Fatal crashes, risky driving on the rise during pandemic, study shows

November 18, 2020 | 3:49 pm


One would think that during this pandemic, driving would be much safer due to fewer people being on our roadways. However, research is showing that drivers are exhibiting riskier behavior while driving, put everyone else at risk.

Roads in the United States are noticeably more dangerous in the COVID era than they were before, according to a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It states that while fewer cars are on the road during coronavirus shutdowns, more people are speeding, in part because police stopped enforcing as many traffic stops to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Also, seatbelt use has gone down, and more people have died in crashes with alcohol or other drugs in their system, according to an analysis of trauma centers.

Here are more findings form the recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report:

  • Fatality rates increased 30% in the second quarter, reversing a three-year downward trend in road fatalities.
  • The fatality rate during the second quarter of the year was 1.42 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, sharply higher than the first quarter rate of 1.10, which was in line with historical trends.
  • The study revealed a higher prevalence of alcohol, cannabinoids, and opioids in crash victims during the quarter compared to the months prior to the pandemic.

Research suggests that increased stress, more idle time, increased consumption of drugs and alcohol and greater opportunities for speeding and stunt driving would lead to more accidents rather than less, according to U.S. National Library of Medicine.

“These are troubling reports. Now more than ever, we should be watching ourselves for safe driving practices and encouraging others to do the same,” said David Cohn, managing partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “More open roads are no excuse for speeding. Risky driving not only endangers your own life, but also the lives of others.”

In more positive news, the second quarter of 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 public health emergency, showed a continued decline in overall traffic fatalities, the NHTSA studies found.

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles reminds drivers to please slow down, never drive while under the influence, and always wear seat belts. And if you are involved in a car accident, follow these three steps:

1) Obtain the name, address, insurance information, vehicle identification number (VIN) and driver’s license number of any and all persons involved in the accident, as well as the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all witnesses.

2) Make sure that a report is filed with the police, sheriff, or highway patrol, but do not talk to anyone else, especially insurance adjusters, about the accident or sign anything without first consulting an attorney.

3) Seek medical attention immediately and explain to your physician or surgeon all of the symptoms and complaints you have been feeling since the accident occurred.

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Tips for a safe summer road trip during the pandemic

July 29, 2020 | 6:00 am


Summer vacation may look different for you and your family this year. Many people are deciding on a summer road trip instead to flying to a vacation destination. In fact, U.S. air travel has dropped more than 70% compared to this time last year, according to reports.

But before you hit the road, there are some precautions you should take to make sure you and your family is safe, not only from COVID-19, but also from dangers of the road. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day has historically been known as “100 Deadliest Days,” the most dangerous days for drivers to be on our country’s roadways.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles provides the following tips for a safer summer trip:

 

Plan Ahead

Map out which roads, highways, or states you will pass through. There might be relevant travel advisories you need to be aware of, such as changes to toll collection and rest-area food sales. Call ahead and confirm which attractions and hotels are open. And, of course, never drink and drive.

 

Get Enough Sleep

Driving while drowsy is dangerous because it has similar effects on your body as if you were to drive drunk, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The best way to prevent drowsy driving is to get 7-8 hours of sleep the night before your road trip. Signs to watch out for include:

  • trouble focusing
  • heavy eyelids
  • inability to remember the last stretch of road you drove
  • constant yawning
  • bobbing head
  • drifting from your lane

Drinking coffee and energy drinks are not always enough for tired drivers because the effects do not last long. Switching drivers throughout a road trip is a great way to improve alertness in each individual’s portion of the drive. If switching drivers is not possible, pull over and take a nap.

 

Bring ‘Protection’ 

You’re going to have to touch things, including gas pumps, money, doorknobs on washrooms, and other unexpected things. Carry a big bottle of sanitizer in your vehicle. And while you’re at, bring extra toilet paper in case you or your stops are out.

Don’t forget sanitizing wipes, sanitizing spray, face masks, gloves, and even a thermometer. And keep practicing good and frequent hand-washing. Pack snacks and drinks so you reduce the need to go into rest stops and expose yourself to others.

Just in case, bring any necessary travel documentation, including health insurance cards.

Lastly, according to AAA, it’s a good idea to store an emergency kit in your car that includes a car charger for your cell phone, first-aid kit, blanket, drinking water and snacks for everyone including pets, flashlight with extra fresh batteries, rags or paper towels, basic tools including duct tape, road flares or reflectors, ice scraper or snow brush, jumper cables, traction aid (sand, salt), tarp, raincoat, and a shovel. In the case of an emergency, a tent can provide shelter. And tents can be used just about anywhere.

 

Watch Out For Speeding

During this pandemic, law enforcement has reported a spike in speeding on the country’s highways, and overall more dangerous driving habits. Be careful of dangerous speeding while traveling. AAA suggests drivers practice a system called “R.E.A.D the Road”:

  1. Right speed for right now
  2. Eyes up, brain on
  3. Anticipate their next move
  4. Donut of space around your car (in case you need to make an emergency maneuver)

 

Stay Focused 

Distracted driving is a deadly behavior. Federal estimates suggest that distraction contributes to 16 percent of all fatal crashes, leading to around 5,000 deaths every year.

Have a passenger open your bottle of water or change the song on your phone. Turn on the “Do Not Disturb” function on your phone to limit distractions. Here are a few more ideas of what you can do to eliminate distracted driving from your travels (courtesy of AARP).

  • Unplug: Keep your cell phone on silent and where you can’t see it light up for every notification you receive. If a phone call or text message is really important, it’s best to pull over into a safe location before using your phone.
  • Focus: When you’re behind the wheel, pay attention to what’s happening all around your vehicle. Frequently scan your mirrors and watch your speed.
  • Secure your cargo: Prevent loose items in your car from startling you in the event of sudden braking by securing your cargo. Also, never place smaller items on your lap or on the floor near the driver-side foot pedals.

 

Roadside Safety

July is designated as National Roadside Traffic Safety Awareness Month. Here are few tips for being safer on the road in the case of a breakdown or minor accident:

  • Move to safety: Never get out of the vehicle to make a repair or examine damage on a busy highway. Get the vehicle to a safe, out-of-the-way spot, and then get out of the car if at all possible. And if a dire emergency forces you to get out of your car on a highway, do not stand at the side of the car nearest the traffic. Position yourself on the “shoulder” side of the vehicle, so that your vehicle is between you and the traffic.
  • Call for help: If your car won’t run or if it’s so badly damaged that it can’t be driven, stay in the vehicle and use a cell phone to call for help. Don’t stand outside the vehicle unless absolutely forced to do so. Even then, don’t stand near the flow of traffic.
  • Be prepared: Carry a strong flashlight, flares or reflective triangles in your vehicle so you can mark your location in the event of an emergency, even during the day. Remember to turn on your hazard lights so that other drivers have advanced warning of a problem ahead. To be safe, be seen.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.