San Antonio Personal Injury Blog

Sleep deprivation and getting behind the wheel

Most people in Texas would agree that when they are sleep deprived, it has a negative effect on their efficiency, their attitude and their mood. It is common to hear people say that they find it difficult to concentrate or that they feel grumpy when they are tired. What some people do not fully appreciate is how dangerous it can be to operate a vehicle when they are sleep deprived.

In order to bring awareness to this danger, March 15 was designated as World Sleep Day. A popular auto manufacturer wanted to raise awareness of this as well and created a Sleep Suit designed to show the negative effect that being tired can have on a person who gets behind the wheel and the personal injuries they could cause. In fact, when a person stays awake for more than 18 hours and gets behind the wheel, they could be just as dangerous as a drunk driver.

Pedestrian deaths hit 30-year high according to new report

SUVs, smartphones and a spike in the number of people walking are some of the factors that could be presenting increased hazards for pediatricians in Texas and elsewhere in the country. This is the big takeaway from the most recent Governors Highway Safety Association report. Perhaps the most startling statistic is that more than 6,000 people traveling by foot lost their lives in 2018, the highest figure reported since 1990.

Pedestrians are more likely to experience some type of personal injury at night. In fact, nighttime crashes account for more than 90 percent of the spike in pedestrian fatalities over the past decade. The GHSA report also states that the number of SUVs involved in fatal accidents involving people on foot is up 50 percent from 2013. A separate report suggests that SUVs, which now account for the majority of all vehicles sold in the U.S., with higher front-end profiles are more likely to fatally affect pedestrians when accidents occur.

How to document the extent of damages in an accident

As anyone in Texas who's been in an accident will attest, the initial shock of the experience can be so startling that people can sometimes be unaware of the extent of the damage that has happened. However, people who go through accidents need to determine how bad the damage is: For one thing, it is important for their own personal safety as what might present itself as a minor backache right after the accident might morph into a full-blown back problem less than a week later. Additionally, being aware of what was damaged as well as the event that led up to it can be vital for insurance companies, making sure that claims go through quickly.

With that said, people who have been in motor vehicle accidents know that this is all easier said than done, yet, by following a few steps, assessing just how bad things are should be a much more straightforward process. First of all, as hard as it may seem, it's important to remain calm so as to be better able to see things more clearly and provide assistance to those in need. Keeping that in mind, before they can direct their attention towards the damages, people need to attend to the immediate emergencies first.

Speeding a common cause of motor vehicle deaths

According to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, speeding is a culprit in about one-third of motor vehicle deaths. However, the report stresses that there is little stigma or shame attached to driving fast on Texas roads or others throughout the country. Speed can play a role in both increasing the chances of an accident as well as the severity of a crash.

There are many suggestions that the GHSA provides to help reduce speeding deaths. For instance, it could be worthwhile to create more roundabouts and other road features that encourage drivers to slow down. Creating an automated method for enforcing speed limits could also be a method of encouraging drivers to reduce their speeds while on the road. Officers themselves could also be more aggressive about enforcing speed limit laws when they see a violation.

The dangers of driving while drowsy or deprived of sleep

Even the most skilled drivers in Texas can act carelessly or make serious mistakes when not fully alert while behind the wheel. In fact, a recent AAA survey found that a third of respondents admitted to having driven while excessively sleepy within the prior month. One possible reason for drowsy driving is getting behind the wheel too soon after taking a prescription sleep aid. One out of every five of the nearly 2,000 adults questioned by Consumer Reports admitted to doing this.

In some parts of the Lone Star State, drowsy driving might be difficult to avoid, especially in areas not served well by public transit systems. There's also research suggesting sleep deprivation can contribute to motor vehicle accidents just as much as alcohol and other potential sources of impairment. According to the National Sleep Foundation, individuals deprived of sleep for 24 hours have the equivalent of a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .10. In most states, .08 is considered legally drunk.

Texas leads the country in truck crashes

A motor vehicle crash is a scary experience for anyone and even more so if a truck is involved. Because of the disparity in size and weight, cars don’t stand a chance when up against a truck in an accident. Truck accidents kill approximately 4,000 people each year, many of them occupants in passenger vehicles.

In the United States, even though motor vehicle crash numbers are down, truck crashes are up 20 percent in the last decade and truck fatalities are at their highest level in 29 years. Even worse for us, Texas leads the country in trucking accidents and fatalities, with more than 550 people killed in 2016 alone.

AAA study reveals dangers of car infotainment systems

Distracted driving is just as much a problem in Texas as it is in other states. Unfortunately, some new technologies are only making matters worse. A recent AAA study shows that infotainment systems are especially problematic. Researchers at the University of Utah analyzed 30 such systems for AAA, all of them on new 2017 vehicles from makers like Toyota, Honda, Ford, Dodge and Tesla. Seven of the systems required a moderate level of attention, 11 a high level and 12 a very high level.

Participants in the study were drivers aged 21 to 36; they were asked to use the various infotainment features, such as calling, texting and programming navigation, while on the road. Researchers noted that the participants would often swerve out of their lanes, ignore stop signs, drive far below the speed limit and engage in other unsafe behavior.

How drivers in Texas can avoid road rage

While some drivers already have their own strategy for defusing road rage, others do not. Below are just a few tips for defusing angry and aggressive feelings, both in one's self and in others. Following these tips could help drivers avoid accidents and a lot of unnecessary tension.

The first step is for drivers to remain calm when someone else, for example, cuts them off or takes a parking space they were aiming for. One could listen to classical music to relieve stress or think reasonable thoughts. One should also not grip the steering wheel as this will constrict blood flow and cause headaches. Above all, one should refrain from honking the horn, flashing the high beams or making inflammatory hand gestures.

ZF's new airbags could lessen severity of side collisions

Among the various car safety features that are emerging, external airbags have some of the greatest potential. According to car parts manufacturer ZF, they can reduce the severity of side collision injuries by as much as 40 percent. ZF has even developed its own airbags although there is still much work to be done before they can be perfected. Texas drivers should know that other manufacturers are working on the technology behind these airbags.

ZF's external airbags are designed to provide an additional crumple zone to the sides of a vehicle so that it absorbs some of the shock of a T-bone or other side collision. The challenge is to make the airbags deploy as intended and to ensure that the sensors recognize the vital details of an impending crash. Another concern is that the airbags might deploy at inappropriate times.

Study shows automatic emergency braking prevents crashes

Rear-end collisions are a common type of accident among motorists in Texas. Nationwide, they represent roughly one-third of all motor vehicle crashes. Automakers have addressed this problem in recent years with the development of automatic emergency braking systems. A new study completed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety confirmed how effective these emergency systems are at preventing rear-end accidents.

IIHS researchers compared 10 models of General Motors vehicles released in 2013 through 2015. Automatic emergency braking systems were optional during those years, which gave researchers the opportunity to examine any crash differences between vehicles with or without automatic emergency brakes. Models without automatic systems only sound a warning when drivers approach an object from behind so that they can take action. Models with the emergency technology automatically apply the brakes if drivers fail to do so.

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