Calendar year 2015 did not provide great news for motorists in Georgia. Not only was there a spike in the total number of people killed in car accidents across the state last year, but there also appears to be a rise in the number of people killed in alcohol-related car accidents. The rise in Georgia's car accident fatalities numbers is concerning. After declines were reported for close to nine consecutive years, traffic accident death numbers actually increased in 2015. In 2015, more than 1,300 people died in car accidents, and at least 25 % of those fatalities are estimated to have involved an impaired motorist. The 25% number has not been confirmed yet, because the final numbers are still being compiled. Exact details about the alcohol percentage in each of these fatalities is not yet known, but based on past data, it's quite reasonable to believe that the 2015 numbers involving drunk driving was very high. According to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals that two years ago, 27% all traffic accident fatalities were directly linked to intoxicated motorists. It can take months for lab results to arrive and be verified, and final statistics for 2015 will not be confirmed until months from now. However, all initial indicators point to an increase in the number of people killed as a direct result of being involved in an accident with an intoxicated motorist. Continue Reading
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Alcohol and Holiday Travel Don't Mix

You know who doesn’t take the day off for Labor Day? The police! As a matter of fact, law enforcement departments across the country have announced they’re cracking down on careless driving and DUIs this weekend like never before.

There’s good reason for that.

Labor Day is the second deadliest holiday in America. (Only Thanksgiving claims more lives.) Each year, this single weekend sees tens of thousands of arrests on the highways, and the overwhelming majority of them are for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

With AAA projecting the busiest Labor Day in nearly a decade, and as police chiefs make a vow of vigilance, we may very well see those numbers reach an all-time high this weekend.

Don’t take chances. A DUI can ruin your life — or even end it. Hundreds of Americans are killed in drunk driving crashes every Labor Day weekend, nearly half of them children. It is truly better to be safe than sorry.

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Filing a Claim against an Aggressive Driver

Aggressive driving is defined as driving that involves a combination of one or more traffic offenses that place other motorists at risk of an accident. If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident involving an aggressive driver, it's important to understand your legal rights and hire the best attorney.

An aggressive driver could be engaged in a number of different driving practices that threaten his own safety, and the safety of people around him.  Aggressive drivers often don’t consider the human element, and have little regard for the safety of other motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.  Simply stated, a motor vehicle in the hands of an aggressive driver turns into a dangerous weapon.

Typically, the following driving behaviors may be included in the definition of aggressive driving.

  • Speeding. This includes not only driving above the posted speed limits, but also driving at speeds that are excessive for the prevailing traffic and weather conditions.
  • Improper lane changing including failure to signal intent before changing lanes.
  • Improper passing including failure to use turn signals, or passing on the shoulder or over a double yellow line.

All of these above mentioned behaviors can increase the risk of an accident, but aggressive driving can also include any other types of negligent driving that places motorists at risk.  

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Drunk Driver Warning for Fourth of July

Independence Day is the holiday highlight of the summer, but it’s also the deadliest weekend of the year where traffic accidents are concerned.

So before the parades roll out, the cymbals clash, and sparklers light the sky, we want to issue an important word of warning to all our clients, neighbors, and friends in the community: people will be driving under the influence of alcohol this weekend.


Each year, DUI ranks as the #1 cause of death for travelers during the Fourth of July. These are preventable deaths caused by the careless decisions of revelers who take the party too far. You don’t have to be one of their victims.

Please keep your family safe this holiday. Give our guidelines a glance and put them into practice all weekend long.

How to Spot a Drunk Driver

Fireworks are easy to see — they light up the whole sky. Drunk drivers aren’t always so obvious, but by keeping a careful lookout, you can sometimes spot them before it’s too late.

Here’s what to look for in other motorists:

• Driving at a very slow speed

• Taking extremely wide turns

• Weaving in and out of lanes

• Unaware that their headlights are off

• Narrowly avoiding accidents or objects in the road

• Straddling the highway dividers

• Repeatedly entering the road’s shoulder

• Stopping at green lights

• Running red lights

• Using turn signals that don’t make sense

• Any other signs of dangerous, reckless, or unfocused driving

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What To Do When You've Been in an Accident

 When it comes to car accidents, there’s a broad spectrum of damage and the emotions that accompany it. From the bitter annoyance of your car getting bumped in a parking lot to the absolute turmoil of a more serious, life threatening accident. Where ever an accident falls on the spectrum, there is one emotion that can follow any accident: dread. In the weeks following a very minor incident in a crowded parking garage, I felt this dread. My driving became hyper aware, nervous that a possible accident was around ever corner. While this rapt attention is certainly appropriate, the dread only subsided when I recognized how to react when an accident does occur. In this post today, we’ll discuss what to do when you’re in an accident.

Keep in mind, every accident is different. Some steps apply more to certain types of car accidents than others. Think of each step as being prefaced with “as necessary.”

  1. Stay calm!

During a car accident, even the most minor ones, your adrenaline shoots up! It is hard to stay focused on getting the proper information from the other driver and assessing the situation. While this is not entirely a bad thing, as you’re often focusing on your and your passengers’ physical well-being, it can present an obstacle if you’re unable to exchange insurance information, call the police, or remain safe at the scene of the accident.

2. Call the police.

If there is significant property damage, bodily injury, or death, this step is absolutely crucial. Unfortunately, without a police report of the accident, the accident can become a he said/she said circumstance. Police officers can mitigate the confusion in these instances. Keep in mind, without a police report, it’s hard for the involved insurance carriers and attorneys to truly understand or prove what actually happened.

3.  Assess Injuries.

When our clients choose the Katz team, there is one thing we always emphasize over everything else: get better! There is nothing more important than getting the medical treatment you need after an accident, both immediately and in the days and months afterwards.

Immediately following an accident, it is crucial to assess the injuries of all those involved. At times, you may be called upon to help administer first aid or request it yourself. In some circumstances, reacting quickly can be the difference between harm and heartbreak. As necessary, seek medical attention at the scene and proceed to the hospital as needed.

4. Exchange Information.

Don’t expect the other driver to volunteer their insurance information immediately. For a range of reasons, this step can be forgotten or ignored, but it is absolutely crucial. Do you best to gather their name, insurance provider, policy number, car make and model, and license plate number. Be courteous with the other driver, but don’t place blame on either party (e.g. “I’m so sorry I turned too early…”). Immediately following an accident, it is sometimes unclear what actually caused the accident and who was at fault. Don’t assume legal liability.

5. Gather witness contact information.

While it is generally the police officer’s responsibility to gather witness statements, don’t assume they will always do so. When the cirumstance allows, ask witnesses what they saw and request their contact information. This can always help if there is a question of liability.

6. Contact Insurance Providers

As soon as you can, report the incident to your auto insurance provider.

7. Call a Personal Injury Attorney.

Many, if not most, personal injury attorneys offer free consultations on your accident. At Katz, Stepp, Wright and Fleming, we seek to understand the nature of the accident as a whole, and for that reason, we will ask you questions regarding the accident and any injuries you or your passengers sustained. Keep in mind that it is in the interest of the insurance company to settle the claim quickly, at times without waiting for you to be treated sufficiently for your injuries. At our office, our job is to make sure you get the settlement you need to help you recover your losses and to reach maximum medical improvement.

Unfortunately, in the hustle and bustle of life, accidents happen. When they do, follow these steps as best you can and you’ll feel greater peace of mind in your time of stress and confusion.

If you have been in an accident, call us at 404-240-0400 for a free consultation.

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Drowsy Driving Is More Dangerous Than Many Believe

Sleep deprivation is far more common in the American population than many people realize. Unfortunately, far too many sleep-deprived American adults and teenagers don't think twice about getting behind the wheel when they're completely fatigued. According to statistics, 50% of adult drivers say that they have operated a motor vehicle in the past year while completely exhausted. 

Many motorists who would never dream of driving after consuming alcoholic beverages fail to recognize the potential for disaster when reflexes slow due to drowsiness. According to one study recently published in the journal Sleep, people who suffer from sleep difficulties or sleep disorders are twice as likely to die in a car accident. One of the more common sleep disorders is insomnia, but people who have trouble falling or staying asleep may also suffer from another disorder called sleep apnea.

In addition to failing to recognize how serious drowsy driving is, many drivers do not understand how to prevent it. According to one recent study, most motorists who want to remain awake roll-down the window, splash water on their faces, or turn music volume up to prevent themselves from falling asleep. According to the study, those tactics are ineffective, and the only method that really works to prevent drowsy driving is taking a nap. It makes sense to pull over somewhere safe, and take a break for at least 30 minutes to feel refreshed.  It should be noted that caffeine is a stop gap measure which can help a person remain alert, but its effectiveness tends to be short term.    

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Young Males in Large, New Vehicles More Likely to Survive Accidents

Being male, driving a large vehicle, or driving a new vehicle –these were some of the factors that are common to people who survive serious accidents. That data comes from a study that was conducted at the Indiana University School of Public Health.

The researchers reviewed more than 1,100 head-on accidents, and found that people between the ages of 15 and 24 were involved in more head-on accidents than drivers in other age groups. The researchers were able to identify those factors that were common to people who survived serious accidents. They found that while people in the 15 to 24 age category were involved in approximately 21% of all head-on accident, they had a fatality rate that was just 39%. That was the lowest fatality rate among all the other age groups that were involved in head-on accidents.

In addition, younger male drivers seemed to have the lowest risk of dying in a head-on accident. Women were much more likely to die in head-on accidents, although it isn't exactly clear why this is so. Besides gender, the size of vehicle also impacted a person's fatality risk. For years now, Atlanta car accident lawyers have been aware that driving larger vehicles like SUVs or pickup trucks is linked to a much higher chance of surviving a serious collision. These cars provide much greater protection against fatal injury, and have higher crashworthiness. The study also found that driving a new vehicle, seatbelt use, and airbag deployment increased a person's chances of surviving an accident.  

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White House Names December National Impaired Driving Prevention Month

 When most people think of the holiday season, they imagine cookies, presents, and parties. It is a time to spend with family and friends, celebrating love and togetherness. Unfortunately, the holiday season is also a time of increased danger on the roads. With inclement weather and more drivers on the roads, traffic accidents are common at this time of year. In addition, one of the major causes of accidents during the holidays is drugged and intoxicated drivers.

The White House is observing National Impaired Driving Prevention Month this December. While the perils of drunk driving are well known, drugged driving can be just as dangerous. Even prescription drugs can impair perception, reaction time, judgment, and motor skills. In an extensive survey done by the National Highway Traffic Safety in Administration in 2007, one in eight nighttime, weekend drivers tested positive for illicit drugs. In 2012, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 10.3 million adolescents and adults admitted to having driven under the influence of drugs within the past year. In 2009, one in three fatally injured drivers with known drug-test results tested positive for drugs.

Seventeen states, including Georgia, have adopted zero tolerance or “per se” statutes that make it a crime to operate a vehicle while having alcohol or a drug in the body. Law enforcement officials and researchers believe that this type of statute is the most effective in dealing with drugged drivers. Georgia’s law makes it illegal for a person to operate a motor vehicle “under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.”


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Air Bag Recalls Continue to Expand

As we mentioned in a post back in September, 2014 has been a record year for auto recalls. And the year isn’t over yet. Approximately 14.3 million automobiles from ten different manufacturers have now been recalled for faulty air bags manufactured by Takata.

The air bags, which were installed in vehicles from 2000-2011, may explode when they inflate. The force of the explosion may shatter the air bag container, sending metal and plastic shrapnel into the driver and passenger. The problem has been linked to propellant chemicals in the air bag, and may be aggravated in high-humidity climates. As a result, there have been more widespread recalls in high-humidity areas, including Georgia. So far there have been five fatalities and over 100 injures attributed to the defective air bags. The most recent death, which sparked a new wave of recalls, was of a pregnant woman in Malaysia.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is urging owners of the affected vehicles, which include cars by Honda, Toyota, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, to act on the recalls. Car owners that have been contacted by their cars’ manufacturers should make repair arrangements with local dealerships. Consumers who have not been contacted and are concerned that their vehicles may be affected can check by their vehicle identification number (VIN) here.


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Network of Employers for Traffic Safety Kicks Off Drive Safely Work Week 2014

Unless you are a bomb squad technician or a professional stuntman, driving is probably the most dangerous part of your job. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death on the job and the second-leading cause of unintentional fatal injuries off the job. To raise awareness of the hazards and to promote safe driving practices among employees, the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) has designated October 6 through 10 as its annual Drive Safely Work Week.

While traffic collisions obviously have a huge impact on the individuals involved, they also affect their employers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the annual economic cost of car crashes in the U.S. is $277 billion. NETS seeks to reduce these costs by having employers encourage driver safety among employees as part of their corporate culture.

The theme of this year's Drive Safely Work Week is "Driving your safety culture home." The campaign is designed to help employers incorporate safe driving into their corporate safety culture. In particular, the campaign is encouraging employers to set company policies regarding seat belt and mobile device use. This seems like a good place to start: a recent study by the National Safety Council found that cell phone use causes 26% of car accidents. And despite seat belts' well-known effectiveness in saving lives, many adults still do not wear them.

This is the 18th year of Drive Safely Work Week. In past years, an average of 3500 organizations, representing 16.5 million employees, have participated in the campaign. To access the free toolkit, visit the NETS website at

With one of the worst average commuting times in the nation, Atlanta is notorious for its nasty traffic. If more local employers take advantage of the materials offered by Drive Safely Work Week, perhaps more automobile accidents could be prevented.

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New Advanced Technology May Help Save Lives at Atlanta Accident Sites

In the future, an accident site in Atlanta could have drones hovering above wrecked cars, and high-tech ambulances equipped with video -streaming features that allow patient data to be transmitted instantly to the nearest hospital. New intelligent transportation technology could help expedite the process of responding to accident scenes, and help save more lives each year.

In car accidents, where a person has suffered devastating injuries like brain injuries or spinal injuries, the first hour after the accident is critically important. In fact, a person's chances of surviving an accident increase dramatically if he receives life-saving critical care during this period of time. Unfortunately, very often, precious time goes by as the person is transferred to an emergency trauma care center. By the time the person reaches the center and receives the life -saving care that he needs, it is often too late.

However, at a recent conference that showcased intelligent transportation technology in Michigan, promoters exhibited new devices and technologies that can be used at accident sites to provide faster medical treatment. These technologies can be used both inside an emergency responder vehicle and outside the vehicle.

One of the technologies displayed at the event was a Max Life ambulance that came with telemedicine technology, which allows medical personnel inside the ambulance to immediately live stream or transmit data in real-time to doctors at the hospital. That provides doctors the opportunity to more quickly diagnose the medical issues involving the accident victim, and prepare the emergency room for the victim’s arrival. The technology in this particular ambulance consisted of six cameras in the ambulance and a number of other life-saving devices that actually transmitted information to hospitals.

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Stroke Survivors Often Unaware of Accident Risks

A stroke is one of the most serious medical events a person can experience, and affects more than 800,000 people in the United States every year. There are many long-term consequences of a stroke that can affect a person's cognitive and mental abilities. This includes their ability to safely operate a car, truck or motorcycle

According to the results of a new study, many persons who have survived a stroke begin driving again as quickly as one month after the stroke, without undergoing a driving evaluation or test. Those findings are very alarming, because a stroke can impact a person's abilities to drive safely, even if there are no outward physical signs of the trauma that the body has been through.

For instance, a stroke very often impairs a person's reflexes and coordination. That could affect the way a motorist reacts to an emergency situation while driving. A stroke can also result in slowness, memory problems, and judgment difficulties. All of these can prove catastrophic behind the wheel and on the road, where a person is required to constantly make judgments about speed and distance.

In the study, the researchers analyzed more than 162 persons who had suffered a stroke, and found that approximately 59% of them went back to driving within one month of the stroke. Fewer than 6% of stroke survivors took a driving test before they began operating a motor vehicle again. In fact, according to the researchers, doctors found that many stroke survivors were anxious to begin driving again, perhaps because of the sense of independence it provides.

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Alarming Increase in Spinal Cord Injuries across U.S.

According to a new study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the number of traumatic spinal cord injuries recorded in the United States is on the increase. Another major change that the research showed is that the primary cause of serious spinal cord injuries in the United States is no longer automobile collisions, but slip and fall accidents.

The Johns Hopkins research analyzed a total of 43,137 adults who received treatment in hospital emergency rooms after suffering a spinal cord injury.  These adults were treated for their injuries between 2007 and 2009. The researchers found in their analysis that the incidence of spinal cord injury in the 18-64 age group ranged from 52.3 injuries per million in 2007, to 49.9 million in 2009.

While that constituted a drop in the number of traumatic spinal cord injuries that were recorded in this age category, there was an increase in the number of spinal cord injuries recorded among older citizens. In the 65 and above age group, the number of spinal cord injuries actually increased during the study period. These injuries increased from 79.4 injuries per million adults in 2007, to 87.7 injuries per million adults in 2009.

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NHTSA Survey Finds Speeding Widespread Among Motorists

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently conducted a survey on speeding practices among American drivers. The results indicate a concerning trend. Although many American drivers believe that speeding is a highly dangerous behavior, many of them also admit that they often drive at high speeds to get to their destination on time.

The results of the survey were contained in the National Survey of Speeding Attitudes and Behavior, and found that approximately 4 to 5 drivers believe that driving at safe speeds helps prevent accidents. More than 91% believed that speed limits should be obeyed unconditionally because they are the law. In fact, as many as half of the drivers in the survey admitted that it was very important for transportation agencies to take stronger initiatives to reduce speeding on U.S. roadways. 

However, when it comes to actually putting those beliefs into action, many American motorists seem to fall behind. Many of the motorists surveyed admitted to frequently travelling faster than posted speed limits. More than 25% of the motorists surveyed admitted that speeding was something they often did without thinking about it, and others said that they “enjoyed” the feeling that came with driving at excessive speeds. In addition, approximately 60% of the motorists claimed that driving at excessive speeds or above the speed limit, was not “really dangerous” for a skilled motorist.

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Safer Headlight Technology Being Developed to Prevent Accidents

Every year, there are variations in the number of car accident fatalities, but one fact remains the same -- more fatal car accidents occur at night than in the daytime hours. Nighttime driving comes with its own set of challenges, and one of those is the lack of adequate roadway lighting. A new study focuses on the potential for improving nighttime driving through more advanced automobile headlight systems.

The research was recently presented at the International Symposium on Automotive Lighting in Germany. One scientist involved in the study presented a paper outlining the different types of lighting technologies that can help make nighttime driving both safer and easier. Specifically, these technologies involve headlights that can focus light onto particularly tricky and dangerous roadways. This would be done by using headlights that swivel or bend to put more light onto the turn of the road.

According to the report that was presented at the conference, earlier studies that compared cars equipped with these headlight systems and vehicles with conventional low beam headlights, found that the number of accidents occurring at night actually dropped.  For instance, there was a drop of approximately 4% in nighttime accident frequency along low-speed roads.  On high-speed roads with shallower curves, the drop was between 1% and 2%.

An earlier study into high beam anti-glare headlights was presented at The Eye, The Brain and The Auto research Congress in Michigan in September.  At that conference, researchers presented a paper in which they analyzed the performance and safety of high-beam headlights that come with selective dimming powers, a feature that puts high-beams on certain sections of the road.   These headlights are already beginning to appear in certain vehicle models, and do a much better job of illuminating roadways (especially curves) due to the lack of glare. 

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Georgia DOT Releases New Safe Driving Videos

Georgia highway officials have made a lot of progress in helping reduce the number of people killed in traffic accidents across the state. However, thousands of people continue to die, or are seriously injured in accidents across the state every year. In order to help reduce those numbers further, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has developed and released a new series of videos.

GDOT has launched a new video initiative that comes in response to a call by the Federal Highway Administration to reduce traffic accident fatalities across the country to 0. The Federal Highway Administration’s Towards Zero Deaths initiative is aimed at minimizing the number of traffic accident fatalities across the country.

In order to support this initiative, the Georgia Department of Transportation is promoting a new series of educational videos. These videos will appear GDOT’s YouTube Channel and website.

The videos called Drive Smart will encourage motorists to focus on the only task that they should be paying attention to while driving - driving.  According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, videos will be released over the next four weeks.

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Three People Killed in Truck-Ambulance Accident in Georgia

An out-of-control truck is being blamed for a deadly accident in Irwin County in South Georgia recently that killed three people. The accident killed two paramedics and a patient who was being transported to the hospital.

According to reports, the accident occurred on GA 32 in Irwin County when the tractor-trailer and the ambulance were traveling on the highway. The tractor-trailer jackknifed and the trailer collided with the ambulance in a deadly head-on collision that proved devastating for the occupants of the ambulance.  

The Georgia State Patrol's Special Crash Reconstruction Team has begun investigating the accident. No charges have been filed yet, and charges will be filed only after the completion of the investigation.

At this point in time, it seems fairly certain that this accident was caused because the tractor trailer went out of control in the middle of the highway. Jackknifing occurs when a tractor-trailer skids out of control. In such cases, the trailer swings out and into itself at a 90° angle. Keep in mind this is a massive trailer that poses a serious injury risk. The trailer can collide with other vehicles and motorcyclists, crushing them.

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Fatigued Driving Causes More Fatal Car Accidents Than Earlier Believed

Drowsy driving is one of the most underestimated causes of accidents, especially since it’s difficult to determine exactly how many motorists dozed off at the wheel just before the car wreck. However, one fact is clear. These accidents are much more widespread and common than believed, and the number of people being killed in these crashes is much higher than the official estimates. A new study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute seems to confirm that fact.

The naturalistic study which focused on 100 cars involved in accidents, found that driving under the influence of fatigue contributed to as many as 20% of all accidents. Earlier estimates had pegged that number at just 2-3% of all accidents.

The naturalistic study is believed to be one of the first times that this major accident factor has been studied in depth, and in a naturalistic environment. The study found that drivers 18- 20 years of age had some of the highest risks of being involved in drowsy driving accidents, accounting for more accidents than any other age group. 

Sleep experts have determined that teenagers may be at a much higher risk of sleep deprivation because of biological changes in their sleep patterns. Changes in sleep patterns cause persons who enter their teens to sleep later than usual, which means that the teenager is getting an insufficient amount of sleep. These bad sleep habits continue while the person grows into his teen years, and enters early adulthood. 

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High-Risk of Car Accidents with Hands-Free Communication Too

For some time now, supporters of hands-free texting and voice-activated texting technologies have insisted that these technologies help reduce the risk of accidents because they do not require the use of hands and fingers to type text messages. However, a new study debunks that fact. The study shows that persons who use hands-free tools are just as much at risk of being involved in a car accident as persons who manually type text messages.

The research was conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University recently. According to researchers, it does not matter whether you use a hands-free texting technology or voice-activated system to dictate text messages, or manually type a text the old-fashioned way using your fingers. The risk of distraction is just as strong in the former method as in the latter one.

It’s estimated that Americans exchange as many as 6.1 billion text messages every day. Our Atlanta car accident lawyers also believe that many millions of those texts are exchanged by people while driving. With those kinds of staggering numbers, it is very important that motorists not be lulled into the false assumption that they're protected from accidents if they're using a voice-activated texting system. That may not be true at all.

In the study, researchers used a tracking device to measure the level of distraction when a person uses a voice-activated texting technology. They measured how many times the person looked at the road while dictating or reading text messages, and how long it took the driver to complete each text. Researchers also focused on how long the drivers took to respond to a light that flashed periodically. 

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Investigations Continue into Fatal Cobb County Teen Driver Car Accident

Investigations into a fatal accident in Cobb County that killed 2 teenagers are still being conducted. Investigators are looking at whether vehicle speed played a role in this particular accident.

The accident occurred about 10 days ago, when the driver of a Volvo lost control of his car. The car crashed into a brick sign, and exploded into flames. In the car were the 19-year-old driver and his 18-year-old passenger. Both were killed instantly.

So far, Cobb County police do not believe that alcohol or drugs were factors in this accident. However, toxicology tests will be conducted on the deceased driver. 

In general, our young drivers tend to have some of the highest accident risks among all categories of motorists on our roads. This is due to a number of factors, including lack of driving experience, peer pressure, technology distractions, and impulsiveness. 

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Increase in Georgia Car Accidents Linked to Icy Conditions

Transportation officials across Georgia have been busy over the past few weeks as winter weather continues to create additional dangers for motorists. Over the past few weeks, icy weather conditions have been reported across several counties in Georgia. The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and its 1,500+ employees have been closely monitoring the weather as temperatures dip, and roads freeze. Our Atlanta vehicle accident attorneys have also been reminding people to stay safe on the slippery roads.

Transportation officials have already blamed icy weather for some accidents on Georgia highways this winter. None of these accidents resulted in fatalities, but they did lead to injuries and roads being shut down. Most of the accidents are being blamed on automobiles that hit a patch of ice, or vehicles that went out of control on roads made slippery by melting ice. 

GDOT has increased travel warnings for Georgia motorists. Drivers are being asked to be very cautious while on the road, and to watch out for ice patches on interstate ramps and before and after bridges.

It’s obviously best to avoid driving at all when conditions are likely to cause ice. However, if you are driving and the road becomes slippery, slow down. GDOT has also announced that it will be trying out some new strategies to reduce the risk to motorists from slippery roads, and to make the roads safer. For instance, officials have confirmed that they will be experimenting with a salt-brine mixture. The belief is that this mixture will prevent ice from bonding to the roadways. They have also built 11 new staging areas that will house salt and stone along Georgia’s major interstates.

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National Safety Organization Ranks Georgia Highways

National safety organization, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, recently released its 2013 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, which rates states on how they performed on the enactment of 15 basic traffic safety laws. The laws include everything from text messaging bans, to graduated driver’s licensing programs for teen drivers. While these types of reports don’t do much to help accident victims, our Atlanta car accident attorneys believe there is value in reviewing the results and how our state’s legislature is performing.

AHAS ranked all 50 states and the District of Colombia. The bad news seems to be that many states have regressed as far as passing important and effective highway safety laws are concerned. In 2011, 16 safety laws were passed by states, while 22 laws were passed in 2010. However, in 2012, states passed just 10 highway safety laws.

The report was based on whether states had enacted important traffic safety laws, including those related to seatbelts, booster seats, motorcycle helmets, driving requirements for teenage drivers, driving while impaired, and laws that ban texting while driving for all motorists. States were given 3 color-based ratings - green, yellow or red. Green denoted the best performance, and indicated that the state has significantly advanced towards adoption of all recommended highway safety laws. Yellow indicates a state that is working towards enacting many of these laws, but still has a lot of work to do. However, a classification of red indicates that a state is dangerously behind in the adoption of key traffic safety laws that can keep motorists safe.

Georgia was ranked as a green state, because the state has enacted most of the traffic safety laws recommended by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. Georgia was one of 14 states that were rated as green. According to the report, in 2011, there were 1,223 motor vehicle accident fatalities in Georgia, and the 10-year fatality total in the state was 15,067. The annual economic cost from car accidents in Georgia is approximately $7.85 billion.

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No-Texting Law Rarely Enforced in Georgia

Unfortunately, Georgia's ban on texting while driving for all motorists has not been effectively enforced since the law went into affect more than 2 years ago. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, since the ban on texting while driving was imposed in Georgia, less than 50 people a month are convicted of texting while driving. In fact, the number of people who are convicted of texting while driving annually is miniscule, compared to the number of people convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution analyzed state records as of September 17, 2010, and found that enforcement of texting while driving laws is pitiful in the state. (They also provided a breakdown of convictions for texting while driving in Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Clayton, and Cobb Counties.) There were 1,281 convictions for texting while driving-related offenses during this period of time, while 22,500 people were convicted for driving under the influence of alcohol during the same time. Georgia State troopers admit that they have only been able to issue about 11 citations per month since the law went into effect on July 1, 2010.

Many Atlanta car accident lawyers find that part of the problem with enforcing the law is that the law makes it difficult for police officers to pull people over for texting while driving. The onus of responsibility to prove that the motorist was texting while driving is placed on the law-enforcement officer. Officers must be able to prove that the motorist was indeed texting while driving, and not merely dialing a cell phone while driving, or accessing a map.

Georgia has not yet made the use of handheld cell phones illegal while driving. Motorists are allowed to use hand-held cell phones while driving, and may have conversations on the cell phone while they're driving, but may not text while driving. Not surprisingly, many texting motorists are able to plead they were only dialing a number on their cell phone, and not texting while driving.


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Georgia Committee of Teen Drivers to Advise on Accident Prevention

The governor of Georgia has announced the establishment of a committee that would consist entirely of teenagers, for the purpose of advising state officials on ways to reduce car accidents in Atlanta and across the state. 

Gov. Nathan Deal has announced that the commission, called the Gov.'s Commission on Teen Driving would constitute a panel of teenagers from around Georgia. These teenagers would be selected based on applications received by the state. About 15 to 20 teenage drivers will be included on the panel. 

According to the Gov.'s Office of Highway Safety, Gov. Nathan Deal has significant concerns about accidents and fatalities facing many of Georgia's youngest drivers. The Governor's Office is encouraging teenage motorists between the ages of 15 and 19 to apply for positions on the panel, because this can present them with a unique opportunity to help formulate laws that affect teenage safety.

Teenage drivers elected to serve on the panel will be responsible for preparing a report on teenage safety, and giving advice to the Governor as well as other state officials about developing effective strategies for preventing teen-related accidents and injuries that can be used across the state of Georgia. Having young teenage minds on the panel can draw attention to new and nontraditional methods of preventing teenage accidents.

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Depression, Anxiety Drugs Can Increase Potential for Car Accident

A recent study found that certain common prescription drugs used to treat conditions like depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders can actually increase the risk of car accidents.

According to the study, which was published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, an individual's risk of a car accident may increase if he takes medications that are used to treat these conditions. In fact, the links between these medications and an increased risk of car accidents is strong enough for researchers to warn doctors that they should alert patients who are taking these medications not to drive after taking them.

The researchers specifically focused on on psychotropic drugs that are often used to treat depression and anxiety. These drugs can alter the way the brain functions. Ultimately, the side effects of the drug can impair the person's ability to control a vehicle. 

Several studies have also found a link between the use of such psychotropic medications and accidents. However, most of these earlier studies focused on specific drugs like diazepam, more popularly known as Valium. However, researchers now believe that newer drugs like Sonata, Ambien, and Lunesta that are used to treat insomnia can also increase the risks of an accident. 

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GHSA Takes Tough Positions on Distracted and Drugged Driving

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) recently adopted expansions of its policies related to distracted driving and drugged driving. These are 2 factors that are cited in thousands of fatal and injury-causing car accidents that occur in the metro Atlanta region every year.  We have continued to see an increase in drunk driving accidents in our office, and believe a tougher stand on this problem is necessary to protect Atlanta drivers and passengers.

The GHSA is calling for a complete ban on the use of handheld cell phones while driving across all states. Just a few states have complete bans on hand-held cell phones while driving, while more than 35 states, including Georgia, have banned texting while driving.

The Governors Highway Safety Association earlier supported only bans on text messaging while driving, and bans on the use of electronic devices by both novice drivers as well as school bus drivers. This is the first time that the GHSA has voiced its complete support for bans on handheld cell phone.

The Governors Highway Safety Association is using the example of states like California and New York that have enacted bans against the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, to prove its point. According to the agency, in these states there has been a decline in the number of motorists who feel free enough to drive a car while using a hand-held cell phone.

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Georgia DOT's Plans to Raise Speed Limits Could Increase Accident Risks

A number of states around the country have experimented with an increase in speed limits on some of their freeways and highways. Earlier this month, Texas had the dubious distinction of becoming home to the road with the highest speed limit in the country, with one stretch now having a speed limit of 85 mph limit. In Georgia, similar plans are being discussed that would raise our speed limit.  

However, Atlanta car accident lawyers would warn against any rush to increase speed limits on roadways, without carefully analyzing the possible effects on motorist safety and the increased risk of accidents.

In Georgia, the Department Of Transportation is currently experimenting with increasing the speed limit on I-285 from 55 mph to 65 mph. Those 65 mph speed limits are fairly reasonable, when considering that the current highest speed limit in Georgia is 70 mph. While motorists in Georgia may complain that the speed limits in the state are far too low, the fact is that very often, motorists decide to drive at least 10 mph above the posted speed limit. So when you have a speed limit of 70 mph, you're likely to have many motorists traveling at 80 mph.

When you have an accident at those high speeds, the damage is far more difficult to contain than if the accident had occurred when the car had been traveling at a lower speed. High-speed accidents often end with catastrophic consequences, including multiple fatalities and serious life altering injuries.

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Series of Wrong Way Driving Accidents In and Around Atlanta

The month of August saw a disturbing series of accidents caused by motorists driving the wrong way on highways and freeways in and around the metro Atlanta region. These accidents ended with catastrophic injuries and multiple fatalities.

The first accident that occurred earlier in the month involved a motorist who was driving the wrong way on Georgia 400, and crashed her car into another vehicle. The driver of the other car died in the accident. 

Just a few days later, there was another wrong-way driving related accident, this one occurring in Gwinnett County. In this accident, the wrong-way driver crashed his vehicle head-on into another car on Georgia Highway 316 near Dacula. At least 2 people were critically injured in this accident, and victims had to be cut out of the damaged vehicle.

The most recent accident occurred at the end of the month, and involved a motorist driving the wrong way on Interstate 85 near Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. The driver crashed his vehicle into another car, and the resulting accident killed 2 people. The wrong way driver was also killed in the accident. 

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Seatbelt Reminders for Back Seats Could Help Reduce Injuries, Fatalities


If a proposal by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to mandate seatbelt alerts for rear seat passengers is approved and goes into effect, it could mean a much lower risk of injuries to passengers in the back seat. 

Rear seat passengers have much lower rates of seatbelt usage compared to drivers and front seat passengers. Nationally, only 74% of backseat passengers buckle up all the time, compared to seat belt usage rates of 83% for front seat passengers. Our Atlanta car accident attorneys agree that higher rear seatbelt usage would help prevent some of the most serious injuries. 

The proposal would require that alerts and warnings that are currently in place for motorists and front seat passengers who have not yet buckled up after the car has been put into operation, are also included for rear seat belt passengers. The typically include a chime or beep that continues to sound until the seatbelt it engaged.

