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Automobile Accidents and Passenger Safety

As seasoned drivers people often believe themselves to be in control of their destiny, which to some degree is true though not necessarily to the extent that any of us would hope. But when we find ourselves in the role of passenger -- whether in a car belonging to a friend or relative, or as a paying customer in taxi, city bus or charter travel coach -- that feeling of control is not nearly as strong. In fact, many people feel extremely vulnerable when not behind the wheel themselves, which is hardly unusual.

Being involved in a car accident can be very upsetting, even when one is actually driving and “in control,” but as a passenger the feeling of helplessness can be truly overwhelming. When it comes to automobile and commercial vehicle accidents, most passengers can be quite unaware of their rights following a traffic collision, even when they have sustained serious and possibly life-threatening injuries.

As experienced Baltimore personal injury lawyers, the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers, understand the physical toll that a serious car, truck or motorcycle wreck can take on victims of roadway collisions, not to mention the emotional impact that these types of events can have on the victims’ families. As drivers and occasional passengers ourselves, we are always interested in improving the odds of avoiding a traffic accident, or at the very least lessening the effects of any injury should we find ourselves unexpectedly caught in a motor vehicle wreck.

Self-preservation is a strong instinct, but many times as passengers -- or even as the driver -- we don’t always consider the potential for injury or death in the event of a bad traffic accident. As auto and trucking injury lawyers, we have seen the aftereffects of serious car, truck and motorcycle crashes; from broken bones and burn injuries to spinal cord damage and closed-head trauma, the immediate impact of a traffic accident can fade in comparison to the long-term physical injuries and the attendant cost of medical treatment and rehabilitation for months or even years hence.

Multiple surgeries, extended medical care, physical therapy and other expenses can devastate the average family’s savings. Because of this, obtaining the compensation one deserves is absolutely essential. As Baltimore personal injury lawyers, the legal staff at Lebowitz & Mzhen know that not being involved in a car or truck accident is preferable to being hurt in a crash and then having to file an injury claim. With this in mind, the following tips may help drivers and passengers alike to avoid a roadway collision in the first place; and maybe to survive with only mild injuries in the event a crash is unavoidable.

Vehicle safety Contributes to Passenger Safety

As anyone who has been driving for a while knows, airbags and other automobile safety devices have seen a proliferation over the past several decades. First introduced in the 1980s, front airbags have been mandatory in American passenger cars since 1998, with many vehicles offering multiple types of airbags throughout the passenger compartment. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 2,300 lives were saved in 2009 by front airbags alone.

Other safety-related devices and systems are either built into many passenger cars already or will become commonplace over time. Systems such as vehicle stability control, anti-lock brakes (ABS), hands-free electronics, automatic braking systems, adaptive headlamp control, backup sensors and cameras, tire pressure monitoring systems and traction control are just a few of the current or upcoming vehicle safety equipment items that can help make driving safer and less risky.

Adult Passenger Safety Tips

By now, everyone should know that using a seatbelt is one of the best ways to stay alive in a bad traffic collision. Based on information from the NHTSA, safety belt use saved approximately 12,000 people from being killed in 2010. As an adult, whether driver or passenger, it is important that one sets an example for the younger occupants. It never hurts to make putting on one’s seatbelt second nature. Meanwhile, seatbelt awareness campaigns and mandatory safety belt laws have increased the usage of these simple, yet all-important devices from only 58 percent in 1994 to almost 90 percent in the past several years.

The correct way to wear a three-point seatbelt is to position the lap portion low and across one’s hips (since a person’s hip bones can tolerate much more force than can the stomach). Next, arrange the shoulder harness to low across one’s torso and chest, not high up near the neck or face; and always double check that the buckle is secure and that the strap of the seat belt is snug and secure against the body.

Wearing a seatbelt correctly can make all the difference. When worn correctly, a safety belt can keep the occupant inside the passenger compartment during a traffic accident as it restrains the body and spreads the force of the collision. Seatbelts can also go a long way to reducing brain and spinal cord injuries.

Child Safety Tips

Older kids can usually follow seatbelt usage guidelines observed by adults, but for those younger children, toddlers and babies there are different regulations for seatbelt and child safety seat use. Observing the rules and regulations that apply to the use of a child safety in a motor vehicle is especially important because traffic collisions are known to be the leading cause of death among children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When it comes to child safety seats, these devices should always be installed in the back seat of passenger vehicle. The NHTSA has also declared that infants should be secured in a “rear-facing” child safety seat until such time as the child reaches the height or weight limit as defined by the car seat manufacturer. Always follow the installation and use instructions provided with the child safety seat, as well as be aware of any warnings or other cautionary notes included with the seat.

Driver Safety Tips

As Maryland auto and trucking injury lawyers, we understand that driving a car can become such an automatic activity that many people fail to give traffic safety a second thought. It’s too easy, over time, to let vehicle and passenger safety take a backseat to the job of getting from Point A to Point B. However, the fact of the matter is nobody should allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to operating any motor vehicle.

