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5 Things You Didn't Know About Driving in South Carolina

July 21, 2014, by

From fender-benders to major catastrophes, car accidents are a fact of life on South Carolina roads. Nearly everyone knows somebody who has been in an accident, and we all know the basic rules for protecting ourselves: drive defensively, put down the cell phone, and always wear a seat belt.

carwreck.jpgBut there are plenty of things that South Carolina residents don't know about car accidents in our state - or the state of our roads and highways. You probably knew that rollover accidents were dangerous - but did you know that half of all car crash deaths occur when a vehicle leaves the roadway?

Here are five more things you probably didn't know about South Carolina car accidents:

1. One in every five fatal crashes in South Carolina involves hitting a tree. That's right: according to the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), 20 percent of car accident deaths in South Carolina occur when a vehicle hits a tree. This is more than twice the national average for tree-car fatalities; nationwide, only 8 percent of accidents claim lives this way.

2. Ten percent of the state-owned bridges in South Carolina have been declared "structurally deficient." South Carolina owns a total of 8,416 bridges, and 849 have been found "structurally deficient." By "structurally deficient," SCDOT means that the bridges' decks, superstructure, or substructure has been rated "in poor condition." Ten bridges are currently closed.

3. South Carolina set a record in 2013 for fewest traffic deaths...but the car accident death rate is still 50 percent higher than the national average. According to the SCDOT, 2013 saw the lowest recorded death rate since 1982, with 764 car accident deaths. Edgefield County didn't have a single traffic death last year, totaling 445 consecutive days without a fatal crash until early 2014.

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Fewer Carolina Trucking Accidents Possible with Hours-of-Service Rules

June 28, 2013, by

A recent tractor-trailer crash quite literally created a fowl mess on I-20 in Louisiana when the 64-year-old driver, hailing from a North Carolina trucking company, overturned his rig, spilling some 30,000 pounds of frozen chicken meat all over the highway.
The scene took hours to clear, but our Asheville trucking accident lawyers are thankful that no one was killed or seriously injured. The driver was later cited for careless operation.

We can't say whether driver fatigue contributed to this particular crash, but the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration attributes drowsiness as the primary cause of 13 percent of commercial trucking accidents nationwide. In an effort to combat this problem, the agency has introduced a new set of mandatory rules regarding hours of service for truckers and other commercial drivers, set to go into effect July 1.

The rules have been met with fierce backlash from the trucking industry, which has filed lawsuits, testified before Congress and made extensive complaints to national media outlets. It's been nearly five years since the FMCSA first introduced the rules, and after a fair amount of tweaking in response to the opposition, the rules are slated to be enacted without further delay.

The American Trucking Associations, which represents some 2,000 member companies, say the current rules have been sufficient in reducing the number of commercial trucking crashes. However, we continue to see these crashes every day, so more clearly needs to be done.

Some estimate implementation of the new rules will cost the industry about $320 million. However, the FMCSA estimates the implementation costs will be about $200 per trucker, and that there will be a $270 annual loss of income per trucker in terms of lost hours.

What we all gain are safer roadways.

Consider that in 2010, more than 500,000 large trucks and commercial vehicles were involved in wrecks. In those instances, more than 100,000 people sustained serious injuries and more than 5,000 died. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, that was a significant increase compared to 2009, when 3,200 deaths were reported in large trucking accidents.

To us, the new rules make sense. Among them:

  • Truck drivers will be limited to 11 hours of drive time, following 10 hours of consecutive off-duty time, provided they take a 30-minute break every 8 hours.

  • Drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver will be allowed to restart a 7/8 consecutive day period at any point during the week, provided he or she take at least a 34 straight hours off duty.

  • Drivers using the sleeper berth to catch up on their sleep on the road have to remain in that cabin for at least 8 consecutive hours.

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Fatal Crashes in South Carolina on the Rise

June 25, 2013, by

A recent tractor-trailer crash on I-77 in South Carolina left two people dead.
Investigators report it was about 6 a.m. when the commercial tractor-trailer ran off the right side of the highway, slid down an embankment and slammed into several trees. The two people who were inside the truck, including the driver, were killed.