Vehicle accident lawyers often find that rear seat passengers have a false sense of security because of their position in the car. They believe that they may be at a lower risk of injuries in an accident, because they're protected by the seat in front during a front impact accident. 


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Claims Software Allows Insurers to Lowball Accident Victims

A recent report by the Consumer Federation of America shows that some insurance companies are using claims software that allows them to manipulate payments, thereby paying consumers less than they deserve after an accident. 

The report found that popular injury evaluation software used by many insurance companies comes with provisions that allow the insurers to ‘lowball’ consumers. These software programs include the CSC Colossus package which allows insurers to manipulate claims payments. The software can be used to reclassify injuries as less than serious, compared to the diagnosis of a doctor. 

Over the past 15 years, many insurance companies in the United States have implemented such software to streamline claims processing procedures. However, as this report indicates, the claims processing software may have more useful benefits than merely efficiency. The report concludes that the claims processing software has allowed many insurance companies to increase profits by lowballing consumers, and reducing the amount that is actually paid to consumers who file injury claims.

The report was drafted by a former Colossus expert at Allstate Insurance, and a former Insurance Commissioner for Texas. However, the insurance industry has already criticized the study, claiming that the results are questionable.

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Georgia Parents Can Help Prevent Teen Car Accidents

Under Georgia law, several restrictions are placed on teenage drivers.  This is done to help reduce the risk of accidents due to inexperience or high risk behavior.  A new study indicates to our Atlanta car accident attorneys exactly how important it is for parents to be involved in preventing accidents involving their teenage children.

The study, conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, found that a teenage motorist’s risk of being killed in an accident increases proportionately to the number of young passengers he has in his car.  That finding isn't unexpected, but the study does confirm some frightening facts about teen driver safety.

According to the survey, a teenager’s risk of being killed in an accident increases by 44% when he is traveling with one passenger below the age of 21.  That is a staggering increase in risk, and should come as an eye-opener to many parents of teens.  Further, when the teenager is traveling with two passengers under 21, his risk doubles, and when he is traveling with three or more passengers under 21, the risk of an accident increases by four times.

The good news is that parents can offset some of these risks by accompanying teenage children in the car.  The study found that when a teenager is accompanied by an adult above the age of 35, the risk of being killed in an accident dropped by 62%.

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Up to a Quarter of All American Adults May Be at Risk of Drowsy Driving Car Accidents

A new study indicates that lack of sleep and insomnia are huge health problems among American adults.  According to the study which has been published in the medical journal The Lancet, as many as a quarter of all adults are not happy with the amount of sleep they get each night.  In fact, approximately 10% of adults meet the criteria for full-fledged insomnia.  The Atlanta car accident lawyers at our firm unfortunately see far too many serious vehicle accidents due to drowsy or distracted driving.

Researchers based their study on an analysis of previous scientific databases, and findings from major studies conducted on sleep over the past 5 years.  They found several factors that indicated we need to increase awareness about the widespread nature of insomnia, and spotlight the consequences of insomnia. 

Insomnia is associated with a number of health disorders.  According to a report published in 2002, persons who suffer from insomnia are about twice as likely to suffer from congestive heart failure compared to persons who have healthy and normal sleep patterns.  Additionally, these persons will be approximately 5 times as likely to suffer from depression or anxiety-related disorders.  Persons who suffer from insomnia, according to the researchers, may also be at a high risk for substance abuse, and psychological disorders.

Those are not the only effects of insomnia.  Studies have found that persons who suffer from insomnia may suffer from effects very similar to those of sleep deprivation.  Sleep deprivation is different from insomnia.  Sleep deprivation refers to a reduced length of sleep due to lower opportunity to sleep.  However, insomniacs have an inability to sleep in spite of having the opportunity to sleep. 

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Most Animal-Related Car Accident Injuries Caused by Evasive Maneuvers

Most injuries that occur when an automobile is on a collision path with an animal on the road happen not when the car hits the animal, but when the car crashes following the near-collision or impact with the animal.  Therefore, how a driver reacts when he is faced with a stray animal on the road is extremely important in determining the probably of a Georgia car accident.    

The Washington Post spoke to a number of highway safety troopers around the country and came up with the following conclusions.  When it comes to avoiding animal-related collisions, swerving may be much more dangerous than hitting an animal.  Many troopers urge motorists to avoid sudden evasive maneuvers if you're not able to check for traffic beforehand.  If you can make a safe lane change, do so.  However, avoid swerving if you are unable to check your mirror and check for traffic.

If the animal is shorter than the hood of your car, and you have no time to change your lanes, then it is probably advisable to hit the animal.  If the animal is taller than the hood of the car, then it is advisable to avoid the animal if possible.  Unfortunately, very often when drivers are faced with a situation like this, they panic and make the wrong decision, which can lead to a single or multiple car accident.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, there were about 173 fatal accidents involving animals in 2009, which is the last year for which statistics are available.  There were also about 12,000 car accidents resulting in injuries involving animals that same year.  According to the insurance industry for Highway safety however, 1.5 million accidents involving deer occur around the country every year.  These result in $1 billion in damages.

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Decline in Georgia Car Accident Deaths in 2010

Car accident death rates in Georgia seem to have mirrored the nationwide drop in traffic accident deaths in the year 2010. Highway safety officials in Georgia recorded a substantial drop in accident fatalities in the state for the 5th successive year. Most personal injury lawyers have not really seen that significant level of a drop in their wrongful death cases. That is likely due to the fact the decrease has come through improvement of roadways. Very few wrongful death cases caused by roadway defects are actually litigated.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation, a total of 1,244 people died in car accidents in Georgia last year. That was a drop of 3.7% from the previous year, or 48 fewer fatalities. In 2009, the number of people killed in auto accidents was 1,292. The number has been dropping steadily since 2006.

To understand the kind of progress that has been made in keeping motorists safe on Georgia roads, consider this - in 2005, there were 1,744 deaths in traffic accidents in Georgia, compared to 1,244 in 2010. In just 5 years, transportation safety agencies and law enforcement in Georgia have been able to reduce the number of people being killed in preventable traffic accidents.

What's more, there may be more good news as 2011 winds up. According to Georgia transportation safety officials, the number of people killed in traffic accidents in 2011 is likely to be lower than the number last year.

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Even As Car Accident Wrongful Deaths Drop, Increase in Pedestrian Wrongful Deaths

In 2010, there was a record drop in auto accident deaths from the previous year. However, the number of people dying in pedestrian accidents actually increased.

Last year, 32,885 people died in auto accidents across the United States. That was a drop of 2.9% from 2009. These were the lowest traffic accident death numbers on record since 1949. These accident fatality numbers have declined even as the number of miles being driven by American motorists increased in 2010. In fact, there was a drop in almost all categories of car accident deaths last year, including drunk driving accidents. 

However, pedestrians were not safer in 2010. Pedestrian accident deaths actually increased last year by about 4.2% from 2009. Further, the number of persons who suffered a personal injury in pedestrian accidents in the United States increased by a staggering 19 %. Overall, more than 70,000 pedestrians were injured in accidents last year. That increase is puzzling considering that it comes after 4 straight years of declining pedestrian accident death numbers in the US. 

Federal transportation officials do not have any explanation for this increase in pedestrian accident fatality numbers. However, the data is still new, and we may have more answers in the months ahead.   There are some theories about the reasons for this increase. According to Transportation for America, a pedestrian advocacy organization, there has been an increase in the number of people walking and biking to work in recent months. However, even though there has been an increase in the number of pedestrians, safety conditions have not really improved. 

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Winter Car Accident Risks Affect Male and Female Drivers Differently

Every Atlanta car accident lawyer knows that a motorist’s risk of being involved in auto accidents spikes in winter driving conditions. However, a new study finds that those risks affect male and female drivers differently. The study by researchers at Purdue University finds that men are much more likely to be involved in accidents in icy or snowy weather conditions.

The study finds that men over the age of 45 are much more likely to be involved in an accident when the road is covered with ice or snow. Further, those accident risks involving men seem to increase when the men are older and are driving pickup trucks. According to the researchers, this could be due to a false sense of security that pickup trucks provide. People driving pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles or other larger vehicles are likely to feel safer and protected, and therefore, may be more likely to drive aggressively on snowy roads. They may not realize that a larger size vehicle does not necessary protect you more on icy roads when a vehicle is at a high risk of a rollover.

The study also finds that men below the age of 45 are more likely to be involved in serious accidents on dry roads. That would again be an indicator of overconfidence in young men. Female drivers were found to be much more likely to be involved in accidents on rain-covered roads. This susceptibility to accidents on roads made wet by rain affected female motorists of all age groups. According to the researchers, this could be because female drivers fail to sense lower friction on a wet road. Younger men had a 21% higher risk of being involved in a serious accident on a dry road than on a wet road. These men were 72% more likely to be involved in an accident on dry roads than on snowy roads.

The researchers are recommending a public service announcement campaign that would alert motorists to the dangers of driving on snowy or icy roads in the weeks ahead. Many motorists suffer from a false sense of security because of the electronic stability control systems in their automobiles. More vehicles now come with these safety systems. Automakers have done a great job of promoting the electronic stability control systems, a fact that Atlanta car accident lawyers have approved. After all, electronic stability control systems have contributed to a reduced risk of rollover accidents involving sports utility vehicles, pickup trucks and minivans. However, electronic stability control systems are not foolproof. They do have limited efficacy, especially when a vehicle is traveling on a road that has been made wet by rain, snow or ice. A person whose car comes with electronic stability control may feel safe, and may drive at high speeds causing an accident. 

The Atlanta car accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent persons who have been injured in car accidents in the metro Atlanta region and across Georgia.

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Georgia Troopers' Annual Click It or Ticket Campaign to Minimize Car Accident Injuries

Georgia State Troopers have kicked off their annual seatbelt enforcement campaign during the holiday season, aimed at making sure that motorists and children are safely restrained in their vehicles to prevent a personal injury in auto accidents. The campaign coincided with the start of the year's biggest and most accident-prone holiday season.

One of the most frequent questions asked of personal injury lawyers is whether there is an increase in car accidents at any particular time of year. Well, the calls for help to attorneys certainly increase at holiday time. Over the holidays, more Americans travel than at any other time of the year. Largenumbers of motorists drove across Georgia to spend Thanksgiving with their families. Over the following few weeks, holiday traffic increased as people rush to stores to buy gifts, leading to a culmination of holiday travel plans between Christmas and New Years’. 

Not only were there more motorists on the roads over the holiday season than during any other time, but many of them were in less than perfect condition for driving. The numbers of intoxicated motorists spikes around Christmas, reaching a peak during New Year's. Additionally, most holiday drivers are less patient, and in a hurry. Besides, holiday shoppers are less focused on safety, and more focused on finding a parking spot. All of these factors severely increase the risk of car accidents.

Wearing a seat belt is one of the most basic steps that motorists can take to keep themselves safe in an accident. It's not just front passengers and motorists who need to be safely restrained in seat belts, but also back seat passengers and all children in the car. Atlanta car accident attorneys often note that backseat passengers tend to skip wearing seat belts altogether because of a false sense of security. 

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Woman Killed in Douglas County Car Accident

A woman has been confirmed dead, and at least four other people, including a child, suffered personal injuries in an auto accident in Douglas County. 

According to police, the head-on car accident occurred on Wednesday afternoon when a Chevrolet Malibu crashed into a Ford Focus. Police say that the Malibu suddenly crossed the centerline, sideswiped a pickup truck and then crashed into the Focus. The driver of the Ford Focus was killed in the accident. The driver of the Malibu sustained personal injuries, and was taken to the hospital. There were two adults and a toddler in the Focus, and they were injured too. 

Often, when a car veers across the centerline, or off the lane, it's usually the result of distracted driving or inattention behind the wheel. Atlanta car accident lawyers expect to see more such accidents caused by inattention as students get back to school and their parents are trying to manage their ever busier lives.

Atlanta's motorists are likely to have more than safety on their minds.   These are some of the busiest days for motorists, and drivers will find more than the usual quota of speeding and reckless drivers. With the added stress of kids and work, the number of DUI motorists in the evenings are likely to increase.

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Wrongful Death of Police Officer in DeKalb County Wrong Way Driving Car Accident

A police officer was killed, and another person suffered personal injury in a car accident that police are now blaming on a wrong way driver. The crash occurred on westbound interstate-20 early in the morning. 

According to DeKalb police, the driver of a westbound vehicle crashed into a sports utility vehicle that was traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes. The driver of the westbound car sustained fatal injuries in the crash. The wrong way driver also suffered injuries in the auto accident.

Investigations into the car accident have begun, and investigators now believe that the driver of the sport-utility vehicle was traveling in the wrong direction. These investigations are likely to also include blood-alcohol tests to determine if the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol. 

Many wrong-way driving accidents that Atlanta car accident attorneys come across involve people who have been driving under the influence of alcohol, and make a wrong turn. In fact, according to some estimates, alcohol use is a factor in between 50% and 70% of all wrong way driving accidents.

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Atlanta Ranks at Number Four in Auto Accidents

According to data from 2009, the city of Atlanta ranks at number four in the number of auto accidents. It also ranks at number six in the number of accident-related wrongful deaths that same year.

The data which comes from the American Auto Association has no surprises for Atlanta car accident lawyers who are familiar with the auto safety culture in the city. In 2009, 498 people died in accidents in Atlanta. More than 62,000 people suffered a personal injury in car accidents in the city.

These accidents took not only a devastating personal toll, but also wreaked substantial economic damage. The metro Atlanta region suffered losses to the tune of more than $11 million in 2009 because of auto accident-related costs. Only Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York fared worse than Atlanta. The overall accident-related costs in the US totaled $299.5 billion. That's more than three times the $97.7 billion cost of congestion. 

It's no secret that Atlanta's notoriously congested traffic has a lot to do with high accident rates in the region. Congested traffic leads to bad driver moods, tailgating and other undesirable behaviors that increase the risk of accidents. Congested traffic is also a major source of road rage, which also leads to accidents and injuries. Additionally, auto accidents are more likely to occur when there are more cars competing for space on the roadways. Atlanta's traffic safety problems could be reduced by tackling the source of traffic congestion, the lack of a truly extensive mass transit system.

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Marietta Motorist Claims Seizure Caused Car Accident

A Marietta motorist, who was involved in a multi-vehicle auto accident, insists that the car accident was the result of a seizure that he suffered while driving. Police have already filed charges against him. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the auto accident occurred when the driver’s Ford F-250 struck another pickup truck on the same street. The motorist drove off after the accident and struck two more vehicles, before finally veering off the road and crashing into a tree. 

Fortunately, the car accident did not result in life-threatening injuries for other drivers involved. The motorist has been charged with hit-and-run, driving too fast for conditions, failure to maintain lane and driving under a suspended license. Car accident attorneys regularly see cases in which a defendant driver claims a medical condition caused the accident. In order for this defense to be successful in a civil case, they must establish not only that the medical condition caused the accident, but that the medical condition was not known or it was not known that the medical condition would result in the issue which occurred.

Police say that he was fleeing the accident scene when he crashed, but the motorist claims that he has a history of epilepsy. According to him, he suffered a seizure at the time of the accident. The motorist says that he suffered petit mal seizures in his childhood, and was placed on medication. However, he stopped taking the medications after the seizures ended. The last time he had a grand mal seizure was three years ago. He does not know what caused this latest seizure that he suffered during the accident. According to him, he has no recollection of any of the events leading up to the accident.

Police records show that he has had a number of other charges filed against him in the past. For instance, he was once charged with driving under a suspended license, and driving with expired tags. In one instance, he was jailed for failing to appear in court.

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Dealing with Claims Adjusters at Insurance Companies after an Auto Accident in Georgia

MSN Money has a few tips for persons involved in car accidents in Georgia. None of these tips are a surprise to Atlanta car accident lawyers, but many motorists fail to understand how doing the wrong things soon after an accident can damage their claim. Insurance companies have extremely experienced insurance adjusters who handle claims for personal injury and wrongful death. Unfortunately, a great deal of what impacts a claim for personal injury often occurs before the victim has counsel. It is during this timeframe that insurance adjusters have their greatest impact on the outcome of injury claims.

One of the first people that you will meet after an auto accident is the claims adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company or from your insurer. A claims adjuster's job is to identify fraud in an auto accident claim. As Atlanta car accident lawyers, we often find claims adjusters trying to confuse an accident victim, by trying to get accident victims to settle as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, when a driver says or does the wrong thing after an accident, it can negatively impact the claim.   In one recent case, an insurance adjuster was able to get a person with a serious spine injury to settle for an extremely small amount of money thereby eliminating his claim for future damages.

A claims adjuster may also try to fool you into comprising your claim by encouraging you to visit a “preferred repair shop. “ Often, these repair shops will underestimate the damage to your car or fail to have the vehicle properly repaired because they are endeavoring to lower the cost to the insurer. Each person who has been in an accident has a right to go to the repair shop of his or her choice.   

It's important for accident victims in Georgia to remember that a claims adjuster works for an insurance company, and has the insurer’s, and not their best interests, at heart. Unfortunately, many drivers simply lose sight of this very simple fact, and put their faith in claims adjusters, when it may not be in their best interest to do so. 

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Bionic Leg That Allows Accident Amputees Greater Movement Soon to Be Commercially Available

Car Accident victims in Georgia, who have suffered limb amputations, may soon be able to enjoy greater freedom of movement through a prosthetic limb that will soon be commercially available. The bionic leg is manufactured by a Massachusetts-based company called iWalk. Until now, the device was only available to members of the military, but will soon be available to civilians through providers across the country. Given the serious consequences of this type of personal injury, the use of this new technology is very welcome.

This prosthetic device boasts of an advanced design that uses robotics to imitate the muscles and tendons of the human foot, including the Achilles’ tendon and heel. Veterans of the US military, who have been injured during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, have had access to these bionic legs for a while now. The US military has invested in developing more advanced and scientifically-proven prosthetic devices that can mimic the natural movement of the human limb. Amputations of limbs are some of the most frequent injuries among veterans, and in fact, according to recent reports, the number of such amputations involving veterans has actually increased. 

Earlier prosthetic limbs were cumbersome and provided limited mobility. This prosthetic device is advanced enough to allow wearers to climb stairs, and walk up and down slopes with ease. With earlier devices, such movements were not possible. Veterans who have been fitted with this bionic leg have found that it is close to the actual working of the human foot.

More than a dozen prosthetic providers across the country will now offer the device. These include centers in Columbus, Ohio; Orlando, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Montgomery, Alabama; Manchester, New Hampshire; Silver Spring, Maryland; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Hicksville, New York; Marlton New Jersey; Jackson, Mississippi and Eddystone, Pennsylvania. For thousands of persons who experience amputations every year, these bionic limbs offer a much more enhanced quality of life than the prosthetic devices of the past.

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Automakers Must Get More Responsible about Removing Distracted Driving Accident Risks

Even as automakers try to add their voice to the anti-distracted driving chorus, Atlanta car accident lawyers find that they continue to outfit their automobiles with increasingly distracting gadgets. These type of gadgets greatly increase the likelihood of auto accidents involving serious personal injuries and wrongful death.

A case in point is Ford Motor Company. The company has been conducting a lot of anti-distracted driving workshops at high schools across the country, including in Georgia. Ford has been sponsoring clinics at several high schools urging students to switch off cell phones and texting devices while driving, and focus on the road. These efforts come as part of the Driving Skills for Life Program which the company promotes. 

All these are wonderful initiatives, but it would help if Ford Motor Company actually walked the walk by removing such distractions from its automobiles. Just one look at Ford's Sync voice-activated system on several of the company's automobiles should make it clear that the automaker doesn’t necessarily have its money where its mouth is. 

In fact, Ford Motor Company admits that there is an increasing demand for gadgetry in modern cars. The average American driver, the company believes, does not want to spend twenty minutes in his vehicle on his way home or to the office, without reading his e-mails and messages, checking out what's happening in his Facebook friend circle, and engaging in a myriad other activities. That's the reason why voice-activated systems that allow users to make phone calls and read text messages without taking their hands off the steering wheel, have become so popular.

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Teen Motorist Pleads Guilty in Fatal Villa Rica Drunk Driving Accident

While intoxicated driving as a factor in auto accidents has declined, Atlanta car accident lawyers find that it still continues to be a major cause of teen-related accidents. A teen motorist, who was driving the car involved in an accident that killed a teenage passenger, has pleaded guilty to charges of drunken driving and vehicular homicide.

The teen driver was 17 years old at the time of the accident. He was driving with two teenagers in his car, when his car flipped over. A sixteen-year-old teenage passenger was killed in the accident and another teenager was seriously injured. Last week, the driver pleaded guilty to charges of drunk driving and vehicle manslaughter, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. 

The three teenagers had been at a party in Douglasville, where a lot of teenagers were drinking alcohol. Several people have already been charged with supplying alcohol to minors in this case. According to authorities, many of these people supplied alcohol to teenagers at two different parties that the victim attended on the night of the accident. 

Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 in the United States. The number of teenagers dying in accidents has remained more or less consistent, even as the overall number of people dying in traffic accidents has dropped.

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Atlanta Lawyer Sentenced in Drunk Driving Accident

A former Atlanta lawyer, who was involved in a deadly drunk driving accident that killed one person, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison. Car accidents of this nature often end tragically with a severe personal injury or wrongful death. Of course, this particular accident was clearly preventable and should never have occurred.

The accident occurred on October 1, 2006 when the man ran a red light and crashed into a taxicab.   The crash killed a thirty-one-year-old woman and left two men severely injured. The victim left behind a three-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son.

The lawyer pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and serious injury by vehicle while driving under the influence. It later emerged that he had four prior DUI offenses on his record. In fact, on the day of the accident, he was on probation from a previous DUI, and had been ordered not to drive.

In the year 2009, there were 1,284 traffic accident fatalities in the state of Georgia. Out of these, 394 deaths occurred in drunk driving accidents. That is approximately 31% of traffic accident fatalities traced to drivers under the influence of alcohol. Out of these, 331 deaths involved accidents in which the driver was driving with an alcohol level of or greater than .08%, which is the legal limit for alcohol intoxication. 

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Seatbelt Failures Can Amplify Car Accident Injury Risks in Georgia

Seatbelt failures happen more often than most drivers think, and when these do occur, motorists may be at a serious risk of personal injury. Honda has now announced the recall of more than 311,000 vehicles because of potential seatbelt failure problems. Airbag and seatbelt failures are regular complaints received by accident attorneys nationwide.

The recall involves certain Pilot SUVs from model years 2009 to 2011. According to Honda, these vehicles may have a problem in the way that their seat belts have been sewn together. The stitching at the end of the lap belt on both the driver and front seat passenger seatbelt may not be complete, and the seatbelt may be at risk of coming loose from the anchor webbing during an accident. A person who is poorly restrained in a defective seatbelt like this is at a serious risk of traumatic injuries in an auto accident.

Honda has informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it has received two complaints about the defective seatbelts. One of these incidents involving a defective seatbelt occurred in 2010, while the other occurred this year. Honda owners whose vehicles are included in the recall are required to visit their dealers as quickly as possible, for an inspection. If necessary, the seatbelt will be replaced free of charge. Approximately 310,773 vehicles are included in the recall. 

According to Honda, it is not aware of any injuries as a result of these defective seatbelts.   Honda has investigated these incidents, and has attributed the problem to an inexperienced sewing machine operator at one of its suppliers.

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Father Negligent in 12-year-old Driver's Fatal Car Accident


Most personal injury attorneys know that sometimes, an accident is all about a chain of events. That’s exactly what a jury found this year when they determined that the father of a 12-year-old driver who died as the result of a car accident he caused was negligent in teaching his son to drive illegally on public roads. The Daily News reports it appeared to be a case of oversimplified causation. In other words, but for Loren Fry teaching Jake Fry to drive illegally, the circumstances that led up to his wrongful death might not have occurred. The situation itself, however, is a slightly more complicated one.

Jake Fry died on February 27, 2007, and his father was actually nowhere near the car when the accident occurred. In fact, his son was driving a 1993 Ford Taurus belonging to his father's girlfriend, Kelley Hill. She was in the passenger seat at the time of the crash, and her 12-year-old daughter was also along for the ride.

No one, except for those in the car at the time, knows exactly what happened. But this jury didn’t think it mattered, since they concluded Loren Fry was actually more at fault than Hill. More than likely, the jury rationalized that by teaching his son to drive illegally, Loren Fry created a foreseeable risk that his girlfriend might do the same. Perhaps she had been in the car during one of their driving lessons. Maybe allowing Jake to drive without his father in the car was something she had done before.  It’s even possible that Loren Fry had given her permission to do so.

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Hailey's Law: Car Accident Injury Leads to New State Law, Possibly New Precedent

In effect in Washington as of July 22 of this year, “Hailey’s Law”   mandates that law enforcement officials must impound the car of a person arrested for impaired driving – in most cases for at least 12 hours.The only exception is if the person arrested for driving while under the influence isn’t actually the registered owner of the car. In cases like that one, the registered owner will be allowed to retrieve their vehicle from the scene.  Wrongful deaths and DUI accidents go hand in hand and this law will clearly reduce the number of persons unnecessarily dying due to these accidents.

The circumstances surrounding the incident further explain why the law has been hailed as a breakthrough regulation by many personal injury attorneys, who hope to see the law being picked up by other states and foresee its enforcement successfully increasing the safety of the state’s public highways.

The law is named for Hailey French, a woman who was severely injured in a head-on collision. The driver responsible had been arrested for DUI and released by law enforcement officers less than two hours earlier. The lawsuit brought against the driver and Washington officials alleged that officers failed to install a court-ordered alcohol ignition interlock device in the driver’s car after her previous DUI arrest.  Instead, the arresting officer drove her home, and handed her the car keys with a warning to sober up. After he left, the drunk driver took a taxi back to her car, got back on the road, and crossed the center line before hitting Hailey French. 

 “We all know to take away the keys of a person who is drunk. This law, finally, does that,” said French’s attorney, Dean Brett   As a  car accident attorney in Atlanta  who is well-versed with the statistics of fatality car crashed involving DUIs, I would have to agree. It’s definitely a move that jails both the drunk driver and his mode of transportation. The 12 hour impound requirement, in theory, really forces the driver to take time to “cool off” and sober up before getting back behind the wheel and on the road. I would suggest that the period should probably be at least 24 hours and the person should have to undergo a breathalyzer before getting the keys back.

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US Could Learn Lessons in Preventing Car Accidents from Other Countries

The United States lags behind several other countries, including those in Europe and Asia in reducing the number of auto accident related wrongful deaths. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, this country could be doing a much better job of saving more lives and reducing the number of personal injuries in accidents every year.

It may seem like there's been much progress in reducing accident numbers in the United States. After all, auto accident wrongful death numbers in this country have been on the decline over the past decade, and last year, were at their lowest levels since record keeping began. With statistics like this, it's easy for Atlanta car accident lawyers and motorists to become complacent, and believe that American drivers are much safer than anywhere else.  

That’s not true at all. A look at the safety records and accident prevention efforts in other countries indicates just how much more progress the U.S. needs to make.

The fact is that many other countries have lower accident fatality rates per vehicle mile traveled. Additionally, other countries are seeing a much more drastic drop in auto accident fatalities, compared to the United States. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests that there are several factors contributing to this wide chasm between the United States and other countries. 

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Dogs at Issue in Car Accidents due to Distracted Driving

A new study by AAA and Kurgo has reported that 52 percent of drivers admit to “petting their canine companions instead of paying attention to the road,” and another 17 percent allow their pets to sit in their laps while driving - this according to an article published on Kurgo, a pet travel company, polled 1,000 dog owners who had traveled with their pets in the past 12 months. While the study did not evaluate the number which were involved in an auto accident, the risk factor of petting a dog while driving is clear. Auto accidents result in serious personal injuries and any conduct that may cause a rise in the number of accidents should be avoided.

Car accident attorneys in Georgia know this doesn’t bode well for drivers with furry friends. Looking away from the road for a mere two seconds doubles a driver’s risk of being involved in a car crash. Think about those two seconds. Now, picture how many seconds it takes you to pet your pooch and watch that level of risk increase significantly.

The problem, researchers summarized, could probably be rectified if more owners seriously considered restraining their pooches. Interestingly enough, many of those polled admitted that they knew operating a vehicle with an unharnessed animal was risky business, yet chose to engage in it anyway. 83 percent of drivers agreed that an unrestrained pet is dangerous, but only 16 percent reported restraining their pet.

Here are some of the top reasons why drivers elect to let their pets ride unrestrained:

·        42 percent think their dog is calm and therefore doesn’t need a restraint;

·        For another 39 percent, it never crossed their minds that their pet might need to be harnessed;

·        29 percent think a short trip (like going to the store) isn’t a big deal;

·        12 percent want their dog to be able to put his/her head out the window.

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Insurance Companies Held to a New Standard on Health Insurance Premiums? Not Really. Car Accident Victims Likely to Suffer from Government Inaction

Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens is going to set insurance companies straight- well, he can try, but likely will not succeed. The piece from the national healthcare reform puzzle which requires insurance companies to justify rate increases will become effective on September 1, 2011. If this change helped to hold down rates, then persons injured in car accidents could better afford the premiums while they are out of work trying to recover. Unfortunately, if you are injured in an auto accident, you are likely to see your health insurance premiums continue to rise. This could be resolved once the new healthcare law’s mandatory provisions take effect. However, as Georgia personal injury attorneys have warned, if the healthcare law is declared unconstitutional thereby eliminating universal coverage, the problem with personal injury victims getting the treatment they need while unable to work will continue indefinitely.

The rate justification requirement forces insurers to publically post any rate increases over 10% and explain why the increase is reasonable. This 10% rule only applies to policies covering individuals and small businesses. All new double-digit rate filings will be submitted with much more documentation now.   It is then left to the state to decide if the increase is reasonable based on health care costs and other factors.

We are relying on this new rate review process to save us from the big, bad insurance company, right? Unfortunately, Georgia law ties the hands of the insurance commissioner’s office by giving him no authority to reject rates submitted by the insurers. The insurance commissioner’s office “enforces and regulates laws enacted by the state legislature under Title 33 of the Official Code of Georgia.” In other words, Georgians will have to rely on unreasonable rate hikes to be handled by the federal government.

In my opinion, this is the best part: If the increase is found reasonable, the information will be posted for public review. In a perfect world, the state would allow the insurance commissioner’s office use the discretion of its highly educated employees filled with integrity and honesty to throw out excessive rate hike applications. But in the real world, perhaps the very idea of having the consumer scrutinize the rate increases will cause insurers to think twice before trying to bilk the people who pay the premiums. However, I doubt it. Insurance carriers have been raising rates for years and anyone with a policy knows it. Regular publicity and complaints have not done anything to slow the rate increases.

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Helmets Can Help Prevent Injuries in Bicycle Accidents

It’s one of the biggest pieces of advice that Atlanta bicycle accident attorneys would give to any bicyclist - always wear a helmet while riding. Lack of a bicycle helmet substantially increases a cyclist’s chance of a brain injury in a car accident. Unfortunately, we often see bicyclists on Atlanta streets riding without the most basic protection gear to protect against injuries in an accident. We have always wondered why a bicyclist, who is one of the most vulnerable people on the road, would leave himself or herself so open to the risk of injuries. A poll by the British Medical Journal answers some of our questions.

The poll results have been published in the British Medical Journal Blog, and show that the majority of people prefer not to have mandatory bicycle helmet laws because they discourage bicyclists. According to respondents, people should be encouraged to ride bicycles, and mandatory bicycle helmet laws do the opposite. They discourage people from taking to what is essentially a very healthy activity.

68% of the respondents in the poll were against mandatory bicycle helmet laws. Not only do they believe that this would discourage bicycling, but they also felt that there wasn't enough evidence to show that wearing a bicycle helmet significantly protects a bicyclist from injury during an accident. They believe that bicyclists believe that mandatory bicycle helmets would discourage female bicyclists, typically some of the least likely to take to cycling.. Additionally, mandating bicycle helmets for all would discourage bicycling in many people who'd otherwise be able to enjoy a cheap and affordable means of transportation. Overall, most of the respondents in the survey believe that mandatory bicycle helmet laws do not reduce bicycle accident-related injuries, but reduce bicyclist numbers. Some respondents even believe that mandatory bicycle helmet laws give the wrong impression that biking is a dangerous activity.

As Atlanta bicycle accident attorneys, we have some serious problems with the results of this poll. The Bridge Medical Journal does not specify the demographics of the people who were polled as part of the study. However, we hope that bicyclists in Atlanta have more sense than this. To say that bicycling is not a dangerous activity at all would be foolhardy. The fact is that most of Atlanta’s streets are designed for the convenience and safety of motorists, and bicyclists constantly face the threat of death and injuries in accidents. In any accident involving a bicycle and an automobile, it is the person riding a bicycle with a much higher risk of suffering serious or even fatal injuries. 

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Cobb County Police Looking for Motorcyclist in Fatal Car Accident

Police in Cobb County are on the lookout for the driver of a Porsche involved in a fatal motorcycle accident  fatal motorcycle accident. The motorcyclist was riding a Kawasaki Vulcan motorcycle when he was struck by two vehicles on Interstate 75. According to police, a Porsche struck the motorcyclist, and then fled the scene of the auto accident. The motorcycle was then struck again by a Mazda that was following behind. 

The victim, a thirty-one-year-old man from Norcross sustained serious injuries, and died.   The driver of the Mazda has confirmed to police that the Porsche struck the motorcyclist before her car did. Police are now looking for a silver Porsche that is likely to have moderate damage. Unfortunately, as any personal injury attorney will tell you, some of the most devastating accidents occur with hit and run drivers. These drivers are often uninsured, drinking or on drugs.

A motorcycle accident can be a traumatic experience. These are some of the most serious accidents, and can end in fatalities, or serious injuries to motorcycle riders and passengers. Apart from a helmet, a motorcyclist has little protection against injuries.

The trauma after a motorcycle accident can be compounded by the attitude of insurance companies. If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, your primary source of compensation is the insurance company of the automobile or truck that was involved in the accident. You can expect the insurance company to begin an investigation of the motorcycle accident immediately. This investigation will be conducted with a view to limiting the damages that you are eligible to recover from the insurance company.

