Importance of Driver Awareness to Traffic Safety
There is no doubt that a large percentage of car, truck and motorcycle accidents result purely from driver error. Of course there are instances where a traffic accident happens due to other factors, such as a faulty traffic signal or defective vehicle component. But every year it is driver negligence -- whether the result of carelessness, haste, thoughtless behavior or simple inattention -- that takes the lives of tens of thousands of innocent victims all across the country.
As Maryland personal injury lawyers, the professionals at the law offices of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, know that many a traffic “accident” is not necessarily something that occurs simply because of bad luck or poor timing; in our experience, it is those so-called “honest” mistakes that can frequently be blamed for many of the more tragic and often preventable roadway collisions.
It may be folly to imagine what our beltways, interstates and city streets would be like if more drivers paid greater attention to the task at hand. However, it should never be forgotten that every driver is responsible for his or her actions on the road. If those actions are negligent and result in the injury or death of another person, then the victim or his family may be able to recover damages.
Other than deliberate actions that may lead to a car accident, such incidents involving “road rage,” many traffic wrecks can be traced back to some kind of driver distraction. We fully understand the attraction that smart phones and other electronic devices present to people of all ages; however, we also know that a significant segment of the driving public may have a rather difficult time operating a motor vehicle while at the same time talking or texting, checking email or spending time on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.
It goes without saying that eliminating as many driver distractions as possible should go a long way to improving highway safety here in Maryland and across the United States as a whole. This becomes very clear when one realizes that a large majority of road accidents involve some kind of distracted driving. According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institution (VTTI), almost 80 percent of car crashes were caused in whole or in part by a distracted motorist.
In the NHTSA study, researchers tracked the behaviors of motorists using specially equipped vehicles. For a 12-month period, 100 passenger cars were fitted with an array of monitoring devices, including video recording equipment, as the test subjects logged around two million miles. By the end of the monitoring period, researchers had more than 40,000 hours of video and sensor data to sift through.
Once all the data was compiled, the researchers performing the study reported that the most common driver distraction was cellphone use, with accidents being about equally split between distraction due to dialing a phone number and that of actually talking on the device. Drowsy driving was also seen as a significant factor in many car accidents. According to the study, drowsiness tends to increase a driver’s risk of getting into a roadway collision at least four-fold. Also, it was determined that that drowsy driving is significantly under-reported when it comes to police reports and post-crash accident investigations.
When it comes to drowsy driving, most often brought on by driver fatigue and/or lack of sleep, the NHTSA has also found that many more accidents are caused by what researchers refer to as “recognition errors,” than by other causes such as speeding. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we have experience in representing victims of auto accidents who may have been injured as the result of negligent vehicle operation on the part of another driver. Whether a crash is caused by a careless or reckless individual, or if a collision occurred because another motorist was too tired to drive safely, our attorneys are ready to assist people who wish to file a personal injury claim.
If there is anything we would suggest to those drivers looking to avoid a serious traffic wreck in the future, it would be to increase one’s awareness when traveling on public roadways. Regardless of whether one drives in a rural area or a more congested metropolitan environment, such as Baltimore City or the District of Columbia, being aware of other vehicles near you can help to improve one’s chances of avoiding a bad car or truck crash.
Research conducted a number of years back by the NHTSA, which is known as the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, examined more than 5,000 individual traffic accidents over the course of a three-year period (2005 to 2007). During that study, researchers were able to speak directly with drivers and other accident survivors in an effort to determine the cause of various types of automobile collisions.
As personal injury lawyers, the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen often interview the witnesses to car and trucking-related accidents when building an auto injury case for our clients. It is obvious that many factors are at play when considering the causes of serious and sometimes fatal roadway wrecks.
In the NHTSA study, more than 40 percent of drivers reportedly made some kind of recognition error. This could have included such situations as driver inattention, in-car distractions or something happening nearby the vehicle, as well as a failure to fully observe the immediate traffic conditions. Furthermore, researchers found that about one-third of drivers made an error in regard to vehicle operation, including a higher than necessary speed, choosing the wrong lane, making an ill-advised turn or driving their vehicle in an aggressive fashion, among others.
In just 10 percent of the drivers interviewed following a traffic accident, the study found that these individuals failed to control the vehicle sufficiently to safely avoid the eventual accident. These mistakes included overcompensating with the vehicle’s steering, such as when trying to avoid a fishtailing condition, and improper directional control of the vehicle.
It was also found, based on many thousands of interviews, that distracted driving is just as bad, if not worse, than aggressive driving. As Maryland automobile accident lawyers, this is hardly a surprise to our legal team, especially considering the literal explosion of technology that has given consumers in-vehicle GPS navigation and multi-media entertainment systems, as well as smartphones and hand-held computer tablets.
Almost every electronic device inside the passenger cabin can, when combined with the typical traffic-related distractions outside a vehicle, conspire to reduce a driver’s concentration and disrupt his or her focus on the primary and most important job of driving down the road safely. Some key areas that Maryland motorists may consider when working to avoid being involved in a road accident include the following: -- Reducing the number or frequency of secondary tasks (such as operating electronic devices) -- Reducing the possibility of driver fatigue or drowsiness (increasing the amount of sleep) -- Increasing one’s forward-facing attentiveness to roadway events -- Reducing the amount or frequency of “non-specific” eye-glances away from roadway ahead
Driver distractions come in three forms; visual, manual and cognitive. Visual distraction obviously involves the motorist taking his or her eyes off the road. A manual distraction involves the motorist taking one or both hands off the steering wheel to perform another non-driving task. And, cognitive distraction takes place when a driver lets his focus shift from that of operating the vehicle to thinking of something other than driving.
Individually, each of the abovementioned distractions is known to compromise vehicle, passenger and traffic safety; but when combined they can result in some of the deadliest traffic collisions. Add to this the proliferation of personal electronic devices and there is often a perfect storm of distraction and preoccupation for some drivers. It is a disturbing situation when the act of driving a car or truck becomes of secondary importance; an accident is sure to follow.
Unfortunately, once a collision occurs, all the preventative measures in the world cannot help the injured victims. In the wake of a bad car or trucking-related accident, a skilled personal injury lawyer with experience in auto accident and insurance law can help the victims understand their legal rights. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, helping an innocent party recover the costs of medical treatment, emergency room care and other accident-related expenses is our main job.
As Baltimore auto accident lawyers and experienced trial attorneys, we understand how easy it is to become distracted behind the wheel. But knowing that distracted driving happens very often is no excuse for it. As legal professionals, Lebowitz & Mzhen work hard to fight for each auto accident victim’s right to recover accident-related medical expenses and other costs.
If you have been involved in a serious auto, truck or motorcycle collision caused by the negligence of another driver, the legal staff at Lebowitz & Mzhen is ready and willing to assist. For those hurt as a result of distracted, careless or negligent driving, our legal team works with insurance companies to ensure that past and future medical expenses, plus any lost wages, will be covered. We encourage you to contact our offices at (800) 654-1949 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation. You may also email Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen to set up an appointment to discuss your auto injury accident case.