Types of Auto Accidents
The number of accidents resulting from distracted driving, drowsiness, and drunk driving is very alarming. As car wreck attorneys who represent injured victims of people included in these statistics, we felt it was important to cover in detail the types of behavior that cause suffering to innocent folks.
Falling Asleep At The Wheel
We all know there is an increasing shortage of sleep problems in the United States. Not surprisingly, the problem of not getting enough sleep is spilling into our roads. A recent CDC study said that 4.2% of adults have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel within the previous month. This is an alarming statistic. California is said to have the 3rd highest rate of drivers who snooze at the wheel. Keep in mind this number is actually low because some people do not realize they have fallen asleep or simply fail to admit it for whatever reason.
It won’t come as a surprise that hard-working adults between the ages of 25 and 34 are said to be the highest at risk for driving while fatigued or drowsy. Many of these types of crashes occur closer to the end of the day when people are getting off work while feeling tired.
The National Sleep Foundation conducted a poll in 2005 to find out how many drivers have driven while drowsy during the preceding year. Results showed an astonishing 60% of adults admitting to being behind the wheel while drowsy. For more information about drowsy driving visit DrowsyDriving.org
In 2011, California saw over 700 driving fatalities due to alcohol impairment. Just over 2,200 individuals survived drunk-driving accidents the same year. According to the CDC, almost one-third of all driving deaths involve drunk drivers nationwide. It is clear that drunk driving is still a major problem in the United States and the State of California despite heavy awareness promotion and outreach.
Nearly one third of all driving deaths involve drunk drivers.
Perhaps the most alarming fact is that one out of every three drunk drivers nationwide who suffered a fatal injury was between the ages of 21 and 24. These young drivers are closely followed by the 25 to 34 age group – at exactly one-third of reported fatal crashes. Young drivers put themselves and everyone else at risk when drinking and driving.
In California, the legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08 percent “Per se”. This means that once this limit has been established, a DUI case can be made against the impaired driver without further evidence probing. Many people fail to realize that is the legal limit that determines whether they are impaired, not their own judgment of how drunk they are. Even if a person passes the on-scene sobriety test, they can still be declared legally impaired.
Perhaps the most common type of accident, rear-end collisions occur when one vehicle runs into another from behind due to being unable to stop in time. Many of such accidents can be blamed for speeding and inattention. In California in particular it is easy to see why rear-end collisions are a frequent occurrence. Drivers often travel too fast and too close without any regard to stopping time or distance. People are always trying to get somewhere in a hurry and seem to be content with sacrificing their lives just to get seconds ahead by breaking important driving rules.
Out of all crashes reported in 2008, nearly a third were rear-end collisions.
Distractions are another major concern for public policymakers. Distracted driving has become a growing problem not only nationwide but in California and Los Angeles in particular. We wrote a blog post on distracted driving not long ago, describing how the “earbud epidemic” was responsible for over 3,000 deaths in 2010.
Distracted driving has become such a problem that the U.S. Government created a website dedicated entirely to distraction awareness. The website includes alarming statistics by prominent trade associations, institutes, and universities from all over the states.
In 2008, Science Daily reported that out of nearly 6 million crashes recorded in 2006 nearly a third were rear-end collisions. According to a university study, drivers are not able to detect that a car in front of them is slowing down unless it’s faster than 8-10 miles per hour. A collision warning system was proposed as a solution to this inability to determine minor speed change.
Typical rear-end collision injuries include:
- Damage to the soft tissue of the cervical spine, also known as whiplash
- Damage to the spinal cord
- Damage to the soft tissue of the thoracic and lumbar spine
- Head injuries including face and neck damage (especially when headrests are absent)
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), side collisions are responsible for over a quarter of all passenger vehicle deaths. This frequency is attributed to lesser vehicle body protection as you would typically have in a head-on or rear-end collision. The side of the vehicle is typically less fragile and often contains only an airbag. That airbag is only good if deployed on time and the driver’s head is positioned so that it touches it instead of the frame. Shorter persons find themselves at greater risk for serious injury in side-impact collisions because the air bag doesn’t always align properly, resulting in the head hitting the frame of the vehicle.