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ESC Systems Have Reduced Fatal Accidents by 18%

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that electronic stability control systems electronic stability control systems have reduced car accident wrongful deaths by as much as 18%. The agency studied the effectiveness of these systems that are now popular on so many automobiles, in preventing fatal auto accidents. The researchers studied fatal car accident statistics between 1997 and 2009, to gauge the effectiveness of electronic stability control systems in preventing crashes.

These systems have become very popular, and are now available in a number of standard models. In 2005, less than 20% of automobiles came equipped with electronic stability control systems. Thanks to new legislation, automobiles from the 2012 model year onwards will have to come with electronic stability control systems as standard features. This is a change that personal injury lawyers advocated for many years.

Electronic stability control devices come with sensors that detect when a vehicle is beginning to flip over. When that happens, the system kicks into gear, adjusting breaking power to one or more wheels to allow the motorist to control the vehicle. Electronic stability control systems are designed to reduce the high number of car accident deaths every year that can be traced to rollovers. 

Rollovers are some of the most serious of all auto accidents, and often result in deaths or catastrophic personal injuries. Some kinds of vehicles like sports utility vehicles and pickup trucks have a higher center of gravity, and therefore are at a much higher risk of a rollover accident. Passengers in a rollover accident are at risk of being completely or partially ejected from their vehicle with devastating consequences. Additionally, during a rollover, the roof of the vehicle may collapse or be crushed, further exposing occupants to serious head injuries. 

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Feds Mull Rules to Prevent Pedestrian Accidents Involving Hybrid Cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will soon propose a rule requiring automakers to install noisemaking devices in their electric and hybrid cars to alert pedestrians. Pedestrians, especially those with visual challenges, may not be able to hear an approaching electric or hybrid car, because of the low levels of noise that these vehicles emit. As a recent study indicates, the result is an increase in car accidents involving pedestrians and these vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has now posted a notice on its website, as the first step towards rules that will mandate manufacturers of electric and hybrid cars to install noisemaking devices in their vehicles. The rule will cover not just cars, but also motorcycles, buses and trucks. Hybrid vehicles can be a pedestrian safety threat, because they emit very low levels of noise. They make much lower noise than internal combustion engines, and as a result, pedestrians may not hear an approaching vehicle. 

Some pedestrians may be at a higher risk of being involved in an accident with an electric car. For instance, visually impaired pedestrians who rely very heavily on their sense of hearing to detect accident hazards, may be at a special risk of being involved in a car accident with an ultra quiet electric car. Children, whose senses are not developed fully, may also be at high risk when they fail to hear an approaching car. It is the safety of these pedestrians that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  wants to address.

In October 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that electric and hybrid vehicles were involved in a disproportionate number of accidents involving pedestrians, compared to gas-powered vehicles. An additional study conducted in April 2010, found that electric cars with their low levels of noise were dangerous for visually impaired pedestrians.

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Progress in Treating Breathing Interruptions after Spinal Cord Injury Caused by Auto Accidents and Other Trauma

Scientists have made progress in addressing a serious problem that often arises after a person has suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident. Atlanta personal injury lawyers are happy to report that researchers have tested an experimental treatment to restore breathing function  interrupted after a spinal injury.

Breathing interruptions are some of the most serious complications after a person suffers a serious spinal cord injury. However, a group of neuroscientists have used a nerve graft treatment to address this issue. The results of the study have been published in the journal Nature. The tests were conducted on lab rats with successful results, and if the treatment can be transferred to humans with similar results, then doctors will be able to eliminate one of the more serious problems that can arise immediately after a spinal cord injury.

In order to understand how the treatment works, it's important to understand how a spinal cord injury affects breathing. Breathing functions are controlled by nerve cells, which, in turn, control specialized motor cells in the spinal cord. When the vertebrae are damaged at or above the C3, C-4 and C5 segments, it affects breathing. A person in a situation like this may need to be immediately placed on a ventilator. 

When the injury is below the C-5 level, the breathing interruptions are not as serious, but the person may still have difficulty breathing. The researchers used experimental techniques to treat the damage in the surgical area. They grafted a small piece of peripheral nerve from the victim’s limbs to the injury site.

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New Traffic Signal Implemented in Response to Increased Car Accidents

More streets across the country will soon be privy to a new style of traffic signal. Drivers in Michigan, Nevada, and various parts of California and Ohio are already flooding Internet search engines with variations of one question, “What does new flashing yellow arrow mean?” The new variation on the left turn signal, which originated in Reno, Nevada, means that left turns are permitted as long as drivers yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. The hope, and apparently the impact, is to decrease the number of auto accidents at intersections thereby greatly reducing the number of injuries.

The traditional steady yellow arrow and the green arrow retain their original meanings. The yellow continues to indicate that motorists should be prepared to stop or complete their turns if already in the intersection. The green arrow, of course, gives turning motorists the right of way.

The change comes as regulators explored methods to promote safety and efficiency – and decrease the number of car accidents that happen as a result of the current signal system. USA Today reports that in Kentucky there has already been about a 30% reduction in left-turn collisions, although some deem it’s early to thoroughly evaluate success. Undoubtedly, the new signal may help address what some call the “yellow trap condition.” Personal injury lawyers have known about this trap for years. The trap occurs when the driver waiting to turn left is lead into the intersection when it may actually be unsafe to do so.  During the signal change from "permissive" movements in both directions to a "protected" movement in one direction, a yellow trap occurs when the left-turning driver’s permissive left-turn is ending. It is said that the flashing yellow arrow eliminates the yellow trap without requiring louvers (slats over the light that prevent it from being seen until the driver is close to the first signal in the set) or other visibility-limiting devices. 

A study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration, found that the new signals:

  • help to prevent auto accidents;
  • move more traffic through an intersection;
  • and provide additional traffic management flexibility;
  • keeps traffic moving and
  • reduces gasoline usage as well.
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Georgia Supreme Court Hands Down Pivotal Ruling in Drunk Driving Car Accident

On July 5, by a vote of 6-1, Georgia’s Supreme Court found a convenience store could be held liable for selling alcohol to a man who was responsible for a fatal car accident. Initially, the trial court granted the store’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the beverage was not sold to be consumed on the premises, reports the Associated Press. This seems to be an assumption the consumer was unaware of – at the time of the auto accident, and only four hours after buying a twelve-pack of beer from Exprezit!, his blood alcohol content was a whopping 0.181, more than twice the legal limit.

As a car accident attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, I come into contact with similar claims involving drunk drivers. When I heard about this particular ruling, I immediately honed in on the fact that the man was said to be visibly intoxicated at the time the alcohol was purchased. Another article by The Florida Times-Union notes the Court’s application of the “dram shop act” to its reasoning. The law states that anyone who knowingly sells or provides alcohol to someone who is noticeably intoxicated while knowing that the person will soon be driving may be liable if the alcohol is the direct cause of an injury.

In his opinion for the majority, Justice Hugh Thompson reasoned that the act was all-inclusive, meaning that it was intended to encompass the sale of alcohol at places other than the “proverbial dram shop” or bar. On the other hand, Justice Robert Benham, dissenting, concluded this was an unfair interpretation of the act because clerks at grocery stores and convenience stores often experience a lesser degree of interaction with patrons. Ostensibly, he claims, this affords them little opportunity to really judge the sobriety customers.

While I do understand Justice Benham’s concerns, I would have to disagree. In my opinion it often only takes a few seconds to assess soberness. Slurred words and instability, along with many other factors, are often a good indicator that someone may be impaired. In light of the fact that this particular culprit’s blood alcohol content exceeded the limit immediately after the crash, the clerk serving him at Exprezit! was probably given reason to pause. For this reason, Justice Benham is right on another point; the implications of this decision could definitely be far-reaching. Small businesses that were previously impervious to liability may now be much more susceptible to such claims.


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Drunk Driving Stunts Can Lead to Auto Accidents resulting in Wrongful Deaths and Injuries

The death of a popular TV/movie star last month in a fiery drunk driving accident should serve as a reminder to Atlanta residents - avoid driving under the influence of alcohol at all costs. The worst car accidents often involve not only someone driving drunk, but someone driving drunk and performing stunts.

Ryan Dunn, the star of the popular “Jackass” movies was killed in a car accident that occurred in Pennsylvania. Dunn was traveling with his passenger and friend, when the car crashed. The vehicle exploded in flames, and both occupants were killed instantly. Tests later determined that the star had been driving with blood alcohol concentration level of more than twice the .08% DUI Limit. 

Drinking over and above capacity seems to have been a factor in the accident. Just a few minutes before the accident, Dunn had Tweeted a picture of him and his friends having a few drinks at the bar. According to staff at the bar, Dunn only bought about 8 beverages, but was served several alcoholic drinks by fans at the bar who wanted to buy him drinks. In fact, police believe that it was these last few drinks that he had that helped send his blood-alcohol levels over the edge.

This summer, Atlanta car accident attorneys expect to see more numbers of accidents involving motorists who are driving under the influence of alcohol. Coincidently, there have been a number of studies coming out about the devastating impact that even a few drinks can have. The same month that Ryan Dunn died in a high-profile drunk driving accident, researchers released the findings of a study which found that even motorists driving under the influence of a couple of drinks, can be impaired enough to cause an accident that ends with serious injuries. Researchers found that the extent and severity of injuries in an accident increases even when a motorist is driving under the legal limit. 

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Used Car Buyers in Atlanta Face Auto Accident Risks

People who buy used cars in Atlanta may be at risk of a car accident when they purchase recalled cars, but have not been informed of the recall. Loopholes in federal policies allow used-car dealers to sell recalled cars without making buyers aware of this information. In fact, federal policies are so lax that they don't even require automobile manufacturers to inform used-car dealers about a recall. Manufacturers are only required to inform their franchise dealers about recalled vehicles.

Besides, even if used-car dealers and franchise dealers are made aware of any recall information, they are not required to fix these cars before they're sold. As a car accident lawyer, the Government Accountability Office report which indicates the serious dangers facing people who unknowingly buy defective used cars is a call to action.

What should be even more shocking to Atlanta buyers is that these car dealers are not even required to inform consumers about the recall before these cars are sold. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not even have the authority to order dealers to make repairs to the recalled cars, or inform consumers about the recalls before they sell the cars.

In this entire mess, it is buyers of used cars who suffer. With the number of auto recalls that are announced in the United States every year, it's not possible for a buyer to be aware of each and every recall bulletin. Such people may go ahead and buy a used car unaware that it has been included in a recall list for a potentially serious safety issue. These people may go ahead and buy the car, without getting it fixed, and without any idea of the safety hazards they face.

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Women Involved in More Two Vehicle Car Accidents Than Men

An analysis of auto accidents involving both genders over a period of 20 years has found that female drivers are more likely to be involved in car accidents with other female motorists than men. As an Atlanta car accident lawyer I have not noticed that this has occurred and believe that the study is likely in error. There is no logical reason to expect to see this differential.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University Of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute, and analyzed car accident data involving two-vehicle auto accidents between 1988 and 2007. The accidents occurred when the drivers involved were traveling for personal reasons. Men travel approximately 50% of the time for such personal travel, and women travel about 40% of the time. The researchers therefore, expected a higher rate of overall accidents involving men. They expected about 36% of accidents to involve men, and less than 60% of the accidents to involve women.

What they found however, was that women were more likely to be involved in two-vehicle accidents with female motorists. There was a higher rate of such accidents in situations like sideswiping, head-on collisions, crossing another vehicle’s path and turning in front of another vehicle. When both motorists were female, the frequency of accidents increased by as much as 50%. Further, women were much more likely to be involved in sideswiping accidents with another female driver, with a 52% increased frequency of such accidents.

The analysis doesn't offer any reasons why female drivers are at such a high risk of being involved in accidents with other female drivers in spite of the fact that male drivers overall are involved in far higher accident numbers. I think more research in this area would indicate that this study is flawed.

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Lack of Street Planning Exposes Atlanta Elders to Pedestrian Accidents, Injuries

Elderly pedestrians account for just 13% of the American population, but comprise 22% of all pedestrian accident deaths here. It doesn't take an Atlanta pedestrian accident lawyer to understand that these pedestrians are simply at a higher risk of being fatally injured in accidents. However, the situation could get worse. As the nation's baby boomers step into their mid-60s, transportation safety advocates expect these pedestrian safety problems to explode. 

Not only are seniors living much longer, but they are also living healthier lives. A 65-year-old American today probably lives independently, and walks a lot for leisure for health. Unfortunately, these persons are likely walking on streets that have not been designed with their safest interests in mind. 

Many of the streets were designed decades ago, when there were fewer numbers of pedestrians on the street, let alone elderly pedestrians. In those days, streets were designed for automobiles only. An elderly person is slower than most people for who our crosswalks were designed. That's a fact of life, and street planning has not taken this into consideration.

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18 Car Accident Deaths on Georgia Streets over Holiday Weekend

Georgia police are reporting an increase in auto accident deaths over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. This year, a total of 18 people were killed in car accidents and motorcycle accidents over the holiday weekend, an increase from five deaths in 2010. Of course, there were many more persons injured this past holiday weekend. As an Atlanta personal injury lawyer, I always note a significant increase in accidents over every holiday.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Safety, most of those deaths occurred on Atlanta streets. Out of the 18 deaths, 11 occurred in Atlanta. At least some of those accidents also involved motorcycle deaths and pedestrian accidents resulting in deaths. In Atlanta, a student at Georgia Tech was killed in a motorcycle accident when his motorcycle was struck by a drunk driver. Another motorcycle accident was recorded in Lilburn over the weekend. 

Heavy traffic and motorists rushing to get to their destination during the holiday were responsible for many of the fatalities. In one accident, a 19-year-old motorist escaped injuries when his car flipped over. As he was standing outside the car checking out the damage, he was struck by a passing vehicle. He died at the scene.

Some deaths this holiday were linked to red light violations. A 16-year-old driver in Roopville allegedly ran a red light and struck another vehicle. Both the teen driver and the occupant of the other vehicle were killed. 

There has been no official word about the reason for the dramatic spike in auto accident fatalities and injuries this Memorial Day weekend over the last year. However, as Atlanta car accident attorneys, weare already concerned about the fact that the year’s peak travel season has only just begun. Hopefully, the Memorial Day death toll won't be an indicator of what we can expect over the next three months. To everyone out there - drive safely, do not drink and drive, and switch off your cell phone while driving.

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Two Children Injured in Atlanta Car Accident

Two children were left seriously injured in a pedestrian accident in southwest Atlanta last week. The accident occurred near Donnelly Avenue, and involved a stolen car. As an Atlanta injury attorney, I have too often seen stolen vehicles involved in auto accidents involving serious injuries. We need to continue to work hard to reduce the number of vehicle thefts which in turn will reduce the number of these accidents.  

According to Atlanta Police, a group of four young men seem to have stolen a Dodge Intrepid. The two children, aged seven and nine were walking on a sidewalk with their mother. The nine-year-old child suffered from cerebral palsy, and was in a wheelchair. The child was thrown out of the wheelchair when the car struck, and was slammed on the pavement. The younger child suffered a broken arm. The mother also suffered injuries.

According to several witnesses, the car had been traveling erratically down the road just before the accident. The four young men got out of the car and fled the scene of the accident. The police are still looking for these men as investigations continue.

The mother here did not do anything wrong. She and the children were walking on the sidewalk as they were supposed to. 

In 2007, nonprofit group, Safe Kids Worldwide announced a decline in the number of children aged 14 and below being killed in pedestrian accidents over the past decade. According to Safe Kids, fatal pedestrian child fatalities fell by about 40% between 1995 and 2004. However, the group warned that much more needed to be done to encourage safe walking in children. 

The First Lady has been trying to encourage walking in children to help reduce childhood obesity. I very much agree with her efforts and support them. However, as Atlanta pedestrian accident attorneys, we believe that any campaign to increase walking aimed at children, must come with a focus on creating a safe environment for children to walk in.

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Revolutionary New Treatment Helps Auto Accident Victims with Spinal Cord Injury Stand Again

Atlanta car accident attorneys have been encouraged by a flurry of promising new aids to help spinal Injury victims walk again. However, this particular breakthrough is very different - a young man who had been left paralyzed after a serious car accident in 2006, and was confined to a wheelchair, has been able to stand up on his own andeventake a few steps. The researchers are hailing this as one of the biggest breakthroughs in spinal cord injury research.

Spinal injuries are frequently seen in devastating car and truck accidents. These are some of the most debilitating injuries, leaving an individual with markedly reduced movement, sensation and mobility. There is no complete cure for spinal cord injury, which is why it is so encouraging when we have little signs of progress like this.

The man, Rob Summers had been left with a serious spinal cord injury that left him incapable of moving his legs, and controlling his bladder and bowel movements. Summers was chosen to participate in research at a Kentucky spinal research center. He underwent the surgical procedure to implant a device containing 16 electrodes in his spine just below the damaged area. When the device is switched on, it excites the damaged nerves of the spine, delivering signals from the leg muscles, and helping a person move his toes, feet and legs. 

Summers can now stand without aid and take a few steps on his own, although the day when spinal cord injury patients will be able to walk about independently is quite far off. However, the fact that there has been this much progress is extremely encouraging to Atlanta personal injury lawyers and millions of people in the United States who suffer from spinal cord injuries.

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Survey Finds Americans Want More Traffic Safety Laws to Prevent Car Accidents

A new survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that Americans would rather have more government interference in matters of traffic safety to prevent auto accidents, truck accidents and motorcycle accidents. Of course, these accidents often result in serious personal injuries and wrongful deaths.   According to the survey, 62% of Americans want more traffic safety laws to reduce poor driving behaviors and minimize accident risks. What's more, 57% of respondents wanted their individual states to get more involved in making the roads safer. This is an indication to Atlanta car accident attorneys that there is plenty of support for recent moves in Georgia to enact mandatory seatbelt laws for all, and ban texting while driving for all motorists.

According to the survey, 70% of Americans feel that traffic safety laws should be strictly enforced. There's a lesson here for Atlanta and throughout Georgia which has recently banned texting while driving - laws can be meaningless unless these are enforced and violators penalized sufficiently. 

Additionally, the survey also indicates that there is plenty of support for tough teen driver licensing standards. 86% of the respondents believe that new drivers should be required to complete a driver’s education course before they are allowed a driver’s license. American motorists also want to see automakers invest in technologies that will help prevent accidents and keep motorists safe. 60% of the respondents wanted automakers to do more to make their vehicles safer. 

There are really no surprises in this survey for Atlanta car accident lawyers. One of the factors contributing to the declining rate of traffic accident deaths in Georgia has been strict state and local action against devastating driving behaviors, like drunk driving and distracted driving. Several states around the country, including Georgia, have passed laws aimed at keeping intoxicated motorists off the street. Newer laws prohibit drivers from texting while driving, and in some states, using hand-held cell phones while driving. More government action in the form of enacting new laws and enforcing current safety laws can help reduce accidents and keep people safer.

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New Georgia Law Designed to reduce the number of Bicycle Accidents and Motorcycle Accidents

With increasing gas prices and unrelenting traffic congestion plaguing the state, many Georgians are finding it’s more economically savvy (and healthy, besides) to travel by bicycle or motorcycle in lieu of automobile. Unfortunately, this trend towards cycling is also resulting in an increased number of accidents involving cyclists and their impatient motorist counterparts. In fact, according to the Georgia Office of Highway Safety, in 2008, 12 percent of the people killed in motor vehicle crashes in Georgia were motorcycle drivers — the highest motorcycle fatality count within 15 years. As an Atlanta injury lawyer, I know that this number is only the tip of the iceberg since a significant number of serious injuries result from motorcycle accidents every year.

This is a growing problem in Georgia, where in 2008 motorcycle driver deaths has increased by 59 percent since 2004. As a remedy, Governor Nathan Deal signed into law last week a bill aimed to protect them, while simultaneously granting respite to sympathetic drivers who nevertheless feel a modicum of nervousness when inching by a motorcycle or bicycle.  

House Bill 101 requires drivers to give cyclists at least 3 feet of space. Before last week, motorists had only to maintain an arguably ambiguous “safe distance” when passing. Now, those same motorists will have to actually cross the yellow line to comply with the law.

The 3-foot requirement was actually an afterthought of sorts, tacked on at the last minute by Senator John Albers. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, he was inspired to do so by Kathy Serrano, widow of cyclist Tony Serrano who was killed in 2004 by a car in Gwinnett County, and by concerns for his own children, who are avid bike riders. He also aimed to encourage the exercise of generally safer driving practices: violation will result in heavy fines or jail time.

Beginning July 1, Atlanta bicycle accident attorneys will be more cognizant of this legislation as well, especially when pursuing lawsuits involving bicycle/vehicle collisions. Whereas the "safe distance" requirement was vague, this new law, which serves as a deterrent, also suggests more specificity in terms of liability.

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Death in Cobb County, Georgia Car Accident Traced to Red Light Violations

The parents of a young Cobb County woman, who was killed in a car accident two weeks ago, are calling for stronger charges against the motorist involved. Cobb County police are blaming the accident on red light violations. Car accidents involving wrongful deaths often involve a red light violation. Of course, auto accidents of this type also result in significant personal injuries since persons trying to “beat” the red light are often traveling at a high rate of speed. As an Atlanta injury lawyer, I know these cases are occur far too often.

The young woman had been driving a Toyota Safari, which was struck by an Infiniti. The woman had a green light at an intersection, when the Infiniti driver ran a red light and broadsided the Toyota. The Toyota driver suffered serious injuries, and was rushed to the hospital. However, she died two days later.

The Infiniti driver now faces misdemeanor charges. However, the parents of the young woman want felony vehicular homicide charges to be brought against the man. Vehicular homicide charges can only brought in cases where the motorist was driving under the influence, was driving at excessive speeds or was on the run from police. This particular accident doesn't seem to meet any of those criteria, and therefore, it isn't very likely that felony charges will be filed here.

Every accident that ends in a death is a tragedy, especially when it is a fatality that is so preventable. Unfortunately, as Atlanta car accident attorneys, we often see that everything which could be done to prevent these accidents has not been done. Although Georgia's system of red light cameras is helpful in preventing these types of accidents, it has been the target of plenty of criticism and scrutiny. This is in spite of the fact that there are studies to indicate that red light camera systems reduce the incidence of red light violations, and prevent the devastating accidents that result from these violations. 

These accidents are devastating because they involve a car running a red light and broad siding, or crashing into the side of another car. The kind of side-impact injuries that result from these accidents are often severely injurious or fatal.

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Study Finds Antidepressants Help Repair Brain Cells, Heal Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injuries are some of the most devastating injuries that Atlanta auto accident lawyers see. These serious injuries can also be seen as a result of a slip and fall accident when a person sustains impact to the head. What makes these injuries even more devastating is that there is no complete cure for traumatic brain injury. All doctors can do is administer emergency treatment as quickly as possible. A new study indicates that the use of antidepressants can help increase brain cells, thereby helping treat an injury. The researchers believe that if a patient is administered antidepressant therapy right after a traumatic brain injury, in addition to all other kinds of therapies, it could help foster the survival of healthy brain cells after an injury.

The use of antidepressants in the treatment of brain injury is not exactly new. In fact, most patients who suffer from TBI are susceptible to depression, and are often prescribed antidepressants. However, a new study conducted on mice found that injured mice that were given antidepressants had up to 70% more brain cells after four weeks on the antidepressant therapy, compared to those mice with brain injuries who had not been given antidepressants. The mice had been given the antidepressant, imipramine

That’s not all. Researchers also analyzed the performance of the mice during a novel object recognition test, to determine whether the thriving of brain cells in these mice, actually contributed to better cognition skills. Researchers analyzed how much time the mice under the antidepressant therapy spent looking at new or novel objects. Researchers found that the mice that had received the antidepressant therapy spent at least 15% more time looking at the novel objects. This indicates that these mice found the objects to be new, thereby indicating better memory capacity. 

Researchers believe that if the patient is administered antidepressant therapy right after a traumatic brain injury, in addition to all other kinds of therapies, it could help foster the survival of healthy brain cells after an injury.

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One Person Killed in Wrong Way Driving Accident in Gwinnett County

As Atlanta car accident lawyers, we often notice that wrong way driving accidents are some of the deadliest collisions. These accidents typically involve one car traveling at highway speeds in the direction of other vehicles that are also traveling at the same level of speed. Such accidents are typically high-impact accidents that end with multiple deaths or serious injuries. An accident over the weekend in Gwinnett County, Georgia  that killed one person and left two others with critical injuries, is being blamed on a wrong way driver.

The accident occurred on Saturday night, and involved a total of three vehicles. According to Gwinnett County police, a car traveling the wrong way veered across the median and crashed head-on into another vehicle. The car then flipped over, and crashed into a third vehicle. A woman was killed in the accident. Two other people, including the wrong way driver, suffered critical injuries. Police are investigating the accident, but no charges have been filed yet. Police are considering the possibility that the wrong way driver may have been driving under the influence of alcohol.

Every year, approximately 300 people are killed in accidents caused by wrong way motorists. Many of these accidents are caused because motorists are driving under the influence of alcohol, and end up traveling in the opposite direction. Alcohol use is the most common cause of wrong way driving. It's not so surprising to Atlanta car accident attorneys that alcohol use is so often cited in wrong way driving. Alcohol use clouds a person's judgment, blurs his vision and affects his powers of reasoning. A person like this is also likely to miss highway street signs, ending with him driving in the opposite direction.

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Rising Car Accident Wrongful Death Rates among Atlanta Baby Boomers

Has all the focus on teen and elder drivers affected traffic safety for other groups of motorists? That's the question that Atlanta car accident attorneys are asking this week after released its analysis of car accident data. Even as the numbers of people dying in auto accidents across the country has been declining over the past decade, there has been an actual increase in the numbers of male car accident deaths in the 51 to 65 age group.

The data comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to the analysis, the number of male and female car accident deaths in other age groups has been steadily declining over the past few years. Even drunk driving accident deaths have declined over the past five years, helped by a lowered tolerance to intoxicated driving, and stronger enforcement. However according to the data, the number of adult males aged between 51 and 65 years killed in auto accidents, increased by almost 25% between 2000 and 2009. In comparison, car accident deaths for all male drivers during the same period of time declined by more than 20%. Even auto accident deaths for female drivers declined by about 20% during the study period.

According to the analysts, it's not just the increase in male car accident deaths in this age group that is concerning, but also the fact that much of this increase is related to drunk driving accidents. In fact, when it comes to drunk driving accident deaths, there has been an increase in fatalities among both men and women in this age group. The number of annual DUI deaths among baby boomers increased by 37% between 2000 and 2009. During the same period of time, rates of drunk driving accident fatalities across the country dropped by almost 7%.

Much of the attention on traffic safety has focused on teen and young drivers. However, this analysis seems to indicate that older motorists, who should know better, are failing to follow the advice that they dole out to youngsters.

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Car Accidents, Truck Accidents and Motorcycle Accidents at All-Time Low

Federal transportation safety agencies recorded a 3% drop in auto accident, truck accident, and motorcycle accident wrongful deaths in 2010. Southern states including Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida also recorded a 3% drop in accident deaths last year. Last year's figures are the lowest accident death rates on record since 1949. As an Atlanta Injury lawyer, I welcome the latest report of the decline in these numbers.

The Georgia/South Carolina/Alabama/Tennessee/Florida region recorded 6,375 car accident deaths in 2010, a drop of 3% from 2009, when there were 6,573 accident deaths. Overall, nationwide, there were 32, 788 auto accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident deaths in 2010, a decline of 3% from 33,808 fatalities in 2009. Moreover, the decline in car accident deaths was the lowest on record since 1949. Last year accident deaths also marked a 25% drop since 2005.

The statistics also seem to put to rest the theory that the decline in car accident fatalities has had a lot to do with the recession. Last year, Americans traveled more vehicle miles, but fewer Americans died in accidents. There are other reasons that have contribute to this decline that have been evident for the past few years. Higher seat belt usage rate is typically one of those factors. More drivers in Georgia now buckle up than ever before and this has meant fewer fatalities in accidents. 

Besides, cars now come packed with the latest safety features that are designed not just to minimize the risk of accidents, but also protect occupants better in the event of an accident. Side airbags are becoming popular on more and more automobiles while electronic stability control has been available on most new models for a while now. Besides, lane departure warning systems, forward collision warning systems including those that include pedestrian detection, and other advanced safety features have helped reduce car accident deaths.

More could be done, however. For instance, we could save more lives every year if we had harsher laws in place against the use of cell phones and texting while driving.

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IIHS Study Analyzes Use of Technology to Prevent Atlanta Pedestrian Accidents

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has come out with a new study that promotes traffic safety initiatives of the kind Atlanta pedestrian accident attorneys have been advocating for too - the use of technology to prevent pedestrian accidents. As an Atlanta injury lawyer, I have seen a significant number of car accidents involving pedestrians. These auto accidents often involve serious personal injuries and many times result in the wrongful death of the pedestrian. Any technology that decreases the number of pedestrian accidents is a welcome innovation.   

The Insurance Institute has studied technologies that can help prevent these accidents, and for this, it has analyzed the most common kinds of pedestrian accident scenarios. Between 2005 and 2009, 224,000 pedestrians were involved in front-impact accidents involving single passenger vehicles. Out of these 13,193 pedestrians were killed.

According to the Insurance Institute, the most common kinds of pedestrian accident scenarios involve a person crossing the road, and a car traveling straight ahead towards the pedestrian. In these cases, the motorist has a clear view of the pedestrian, but is unable to stop in time. The Insurance Institute study is promoting the use of forward collision warning systems, including pedestrian technology, to prevent these accidents. Forward collision warning systems have been very popular for some time now. These systems allow the driver to detect an object that is in the path of the car, thereby encouraging him to apply the brakes, and prevent an accident. Some of these systems now come with pedestrian detection technology that enables the driver to detect not only an object, but also a pedestrian in the car’s path.

In the European Union, automakers are now performing design modifications to the front of the vehicle to reduce the severity of injuries to pedestrians in an accident. Something similar to this could help reduce pedestrian deaths in the United States too, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has failed to pursue similar initiatives here.

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Car Accident Prone intersection is Finally Revised

For years now, the intersection of Newnan Road and Olympic Dr. in Carroll County Georgia has been one of the most dangerous intersections in the state. For the past five years alone, this intersection has been the scene of more than 50 auto accidents. These accidents have resulted in one wrongful death and at least 15 other personal injuries. Finally, construction work to enhance safety at the intersection and make it safer, has begun. As an Atlanta injury lawyer, although we are glad to see the intersection improved, we are disappointed that it took over 50 car accidents for the work to finally begin.

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners had voted back in November to move forward with a construction project that would allow for a smoother flow of traffic around what is normally a very busy intersection. This would not only facilitate easy movement of traffic, but also reduce the number of accidents that occur at this intersection. However, work was delayed because of power and utility companies that had to move lines from the area. Last week, AT&T completed the process of moving its cable lines, and now, construction work can finally go ahead.

Making this intersection safer for all residents of Carroll County has been a challenge. There have been several efforts made to calm traffic in this area, and reduce the risk of accidents. However, many of these initiatives had been shot down by transportation authorities. The Georgia Department of Transportation, for instance, rejected calls for a traffic light and a roundabout at the intersection amid concerns about traffic backup and other issues.

According to the engineers, the new design for the intersection should reduce the possibility of accidents at the intersection by as much as 70%.

Very often, Atlanta car accident attorneys notice that accidents are caused because of road defects in the design of the roadway. Many of these roads were constructed decades ago, when demographics and traffic situations were different. A seemingly safe street could quickly turn dangerous in a couple of years, when the population in an area grows rapidly, or when more numbers of motorists begin using that road to get to a destination. The Georgia Department of Transportation as well as local and county agencies should be more proactive about periodically evaluating the design of busy streets and intersections, and making changes to these roadways to alleviate car accident risks.

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Motorcyclists in Atlanta and throughout Georgia at Risk from Car Accidents

Most motorcycle accidents occur in the daytime and at intersections, and can usually be linked to motorist failure to see the motorcyclist in time. As an Atlanta injury lawyer, I find that some of the most serious and debilitating injuries arise out of motorcycle accidents. A motorcyclist is far more likely to be injured in an auto accident than a passenger in a car. As the year’s biking season kicks off, Georgia motorcycle accident attorneys would advise motorists to exercise extra caution.

Georgia's motorcyclists will enjoy the warm spring weather, after what has been at times, a horribly cruel winter. The weather being as pleasant as it is, motorists can expect not just local Georgia motorcyclists, but also motorcyclists from neighboring states on their way to southern destinations. However, with the increase in motorcyclists, comes an increased risk of accidents. Biking season is the right time to remind drivers that most motorcycle accidents are caused by motorists and drivers of other vehicles, and not motorcyclists. 

In Georgia at least, we have noticed a trend of blaming motorcyclists every time there's an accident involving these riders. Most people are quick to assume that it's motorcyclists who disobey traffic laws, ride too fast, and try stunts on the motorcycle. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most motorcyclists are aware that any foolish behavior can have devastating consequences for them, and not so much for the occupants of the other vehicle involved in the crash.

Unfortunately, most of these accidents are caused by negligent motorists. For instance, motorcycle accidents at intersections can be avoided if drivers take care to be especially alert when they're making a left turn. 

Earlier this month, law-enforcement in Georgia initiated the Look Twice, Save a Life campaign aimed at urging motorists to be more vigilant and look out for motorcyclists. Authorities should focus even harder on motorcycling safety this spring.

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DOJ Report on Punitive Damages Awards in 2005

In any trial involving intentional misconduct or in which a defendant has consciously disregarded the consequences of his or her conduct, Atlanta personal injury lawyers will ask juries to award compensatory damages and punitive damages to the plaintiff. Cases involving punitive damages include drunk driving car accidents, construction accidents in which the worker was using drugs, trucking accidents in which the truck company negligently hired or retained a clearly unqualified driver, dog bite cases in which the dog has repeatedly bitten other persons, or other injury cases in which the defendant’s conduct is more than just negligent. As an Atlanta injury lawyer, we thoroughly investigate all cases to determine if the case is appropriate for an award of punitive damages.

Compensatory damages are meant to do just that-compensate the plaintiff for all his economic and non-economic losses as a result of the defendant’s negligence. These losses could include medical expenses (hospitalization, medical bills, doctor fees, surgeries, physical therapy and rehabilitation), plus income and lost potential income in the future. Non-economic losses could include the plaintiff's physical pain and mental suffering and loss of consortium/affection. However, punitive damages are awarded not to compensate the plaintiff, but to punish the defendant and to deter him from committing such conduct in the future.

