blood alcohol concentration - BAC, blood alcohol levels - BAL, cannabis, Crashes and Collisions, Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, DUID, DWAI, FARS, fatalities, Field Sobriety Tests, Legislative Affairs, marajuana, medical marijuana, NHTSA, Road Safety Research, traffic fatalities, Traffic Safety, Victims of DUI

Happy 4/20, Prepare for DUIs

420

Today, April  20th (4/20 or 420), is marjuana’s high holiday for the eight states and the District of Columbia that now allow recreational use of marijuana, and 30+ states that  allow its use for medical purposes.  There is even talk from Democrats about introducing a bill in Washington to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances. But today, cannabis is still a controlled illegal substance at the Federal level, it is still illegal to transport cannabis products across state lines, still produces effects on driving that can lead to a DUI or DUID arrest, and it still incredibly difficult to standardize for safety and quality controls. Cannabis is the most phyto-chemically complex plant on the planet. It is an impossible task trying to ensure all plants, even of the same cannabis genotype, have all the same chemical profile.

Some might make the comparison between alcohol prohibition and cannabis, both Federal legislative measures prohibiting the production, importation, transportation and sale of related products on a national level. History has shown that lifting alcohol prohibition has not eliminated the abuse – and resulting consequences – that leads to impaired driving. According to the NHTSA, in 2016 there were 10,497 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentration of .08 g/dL, the minimum legal limit for DUI nationwide for adults over 21. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System,  the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes testing positive for marijuana rose 88 percent from 2013 to 2015. A Denver Post  analysis of data and coroner briefings report the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana had risen sharply each year since 2013, more than doubling in that time; state law, however, does not require coroners to test deceased drivers specifically for marijuana use in fatal crashes.

Starting with Oregon in 1973, individual states began to liberalize cannabis laws through decriminalization. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, sparking a trend that spread to over 30 states by 2017. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Have roads in these states become more dangerous since the drug’s legalization in its various forms? The Post’s findings include:

  • Marijuana is figuring into more fatal crashes overall. In 2013, drivers tested positive for the drug in about 10 percent of all fatal crashes. By 2016, it was 20 percent.
  • More drivers are testing positive for marijuana and nothing else. Of the drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 who tested positive for cannabinoids, more than 52 percent had no alcohol in their system. By 2016, it had grown to 69 percent.
  • The average age of drivers in deadly crashes in 2015 who tested positive for marijuana was nearly 35, with a quarter of them over 40.
  • In 2016, of the 115 drivers in fatal wrecks who tested positive for marijuana use, 71 were found to have Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in their blood, indicating use within hours, according to state data. Of those, 63 percent were over 5 nanograms per milliliter, the state’s limit for driving.

Both alcohol and marijuana can affect a driver’s ability to think and solve problems, coordination, reaction time, judgment, memory and mood. While science has figured out just exactly how alcohol impacts the body’s organs, systems and functions, the same cannot be said of cannabis. Results of field sobriety tests, including blood and urine sampling as well as breathalyzers, can tell if a driver’s blood alcohol level is over the legal limit. No test can tell whether a driver is too high to drive because of smoking or inhaling, popping pills, eating or vaporizing cannabis products. Unlike alcohol, the active ingredients that cause the cannabis high can remain detectable in the blood stream for days or weeks; unlike alcohol, the impairment does not wears off in a matter of hours, and no amount of food intake will change the effects. Law enforcement officials, prosecutors and public policy makers concede there’s still too little information about marijuana and how it is detected to understand just how much the drug is affecting traffic fatalities.

Crashes and Collisions, Drowsy Driving, fatalities, Fatigue, Uncategorized

Summer – Worst Season For Car Crashes

Summer has arrived – no snow, ice or other weather-related factors infamous for contributing to road hazards. Summer, however, is the worst time of the year for car crashes.  Summertime means vacation time, where more people are on the road. campingvan_vacationtimeWhether travelling across the country in a travelvan or camper, jumping in your car for a road trip, or just escaping for a staycation around town, people have places to go when the weather gets warm. According to the National Highway & Traffic Safety Administration,  there were 35,092 traffic fatalities in 2015, the latest year for which statistics are available for the entire year. Most (9,708) occurred during the third quarter, July through September, followed by fourth quarter fatalities (9,284) during October through December, second quarter fatalities (8,765) during April through June and first quarter fatalities (7,335) during January through March.

