May 29, 2009

Smaller, fuel-efficient cars could increase risk of traffic fatalities in Florida car accidents

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Florida injury lawyers continue to monitor moves by the federal government to increase fuel efficiency, which in the past has led to smaller cars and more traffic fatalities in Florida car accidents.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, resulted in cars that were 500 pounds lighter and 75 percent more fuel efficient by 1990 but also increased fatality rates 25 percent.

Continued research by the council concluded in 2002 that 1,300 to 2,600 additional traffic deaths occurred because of weight reductions made to comply with federal fuel-mileage standards.

President Barack Obama's announcement this month will require automakers to further increase fuel averages -- to 35.5 miles-per-gallon by 2016. The council and other safety advocates are pushing for less horsepower, which in and of itself has been shown to reduce fatalities, as a better alternative to further reductions in vehicle weight.

"The deadlines are so tight that downsizing will be a tempting compliance strategy," John Graham, a former rulemaking chief with the federal government, told the USA Today.

Safety advocates note that the mandates hit as automakers are in financial crisis.

"(If they) leave automakers the option of downsizing, clearly we're going to have some safety consequences," said Adrian Lund, the council's president, of the final rules lawmakers draft for automakers. "Smaller vehicles do not protect their occupants as well as large ones."

Florida injury lawyers
urge car owners to do their research before purchasing a new vehicle. Fuel mileage is one factor to consider but safety performance can literally be a lifesaver.

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May 27, 2009

Florida Injury Lawyers urge teenagers to accept responsibility for their safety, avoid drunk driving car accidents during graduation season

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While authorities are preaching to teens about safe driving and the perils of drunk driving, the message relies on teenagers taking responsibility for their own actions. Florida injury lawyers urge teens to do whatever they can to avoid the tragic consequences of drunk driving accidents, and car accidents this graduation season.

"Enjoy what should be a milestone accomplishment this graduation season," said Bruce L. Scheiner, founder and senior attorney at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Personal Injury Lawyers. "Do everything you can to avoid turning celebration into tragedy."

In Lee County and throughout Southwest Florida, authorities will be monitoring the road for unsafe and drunk drivers.

Lee County traffic Sgt. Dennis Petracca noted drivers below the drinking age face a 6-month license suspension if they have a blood-alcohol test of .02. The normal limit is .08.

"The number one killer of teenagers is drinking and driving and during graduation we see an increase," Petracca said. "If you get into an accident and injure or kill someone, there are lifetime consequences."

In Ocala, a mock drunk-driving accident is being staged to make teen drivers aware of the potential deadly consequences of car accidents.

Florida authorities urge parents to talk to their teens, create a code of conduct and plan their child's itinerary. But teens must also take responsibility for their own actions.

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Earlier this month following his prom, an 18-year-old Boston-area teenager allegedly guzzled 10 beers and crashed into a mother and daughter walking their dog early Saturday morning. Prom participants had been given multiple breath tests at the school-sanctioned event and had their bags checked for drugs and alcohol.

"There's not much more you can do," Paul Wetzel, a school spokesman, told the Boston Globe. "In this case, the prom was over. The school can't take them home and put them to bed."

Brenda Gellinger, of Lee County's chapter of Mother's Against Drunk Driving," said such tragedies are an all-too-common occurrence.

"Alcohol related crashes involving youth are very high around graduation time," Gellinger said. "Have a plan ahead of time so you're not just going around trying find something to do on graduation night."


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May 26, 2009

Click it or Ticket aims to reduce serious injury from car accidents as Florida's new mandatory seatbelt law begins this summer

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Southwest Florida motorists will see increased seat belt enforcement as the Florida Highway Patrol conducts special Click-It or Ticket patrols in advance of the state's new mandatory seat belt law, which begins July 1.

Florida injury lawyers remind motorists seat belt use is one aspect of a comprehensive safe-driving program that also includes avoiding distracted driving, speeding, aggressive driving and other unsafe practices that lead to serious injury or death in Florida car accidents.

The Florida Highway Patrol estimates 15,147 lives were saved in 2007 because of seat belt use and another 5,024 could have been saved. Local troopers will be dispatching extra patrols to areas with high rates of speeding, complaints, crashes and fatalities, according to a report from NBC-2.

Beginning July 1, failure to wear a seat belt will be a primary offense for which you can be stopped and ticketed. Florida's current seat belt law allows for adults to be ticketed only if they are stopped for another offense.

Both laws allow law enforcement to stop and ticket minors who are driving or riding as an unbelted passenger.

On Thursday, May 28, the Florida Department of Transportation, local law enforcement and the Fort Myers Miracle baseball team are teaming up to encourage motorists to wear their seat belt as part of the state's annual campaign to reduce traffic fatalities.

Fans at Hammond Stadium will receive promotional items and receive other information about the importance of driver education and safety.

According to Click-It or Ticket, the 1 in 5 Floridians who did not buckle up in 2007, accounted for 3 in every 5 traffic fatalities. The state's seat belt use has risen 26 percent to 81.7 percent since the campaign began in 2001 -- just shy of the national average of 82 percent.