A new report by the US Department of Justice Office of Justice titled Punitive Damage Awards in State Courts 2005 provides an interesting summary of punitive damages awards that year. In the year 2005, there were 22 tort and contract trials in Fulton County, Georgia, which resulted in plaintiff victories. Out of these, 9% resulted in punitive damages being awarded to the plaintiff. Across the country, that same year, punitive damages were awarded in 14,359 trials that ended with plaintiff victories.

According to the report, out of more than 25,000 tort and contract trials in 2005, roughly 12% involved plaintiffs seeking punitive damages. Out of these, 30% of the cases ended with punitive damages awards. The average award was $64,000, and 13% of these trials ended with punitive damages in excess of $1 million.

In 2005, there were 16,057 tort trials, and out of these, plaintiffs sought punitive damages in 10% of the trials. An overwhelming majority of tort trials in 2005 involved medical malpractice, auto accidents and defective products. In these cases, plaintiffs requested punitive damages in about 7% of the cases. In less frequent tort trials like slander or libel, plaintiff asked for punitive damages in about 30% of the cases.

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Atlanta Boy Injured in SUV Car Accident

A six-year-old Atlanta boy who was injured in an SUV car accident in Cobb County is expected to recover from his injuries. The boy had been injured in the accident that occurred on Sunday at the intersection of Macland Road and John Ward Road.

The child was apparently traveling in an SUV that was T-boned by another vehicle at the intersection. The impact of the accident caused the SUV to flip over. The boy sustained a head injury, and had to be rushed to the hospital. Police are likely to charge the other driver with failure to yield.

Very often, Atlanta car accident attorneys notice that T-bone collisions which occur near an intersection, occur because one of the drivers ran a red light. T-bone accidents involve a car that crashes through traffic and into the side of another car. These side-impact accidents are some of the most injurious of all auto accidents. Side impact crashes can cause serious injuries and fatalities, because there is very little space protecting the occupants of the car from the full impact of the collision. This is unlike a frontal impact collision, where the front of the automobile absorbs much of the energy from the accident, cushioning the occupants from injuries.

In fact, studies have found that red light camera systems are effective in reducing the number of accidents that occur at intersections. Most of these preventable accidents are T-bone accidents. Side airbags can absorb some of the energy from the crash, thereby protecting occupants from more serious injuries. However, these safety devices cannot completely prevent injury, especially during high-speed accidents, which are often seen when a motorist runs a red light

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Georgia Needs More Trauma Centers to Treat Injuries of Auto Accident Victims

The Atlanta car accident lawyers at our firm have been blogging regularly about the need for more trauma care centers in Georgia to treat auto accident victims and others. Rural areas in Georgia have a severe shortage of trauma care centers to treat individuals who have suffered serious personal injuries. This has resulted in a significant number of unnecessary deaths. Unfortunately, a recent vote to provide a limited tax to increase the number of trauma centers was defeated.

According to estimates, approximately 700 people in Georgia are killed every year because they lacked immediate access to emergency trauma care. Many of these people were injured in catastrophic accidents, and sustained serious injuries that could not be treated without the facilities available at a trauma center. The first hour after a person suffers serious injuries is the “golden hour,” and if the person receives emergency care during this time, his chances of surviving the accident or injuries increase substantially. Unfortunately, many people who are involved in auto accidents in Georgia cannot be taken to an emergency trauma care center in time because there is not one close enough to them.

According to estimates, there should be at least 30 trauma centers in Georgia for trauma care access for all. Currently, we need at least 12 more centers to ensure that all Georgia residents live within 50 miles of a trauma center. Georgia’s trauma care network leaves much to be desired, and the average trauma death rate in our state is much worse than the national average. To make matters worse, recent budget cuts have slashed approximately $10 million of funding for the existing trauma care centers in Georgia.

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Why Atlanta's Senior Motorists May Be at a Higher Risk of Pedestrian Accidents

As Atlanta pedestrian accident attorneys, we often come across cases involving pedestrians seriously injured in accidents caused by senior motorists. A new study conducted by Israeli researchers suggests that elder drivers may suffer from an inability to see things in their peripheral vision that prevents them from seeing pedestrians on the curb or sidewalk. This increases the likelihood of a pedestrian accident. Of course, auto accidents involving pedestrians often involve the most serious injuries.

The study came out of a spike in pedestrian accidents involving senior motorists in Israel. The researchers were looking at the specific challenges an elderly motorist faces as far as pedestrian safety is concerned. The researchers placed older motorists in a simulator, and measured their responses to vital safety signals. 

They found that drivers above the age of 65 were half as likely to spot a pedestrian as younger drivers. Not only that, they also found that senior motorists were just half as likely to tap the brakes when they spotted a pedestrian on the curb or sidewalk, as younger drivers. This signifies one of two things-either these motorists don't spot a pedestrian in time to react, or they don't consider pedestrians a serious accident hazard. Either of these theories spells danger for any pedestrian in the path of an elderly motorist.

Previous scientific studies have focused on elderly motorists’ diminished ability to focus on objects or persons in their peripheral vision. Scientists believe that this is a natural part of aging, but fortunately, it doesn't have to mean that older motorists are doomed to miss pedestrians or objects that fall outside their peripheral vision. For instance, there are brain games like Lumosity that older motorists can play to develop those areas of the brain that are responsible for focusing on objects in their peripheral vision.

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US DOT, Consumer Reports Announce Campaign to Prevent Teen Auto Accidents

According to Consumer Reports, teenagers are dying and suffering serious injuries every year because of car accidents caused by texting and using cell phones while driving. The safety advocacy group along with the US Department of Transportation have announced a new campaign aimed at minimizing the incidence of distracted driving among teen motorists. As an Atlanta injury lawyer, I very much applaud their efforts. Car accidents are one of the leading causes of deaths and injury among teenagers. Simply put, too many families have been devastated by these car accidents.

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, the average reaction time for a teenage motorist driving and talking on a cell phone was equal to that of a 70-year-old driver not using a phone while driving. There are numerous other studies that have clearly laid out the significantly increased accident risks that come when motorists are using cell phones while driving. For instance, a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that texting while driving could increase a motorist’s risk of an accident by a staggering 23 times. 

According to the same study, physically dialing a phone while driving increases the risk of an accident by as much as six times. In 2009, approximately 16% of all fatal accidents were caused by distracted driving. At least one in five of those deaths involved the use of cell phones or texting while driving.

The risks from accidents caused by cell phone use while driving are so great, because almost every teen driver has a cell phone in his or her car. The temptation to use the phone with your hand on the wheel is too great to resist for many teenage motorists. These are already inexperienced drivers with little appreciation for the crash risks from such behavior. When such drivers are distracted by cell phones and other gadgets, the risk of being involved in an accident increases dramatically.

The Atlanta car accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of car and auto accidents in and across the metro Atlanta region and across Georgia.

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Road Debris on Atlanta Highways Contributes to Auto Accidents

Apart from DUI drivers and distracted motorists, Atlanta drivers face other equally dangerous risks from silent killers - road debris that has fallen off from pickup trucks, flatbed trucks and tractor trailers. Such debris regularly cause car accidents on Atlanta roads. If you are an Atlanta injury lawyer, you have seen the impact of this debris first hand in the auto accident cases which come through your office.

The number of people being killed every year in accidents caused by road debris is a matter of debate, and accidents don't result every time objects fall off a truck or any other vehicle. However, when such debris takes motorists unawares causing them to brake suddenly, the results can be devastating. Besides, accidents can also be caused  when the object flies directly into vehicles behind or around the car, crashing through windshields and injuring or killing occupants inside.

Last December, one person in Atlanta sustained serious injuries in an accident that was traced to road debris. In that accident, the woman had been driving on a highway when some debris, including tools and clamps, fell off a truck and onto the highway. Most of the cars that were behind the truck were able to avoid the debris, but the woman wasn't as fortunate. A piece of equipment that had fallen off the truck crashed through the windshield of her car, and struck the driver in the head and face. She sustained serious injuries.

Most accidents caused by road debris occur when motorists panic and swerve to avoid the object. That very often leads to deadly accidents. Other times, injuries are caused when the debris smashes through the windshield of a car, often severely or fatally injuring drivers or passengers. From washing machines, entertainment systems and couches to cement blocks and fresh produce, the range of debris that Atlanta car accident lawyerscan trace to crashes, is wide. Unfortunately, drivers are not prepared for strange objects flying in their face at highway speeds, and the results are often disastrous. In the end, we will not eliminate road debris incidents. However, with tougher enforcement of laws requiring the securing of loads and more awareness of the issue, the number of these incidents can be reduced.


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Untested Car Safety Seats Could Cause Injuries in Atlanta Car Accidents

The role of car safety seats in preventing injuries to children in an auto accident is one that no Atlanta injury lawyer would deny. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 1988 and 1994, the use of car seats led to a 73% drop in infant wrongful deaths and a 54% drop in car accident related injuries in children between the age of one and four. However, not all car safety seats may have been tested and approved to be safe for your child.

The Washington Post warns parents against assuming that the car seat that they're using for their child will protect them from injuries in the event of an accident. The seats that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates are only tested for protection in a front impact collision. The seats are not regulated against side-impact, rear end or rollover accidents. This is in spite of the fact that the risk of injuries and fatalities is often much higher in a rollover accident or a side-impact accident than a front impact collision.  

One of the reasons why the federal agency has failed to regulate the effectiveness of car seats in these kinds of accidents is the lack of proper-sized crash test dummies. That is also the reason why the agency has failed to regulate the safety of large-sized car seats that are used for toddlers above 65 pounds. There's a growing class of overweight children who are too heavy for infant car seats, and too young for seat belts. Car seat manufacturers have been marketing larger-sized car seats for children of this size, but the NHTSA has failed to regulate the effectiveness of these seats. One of the reasons has been the failure to develop a crash test dummy of an appropriate size.

As Atlanta car accident lawyers, we know the kind of devastating injuries that can result when children are involved in accidents. Auto accidents are the number one cause of accidental death for children between the age of 1 and 14. Many of these deaths could be prevented if the child is restrained in appropriate car seats. Unfortunately, the NHTSA's car seat testing processes do not include all car safety seats or all types of accidents thereby preventing parents from making an informed choice.

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IIHS Advocates Stronger Under Ride Guards for Tractor-Trailers to Prevent car accidents and injuries

As an Atlanta injury lawyer, I often find that the kind of damage that results from a rear end truck accident involving a tractor trailer and a car leaves little chance for survival. The Institute Insurance for Highway Safety is now calling on the federal administration to require stronger under ride guards for tractor-trailers and 18-wheelers, to prevent the serious injuries that result from auto accidents in which a car rear-ends these large commercial trucks. I strongly support the move towards improving under ride guards.

Under ride guards hang low at the back of a tractor-trailer, and are designed to protect occupants of a passenger vehicle in case of a rear end accident. When a small passenger vehicle crashes into the back of a tractor-trailer, the bumper and front of the car can slide under the trailer. The under ride guard is supposed to prevent this. However, the Institute Insurance for Highway Safety has found in a study that in low-speed rear-ender accidents involving a tractor-trailer and cars, the under ride guard failed to prevent catastrophic injuries. 

The Insurance Institute relied on an analysis of 1,000 accidents between 2001 and 2003. There were 113 accidents that involved passenger vehicles crashing into the back of a tractor-trailer. Out of these, 73% resulted in the passenger vehicle sliding under the tractor-trailer. 28 of these accidents were fatal, and out of these, 23 accidents involved those in which the entire front portion of the passenger vehicle slid completely under the trailer.

The occupants of a passenger vehicle in a case like this are at risk for catastrophic injuries, specifically to the head and torso. The Institute Insurance for Highway Safety is now calling on the federal administration to get more involved in ensuring the strength and reliability of these under ride guards, and also to make sure that all trucks come with strong under ride guards. 

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Ignition Interlock Systems Can Reduce DUI Car Accidents

As an Atlanta injury lawyer,  I often find that a significant number of wrongful deaths and serious personal injuries arise from drunk driving accidents involving repeat offenders. A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the use of ignition interlock devices is successful in preventing repeat drunk driving. Such prevention would unquestionably result in a reduction in drunk driving accidents, injuries and deaths. Each and every Atlanta injury lawyer should advocate for the use of these devices.

The study found that recidivism rates for DUI dropped by approximately 67% when ignition interlock devices were used. Many states including Georgia, have adopted alcohol ignition interlock devices as part of their efforts against DUI. In Georgia, persons convicted of DUI can be ordered by courts to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles if they have prior DUI convictions too. The device requires drivers to blow into it, and measures the alcohol on his breath. If the alcohol content is found to be excessive, the device prevents the motorist from starting the engine. The researchers say that these devices are so useful in preventing drunk driving accidents, that they should be made a mandatory part of DUI prevention efforts around the country. As an injury lawyer, I couldn’t agree more.

Ignition interlock devices receive a lot of criticism from DUI attorneys and the beverage industry. However, these devices have become more sophisticated, accurate and reliable over the years. It's much harder to “fool” an ignition interlock system now than it used to be a couple of years ago. Some devices require the user to hum while breathing into the tube. 

The most effective way to prevent drunk drivers from attempting to drive in an intoxicated state again, is to simply shut the engine down if they are intoxicated. No engine, no accidents. License suspensions, fines and penalties have a very limited effect on reducing DUI recidivism rates.  

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Georgia DOT to Allow Memorials to Auto Accident and Truck Accident Victims

Memorial signs to auto accident and truck accident victims have been used around the country not just to commemorate the dead, but also serve as a warning to the living. As Atlanta auto accident lawyers, we believe that such stark signs help increase motorist awareness of the dangers of reckless driving and, therefore, help to decrease the number of auto accidents and truck accidents. The Georgia Department of Transportation has now announced that it will allow memorials to auto accident victims to be placed on federal and state highways.

Another program that allows highway memorial signs bearing the names of drunk driving accident victims on Georgia highways, is already in effect. That program was created through the efforts of the Department of Transportation, the Georgia Gen. Assembly and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council in 2006. That program is separate from this new memorial sign program, and will continue as scheduled.

The new memorials will consist of 15- inch round, white signs containing the message Drive Safely: in Memory (name of the deceased). Families and friends of accident victims can request a sign for a $100 fee that will go towards installation and fabrication charges. The sign will be in place for a period of one year, after which it will be returned to the sponsor of the sign. However, families can only order these memorial signs through the Department of Transportation.

Families and friends of those killed in auto accidents or truck accidents on or after July 1, 2010, can make a request for the memorial signs by submitting an application, the accident report as well as the hundred dollar fee to the maintenance engineer at the DOT. The signs will be erected as close as practically possible to the site of the accident.

The memorial signs serve a dual purpose- they comfort the loved ones of victims killed in accidents, and also serve as a stark reminder of the dangers of recklessness, drunk driving and speeding on our highways.

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Man in Fatal Atlanta Auto Accident to Serve 10 Years in Prison

The motorist, who was convicted of DUI (driving under the influence) and causing a wrong way driving auto accident that killed a woman on an Atlanta highway, will spend 10 years in prison. The motorist Theus Monroe was driving the wrong way on Interstate 85 in December 2009, when his vehicle crashed head-on into another vehicle. In that vehicle was Jazmine Zachary, who sustained fatal injuries in the crash. She was 25 years old at the time of her wrongful death. An investigation later revealed that Monroe was not only driving under the influence of alcohol, but was also high on drugs at the time of the car accident.

A Fulton County judge this week sentenced Monroe to a maximum sentence of 17 years in prison. However, Monroe will only serve 10 years, and have an additional year of drug rehabilitation. The sentence was a bit of a disappointment for the victim’s family who wanted that Monroe be ordered to serve the entire 17 years.

Atlanta car accident attorneys often see that intoxicated driving is the main factor in accidents caused by motorists driving the wrong way. These are typically fatal accidents, or high-impact  auto accidents that end with serious injuries. Drivers, who are in the path of a motorist traveling the wrong way, don't expect to see a driver headed in their direction, which takes them by surprise, leaving them with no time to avoid the wrong way driver. The potential for severe injuries and fatalities also increases because these are typically high-speed, full impact, head-on crashes. Wrong way driving accidents are also sometimes linked to drowsiness, when motorists miss a sign or signal because they are dozing off at the wheel.

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Charges May Be Filed against Man Involved in Fatal Atlanta HERO Accident

Investigations into a fatal accident involving a HERO unit operator on an Atlanta interstate last week are still going on. Charges could be filed against the Loganville motorist who was driving the car that struck the operator. This auto accident is the type law enforcement officials constantly warn against. Auto accidents of these types occur in Atlanta and elsewhere when drivers fail to pay close attention to stranded motorists. It emphasizes the need for all motorists to slow their cars when approaching stranded vehicles.

The Highway Emergency Response Operator was responding to a stranded motorist on Interstate 85 when he was struck by another car. The victim, Spencer Pass had parked his truck just behind a Ranger in the Interstate 85 Emergency lane. Just then, a Ford F-450 truck pulling a trailer struck the HERO truck and the Ranger. It then hit the victim, who sustained fatal injuries. The driver of the Ranger was able to avoid injuries.

The Highway Emergency Response Operator program was started by the Georgia Department of Transportation in 1995. According to the Department of Transportation, this is the very first death involving a HERO operator since the program began operations. HERO operators respond to stranded motorists on Atlanta interstate highways. These motorists include drivers who have been involved in accidents, have run out of fuel, or have had a car breakdown on a busy highway.

This fatal accident has been a shock to Atlanta car accident attorneys and the Atlanta HERO operator community. The unit is still waiting for the results of the investigation. Unfortunately, for many HERO unit operators, this accident is further proof of the dangers of their job. A typical day for a HERO unit operator will involve working on a busy highway in close proximity to speeding vehicles. These operators are trained to work in dangerous conditions and to be alert all the time. However, this accident has shaken the powers-that-be at the program. There will soon be a review of the accident, and program managers will be looking at changes they can make to the system, including additional training, to prevent future accidents.

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Four People Injured in Atlanta Drunk Driving Accident

Four people have been reported injured in a drunk driving accident in Atlanta on Saturday morning. According to the Atlanta Police Department, a motorist driving a minivan under the influence, caused the auto accident when she struck another car head-on at about 4.15 am. The accident caused a massive wreckage, leaving four people trapped in the car. Rescuers had to use the Jaws of Life to extricate the four people. The woman driving the minivan has been charged with driving under the influence and other charges.

Accidents like these cause Atlanta car accident attorneys to hope for in-car alcohol detection devices to be available in the market as quickly as possible. Last week saw the demonstration of an alcohol detection device prototype in Massachusetts. The demonstration, which was attended by the chiefs of the US Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was impressive. A woman, who had consumed two alcoholic beverages, was able to demonstrate how the device detected her blood-alcohol levels through the use of breath and touch sensors. These sensors were strategically positioned inside the car, in areas where a person is likely to place his hand, like on the steering wheel. The prototype is designed to shut the engine down, preventing the motorist from driving when his blood alcohol level scores above or at the .08 legally allowed limit.

There are no plans to make such devices mandatory in all vehicles, as we had blogged about earlier. However, if these devices are found to be successful in lowering drunk driving accident rates, insurance companies may offer lowered premiums to motorists who get these devices installed in their cars.

As this particular auto accident in Atlanta shows, drunk driving is a serious problem in our city, and we need new tools to fight this menace.

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Atlanta's ADHD Teenage Drivers May Have Higher Risk of Auto Accidents

Atlanta teenagers, who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, may suffer from concentration difficulties that increase their risk of an auto accident. Greg Fabiano at the University of Buffalo is studying ADHD among teen drivers. The study focused on two separate groups of drivers with learning permits. The first group was given additional driver’s education that included 3.5 hours in a simulator and the use of a monitoring device in the car that recorded driving behavior. The second group of teen drivers was given the additional training, the monitoring device in the car, as well as a signed contract with their parents that rewarded good driving behavior and punished undesirable driving practices.

The study is a work in progress, and final results will not be available for many years. However, preliminary findings seem to indicate that teenagers, who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, have difficulties in concentration that could cause them to be distracted, and increase the risks of an auto accident. Besides, these risks are amplified manifold if these ADHD teens also text or use cell phone calls while driving. 

Surprisingly to Atlanta car accident lawyers, the study also finds that teenagers actually like having an in-car monitoring device, because they can show their parents that they are driving safely.

Fabiano has a few words of advice for parents of teenage drivers. Use the same kind of driving guidelines that you would use for a non-ADHD teen. A parent-child contract that rewards good driving behavior and punishes poor driving practices can be just as effective for a teenager suffering from ADHD, as a non-ADHD teenager.

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Difference in Perception May Increase Accident Risks among Elderly Drivers in Atlanta

Elderly drivers in Atlanta may be plagued by a variety of health issues, like failing vision that can increase their risk of an auto accident. However, new research suggests that vision problems among the elderly may be much more complicated than simply failing eyesight. The study seems to suggest that the elderly have trouble seeing objects in the foreground, which increases the risk of an accident with pedestrians and bicyclists. Of course, pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents generally result in extremely serious injuries.

The study was conducted at the University of Rochester, and found that older people have impaired activity in the medial temporal visual area of the brain. This part of the brain suppresses movement in the background, so that the person can focus clearly on objects in the foreground. In elderly people, this section of the brain may be impaired. They may find it easy to perceive movement in the background, but not so easy to see objects that are in the foreground. That is why Atlanta car accident attorneys so often find elderly motorists involved in accidents with pedestrians and bicyclists.

The researchers used a technique called Transcranial Magnetics Stimulation, which involved attaching a magnetic card to the subject’s head, and measuring the activity of the MT area of the brain. The MT area was stimulated using electrical signals, and the researchers analyzed how well the subjects in the study identified the movement of objects. They found that when the MT area of the brain was impaired, the person could readily and easily identify objects in the background.

These results provide clues to at least one of the issues that affect elderly drivers, and also suggest that these drivers may be distracted by objects in the background because of impaired MT area activity as a result of their age. As Atlanta car accident lawyers, we believe that these results can be used to fine-tune driving programs for elderly motorists.

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Georgia Ranks above National Average for Auto Accident Wrongful Deaths

The state of Georgia ranks at number 32 in a USA Today compilation of states based on auto accident death rate per 100,000 population. In 2009, 1,284 people died in car accidents in Georgia, and the state had a death rate per 100,000 population of 13.1. That is much above the national average of 11 per 100,000 population. Of course, a significant number of deaths generally occur in urban areas such as Atlanta, Georgia.

Georgia and other states like Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Delaware with strong rural neighborhoods seem to have high death rates in car accidents. The reason for this, according to the USA Today report, could be the fact that many of the states with significant numbers of wrongful deaths due to car accidents have large rural communities.

Most of the traffic in rural communities plies on two-lane roads. These roads typically tend to be poorly designed, and lack the safety enhancements and engineering that make urban roads safer. It's no coincidence that the states that have featured at the top of the list (ie: least deaths), like Washington DC and Massachusetts have more urban roads.

It's not just bad roads in rural communities in Georgia that increase the auto accident wrongful death rate. It's also the fact that these roads see more numbers of drunk drivers. Part of the reason is that the Georgia Highway Patrol conducts fewer crackdowns in rural communities because of strained resources. There are only so many officers that the Highway Patrol can dedicate toanti-drunk driving crackdowns, seatbelt campaigns and other initiatives that promote safety. Fewer officers are posted in rural areas, leading to more numbers of drunk driving accidents, and preventable deaths from failure to wear seat belts.

Besides, Atlanta car accident attorneys believe that the high death rate in rural areas across Georgia is due to the paucity of trauma care facilities. The average accident victim a few hundred miles from Atlanta may have little chance of surviving an accident simply because he cannot be brought to a trauma care center in time.

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Low Seatbelt Use Leads to Increase In Auto Accident Police Fatalities

In many of the serious auto accidents that Atlanta car accident lawyers come across, seatbelt use was the only thing preventing devastating injuries or death. However, there is one category of drivers that is most aware of the importance of wearing seatbelts to avoid accidents, but neglect to wear seatbelts anyway. According to a new study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least 42% of police officers, who were killed in auto accidents over the past 28 years, were not wearing seat belts at the time.

The NHTSA study analyzed 733 fatal police auto accidents from 1980 through 2008, and found that more than 42% of the officers during these auto accidents were not wearing seat belts. Across the country, there have been concerns about low seatbelt usage rates among police officers. In Georgia too, we have a similar situation, and to a lay person, it can be quite perplexing. After all, officers don't neglect to pull a motorist over when they find seatbelt violations, and it seems odd that they don't obey laws they help enforce.

Many police departments are aware of this low seatbelt usage rate, and condone it because wearing seat belts can interfere with certain aspects of a police officer’s responsibilities. While officers are expected to wear seat belts during a patrol or when they are responding to a scene of a crime, they may begin unbuckling when the pursuit is winding down, or when there is a need for them to get out of the car and pursue a suspect.

Unfortunately, this has meant more numbers of police officers being killed in auto accidents because they are not wearing a seatbelt. In fact, auto accidents are a major source of death among law-enforcement officers, second only to gunfire. In Georgia, 43 officers were killed during the study period, due to failure to wear seat belts - the highest number of auto accident fatalities involving law enforcement personnel in the United States.

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Winter Driving Conditions Pose Treacherous Auto Accident Risks

It’s now the turn of Georgia, especially the metropolitan Atlanta area, to bear the force of a harsh winter that has amplified auto accident risks for motorists. The week began with a heavy snowstorm that left much of Atlanta covered with snow. Earlier this week, hoping to decrease the number of auto accidents, the Department Of Transportation urged all Atlanta motorists to stay at home. The warning also included large commercial truckers, who are likely to find these driving conditions even more hazardous.  Of course, truck accidents pose a significant risk of injury and death.  None of the major school districts took any chances, with classes called off in all the major school districts.

By Tuesday, transportation crews had been able to clear large interstates and highways, but the next morning, much of the snow was refrozen. Besides, even when the snow melts, it's quite likely that the streets will continue to be treacherous. Thin ice will remain on the surface streets, especially on those roads that don't see much traffic. In fact, you can expect the ice to remain until temperatures began to climb again. Meteorologists don't expect temperatures to rise until this weekend.

The thin layer of ice on surface streets is a serious accident hazard. This layer is barely visible, and creates a super-slippery surface that can have everything from a passenger vehicle to a tractor-trailer careening out of control.

When you're driving over the next couple of days, look out for slippery patches. Also, look out for vehicles slipping and sliding around you. The icy layers on surfaces can be deceptive and hard-to-spot, and can have your vehicle sliding out of control before you even know it. The best thing would be to avoid all non-essential travel, but Atlanta accident attorneysexpect traffic to pick up from today on. That means not just hazardous driving conditions, but also more numbers of vehicles to avoid.

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Two Gwinnett County Accidents Linked to Drunk Driving

More than a week to go for Christmas, and already Atlanta car accident lawyers have noticed a rise in the number of car accidents linked to intoxicated driving. Two people have been killed in two separate suspected drunk driving accidents in Gwinnett County this week. Auto accidents involving drunk drivers are some of the most serious accidents which occur.

The first accident occurred on Monday morning on northbound Interstate 85 in Norcross. A Cadillac DeVille that had stopped after an earlier auto accident, was struck by a Mitsubishi Montero. A passenger in the Cadillac sustained fatal injuries.

A few minutes later, a second accident involving three separate vehicles in Duluth, left one person dead. This was a head-on accident that also killed a passenger. Besides these two fatalities, both of the accidents resulted in several injuries. Charges are pending in both accidents. Police believe alcohol intoxication was a factor in both of these crashes.

The risks of being in an accident involving an intoxicated driver are never higher than they are during the holiday season. Drunk driving is foolish and risky behavior at any time of the year, but especially during the holiday season when there are more motorists sharing the road with you. With options like public transportation, chauffeur services, designated driver facilities and cab services available in Atlanta, there's no reason why a responsible motorist should drive drunk.

Accidents involving intoxicated drivers are typically high-impact accidents that result in serious injuries and fatalities. Alcohol clouds a person's judgment and reasoning abilities, increases feelings of recklessness and slows down a person's response times. A combination of the three can be deadly when a person is driving. This holiday, ensure good times for you and your fellow motorists by avoiding driving drunk.

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New System Could Prevent Drowsy Driving-Related Auto Accidents

There is no doubt that drowsy driving causes a significant number of auto accidents and, therefore, is a serious problem on Atlanta streets. However, it has been ignored as an accident factor not just by legislators, but also by law enforcement officers who investigate auto accidents. According to a recent study by the National Sleep Foundation, as many as one in six serious or fatal car accidents is linked to drowsy driving.

Those statistics released by the National Sleep Foundation earlier this year made everyone sit up and take notice. However, as Atlanta car accident attorneys, we have been awake to the dangers of drowsy driving for years now. That's why it was encouraging to read about new technology to prevent drowsy driving.

A new device manufactured by a Danish company acts as an automated drowsy driving test system inside your car to let you know when it's time for you to take a break. The device is called Anti-Sleep Pilot, and it's manufactured by Denmark-based APS Technology. The device develops a profile of the driver based on a number of questions, including whether the driver is on any medications, or whether he's a shift-based worker. This profile is stored in the system, and when the driver is operating the vehicle, the system analyzes this data along with other information to develop a test.

The test consists of a flashing light and sound, and the driver is required to stop the sound by touching the top of the device. The device measures the amount of time the driver takes to do this, and if the driver takes too long to touch the top of the device, then the system determines that he is tired and needs a break. The system flashes a red light warning, signaling that it is time to pull over or stop driving.

This system is a little different from your typical lane departure warning systems that have become so popular these days. It's good to see that more and more companies are taking the threat of drowsy driving seriously, and developing technologies to combat this.

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Auto Accident Injuries Decrease with Stronger Auto Roofs

A new study confirms that stronger automobile roofs minimize the severity of injuries in a rollover auto accidents. The study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration compared automobile roof strength test results of several cars with real- life rollover auto accidents. The researchers found a direct link between automobile roof strength results and the number of centimeters that the roof is pushed into the occupant at the time of an auto accident. Earlier studies had also confirmed that stronger auto roofs lower the risk of, as well as severity of, injuries to the head, neck and face.

The NHTSA study comes at an opportune time. Last year, the agency had announced that it was strengthening auto roof strength standards. According to the agency's new standards, automakers will need to maintain a ratio of 1.5 for vehicles with gross weight ratings from 6,000 to 10,000 pounds. The current ratings only require a ratio of 1.5 for vehicles with gross weight ratings of up to 6,000 pounds. According to the agency, the new rules will lead to approximately 135 lives being saved every year in rollover auto accidents.

Rollovers comprise a small percentage of the total number of car accidents in the US every year. However, these are some of the most devastating auto accidents that Atlanta car accident attorneys come across, and in fact, cause approximately 30% of all traffic fatalities. The NHTSA has focused heavily on reducing the numbers of wrongful deaths in these auto accidents. For instance, new rules require all automobiles to come with electronic stability control systems that reduce the risk of a rollover. You can now find electronic stability control systems on most models that are available in the market. These systems prevent the risk of a rollover by allowing the driver to retain control over his vehicle during certain high-risk maneuvers, like braking or turning at high speeds.

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A Georgia Accident Lawyer's Wish List for 2011


2009 might have seen the lowest numbers of auto, truck and motorcycle accidents, injuries and fatalities in years, but there's still much that can be done to improve traffic safety in Georgia. Atlanta car accident lawyers have a particular list of goodies that they would love to see delivered by state transportation safety agencies and federal agencies to decrease accidents in Atlanta and throughout Georgia.

Here is our Most Wanted list for 2011.

More Progress against Distracted Driving

We now have laws in Georgia banning texting while driving for motorists, but we could do more to end the influence of technological distractions while driving. We need to enforce the law against texting while driving. In addition, we need to do a better job educating drivers about the dangers of distracted driving, especially with hand-held cell phones.

Greater Awareness about Drowsy Driving

Driving while drowsy can impair your driving abilities as much as driving with a BAC level of .08. Yet, we have strong laws against DUI in Georgia, but nothing to prevent people from driving when they are in a drowsy state. Legislation related to fatigue can be hard, but we would love to see movement toward some legislation governing fatigued driving in 2011.

Strong Oversight of Truck Drivers’ Medical Records

We need to tighten restrictions related to the verification of the medical status of truck drivers. It's far too easy for truck drivers to download certificate templates from agency websites. As a result, there are very likely truck drivers operating tractor-trailers, with a heightened risk of suffering a medical emergency at the wheel. We all agree that truckers need to be held to higher standards of health and safety than the general motorist population. However, we have been unable to strengthen the system to make it impossible for truckers with fake, unauthenticated medical certificates to slip through the cracks. We would like to see that begin to change in 2011.

Stronger Protections for Motorcyclists and Bicyclists

Motorcyclists and bicyclists are some of the most vulnerable people on our roads. Laws that punish motorists for violating rules that end with a fatal or serious motorcycle or bicycle accident, must be stronger. Too often, motorists are able to walk away from the scene of an accident which causes a motorcyclist and bicyclist grievous harm, with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. That needs to change.

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Accidents in Georgia increase this Thanksgiving

Early figures by the Georgia State Patrol seem to indicate that there has been an increase in auto accidents in Georgia this Thanksgiving holiday. These are not the final figures, and hundreds of police and sheriff’s departments will soon send in their accident, injury and fatality data to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

According to the figures by the Georgia State Patrol however, there were 520 accidents over the holiday. These resulted in 231 injuries. In 2009, the State Patrol recorded 411 accidents that injured 246 people. According to the Georgia State Patrol, 11 people died in accidents in Georgia this holiday. That includes fatalities in Atlanta and Cherokee County. Last year however, there had been 13 fatalities.

We will continue to see increased traffic across Georgia over the next couple of weeks as Georgia and, especially, Atlanta residents drive to finish their holiday shopping and plan Christmas parties. This is always a more dangerous time of the year, because the high spirits and laid-back attitude create a sense of complacency that can prove deadly behind the wheel. It's more important now than ever, to be aware that you will likely share the roads with more numbers of drivers than during other times of the year, and also that safety may not be the number one thing on drivers’ minds.

