liability, or fault, in an automobile wreck as it relates to other parties’ bodily injury or property damage. Conversely, if you are the victim of a negligent driver, then their liability coverage covers any damages you may have which may include, but are not limited to medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering, as well as damage to your automobile.

In North Carolina, the law requires that the owner of a registered and operated motor vehicle must carry the following minimum amounts of insurance coverage: a minimum of $30,000 for bodily injury per person, $60,000 bodily injury per accident and $25,000 property damage.

In certain situations, when the injuries are serious, an injured party can collect liability coverage from multiple policies. The most common way this occurs is when the at-fault driver is driving someone else’s vehicle yet owns an insured vehicle himself. Under this scenario, the injured party can collect from the liability policy covering the at-fault vehicle actually involved in the wreck, and also from the liability policy of the at-fault driver’s own vehicle that was not involved assuming the total damages exceeded the coverage of the at-fault vehicle.

If We All Have Uninsured Motorist Coverage, There Are No Uninsured Motorists, Right?

Not quite. Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM), as defined by North Carolina’s Department of Insurance, is coverage that “will provide protection when an uninsured driver, who is at-fault, injures you or another covered individual.” It also provides property damage coverage.

Sadly, not all vehicles are insured. An uninsured vehicle may be a vehicle where the owner has failed to carry insurance on the vehicle in violation of State law. It can also be a stolen vehicle being driven by the perpetrator or any other person without expressed or implied consent by the owner to be operating the vehicle. An uninsured vehicle can also be a vehicle whereby the owner has purchased the requisite insurance policy, but for one of various reasons the insurance company has denied coverage for a particular loss.

An example of such a situation would be if there were a material misrepresentation made on an insurance application that the insurance company later finds out about, like the applicant representing the car being used by an accident-free 50 year old to go to and from work when the vehicle is really being used by his 16 year old son. That may cause the insurance carrier to deny coverage for a particular loss.

Finally, uninsured coverage may be necessary if you are the victim of a hit and run are not able to ascertain the identity of the perpetrator or whether the at-fault vehicle is insured. Please note, however, because of North Carolina’s “No Contact Rule” for uninsured accident claims, if the hit-and-run vehicle (phantom vehicle) does not make contact with your vehicle, uninsured motorist coverage will not apply. An example of this may be a phantom vehicle running a motorcycle or another vehicle off the road yet the vehicles never made contact.

A red and a yellow umbrella representing multiple insurance coverages.

When Enough Is Not Enough: Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) is coverage, as defined by the North Carolina Department of insurance as coverage that “will provide protection when an underinsured driver, who is at-fault, injures you or another covered individual. An underinsured driver is one whose limits of liability are less than your UIM limits, and not enough to cover the losses of the people the underinsured driver injured.” Unlike liability and uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage is optional. Therefore, you must inform your agent that you wish to purchase this additional coverage.

An underinsured motorist claimant can be a driver or passenger in the faultless vehicle. Both are considered insureds under that vehicle’s underinsured motorist coverage, so long as the UIM coverage in the faultless vehicle exceeds the available liability coverage(s) applicable to their at-fault vehicle(s). In other words, the coverage kicks in if there’s not enough insurance on the vehicle at-fault.

A common rule when analyzing insurance coverages is that “the insurance follows the vehicle.” In the context of underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), one can also present a UIM claim if that person is injured and has damages that exceed the liability coverage(s) available to the at-fault driver(s) and either owns a vehicle or resides with a family member (also known as “resident relative”) who owns a vehicle that carries UIM coverage that is greater than the available liability coverage(s). Sounds complicated, but it just means that, if you’re injured and the at-fault driver’s coverage isn’t enough, you may have a claim if you have UIM on your car or live with a family member who does.

A family member has been interpreted by our courts as “a person related to the [named insured] by blood, marriage or adoption who is a resident of the [named insured’s] household.” Resident has been interpreted by our courts to mean anything from “a place of abode for more than a temporary period of time” to “a permanent and established home.” Obviously, a child of a named insured would certainly be deemed as a relative resident.

What about a situation where the person seeking UIM coverage lives primarily with his mother who does not have UIM coverage on her car, but his father, who he lives with every other weekend or during the summer, does have this coverage on his vehicle? Or what about a college student who is off at college, yet she still comes home for breaks and during the summer? Is she deemed a “resident” of her parents’ home while away at college so as to fall under her parents’ UIM coverage?