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May 14, 2009

Florida boat accidents decline, Florida injury lawyers urge safety review during National Safe Boating Week

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As Southwest Florida boating season begins in earnest with the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, Florida injury lawyers urge safe boating practices to avoid boating accidents.

Lee County kicked off National Safe Boating Week with a demonstration of safety gear on Thursday at Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers.

Florida leads the nation in registered boats. And Lee County's 50,464 registered boaters rank it fourth in the state for the number of boats on the water. But the county's 30 percent decrease in accidents last year has area officials optimistic.

"We were blessed last year that we had a low year in the number of boating accidents but we should not get complacent," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Capt. Denis Grealish told The News-Press. "We still have a very active and busy boating county with 50,000-plus registered motorboats and 230 square miles of inside coastal waters."

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Besides Grealish's FWC law enforcement unit, Lee waters are patrolled by the U.S. Coast Guard; the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; the Lee County Sheriff's Office; the Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Sanibel police departments; and the Army Corps of Engineers at the W.P. Franklin Lock on the Caloosahatchee.

"I really have to credit the reduction to the boaters of Lee County, for exercising good safe boating practices, as well as to our Lee County Marine Law Enforcement Task Force," Grealish said.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard's 2007 statistics, 5,191 accidents caused 3,673 injuries and claimed 685 lives. Property damage was estimated at $53 million.

If you are boating on the water, the operator of your vessel has an obligation to boat responsibly, provide occupants with life vests and follow the rules of the water. And other vessels have an obligation to boat responsibly so that everyone may enjoy their time on the water.

Coast guard statistics show:
* 90 percent of drowning victims were not wearing life jackets.
* Alcohol was the leading contributor in one-fifth of all boating fatalities.
* Only 14 percent of boating fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instructions.
* The most reported type of accident is collision with another vessel. However, capsizing and falls overboard are the most reported types of fatal accidents and account for the majority (60 percent) of boating deaths.
* Operator inattention, careless/reckless operations, excessive speed and passenger/skier behavior are the leading contributors to accidents.

Boat responsibly. Wear a life jacket. Never boat under the influence. Take a boating safety course and get a free vessel check.

Continue reading "Florida boat accidents decline, Florida injury lawyers urge safety review during National Safe Boating Week" »

May 11, 2009

Florida injury lawyers urge motorists to review Top 10 lethal driving mistakes to avoid fatal car accidents, serious injury

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Florida injury lawyers is posting the Top 10 lethal driving mistakes, as compiled by MSN Autos, to remind motorists that safe driving habits are the best defense to prevent you or a loved one from being seriously injured or killed in a car accident or other traffic fatality.

Nationwide, 37,313 died in traffic crashes in 2008 -- more than 1,200 in Florida. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.

Swerving:
The No. 1 mistake drivers make is not staying in their own lane, running off the road, or drifting into another lane. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 15,000 people were killed in crashes in 2007 as a result of a driver who didn't stay in the proper lane.

Driving Drowsy: The NHTSA estimates more than 1,400 people were killed in traffic crashes in 2007 as a result of driver fatigue. Visit www.drowsydriving.org for more information.

Drinking and Driving:
Every 40 minutes someone dies in a drunk-driving accident. Young drivers ages 21 to 34 are responsible for well over half of alcohol-related fatalities. According to the NHTSA, 60 percent of drivers who died after dark in 2007 were legally drunk. Alcohol is also a factor in half of pedestrian traffic deaths -- both drivers and pedestrians are culprits.

Overcorrecting: More than 4 percent of automobile fatalities occur because of driver overcorrecting, particularly while behind the wheel of an SUV driving on the highway at high speeds.

Speeding:
Speeding is the second-highest cause of death in fatal crashes, according to the NHTSA. Thirty percent of fatalities occur at 55 mph or above. The worst case scenario is speeding without a seat belt or motorcycle helmet. Fatality rates for speeding motorcyclists are shockingly high -- 36 percent of motorcycle fatalities were caused by speed in 2007.

Failure to Yield the Right of Way: For drivers over the age of 70, failure to yield is the top cause of crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports drivers over 80 simply fail to see the vehicle, while drivers 70 to 79 misjudge the time and distance. Failure to yield the right of way was the 5th leading cause of fatal crashes in 2007.

Erratic or Reckless Driving: More than 1,850 fatalities in 2007 were the result of reckless driving, including weaving, tailgating, exceeding the speed limit by more than 20 mph or doing more than 80 mph.

Running red lights:
Three out of every four automobile accidents occur in cities -- the most common cause is hitting the gas when the light turns red.

Not Wearing a Seat Belt:
Despite the fact that wearing a seat belt is far more prevalent than even a decade ago -- not to mention legally required -- one-third of traffic fatalities result from unbuckled occupants. Without a seat belt, car drivers and passengers put themselves at risk of being ejected and 76 percent of the time ejection results in death.