You cannot control other motorists’ behavior, but you can always increase your chances of surviving a crash. Always wear your seat belt while driving. Make sure that everyone else in your car is buckled up. Children must always be restrained in age-appropriate restraint systems.

The Atlanta car accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of car accidents in and around Georgia.

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Atlanta Motorist Charged in Fatal Auto Accident

Police have charged the driver of a vehicle involved in a deadly auto accident in Atlanta over the weekend. According to Atlanta police, 21-year-old Mujahid Saleem was driving a car on Interstate 285 when the accident occurred. At some point, the car went through a grassy median, and crashed through a guardrail. It then flipped flip over, and landed on its roof. There were four passengers in the car. Two of them were killed instantly, while another passenger has sustained serious back injuries.

Saleem now faces two counts of second-degree vehicular homicide. Investigations into the accident are going on, but so far, police have no clues about what caused the accident. 

Being involved in an auto accident can be one of the most traumatic experiences of a person's life. Even moderate injuries may require hospitalization, and involve hefty doctor fees, medication costs, costs of diagnostic tests and other medical-related expenses. Once you have received the emergency medical care you need, it is time to begin thinking of meeting the rest of your medical and rehabilitation expenses. You will also need to think about getting back on your feet, and getting back to work. 

During the time that you were injured, you're also likely to have missed several days or weeks off work, adding to your financial troubles. In serious accidents, there is also the question of disability to consider. Even if the injuries have been moderate, you could find yourself in a position where you have to leave your job, because you are not equipped to perform it adequately anymore. For instance, a fractured toe may not seem like a major injury for some people, but to a ballet dancer or a football player, it could mean the end of a promising career.

Fortunately, accident victims in Georgia can recover compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and lost potential earning capacity. The compensation can be recovered from the motorist who was responsible for the auto accident. Besides these economic damages, victims may also be eligible for damages for pain and suffering and loss of consortium. An experienced Atlanta car accident attorney will be able to help you determine the value of your claim

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US Highway Fatalities Down to Lowest Levels in Six Decades

A combination of improved seatbelt usage, safer cars and anti-DUI crackdowns led to a substantial drop in accident fatalities in the US in 2009. Not only are the numbers lower than they were in 2008, but they're also the lowest than they have been in 60 years.

In 2009, 33,808 people died in highway accidents, a drop of 9.7% from the previous year. 41 states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico reported declines in highway fatalities last year. There was also a record decline in the number of deaths per 100,000,000 miles traveled, which dropped to 1.13 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled last year.

There's even more good news. Unlike in past years, the recession is not likely a major factor in this decline. There was actually an increase of .2% in vehicle miles traveled by Americans in 2009, compared to 2008. This means that Americans traveled more last year, but didn't necessarily get involved in more numbers of fatal accidents.

There are other factors that have contributed to this decline. Seat belt usage rates are up across the country, including in Georgia. Those rates are likely to increase in Georgia, because of a new law that requires pickup truck drivers to buckle up too. Besides, the past decade has been a golden age of sorts for auto safety. Electronic stability control systems and side airbags are now standard on most automobiles. 

There are other battles to win, however. Those fatality numbers can be lowered further if we can manage to get more motorists to switch off their cell phones while driving. It’s an uphill task, but then we also thought that about lowering drunk driving accident numbers.

The Atlanta car accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of car accidents in the Atlanta region and across Georgia.

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Atlanta Worst City for Motorists in Georgia

The city of Augusta is the safest for motorists in Georgia, and is one of the safest in the country. Atlanta, on the other hand, is the most dangerous for motorists, with drivers here having a likelihood of being involved in an accident that is much higher than the national average. The statistics came via an annual report by Allstate insurance. You really don't need an insurance company to tell an Atlanta auto accident lawyer that the city can often seem like a motorist's worst nightmare.

Motorists in Atlanta have their likelihood of being involved in an accident increase by 22.4% more than the national average. The average Atlanta motorist has a gap of 8.2 years between collisions. The city ranks at 146 on Allstate’s list of the top 200 cities. Motorists in Augusta, on the other hand, have a 1.9% less likelihood of being involved in an accident, compared to the national average. These motorists have a 10.2 year gap between collisions. Augusta was placed at 60 on the list. 

The other safe city in Georgia is Columbus, which ranked at 63 on the list. Motorists in Columbus typically have 10.1 years between collisions, and their likelihood of being involved in an accident is 1.4% less than the national average. Motorists in Savanna fare much worse than Augusta and Columbus, but much better than Atlanta. Drivers here are likely to be involved in an accident at a rate that's 4 .9% higher than for the national average, and they have an average 9.5-year gap between accidents.

So, why do Atlanta and Augusta fare so differently? Atlanta does have a somewhat unique problem with severe traffic congestion. As Atlanta car accident lawyers and long-time residents of the city, we have definitely noticed that motorists over here tend to be more prone to aggressiveness and road rage, especially during rush hour. There’s no doubt that traffic congestion contributes to impatience, speeding and other undesirable driving practices. We also continue to face challenges with distracted driving.

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Accidents Cost US $99 Billion in One Year

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has analyzed the cost of traffic accidents in the year 2005, and come up with a staggering estimate-$99 billion. 

That's right. Fatal and non-fatal injurious accidents including car, motorcycle, truck, bicycle and pedestrian accidents cost the American economy $99 billion in 2005. Mind-boggling as that number is, it's probably just the tip of the iceberg. According to the CDC, it does not include other factors that could increase accident costs, like the increase in insurance premiums after an accident and an increase in taxes.

Not surprisingly, motor vehicle accidents involving cars, sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks were the most expensive, accounting for $70 billion in costs in 2005. Motorcyclists racked up costs of $12 billion, while the accident costs of pedestrians and bicyclists touched $10 billion and $5 billion respectively.

The costs from teen-related accidents were completely out of proportion with these motorists’ share of the US population. In 2005, teen drivers accounted for just about 14% of the American population, but fatal and non-fatal injurious accidents involving these drivers accounted for $30 billion in costs. That's 31% of all accident-related costs in 2005.

The statistics make for fascinating reading, but the advice that the CDC gives to minimize accident rates, reduce fatalities and injuries, and lower costs, is the kind that Atlanta auto accident lawyers routinely dish out.

·        Enact primary seat belt laws and enforce these strongly.

·        Focus on parental education about the correct installation of child car safety seats and increased use of these safety devices.

·        Strengthen Graduated Driver’s Licensing policies, to allow teen motorists more experience on the road in low-risk situations, before allowing them to have full driving privileges.

·        Mandate helmets for all motorcyclists and helmets.

·        Increase concentrations of sobriety checkpoints.

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Driving with a Pet Creates Distraction

More and more Atlantans are thinking twice before texting while driving, thanks to a new Georgia law that bans text messaging at the wheel. However, Atlanta auto accident lawyers know for a fact that many Atlantans think nothing of driving with an unrestrained or unsecured pet in the car. 

According to a new survey conducted by the American Automobile Association, four out of every five dog owners drive with their pet in the car. One in three of these admit that the pet is a major distraction. Only 17% of the dog owners in the survey use restraints or dog barriers while driving. Pets can be a huge distraction while driving, and considering that we are a country of dog lovers, it is surprising that there hasn't been a more intense spotlight on securing dogs while driving.

A CBS report has more information for dog owners who would like to secure their dogs safely in their cars, but don't know where to look. There are plenty of safety devices out there, from safety barriers, to dog safety seatbelts and dog booster seats. Seatbelts are ideal for large-size dogs, while booster seats are better for small-sized dogs. Besides, there are hammocks and dog personal restraint systems that can help secure your dog, and prevent him from falling when you apply the brakes. Securing a dog with seatbelts will prevent him from jumping out the window, always a concern for anyone driving with a dog in the car.

It's dangerous to drive expecting a dog to behave like an adult human. When your dog barks incessantly, moves around the vehicle, or wants to jump out the window, it takes your attention away from the road and increases the risk that you will be involved in a crash. Being a responsible dog owner should include securing a dog while driving.

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Rural Areas Have Highest Rate of Fatal Car Accidents

NHTSA Data Shows High Rates of Auto Accidents, Fatalities in Rural Areas

Newly released data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that traffic safety in rural areas continues to be a serious concern. According to the statistics, although just 23% of the US population lived in rural areas in 2007, accident fatalities in rural areas accounted for 57% of all traffic accident fatalities that year. 

A few very interesting facts stand out from the study.

·        In 2007, rural areas accounted for approximately 56% of all fatal accidents, and 57% of all accident fatalities. In contrast, urban areas accounted for approximately 44% of all fatal accidents and 43% of all accidents and fatalities.

·        In rural areas, 33% of all auto accident fatalities occurred in speeding-related accidents. In contrast, speeding-related accident fatalities in urban areas accounted for 31% of all fatalities.

·        In 2007, rural areas accounted for approximately 57% of the 12,998 people who were killed in drunk driving accidents. Urban areas accounted for 43% of the total alcohol-related accident fatalities the same year.

·        According to data from the National Occupant Protection Use Survey, seat belt use in urban areas nationwide was approximately 84%, while seatbelt use in rural areas was around 73 % in 2007.

·        In 2007, 56% of passenger vehicle occupants killed in rural areas were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident, compared to 51% of occupants in urban areas.

·        Auto accident victims in rural areas continue to have limited access to emergency trauma care. Out of the fatalities in 2007, 63% who died en route to the hospital were in rural areas, compared to 37%, who were from urban areas.

Unfortunately, there are not many surprises in this report for Atlanta auto accident lawyers. The fact is that rural areas tend to be neglected when it comes to sobriety checkpoints, or speeding crackdowns. The result is that more numbers of people are involved in such accidents in rural parts of Georgia and around the country. Accident victims in rural Georgia in particular, continue to suffer from a lack of access to emergency “golden hour” care. The result -, more numbers of fatalities in rural areas at rates that are completely unacceptable to Georgia auto accident lawyers.

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Is Your Rental Car Safe to Drive

An ABC undercover exposé reveals some shocking truths - the policies at most rental car companies are not designed to protect consumers from accidents involving recalled vehicles. Rather, these policies are aimed at getting cars out there, even if they are on the recall list.

The undercover exposé found that some of the biggest rental car companies, including Enterprise Rent a Car, Avis and Hertz don't have firm policies in place against renting out recalled vehicles to unsuspecting consumers. Enterprise is one rental company that has been at the center of controversy over recalled vehicles. In May, the company lost a wrongful death lawsuit that had been filed against it by the parents of two sisters who were killed in an accident involving a rental car in California.

That car was a 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser that had been recalled a few months earlier, but was rented out by Enterprise. Chrysler had linked that recall to a power steering fluid leak problem that could lead to loss of control of the vehicle. As the two sisters were traveling, the driver lost control of the car, and it burst into flames. The two women were killed instantly.

Enterprise was asked to pay the parents of the two girls $15 million, and the company admitted that it was to blame for the two deaths. Employees of the company testified at the trial that there was no recall policy at the company that prohibited recalled vehicles from being rented to consumers. In fact, the policy was that if there was a demand for cars and there were no other vehicles on the lot, recalled vehicles could be rented out.

There's no comfort to be had from the fact that it's not just Enterprise that seems to be indulging in such practices. People tend to have a sense of complacency when it comes to rental cars. It’s clear to Atlanta personal injury lawyers that this complacency is misplaced. For now, the only way to protect yourself from such accidents is to be aware of recalled vehicle models – not an easy thing to do with the sheer number of recalls these days – and avoid renting these.

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Reclining Seats Increase Risk of Injuries and Death in Auto Accident

It is not something that we give a second thought to while riding in someone's vehicle. In fact, most of us have probably done it at some time or the other. We are talking about reclining the passenger seat when you're in a moving vehicle, for some quick shut eye. However, a recent study indicates that you have an increased risk of injury in an auto accident if you seat is reclining.  

Trauma care doctors at the Seattle's Harborview Medical Center studied a pattern of injuries in passengers who were in reclining seats during an auto accident. The researchers found that no matter which part of the country these accidents occurred, passengers who were in reclined seats were much more likely to suffer head injuries, spinal cord fractures, leg injuries and severe chest trauma. In fact, the study found that when the passenger was in a partially reclined seat, his fatality risk shot up by 15%, and if he was in a fully reclined seat, his fatality risk spiked by up to 70%.

Reclining seats have long been touted by auto makers as an affordable piece of luxury. However, not many passengers are aware that their risk of death in an auto accident increases dramatically, if they're in a reclining seat at the time of the crash. Automakers have always known about these risks. That's why most of them mention these risks in the car's user manual. Unfortunately these warnings, when they do appear, are always in obscure fine print, the kind that hardly anyone bothers to read. That lack of warning is very disturbing to Atlanta accident lawyers, considering the dramatically diminished odds of surviving an accident if you're in a reclining seat.

There's very little that seatbelts and airbags can do to protect a passenger whose seat is in a reclined position. Unfortunately, auto makers have not really bothered to issue proper warnings to passengers, as they need to. It's not enough to have a line buried in the fine print in a user manual, informing passengers that they are in danger if they’re seated in a reclined position. Considering that these features are available in all cars, automakers must do a better job of informing passengers of these much heightened risks in an accident.

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Sleep Deprivation as a Factor in Teen Auto Accidents

A new study is raising questions about whether delayed school timings could decrease the number of auto accidents in which teenagers are involved. The thought is that helping  teenagers get enough sleep at night would allow them to drive more safely the next day thereby decreasing the likelihood of auto accidents.

The study conducted by researchers in Virginia, compared two towns, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. In Virginia Beach, classes started at around 7:20 AM, and the number of auto accidents involving teen motorists there was 41% higher than the number of auto accidents in Chesapeake, where the classes started at around 8:40 AM.

This wasn’t the first study that indicated that lack of sleep may be another contributing factor increasing a teen motorist’s risk of an accident. Last year, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, found that there was a reduction in teen auto accident rates by approximately 16.5% when school times were delayed by an hour.

The Virginia researchers are calling for school authorities to consider delaying school timings for high school students by at least an hour, so that they can get the sleep they need. Sleep deprivation is a very real problem in teenagers. There's just too much going on in their lives to think about going to sleep. From texting and gaming to Facebook, there’s too much to do in a single day, and the result is sleep deprivation.

A teenager needs between 8.5 and nine hours of sleep a night, but many teenagers are likely not getting that many hours of sleep. Drowsy driving substantially increases a person's risk of an auto accident. Until school authorities decide on delaying school timings, parents can take other measures to help teenagers get more sleep. Set strict rules for bedtimes, and limit your teenager’s use of computers, the Internet, and videogames at home.

The Atlanta auto accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of auto accidents in and around the metro Atlanta region, and across Georgia.

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Sleep Deprivation as a Factor in Teen Auto Accidents

A new study is raising questions about whether delayed school timings could decrease the number of auto accidents in which teenagers are involved. The thought is that helping  teenagers get enough sleep at night would allow them to drive more safely the next day thereby decreasing the likelihood of auto accidents.

The study conducted by researchers in Virginia, compared two towns, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. In Virginia Beach, classes started at around 7:20 AM, and the number of auto accidents involving teen motorists there was 41% higher than the number of auto accidents in Chesapeake, where the classes started at around 8:40 AM.

This wasn’t the first study that indicated that lack of sleep may be another contributing factor increasing a teen motorist’s risk of an accident. Last year, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, found that there was a reduction in teen auto accident rates by approximately 16.5% when school times were delayed by an hour.

The Virginia researchers are calling for school authorities to consider delaying school timings for high school students by at least an hour, so that they can get the sleep they need. Sleep deprivation is a very real problem in teenagers. There's just too much going on in their lives to think about going to sleep. From texting and gaming to Facebook, there’s too much to do in a single day, and the result is sleep deprivation.

A teenager needs between 8.5 and nine hours of sleep a night, but many teenagers are likely not getting that many hours of sleep. Drowsy driving substantially increases a person's risk of an auto accident. Until school authorities decide on delaying school timings, parents can take other measures to help teenagers get more sleep. Set strict rules for bedtimes, and limit your teenager’s use of computers, the Internet, and videogames at home.

The Atlanta auto accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of auto accidents in and around the metro Atlanta region, and across Georgia.

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Distracted Driver Survey Shows Range of Distractions

There’s not much comfort to be had from the realization that people in other countries seem to be just as distracted behind the wheel as Americans are. The results of a survey released last week show that, across the world, motorists take the task of driving far too casually, and continue to indulge in activities that take their concentration away from the road.

The survey was conducted by Jabra, a unit of GN Netcom, and included respondents from Europe, North America and Asia. According to the survey:

·        28% motorists have sent or received text messages while driving (no surprises here)

·        13 have applied makeup while driving

·        12% read or wrote e-mails while driving

·        5% played videogames

·        5% shaved while driving

·        29% had kissed another person while driving

·        15% had actually had sex while driving

The survey had an error margin of plus or minus 2.1%, and respondents were asked to check activities that they had performed while driving. It is likely that at least a few of the respondents who responded “Yes” to having had sex while driving, simply did so in a spirit of fun. But, considering the casual attitude towards driving prevalent across the city, Atlanta accident lawyers wouldn't really be surprised to know that people are indulging in such dangerous activities while driving.

These results should also be of special note to anti-distracted driving advocates. Distracted driving includes a whole range of undesirable behaviors that take your attention away from the road. Most anti-distracted driving efforts have focused hard on cell phone use and texting while driving, and rightly so. These are still some of the most dangerous behaviors you could indulge in at the wheel. Texting while driving is the most distracting driving behavior. However, there are all kinds of other distractions that can increase your risk of an accident.

There's only so much that can be done to dissuade people from foolish behaviors like applying makeup and shaving at the wheel. Ultimately, motorists must realize that it's their lives and the lives of other motorists at stake.

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Georgia Roads Are Both Deadly and Desirable

Georgia Has Best and Deadliest Roads in the US

A study published in Reader's Digest magazine indicates dichotomies in Georgia's road safety. The state's roads are some of the best in the country indicated by their position at number 13 on the list. However oddly enough, Georgia's roads are also mentioned as some of the deadliest in the country, placed at number 20 on a different list.

So, how could our roads be safe and a pleasure to drive on, and still be linked to an inordinate number of accidents and fatalities?

The answer lies in motorist behavior. It appears that Georgia ranks reasonably well in terms of the condition of its roads, far ahead of Texas, Massachusetts, Florida New York and New Jersey, but behind Washington, Wisconsin and Nebraska. While our roads are in good condition, motorists seem to engage in too many undesirable practices, like intoxicated driving and speeding, leading to drunk driving accidents and other collisions.

I-285 in Atlanta finds special mention as one of the worst roads in the country. As Atlanta car accident lawyers and long time residents of the city, we are more than aware of the driving challenges that this road poses. It is notoriously congested, and this generates road rage, cutting other motorists, and other forms of bad driving. Motorist behavior seems to be particularly bad on this particular stretch of highway in Atlanta.

What the study does indicate is that while well-designed, well built and properly maintained roads are huge factors in auto safety, the biggest factor continues to be safe driving practices. Stay within posted speed limits, never drive under the influence, avoid distractions like cell phone use at the wheel, and always wear seat belts, and you could make the best of the worst roads.

The Atlanta car accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of auto accidents in and around the metro Atlanta area, and around Georgia.

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Three Injured in Street-Racing Accident in DeKalb County

At least three people have been injured in an accident apparently caused by two cars street racing in DeKalb County.

The two cars set off a chain reaction accident on Interstate 285 that involved several vehicles. At least three people had to be taken to the hospital for treatment of moderate injuries. The two persons who were racing fled the scene of the accident.

Accidents involving speeding racing cars can result in serious injuries or fatalities. It’s extremely fortunate that the three people here survived this crash.

It isn't very hard to prove negligence when you have an accident caused by two cars racing on a public highway.  However, this can depend on finding eyewitnesses who saw the two cars racing and other factors.  The most important thing right now for investigators will be to locate the two absconding drivers. Locating hit-and-run drivers used to be an impossible task in the past. These were hopeless cases, and it was a rare success when police could trace the offending motorist. Investigators have gotten a little better at tracing hit-and-run motorists, but these cases still prove difficult to crack.

In the case here, an Atlanta injury lawyer will make finding the hit-and-run motorists responsible for the accident an important part of the case. There are also other options for compensation that you may have from your own insurer. Medical bills and lost wages may be covered by your insurer, even if the hit-and-run motorist cannot be located.

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Killer Roads Report: Georgia Highways Dangerous

Killer Roads Report: Georgia Highways More Dangerous Because of Negligent Motorists

A report based on auto accident statistics by the Department of Transportation between 1994 and 2008 lists the most dangerous roads in the country by the number of fatalities that have occurred here. The top 20 is made up in a large part by cities in heavily populated states, like Texas and California.

According to the data, 23,640 people died on Georgia highways in auto accidents between 1994 and 2008.

·        21.5 percent of these fatal accidents involved a speeding motorist.

·        25 percent involved an accident with at least one drunk driver.

·        55.7 percent of the fatal accidents, involved persons not buckled up at the time of the crash.

We also drilled into county-wide statistics for Georgia, and came up with some interesting statistics.

·        The most dangerous highway in DeKalb County is I-285, with 95 accidents contributing to 104 deaths. Out of these, 25.3 accidents involved drunk driving, 18. 9 percent involved a speeding driver, and 41.3 percent involved failure to wear seatbelts.

·        The most dangerous highway in Gwinnett County is I-85, with 83 accidents during the study period. These contributed to 90 deaths.  More than 54 percent of these were linked to failure to buckle up, 38. 6 percent involved a drunk driver and 21.7 involved a speeding motorist

·        In Clayton County, the highest number of fatalities between 1994 and 2008 were recorded on I-75, where there were 48 fatalities from a total of 43 crashes. Here, seatbelt use seems to be an even bigger factor in deaths, with 60.4 percent of fatal accidents involving failure to buckle up. The rates of DUI and speeding were comparatively lower at 18.6 percent and 16.3 percent respectively.

·        In Fulton County, I-75 accounted for the highest number of fatalities, with 124 deaths from a total of 110 accidents. Here too, poor rates of seatbelt usage were a major factor in fatalities, with close to 60 percent of crashes involving motorists who were not buckled up.

It’s clear that motorist negligence including failure to wear safety seat belts, drunk driving and driving at excessive speeds, is contributing to the high death rates on these so-called “killer roads.”

The Atlanta accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of auto accidents in and around the metro Atlanta area.


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Poor Weather Blamed for Fatal Gwinnett County Tow Truck Accident

Investigators looking into a fatal accident on Interstate 20 believe that bad weather could have been a factor in this crash. The victim, the mother of an 11-month-old infant, had been involved in a minor collision with another motorist. Both women were standing outside their cars when they were hit by a tow truck. The victim sustained serious injuries, and died at the scene of the crash. Investigators now believe that rainy weather could have been a factor in the accident.

With all the weather prediction technologies at our disposal and the precision of meteorological updates, it’s appalling that we continue to see weather-related accidents in Atlanta. We enjoy sunny weather for too much of the year, and the climate can be monotonously predictable, perhaps lulling motorists into complacency. The result is that several motorists and truckers continue to drive as they usually do, even during inclement weather.

Lack of experience with certain weather conditions can be no excuse to drive carelessly. As Atlanta auto accident lawyers, we find it frustrating to read about an increase in auto accidents when the weather gets icy, or when there are sudden showers. Part of your duty as a motorist is to drive not just taking into consideration the road and traffic conditions, but also weather conditions. It’s pure common sense that you need to drive more carefully during storms, strong winds, rains and icy weather conditions.

It doesn’t take rocket science smarts to figure out that you are more likely to lose control of a vehicle on slick streets, in poor visibility, or with heavy winds threatening to push your car off the roads. It’s 2010, and excuses about the weather are simply intolerable to Atlanta car accident lawyers.


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Highway Safety Group has Traffic Safety Advice for Georgia

Highway Safety Group has Traffic Safety Advice for Georgia


As personal injury lawyers serving auto accident victims in Atlanta and around Georgia, we know how better and stronger laws could prevent accidents and fatalities in our state. That has now been confirmed by a report from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

The group has released its Road Map Report, which reviewed states based on 15 basic laws that will contribute to lowered fatalities and injuries on American roads. These laws relate to adult occupant protection, teen driving, child passenger safety, drunk driving and distracted driving. The states were then rated based on their adoption of these recommended laws. The ratings were coded in

1.      Green denoting significant advancement toward adoption of basic safety laws,

2.      Yellow, denoting progress, but with several gaps in highway safety laws,

3.      Red, which denotes that the state has failed to adopt basic laws that could minimize fatalities and injuries in accidents

Georgia received a yellow rating, which means we still have to make progress in adopting the safety laws that would prevent injuries in auto accidents. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety recommends the following safety laws for Georgia:

·        Primary enforcement of seatbelt laws

·        Booster seat laws for children through the age of 7

·        Minimum age 16 for learner’s licenses

·        Nighttime restrictions on GDL without secondary enforcement

·        Passenger and cell phone restrictions on GDL motorists

·        Laws requiring installation of ignition interlock systems on all vehicles of DUI offenders

·        Text messaging restrictions on all drivers

The report says that failure to implement these has caused 1,493 accident fatalities in Georgia in 2008. 

Georgia state officials have chosen to ignore the risks from non seat belt use by pickup truck drivers. Besides, our ignition interlock systems are only required during the last 6 months of a DUI offender’s suspension period. It’s not surprising therefore that Atlanta drunk driving accident lawyers see so many fatal crashes involving repeat DUI offenders driving on suspended licenses. A total ban on text messaging while driving is another potential law that Atlanta auto accident attorneys would support. Last year, there seemed to be some momentum on the seatbelt and cell phone legislations, but unfortunately, it seems to have fizzled out. These laws could possibly save hundreds of lives in auto accidents. Georgia legislators, are you listening?

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New Accident Risks Emerge as Automakers Amp Up Technologies in Cars

New Accident Risks Emerge as Automakers Amp up Technologies in Cars

Getting people to switch off their cell phones while driving has been hard enough, but 2010 promises even more distractions for motorists, and greater risks of accidents.  This year, automakers plan to roll out a number of cars with infotainment systems mounted on the dashboard. These systems include 10-inch plus monitors that allow users to access the internet, read restaurant reviews, look at 3-D maps, watch high definition video, and monitor fuel levels, most of this via touch screen technology.

Automakers insist that these systems are safe because the more distracting functions like internet access will not work if the car is moving. However, most of the other functions are available to use through touch screens. It’s part of a wider trend of vehicles coming equipped with all the features that we have come to accept in our smart phones. It also promises a massive headache for the Department of Transportation, and agencies around the country that are struggling to minimize cell-phone related risks. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has already made clear his displeasure at these new high-tech features, and has promised that he will discuss the issue.

This trend is wrong on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin. Atlanta personal injury lawyers believe that these developments signify the auto industry’s greed for profits, by cashing in on a tech-hungry public’s desire for the next fancy gizmo. At a time when automakers should be focusing on making cars that are safer for teen motorists and senior citizens, it has been hugely disappointing to see manufacturers loading cars with more gadgets that will increase the risk of distracted driving.

There is no reason why a motorist needs to read a restaurant review or access a web page while he is in his car. Those activities must be restricted to the home or office. Trying to convert your car into an extension of your home or office can have potentially devastating consequences. As Atlanta auto accident lawyers, we have appreciated the major safety strides auto companies had made in recent years, and yet, these new infotainment systems simple take all that good work 10 steps behind.

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Preventing Holiday Accidents in Atlanta this Season

Accident prevention and safety has been on the minds of Atlanta auto accident lawyers this season. Weather conditions are bound to get harsher, and motorists are also going to have to deal with millions of holiday travelers in a week’s time.  The combination of bad weather and heavy traffic can be deadly. That is why when a group of elite truck drivers who have completed millions of miles of driving without accidents, doles out expert safety advice, we are all ears.

The advice comes to us via the American Truck Associations’ Share the Road program, which has professional truck drivers teaching the public about driving safely around 18 wheelers. There is no doubt driving a massive tractor trailer rig that weighs tens of thousands of pounds, requires greater skill and experience than driving a sedan. That is why we would highly recommend these truck safety tips for holiday travelers this winter.  

·        Always be aware of vehicles in front of you, and keep a sufficient distance between the two vehicles.  

·        When driving around a truck, know that the trucker may be unable to see you if you fall in his bind spots. Look for the trucker’s reflection in his rear view mirror. If you can’t see the trucker, then he can’t see you either.

·        Never cut in front of 18-wheelers. These large vehicles are much more difficult to bring to a stop in an emergency. Remember any failure of the truck can be disastrous for you.

·        Make sure that you are prepared for travel in bad weather. Have an emergency kit that includes non perishable food, water, flashlights, flares, tire repair kits and other essentials, and keep this in your car at all times.

·        Keep speeds down, and when you are driving during snowfall or a snowstorm, drop your speeds according to the weather conditions. Slamming on the brakes on slick streets in an emergency may cause your car to hydroplane, and lose control.

·        Always wear seatbelts, and make sure that all occupants in your car are buckled up too.

The Atlanta auto accident attorneys at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of auto and trucking accidents in and around the metro Atlanta area.

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Settlement Mills vs. Atlanta Trial Lawyers


Stanford Law School professor Nora Freeman Angstrom has published an investigative report” Run of the Mill Justice” in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics. She has scathing remarks for what she calls “settlement mills” - law firms that are involved in the mass resolution of claims. These firms base their business – it might be a stretch to call it “practice” of the law - on taking on high volumes of accident and injury cases and rushing to settle these with insurers, often for low amounts. There is minimal interaction with the client, and the principle is to rush though cases, with barely any of these cases ending up before a jury.

These mills get most of their clients from aggressive advertisements on billboards and television. Most importantly, a settlement mill is rarely interested in  taking a case to trial, and getting a fair value for the client. The report makes very interesting reading, and Angstrom does not hold back as she names law firms, including one in Georgia, that she characterized as having low jury trial rates.

It’s not often we hear a law expert openly calling out these settlement mills by name, and as Atlanta personal injury trial lawyers who believe in fighting for justice for every individual client, we agree with what she says. Not every accident case will go to a trial.  Very often, clients reach favorable settlements without having to go to court. However, if a case cannot be resolved during settlement negotiations, it’s important that your Atlanta personal injury attorney be equipped with the resources, skills, preparation and expertise to take your case to trial, and win.

A settlement mill may be fine when you’re dealing with a minor injury accident claim, and need to settle as quickly as possible. However, when you are involved in an accident where the injuries are serious enough to cause financial hardship in the future, your claim must allow for damages for pain and suffering, punitive damages if applicable, and other damages you may be eligible for. Rushing towards a hasty settlement with an insurer ensures that you are left with a bare minimal settlement that hardly covers your needs.

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Georgia Tractor Trailer Accident Leaves Four People Injured

A tractor trailer accident in Spalding, Georgia last week left a mother and four children seriously injured.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the accident occurred as Cindy Lynn Fain was driving her minivan. A tractor trailer driver apparently ran a stop sign, and crashed into the passenger side of the van. Fain and her three children aged 2, 4 and 5 were seriously injured in the accident.  They have been transported to Atlanta hospitals.  Investigations into the accident are going on. The truck driver Solomon Debala, has been charged with failure to stop at a stop sign and other charges.

The huge potential for catastrophic injuries in an accident involving a tractor trailer is why there are federal regulations in place governing the conduct of truck drivers. Truckers must drive with greater care than drivers of passenger vehicles. There is simply no room for traffic violations when you’re in control of a massive rig.

Fortunately, Georgia’s laws allow errant truck drivers and their employers to be held accountable in an accident. In case of injuries, a truck driver can be named in a claim, although it’s his insurance company that may eventually make the payout. An Atlanta truck accident attorney will conduct an investigation into the accident, and this will also involve looking into the drivers’ safety record and history, among several other things. If there is a history of violations, then the trucking company can be hold accountable for its failure to eliminate bad truck drivers from its rolls. Trucking companies have a responsibility to hire truckers with safe records, and can be held liable when drivers break traffic rules, resulting in accidents.  

The Atlanta truck accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of tractor trailer, semi truck and big rig accidents in and around the metro Atlanta area.

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Stronger Side Airbag Standards Proposed To Save Lives in Rollover Accidents

NHTSA Proposes Stronger Side Airbag Standards to Save Lives in Rollover Accidents

As Atlanta personal injury lawyers, we have had our complaints about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the slowness with which the agency reacts to urgent safety issues. However, we will also be the first to admit that the agency has done some stellar work recently, especially in the field of rollover crash prevention and minimizing injuries from these crashes.

Earlier this year, the agency announced that it would be requiring automakers to comply with stronger roof strength standards, o prevent the kind of injuries and deaths that result from roof collapses in a rollover. The agency has also been quick to catch on to the importance of devices like Electronic Stability Control technologies that can help prevent rollover crashes. Now, the agency is proposing stronger side airbag standards that will prevent the risk of side window ejections during a rollover. According to the Washington Post, the NHTSA could require automakers to install stronger side airbags that will prevent ejections even if passengers are not wearing seatbelts.

Rollover accidents are a somewhat recent phenomenon that peaked with the introduction of SUVs on our roads. These vehicles, along with pickups and vans, are more likely to be involved in rollover crashes. In 2002, more than 10,600 people died in rollover accidents.  The number of people dying in these accidents has declined in the past few years, especially as more cars now come equipped with Electronic Stability Control systems that prevent rollovers.

However, the NHTSA wants to bring those numbers down further. According to its data, every year 6,400 people die when they are ejected from the side window during a rollover. It’s these lives the agency wants to save with its new standards. Currently, many vehicles come with side airbags, but these don’t comply with the NHTSA’s proposed stronger new standards.

While there is little that can be done to suppress the public preference for sports utility vehicles and light pickup trucks, we can work to equip these vehicles with safety devices that enhance the occupants’ risks of surviving a rollover.

The Atlanta personal injury lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of auto and truck accidents in the metro Atlanta area and around Georgia. 

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Doctors, Lawyers are at Higher Risk of Auto Accidents

Doctors and lawyers are most at risk for auto accidents, at least according to a list of the most accident-prone professions in the country. The list was released by and the Quality Planning Corporation, a company that validates policyholder information for insurers.  The company has collected and analyzed data about car accidents based on profession, and ranks doctors at No.1 on the list.  