Our courts have said yes to both of those scenarios, but there are often many other facts and circumstances that require an experienced personal injury lawyer. You also may be able to collect UIM coverage under multiple policies (referred to as “stacking”). An experienced personal injury attorney can also advise if this is applicable to your situation.

Bodily Injury: Medical Payments Coverage and How It Works

The final insurance coverage to be discussed in the context of an automobile wreck is Medical Payments Coverage or Med Pay. Med Pay coverage is an optional, first party coverage that can be purchased to cover your own vehicle. It reimburses you or a covered insured for reasonable and necessary medical expenses and funeral expenses resulting from a motor vehicle collision. It pays for any other injury on or about the vehicle covered under the policy, regardless of fault.

Determining whether someone is covered under the Med Pay coverage of a policy uses a very similar analysis to the UIM coverage discussed above in terms of 1) being in a covered vehicle, 2) whether you own a covered vehicle, or 3) whether you are a resident relative to someone who owns a covered vehicle. The limit to the coverage is determined by the amount of coverage purchased by the named insured.

The normal increments you will find for purchase are generally $1,000/$2000/$5,000/$10,000. Med Pay coverage can also be “stacked” under certain situations. That can be determined by speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer. As Med Pay is not a fault-based coverage, you are entitled to coverage even if you were at fault.

Conversely, if you are the victim in an automobile wreck, you are entitled to have all of your damages covered by the at-fault driver’s liability coverage and you are also entitled to coverage under your Med Pay coverage, subject to certain limitations that can be explained to you by an experienced personal injury attorney.

If You’ve Been Injured in an Accident, Don’t Hesitate to Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

Just because someone has a lot of insurance doesn’t mean the insurance company is simply going to pay the maximum benefit. They’re likely going to work to reduce what they pay, and that may not be enough to cover your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering. Call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

How failing to maintain or repair a vehicle can spell negligence in court

We’ve all seen them. Those cars on the road that we look at and wonder, how is that thing still moving? How did it pass inspection? Who would drive a vehicle that’s in that condition? They’re idle thoughts, but there is a very real threat. A poorly maintained or malfunctioning vehicle is more prone to failure. Crashes follow.

Notice, I do not say accident. Any crash caused by a driver’s failure to maintain a vehicle or affect repairs to critical systems is not an accident – it’s a choice. And, if the court sees it that way, a negligent driver may be on the hook for thousands in damages or more.

The Basics: What North Carolina Law Requires in Regards to Vehicle Condition

As every driver in North Carolina knows, a vehicle has to pass a yearly safety inspection in order to have its registration renewed and be legal to operate. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but let’s focus on the vast majority of cars on the road that must pass inspection.

The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles requires the annual safety inspection to be completed no more than 90 days prior to the renewal of the vehicle’s registration. It’s a simple but thorough inspection by a licensed mechanic, who uses a checklist established by the state to ensure the vehicle is safe to operate. In addition to safety, 22 counties also require an emissions inspection at the same time.

The safety inspection covers:

  • Lights and signals
  • Braking systems
  • Steering systems
  • Tires
  • Horn
  • Mirrors
  • Windshield wipers
  • Exhaust system
  • Window tint

If something does not pass the safety inspection, the driver will be notified and the vehicle will require repair or maintenance in order to pass the inspection and be registrable to drive.

Consequences on the Road – and in the Courtroom

People who drive vehicles with critical components in poor condition are asking for trouble, on the road and beyond. Operating a vehicle in such a way is negligent, and if that can be proven, insurance may not cover the damages incurred in an accident.

Bear in mind, an accident with property damage is bad enough. What if someone is injured or worse? These consequences rarely come to mind at the time, but they’re very real.

The case law is cautionary.

Lights Lights Lights

You have to have sufficient light on your vehicle for driving conditions. It’s not just so you can see the road – other drivers have to see you. Whether we’re talking headlights, tail lights, brake lights, or turn signals, make sure they’re all working.

The precedential case law comes from the 60s here. In White v. Mote, a town was sued because its employees failed to have lights on their work vehicle. Perhaps the court in Scarborough v. Ingram said it best: “The statutes prescribing lighting devices to be used by motor vehicles operating at night (G.S. §§ 20-129 and 129.1) were enacted in the interest of public safety. A violation of these statutes constitutes negligence as a matter of law.”

In other words, if you operate a vehicle without proper lighting equipment, you’re acting negligently. And in case you’re wondering, according to Bigelow v. Johnson, strapping a flashlight to a vehicle does not meet legal requirements.

