Monthly Archives: March 2016

Process After a Car Accident

56Do not leave the Scene

Proceeding a car accident, it is important to not leave the scene of the accident until fitting. If you leave the scene of the accident, and any individuals have been injured or killed, there is a possibility you will be facing severe criminal penalties for being a hit and run driver.

Check Up on All Drivers and Passengers

Prior to determining the property damage, be assured that all individuals involved in the accident are okay. If any individuals involved in the accident have been injured, it is important to pursue medical attention. If an injured individual is suffering from neck or back pain, do not move them unless a hazard requires moving the individual, qualified medical help will move the patients otherwise.

Call the Police Immediately

It is crucial to call the police if there has been any physical injury, death, or any property damage. It is important to obtain the name and badge numbers of the officers that have arrived at the scene of the car accident.

Exchange Information

Subsequently following the prior steps you must then exchange information with the other car and drivers. The information that must be exchanged includes:

  • Names of the individuals
  • Phone numbers
  • Home address
  • Driver’s license number
  • License plate number
  • Insurance information

If any passengers were involved in the accident, you must also obtain their information.

Converse with Witnesses

Inquire any information from what the witnesses saw. If it is possible, obtain their names, phone numbers, and place of residence.

Notify Your Insurance Company

Advise your insurance company immediately that you have been involved in a car accident. Comply with the insurance company and let them know the truth about exactly what happen and the degree of the injuries you are facing. Describe the facts of the accident openly. If you lie to your insurance company and they uncover that you were misleading them, there can be serious consequences such as losing the coverage that you would of had for the accident. Receive and inspect any police report that was filed for the purpose of knowing what individual broke what traffic laws and who was at fault.

 

New Wrong Way Signs Show Promise in Preventing Injuries

parI frequently write about the various offenses for which one can be issued a traffic ticket and the consequences that result from them. I do this because I want to help as many people as I can who get traffic tickets to receive a just outcome. I take that responsibility very seriously; after all, this is my job. I would, however, also like to inform other Florida drivers about various subjects that I come across, whether that be new traffic laws, changes to DUI and drug laws, or about the causes and effects of driving behaviors.

There are myriad driving behaviors that result in traffic accidents. Most of these accidents do not end up in injuries to the occupants of the vehicles involved. Unfortunately, a large number of these crashes do result in injuries and deaths every year. We hear or read about them on a nearly daily basis. All accidents are investigated by various law enforcement agencies, especially when a death occurs. Often, accidents that result in a fatality are attributed to speeding, driving while under the influence, or reckless driving.

There is, however, a type of accident that we don’t hear about very often, and those are the accidents that occur as the result of driving the wrong way on a roadway. A 2012 National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) report defines wrong-way driving as, “… vehicular movement along a travel lane in a direction opposing the legal flow of traffic on high-speed, divided highways or access ramps.”

The reason that we don’t hear about this type of traffic accident as frequently as others is because, frankly, they don’t occur as often as some of these other types of accidents do. Even though that is statistically true, they only account for 3% of accidents, they are of particular concern because the mortality rate in wrong-way accidents is tremendously higher than those found in other types of accidents. It is hard to say with certainty why these types of accidents are so much more lethal than many other kinds, but it is surely due to the fact that they are almost exclusively head-on or nearly head-on collisions.

There is also much conjecture as to the actual causes of wrong way accidents. One area of concern is construction sites. No matter what work is being done to roadways, it is very easy to find the changes in traffic patterns to be confusing. I know that there have been times when I have been uncertain of the correct path to travel until I progress closer to the construction site. Changing traffic patterns can be confusing enough, but when traffic is rerouted in an entirely different direction and the correct path to follow becomes unclear, it can be very confusing AND dangerous.

Another issue that may cause these horrific accidents can be that sometimes, access ramps are poorly marked. When this is coupled with some of the odd access interchanges that I have seen, it shouldn’t be surprising that an errant driver thinks he knows the direction he is traveling only to have it end in tragedy. Add other factors to the mix such as poor lighting, having to pass under bridges to get to the correct ramp, and signs that are not always apparent, and you end up with a recipe for disaster.