In a rollover accident, the vehicle flips to the side of the roof usually as a result of turning sharply at great speeds. Older vehicles, cars with poor stability equipment and SUV’s are often involved in rollovers.
Some people believe SUV’s are a safer choice for a vehicle because they are bulkier, failing to consider that they’re more likely to roll over and result in fatal injuries. In fact, 39 percent of Americans who feel more powerful in an SUV (according to a National Consumer Survey of 2005) may be mistaken. SUV rollovers comprised 37 percent of fatal crashes compared to 15 percent for cars, according to the same survey.
SUV rollovers comprised 37 percent of fatal crashes compared to 15 percent for cars.
Rollovers are also said to be the most dangerous type of crash that results in a fatality. Page 3 of the“Characteristics of Fatal Rollover Crashes” report by the U.S. Department of Transportation shows just how deadly light trucks and SUVs are in comparison to cars when it comes to a rollover.
CAUSE FOR INJURIES AND FATALITIES
Studies find that most rollover accident deaths occurred due to a lack of seat belt use by passengers. Ejected passengers (those who did not wear a seat belt) were nearly twice as likely to die. Speeding has been cited as a major factor in the cause of rollover accidents.
If you had to guess how most head-on collisions occur, what would you say? You may be thinking that most head-on collisions occur when one vehicle tries to pass another. Or, you might even venture to say vehicles smash head-on in construction zones. Either one of those guesses would be wrong. Most head-on collisions occur in non-passing situations, typically on a rural two-lane undivided road according to a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Highway Safety Information Systems (HSIS) studies.
WHAT IS CAUSING HEAD-ON COLLISIONS?
Although nobody knows exactly, head-on collision statistics seem to point finger at drivers making (and we’re quoting) “unintentional” maneuvers. With all of the distractions that exist in today’s vehicles, it may be easy to conclude that distracted driving makes up a large number of such maneuvers. From eating and drinking, phones, music devices, texting, limited hearing; it could be that people are simply not paying full attention to the road.
Another recent development suggests that more and more drivers are falling asleep at the wheel. It could be that drivers doze off, look up at the road, and swerve to avoid an object or a vehicle in front of them.
Examples of Accidents: SUV Rollover in Deadly Street Racing
Police are looking for information surrounding a vehicle rollover that left one man dead and five injured in Long Beach last Saturday, on January 20, 2013, at approximately 8:42 pm. Little is known about the exact cause of the crash, but police believe the car was involved in a street race. The vehicle was believed to have been speeding east down Del Amo Blvd when the driver lost control, struck the center divider, and rolled over multiple times.
While the exact cause of the crash remains unknown, police have revealed that they are reportedly interested in talking with the driver of a new model Infinity that was seen leaving the scene of the crash as police arrived. First responders reported seeing the SUV overturned in the middle of the road upon their arrival.
Of the six people who were in the car, four were thrown from the vehicle as it rolled and two had to be extracted from the wreckage of the car by emergency responders. All six of the occupants were transported to a local hospital where two were shortly released, three were listed in critical but stable condition, and one had expired from his wounds. The deceased was identified as Vernon Onofia, who was just 29 years old.
If in fact the reason the vehicle overturned was that its driver was racing another vehicle on the road, then this was a preventable tragedy. The best way to avoid being the loser in a street race isn’t to accelerate, but to avoid competing in the race altogether. Never mind the argument that drivers on the road have nothing to prove to other drivers — subjecting responsible drivers to the consequences of the reckless is simply unfair and carries too many risks of unintended consequences.
As illustrated in the example above, the death of one of the occupants of the vehicle was a major unintended consequence of this alleged street race.
