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Minneapolis Motor Vehicle Accidents Law Blog

Girl dies after snowy wreck with semitruck

The family of a Minnesota teen is mourning her loss after a mid-afternoon crash with a big rig on a snowy day claimed the 16-year-old Alden teen's life.

The deadly accident occurred on Monday, Feb. 17, at the intersection of County Road 14 and Hwy. 14 just northwest of Albert Lea in southern Minnesota, the Minnesota State Patrol (MSP) reported.

Semi-autonomous cars making drivers complacent

Each year, distracted driving claims the lives of motorists and pedestrians across the United States. In fact, federal statistics show that distracted drivers killed 3,166 people in 2017, and many of these fatal accidents took place in Minnesota.

Driverless vehicles are supposed to be the solution to this deadly issue. However, some experts say they are currently making the problem worse. While several companies are testing fully automated vehicles, it will be years before they are ready for the road. In the meantime, many advanced semi-autonomous features are being added to vehicles. These features use cameras, sensors and computer AI to observe a vehicle's surroundings and help a driver avoid collisions. For example, automatic emergency braking systems monitor the distance between a car and the vehicle in front of it. If the gap becomes too small, the system will apply the brakes, avoiding a forward collision. Meanwhile, lane departure warning systems can detect if a vehicle starts to drift from its lane and automatically steer it back to safety if the driver fails to act.

Multi-car crashes and how to establish fault

Multi-car crashes can be the fault of more than one driver, so determining liability can be difficult in these cases. Drivers in Minnesota should know the basics of determining liability, but it typically cannot be done without the help of crash investigators and police.

It starts with understanding the concept of negligence. Drivers who speed, follow another car too closely or use their phone behind the wheel are negligent and can be held liable for any crashes they cause. In the case of a multi-vehicle crash, it may happen where a negligent driver rear-ends one car that then rear-ends another. Driver A, who is at the front and receives the combined force of Drivers B and C, may file a claim against Driver C.

Hit-and-run driver who killed pedestrian turns herself in

A 24-year-old woman admitted to striking and killing a pedestrian and then fleeing the scene in southern Minnesota on the evening of Jan. 8. She has been charged with leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident and criminal vehicular homicide according to media reports. Both charges are felony counts. The charges were handed down in a Sibley County District Court hearing held on Jan. 9.

The fatal pedestrian accident took place at approximately 6:50 p.m. at the intersection of Fourth Street and Main Avenue in Gaylord. Emergency services personnel were dispatched to the scene when a passerby called 911 to report an elderly man lying injured in the road. Paramedics attempted to revive the 85-year-old man, but their efforts were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Ignition interlock devices can cause accidents

Ignition interlock devices help prevent people who have been convicted of drunk driving from driving their vehicles after they have drunk alcohol. While these devices save lives in Minnesota, they might also cause accidents.

The New York Times investigated ignition interlock devices and found that IIDs can contribute to accidents by distracting the drivers who must use them. Individuals who are required to have IIDs installed in their vehicles must blow into them to start their cars. If they have alcohol on their breath, their vehicles will not start.

Car safety features may cause distractions

Drivers in Minnesota and throughout the country may not fully understand what features such as adaptive cruise control are actually capable of doing. Therefore, they may rely on them more than they should while on the road. According to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist features can actually increase the risk of an accident. Research also found that drivers who used these features engaged in distracted driving twice as often as those who didn't.

The person responsible for overseeing the survey reminded drivers that they need to be alert at all times. While safety features can help to keep a person safe, they are not intended to override a person's judgment. However, it was noted that the features themselves are not dangerous if used correctly. Automakers were challenged to do more to help ensure that vehicle owners understood how to use lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control.

Proving negligence after a car accident

Minnesota residents who are involved in a car crash may be wondering how the concept of negligence will come into play. Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care, and in the case of drivers, that care is exercised toward other drivers and road users. When a driver's negligence directly causes injuries, property damage or other losses, then there may be a case against that person.

There are numerous ways that someone can be negligent behind the wheel. Speeding and tailgating are two of the most common forms of negligence. It should be noted that even following the speed limit can be considered negligent depending on road conditions. The same goes for the distance that drivers maintain from the vehicle in front of them. It takes longer to brake to a stop on slick roads.

Drowsy drivers and a few cautionary directives

In Minnesota and across the United States, catastrophic injuries often take place because of distracted and drowsy drivers. A negligent driver may suffer from sleepiness caused by lack of sleep, chronic insomnia, alcohol consumption or working late hours. According to a 2013 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, drowsy drivers caused approximately 72,000 car accidents, 44,000 personal injuries and 800 deaths in one year.

Studies show that as many as 6,000 catastrophic injuries occur each year because of drivers suffering from fatigue. Drivers should pay attention to a few warning signs attributed to drowsy driving, including frequent blinking and yawning, lane drifting and trouble recalling the miles already driven. In addition, sleepy drivers tend to miss their exits. Drowsy drivers can cause serious injuries to their victims. Truck drivers and bus drivers are prone to causing crashes due to driving long and late-night hours.

That hands-free phone doesn't keep drivers safe

You know that it's dangerous to send or read text messages while you drive, so you never do it. You just turn the notifications off. Similarly, you feel like it's dangerous -- though marginally safer -- to talk on the phone instead of texting. You still have to hold the phone with one hand, which means just one hand on the wheel. You decide not to do that, either.

What you turn to is a hands-free phone system. Maybe it's already built into your car. The phone syncs with the vehicle and you can use the built-in speakers to talk to people via your phone -- all without ever touching the device. That's safer, right?

Avoiding auto accidents in the winter

Minnesota residents who need to drive in winter weather should know what they must do to be safe. After all, accidents are more common when the roads are wet, icy or snowy. The first thing to do is to slow down because the faster a car goes, the less traction there is. Loss of traction increases braking distance, so drivers should keep far away from the vehicle in front. A distance of at least five to six seconds is recommended.

As for braking, it should be done smoothly and sooner than if the pavement was dry. Many cars are equipped with automatic braking as well as features like brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, so drivers should know how to brake properly with these systems. Braking to a complete stop should be avoided when possible because accelerating from that position is hard in adverse road conditions. Drivers who approach a light could keep some momentum until it turns green.

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