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Minneapolis Motor Vehicle Accidents Law Blog

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.

NHTSA says traffic deaths are on the decline

Minnesota pedestrians may be in greater danger than in previous years even though overall, fatalities from motor vehicle accidents declined around the country in 2018 for the second year in a row. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also said that the estimates from the first six months of 2019 show that the trend is likely to continue. This comes after two years of an increase in fatalities. That was attributed to more driving as a result of an improved economy. It is believed that more safety technology in vehicles has contributed to the decrease.

Statistics were worse for pedestrians as well as cyclists. For pedestrians, deaths increased by 3.4%, and for cyclists and others on vehicles with pedals, the increase was 6.3%. Most of the pedestrian deaths happened at night, and most happened away from intersections. Alcohol was a factor in some cases. The NHTSA said it would also be looking at the role of SUVs in the rise since their height meant it was more difficult to see pedestrians or cyclists.

5 steps for preventing car crashes

Minnesota drivers should be aware that there were about 40,000 car crash fatalities and 4.5 million car crash injuries in the U.S. in 2018. Every seven seconds, someone in this country is injured in an auto accident. To avoid becoming a statistic, and to keep others from becoming one as well, drivers may want to consider the following tips.

The first is very basic: to keep at least one hand on the steering wheel at all times and to know when both hands are necessary (for example, for sharp turns). This is tied to the second tip, which is to avoid all phone use unless one is talking on a hands-free device. All it takes is for a driver to look down a few seconds for an accident to happen. Phone use can lead drivers to unconsciously take their hands off the wheel.

Road rage incidents are on the rise

Road rage incidents are becoming worryingly common in Minnesota and around the country, and experts do not believe much can be done to solve the problem. Data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that the number of deadly crashes caused by enraged drivers rose precipitously between 2006 and 2015, and another study indicates that an average of two American motorists point a gun at another road user every day.

It may be easy to blame road rage incidents on a tiny minority of drivers with serious anger management problems, but an American Automobile Association driver survey suggests that the problem is far more widespread. Eight out of 10 of the motorists polled admitted to succumbing to serious anger while behind the wheel on at least one occasion during the preceding 12 months, and more than half of them told researchers that they deliberately tailgate vehicles to intimidate their drivers.

Automated technologies reduce car accidents

Many drivers in Minnesota are interested in how the growing slate of technologies aiming to improve roadway safety through automation might enhance their daily commutes. While not yet fully autonomous, vehicles with these technologies point to the potential for self-driving cars. Many drivers wonder how much of an impact the features actually have on reducing car accidents. According to one study released by GM, these technologies can have a significant effect. That effect is magnified when multiple autonomous technologies are combined on one vehicle.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute analyzed police car crash data from 10 states. They were provided with over 3.8 million VINs from GM, corresponding to vehicles produced between 2013 and 2017. By comparing GM's VIN data to that in the police reports, researchers were able to identify which cars had advanced driver assistance systems installed. They were also able to compare those numbers to the total number of equipped and unequipped cars sold.

The effects of alcohol on traffic accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 30 traffic fatalities every day are caused by drunk driving in Minnesota and throughout the country. Alcohol intoxication causes serious accidents for a variety of reasons, including reduced judgment, loss of motor control, impaired thinking and other negative effects on the mind and body. While the legal limit for driving is a BAC of .08, even smaller amounts of intoxication can cause problems.

Car crashes involving drunk drivers are a particularly big problem for young people. In 2017, 42% of drunk driving-related fatalities were caused by drivers between the ages of 18 and 24. Incidents of intoxicated driving go down as drivers age, which is partly why all states have adopted a drinking age of 21. Men are also more likely to get behind the wheel drunk than women.

What happens when the other driver doesn't have insurance?

You carry motor vehicle insurance to protect yourself from liability in a collision where you are at fault. When another driver causes a motor vehicle crash, their insurance policy is the one that is supposed to pay for your property damage, lost wages and medical expenses. Sometimes, your policy will pay up front and then subrogate the claims to the other company. Other times, they will insist you bill the other driver's insurance.

Unfortunately, not everyone who drives on the Minnesota public roads will have the necessary insurance to protect you when they cause a collision.

Avoiding drowsiness behind the wheel

Minnesota drivers will want to make sure they avoid being drowsy behind the wheel. Sometimes, when there is a lack of comprehensive public transportation, drivers cannot help but travel drowsy. Other times, though, drivers are more clearly negligent.

For example, those who take prescription sleep aids know that they must sleep seven to eight hours before driving to overcome the grogginess. But one 2018 Consumer Reports survey, which involved 1,767 adult drivers in the U.S., found that one in five who take sleep aids head out within seven hours.

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