Inattentive Driving:
Eating, talking on a cell phone, text messaging and fumbling with the car stereo all result in inattentive driving, which was responsible for 4,704 deaths in 2007. Talking on the cell phone has become the number one bad habit, with an estimated 1 million drivers talking on the phone at any given time and an increasing number of states, including Florida, considering outlawing the practice.

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May 7, 2009

Florida motorcycle lawyers promote message of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month to reduce motorcycle accident deaths and injury

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Florida injury lawyers urge bikers and motorists to review safe driving habits to help prevent motorcycle accidents and fatalities as Florida proclaims May to be Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

"Motorcycling is a year-round activity in Florida and Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month does not come around often enough," said Bruce L. Scheiner, founder and senior attorney at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Personal Injury Lawyers, which has been fighting for motorcycle rights and representing motorcyclists injured or killed in Florida motorcycle accidents since 1971. "Motorcycle crashes are always very serious and are most often not the fault of the biker. We urge all motorists to watch out for motorcycle riders and wish everyone a long summer of safe riding."

Research shows that motorcyclists are about 37 times more likely than a car occupant to die in a traffic crash. Between 2002 and 2007, U.S. motorcycle fatalities increased by 57 percent, from 3,276 to 5,154. There were 103,000 motorcyclists injured in 2007.

In Florida, motorcyclists account for 6 percent of the motoring public, yet account for 17 percent of all traffic fatalities.

"Motorcyclists are much more vulnerable than other motorists in the event of a crash," said Colonel Chris Knight, director of the Florida Highway Patrol. "Research shows that approximately 80 percent of motorcycle crashes injure or kill the motorcycle rider."

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Safety Tips
* Remember motorcycles are vehicles with all the rights and privileges of any vehicle on the road. Always allow a motorcycle a full lane -- never try to share a lane.
* Motorcyclists should never ride between lanes of slow moving or stopped traffic.
* Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
* Motorcyclists should assume they are invisible to other motorists and operate their motorcycle accordingly. Position yourself to be seen.
* Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging into traffic.
* Don't be fooled by flashing turn signals on any vehicle. Be aware that motorcycle signals are often not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to make sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed.
* Remember that road conditions which may be minor annoyances to passenger vehicles can pose major hazards to motorcyclists.
* Allow for sufficient following distances. When following a motorcycle, make certain the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. Never tailgate.
* Motorcyclists should know and obey traffic laws, be alert to other drivers, never drink and ride and always wear protective gear.

"All too often after a crash, the drivers of other vehicles involved say they never saw the motorcyclist and were unable to respond in time," the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said in proclaiming safety month. "This is no excuse. Too many lives are being lost. The message to all driver is: make this the first year in recent years when motorcycle fatalities do not increase. Remeber that May is Motorcycle Safety Month. Do your part -- share the road with motorcycles."

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May 6, 2009

Florida governor to sign tougher seat belt law aimed at reducing car accident injuries and fatalities

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Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed the state's tougher seat belt law during an afternoon ceremony today -- giving law enforcement permission to stop vehicles with unbelted front-seat passengers.

Florida ranks 35th in the nation in seat-belt usage. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration estimates the law will prevent 1,733 serious injury and save 124 lives on Florida roads each year. Florida injury lawyers represent hundreds of people each year who are seriously injured or killed in a car accident. We urge a comprehensive approach to safe driving as the best protection and remind motorists that even those wearing seat belts are often seriously injured or killed in Florida traffic collisions.

Current law, which passed in 1986, allows law enforcement to ticket unbelted front-seat adult occupants only after the vehicle was stopped for a moving violation. Minors can be stopped and ticketed under both the new and the old law.

The law allows for a $30 fine plus court and administrative costs.

The new law takes effect June 30 and is named after Dori Slosberg, the 14-year-old daughter of a former Boca Raton state representative killed in a car crash in 1996, and Katie Marchetti, a 16-year-old Brandon resident killed in a 2006 car crash.

NHTSA research shows 61 percent of the 1,201 people killed in automobile accidents in Florida in 2007 were not wearing seat belts.

"More than a thousand lives could have been savied if they had been wearing their seat belits," said Katie's mother, Laura Marchetti. "That's more than a thousand loved ones who are no longer here with us today ... and countless broken hearts."

Although both girls routinely wore their seat belts, they were not buckled up at the time of the fatal accidents. The Marchetti family has a website in their daughter's honor, www.katiesstory.com.

“The perseverance of former Representative Irv Slosberg and the Marchettis turned personal tragedy into a life saving initiative," said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos. "Safety is the number one priority of the Florida Department of Transportation. We know this new law will save lives and reduce serious injuries on our roadways.”

The law makes the state eligible for a one time grant of up to $35.5 million, available to states with an 85 percent seat-belt compliance rate or a primary enforcement law by June 30 of this year.

Other states with primary seat belt enforcement are: Alabama; Alaska; California; Connecticut; Delaware; Georgia; Hawaii; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Michigan; Mississippi; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; Oklahoma; Oregon; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; and Washington.

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