Bad Tires Are a Bad Decision

Take for example the case of Scott v Clark. In this case, two pickup trucks were approaching each other on a highway. One of the trucks suffered a blowout of the front left tire, causing the driver to lose control, swerve into the oncoming lane, and strike the other truck killing its driver.

It was found that the driver of the truck that suffered the blowout was driving on a used mobile home tire on the left front corner of the vehicle. The tire was specifically labeled as such. Furthermore, it had only 15-20% of its tread remaining, and numerous holes. The tube inside the tire was satisfactory, but the tire was entirely unsafe. (This was in the 60s, and some automotive tires still used tubes at the time.)

The state requires tires to be in good condition. Check your tires every so often – not just yearly at the inspection!

Steering Away From Danger

It seems pretty simple to most people that if your vehicle has a steering issue, you should have it towed – not drive it. The law basically says the vehicle must be equipped so that a driver can safely operate it.

This should not be confused with a failure of the steering parts while in operation. The law does not expect us all to be mechanics. However, when we are aware of a problem with our steering mechanisms, we’re expected to cease operation of the vehicle and have the issue remedied.

So, if a state inspection finds that there are steering parts in need of replacement and you continue to operate the vehicle without doing so, you risk an accident and may be held liable for negligence!

Stopping Power

Brakes may be the most ignored part of vehicle safety systems. It’s not usually easy to tell when the brake pads, drums or rotors are worn. With lights and tires, a visual inspection is simple. Modern brakes will make noise when they’re at the end of their life, and changes in braking performance should alert drivers to the need for inspection.

If you knowingly operate, or allow to be operated, a vehicle with faulty brakes as in Wilcox v. Motors Co, the law will hold you negligent. Unexpected failures, such as the one in Mann v. Knight, are not negligent.

In Other Words…

Much of the case law that informs the idea of operator negligence in vehicles depends on what someone knowingly did. If you did not know or could not reasonably know of a defect, you cannot be held negligent. A vehicle inspection is a record of information.

Insurers and Negligently Poor Vehicle Condition

Let’s start with this: Because the other driver can always argue that they were not on notice of the poor condition of the vehicle, insurers usually have a basis to fight negligence in these cases.

Of course, every North Carolina driver is required to have some form of car insurance. The driver at fault usually bears the brunt of the claims – through the insurance company that’s covering them. If a driver is proven to be negligent by operating an unsafe vehicle, the insurance company is going to fight hard to avoid paying claims.

This is because most of the insurance policies, if you bother to read them, are agreements on both sides. The insurance company agrees to cover the driver, but the driver agrees to be responsible for how they conduct the task of driving, and that includes the condition of the vehicle.

For example, let’s say a driver knows his car has a problem that reduces its safety on the road – in this example, let’s say his vehicle inspection revealed a leak in his brake lines. He chooses to drive the car in that condition for the next few weeks, never quite finding the time to have it repaired. Then, he rear-ends someone during a commute, totaling both vehicles and injuring the other driver. His insurance company could very well fight any payout because he was driving the car knowing the brakes were bad, and surmising that the rear-end collision was the result of ineffective braking equipment.

This could cost the driver tens of thousands of dollars. First, the other driver’s insurance company isn’t going to want to pay for their insured’s medical bills or car. The faulted driver’s insurance isn’t either. He could be left holding the bag. He’ll surely be sued for those damages. The uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on the victim’s policy may engage, but it may be well short of the amount necessary to make the victim whole. The rest is coming from the faulted driver’s pocket.

Makes a few hundred dollars’ worth of repairs seem like a real deal, doesn’t it?

If You’ve Been Hurt in a Crash That Was Not Your Fault, We’re Here to Help

Being injured in accident means you’re in pain, adds stress, and may make it difficult to work and earn a living. At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we understand. Let us handle your case so you can focus on getting better. For a free case evaluation, call us at 1-866-900-7078 or click here.

COVID-19 Reduces Traffic, Increases Speeding – and Risk

Even though fewer drivers are on the roads during the COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement agencies in some areas are seeing an alarming trend. Minnesota and Louisiana have recorded more traffic deaths during the coronavirus outbreak than for the same period in past years despite the reduced amount of traffic.

What’s driving the increase in traffic fatalities, even though the roads are clearer? In a word: speed.

Speeding: The Epidemic Within a Pandemic

When drivers see clear sailing, they seem to be putting the pedal down all across the country. Reports of increased speeding, higher average speed on roads, and increased rate of fatalities in accidents are not hard to come by.