The aftermath of this kind of tragic event is one that our Greenville trucking accident lawyers are sadly seeing more and more of these days, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Association reporting a 5.3 percent uptick in traffic fatalities nationally over the last year.

Although that percentage is based on preliminary reports, officials don't expect it will fluctuate dramatically.

The number of traffic-related deaths went from about 32,300 in 2011 to more than 34,000 last year. If when the final results are in we still see a reflected increase, it will be the first time traffic deaths have gone up since 2004-2005. In the interim between then and 2011, traffic fatalities fell by about 26 percent.

The NHTSA is hesitant to provide speculation concerning what might be behind the uptick, at least until the final numbers are counted. What we do know is that the number of vehicle miles traveled is up slightly. We're up to about 9.1 billion vehicle miles traveled in this country, which reflected a 0.3 percent increase last year over the previous year.

When we factor in the number of vehicle miles traveled, the fatality rate per 100 million miles traveled was 1.16 last year. That's up from 1.10 the year before, or about 5.5 percent.

This aspect of the increase was anticipated. With the economy recovering, we have more people working and commuting to work, more people who are filling up their gas tanks, more people taking vacations and road trips and more people who can afford to allow their teens to drive vehicles. So, in some ways, we expected the number of deaths to rise at least somewhat.

However, we had hoped that distracted driving education campaigns, drunk driving checkpoints and other safety efforts would have had a greater impact.

What's even more troubling is that in South Carolina, we are well on our way to surpassing even last year's total crash fatalities. According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, there were 362 fatal crashes in the state in all of 2012. So far this year, as of June 18, there have been 289. Last year, there were a total of 390 people killed on South Carolina's roadways. So far this year, there have been 310 deaths - and we're only halfway through the year.

The number of traffic fatalities did vary somewhat by region, with South Carolina's Region 4 faring better than most with a traffic fatality increase of 2 percent. Other areas of the country saw increases as high as 9 and 10 percent.

Still, when we're talking about the loss of precious lives, any increase is unacceptable, and we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to prevent it.

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Car Accidents at Work: Barclay v. Briscoe Looks at Employer Responsibility

July 6, 2012, by

When we think of business-related driving accidents in North Carolina, we often think of crashes involving semi-trucks or passenger buses. But the truth of the matter is that motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of all fatal injuries on the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The government reported transportation accidents accounted for 910 of the 4,206 fatal work accidents in 2010. North Carolina personal injury lawyers know that accidents involving commercial vehicles are complex cases. Legal claims often involve a driver's employer and the company's various insurance policies. And, while a vehicle may be insured for $100,000, companies often carry umbrella liability policies in the amount of $2 million. So successfully making a claim against a commercial vehicle's owner or operator can help ensure adequate compensation will be available. 1340780_yield_sign.jpg

Cases in which a victim is injured while on the job may also result in a workers' compensation claim.

The fact is that on any given weekday a significant percentage of traffic is on the road for work -- postal carriers and private couriers, salesmen, and delivery trucks are just a few examples.

In Barclay v. Briscoe, a recent case decided by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, Michael Barclay was injured in a car accident with a vehicle driven by longshoreman Christopher Richardson who fell asleep at the wheel while driving home after working a 22-hour shift. Barclay and his wife sued several parties, including Richardson's employer, Ports America Baltimore Inc.

The suit alleged Ports America Baltimore Inc. was liable for Barclay's injuries under the legal theories of respondeat superior and primary negligence.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Ports. The court found Richardson was not injured while in the scope of his employment and thus respondeat superior was not applicable. And that Ports could not be held primarily liable because it owed no duty to the public to make sure an employee was fit to drive home in his personal vehicle.

The Appeals Court affirmed, finding Richardson's employer could not be held vicariously liable for Richardson's motor-vehicle tort and that his employer had no duty to Barclay based only on the fact that employee fatigue was a foreseeable consequence of employment.

While the victim did not prevail in this case, it's one court and one opinion. The fact remains, having a personal injury law firm with the knowledge and experience to pursue all avenues of your claim is critical when seeking a recovery for pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills and other damages.