Even in less tragic scenarios where property damage is the only result of reckless driving, the damage caused by a street race can create a major financial burden for those involved. Without a car, an individual can’t work or perform routine daily functions as many of our destinations today require significant distance traversing.
Avoid Road Rage and Street Race Confrontations
- Avoid confrontations with other drivers by letting aggressive drivers pass you on the road.
- If you’re in your car and see another set of cars appear as if they are going to race, let those cars continue on and don’t be in a hurry to catch up — let them travel at their pace but be prepared for potential sudden stops.
- Also, as always, ensure your seat belt is on. In case the worst does happen and you are involved in a collision, you can significantly increase your chances of survival.
For some reason, being in control of a car can make some people think irrationally. Do yourself a favor and stay out of the headlines – don’t let your emotions or pride get the better of you while you’re on the road; your fellow drivers will appreciate it.
Rollovers are quite typical for SUV’s as cited here in the “Rollover Accidents” section. Seeing such scenarios in the news supports the findings presented by the U.S. Department of Transportation. What’s even more interestingly supported by the findings is that most deaths occur due to passengers being thrown out of the vehicle, because no seat belt was used.
Ejected passengers are nearly twice as likely to die in rollovers.
It is important to buckle up no matter which seat you are occupying while in a moving vehicle, especially an SUV. No matter what type of activity you’re engaged in, SUVs are more susceptible to rollovers due to their size, shape, and weight distribution. Without knowing all of the facts in this situation it would be improper to make any sort of definitive conclusion, but we can always keep in mind safe practice rules when driving.
Slippery Road Conditions May Have Been Responsible for L.A. Crashes
Reports indicate that slick roads may have been the cause of a six crash chain reaction involving a total of 16 cars on Highway 101 in Hollywood on the morning of January 25, 2013. The accident resulted in one infant and seven others were taken to an area hospital — one of whom was listed in critical condition. Wet pavement is responsible for over 77% of total weather-related fatalities.
According to the California Highway Patrol, the chain of events that would immobilize the southbound lanes of the 101 near Barham in Hollywood all started with a single crash that occurred twenty minutes past midnight. Five additional crashes would follow. At one point, when an occupant of one of the vehicles involved in one of the crashes exited his vehicle, he was struck by another driver involved in the pile-up. Highway patrol officials have stated that they do not believe alcohol was involved in any of the crashes and do not believe that any of the drivers will be charged.
Slick Road Accident Statistics
According to the Federal Highway Administration, 24% of all vehicle crashes are weather-related. Over 7,000 people are killed each year nationally due to weather conditions. Wet pavement is responsible for over 77% of total weather-related fatalities. Reduced pavement friction causes tires to slip, thus making it difficult for drivers to stop in time.
Speed Correlation with Skid Resistance
Although modern pavements are designed to be fairly skid-resistant, friction is decreased considerably at higher speeds. Thus, the majority of accidents involving slick roads are speed-related. Following distance is, by all means, a factor when considering speeds during adverse weather conditions. Generally speaking, as the tire’s velocity increases, skid resistance decreases, no matter the condition of the road surface. This is supported by the concept of slip speed or general velocity used in studying road surfaces by various government and legal bodies. For more information on skid resistance, see “Evaluation of Pavement Friction Characteristics” synthesis by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP).
Take Precautionary Measure to Reduce Risk
This unfortunate series of early morning car accidents just goes to show how important it is for vehicle operators everywhere to stay alert and drive aware. With 16 car crashes reported that night, it is likely that at least some of those could have been prevented. Slick roads are not something that Los Angeles drivers usually encounter, but with cautious driving, no distractions, and environmental awareness, they can be just as safe to traverse as dry roads.
Unfortunately, no amount of planning can shield even the most cautious of drivers from the risk of being involved in some kind of vehicle related accident, especially in a place with roads as congested as Los Angeles. By following some simple tips, they can, however, be more prepared for a collision if it does happen.