  • In Pasco, Washington, police are noting speeders going 15 – 30 mph over the limit. The department even posted a warning on its social media page against street racing.
  • The Colorado State Patrol issued more citations for 20+ mph over and 40+ mph over the speed limit through March 2020 than it did in March 2019, despite reduced traffic volume.
  • For the one-month period starting on March 19 when California’s stay-at-home order was put in place, the California Highway Patrol reports it has issued 87% more citations for drivers exceeding 100mph than it did for the same period a year ago -2,493 statewide versus 1,335 a year ago – despite a 35% reduction in traffic volume (or perhaps because of it).
  • Police in Fairfax County, Virginia have cited drivers going 125mph and faster, and report that speed-related traffic fatalities have risen 47% since March 13, 2020.
  • In Connecticut, the number of drivers traveling 80 mph or greater has doubled overall – and in areas increased as much as eightfold. Meanwhile overall traffic volume has declined by half over the previous two-year average on certain major roads. The number of drivers traveling at 80 mph or more on those same roads has increased 94% over the previous two year average.
  • In response to a 30% increase in average speed for its drivers, Los Angeles modified its traffic signal programming to slow them down.
  • In Washington, D.C., a longtime traffic reporter saw two separate crashes requiring Medevac on the same stretch of I-270 within six hours of each other, with one car vaulting the median and landing in a tree. He said it was the first time in his decade of reporting that two such serious accidents happened on the same day, much less the same stretch of road.
  • In New York, automated speed cameras issued 24,765 speeding tickets on March 27, almost twice as many as the daily average a month before despite there being fewer cars on the road.

There are similar reports from nearly every tier of law enforcement nationwide. People are taking advantage of reduced congestion to increase their speed, sometimes to a ridiculous extent. A driver in Michigan was cited for doing 180 mph – a record for the state.

Average speeds for five large U.S. markets before and after COVID started

The Higher the Speed, the Bigger the Hurt

When most people speed their biggest worry, if there is one, is getting a speeding ticket. The fine and the possible effect on their insurance rates are the only things they seem concerned about, and those can be significant financial penalties. However, speed has another effect. It increases the likelihood of serious injuries or fatalities. Consider:

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an increase in average speed of just 1 kph – not even a single mile per hour – typically results in a 3% greater likelihood of a crash involving injury, and a 4-5% increase in the chance of a fatality.
  • The Institute for Road Safety Research has calculated that, if the average speed on a road decreased from 120 kph (74.5 mph) to 119 kph (73.9 mph), car accident fatalities could be reduced by 3.8% and serious road injuries could fall by 2.9%.
  • A University of Adelaide (Australia) study showed that the risk of an accident with serious injury doubled with every 5 kph a car was traveling above 60 kph. That’s every 3 mph over 37 mph for us here in the United States.

Where the Laws of Traffic and Physics Collide

If I told you that you were twice as likely to lose a limb for every 3 mph over 37 mph you traveled, would you slow down? I understand that’s a grisly and drastic example. Posted speed limits are there because the government considers those speeds reasonably safe to maintain, so let’s substitute the posted speed limit for 37 mph. So, if your risk of losing an arm or a leg doubled for every 3mph you were traveling over the speed limit, would you still be speeding?

Obviously not every car wreck results in a serious injury such as the loss of a limb, but the potential is there and the risk increases exponentially the faster you travel. Why? That’s simple: physics.

I won’t post a bunch of formulas here, but understand that you and your car, traveling at a certain speed, carry with you a certain amount of kinetic energy – the energy of motion. If your car were to suddenly stop traveling at that rate of speed, in an accident for example, that energy doesn’t just disappear. You can read up on the Law of Conservation of Energy here if you like. The point is, that kinetic energy doesn’t disappear; it has to be converted into some other form of energy.

Kinetic energy in a car accident is exerted/dissipated/dispersed in two ways. Because every action has an equal and opposite reaction, some of that kinetic injury doesn’t convert, it just goes the opposite direction. The car may be stopping in a hurry but you’re not part of the car so you keep traveling until you hit something — hopefully a seat belt or an airbag. Those safety devices are designed to take on the “equal and opposite reaction” that would force you to absorb all of that kinetic energy from the crash.