In this case, knowing that drowsy driving was a determining factor, and that the at-fault driver just finished a 22-hour shift, is crucial information in the hands of a victim's attorney.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of adult drivers say they have been on the road driving in the past year, even though they were tired. Other common causes of accidents are speeding, distracted driving and alcohol or drug use. Uncovering such negligence as being the root cause of an accident frequently leads to a faster and more favorable settlement.

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Officials Still Pushing for Nationwide Ban to Reduce Risks of Car Accidents in North Carolina and Elsewhere

January 25, 2012, by

As we recently reported on our North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, the federal government is looking for ways to reduce the risks of distraction-related car accidents nationwide.

In our previous post we discussed a recent anti-distraction campaign that targeted teenage drivers around the country. In this campaign, videos were displayed at movie theaters, online and at gas stations to help educate these young drivers about the dangers of distracted drivers. Teenager drivers aren't the only drivers that we need to worry about on our roadways. Car accidents are the number one cause of death for residents aged 4- to 24-years-old.
Our Asheville and Greenville, SC car accident attorneys understand that our state has pretty relaxed distraction-related laws for drivers. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, all drivers can talk on a cell phone behind the wheel except those who are under the age of 18 and those who are driving a school bus. Everyone in the state is prohibited from sending and receiving text messages behind the wheel. The combination of these laws is tough for law enforcement to enforce however. It's extremely difficult for a law enforcement officer to determine if a driver was composing/reading a text or if they were dialing a phone. Texting is illegal, but talking on a phone isn't for everyone. How do officers tell the difference? This is one reason why a nationwide ban on all portable electronic devices may be a good move.

For these reasons, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently made a proposal for all 50 states to make it illegal for all drivers to use a portable electronic device behind the wheel, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). This ban includes cell phones and text messaging devices. These devices would still be allowed to be used by drivers in the event of an emergency though.

"According to NHTSA, more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents", said Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving."

Just in the last 20 years, there has been an overwhelming growth in the use of personal electronic devices, including cell phones. Around the world there are more than 5 billion cell phone subscribers, which accounts for more than 75 percent of the world's population. That statistic is even higher in the U.S., according to WECT6, exceeding 100 percent.

This potential ban would affect everyone; moms, teens, road workers, employees, etc. According to CNN, a nationwide ban might not be all that easy to pass in all 50 states. Just look around our roadways. No matter which road you travel down, you're sure to see drivers sending text messages, young drivers making phone calls and all drivers interacting with radios and GPS devices. Even with laws in effect, drivers still engage in dangerous distractions behind the wheel.

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Cell Phone Ban Would Reduce Risk of North Carolina Trucking Accidents

October 21, 2011, by

FOX Carolina is reporting that the National Transportation Safety Board is pushing to ban bus and truck drivers from using cell phones.

Our trucking accident attorneys in Asheville and Greenville know it is long past time for the federal government to act on this important issue. A year ago, the government banned bus and truck drivers from texting while driving. It was a start but did not go far enough in ensuring these professional drivers keep their eyes on the road. 569266_truck_5th_avenue.jpg

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports more than 5,000 motorists a year are killed in accidents involving a distracted driver. And trucking accidents already account for about 1 in 9 of the nation's fatal accidents. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports 3,380 motorists were killed and more than 74,000 were injured in accidents with large trucks last year.

And the risk of North Carolina bus accidents continues to increase. Several high-profile bus accidents this summer have the federal government pushing bus safety. Low-fare carriers have come under particular fire.

The truth of the matter is there are all kinds of ways the government could increase safety. Making speed-limiting devices and data recorders mandatory is one option being discussed; better drug and alcohol testing; better tracking of hours-of-service rules and more limitations on prescription medications are all critical areas that need addressed.

But none of that makes much sense as long as the government is permitting drivers to barrel down the highway in 80,000 pound tractor-trailers while talking on a cell phone.

Safety advocates hail the proposal as the most sweeping safety improvement since mandatory seat belts. Many truckers are against the proposal, as you might imagine. They say the ban goes too far, especially since it would prohibit hands-free devices as well as those that are hand-held.