Perhaps more traffic fatalities happen during warm weather months because people tend to stay at home during the cold weather months – it’s not a pleasant ordeal to hit the road when it is freezing outside, not to mention the weather-related factors serving as road hazards. Plus, more people save their vacation time for summer, when the kids are out of school and the weather is great. What can you do to prepare for the warm weather road travel? First and foremost, plan
your trip. Driving for long stretches can cause fatigue and drowsy driving. Beware of the symptoms that should tell a driver to stop and rest.

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids.
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs.
  • Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes.
  • Trouble keeping your head up.

Yawning while drivingAccording to the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll, 60% of Americans have driven while feeling sleepy and 37% admit to actually having fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year. However, many people cannot tell if or when they are about to fall asleep. Studies show that sleepiness can impair driving performance as much or more so than alcohol. The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that one out of every six (16.5%) deadly traffic accidents, and one out of eight (12.5%) crashes requiring hospitalization of car drivers or passengers is due to drowsy driving. (AAA, 2010). One analysis estimated the cost of automobile accidents attributed to sleepiness to be between $29.2 to $37.9 billion.

Research has revealed a few indicators of drowsiness and drowsy driving. that include:

  • Frequent blinking, longer duration blinks and head nodding
  • Having trouble keeping one’s eyes open and focused
  • Memory lapses or daydreaming
  • Drifting from one’s driving lane or off the road

Currently, there is no definitive physiologic test or detection system for drowsiness equivalent to the breath analyzers used to detect drunk driving.

The National Sleep Foundation has published a White Paper on Drowsy Driving, containing more details about Drowsy Driving being a prevalent and serious public health issue that deserves more attention, education, and policy initiatives. Their aim is to avert drowsy driving crashes so a substantial amount of lives can be saved.

Bodily Injury, Car insurance, Crashes and Collisions, Head-on Collisions, Hit and Run, Lane Crossovers, Multi-Vehicle Crashes, Property Damage, Rear-End Crashes, Recalls, Road Hazards, Rollovers, Sideswipe Crashes, T-bone collisions, Tort, Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists

Get the details of a car crash

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Car crashes can be life changing, especially when you or your loved ones are the victims. Watch the various Victim Impact Panel stories on YouTube and you’ll hear the recurring theme – “it happened in a flash”, “we never saw it coming”, “we were driving one minute and the next minute we were hit”…..

Vehicle crashes are usually classified by attorneys as falling into distinct categories: Head-on Collisions, Hit-and-Run, Lane Crossover, Multi-Vehicle Crash, Rear-End Crashes, Rollovers,  Sideswipe or T-Bone Collisions, and Single-Vehicle Crashes. These are descriptive enough for an attorney to follow an established procedure for discovery. It’s a good idea to write down the basics –
          *  When – What was the date of your car accident?
          *  Where – Where did your accident occur?
          *  Who – Who were the other drivers involved?
Were you hurt in the collision? You are not alone. Over 37,000 people die in road crashes each year with an additional 2.35 million injured or disabled. Road crashes cost the U.S. $230.6 billion per year, or an average of $820 per person. Regardless the details, car crashes inflict pain and suffering from injuries, in addition to causing frustration, stress and confusion. Are you properly insured? All states require that automobile liability insurance policies carry minimum coverage, with the average minimum being:
$15,000 for bodily injury or death of one person in any one accident;
$30,000 for bodily injury or death of two or more persons in any one accident;
$10,000 for damage or destruction of other’s property in any one crash.

But are these amounts really enough? Insurance is meant to protect a driver’s current and future assets. If the policy does not provide enough car insurance to cover damages caused by a driver to people or property, there could be legal action to sue for the additional costs. If you think about it, $15,000 for bodily injury may not even cover the cost of an ambulance, emergency room, pharmacy, etc. for a person injured in a traffic crash. If the injured person has medical expenses that exceed $15,000, as is usually the case, it is entirely possible for that individual to bring a lawsuit against you to recover the additional medical expenses not covered by your automobile insurance.