Research done on this type of accident indicates that alcohol and/or drugs also figure prominently into wrong way crashes. In a report published by the National Traffic Safety Board in 2012, their data showed the approximately 60% of those responsible for wrong way crashes were impaired by either alcohol or drugs with ½ to ¾ of them being caused by those who have a blood alcohol content of.08 or higher.

The drugs involved don’t necessarily mean illicit drugs, but can be prescribed for various illnesses. Even when taking medication correctly, often reactions may vary in individuals. There is also the consideration of how taking multiple medications effect drivers, yet, there is little to no real data that can predict how an individual’s body may react to the combination of medications.

The 2012 report is not the first study that the NTSB has conducted. In fact, they have been investigating the causes and effects of wrong way accidents since 1968. In the most recent study, they gleaned their data by analyzing information from 9 accidents that occurred in various states. Probably the most telling data that the report revealed was the small number of wrong way accidents that occur, yet the great number of fatalities they represent.

Due to the severity of these accidents, the State of Florida is working on coming up with a system to try to prevent these tragedies. Currently, there is a pilot program in the works in 15 locations including the Turnpike’s Homestead extension and Sawgrass Expressway that involves adding flashing lights to let drivers know that they are about to proceed in the wrong direction. This is phase one of what many hope will incorporate a 2 phase process. The second consideration is to install multiple pop-up poles across the lane that read “wrong way.” This is to make the driver realize that he or she is traveling in the wrong direction and make corrections before someone is injured. So far, there has been positive feedback about the program as it has interceded on 10 occasions as vehicles have attempted to travel in the wrong direction.

Turnpike spokesperson Chad Huff said, “I would say the circumstantial evidence is pretty good that the system is having some effect on driving behavior.”

Although Florida is ranked as third in the country for fatalities attributed to these horrendous accidents, is not the first state to try to resolve this issue. Rhode Island, New York, Virginia, and other states have already addressed this serious issue by utilizing similar systems or are considering addressing it by the installation of some type of warning system. One German car manufacturer has even taken strides to install warning systems in a couple of its car models. Each of these methods are different, but I have yet to see data that assesses their success or failure rate.

Unfortunately, when I was researching information for this article, I came across dozens of pictures of automobiles that had been involved in these types of accidents. Some were so horrific that they were virtually unrecognizable as vehicles, and there was little doubt that the crash resulted in someone’s death. The best hope of curtailing this issue is by the installation of some type of warning system which can be done inexpensively. Central Florida will be installing a system in five different locations to a cost of only $300,000. That cost is certainly a bargain when you consider the number of lives it can save.

Cops Are Not Buying It

ryMaybe I have become jaded after working in the field of traffic law for so long, yet it fails to surprise me how easy it is to get a speeding ticket. That doesn’t seem to be the case, however, for many of my clients because just about every client I speak with regarding a speeding ticket seems shocked. Consequently, I often hear exclamations like, “But I was just keeping up with traffic,” or “Well, there were other drivers who were going faster than I was.” Rarely does a client show up at my office who says, “Yeah, man. I was flyin’.”

The problem with these types of justifications is that law enforcement agencies just don’t care. They are there to do a job, and writing speeding tickets is one of the primary responsibilities of that job. As such, they hear every excuse possible, the most frequent of which are ‘just keeping up with traffic’ or ‘I’m late for work.” Consequently, they have become inured to what may seem to the driver like a perfectly reasonable explanation for exceeding the speed limit. This is especially true for drivers who feel like there were other drivers who were traveling at a much greater speed than they were.

This is where the inevitable question of “Why me?” comes into play, and it can be virtually impossible to answer. Maybe it is because you also committed some other infraction that garnered the police officer’s attention such as driving left of center or weaving in and out of traffic. Sometimes it can just be the result of something as seemingly insignificant as the model of car you drive. Sports cars are going to attract a lot more attention than a family sedan. After all, isn’t that the reason you purchased a sports car to begin with? It makes a statement, right? Sometimes, however, that statement can be, “The court date is on the back of your citation. Have a nice day,” says Officer Friendly with a gleam in his eye and a glint reflecting off of his shiny badge.