Regardless of whether one drives a sedan, minivan, SUV, scooter, motorcycle or commercial delivery truck, failing to observe basic safety precautions could lead to a deadly outcome. Before getting behind the wheel the next time, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Follow your vehicle maintenance schedule. A well-maintained car, truck or motorcycle is inherently safer than one that is not properly cared for. A flat tire, leaking radiator hose or broken alternator belt can not only be inconvenient, but any one of these can also leave a family stranded by a busy roadside with all the attendant dangers that passing high-speed traffic may pose.

  • Plan your trips ahead of time. Besides eliminating gas-wasting multiple trips, a thoughtful driver can plan to travel the safest route while allowing sufficient time to complete the journey without the need for exceeding the speed limit or taking ill-advised shortcuts that could spell trouble for the driver and his passengers.

  • Consider the weather. Snow, rain, flooding, high winds and other weather-related events can present hazards to a vehicle and its occupants. Being aware of the weather forecast and planning one’s trip accordingly not only can reduce risks on the road, but it can also reduce driver anxiety, which itself can prove to be dangerous.

  • Be prepared. Emergencies of various types can crop up during medium- to long-distance driving trips; sometimes even on the way to the supermarket. In addition to a vehicle’s spare tire and flat tire changing equipment, vehicle owners should create an emergency kit for each of their vehicles including items such as a flashlight, road flares, first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, warm blanket, tire pressure gauge, bottled water, road atlas, jumper cables, plus some warm, dry clothes for wintertime driving.

In addition to the above, it is important that motorists not jeopardize their safety by driving when fatigued, distracted or otherwise preoccupied with activities inside their vehicle. Make certain that you get enough sleep prior to a long drive. Once under way, avoid other non-driving activities such as using a cellphone, eating behind the wheel or adjusting the radio or A/C while in heavy traffic. Staying focused on the task of driving while obeying traffic safety laws can make all the difference.

Large-Capacity Passenger Van Safety

Being personal injury attorneys and travelers ourselves, we know that danger can also exist when riding in one of the many large-capacity passenger vans used to shuttle people between airport terminals and parking lots as well as hotels and entertainment facilities. When riding as a passenger in one of these vehicles it is important to understand that a large passenger van handles very differently from the smaller minivan-style vehicles used by families all around Maryland.

Because these vans are usually longer, taller and wider than many other passenger vehicles, they require added care by the driver when transporting occupants from here to there. Potential for an accident exists with this kind of vehicle when changing lanes, coming to a sudden stop, or making an emergency maneuver to avoid an impending collision. The higher crash risk and greater incidence of rollover accidents with these types of large passenger vehicle is only made worse when the vehicle in question is not driven properly or maintained correctly.

Some safety tips for larger passenger vans include:

  • Maintaining a safe speed while avoiding sudden or drastic steering inputs
  • Keeping the maximum number of passengers at of less than that recommended by the manufacturer
  • Not overloading the vehicle
  • Making certain that the driver is well-trained to operate the vehicle
  • Avoiding driver fatigue
  • Inspecting the vehicle regularly per the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Never exceeding the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)
  • Requiring all passengers to wear their safety belts
  • Never operating the vehicle on old, worn or damaged tires

It goes without saying that the lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen are concerned for the safety of everyone on our public roadways. When an accident does occur, we are ready to assist the victims and their families by preparing a strong legal case against the negligent party or parties. As experienced trial attorneys, we approach every personal injury lawsuit with the intent of arguing our client’s case in a court of law. In some instances a settlement may take place out-of-court; however, by preparing for a full-on trial, we can better represent our client’s interests.

If you or someone you care about has been hurt in a car, truck or motorcycle collision, we highly recommend that you speak with a skilled auto injury lawyer experienced in handling Maryland personal injury cases. Our auto and truck accident attorneys are ready and willing to discuss the details of your injury accident. Give us a call at our toll-free number -- (800) 654-1949 -- or contact Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen by email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Client Reviews
Throughout the process [of the motor vehicle collision case] you were available, responsive and up front. You were available for my questions, and my need for reassurance, and when the opportunity arose to better the outcome of my case, you did not shy away from the extra work. You have proven yourself to be an honest, realistic and caring advocate for the little guy in need. I will refer your firm to any who may be in similar need. John C.
I can't thank you enough for your efforts and dedication to resolving my case. I also want to thank you for your consistent professional manner, touched with that extra personal care that I sensed whenever we communicated. . . . You are a wonderful person and I wish you continued success. Again, thanks for everything. Hallie W.
I am proud to have had Lebowitz & Mzhen represent me in an automobile personal injury case I was involved with. Not only did they come through with a settlement worth far more than I thought possible, the entire office was always friendly, knowledgeable, and ready to answer any questions I had. Should an incident like this occur again, I will not hesitate to contact Lebowitz & Mzhen for their counsel, advice and representation, and I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone seeking honest and effective attorneys. Mark B.
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