The other way kinetic energy is dispersed is into potential energy. Energy can be stored in matter. Think of a spring. If you compress it, you’re turning your force on it into potential energy that’s released when it rebounds. This is basically what crumple zones in cars are. They’re kinetic energy sinks that transform the force of a crash into potential energy. They work extraordinarily well but they have a limit, and once that limit is reached you and other people become those crumple zones. Our bodies aren’t designed to do that, and that’s why serious injuries or deaths occur.

Slow Down, Stay Safe, and if Someone Causes an Accident and You’re Injured, Call Us

The temptation to floor it on the newly-clear roads is a trap. Not just a speed trap, it could be a death trap. Stick with the posted limits. Put away your distractions, and concentrate on getting where you’re going safely.

We can’t protect you on the road, but if some reckless soul does cause a wreck and you or someone you love is injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to protect your rights. Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin online or by calling 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation. And drive safely!

The Case Against Distracted Driving: Facts, Statistics, and the Law

Numbers don’t lie – distracted driving increases the risk of accidents. Numerous studies have been conducted. So how much does the chance for an accident increase when drivers are distracted? How many people are using phones or otherwise distracted while driving? Is there a law against cell phone use while driving?

To spread the word during Distracted Driving Awareness Month and help answer those questions, we’ve compiled data from many different resources into easy-to-understand facts, and we’re presenting them as shareable graphics. Feel free to grab them and use them on social media or for presentations. Show them to your friends. The risk of being in an accident caused by a distracted driver is very, very real.

As experienced personal injury attorneys with many years working car accident injury cases, we mean business when we say: don’t drive distracted.

distracted driving fatalities in 2018 by type of victim

 

accident chances while distracted driving by type of distraction

 

economic impact of distracted driving ($40 million per year) vs. drunk driving ($44 million per year)

 

texting and driving is 6x more likely to lead to a crash than drinking and driving

 

Women and 16-24 year olds are more likely to be on the phone while driving

 

 

leading causes for driver error accidents in NC are speeding (33%), distracted driving (20%), and drunk driving (4%)

 

North Carolina forbids texting or emailing while driving

 

North Carolina fines $100 for emailing while driving, using a phone while driving a bus, and under 18 with provisional license

 

one of our every three female drivers admitted to taking photos while driving

 

Beware iPhone Users

A survey of mobile device users by The Zebra revealed some stunning differences between respondents who used different mobile operating systems.

iphone users are more likely to watch videos, text and drive, and respond to messages than android

 

660,000 drivers are using their cell phones while driving at any point during a day


1.6 million accidents each year are caused by texting and driving with 330,000 injuries

The typically car takes 563 feet to stop after checking a text message while driving 60mph

 

19.5% of mobile users completely disagree that distractions impair ability to drive

 

Cell Phones, Driving, and the Law Across the U.S.

As of 10/2019, 20 states and the District of Columbia banned handheld devices while driving, while 48 states plus D.C. have banned texting while driving with Montana having no ban, and Missouri having only a partial one. And 38 states, plus D.C., have enacted blanket bans on cell phone use while driving for younger drivers, though how they classify those drivers differs by state.

20/50 states banned handheld devices while driving, 48/50 banned texting, 38/50 banned for young drivers

 

38% of drivers 18-24 said familiar with state's texting and driving laws, 36% text and drive, 55% thought illegal in all states

 

Police Aren’t Always Capturing the Real Cause of Distracted Driving Accidents

According to the National Safety Council, no state fully captures the data required to understand what actually causes crashes to enable safety organizations to effectively address the problem.

The crash reports used by police are plainly lacking. Here are some critical data points and the number of states which fail to track them on their accident reports:

No states track driver fatigue or advance driver assistance technology on police reports

 

List of driver distractions including texting, children, grooming, and eating

 

voice-to-text offers no safety advantage over texting manually

 

The Gender Gap in Distracted Driving

According to data gathered in 2015, there are some interesting gaps in behavior regarding distracted driving between men and women:

Women are slightly more likely to be more cautious with texting or emailing while driving

 

1 out of 4 car accidents are from texting and driving, 21% of teen accidents on phone

 

Motivators for why people text and drive

 

Along for the Ride: How Passengers Say They Feel About Distracted Drivers

Driving while distracted is bad enough. Being a passenger and having your well-being in the hands of someone more interested in a text than the road? Most people aren’t having it:

most passengers do not feel safe with drivers sending or reading texts or emails while driving

 

Cell phones caused 26% of car accidents in the U.S. in 2014

 

Most to least distracting: Speech to text, driving and talking on a handheld, and driving hands-free