Every year, there are:

1.      109 accidents and 44 speeding tickets for every 1000 doctors

2.      106 auto accidents and 37 speed tickets for every 1000 lawyers

3.      105 auto accidents and 72 speeding tickets for every 1000 architects

4.      102 accidents and 39 speeding tickets for 1000 real estate brokers

5.      99 accidents and 78 speeding tickets for 1000 enlisted military personnel

6.      98 accidents and 38 speeding tickets far every 1000 social workers

7.      99 accidents and 77 speeding tickets for every 1000 manual labors

8.      95 accidents and 40 speeding tickets for every 1000 analysts

9.      94 accidents and 51 speeding tickets for every 1000 engineers

10.94 accidents and 50 speeding tickets for every 1000 consultants

Other professions on the list that didn’t make it to the Top 10, included nurses, insurance agents, librarians, dentists, accountants, firemen, politicians, law enforcement personnel and salespeople.

The list seems to indicate that stress is possibly a bigger factor contributing to auto accidents than Atlanta auto accident lawyers know. Doctors and surgeons do work in high pressure environments. Other professions on the list, like military personnel real estate brokers and lawyers, also work in high pressure, high performance occupations that might increase their chances of being distracted and causing an accident. Besides, doctors who rank at number 1 on the list may also suffer from fatigue especially in the of medical residents.

The list makes for interesting browsing, but we still believe that most auto accidents are entirely preventable.

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Six Injured in Gwinnett County Car Accident

Six Injured in Gwinnett County Car Accident

Five members of a Georgia family have a lot to be thankful for, after they escaped what could have been a serious accident in Gwinnett County over the Thanksgiving weekend. The five and their taxi driver have sustained injuries.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the taxi was travelling on I-85 when it was hit by a dark-colored car. The car was also traveling south in the lane next to the taxi, when the driver lost control, and sideswiped the taxi. The impact caused the taxi to flip over. The driver and the five passengers were able to climb out of the taxi. The injured included at least 3 children, aged 9, 7 and 6. Fortunately, the injuries are not life threatening.

Police believe that the dark colored car, that drove right away, might have damage on the front or driver side. They are calling anyone with information on such a car to contact them.

The taxi passengers and driver were extremely fortunate.  As Atlanta personal injury lawyers, we often see that injuries in rollover crashes can be extremely serious. In a rollover, passengers have a greater chance of being ejected from the vehicle. This can cause serious head and spinal cord injuries.

Occupants may also be at risk from a roof crush or collapse. Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it was revising its standards for roof strength in order to prevent the kind of serious injuries that result from roof crush and collapse. New vehicle roofs will have to withstand force that’s three times the curb weight of the vehicle, increased from the earlier limit of one-and-a-half times the curb weight.  The NHTSA believes that these new enhanced roof strength standards will save up to 135 lives annually.  

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Multi Vehicle Auto Accident in Atlanta Kills One, Injures Five


Multi Vehicle Auto Accident in Atlanta Kills One, Injures Five

A multi vehicle accident on Holcomb Bridge Road has left one man dead and five people, including a mother and four children, injured. The accident occurred on Thursday morning.  

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, a pickup truck crossed a centerline, and struck a mini van and another car. The woman driving the minivan suffered serious injuries. The children in the van, aged between 10 months and 7 months, also suffered injuries although these were not serious.  It’s not confirmed if the woman was the mother of the four children.

The pickup truck driver was killed in the accident. Toxicology tests have been conducted on the pickup truck driver, to investigate why the driver veered off his lane and into an oncoming lane.

We will have to wait for the results of the investigation to find out why the pickup truck driver crossed into oncoming traffic. Intoxicated driving could be one of the factors, and this will be determined when the results of the toxicology tests come out, which won’t be for a couple of days. The driver’s medical condition could also be worth investigating. As Atlanta personal injury lawyers, we sometimes come across accident cases, where a motorist had a heart attack or went into diabetic shock while driving. Drivers who suffer from sleep disorders may find themselves dosing off while driving, leading to loss of control over the vehicle.

Distracted driving can also be a factor when a motorist makes driving errors. In fact, a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute showed that drivers who were text messaging while driving have a risk of an accident that’s 23 times higher than those who are not. That’s because texting requires a motorist’s eyes to be off the road and hands off the steering wheel, and this greatly increases the risk of a crash.


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Georgia Kicks Off Holiday Seatbelt Enforcement Campaign

Thanksgiving season is upon us, and it’s time for the Turkey, the family get together, and the need for greater care while driving around Georgia.

The year’s biggest holiday is also its deadliest. Accident rates spike during the 102-hour period, killing and injuring several motorists and passengers.  Anticipating massive holiday travel, Georgia officials have kicked off the “Click it or Ticket” campaign.  The seatbelt enforcement campaign began on Monday, and will last through the holiday weekend. There will be severe patrols, and officers will stop vehicles to check for seatbelt usage. Enforcement will go on during the day and night.

Last year, 19 people died in Georgia during the Thanksgiving weekend, and 1,457 people were injured in a total of 3,815 accidents. According to the Governor‘s Office of Highway Safety, 136 lives could have been saved last year only if the victims had remembered to wear seatbelts.

There is a lot you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe as you travel over the holiday weekend

·        Remember that every motorist on the road is in a rush to get home or to a friend’s place for Thanksgiving.

·        Remember that many of these motorists will be returning from parties where they have had at least a few drinks. While the legal blood alcohol limit in Georgia is .08, it’s important to know that persons who can’t handle their drink well, may begin to feel light headed and reckless after just a couple of drinks. There will be plenty of such motorists on the road too, and they may be an accident risk even if their blood alcohol limit is below .08.

·        Buckle up, and make sure that both front and backseat passengers in your car are wearing seatbelts as well. Backseat seatbelt usage tends to be lower than front seat occupant and driver rates, because of a false sense of security that comes from sitting at the back. Accidents can happen even when you’re driving safely, and seatbelts can mean the difference between life and death.

The Atlanta personal injury lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of auto accidents in Atlanta and around the state of Georgia.

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Volvo Announces Safety Goal for 2020

Volvo Announces Safety Goal for 2020 – Accident-Free Cars

Swedish automaker Volvo is based in a country where the transportation department boasts of the lofty goal that no person should be killed or injured using its road transport system.  Volvo has now taken that one step further and announced its goal for 2020 - No one should be seriously injured or killed in a Volvo.

As the New York Times Wheels Blog reports, Volvo’s announcement comes just in time for the release of its Volvo S60 in the country in 2009. The car features a new accident prevention system that includes crash warnings with full auto braking and pedestrian detection. According to the automaker, the car is configured to monitor the road using radar and a camera placed inside next to the rear view mirror. The radar detects objects and measures how far the car is from the object, while the camera simultaneously determines what kind of objects these are.  If there is a high likelihood of an accident, the driver will see a flashing warning light, and hear an audible warning. However, if the driver fails to slam on the brakes, the computerized braking system will automatically apply the brakes to bring the car to a stop and prevent an accident. While the Volvo XC60, now on the roads, also comes with a collision warning system, it comes with about half of the braking power that the new S-60 has. Volvo has made use of sensor technologies to engage complete braking power. 

Make what you will of this ambitious goal, but as Atlanta personal injury lawyers, we are very excited about the target that the automaker has set for itself. As the Wheels blog says, all the collision warning systems in the world will not prevent a truck from smashing into your vehicle, causing serious injuries or fatalities. Educating motorists, and setting stronger punishments for safety rule violations go a long way in preventing accidents. However, it’s a fact that nationwide, and in Georgia, we have been seeing a decline in the rates of accident fatalities. Safer automobiles have played a big part in bringing down these rates.

We need to set high safety goals in order to continue to see this kind of decline in fatality rates. Whether Volvo can truly live up to its promise of no one being killed or seriously injured in a Volvo is up for debate, but automakers must be encouraged to set higher standards to develop safer vehicles.  

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Automakers Support Texting Ban in Cars

Automakers Support Texting Ban to Minimize Risk of Car Accidents


Some of the country's biggest automakers have announced that they support a ban on texting and the use of handheld cell phone devices while driving, to prevent the thousands of auto accidents that are caused every year by these behaviors. The announcement comes just days before a summit on distracted driving begins in Washington.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers which includes General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, says that it supports a ban on texting while driving, and also supports the use of voice-activated proprietary communication systems in place of cell phone use. For instance, Ford's Sync system allows drivers to make phone calls using voice activation systems. Sync also plays back text messages that you receive, thereby allowing you to have a conversation and “read” a text message without using your hands, or more importantly, taking your eyes off the road. General Motors has its proprietary OnStar system, which includes the Hands Free Calling feature.

The automaker's position has support from a study released earlier this year by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which showed that motorists using voice activated systems were at a much lower risk of being involved in an accident, compared to motorists using handheld or even hands-free sets.

The announcement by the automakers comes just days before a summit on distracted driving, convened by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The summit will be held on the 30th of September and 1st of October, and will include transportation officials, law enforcement officials, safety experts, and members of Congress. The Distracted Driving Summit is expected to evaluate technologies that can be used in place of cell phones, and these voice activated systems could feature on the agenda. Secretary LaHood has expressed his belief that once the summit concludes, we will have a concrete list of proposals that will help prevent auto accidents caused by drivers distracted at the wheel by their cell phones.  

Atlanta personal injury lawyers, who represent car accident victims in a state with some of the country's weakest cell phone-driving laws, will be watching the summit closely, and hoping that participants don’t disappoint.

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Another Gwinnett County Police Officer Involved in Car Accident

Last week, we reported on a Gwinnett County police officer who resigned after his involvement in a drunk driving accident. In a similar crash, another off-duty Gwinnett County cop caused a multi vehicle accident in DeKalb on Saturday.

The accident which occurred early Saturday morning involved a Ford Explorer, a Mazda and a Chevrolet van. The three vehicles were stopped at a signal light when off-duty officer Kevin Sipple struck the Ford truck. The impact sent the Ford spinning, hitting the two other vehicles. Sipple and the Ford driver suffered non-life threatening injuries, and were taken to the hospital.  

Police say the accident could have been the result of a "medical issue," but they have not disclosed the nature of the condition.  

Can a Motorist's Medical Condition can be a Factor in an Accident?

Sudden illnesses can occur any where, and they can be especially devastating when they occur behind the wheel. A person can suffer from a heart attack, lose consciousness, or go into diabetic shock while he is driving. He can suffer from a seizure, or respiratory difficulties. Illnesses can occur suddenly, shutting off the motorist's ability to drive, and endangering his own life, as well as the safety of other motorists in the vicinity. The risk of an accident increases dramatically for someone who suffers from a sudden illness while driving. 

Besides sudden illnesses, chronic medical conditions can also impact a person’s driving abilities. For instance, persons who suffer from arthritis may find it hard to perform simple driving tasks, like turning to check traffic, or swerving in an emergency. Driving safely can also depend heavily on a person's hearing and vision abilities. Persons who are prone to fainting spells or giddiness may be at an increased risk of an automobile accident. Persons who suffer from stress, anxiety, nervousness or forgetfulness may also have their accident risk enhanced.  

It’s important that motorists self police themselves. Persons who suffer from diabetes or heart disease, for instance, must make sure that they take their medications on time and regularly to avoid an emergency situation while they are driving.

The Gwinnett County car accident attorneys at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of automobile accidents in Gwinnett County and across Georgia.


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Labor Day Accident Fatalities Total 8

Holiday weekends typically see more numbers of accident- related fatalities, and this year's Labor Day weekend was no exception. Across Georgia, there were a total of 2,231 traffic accidents over the holiday weekend. These accidents ended in 8 fatalities and 614 injuries. Currently, there is no breakdown available of the fatality rate by casual factors, like failure to wear seat belts, drunk driving etc.

Throughout the holiday period, Georgia State Patrol cracked down on drunk drivers, and stepped up checks on speeding drivers and seatbelt law enforcement. The drunk driving crackdown was called Operation Zero Tolerance, and targeted intoxicated motorists through sobriety checkpoints, and concentrated patrols. Also, there were education and awareness campaigns conducted around the state. Georgia police also participated in the "Hands Across the Borders" initative to partner with enforcement officers from neighboring states, to crack down on drunk driving. Across the country, most states had their own version of Labor Day enforcement, to keep drunk drivers and speeders off the road, and prevent accidents.

The days leading up to, and just after a major holiday, are some of the busiest times on the highways and also some of the most dangerous. Thanksgiving Day counts as the single deadliest day of the US calendar. More accident fatalities occur on this day than any other day. Typically, alcohol-heavy holidays like New Years Eve and St. Patrick's Day tend to see higher numbers of alcohol-related car accidents.

Now that special enforcement patrols are off the road and the special sobriety checkpoints have been taken down, Georgia car accident lawyers would encourage motorists to continue to drive safely and buckle up.

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NTSB Bans Employees from Cell Phone Use While Driving

As Georgia personal injury lawyers, we have been waiting for our state to set an example in terms of stronger cell phone-and-driving laws. While neither Georgia nor any other state has stepped up to the task, the National Transportation Safety Board   has moved to issue a ban on its employees using cell phones while driving.

Under the ban, NTSB employees will be forbidden from using handheld or hands-free cell phones while driving. With this, the NTSB becomes the first federal agency to have a complete ban on employees using cell phones behind the wheel. According to the NTSB chairwoman Debbie Hersman, there's enough evidence that cell phone use while driving significantly increases the risk of auto accidents.

However across the country, laws banning cell phone use while driving, have been meager at best. Seven states and the District of Columbia ban only handheld cell phone use for motorists. In Georgia, school bus drivers are banned from using cell phones, but that’s about it. Our state's cell phone laws are skeletal, but across the country, many of those states that have bans on handheld devices have seen mixed results from their laws. This has mainly been because in these states, the ban comes as a secondary enforcement, which makes the law harder to enforce.

There has been enough evidence to prove that any kind of cell phone use behind the wheel increases the risk of an auto accident. However, no state has enacted a complete ban on all kinds of cell phone use while driving. The ban by the NTSB is unique because it doesn’t differentiate between distractions arising from hands-free devices, and those related to handheld cell phone use

In a cell phone addicted society like ours, it will take strong legislative will and muscle to implement a complete ban on cell phone use while driving. Any such law may not only be highly unpopular, but may also prove to be a nightmare to enforce. Even so, as Georgia personal injury lawyers, we believe that any efforts towards implementing a complete ban on cell phone use behind the wheel will reap rich dividends in lives saved and injuries prevented, and that’s reason enough to try.

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Car Accident Traced to Red Light Violation

Car Accident Traced to Red Light Violation

A teacher in Cherokee County suffered critical injuries in a head-on car accident earlier this week. Debra Walton was on her way to school when a vehicle struck her car. According to Cherokee County Sheriff's officials, the car that struck Walton’s vehicle was driven by a motorist who ran a red light just before she struck Walton’s car.

Red light violations are a major cause of accidents in Georgia. According to statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, every year there are 260,000 auto accidents caused by motorists running a red light. Typically, people run red lights because they are inpatient, and would rather not have to wait for the light to turn green. Often, drivers may be distracted, and may fail to see a red light. For instance, a driver who takes his eyes for a few seconds because he is texting on the cell phone, or changing radio stations, may miss a red light with serious consequences.  Motorists are more likely to run a red light during rush hour times, or in congested traffic.  

Georgia allows so-called red light cameras to be used at intersections to monitor these violations. Besides Georgia, 20 other states and the District of Columbia also allow for red light cameras. Earlier this year, authorities in Duluth, Gwinnett County, reactivated the red light cameras which had previously been deactivated because of the high cost of their operations. In Duluth's experience, the red light cameras kept down violations and prevented accidents, but also resulted in fewer citations and lower revenues.  Most red light camera systems tend to be self paying, with collections from fines paying for operations and upkeep. However, when Duluth deactivated the cameras, it was found that the rates of red light violations spiked dramatically, as motorists realized there were no more cameras monitoring their behavior.

The Georgia auto accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of automobile accidents across Georgia.

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Texting-Related Accident Video Draws Ire

A Public Service Announcement video created by a British police department features a dramatization of an accident caused by a teen motorist who's texting while driving. The YouTube video has gone wildly popular with over a million hits, but has also generated plenty of controversy because of its graphic content.

The video was made by the Police Department of Gwent in Wales, in response to the growing number of accidents linked to drivers texting at the wheel. It is gripping, and very graphic. This isn’t a sanitized "Don’t Text While Driving" message – there's plenty of blood everywhere, and the video does a great job of showing the consequences of texting at the wheel.

The video has gone viral, and has generated controversy for its graphic scenes. There have been concerns about whether teenagers, who the video targets, can handle the blood and gore that's on the screen. News media in this country too have featured the story, but as we write this, not one television station has agreed to air the PSA for American audiences.

As experts have said, we are currently at a crossroads of sorts. Our tolerance towards cell phone use while driving is exactly where the attitude towards drunk driving was in the eighties, or where seat belt non-usage was a decade ago. Our attitudes towards these issues have changed dramatically since then, and as a public, we are rightfully angry when motorists drive under the influence, or endanger their own lives but not buckling up.

We need to develop that same intolerance towards text messaging while driving, and, in fact, all kinds of cell phone use behind the wheel. Georgia has some of the most backward cell phone laws in the country.  We don’t even ban hand held devices, except for school bus drivers.

As Atlanta personal injury lawyers, we have aggressively warned of the dangers of texting while driving and even of talking on cell phones while driving. And we have seen the accidents caused by such negligence. 

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One Killed, Two Injured in DeKalb County Multi Vehicle Accident

One Killed, Two Injured in DeKalb County Multi Vehicle Accident

DeKalb County police are investigating a multi vehicle accident on Monday, that has left one motorist dead and two injured.

According to the Atlanta Journal- Constitution, the driver of a pickup truck hit a Geo Metro, injuring at least one passenger. The impact caused the Geo to ram into another car, while the pickup truck driver fled the scene of the crash. The pickup collided with an SUV a few minutes later, and the SUV driver suffered injuries that required hospitalization. The pick up truck was found crashed in a ditch a few miles ahead, and the driver has been confirmed dead.

Police are investigating the accident. It's not known yet if drugs or alcohol were involved. The occupants in the Geo Metro, which is a comparatively small car, are aware that they are lucky to have escaped without serious injuries. The only occupant of the car, who was injured, suffered a black eye. It's not known how seriously the SUV driver has been injured.

Georgia laws provide for injured victims of an accident to recover compensation from the party or the estate responsible for an accident. Victims may be eligible for medical expenses, and lost wages. In case of death of a victim, there may also be damages paid towards funeral costs.

Victims of an automobile accident may be eligible to recover more than their monetary losses. Georgia laws allow for recovery for pain and suffering of the victim. Georgia is also one of the states that allow the spouse of a victim to claim damages for loss of consortium or loss of society.

While medical costs, lost wages and other monetary losses are easy to calculate, non economic losses like pain and suffering and loss of consortium are harder to calculate, and can differ from case to case. A DeKalb County car accident lawyer can help calculate the benefits you are eligible for, and prepare an appropriate claim.

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Two Seriously Injured in Columbia County Car Accident

Two people were seriously injured in a multi vehicle car accident in Evans in Columbia County on Monday.

According to the Augusta Chronicle, the accident was set off when Evans-resident Gregory Teasley, who was eastbound on Washington Road, crossed the center line and struck the side of a GMC truck. Teasley’s car was pushed into the oncoming lane where it struck a Jeep Cherokee head on. Both Teasley, and the driver of the Jeep Cherokee, a 74-year-od woman, suffered serious injuries, and  had to be airlifted.

According to witnesses who had been behind Teasley’s car, he had been weaving in and out of the traffic for several miles before the crash took place. Columbia Country Sheriff officials say they will be filing charges against him Teasley.  There's no information on whether alcohol or drugs were involved here

Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its annual report on accident fatalities for 2008. The report showed a dramatic drop in the numbers of people killed in accidents across the country last year. There was a decline in fatalities across all types of accidents – alcohol-related car accidents, bicycle crashes, pedestrian fatalities and speeding-related car accidents.

In Georgia, the drop in the number of accident-related fatalities was high with numbers dropping to 1493 from 1641 in 2007. Those are impressive statistics by any account, and law enforcement agencies and transportation officials deserve kudos for this accomplishment. Accident rates have been showing a steady decline over the past few years, and we can expect numbers to dip further as states move to take action on a number of factors responsible for serious accidents. As we write this, the Obama administration is considering convening a summit that will discuss the possibility of banning text messaging behind the wheel in all states. If the NHTSA numbers are still not as few as Gwinnett County car accident lawyers like us would like, it’s because we still take far too long to enforce bans on unhealthy practices like cell phone use behind the wheel, that contribute to so many crashes. Some more proactive measures to stop drivers from being distracted behind the wheel, and a little less procrastination would bring those numbers down further.

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Hart County Officials to Study Site of Fatal Car Accident

Officials from the Georgia Department of Transportation will be looking at an intersection at Hart County which was the scene of a fatal car accident last month. An 81-year-old man was struck and killed as he was trying to cross the SR77 from the Lavonia connector in his vehicle. The intersection since then has been the focus of much scrutiny.

After the crash, State Rep Allen Powell requested the Department of Transportation to take a look at the intersection, and see how what kind of road safety enhancements can be made. DOT officials have confirmed that they will be looking at a number of factors, including the daily traffic at the intersection, the spots that see the maximum number of vehicles, and the accident history of the intersection over the past year. They will also look specifically into the fatal accident, including the cause as well as the type of the crash. DOT representatives will also be looking at traffic counts, but that will be done after summer has been ended, because traffic counts are typically lower during the summer. 

That means that whatever the DOT decides, and any recommendations it makes, will only come after fall. Even then, it may be weeks and months before any steps are taken to enhance the safety of the intersection.

As we often see in cases where a design defect on a road has been responsible for accidents, there are a series of steps that have to be completed before installation of any safety devices. Even installation of traffic signals can take months of bureaucratic wrangles, while all concerned agencies are brought on board. Besides, even when everybody has agreed that the dangerous spot needs to have some enhancements, funding shortages may place the plans on a backburner. DOT officials tend to have a priority list for undertaking such safety measures. A spot that doesn’t find itself on the list may not be eligible for enhancements, no matter how much residents and motorists in the area find it dangerous.

The Atlanta auto accident attorneys at the Katz Law Firm represent victims of automobile and truck accidents in the metro Atlanta area, and across Georgia.

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NHTSA Suppressed Data Proving Cell Phone Use While Driving Raises Accident Risks



Previously undisclosed documents that have now been made public, courtesy the Freedom of Information Act, show that federal auto safety agencies had access to thousands of pages of research that showed a clear risk of increased number of accidents because of cell phone use by motorists. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had that information back in 2003, but chose not to make it public.

The documents have been obtained by two consumer safety groups, Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety who filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents have been published by the New York Times.  

In 2003, NHTSA researchers proposed conducting a study on the risks of cell phone use by motorists behind a wheel. The study was considered important because of the growing use of cell phones, and the serious risk of driver distraction. The agency turned down the proposal.  Not only that, it also failed to make pubic the research it already had which pointed to the need for urgent laws that could prevent cell phones from becoming the major accident risk we now know them to be.

According to the New York Times, when interviewed, Dr Jeffrey Runge, who was then the NHTSA chief, admitted that the research had been buried for fear of antagonizing Congress, which warned the agency not to use the research to lobby states to change their cell phone and driving laws. The research remained buried, until now.

Atlanta personal injury lawyers have seen the results of the lack of any real cell phone laws with bite. With the advent of new age cell phones that are a virtual smorgasbord of distractions to the motorist – gaming, emails, web browsing, text messaging, Tweeting, and yes, talking – the problem of driver distraction has taken on a whole new meaning.  In the rush to fill too much into 24 hours, we have taken multi tasking to extremes, and cell phones have helped us on this destructive journey. The results have been painfully clear. Statistics prove that motorists using cell phones are up to four times more likely to end up in serious accidents, than motorists who are not using their cell phones.

While several states have enacted bans on hand held cell phones while driving, it's clear that these laws have helped very little. The danger is from the distraction that a conversation causes; not the actual use of the hands to hold the device. It's time we woke up to reality, and took firmer steps to ban cell phone use behind the wheel to prevent the thousands of accidents traced to such distractions every year.   

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Bartow County Family Escapes Injuries in Van Accident

A family from Bartow family escaped what could have been potentially serious burn injuries, after a van accident caused by a tire blowout.  

According to news reports, David and Sarah Joe King were traveling in their van with their two daughters on their way to South Carolina when the back left tire blew out. Tire blowouts happen quite often, and David did what is recommended in such cases. He pulled the Dodge Caravan over the side to the I-75, but within seconds, the van burst into flames. That doesn’t usually happen after a tire blowout, but in this case, it appears that the exploded tire struck the gas tank, causing it to burst into flames. David, Sarah Jo and their daughter Michelle suffered burn injuries, and Michelle and Sarah Joe had to undergo surgery. All the injured are expected to recover, and know that they are lucky to escape what could have been a serious accident.  

According to Sarah Jo, the tire that blew out, was the only one they didn’t change. Tire blowouts are responsible for thousands of injuries and accidents across the country and across Georgia. A tire blowout when you're driving can be a terrifying experience. A blowout could occur when the vehicle runs over a nail or on a hot road, or when it's traveling at excessive speeds. In fact, a motorist doesn’t even have to be doing these for a blowout to occur.  A defective or outdated tire could result in an unexpected and dangerous blow out.

Tire blowouts are often linked to rollover accidents. When a car is traveling at high speeds and a tire blows out, it can be hard for the motorist to maintain total control. The vehicle can flip over, causing serious injures to the occupants inside.

To avoid tire blowouts, inspect your tires regularly, and look for worn out tread, cuts on the side wall etc. Make sure that your tires are inflated properly. Monitor and pressure your tire pressure regularly. In case of a tire blowout while driving slowly take your foot off the gas pedal, and try to keep the car as straight as possible. Don’t panic or jerk the wheel - these can send the vehicle flipping over. Once you have been able to bring the vehicle to a stop, and exit, use warning flags or other devices to alert other motorists to your stalled vehicle.

The Atlanta personal injury lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of auto and trucking accidents in Atlanta and across Georgia.

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Fiery Interstate 75 Car Accident Linked to Road Rage

Earlier this month, we reported on an accident involving a car and a rental truck in Lowndes County on I-75. The accident, that occurred just before the Fourth of July weekend, left four people dead. Days later, several other details have emerged. Georgia State Patrol now believes that road rage could have been a possible factor in that crash.

The victims were four female passengers, including a mother, her two young daughters and her boyfriend, Jerome Roberts. Police are looking into whether road rage on the part of Roberts could have been a factor in the car accident. The tragic sequence of events unfolded when another motorist, Douglas Jones, called police to tell them that a driver in a gold 2003 Saturn Vue was driving recklessly and aggressively.  A rental truck driver then struck both Jones' car and the Saturn Vue.  The passengers in the Saturn Vue were trapped, and both the rental truck and the Saturn caught fire. Witnesses at the scene pulled Roberts from his car, but he was declared dead at the scene. The three female passengers died in the car from serious burin injuries. Douglas Jones also suffered injuries. According to the police, they were still on the phone with him when the crash occurred.

The Georgia State Patrol has listed Jerome Roberts as the at-fault driver in its accident report. 

If road rage really was a factor in this accident, then the tragic turn of events isn’t too shocking.  Out on the street, when you are frustrated or mad at a fellow motorist and want to show him what you're made of by displaying aggressive behavior towards him, you may not imagine that the consequences can be devastating, but they often are.

Yesterday, we discussed a new report that places Atlanta’s traffic as the third most congested in the country. It isn’t so surprising that the city's drivers, stuck in traffic as they are for hours, were also rated some of the rudest and most aggressive motorists in the country.  High traffic congestion is directly related to high frustration levels, and consequently, aggressive driving.

Until the city can get its transportation infrastructure up to par to alleviate traffic strain, Georgia car accident lawyers would advise motorists to:

  • Be patient while driving.
  • Allow yourself plenty of time to get to your destination, so you're not fuming stuck in traffic.
  • Have a contingency plan. Mark other routes that you can take to get to your destination, when the roads get too congested.
  • If another motorist provokes you by yelling or making rude gestures, don’t take the bait. Remain calm, and avoid eye contact.

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Traffic in Atlanta Ranks Third Worst in Country

As we discussed earlier on this blog, Atlanta's drivers are not only some of the rudest, but also some of the worst motorists in the country. Apparently, there's more glowing praise for us.   A survey ranks the city at No. 3 on a list of the most traffic congested cities in the nation

While the number of vehicles on our roads over the past year has dropped somewhat because of rising gas prices and the recession, and this has contributed to a drop in accident rates, Atlanta’s traffic continues to be congested.  Our city ranks behind Los Angeles and Washington DC, and ahead of Houston and San Francisco in the study. According to the results, the average motorist in Atlanta spends about 57 hours in the year simply stuck in traffic.

There seems to have been a slight improvement over the last couple of years however, and that's probably due to the rise in gas prices.  In 2007 which is the year the study considered, gas prices were $3 a gallon in Atlanta, which could account for the slight drop in congestion rates. However, we don’t yet have figures for 2008, which is when gas prices touched $4 a gallon, further cutting down non-essential travel in metro Atlanta.

In 2008, traffic volumes dropped dramatically as the recession and high gas prices impacted people's willingness to use their gas guzzling SUV’s. More people took to public transport, walking or bicycling.  Most importantly for safety advocates and Atlanta car accident lawyers, those drops in traffic volumes meant a corresponding drop in the number of accidents on our streets. 

When the 2008 figures come out however, we will probably see a larger drop in the rates of congestion. Generally, Atlantans have been fond of their cars. That's why it was surprising to many to see the mass increase in Marta ridership when the recession first began to pinch.

There are already signs that as gas prices begin to ease up, as they have been doing over the past few months, Atlantans will go back to their normal rates of vehicle usage. Preliminary results for May 2009 show that car usage rates are already showing a slight increase over figures for May 2008. Correspondingly, Marta ridership for January through March 2009 has also shown a slight dip. That could either be a sign of people returning to their cars, or fewer people going to work as a result of the recession. 

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More Accident Fatalities Result from Highway Defects Than Speeding, Alcohol

A report by a transportation development advocacy group says that the country could save more than $200 billion from automobile accidents if it invests in better highway design, maintenance and repairs.

The Washington Post has this interesting report about how road-related conditions are responsible for more than half of the 42,000 accident-related deaths that occur each year. Contrary to popular perception, it's poorly positioned utility poles, steep curves, road obstructions and other hazards that contribute to the most number of accident-related deaths in the country- not drunk driving, speeding or failure to wear seatbelts.

Consider this:

  • Failure to wear seatbelts cost the economy $59.6 billion in 2006 in medical expenses, insurance payouts and other accident-related costs.
  • Speeding-linked accidents cost the economy $97.1 billion the same year.
  • Alcohol-related accident cost the economy $129.7 billion.
  • Deaths occurring from road condition-related accidents, in comparison, cost a staggering $217.5 billion.

However, accident fatality prevention efforts in Georgia and around the country tend to focus heavily on drunk driving, speeding and failure to wear seatbelts. The report makes strong recommendations for highway improvements that can greatly reduce the number of such fatalities. These improvements include widening highway shoulders, redesigning crooked roads, installing road signs that are easy for motorists to read, installation of rumble strips and guardrails and other measures.

According to the report, measures like these could actually save 22,000 lives every year. This would mean greater savings to the economy in terms of medical costs and other expenses.  

These are definitely efforts that are worth making to prevent the kind of serious automobile accidents that result in deaths. In Georgia, the government has already kicked off several highway construction and repair projects with the stimulus funds it began receiving earlier this year. That's enough reason for us Georgia car accident lawyers to be optimistic that those staggering figures will soon change.

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Could Atlanta's Angry Drivers Increase the Risk of Auto Accidents?

Last month, we reported that Georgia’s drivers ranked poorly in a survey of motorists based on their knowledge of safe driving practices. As it turns out, motorists in the state's capital may not only be lacking in their knowledge of safe driving, but may also be aggressive to boot.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, a new survey has placed Atlanta among the five worst cities in the country as far as road rage and aggressive driving are concerned. Drivers in New York are reportedly the worst, with Dallas Fort Worth, Detroit and Minneapolis-St. Paul following. What that means is that motorists in these cities and Atlanta are more likely to tailgate or make rude gestures, weave in and out of traffic lanes and indulge in other forms of aggressive behavior.

Road rage incidents are more common in metropolitan cities that have busy roads. Congested roads mean traffic delays, and consequently, frayed tempers.

Yelling and making rude gestures may not seem dangerous, but when the angry motorist tries to run a vehicle off the road, or cut him off, things can quickly begin to get very serious. Accidents can easily occur when motorists are involved in displays of temper on the street.

Bicyclists and pedestrians are more likely to be victims of road rage. There is lesser awareness about the rights of these people, and it becomes easy for a motorist to vent his anger and frustration on a bicyclist in front of him.  

An aggressive driver may:

  • Put high beams on drivers who cut him off
  • Not allow drivers to merge
  • Run red lights
  • Pass slower drivers and cut in front of them
  • Make rude gestures
  • Not allow drivers to pass

These are a motorist's way of insulting other motorists that can definitely prove dangerous. If you find yourself on the street with another motorist who is behaving aggressively with you:

  • Ignore the insults.
  • Slow down your vehicle, or take the next exit to avoid the aggressive driver.
  • If you find the motorist still following you, try to pull into a safe area where he isn’t able to harm you, like a police station.
  • Avoid reacting to the other motorist' angry behavior.
  • Avoid eye contact with the motorist.
  • Avoid trying to talk with the motorist to diffuse the situation -it only makes things worse.

Our Atlanta car accident lawyers have come across several cases of accidents that were set off by one of the motorists' aggressive driving. The important thing to remember when you are dealing with a driver in the throes of road rage is that he is a total stranger, and could be drunk, on drugs, have a weapon in his car or could simply be itching to pick up a serious fight with you.   None of these situations are safe for you.

So, where do you find the nicest drivers in the country? Head to Portland, followed by Cleveland, Baltimore, Sacramento and Pittsburgh.

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Georgia's Drivers Rank among Country's Worst


A survey by GMAC Insurance confirms what Georgia car accident lawyers have known for very long - the state's drivers are not too solid in their knowledge of traffic rules. 