The NTSB made the endorsement after a fiery wreck in Kentucky killed the trucker and 10 motorists in a van on their way to a wedding. The government said the trucker was talking on his cell phone when he crossed through the median, over a cable barrier and slammed into the van.

The government has already issued such bans for aviation and ship operators.

"It may not be something that's widely embraced," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. "This is not going to be popular. But, we're not here to be popular. We're here to do what needs to be done."

The NTSB has sent the proposal to all 50 states and to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Currently, truckers caught texting and driving face fines of up to $2,750. The DOT has already recommended a ban on hand-held devices, a final rule on that issue is expected yet this fall.

The American Trucking Association does not support a ban on hands-free devices, saying there was not enough evidence that hands-free devices created a distraction worthy of being outlawed.

The Governor's Highway Safety Association also questioned the science behind such a proposal, saying more information was needed before the issue could be presented to all 50 states.

In reality, there is a growing body of evidence and research that suggests hands-free cell phones are no safer; that the cognitive distraction of talking on a phone substantially increases the risk of an accident, whether the driver is using a hands-free or hand-held device.

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Trucking Accident in Columbus, North Carolina Causes Multi-Car Pileup

October 11, 2011, by

A recent trucking accident in Columbus, North Carolina closed the northbound lanes on Interstate 26 for a several hours. The accident happened when the driver of a semi-truck jumped out of the cab of his big rig. When he left the semi, it plowed through traffic causing a multi-car accident on the Interstate near mile marker 66, according to Fleet Owner.
After the trucker jumped from the big rig, it traveled for nearly a mile without a driver, crashed into a guardrail and finally stopped on the side of the road in some bushes, according to a North Carolina Highway Patrol spokesman.

Our Asheville trucking accident attorneys understand that accidents involving tractor-trailers are very dangers and oftentimes end fatally. These trucks carry so much weight and size that they can crush a passenger vehicle. These drivers are required to hold specific licenses and to obtain extensive trucking knowledge to operate these rigs safely. Motorists are asked to travel cautiously among these large vehicles. Defensive driving habits may be one of your best defenses against an accident with a tractor-trailer.

After the big rig came to a stop on the side of the road, another semi-truck crashed because of the debris that was scattered along the road from the initial accident. The driver of the second semi lost control of his vehicle, flipped over and hit a pickup, a van and a flatbed.

The drivers of both of the semis where flown to hospitals in the area while the passenger-vehicle drivers were taken to hospitals by EMS.

It has yet to be determined why the driver of the semi jumped out of the vehicle. Investigators are looking into the accident.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were nearly 3,500 fatalities resulting from trucking accidents in the U.S. in 2009. There were an additional 74,000 injuries resulting from these types of accidents. Roughly 300,000 trucks on U.S. roadways were involved in these accidents throughout the year. Nearly 100 large trucks were involved in fatal trucking accidents in Missouri in 2009. Occupants of the passenger vehicles involved in the accidents accounted for a majority of the injured and fatalities.

Fatalities resulting from trucking accidents in 2009:

-75 percent occurred to the occupants of another vehicle.

-10 percent occurred to those who were nonoccupants.

-15 percent occurred to the occupants of a large truck.

Injuries resulting from trucking accidents in 2009:

-74 percent occurred to the occupants of another vehicle.

-10 percent occurred to those who were nonoccupants.

-16 percent occurred to the occupants of a large truck.

Passenger-vehicle drivers are urged to be cautious when traveling near these large trucks. Be sure to stay out of their blind spots and remember to give them some distance. Never tailgate or cut off a tractor-trailer. A few simply safety steps can help to keep you and your loved ones safe when driving near large commercial vehicles.

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Motorists More Likely to Die in Car Accidents in North Carolina Rural Areas than in Big Cities

August 30, 2011, by

AAA Carolinas reports that you're most likely to die in a car accident in North Carolina on one of our rural roads than on an urban road, according to WSAV. The top five counties with the most occurrences of deadly accidents only accounted for about three percent of the entire state's vehicle miles traveled.
Our North Carolina car accident attorneys understand that motorists may be more at risk for a fatal car accident on a rural road because these roads typically have lower shoulders, have narrower lanes and have faded (if any) road markings. These roads also have more curves in them and have less police patrols than highways. Speed is also often a factor.