Additionally, most states do not mandate medical insurance for the driver be covered by car insurance. Therefore, if you are injured in a motor vehicle crash and you have inadequate or no private medical insurance, you will be held responsible for all costs of medical care provided to you. Check with your insurance agent to determine whether you should consider adding Medical Payments (Medpay) for treating injuries to you and your passengers without regard to fault. It also pays for treating injuries resulting from being struck as a pedestrian by a motor vehicle.

Knowing the extent of the injuries resulting from the crash will be helpful for the attorney guiding you through the claims process. Any medical documentation is good to have. Consider the aftermath of a car crash – piles of medical bills, missed work, the insurance paperwork – all very time-consuming and costly. Auto insurance in itself is quite complicated. All states regulate the insurance industry, and many offer policyholders coverage options, for example, choosing full tort or limited tort. What is the difference? Full Tort allows a person to sue for pain and suffering. With Limited Tort, an insured forfeits the right to compensation for pain and suffering. Typically, Limited Tort offers you a small discount on your monthly premium. But buyer beware – when you are injured in a car crash, saving a few dollars a month on car insurance doesn’t come near to being sufficiently compensated for the emotional and physical suffering of a crash, which can be life-changing and stay with you for a long time after the incident.

Don’t forget the police report. Most states require a police report for traffic collisions, especially those involving injury or death. These types of police reports are public records, so request a copy. Were there any witnesses? If so, try to collect their contact information. What about auto defects? Every year, vehicle safety features get more advanced in their design to prevent injuries. But these products often fail — consider the recent recall of 85 million Takata air bags. The problem was centered on aluminum nitrate, the chemical compound used to inflate air bags. When exposed to moisture, drastic temperature changes, or age, aluminum nitrate can break down and become unstable, leading air bags to explode, sending pieces of metal into cars, injuring their drivers and passengers. Those explosions led to significant injuries including bone fractures, lacerations, traumatic brain injuries and blindness. Vehicles made by 19 different automakers have been recalled to replace frontal airbags on the driver’s side or passenger’s side, or both in what NHTSA has called “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.”

Other factors to consider when documenting a vehicle crash include road defects.  There are many road conditions that could cause you to lose control of your vehicle and crash, including objects on the road, ice/snow/black ice, confusing signs or lack thereof, potholes, steep shoulders (drop-offs), unsafe work zones, pooling water that can lead to hydroplaning, windy roads with no lines, and wheel ruts. Documenting these defects can be time-sensitive, as evidence might disappear with a change in the weather or repairs being completed.

Review Your Auto Insurance Coverageinsurancepolicy_edited-1

Buying a new policy? Updating an existing one? There are recommended minimum coverage for auto insurance that covers Tort (pain & suffering), Bodily Injury Liability, Property Damage Liability, Medical Expense Benefits, Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists Coverage (UM/UIM), Roadside Assistance, Missed Work and Funeral Benefits. Having the proper insurance coverage might result in a slightly higher premium, but it will save you thousands when you need it most. Speak with your insurance agent about adjusting your deductibles if you are worried that your monthly premium will be too high.

Of particular importance is the UM/UIM coverage that applies to the driver, as well as family members living in the same household, in the event of a car crash. UM/UIM coverage will help pay for the costs related to accidents with uninsured or underinsured drivers whether you are a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or the victim of a hit-and-run. According to a 2014 study by the Insurance Information Institute, 12.6% percent of American drivers had no insurance. The most recent data from the Insurance Research Council show higher estimates – a little over14% percent of the driving population is uninsured. Nationwide, there’s about a 1-in-8 chance a crash will involve an uninsured driver, with a 1 in 5 chance of finding an uninsured motorist on the road in six states. Recommended minimum coverage limits are $100,000 per person / $300,000 per occurrence. With these limits, UM/UIM can help pay for medical bills, pain and suffering and property damage.

Remember, you can change your car insurance policy at any time – just call your insurance agency or agent – before the unexpected happens.