The questionnaire consisted of a set of 20 questions from actual driving tests from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Drivers across the country were questioned on their knowledge of driving and traffic rules. The survey ranked drivers in Georgia at near the bottom of all the states. Seventy percent constituted a passing grade on the test. Drivers in Georgia scored an average of 72.2 percent. Thirty-four and one half of Georgians surveyed failed the test. That's more than a third of surveyed drivers.  The average test score results this year were lower than last year's.

Respondents who took the test seem to have had the most problems with yellow lights and the minimum distance to be kept between vehicles. California, Hawaii, New Jersey and New York ranked below Georgia, with New York ranked at the absolute bottom. The best drivers apparently are in Idaho and Wisconsin. 

Other findings from the survey were also interesting:

  • Older drivers were likely to have a better knowledge of traffic rules than younger ones.
  • The southern states had the highest failure rates at 41 percent, while the Midwest had the lowest failure rates at 15 percent.
  • Men seemed to score higher than women, but the disparity isn’t that great – 87 percent for men and 80 percent for women.

Knowledge of traffic rules and the ability to follow them is an important part of road safety. People will argue that answering questions about road rules does not necessary speak for a person's driving abilities. However, knowledge of the meaning of signage, knowledge of other motorists' rights when you share roads with them, as well as the rights of pedestrians, and bicyclists, and other rules is important to prevent car accidents.  

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Deadly Memorial Day Weekend in Georgia; 14 dead in Accidents


Fourteen people have been killed in accidents across Georgia over the Memorial Day weekend, including fatal accidents in Cherokee County and Fulton County.

Reports coming before the Memorial Day weekend came to a close to Monday night, had more than 700 people injured in automobile accidents since the holiday began on Friday evening. Overall, Georgia State Patrol responded to more than 2,700 accidents up till 6 pm Monday.

Four of the people who died were traveling in Fulton and Cherokee County. In Fulton County, a motorcycle accident left the 37-year-old motorcyclist dead at the scene. Speed is believed to have caused the accident. A little while later a Honda and a Suburban crashed, killing the Suburban driver. In Cherokee County, a Ford Taurus veered off the road on Highway 20 and crashed into a tree. A driver and a passenger, both Emerson residents died at the scene, while another passenger was airlifted to hospital with critical injuries. Investigators believe driver error and weather conditions may have been a factor in that crash.

Last year, Memorial Day accidents had left 16 people dead and injured more than 900 people. Earlier this week, we reported that Georgia authorities were expecting an increase in the number of accidents this year. This year, gas prices have stabilized and could coax more people behind the wheel, unlike last year when the spike in gas prices led to a drop in the numbers of people traveling in Georgia.

There was some good news coming in from Georgia's lakes and rivers. According to the Department of Natural Resources, there were no fatalities on the state's waterways over the weekend. There were ten boating accidents in the state, which resulted in 7 injuries. However, that might have been due to the rainy weather conditions that could have discouraged people from going out in the water.

If you have questions relating to accident claims, consult a Georgia car accident lawyer at the Katz Law Firm. Our attorneys can provide the answers to your questions.

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Cobb County Teacher Dies in Wrong Way Accident

Before Friday's tragic car accident, South Cobb High School teacher James Chapman was looking forward to a life of wedded bless.

Chapman was due to be married on the 4th of July in Rome, and had been on his way to New Orleans to celebrate his upcoming nuptials. He was driving with his friend Keith. Both had just finished the last day of school at South Cobb High School where Chapman taught Social Studies and coached a baseball team. Chapman’s car collided head-on with a car driven by 74-year-old Homer Phillips in the southbound lane of Interstate 59. Phillips seems to have been driving the wrong way in a pickup truck, when he crashed into Chapman’s pickup. Phillip's vehicle then hit another car which rolled over. Both Phillips and Chapman were killed at the scene.

According to police, Phillips was not under the influence of alcohol. They don’t know yet why he was driving the wrong way.

Georgia law enforcement is constantly enforcing seatbelt use through their Click it or Ticket campaign, and Atlanta car accident lawyers have supported the campaign to keep Georgians safe.   The deaths of these two men simply underscore the importance of that message. Neither of the victims was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. However, Chapman’s friend Keith as well as the driver of the third car that overturned, were buckled up safely, and survived the crash. Chapman’s body has not yet been brought back to Cobb County. Students and staff at the school are planning a fitting way to honor his memory.  

Wrong way driving could be the result of drunk driving. Alcohol use can leave a person with more than just a feel good buzz – it could leave him confused and even disoriented, leading to fatal driving errors. Often wrong way driving is the result of a serious error. According to analysis by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every year 350 people are killed in accidents traced to motorists driving in the opposite direction on the highway. According to studies, a majority of wrong way drivers avoid a car accident by simply correcting their mistake, turning around and traveling in the right direction.

Nationwide, there are few concerted efforts to prevent drunk driving, but individual states do take it on themselves to enhance signage and ramp design, and undertake road striping to prevent the problem. In Georgia, plenty of research has been done on wrong way driving dating back to the 1960’s. Georgia uses "Do not enter” and “Wrong Way” signs as warnings to motorists.

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Drowsy Driving Blamed for Washington County Tractor Trailer Accident Fatality


A man from Sandersville in Washington County died last week when his truck crashed into a tractor trailer. According to Georgia State Patrol, the victim David Perry Williams was driving a pickup and following the 18 wheeler. As the tractor trailer slowed to make a turn, the pickup struck the rear of the trailer, killing Williams instantly.

Georgia State Patrol troopers believe that Williams likely fell asleep at the wheel. There was no indication at the accident scene that he had attempted to stop the pickup. Williams wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, but considering the massive impact of the crash, troopers believe that a seat belt wouldn't have helped. According to witnesses at the scene of the crash, Williams had just finished his third shift at work, and was on his way home.

It appears quite likely that Williams was suffering from a severe lack of sleep because of his hectic work schedule. We should be as concerned about car accidents that occur when a motorist falls asleep at the wheel, but somehow, as New Jersey personal injury lawyer Scott Grossman says, drowsy driving is not taken as seriously in the country as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

This can be seen in our lack of effective legislation against driving while fatigued, as well as the fact that Atlanta car accident lawyers see more cases of drunk driving accidents than crashes resulting from driving while fatigued. The reason for this could be that, as the National Sleep Foundation says, drowsy driving is vastly underreported. As of now, New Jersey is the only state in the US to have laws against drowsy driving. In Georgia, a driver who falls asleep at the wheel and causes a fatal accident can face charges of second degree vehicular homicide. In case of a non-fatal accident, the drowsy motorist could face charges of distracted driving, but that's about it.

Being deprived of sleep may cause delayed responses and impaired judgment similar to those experienced while a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It's about time we took the matter seriously, and urged our lawmakers to pass tougher laws that prevent motorists from getting behind the wheel in a fatigued state.  

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Georgia State Patrol Expects Increase in Fatal Memorial Day Accidents

Georgia State Patrol is expecting an increase of 29 percent in the number of fatal accidents over the Memorial Day weekend. Troopers are expecting 2,725 accidents over the weekend, which begins from 6 pm Friday and runs through midnight on Monday. These crashes are expected to result in eighteen deaths, while 875 people will be injured.  In 2008, fourteen people had died, and 721 had suffered injuries in 2,480 Memorial Day holiday accidents.  

Law enforcement officers are gearing up to handle the increased volumes of traffic starting from Thursday. Additional police officers will be patrolling the streets to crackdown on motorists for speeding, and conducting sobriety checkpoints to keep drunk drivers off the roads. Additionally, there will be other safety campaigns, including the "Click It or Ticket" campaign to enforce seat belt use, as well as the 100 Days of Summer HEAT campaign that kicked off earlier this month. HEAT or Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic will crack down on dangerous drivers across the state. The HEAT campaign is a comprehensive drunk driving, speeding and aggressive driving campaign that involves all law enforcement agencies.

Holiday weekends are unfortunately more at risk for a greater number of automobile crashes including drunk driving accidents, and speeding-related crashes.  With lower gas prices this year, it won't be too surprising to find more numbers of Georgians on the streets. Initiatives like the one the Governor's Office of Highway Safety is implementing are necessary to ensure that a joyous time isn’t marred by accidents and injuries. This year, Georgia State Patrol expects the same risk factors in a majority of serious or fatal accidents – alcohol use and failure to wear seat belts.

As people across Georgia get ready to travel over the holiday Georgia personal injury lawyers would advise everyone to drive at safe speeds, avoid driving while drunk, and buckle up to stay safe.

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Georgia Embarking on Seat belt Campaign to Reduce Accident-related Injuries

Law enforcement agencies in the state have launched a campaign to encourage seatbelt use among Georgia drivers to prevent serious accident-related injuries, especially those occurring on rural roads. It is a shift from previous efforts that focused such enforcement in urban centers, and it has to do with the dismal picture of seatbelt use in rural areas.

According to Governor's Office of Highway Safety deputy director Spencer Moore, rural roads are some of the most dangerous ones, but seat belt usage here is much lower than in urban centers. In 2008, drivers in urban areas in the state were 84 percent likely to buckle up, while in rural areas, that percentage was 79. The discrepancy in seatbelt usage in urban and rural areas is clear to see in the accident fatality rates in these regions. In 2007, 342 people died in automobile accidents in the five metro Atlanta counties. During the same period of time, 527 died in accidents in Georgia’s most rural counties.

Seatbelts save lives. While those higher fatality rates on rural roads may have to do with other causal factors like a shortage of trauma centers in these areas, seatbelts can prevent the kind of critical injuries that result after serious accidents.

The seatbelt campaign, which will both encourage motorists to buckle up as well as enforce existing seatbelt laws, is relying on the slogan “Georgia is Buckle Up Country”. The state's "Click it or Ticket" campaign will drill that message home in rural areas, where motorists tend to drive slower and may underestimate the need for seatbelts. The campaign will run through Memorial Day, and law enforcement officers promise they will be liberal with the tickets. Officers will be patrolling the main roads as well as back roads during the summer, when driving traffic tends to be intense.

It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that the simple act of fastening a seatbelt can prevent serious injuries in an accident. With summer almost upon us and people ready to travel on holiday, the seatbelt campaign looks set for success. As Atlanta car accident lawyers, we would like to add their voice to the campaign - Buckle up, Georgia. It could save your life.   

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Safer Roads, Fewer Accidents: Georgia's Road Improvement Stimulus Funds Are Here

Motorists in Georgia can look forward to repaired highways and safer streets that will reduce the risk of accidents. Governor Perdue last week approved $187 million from federal stimulus funds, which will be used in up to 51 road construction and repair projects in metro Atlanta.

In April, the governor approved $207 million to be spent on highway projects, and these recent funds are in addition to those funds.  All in all, Georgia is scheduled to receive $931 million for road improvement projects. Work on highways is expected to begin by summer. According to the Department of Transportation, there are dozens of projects that were in line for funds, but only those that are in poor condition or have had a high incidence of automobile accidents have been marked for construction work. 

Here's where some of those funds will go:

  • The repairs of I-575 alone are expected to cost $29 million.  That particular highway was in severe needs of funds for maintenance and other work. 
  • DeKalb County will spend $23.6 million for upgrades of intersection signals, pedestrian upgrades, paving and other projects.
  • Gwinnett County, which received $42.7 million in April, is scheduled to receive more than $19 million this time around. That's partly because the County has been able to keep road construction efforts moving with its own money while the federal funds arrived.
  • Wilkinson County is due for the biggest allocation from the list - $48 million to build a section of the Fall Line Freeway there.

Several other highways have been due for repair work for a while now, and as Atlanta car accident lawyers, we're pleased to see proposed enhancements that can only make these highways and bridges safer for use. These projects were stalled while the state grappled with a budget deficit, and counties were unable to generate the revenues needed to kick start projects. With massive stimulus funding now, there is no reason why most of these projects can't be started as soon as possible.

With safer highways, paved roads, pedestrian upgrades, an increased number of signals at intersections and other enhancements, motorists in Georgia can look forward to a safer accident-free driving experience.

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New NHTSA Roof Crush Standards Will Save Lives, Reduce Accident-Related Injuries


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will soon have a new standard that promises to reduce injuries caused in car and light truck accidents.

The new standard will require the roofs of these vehicles to be able to withstand three times the curb weight of the vehicle. The old standard required the roof to withstand pressure that was only one and a half times the curb weight. That's not the only change auto safety advocates and Atlanta car accident lawyers are happy about. The earlier standard placed a limit on the pressure applied to a vehicle during testing at 5,000 pounds. The new standard will no longer have that limit. Beside, pressure will be applied to both sides of the roof, and not to just one side during testing.

The changes and standards have pleased safety advocates, because these are much stronger than current standards that only test one side of the roof. The new standards come after about a decade of studies and research by the NHTSA. In 2005 , the agency was ordered to establish standards that would help protect drivers and passengers in rollover accidents. According to agency statistics, approximately 10,000 people die in such car accidents every year. Two thirds of these people die when they are ejected from the vehicle. The number of people who die because of a roof crush or collapse is 667. The agency believes that the new standards will save 135 lives every year, and prevent more than 1,000 injuries.

The new standards cover passenger cars, but not full size pickups and sports utility vehicles that are more than 6,000 pounds in weight. Vehicles that weigh between 6,000 and 7,000 pounds are subject to different standards - they must withstand pressure that's 1.5 times the vehicle's weight. Large 12 to 15 seater passenger vans and convertibles are not subject to the new standards either.  

Driver’s lack of attention and negligence continue to be the primary reason for an overwhelming majority of car accidents in the country. However, motorist and passenger safety also depend on the safety of the vehicle. The role of roof collapse may not be as heavy as that of passenger ejections during a rollover, but any improvements that can be implemented to make cars safer are more than welcome. We deserve an auto safety agency that works to enforce stronger standards on auto manufacturers.

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Crashed Cars Increase Risk of Accidents

An investigation by CBS, Atlanta in April exposed a Roswell-based car dealership that concealed accident damage on the vehicles they sold, with sometimes disastrous consequences.

The dealership Ultra Cars, the investigation found, used to purchase cars that had frame damage at auctions, and sell these to customers. Those earlier car accidents were not reflected in Carfax reports, and gullible customers who walked into the dealership had no way of knowing that the car they were buying had earlier been in a major wreck. Frame damage can affect the structure of the car, and consequently its safety. The damage can decrease the value of a car and investigations revealed that salesmen at Ultra Cars didn’t reveal to customers the fact that the car had suffered accident damage earlier. At least one Ultra Car customer who was sold an accident-damaged-car has been involved in an accident. Keith Newton survived the crash, but the accident could have had fatal consequences. Later, he found that the car he had been sold had only been given a cosmetic patch-up job to cover major damage sustained in an accident.

The dealership has now closed down, but not before selling their vehicles to another dealership nearby. With most of Ultra Car's vehicles sold to a new owner, the dangers from these cars haven’t disappeared yet.

Cars that have been badly damaged in an accident can place the driver at a high risk of sustaining serious injuries. The body of the car has already been rendered weak by the earlier crash, and it could easily crumple during a second impact. The air bags may not deploy, and there may be other problems that place you at risk of an accident. The injuries caused by a weak frame can be devastating. You're talking about the frame of car, the main line of protection for you during impact. If the frame structure collapses during an accident, it leaves you with absolutely no protection for the severe injuries that are almost certain to occur.

Being in a car accident can bring up several questions. An Atlanta car accident lawyer can help provide answers to all your queries.

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DeKalb County Car Accident Kills Two People

A tragic car accident on Rockbridge Road in DeKalb County has killed two people, including a teenager.

According to this report, a car carrying six teenage boys crossed the center line and crashed into a Toyota Corolla, driven by 43-year-old Lisa Hutchinson. She died instantly. Her daughter was in the car with her, and suffered a broken collar bone and at least two fractures. The driver of the other car, a Honda Accord, also sustained injuries. One of the occupants of that car, 16-year-old Benjamin Bynum was also killed.  All the teenagers, students at Stephenson High School, have suffered minor injuries.

The 16-year-old driver is likely to face charges. According to police, alcohol doesn’t seem to have been a factor in the car accident

On the subject of teen-related car accidents which we have discussed at length on this blog, we also came across this letter written by a Dawson County coroner and funeral home owner to the Dawson News and Advertiser.  In it, Ted Bearden speaks eloquently of the heartbreakingly high number of accident deaths involving teens that he has been seen over the last couple of years. Most of these deaths, he says, are because the driver was speeding, or not wearing a seatbelt. Bearden appeals to families of young drivers to constantly remind them of all the responsibilities that come when you're driving a vehicle.

Teenagers must be made aware of their responsibilities when they are behind the wheel. Teen driver education at home cannot be something that's left only for when there's a serious accident in the community, and you sit your high schooler down for a heart-to-heart about safe driving, only to forget all about it until the next serious crash happens. Teenagers have busy lives and a thousand different things going on in their minds at any single time. Talking to them constantly and repeating the message over and over as often as you can, helps drill the point home. As Atlanta car accident lawyers and parents, we believe it’s an effort that’s worth making.

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BMW Driver in Fatal South Fulton Accident Arrested

Police in Fulton County arrested the driver of BMW that was involved in a fatal car accident on Easter Sunday. The car accident killed Robert and Delisia Carter, their nine-year-old daughter Kayla, and their two month old son. A six year old child in another car was also killed in the multi vehicle accident.

The Carters had been out for an Easter Sunday drive when a BMW crashed into their car, and then struck a Volkswagen. The Mercedes burst into flames, killing the family inside. The driver of the Volkswagen, Tracey Johnson sustained serious injuries in the accident. Her six-year-old daughter was also killed.

The BMW fled from the scene of the accident. Fulton police had been looking out for the driver since Sunday. This morning residents of Walden Park in south Fulton County woke up to find that one of their neighbors, 22-year-old Aimee Michael was the driver of the BMW involved in the tragic Easter crash.

Michael has been arrested and charged with 5 counts of homicide by vehicle, failure to maintain lane and causing serious injury by vehicle.

Delisia Carter was a popular inspirational speaker, whose life echoed the inspiring message she gave others. The product of an abusive childhood, Delisia survived a violent marriage to find happiness the second time round, when she married Robert. She had a daughter from her first marriage. The couple had recently become the parents of a baby boy in February. Those who knew her said she had finally found joy, and had never been happier.

All it took was a negligent driver on Easter Sunday for all that to come crumbling down. Meanwhile, Tracey Johnson is still recovering from the serious injuries she sustained in the car accident. Making recovery tougher for her will be the knowledge that her little girl did not survive the crash.

All it takes for a driver to make a potentially fatal error on the road is a distraction. It could be a quick text message on the phone, reaching to change the CD or open the wrapper on your snack. Driver distractions are responsible for close to 25%of accidents that occur in the country.  While a minor distraction may not seem like such a big deal, Georgia personal injury lawyers who often see the consequences of such distractions, know better.        

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Storms Batter North Georgia, One Killed in Accident


Raging storms lashed Atlanta and much of north Georgia over the weekend, and several accidents were traced to the poor weather, including one fatal car accident that left one man dead.

Pickens County resident, Raymond Jones was killed when a tree fell on a car on Nacoochee Drive in Atlanta. The car quickly caught fire, and Jones was killed at the scene. Across metro Atlanta, trees and power lines collapsed, creating scenes that were ripe for automobile accidents. Other accidents were reported from Cobb County where a car was struck by a falling tree. Forsyth County saw several boats damaged during the storm, and a collapsed dock. However, there were no serious accidents reported. Power outages were widespread across North Georgia, and with a forecast of more rain in the next couple of days, we can expect the bad weather to continue.

Driving in adverse conditions is one of the most series challenges for a motorist. The existing problems involved in negotiating heavy traffic and avoiding pedestrians and bicyclists, are only compounded when you have to deal with strong winds, heavy rains, snowfall, hail or fog. Wet and slippery road can leave vehicles at risk for skidding accidents or rollovers that can lead to serious injuries. Howling winds and the sound of the rain can make it harder for a motorist to hear the horns of other drivers nearby. Water on the road can spray on the windshields of other vehicles nearby, impacting their ability to see clearly. The risk of hydroplaning increases when you are driving at excessive speeds on a wet highway. When there is excessive water on the road and you are driving at 55 mph - which could be the normal posted speed limit on the road - you run the risk of the tires losing contact with the road surface.


Atlanta personal injury lawyers advise the following tips when you set out to drive in poor weather.

  • Slow down.  The posted speed limits may be too risky for wet weather.
  • Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front.
  • Look out for steep curves ahead that can be harder to navigate in bad weather.
  • Before you set off, make sure that your car is primed and prepared to take on the lousy weather. Check the windshield wiper fluid and wipers, battery, tires and headlights. The elements can be cruel to an unprepared car and driver.
  • Be alert, especially at intersections and other risk spots.
  • Check the weather report before you set out. If the weather looks like it's going to get worse, not better, take another route, or postpone your journey.
  • Keep your vehicle stocked with an emergency kit, including food, water, and other essentials. You'll need these if the weather gets worse, and you're stranded on the road.

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Georgia House Rejects Bill That Could Prevent Accident Fatalities

In February, we had expressed hope on this blog that a bill to make seatbelt use mandatory for pickup truck drivers would be passed by the House. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. For the third consecutive year, the House has rejected the measure that would prevent several accident related deaths every year, with the House Consumer Affairs Subcommittee voting 4-3 against the bill.  

With this, Georgia continues to remain the only state in the country that exempts pickup truck drivers from buckling up. This has meant that the seat belt use rate for pickup drivers in Georgia has remained at around 79 percent, much lower than it is for other passenger vehicles. Pickup trucks are used extensively in rural Georgia, and the seat belt exemption has also contributed to higher fatality rates in rural areas than urban centers. Close to 57 percent of all road traffic fatalities in the state occur on rural roads. In fact, the fatality rate in rural areas is twice that in urban areas, and pickup truck drivers form a large percentage of these fatalities. Even worse, of these pickup truck fatalities, more than 67 percent were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash. Experts estimate that at least 26 lives could be saved in Georgia every year, and more than 400 injuries could be prevented if pickup truck drivers too were covered under seat belt laws.

Even in the face of such data, Georgia has delayed making seat belts mandatory for pickup drivers above the age of 18. The bill's supporters, including Georgia personal injury lawyers have been vocal in their support for such a measure, but these voices have gone unheard by the House. There has been widespread support of seat belt laws for pick up truck drivers. In fact, surveys have shown that more than 88 percent of the population of the state supports making seat belt use mandatory on pickup trucks. In fact, the support for such a bill is strong even in rural areas, with truck drivers voicing support for such laws. Yet, the state has failed to act. 

Georgia has also lost out on federal funds because of this stubborn refusal to bring pickup drivers under seat belt laws. Federal funds are available to states that have mandatory buckling up laws for all motorists and Georgia's refusal to enact such laws has meant that we have lost out on funds that would have been very welcome during a budget deficit.

This is not the end of the road for the bill, of course. Supporters of the bill have already said that they will re-introduce the measure another day.   

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Accident, Injury Prevention Features still not Standard on all Passenger Vehicles

Electronic stability control, side impact airbags, neck restraint systems – these are just some of the high tech, innovative, auto safety features that manufacturers have developed and improvised to near perfection in recent years, in an effort to reduce the number of car accidents and injuries caused by vehicle collisions. Although these are becoming popular with car buyers, they are far from standard on all passenger cars, which means that motorists who wish to have these features in their vehicles should be prepared to shell out extra dollars for them.

The New York Times has this story on how some of the most ballyhooed car safety features continued to be optional on several car models. Electronic stability control (ESC) systems are one of the most impressive new auto safety technologies to make it out of R&D facilities in recent years. The system makes use of computerized sensors that can tell when a car is in danger of losing grip of the road. When a potential loss of traction is detected, the system automatically applies the brakes so there is no loss of control. Cars may be especially prone to skidding or loss of control when they turn at high speeds, or accelerate or brake suddenly. Loss of control in such instances can cause the car to roll over, exposing occupants to serious injuries. With an ESC system working in your car, the risk of an accident is dramatically reduced.

ESC systems will be standard on all vehicles by 2012. They are currently very popular with buyers who will pay extra for an ESC system if it is not included as part of a standard features package. However, in times of a recession, paying extra, sometimes up to $ 2,000 extra for a package that includes an ESC system may not be in every buyer’s budget. In times of economic turmoil, it's more important than ever that automakers design their cars with a view to minimizing accidents and injuries that take a heavy economic toll. Like David Champion who is the senior director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports says, manufacturers shouldn’t be making it more expensive for buyers to access proven safety gear like ESC systems or side impact airbags.

Automakers are bound by a number of factors when they introduce combinations of features in new models, and the cost of production does play a huge part. It’s cheaper to produce cars with combinations of limited features that offer buyers lesser variety in features, but help to control manufacturing costs.

Driving a car that's safe and equipped with all safety gear that will protect you and your family from an accident and minimize the risk of severe injuries in the event of a crash, should not be something that depends on your purchasing power. Times are tough, and as Georgia car accident lawyers who regularly represent victims of serious accident related injuries, we believe consumers shouldn’t have to choose between safety and their budget.

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DeKalb County Faces Funds Shortage for Road Repair Projects



Blame the economic meltdown if there are more automobile and pedestrian accidents in DeKalb County in the coming years. The County is facing a severe funds crunch, and road repair and building projects are expected to suffer as a result.

DeKalb County last year spent $19 million on construction of new roads and sidewalks, and undertaking bridge repair. This year, that amount has been drastically slashed to $5.5 million. Every year, the County invests heavily in street repavement efforts that ensure that motorists drive not just efficiently, but also safely. Investments in previous years have gone into building sidewalks, so pedestrians can walk safely without fear of accidents, and constructing of new medians that can allow vehicle movement on roads to flow smoothly and prevent crashes. In previous years, funding from the road building budget has been used to install new streetlights that can reduce nighttime accidents. All these efforts are expected to suffer this year as the County struggles with balancing the shortage of funding, with numerous road and sidewalk repair, construction and improvement projects that it needs to undertake.

It seems like the financial meltdown and the economic crisis will begin pinching DeKalb County residents where it really hurts – their safety on county roads. You know there's a meltdown in full swing not only when unemployment figures are up, but also when a cash shortage is obstructing efforts to make our cities and roads safe for all. Road building and repair efforts are necessary every year to repair eroded and battered stretches of road that can expose motorists to risk for automobile accidents. For instance, when traffic safety programs are cut because of funding shortages, you end up with battered and faded street signs malfunctioning street lights, uneven road surfaces that pose a risk of loss of control and rollovers, and other road defects that can cause accidents. Besides, during a recession, county authorities are also forced to cut down funding for the redesign of dangerous roads that may place motorists at an increased risk of collisions.

With the financial meltdown showing no signs of abating, take it from this Atlanta personal injury lawyer who's seen her share of accidents caused by defective roads – during tough times, it falls back on motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycle riders to make efforts to ensure their own safety. Keep within speed limits, avoid stupid driving behaviors like drunk driving, or using a cell phone when you drive. Pedestrians must be additionally careful, and avoid walking into oncoming traffic or crossing anywhere they please.

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Georgia Bill to Allow Seatbelt Use Evidence in Accident Trial

There's a string of seatbelt laws all relating to the impact of seatbelts on car accident -related injuries pending in the legislature, and each one of them is at varying stages of approval. One such bill is currently in the Senate, and it could have potential implications for an accident victim's right to recover damages after a car accident.

According to bill SB23, if the victim of an accident was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, then the defendant's lawyer would be able to bring up this fact during trial. Currently, Georgia law does not allow a victim's failure to buckle up to be mentioned during trial proceedings. Jurors are not allowed to consider if failure to wear seatbelts could have contributed to the severity of the injuries. If the bill becomes law, then that fact can be used as evidence that the plaintiff or the victim contributed to the severity of his injuries by not buckling up. Obviously, this would have an impact on any damages that the plaintiff would be eligible for as the result of the accident. Georgia personal injury lawyers are expectedly displeased about the bill, and the repercussions it would have on a victim's right to compensation after an accident. The Georgia Trial Lawyers Association has opposed the bill because it allows the jury to develop a negative perspective of the victim. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce has voiced its approval of bill.

A civil trial is all about compensating a victim for another person’s negligence. A victim’s failure to wear a seatbelt cannot be used as an excuse to forgive or lesson the severity of the defendant's negligent driving behavior. The bill amounts to letting a defendant get away with a possible rap on the wrist, if the victim has failed to wear a seatbelt. If the bill passes, we risk making a civil trial all about the inadequacies of the injured plaintiff, and not the negligence of the defendant. That defeats the purpose of civil justice.

Seatbelts save lives - I think we all agree on that. Enforcing the use of seatbelts and making them mandatory for all vehicles has been something that we as Georgia car accident lawyers have stood up for. But to allow a seatbelt violation to be used to practically gift a negligent motorist a free pass, is something that we should strongly oppose. 

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Mandatory Seatbelt Laws for Georgia's Pickup Drivers Could Soon be Here

Georgia's pickup truck drivers look set to begin buckling up compulsorily as the state's senate passed a seatbelt law last week that will require all pickup drivers to wear seatbelts while they are driving. The senate passed the bill by a vote of 49-4. It will now move on to the House, where it hasn't fared too well the last few times it made it there. Rural and agricultural interests have long argued that the seatbelt law is unnecessary, and that it will "hinder farmers." Legislators who support the law say that any concerns about farmers and the inconvenience to them are simply overblown. 

Legislators who support the bill estimate that it could possible save as many as 105 lives a year in automobile accidents. Besides, there's the little matter of a grant of $4.6 million that the state would be eligible to receive from the federal government if the bill actually becomes law. Georgia is grappling with a massive budget deficit, and the lure of a grant could be the deciding factor when House members vote for or against the bill. For now, House members have been non committal about their response to the bill. Governor Purdue too hasn’t made a commitment to supporting it

Georgia still remains behind most states as far as mandatory seatbelt laws are concerned, even though pickup drivers themselves have been vocal in their support of any such law. So far, these drivers have been exempt from having to buckle up compulsorily, and this has not only cost the state that $4 million grant, but also hundreds of lives that could have been saved every year by the simple act of buckling up. These pickups can cause their unrestrained occupants serious injuries in the event of an accident. Across the country, states have adopted mandatory seatbelt laws, and the impact on their fatality rates has been clear to see.   The increasing rates of seatbelt use and stricter enforcement of seatbelt laws by traffic police has been cited as a possible reason why the accident fatality rate across the country is declining the way it is.

As Atlanta car accident lawyers, we constantly see the severity of injuries caused when an accident victim wasn’t buckled up safely, and for this very reason, have been advocates of mandatory seatbelt use for all, without exemption.

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DeKalb County Pedestrian Accident Probe May lead to Defective Road

In a tragic pedestrian accident, 7-year-old Cameron Dunmore was struck and killed by an SUV, while he was crossing on a crosswalk near his school, Princeton Elementary School in DeKalb County on Monday. The second grader was at a marked school crossing, and the guard even had the Stop sign out for drivers to see. The SUV driver, a parent of another child at the same school, failed to stop for unknown reasons, and struck Cameron. Now, reports suggest that a missing traffic light which was recently removed from near the school could have played a preventive role in the accident.

According to residents of the area, they had written a letter to County authorities about the missing traffic light, and the need to have it installed back at the spot as quickly as possible. The area is a school zone, and can be extremely busy, especially during school opening and closing hours. The Country authorities seem to have slept on the matter. There was an assessment made of the zone, and not much happened after that. Even the principal of the school had been contacted by parents who were afraid that speeding cars and high traffic at busy times could cause an accident. County officials have not yet confirmed if they received any complaints from parents about the lack of a traffic light near the school, or whether they plan to install a light at the spot.

Investigations into the crash will likely look at several factors that may have contributed to the accident. For instance, why didn’t the SUV driver stop at the crossing? Did the County receive a petition to install a light, and if yes, why were these pleas ignored? Depending on the answers to these questions, liability for this pedestrian accident fatality can be ascertained.

At the Katz Law Firm, our Atlanta pedestrian accident attorneys have represented several victims of pedestrian accidents, and recovered fair compensation for them. If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian accident, contact an Atlanta pedestrian accident lawyer at our firm to discuss your case.

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Top Factors that Contribute to Auto Accident Deaths

A Forbes report presents a fascinating look at accident fatality statistics, going beyond the usual cut and dry numbers. Using data compiled from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Traffic Safety Center at UCB, the report provides a breakdown of the most dangerous times for motorists to be on the streets, and the data is just as apt for Georgia as it is for other states.

Saturday happens to be the most dangerous day of the week, which isn’t surprising because this is part of the weekend, with a higher risk of drunk driving. August is the most dangerous month of the year, and the hours between 5 and 6 pm are the most dangerous minutes to be on the road.  The first day after a snowstorm increases your risk of an accident-related fatality by 14 percent, and if you escape an accident on Thanksgiving, there's reason to be doubly grateful because the weekend is the most hazardous time of the entire year to be driving. The Fourth of July tends to be the most dangerous day of the year.

This doesn't mean that merely being on the roads during these dangerous times is enough to up your risk factor. Simple acts like wearing seat belts and driving within posted speed limits markedly reduce a person's risk of being involved in an accident. People who were talking on their cell phones were up to four times more likely to meet with an accident. Drinking and driving was, not surprisingly, another factor in causing accident-related deaths.

The safest times to drive are middle days of the week like Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and the safest hours are between 3 and 4 in the early morning.

At the Katz Law Firm, we constantly represent victims of automobile accidents who have been injured because of another motorist's negligence. If you have been injured in an accident, contact an Atlanta car accident lawyer at our offices to discuss your case.

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Seatbelt Laws, Accident Rates, and a $4 Million Grant for Georgia

Georgia's ongoing budget crisis may actually be a blessing in disguise for the state's motorists – the state has an incentive for passing seatbelt laws that come in the welcome form of a $4 million federal grant, which would not only add to the state's depleted coffers, but also reduce the number of accident-related fatalities in the state.

The state is the last one in the country that continues to allow pick up truck drivers to drive without seatbelts. All minors and adults are required to buckle up on other vehicles, however. This pick up truck exemption has come in the way of a fund of $4 million which the federal government has tied to a state's enactment of seatbelt laws. Georgia however has stubbornly refused to make it mandatory for pick up drivers to snap on their seat belts, and has lost out on the funding, thus far.