Another reason that your sports car, or even luxury car, may get pulled over instead of another driver is it may rankle a police officer to see you driving a vehicle that costs more than his annual salary. Well, when you are operating it in a manner contrary to the law, it gives him the opportunity to do something about it. Aw, what sweet justice this is for a cop who may have a chip on his shoulder.

Even the color of your car could be the cause of you being singled out. If you consider that you and the car next to you are both exceeding the speed limit, the other driver is driving a beige minivan and you are in a spiffy, bright yellow vehicle – guess what? You wanted a bright, shiny car because it attracts attention and now you have it. I don’t mean that to sound sarcastic, but it is human nature to be attracted to bright, shiny objects, and yes, cops are human, too.

Whatever the reason may be for you being singled out, be assured that you are not part of an exclusive group. According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 41,000,000 drivers receive traffic tickets annually. That figure represents nearly 21 percent of all licensed drivers in the U.S. with more than 112,000 people getting speeding tickets every day at the average cost of a speeding ticket being $152. Do you hear the cha-ching yet?

A 6.2 billion-dollar-per-year industry is quite an incentive for law enforcement agencies across the country to invest a bit of money on hiring more officers and investing in speed detection devices and practices such as air patrols, et cetera. It is also quite a motivating factor for some towns to become notorious speed traps. Being in Florida, most of us have heard about Waldo being a speed trap, obtaining more than 68 percent of the town’s income from speeding tickets, but that is not something that is unique to Florida. The section of Highway 19 which goes through Summersville, West Virginia is also a well-known speed trap, and many of those who have been ticketed refute the charges that they were speeding. There are also approximately a dozen smaller towns in the St. Louis area that have the reputation as being speed trap havens, so much so that the state of Missouri had to intervene.

With the exception of towns like Summersville, where the validity of many speeding tickets is contested by those who received them, there are certain measures that one can take to minimize the risk of getting a speeding ticket – other than the obvious practice of never speeding. These methods are as follows:

• Do not “stand out from the pack.” As I mentioned earlier, avoid flashy vehicles, whether that be brightly colored cars, sports cars, or luxury cars. Sometimes the desire for positive attention can carry with it negative consequences.

• If you are going to exceed the speed limit, the last thing you want to do is be the lead car, no matter how fast the other drivers are going. I can assure you that if there is a cop looking to catch a speeder, the first vehicle he is going to notice is whichever one is out in front. This is another example of how standing out from other vehicles can have negative effects.

• Avoid aggressive driving behaviors. Frequent lane changes, trying to over-take other drivers, rapid acceleration followed up by frequent braking, and so forth are strong indicators to a police officer that you are impatient and probably pose a risk to other drivers. This is the case even if you are not speeding, but they also would indicate that once you extricate yourself from being surrounded by other drivers, you may be a little heavy on the gas pedal.

• You may want to avoid hanging out in the fast lane, too, especially if you are holding up other traffic. This is bound to catch the notice of any police officers looking for speeders, especially if he happens to be one of the drivers you are impeding.

• Always keep an eye out for the cars in front of you. If they begin noticeably slowing down or braking suddenly, they have probably spotted a cop sitting at a speed trap. Let it be one of them and not you that he goes after.

• Buy a radar detector. They are not illegal in the State of Florida and high-end models can be extremely effective and, if you have a lead foot, may well be worth the cost.

• Probably one of the easiest ways to avoid getting a speeding ticket other than to never speed is to scan the roadway, both ahead of you and in your rearview mirror, for police cars. This includes looking for areas that would be a prime choice for a cop to set up a speed trap. This includes areas like breaks in the medians, behind bridge abutments, at the crest of a hill, and so on.

Driving in the Rain in Florida – Don’t Panic

wrRain is just a part of South Florida living. If it weren’t for the volume of the precipitation that we get, this area would not be as lush and beautiful as it is, and it wouldn’t draw the thousands of transplant residents and tourists that it does. Unfortunately, it seems to create panic in a lot of our drivers.

