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Alaska Personal Injury Law Blog

Distracted driving and the smartphone epidemic

In previous generations, parents worried that their kids would become addicted to cigarettes, cocaine or heroin. They worried about underage drinking and drunk driving. They knew that these addictive substances could change their children's lives forever, could cause deadly car accidents and could even take their lives.

It's not that parents don't worry about that in 2019. They do, and teens still struggle with substance abuse. However, there is now a new addiction that parents need to consider, as well: cellphone addiction.

More than a third of deadly accidents involve drunk driving

Drunk driving accidents often take lives, and it's always heartbreaking because it's so easy to prevent a crash like this. If people simply decided to only drive when they were sober, a lot of lives would be saved.

If you're wondering just how bad this is, you should know that 36% of deadly accidents in Alaska involve drunk driving. That's more than a third of all of the traffic-related fatalities in the state.

After your child gets injured, here's how to talk to them

When a child suffers a serious injury, like a head injury, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or a spinal cord injury, it can be hard for them to accept. It shakes the way that they see the world. They feel worried and nervous. They understand just how fragile and dangerous life can be.

As a parent, you need to be careful with how you guide them through this. The conversations that you have with them are going to shape how they think and feel. What they take away from the incident and how they react to it largely depends on you. So, how should you talk to them?

Car accident risks: Examples from a truck driver

Few people understand the risks that we face on the road like professional drivers. Truck drivers spend every single day out there, watching people make mistakes and get into accidents. They know what it's like and the hazards they have to avoid.

To better help everyone understand, one truck driver wrote about all of the examples of poor driving he sees on a daily basis. Some of them include:

  • People who do not understand that they are driving in a blind spot. They just stay there, tucked out of sight, and are very difficult to detect.
  • People who cross multiple lanes, cutting off cars, trying to get to an exit on the freeway.
  • Drivers who pass on the right instead of the left. Naturally, this also implicates slow drivers who stay in the left or middle lanes, rather than moving to the right.
  • Drivers who use their phones behind the wheel. They get distracted by text messages, social media, the GPS and much more.
  • People who seem to think that they're in an action movie, driving their cars like they're on the cast of The Fast and the Furious.
  • Drivers who do not know how to drive properly in construction zones, where you have less space and speeds can fall considerably.
  • Drivers who just cannot keep a constant speed. They speed up and slow down for no reason.
  • People who drive too close to the next car. Many tailgaters, despite being very dangerous, don't even know that they're too close.

Is that playground safe? Here are the statistics

Your children probably love recess and cannot wait to get out on the playground when they're at school. You probably have great memories of this time of freedom and fun from when you were in school. However, no matter how perfect it seems in your memories or how much your children love it now, you do have to ask yourself just how safe they are.

To start this process, let's take a look at some statistics regarding playground safety:

  • In 10 years, one study linked 147 fatalities with activity on the playground.
  • The study also found a large number of injuries, 79 percent of which came from falls.
  • In 39 percent of these injury cases, children suffered arm bone fractures.
  • In 22 percent of the cases, the children had cuts and lacerations.
  • In another 20 percent of injury cases, children wound up with abrasions and contusions.
  • Finally, in 11 percent of the cases, children had sprains and strains.

Alaska backs off on huge distracted driving fines

The states get to set their own distracted driving fines, and they have approached it in very different ways. Some states have small fines, like Texas, where it's just $99. South Carolina set it at $25. In Wisconsin, it's just $20.

That's why Alaska made such a huge splash when they set the fine at $10,000. It's a massive amount of money that could completely wreck a person's finances moving forward. That made it appear to be a huge deterrent.

The deadly impact of traumatic brain injuries

When people talk about traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, they often talk about disabilities, personality changes and life-long ramifications. All of these things can be connected to TBIs and they do deserve attention. However, it's very important not to gloss over another key fact about brain injuries: They're often deadly.

How bad is it? According to some statistics, a staggering 30 percent of all deaths from injury have TBIs as a contributing factor. It may not be the only injury, but it's a big piece of the picture. These injuries happen in car accidents, motorcycle crashes, workplace falls and many other ways. The human body can withstand a lot, but the brain is very fragile. Often, a head injury is too much.

The rain is a bigger driving hazard than you realized

Many people claim that they dislike driving in the rain, but they think it's just personal preference. As it turns out, it's actually far more dangerous than a lot of people realize.

For instance, in most parts of the United States, federal statistics demonstrate that there are more deadly crashes in the rain than there are on the ice and snow.

Texting and driving by the numbers

The reason that texting and driving continue to be a problem is that it's all too easy for many people to assume that it's "safe enough." They know that accidents happen, but they assume it won't happen to them. They may even think that the media makes a bigger deal out of the dangers than it should. They think they can text and drive safely, and so they keep doing it until they learn the hard way by getting into an accident.

To put an end to this type of behavior, you need to debunk the myth that texting and driving can be "safe enough." Here are a few key statistics that will help:

  • At the standard 55 miles per hour, looking at the phone for five seconds means you drive across a football field of distance while looking away from the street. That five second gap is the average texting time, meaning you could go even farther in some cases.
  • Some studies have found that texting behind the wheel increases the odds of an accident by 23 times. It's not just slightly risky; it's vastly more dangerous.
  • Teenagers, for all of their confidence, are actually four times more likely to have a near miss or an accident because they got distracted by a cellphone.

Driving an RV is no picnic: These tips can help

Recreational vehicles are very popular, allowing you to bring many of the comforts of home along with you on your next trip. They're great for people who want to see the country but who don't want to stay in one cheap motel after another or struggle to set up a tent in a campground.

However, these vehicles are far larger than the personal cars that most people are used to driving. They're much harder to drive safely, and they come with their own risks. These tips can help you stay safe on Alaska's roads:

  • Get the mirrors properly adjusted before you get on the road. RVs have huge blind spots, and you need those mirrors to work perfectly to tell you what the traffic is doing around you.
  • Practice with the RV before you take it out on the highway. Even driving around an empty parking lot for a while can help you get a feel for it.
  • Slow down. It's better to drive slowly and carefully and stay on the road a bit longer than to try to rush and get into an accident.
  • Know what the RV's limits are. For instance, does the height make it difficult to get under a low bridge? Does the wide turning radius make some turns harder or even impossible?
  • Remember that a heavy vehicle does not perform like a small car. It takes longer to stop, especially in the mountains. It is not as agile, and a sharp movement can cause it to roll.

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Merdes Law Office, P.C.
455 3rd Avenue
P.O. Box 71309
Fairbanks, AK 99707

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