Distracted Driving in Los Angeles
In January of this year, there was a lot of awareness about accidents involving pedestrians who wear headphones. The news picked up fairly quickly on the new study numbers. Los Angeles Times, New York Times, BusinessWeek among hundreds of other media outlets put a spotlight on the issues surrounding the use of headphones by pedestrians and their involvement in accidents. Personal injury lawyers picked up on this as well and wrote about how to keep safe — which is all really great.
It’s illegal to wear headsets or earplugs in both ears while driving in California.
There needs to be awareness of distractions and how they can result in accidents. However, distractions are not limited to pedestrians alone. Drivers are constantly distracted behind the wheel with all sorts of gadgets and toys including but not limited to listening to music with headphones or earphones. In Los Angeles, people seem to ignore the fact that it’s illegal to wear headphones and earphones in both ears while driving. There are certain exemptions but none that apply to a typical driver like you or me.
The Ear Buds Epidemic
The “earbuds epidemic” as it has been dubbed by one local blogger is not only annoying and illegal but dangerous too. “In 2010, 3092 people have been killed in crashes involving a distracted driver” – according to Distraction.gov (Official U.S. Government website for distracted driving.) Although not mandated by federal law, headphone use while driving has been banned in many states by state law including California. Drivers who wear headphones or earbuds in both ears often fail to yield to emergency vehicles, and most of all can’t hear the traffic around them – sometimes resulting in accidents.
In Los Angeles, a driver breaking the law by isolating themselves from the sound of the road is a prevailing occurrence that doesn’t get much attention. As if there aren’t enough distractions as it is, some people feel the need to listen to their music through headphones while driving. If abiding by the law is not a good enough reason to wait out on headphone use until you get home, at least have the decency of not endangering others in a potential accident.
People are constantly getting into car accidents in Los Angeles, often resulting in terrible injuries. It doesn’t take much to get distracted and run into a car pulling out of a parking structure or failing to hear the warning of another vehicle in case of emergency. Vehicle horns were installed for a reason – to warn others of potential danger, but of what use are they if you can’t hear them?
Do you see drivers who cover both of their ears while driving?
Simple Safety Tips:
- Slow down.
- Keep a safe distance from other vehicles, especially when adverse road conditions are present.
- Always drive with a seat belt, no matter how short a journey is. Even if you’re traveling at a safe speed, there is no guarantee that other drivers are doing the same. The statistics and stories of survivors don’t lie – seat belts save lives.
- Never exit your vehicle following an accident on a highway or busy road. We have discussed this issue in a previous post but it’s worth mentioning again. Pull over to a parking lot or other designated parking area. If this isn’t possible, stay bucked up in the vehicle until emergency responders or a tow truck arrives. Wait for instructions of emergency responders.
- If you’re approaching an accident on the roadway, slow down safely and focus on the road. As a matter of social responsibility, you may not want to assume that the authorities have been alerted to an accident that looks bad – if you decide to call for assistance on behalf of the victims, exit the highway or roadway and find a safe place to park before making the call. You may be a bit nervous and flustered by the questions, so you will want to afford the operator your full attention.
- Finally, remember that the speed limit isn’t a requirement, especially when road conditions warrant slower speeds. On slick or icy roads, it’s best to drive below the speed limit, not to match it.
Who is Liable?
Cell Phone Distractions
Cell phone use can also cause the driver to be distracted and unable to pay as much attention to the road as they should when driving. One distraction that happens often is taking your eyes off the road to answer your mobile phone. Even though you may only take your eyes off the road for just a few seconds, those few seconds can make a difference in whether or not you can see and react to a situation fast enough or not. This is especially true if you have to reach down on the floorboard to retrieve a dropped phone.
Talking drivers may also get into an emotional conversation and be too upset to notice the situation on the road ahead of them. One example of this would be not seeing a child crossing the road because you were upset at the time and were not directing your full concentration to the road.