Now however, the situation is markedly different, and cries for mandatory seat belt laws that can help save thousands of lives a year, are getting louder. One of the weapons in the armor of proponents of making seat belts mandatory on all vehicles without exception, is of course the $4 million grant that the state would receive if it passed these laws. The state currently faces a budget deficit that is set to exceed $2 billion, and with the economy in the shape it's in, there's no telling how deep the deficit could go.

It's not as if Georgia has been in the dark about the important role that seatbelts can play in preventing major injuries and deaths in automobile accidents. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety board (NHTSB), mandatory buckling up for all motorists in the state would save at least 21 lives in Georgia, and prevent more than 300 injuries every year. Atlanta's car accident lawyers who often get to see at close range the kind of crushing and destructive injuries when drivers and passengers who have not buckled up are thrown against the windshield, have long called for mandatory seatbelt laws for all drivers. Yet, legislators have been stubborn about enacting such laws. According to lawmakers, buckling up is a basic safety measure, and drivers should be able to do so without a specific law that tells them to do it. 

Across the country, the last vestiges of resistance to seatbelt safety laws are falling. Indiana, which once held out against mandatory buckling up for all, enacted mandatory seatbelts laws in 2007, making it eligible for the $4 million prize. As Georgia's economy continues to flounder, and the money continues to allure, we might just have mandatory buckling up on all pick ups very soon. That's good news for motorists who drive the pickups, as well as their passengers. A single life saved in an accident on Georgia's roads is more than worth the effort.

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The National Safety Council is calling for a ban on all kinds of cell phone usage behind the wheel to prevent traffic accidents, but Georgia's state authorities still don’t seem to have received the message that driving and cell phone use just don’t go well together. 

Cell phone use while driving is rampant and clear to see on Atlanta's streets, where only school bus drivers are banned from using cell phone devices while driving. Now, the National Safety Council has called for a nationwide ban on all cell phone usage behind the wheel, including hand held and hands free devices, to prevent the growing number of accidents that can be traced to drivers distracted using their cell phones. Currently, no state completely bans cell phone usage while driving, but California, New Jersey, New York, Washington, Connecticut and Utah enforce a ban on hand held cell phone usage.  National Safety Council president Janet Froetscher isn’t impressed with such measures – she says that the issue isn’t whether your hands are free to drive, but that your head is engaged in the conversation you're having on the cell pone. That is what causes accidents, and not the actual act of holding the phone.

Georgia lags behind most states in the kind of cell phone driving legislation it has in place. Representative Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) is currently working on plans for legislation that will ban cell phone use for drivers under the age of 18. According to Rep Ramsey, the under-18 age group is the most vulnerable because they are still learning the ropes of correct behavior behind the wheel, and also because distractions are a major cause for accidents involving teens. Violators would receive a first time fine of $175 and a $500 fine for additional offenses. 

It could be a step in the right direction, although it's clear to see that it's not just teen drivers who are guilty of cell phone use behind the wheel. As Atlanta car accident lawyers who often see the devastating results of crashes caused because a motorist was busy on a cell phone, we believe that any legislation that is aimed at preventing automobile crashes must go all the way, and include adult drivers within its scope. It will be a daring move, and is certain to face stiff resistance from a cell phone addicted public, but the payoffs in terms of reduced accidents, injuries and deaths on Georgia's streets will be worth the effort.

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Reckless driving is the number one killer of teens and young adults. The Ad Council and a coalition of State Attorney Generals and consumer protection agencies have started a campaign against reckless driving.   The UR the Spokesperson campaign is aimed at empowering young adults to speak up when they don’t feel safe in a car. 

The goal of the campaign is to decrease reckless driving among teens and young adults; let teens know they are a spokesperson against reckless driving; empower teens to speak up when they are in a car and don’t feel safe; increase awareness of the dangers of reckless driving; and educate teens on safe driving. 

However, whether an education campaign can successfully combat reckless driving in this age group is open for debate.   A recent USA Today article outlined new research in adolescent brain research. The study revealed that adolescent brains are not yet capable of avoiding risky behaviors. 

The analysis, led by Temple University psychologist, Laurence Steinberg, says stricter laws and policies limiting their behaviors would be more effective than education programs.   Steinberg, whose decade long research is detailed in Current Directions in Psychological Science, says that adolescents do not have the full capacity to control themselves. Neurological research suggests that prior to age 18, the brain system that regulates impulse and emotion is not necessarily kept in check by logic and reason. Often, teens are missing the neurological brakes that adults have.

Moreover, the mere physical presence of peers increases the likelihood of teens taking risks. While education programs on risky behavior are helpful, psychologists believe that raising the driving age and raising the drinking age does more to curb risky behavior than programs aimed at educating teens on risks. 

However, for over 60 years the Ad Council has successfully effected positive social change through communications based on solid research. The Ad Council’s research showed that teen’s need for social connection is his or her most valuable asset. The Ur the Spokesperson campaign is driven by the strength of that peer-to-peer connection. The Ad Council is counting on peer pressure to be utilized as a positive force – to get teens to speak up and stop reckless driving while it is occurring.   


The three leading causes of vehicle accidents involving teen drivers are driver error, speeding, and alcohol. Other factors that contribute to teen accidents are talking on cell phones, having other passengers in the car, not recognizing hazards, engaging in risky driving behaviors likespeeding, running red lights, tailgating, and driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Finally, young drivers are more likely to die in SUV crashes because they don’t appreciate the dangers of rollover accidents. 


If you or someone you love has been involved in a car accident involving a teen driver or a driver charged with reckless driving, contact the law firm of Robert N. Katz for a free consultation. 

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Underage Drivers Cause Fatal Accidents

August 25, 2008

A wreck Sunday claimed the life of the driver and his teenage passenger, and also injured three other teens. In Ellenwood, Georgia, near Cedar Grove High School on River Road, Hammam Southerland, 27, and Gregory Brown, 17, died when Southerland lost control of his vehicle, flipped twice and struck a telephone pole. Three male teenage passengers in the backseat were treated for injuries. Neighbors believe a dangerous curve in the roadway contributed to the accident.

Last month, a similar accident  occurred killing fourteen-year old Mikah Blalock. Blalock was killed when the driver crashed into the telephone pole after traveling east on River Road. The driver of that vehicle was a fourteen-year old female. She was charged with vehicular homicide, failing to maintain her lane and driving without a license. Blalock was killed a week before he was to have entered high school.

Certainly, there are inherent problems with underage drivers. For good reason, Georgia does not allow minors under sixteen to drive without adult supervision. Fourteen-year old minors should not be behind the wheel of a car at all. Legislators continue to tackle the question of whether sixteen is too young to drive. This weekend’s accident may actually help the case of the minor in the first accident. We can expect her defense lawyer to argue that the road was inherently dangerous. And perhaps, it is. But that’s just the sort of reason why fourteen-year olds should not be behind the wheel in the first place. 

Child behavior psychologist, Dr. James Brush notes that children under the age of sixteen lack the “emotional and cognitive skills to bear the responsibility of operating a vehicle.” 

Here are some facts about teen drivers:

1.      Teen drivers age 16-19 are four times more likely to crash than older drivers.

2.      Teen drivers are more likely than older drivers to speed, run red lights, make illegal turns, drive while intoxicated, and ride with an intoxicated driver.

3.      Teen drivers’ inexperience cause them to fail to appreciate a hazardous situation.

4.      Teen drivers tend to carry a high number of teen passengers, increasing the number of injuries in a wreck.

5.      Teen driving accidents tend to occur most frequently on Friday and Saturday nights between 9 pm and 6 am.

Georgia has a graduated license program called the Teenage and Adult Driving Responsibility Act.   Fifteen-year olds who pass a written exam may obtain an instructional permit allowing them to drive with adult supervision.   Drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 may receive a Class D license after passing a written and driving exam. They must obtain 40 hours of supervised driving, and may not drive from midnight to six a.m. and are limited in the number of non-family, underage passengers they may carry. 

For parents, keep in mind a few important points. Insurance would generally cover an accident caused by teenage driver (although insurance on that teen will likely increase after the accident). However, insurance will not likely cover the cost of an accident caused by an underage teenage driver out for a joyride.

In Georgia, parents are not generally held liable for the negligent acts of their minor children. However, parents could be held liable for an accident if the parent assisted the underage child in driving a vehicle. It’s hard to believe, but there are some cases where a parent gave an underage child the keys to the car. If the parent knows and gives permission for the child to drive, the parent may also face criminal penalties for child endangerment.

If you have been injured in an accident caused by a teen driver or an underage driver, contact the law firm of Robert N. Katz for a free, private consultation.     

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Forbes Magazine this year ranked Atlanta as the worst city in the United States for daily commuting. Detroit and Miami trailed in second and third place positions, respectively.   Of course, for those of who must regularly drive in the daily grind, this comes as no great surprise. An influx of population, a poor infrastructure and drivers who resist carpools and public transportation are a few of the reasons why Atlanta won the award.


Collecting data from the Texas Transportation Institute and the US Census Bureau, Forbes evaluated traffic delays, travel times, and commuters’ efficient use of existing infrastructure. In Atlanta, more commuters flood the roadways than the infrastructure can handle and this causes congestion in many areas. Commuters spend an average of sixty hours a year stuck in traffic.


Thanks to increasing urban and suburban sprawl, fewer than thirty percent of drivers get to work in less than twenty minutes. Nearly thirteen percent of drivers spend more than an hour traveling to and from work. In addition to sprawl, the train system in metro Atlanta does not service the entire city. Thus, many commuters have no choice but to drive on increasingly congested roads. While sprawl increases drive times, it does lower housing costs. In order to decrease drive times, commuters would have to move closer into the city where housing costs are more expensive and can be prohibitive.   


And as luck would have it, this year Atlanta was also voted the sixth least courteous city for driving as well. If you think about it, these two awards probably go hand in hand. The more time we are forced to spend in our cars, then the more frustrated we are going to become. 


According to AutoVantage, an automobile club, Atlanta commuters drive too fast, tailgate, make cell phone calls while driving and often give obscene hand gestures to other motorists. 


What does all this mean to those of us who call Atlanta home or the few who simply must drive through the city occasionally? Watch out. 


The World Health Organization estimates that every year 1.2 million people die in car accidents. In the United States, that number is just under 50,000 deaths a year from car accidents. Statistically, your chances of being in a motor vehicle collision increase in cities like Atlanta with a large number of drivers – particularly those who have become frustrated or enraged by driving conditions.


If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident, then contact the law firm of Robert N. Katz for a free, private consultation.   

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When it comes to rollover accidents, the 15-passenger van is the most dangerous vehicle on the road. New research by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that rollover accidents with 15-passenger vans occur thirty-one percent more frequently during the summer months of June through August. Eighty-one percent of fatalities occur in single vehicle rollover accidents. 


The risks increase when the vans carry ten or more people. The passenger weight changes the vehicle’s center of gravity, causing it to be in the rear of the vehicle. As a result, the van handles differently than other passenger vehicles during an emergency and is more prone to rollover crashes. 


The problem with the van is the weight. Most van manufacturers, such as Ford and Dodge, use a car wheelbase and extend the back end. Also, the vans are top heavy which causes a shift in its center of gravity. The vans usually have a back seat with four passengers behind the rear axle. With a heavy back end, in an accident the back end swings out. When the rear swings out and the tires remain their grip on the road, the weight pulls the vehicle over. 


In studies of these crashes, most rollover events occur when the driver loses control of the vehicle and runs off the road. Three major situations occur that create a rollover event:


· The van goes off onto the shoulder of a rural road

· The driver is fatigued or driving too fast for conditions causing the van to slide sideways.

· The driver overcorrects the steering in a panic situation causing the van to slide sideways.


Over the past decade, eighty percent of people killed in these types of vans were unbelted. Seat belt use is critical because seventy-five percent of deaths occur when occupants are thrown from the vehicle during a rollover crash.


The failure to properly inflate the tire pressure also causes van accidents. Tire pressure and tread should be checked every week on these vehicles. Also, drivers may need special training in steering onto the roadway when the tires drop onto the surface. Drivers must also be well rested and drive within the speed limit. Rollover crashes increase significantly when speed limits are in excess of fifty miles per hour or on curved roads.   


Also when the van is not full, passengers should seat in seats in front of the rear axle. The van should never carry more than fifteen passengers.   The rollover risk increases significantly as the passenger number increases from five to ten. Also the van should not be top-loaded with luggage or equipment.   


Fifteen-passenger vans represent less than one percent of the vehicle passenger fleet in the United States.   However, these types of vans are frequently used to transport school sports teams, van pools, religious groups, summer day campers, day care center children, and hotel guests. Many community-based organizations, such as YMCAs, also use these vans for youth group transportation.  


Since 2001, the NHTSA has issued four different warnings on these types of vans. The federal government has banned them for school-related transportation for high school students or younger. However, they still appear at day care centers, YMCAs, summer camps and scout troops. 


If you can, avoid them and do not allow your children to be transported in these death traps. If you or someone you love has been injured in a 15-passenger van, then contact Robert N. Katz for a free, private consultation.   

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On Monday night, a red Acura, allegedly driven by Cody Rhoden, attempted to pass an SUV limousine carrying five members of the Randle family and the limo driver, Mark Anthony Gay on I-85 near Indian Springs Road.

As the Acura approached the SUV, it entered the left-hand emergency lane. The SUV was traveling in the HOV lane. The Acura attempted to improperly pass on the left. The Acura clipped the SUV as the emergency lane narrowed with the concrete median wall.

As the Acura cut off the SUV when it entered the HOV lane, it then struck two cars in the lane ahead. Immediately after, the SUV slammed into the back of the struck vehicles, causing the SUV to flip. The SUV rolled over six times before coming to rest roof-side down.

The Acura left the scene with a dislodged bumper. It was later abandoned at a nearby inn. The driver of the abandoned Acura was apparently Cody Rhoden. Gwinnett County Police recovered the vehicle after a 911 call. 

Three members of the Randle family were killed as was also the limo driver. Father and grandfather, Demetrius Randle remains in critical condition. His wife sustained non-critical injuries. Two vehicle occupants in the other vehicles were also injured. 

Late Tuesday night, Cody Rhoden turned himself into Gwinnett County Police. He will be arraigned tomorrow morning on four counts of vehicular homicide and one count of felony hit and run.

Although Rhoden, through his attorney, denies liability for the accident and maintains he did not know he caused an accident, witnesses report the Acura was traveling at a rate of speed in excess of 100 mph and passed on the left through an emergency lane. 

Vehicular homicide is governed by O.C.G.A. § 40-6-393. This charge involves the unlawful killing of another with the use of a vehicle. The charge does not require either malice aforethought or intent to kill. A person may be charged with first degree homicide by vehicle when he or she drives recklessly or fails to stop after a collision. Both of which seem to apply in this case. The sentence for a conviction of vehicular homicide is three to fifteen years in prison. The Parole Board usually requires inmates to serve ninety percent of a sentence for charges of this nature.

 An interesting loophole currently exists in the hit and run statute. This loophole provides that if the victim dies at the scene, then the violation is a misdemeanor under the theory that the failure to render aid would be irrelevant. However, if a hit and run victim dies after the initial accident, then the driver faces a felony charge of homicide by vehicle.

 Senator Johnny Grant, R- Milledgeville, has introduced Senate Bill 529 in the Georgia Legislature this session to correct this loophole. Under this bill, any driver who kills another and does not stop to render aid may be charged with first-degree vehicular homicide. The measure has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.      

 From the facts of this accident, it is not clear when and how the victims died. However, the Gwinnett District Attorneys Office has proceeded with four counts of first degree vehicular homicide.

For this family, a senseless tragedy should have been avoided. If in fact, Rhoden was driving nearly forty miles per hour in excess of the speed limit, improperly drove in the emergency lane, improperly passed on the left, and clipped the SUV, then he caused a horrific accident through reckless behavior. Leaving the scene of the accident just magnifies the terrible choices he made that night. 

If you have any questions about the law related to vehicular homicide or how to be compensated for injuries related to the reckless driving of others, contact the law firm of Robert N. Katz for a free, private consultation.    

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Million Dollar Personal Injury Settlement by Distracted Driver

Cell phone liability is back in the news again.  Last week the Fulton County Daily Report highlighted the recent International Paper personal injury settlement.  International Paper ( "IP") paid out $5.2 million to settle a personal injury suit for an automobile collision that an IP employee caused by talking on a cell phone.


IP employee Vanessa McGrogan was talking on her company-supplied cell phone when she rear-ended a vehicle driven by Debra Ford.   The collision pushed Ford into a ditch on the right side of the road.  The car overturned and dragged the driver’s side across the roadway.  Ford’s arm was caught between the door and the asphalt.  Ford, a widowed mother of four, had to have her arm amputated at the shoulder.


McGrogan had her cruise control set at 77 mph.  In addition to this, she was talking on her cell phone to the point of distraction.  The plaintiff raised the issue of intentional negligence.  The trial court in ruling on a motion for partial summary judgment allowed the plaintiff to seek punitive damages.  The case was set for trial in March and settled this month.


Employer liability as a result of cell phone is on the rise.  Dykes Industries of Little Rock, Arkansas lost a $20.9 million personal injury suit where its employee was talking on a company cell phone.  The State of Hawaii agreed to a $2.5 million payout for an accident involving a state employee talking on her cell phone.  Smith Barney paid out $500,000 in a settlement where one of its stockbrokers hit and killed a 24-year-old victim while the stockbroker was making cold calls on his cell phone.  The Virginia law firm of Cooley Godward paid out $30 million in a settlement in a wrongful death case where one of its attorneys was conducting business on her cell phone when she struck and killed a fifteen- year-old girl.


According to a recent study by the New England Journal of Medicine, cell phone use while driving increases the risk of accident by four times. A Braun Consulting Study reports that motorists make 40 percent of all cell phone calls.  The American Automobile Association attributes 330,000 highway injuries a year to cell phone use.


Georgia has yet to adopt a total ban on driving while talking on a cell phone.  However, Georgia statutes do prohibit school bus drivers from using cell phones on the job.  Also, DeKalb County has adopted an ordinance that increases civil fines for automobile crashes where the crash is attributed to cell phone use.  Neither Georgia nor few other states have adopted a total ban on cell phone use while driving. Only New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and the District of Columbia ban the use of hand-held phones while driving. Georgia follows a reasonable distraction statute that drivers may not be reasonably distracted by other activities while driving.   


Interestingly, a public opinion poll of Georgia citizens conducted by the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government in 2002 revealed many citizens would vote in favor of a state ban on hand-held phones while driving.  Surprisingly, forty percent of those polled admitted to using a hand-held phone while driving, but supported a ban on such conduct.   The majority admitted that they used a cell phone while driving for business and personal reasons.  Eighty-seven percent of those polled believed that using a hand-held phone while driving was very or somewhat dangerous.  Seventy-one percent of responders believed that other drivers using a cell phone had compromised their own safety.


If you have been involved in an automobile accident, it may be the cause of a cell-phone distracted driver.  Further, it is possible that driver was conducting business on the cell phone and his or her employer may be vicariously liable for your injuries.  If you want to discuss your claim contact the law firm of Robert N. Katz for free initial consultation. 


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Cell Phone Use Causes Auto Accident

October 29, 2007

Recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed a grant of summary judgment to the defendant in an interesting case involving the use of a cell phone by an employee enroute to work. In Hunter vs. Modern Continental Construction Company, the employee shift supervisor was enroute to work when he was involved in a car accident with the plaintiff. Plaintiff sought to bring her lawsuit against not only the driver/supervisor, but his employer as well.

The employer moved for summary judgment (a dismissal of the case before it gets to trial) on the basis of established case law that driving to and from work is an act for the employee’s own purposes and not in pursuit of the employer’s business. 

In order to understand the implications of  this case, one must first understand vicarious (employer) liability law in general. In order to hold the employer liable for the negligent act of the employee, the plaintiff must show that at the time of the injury the employee was engaged in the master’s business and not on some personal private matter. The test is not that the act was done during the existence of the employment; but that the servant was at the time of the negligent act serving the master. In hammering out this law, Georgia courts have traditionally held that driving to and from work is not an act in service of the master.

 However, in the Hunter case, the shift supervisor while driving to work answered the call of a co-worker calling in regarding the day’s business and perhaps to indicate that he would be running late. While testimony differed as to whether he actually took the call, a jury question arose as whether the use of that cell phone was done on behalf of the employer and whether answering the cell phone while driving distracted him and caused the accident.   Thus, using a cell phone to conduct work business while commuting to work constitutes “work for the master.”

Cell phone technology allows employees to conduct business and to be available to conduct business at all hours of the day. More and more employees use their commute time to multi-task. This technology benefits the employer and arguably allows the employee more flexibility in his or her daily life. But it also expands the scope of liability of the employer should a car accident occur while the employee is on the cell phone. And well it should.

As of May of 2007, 236 million people subscribed to some form of wireless communication. Motorists on the road make forty percent of all cell phone calls. Increased reliance on cell phones has led to a rise in the number of people who use the device while driving.

A study done by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis found cell phone drivers were responsible for 2600 traffic deaths per year and 330,000 traffic injuries. In a study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) twenty-five percent of all motor vehicle accidents were caused by driver distraction. A study done by The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society showed that motorists on hands free phones were 18 percent slower in braking time and 17 percent slower in regaining speed after braking than their non-cell phone using counterparts.

Driving while using a cell phone creates two dangers. First, drivers often take their eyes off the road while texting or dialing their phones. Second, drivers often become so absorbed in their phone conversations that they cannot concentrate on the road.   

Cell phone use causes drivers to have “tunnel vision” or to stare straight ahead while driving. Also cell phone drivers also tend to “look, but not see” owing to the degree the conversation distracts them from the act of driving.

Employer liability for their employees driving and conducting business with cell phones is on the rise. In December of 2004, defendant Beers Skanska Inc. paid the plaintiff $4.75 million in a settlement in Fulton Superior Court for a cell phone related accident. In that case the employee reached over to a mounted hands free set to retrieve a Star 99 message. When he did so, he slammed into the back of a stationary sedan. This caused a chain reaction and left a man severely injured. Beers Skanska argued that their employee was “not on the clock” but rather commuting to work. The plaintiff successfully argued that Beers Skanska supplied the phone and the employee was responding to a work related message. 

Employer liability for cell phone use arises in two ways. First, the employer may be vicariously liable when the employee’s negligent cell phone use causes an accident. Second, the employer may be liable directly for failing to have a cell phone use policy with its employees.

One way for employers to avoid direct or vicarious liability is to have a cell phone policy.   Although the policy guidelines do not necessarily prevent accidents or potential liability, it may help encourage employees drivers to drive responsibly.  The Automobile Association of America (AAA) has set  the following guidelines for cell phone use while driving:

 1.      Recognize that driving requires full attention;

2.      Become familiar with the phone’s features prior to driving;

3.      Use the phone only if absolutely necessary;

4.      Use only when safe to do so;

5.      Ask a passenger to place the call;

6.      Keep the conversation short;

7.      Let the person on the other end know you are driving;

8.      Don’t combine talking with other distractions;

9.      Secure the phone in the car so that it isn’t a projectile in an accident.

As the Georgia Court of Appeals and Georgia jury verdicts and settlements have shown, employer liability expands when the employee gets in a car and even during off hours or during commute time conducts employer business on a cell phone. Significantly, if you are injured in a car accident and find that the offending driver was on a cell phone, find out whom they were talking to and why. Contact an attorney if you have been injured. Pre-litigation investigation may help determine if the employer is liable as well for the accident.    



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Accident Investigations

October 22, 2007

Last March an Ohio school bus carrying a Bluffton University baseball team went off an overpass on Interstate 85-75. Early that morning the bus carrying the players was traveling in the left HOV lane when it went southbound up a left side exit ramp, failed to stop and went over the overpass. Eight students, the driver and his wife were killed. Twenty-eight other passengers were injured. This week relatives of the deceased and some of the injured have filed notice of claims with the State of Georgia.

Early on in the investigations many believed the bus driver mistook the exit ramp for the left hand HOV lane. The National Transportation Safety Board (the NTSB) is investigating. The NTSB’s report will not be issued until spring 2008

The NTSB is a federal agency charged with maintaining safety standards for air, highway, waters and railways. The NTSB investigates major highway accidents such as this bus accident. Following its investigation, the NTSB will ssue a narrative report determining the probable cause of the accident and making safety recommendations for the future.

Most accident investigations usually involve some form of accident reconstruction. Analysts go to the accident scene where they extract clues that provide some pre-accident information about the collision. A good investigation will determine speed of the vehicles, braking distances, points of impact, reaction distances, line of sight, driver reactions, and potential system failures. This level of investigation is usually not carried out by police officers arriving on the scene.

In the case of a major highway accident involving federal highways or in collision with a long haul carrier, it is good idea to hire an accident engineer to assess the accident and form conclusions. Some accident reconstruction engineers utilize computer graphics to simulate the movement of the vehicle prior to and at the point of collision. This analysis relies upon simple mechanical engineering. Being able to visit the scene within days of the accident also allows the investigator to obtain crucial evidence that may dissipate over time – evidence such as skid marks, yaw marks, or overhanging tree growth. Proper scene photography is also important.  

Don't delay when you are involved in a major accident.  Contact an attorney as soon as possible and ask about employing an accident reconstruction expert to preserver evidence at the scene.
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Punitive Damages

October 16, 2007

When a drunk driver causes an accident and someone is injured, the drunk driver may be liable for more than just the plaintiff's injuries and property damage.   Georgia juries are allowed to "fine" the defendant by awarding punitive damages.  Punitive damages not only punish the defendant for his or her egregious conduct, but they are also intended to discourage this type of behavior in the future. 

Last year in Georgia over four hundred automobile accident fatalites were the result of drunk drivers.  Drunk driving fatalities accounted for over twenty-seven percent of all the accident fatalities.  Moreover, last year drunk driving fatalities increased over seven percent from the year 2005.   In Georgia, a driver is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol if his blood alcohol content (BAC) registers .08 or above.

When someone is injured in an automobile accident caused by another's negligence, they are entitled to compensatory relief.  In other words, they are entitled to be compensated for their economic losses such as property damage, lost wages and medical expenses.  They are also entitled to be compensated for noneconomic losses such as their pain and suffering incurred as a result of the personal injury.. 

However, in some cases, such as those involving a drunk driver, the plaintiff may be entitled to punitive damages.  Punitive damages are awarded to "punish" the defendant for his egregious conduct.  These types of damages are not related to the plaintiff's loss, but serve to "fine" the defendant for his behavior.  

The type of conduct triggering an award of punitive damages tends to be  for conduct that is intentionally harmful.  Where the defendant has shown a "reckless disregard" for the safety of others, he or she may also be liable for punitive damages.   A reckless disregard arises where  the conduct is willful, wanton or gross.

In Georgia, gross negligence can support an award for punitive damages.  Tort reform laws in Georgia over the last few years have placed some restrictions on awards of punitive damages.   However, there is no limit on the amount of a punitive damages awarded if the negligent driver was driving under the influence of alcohol.  O.C.G.A. section 51-12-5.1(f). 

Still,, the plaintiff must prove entitlement to punitive damages by clear and convincing evidence.  The plaintiff must also first prove that the defendant's conduct warrants punitive damages.  Then in a second trial phase the jury may hear evidence of the amount of punitive damages warranted by the conduct. 

Punitive damages are insurable.  In other words, the defendant's automobile liability insurance carrier may be responsible for paying a punitive damages award.  Greenwood Cemetary vs. Travelers Indemnity Co., 232 S.E.2d 910 (Ga 1977) and Federal Ins. Co. vs. Nat'l Distributing Co., Inc. 417 S.E.2d 671 (Ga. Ct. App. 1992). 

When you or a loved one is injured in an accident, the difficult situation is made all the more so when you find out the negligent driver was intoxicated.  Knowing your rights early on is crucial.  Don't settle until you know all the facts about the automobile accident, and the recover to which  you may be entitled.
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Uninsured Motorist Coverage for Car Accidents

The state of Georgia requires all motor vehicle owners to secure minimum liability insurance coverage for their vehicles. This insurance provides for payment for damages in the event the other driver suffers a personal injury in the car accident. However, there is no requirement that motor vehicle owners secure uninsured motorist coverage to pay for their damages if the other driver is at fault and they have suffered a severe personal injury in the auto accident. See Jenkins & Miller Georgia Automobile Insurance Law (2007 ed.) 29:3.  

Uninsured motorist coverage has aptly been called “insurance against lack of insurance”. See Jenkins & Miller Georgia Automobile Insurance Law (2007 ed.) 29:1. It is available and recoverable only when the fault causing the car accident is found to be that of the uninsured or underinsured vehicle’s driver. Id. It is an important form of insurance since it allows the injured person to recover their damages.   

The purpose of UM coverage “is to place the injured insured in the same position as if the offending uninsured motorist were covered with general liability insurance.” Another way of explaining the purpose of UM coverage is that coverage is available to protect innocent injured drivers against irresponsible drivers who fail to secure coverage for auto accidents. The coverage is not available for the benefit of the irresponsible, but for those injured or caused to incur damages by the uninsured’s negligence. 

Uninsured Motorist coverage includes “underinsured” motorist coverage in Georgia. Underinsured motorist coverage is available where the negligent party’s liability insurance policy limit is less than the insured’s uninsured motorist policy limit. Id. Where a tortfeasor is underinsured, the insured person may recover that amount over and above the tortfeasor’s policy limits which is equal to or less than the insured’s uninsured motorist policy limits. An example is as follows:

Assume the tort-feasor has liability coverage in the minimum limit of $25,000 per person. Further assume that the insured claimant has available UM coverage in the amount of $100,000 per person. Under these circumstances, the tort-feasor is underinsured to the tune of $75,000 ($100,000 - $25,000 = $75,000).

In such cases where the tort-feasor is underinsured, the insured’s UM carrier is entitled to a credit or set-off in the amount of the tort-feasor’s liability coverage. Thus, under the above example, the tort-feasor’s liability coverage operates as a credit or set-off against the insured’s available UM coverage. In other words, the UM carrier’s exposure is reduced by the amount of the tort-feasor’s liability coverage. Id. at 39:5. 

This method of set off for the liability carrier is the majority rule across the country and is called “reduction” or “limits to limits” coverage.   The method essentially supplements the at-fault motorist’s liability coverage, but only to the extent the UM coverage exceeds the liability coverage. Id.  However, some states do not allow a set off for the liability carrier. Under this alternative method, called the “excess” method, the underinsured motorist coverage provides UM benefits to the insured up to the limits of the insured’s UM policy limit where the insured’s damages exceed the at-fault driver’s liability coverage. Under this method, there is no reduction in available coverage based upon the at-fault party’s liability coverage.  

This “excess” method is clearly the more appropriate method for determining coverage available under the underinsured motorist scheme where the insured has contracted for and paid premiums to secure uninsured motorist coverage in the amount set out under his insurance policy. Uninsured motorist insurance exists to provide additional coverage to innocent parties. The current method in Georgia operates to limit that coverage. Georgia law should follow the “excess” method and dictate that where a specific amount of uninsured motorist coverage has been secured and paid for by an insured, there can be no reduction of that contracted for coverage simply because there is additional coverage available through the tort-feasor’s liability policy – coverage secured and paid for by a third party. This scheme in Georgia allows the uninsured motorist insurance company to limit its own liability for coverage which it promised to pay. In turn, the insured is denied what he/she was promised.
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What is Medical Payments Coverage and When Should I Use It When Injured in an Auto Accident?

Commonly, insurance policies include an endorsement which provides the insurer “will pay reasonable expenses incurred for necessary medical and funeral services because of bodily injury caused by accident and sustained by an ‘insured.’” Medical payments coverage for car accidents is optional under Georgia insurance policies and is available to the insured regardless of fault. These endorsements typically provide for recovery up to a certain amount for a certain amount of time, generally three years. Furthermore, the insurance carrier must pay benefits within sixty days of the demand by the insured who has suffered a personal injury in a car accident.

The question of who is covered under a medical payments endorsement for medical bills incurred due to a personal injury in a car accident is set out by statute. OCGA § 33-34-2(1) provides: “Coverage shall be available to the named insured, resident spouse, and any resident relative while occupying the covered motor vehicle, and to any other person legally occupying a covered motor vehicle.”

Individuals injured in automobile accidents should look to their health insurance carrier for payment of their medical bills first, as coverage is provided under contract with the health insurance carrier. The injured should then look to the medical payments carrier which will pay funds directly to the injured party and will reimburse the injured insured for any out of pocket expenses not paid by the injured insured’s health insurance carrier. It is important to remember that most automobile policies contain notice provisions which will also apply to medical payments coverage and in all cases, the injured insured should notify their own insurance carrier as soon as possible. 

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ERISA Health Insurance Issues in Auto Accident Injury Matters

In 2001, auto accident injury victims received what was thought to be good news from the U.S. Supreme Court in Great-West Life & Annuity Ins. Co. v. Knudson, 534 U.S. 204, 122 S.Ct. 708, 151 L.Ed.2d 635 (2002). In Knudson, the Plaintiff was injured in an auto accident. Her medical bills related to injuries sustained in the auto accident were paid by her ERISA health insurance plan. Upon settlement, the settlement proceeds were paid into a special needs trust. The Plaintiff’s ERISA plan attempted to obtain reimbursement directly from the Plaintiff for the medical bills the health insurance carrier paid for treatment related to the auto accident injuries. The Knudson Court ruled that the plan had no right to reimbursement since such payments would constitute enforcement of a legal remedy, something not allowed under ERISA. 

However, through Sereboff v. Mid Atlantic Medical Services, 547 U.S. 1015, 126 S.Ct. 1869 (2006) and its progeny, the Supreme Court illuminated the fact that the Court will not interpret every plan as seeking a prohibited legal remedy.  The Court will look to the plan language on a case by case basis to determine whether the plan creates an equitable remedy – specifically, whether a fund has been specifically identified by the plan language, and if so, to what part of the fund the plan will be entitled to recover reimbursement. The plan’s right to reimbursement will fail if the plan itself fails to create a lien by agreement, by “specifically identifyi[ng] a particular fund, distinct from [the plan beneficiaries’] general assets. . . and a particular share of that fund to which [the plan] was entitled.”



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