Atlanta Personal Injury Law Blog

Trucker drive-time rules might be relaxed by DOT

Advocates for the trucking industry have made headway in their efforts to secure relaxed drive-time restrictions on roadways in Georgia and across the country. The Department of Transportation has said it will move to loosen the regulations that limit the number of hours truckers can be on the road. The current form of the rules allows big rig drivers to drive for up to 11 hours during each on-duty period.

On-duty periods are 14 hours long, and truck drivers are required to spend 10 hours in a row off duty between on-duty windows. Drivers who are going to be on the road for more than eight hours are required to take a break for 30 minutes before they get to eight consecutive hours driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is charged with enforcing the drive time rules, which were established in their original form during the 1930s.

Can reduced speed limits reduce accidents?

Two U.S. senators have proposed a bill that they believe will reduce vehicle accidents across the country. The bill would require all new semi-trucks to have electronic speed monitoring software installed that would not allow the semi to drive faster than 65 mph.

Many semi-trucks already have electronic speed limit monitors but may not use them because it is not federally required. This bill would mandate that all new trucks have the device in them and all heavy trucks with the device use it. But, it would not require trucks that are already on the road without the monitors, to have them installed.

Many drivers think that ADAS features are fully self-driving

A study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that many drivers in Georgia and across the U.S. confuse advanced driver assistance systems with autonomous vehicle operation. Despite its name, ADAS is not meant to replace drivers. Of the five levels of automation, ADAS only achieves level two automated driving. Therefore, drivers are expected to stay alert, keep their hands on the steering wheel and drive like normal.

In the study, over 2,000 drivers were asked what they believe would be safe to do when five different ADAS were engaged. One of them was Tesla's Autopilot. Since the developer names were not given, participants only had the program names to go by. Naturally, many thought that Autopilot would require less operation on a driver's part. Nearly half said it would be safe to drive hands-free with it engaged.

Rear seats aren't always the safest

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), not enough is being done to protect passengers who sit in rear seats. This can be especially problematic for those in Georgia who use Uber or Lyft to get around as they are less likely to wear a seat belt. There have been ways in which seat belts technology has improved for those sitting in the front of a vehicle.

For example, they are designed to tighten around a person's body during a collision and to work with a vehicle's air bags. In many cases, the front of a vehicle gets more attention because of who tends to occupy that space. Typically, adults sit in the front seats, and they tend to have a similar range of body types. Those who sit in the back seats could be adults, teenagers or small children.

Car accidents and the concept of negligence

Determining fault in a motor vehicle accident can mean identifying whether one driver was negligent. Negligence is a term that has a specific legal meaning in this context. If a Georgia driver injures another through negligence, the driver could owe compensation to the injured person.

Negligence resets on the assumption that a driver is required to operate the vehicle safely. Legally, negligence may be said to have happened if there is evidence that the driver did not exercise reasonable care and if that lack of reasonable care caused loss or injury. One example of negligent driving is speeding. However, drivers should not assume that simply following the speed limit absolves them from negligence. For example, under certain weather conditions, a driver should slow down. This is also true for failing to follow at a safe distance. What might be safe on a clear, dry day is not necessarily safe on a rainy day with poor visibility.

Do you practice safe habits when walking?

Being struck by a car while walking can lead to serious injuries, even if the car is not driving very fast. Nine out of every 10 passengers die when struck at just 40 miles per hour, and 260 pedestrians in Georgia were killed in 2017, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Because collisions between cars and pedestrians occur so frequently and can be so severe, it is important to take steps to protect yourself when walking. Being attentive, visible and predictable can help you prevent being hit by a car.

Newly licensed teen drivers less safe than teens with permits

Georgia residents may not know this, but teens are more dangerous in the first three months of driving with a license than in the last three months of driving with a learner's permit and adult supervision. In fact, newly licensed teen drivers raise their risk for a collision or near-miss by eight times. This was the conclusion of a study conducted by Virginia Tech University and the National Institutes for Health.

Researchers analyzed the driving behaviors of 90 teens (131 parent supervisors also participated) from the time they received their permit through their first full year as licensed drivers. In-car cameras observed both the driver and the road, and special software noted drivers' speed and braking.

Study: Drivers still tempted by technology

Drivers in Georgia are often aware of the dangers of distracted driving. Around half of all respondents in one study said that distraction on the road posed the greatest threat to safety. This is backed up by facts: Thousands of serious car accidents are linked every year to distracted drivers. The problem has grown exponentially since the rise of the smartphone, even though technological factors aren't the only distractions drivers face. Simple acts like eating and drinking, caring for children or pets, or putting on makeup behind the wheel can also pose a distracting threat.

In some states, distracted driving is the leading cause of fatal accidents every year, while tens of thousands of people are injured in crashes linked to texting while driving and other distractions. Even though people know that distraction can be deadly, they also tend to discount its danger when they use their own phones while behind the wheel. Despite law enforcement crackdowns and public service announcements, large numbers of drivers can be seen using their phones while operating their vehicles. Study respondents said that they tended to use their phones at least 13 minutes each day while operating their cars.

Report finds many truck crashes in oil region

Georgia truck drivers who are fatigued may be more likely to cause a crash. Two deadly truck accidents in North Dakota that occurred as a result of driver fatigue highlighted the fact that the majority of accidents in the area are in the oil region.

A bypass in the area was supposed to increase safety, but in 2017, one semi driver crossed the center line and hit another semi head-on. Both drivers died. In October 2018 near the same stretch of roadway, another semi driver went over the center line and collided head-on with a pickup truck.

Roadway hazards and distracted driving could be a disastrous mix

Unexpected dangers, which can be as mundane as another driver merging into your lane or slamming on the breaks, can be catastrophic when paired with distracted driving, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says caused almost 3,500 deaths in the United States in 2016. 

What is distracted driving?

Anything that takes your attention off the road can be a driving distraction. Some common examples include:

  • Texting or talking on the phone
  • Eating or drinking
  • Reaching for items on the floor or in the backseat
  • Adjusting the music selection or climate controls

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