"Motorists can do their part by slowing down, paying close attention, never drinking and driving, and always wearing their seat belts, which is their best defense if they're in a crash," said Transportation Secretary Robert J. St. Onge, Jr.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were nearly 37,250 fatal accidents that took the lives of more than 41,000 people in 2007. Accidents that occurred in rural areas made up 56 percent of these fatal accidents while urban areas only accounted for 44 percent of fatal accidents. The number of accidents in rural areas is surprising considering that only 23 percent of the U.S. population lives in these areas.

North Carolina witnessed nearly 1,500 fatalities on rural roadways in 2007. These accidents accounted for 73 percent of all traffic accident deaths for the year. Our state's urban areas witnessed 442 traffic fatalities, accounting for only 26 percent of the year's traffic accident deaths.

Here are some of the reasons why fatal rural accidents are so common:

-Unrestrained motorists

-Rollover accidents

-Drunk driving


Roughly 52 percent of fatal traffic accidents that happened in our rural areas happened during the daytime hours, while only 47 percent of fatal accidents happened at night. On the flip side, only 43 percent of fatal crashes that happened in urban areas happened during the evening. About 56 percent happened during the daytime.

Another important factor contributing to the high number of fatal accidents in rural areas is the amount of time is takes for emergency responders to arrive on scene. It typically takes emergency personnel longer to get to an accident in a rural area than in an urban area. Response times average 19 minutes in rural areas to 7 minutes in urban areas.

It is important for emergency responders to quickly respond to accident calls. Rural areas provide a number of environmental challenges that contribute to high fatality rates. The longer it takes for emergency personnel to arrive at the scene of an accident, the more like it is that the victim of the accident cannot be saved and will die in route to the hospital.

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Summer Brings Increased Risk of North Carolina Trucking Accidents Involving Teenagers

June 23, 2011, by

The death of a teenager in a North Carolina tractor-trailer accident earlier this month is a tragic reminder of the risks we all face when traveling around large commercial vehicles. However, like most other types of driving dangers, teens are at particularly high risk, in part because of a lack of experience and a tendency to overestimate their driving skills and abilities.

The Rocky Mount Telegram reported the Greenville traffic crash claimed the life of the 17-year-old girl after her SUV was t-boned by a big rig on N.C. 42.
Our Asheville trucking accident attorneys encourage parents to talk to their teens about the risks of poor driving habits and decisions -- with particular emphasis on the inherent risk associated with driving around large trucks. A commercial semi can weigh 80,000 pounds -- 20 times the weight of a passenger car. In an accident, the occupants of a passenger vehicle rarely stand a chance.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration kicked off the teen summer driving program with an initiative aimed at increasing awareness around tractor-trailers. "We want everyone to be safe, but as newer drivers, teens must adhere to a few simple rules," said Anne Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. "They are: buckle up, don't drink and drive; don't speed, don't text or use your phone, and steer clear of a truck's blind spots."

At the launch event in Washington D.C., teens were encouraged to give trucks plenty of room and avoid riding in their blind spots. Participating young drivers also agreed to sign a "No Text Promise." Federal data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that 9 of the 10 deadliest days of the year for teen drivers fall between Memorial Day and Labor Day. With an average of 16 teens dying each day in the summer, young drivers are at twice the risk of being involved in a serious or fatal car accident than at any other time of the year.

Some 4,000 young drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 have lost their lives in accidents with large trucks during the past five years.

"Prom, graduation, and summer are fantastic times for youth to celebrate and enjoy. However, with these fun times come unfortunate tragedies," said Sandy Spavone, President of the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS). "Through education, enforcement, and legislation lives can be saved and injuries prevented."

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports a total of 143 rigs were involved in fatal trucking accidents in North Carolina in 2008; another 81 were involved in deadly trucking accidents in South Carolina.

"Do not expect that having a driver's license is a right that comes without responsibility or risk," said Steve Keppler, Executive Director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). "Be accountable for your actions, spread the word to your friends and parents, and help create a culture of safety. Most importantly, take the driving task seriously. You never know the impact you can have that ultimately could save your life or someone else's."

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