We have all seen this happen. One minute traffic seems to be humming along just fine, then four fat raindrops fall and brake lights start lighting up like Christmas decorations in Times Square. We get A LOT of rain here. Whether its hurricane season or just another of the thunderstorms which seem to occur daily, the chances of you having to drive in wet weather are great. In fact, it happens so frequently that some of us barely even notice these storms anymore.

It is no coincidence that there are so many traffic accidents during or just after a rainstorm. Invariably one of two things happen. Either many drivers have a knee-jerk reaction and start slamming on their brakes, while many others fail to adjust their driving habits to the conditions that exist at the time. The latter of the two reactions can result in the issuance of the notorious “driving too fast for conditions” traffic ticket.

Oh, this is a tricky little ticket. I say that because no matter the circumstances, if you have an accident anywhere in the country, whether due to rain, snow, sun glare, potholes, whatever, you can receive a traffic citation for “driving too fast for conditions.” Isn’t that convenient? It is tantamount to the law saying there is no valid reason for having a traffic accident – you must have just been speeding. This paves the way for a cop to write you an arbitrary traffic citation using very little rule of measure other than his own discretion.

According to Florida GS 316.183, “No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.” There’s that word again that you so often he me hear me quote when I am making reference to Florida traffic laws – prudent.

Ah, prudent. The use of such language in our Florida traffic law statutes makes the interpretation of those laws rather vague and open to individual interpretation. It also makes it easy for cops to find reasons to issue traffic tickets. In some cases, however, it is helpful to a good traffic ticket attorney who can often find loopholes in the validity of your traffic ticket. After all, standards such as “reasonable” and “prudent” are subjective to all parties involved.

You should still seriously consider how you react when it starts raining. Try not to endanger yourself or others by reacting suddenly. Always try to give those around you plenty of warning that you are going to slow down. Slamming on your brakes in a panic only increases the odds of being in a traffic accident.

For those of you who take the approach to a sudden rain storm of “Just continue to drive as usual,” consider modifying your current driving habits so they are better suited to the South Florida weather. Think about the various factors that occur which exist only when it is raining. This includes those drivers that do overreact and also the reduced traction that occurs when there is water on the road. The former results in other drivers not being able to anticipate the actions of someone who gets a little freaked out while driving in the rain – which often leads to car accidents. The latter issue is complicated by not only the loss of traction, but also oil from previous vehicles being lifted off the road surface by the rain. This just makes the break in traction even that much more dangerous.

When it comes to our exciting yet scary tropical storms that we get, there are variables that need to be considered. The volume of rain can be highly unpredictable – those four fat rain drops I mentioned early can evolve into a steady rain one minute and a torrential downpour the next which can obfuscate your view. When you factor in the rolling in of dark clouds suddenly that add to reduced visibility, elderly drivers, teenagers, and the inexperienced tourists who are unsure how to react to our unique weather patterns, and those drivers who just don’t know what to do in bad weather, then our roads and highways take on the semblance of a billiards table.

It can become a trying experience for those of us who are used to Florida’s erratic weather as we play dodgeball on the highways trying to keep away from those drivers who are freaking out or otherwise reacting inappropriately to the conditions. Fortunately for those of us who are accustomed to such hairy driving conditions, there are those who immediately hit their emergency flashers which is the same thing as the driver yelling out the window, “I am a lousy driver who doesn’t know how to drive in poor weather so keep AWAY from me.” No problem, buddy. Quit taking up two lanes, and I will gladly pass you so you are no longer a threat to my well-being.

Obviously, much of what I say here is tongue-in-cheek because I am a huge proponent of safe driving; however, when your fear response is so great that it puts others at extreme risk, please just pull over and allow others to proceed safely. There is nothing so urgent that you need to risk your welfare or that of anyone else. Besides, with the weather in Florida, the likelihood of this storm lasting for an extended period is quite small. Stopping for a soda or bottled water will probably give the storm adequate time to move out of the area. There is no need to point fingers because these drivers know who they are.