October 31, 2010

Fort Myers police warn of distracted driving dangers in an effort to reduce risk of in-season car accidents

As Fort Myers enters the winter tourist season, police have an ominous warning: When it comes to distracted driving, Fort Myers is the second-most-dangerous city of 97 cities its size in the State of Florida.

Our Fort Myers accident lawyers understand that seasonal traffic can be a real headache -- we drive in it, too. But being involved in -- or causing -- a car accident in Cape Coral or Fort Myers is far worse than waiting on a red light to cycle through a second time or spending an extra 10 minutes reaching your destination.
"Halloween is the start to a busy holiday season and tourist season," Chief Doug Baker wrote in a column published in The News-Press. "Be responsible when getting behind the wheel; give yourself extra time to reach your destination. Exercise patience and let cooler heads prevail when caught in traffic."

The Chief said the department will spend season working on education, prevention and enforcement, but motorists must do their part.

More than 5,000 car accidents were reported in Lee County last year, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Nationwide, 5,474 motorists were killed and 448,000 were injured by accidents caused by distracted drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“These numbers show that distracted driving remains an epidemic in America, and they are just the tip of the iceberg,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Only speeding and drunk driving are blamed for more traffic deaths.

Chief Baker is urging motorists to put down their cell phones and to not text while driving.

"We will continue to address issues such as red light running, occupant safety (seatbelts), aggressive and distracted driving, and driving under the influence." he said.

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October 30, 2010

Drunk driving accidents in Fort Myers and Cape Coral are a weekend holiday danger

Law enforcement agencies will be out in force this week, making sure the scariest thing about Halloween weekend isn't the other motorists on the road.

As our Fort Myers injury attorneys reported last week on our Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, the Halloween weekend is also a dangerous time for pedestrian accidents and accidents involving premise liability, including dog attacks.

But drunk driving accidents in Fort Myers remain one of the primary threats to a safe enjoyment of the weekend. And Fort Myers police and law enforcement agencies statewide will be out in force. Last year, 1,004 motorists were killed in drunk driving accidents in Florida, according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

A total of 617 drunk driving accidents in Lee County were reported, claiming 25 lives.

Statewide, troopers from the Florida Highway Patrol will join local law enforcement in a "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest" Campaign through Sunday night.

“There is not a Halloween costume clever enough to hide an impaired driver who has made the poor decision to get behind the wheel,” said FHP Director, Colonel John Czernis. “Whether you’ve had one too many or way too many it is just not worth the risk. Remember, Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving. Our troopers will be vigilant in their efforts to remove impaired drivers from our roadways.”

Fort Myers Police Chief Doug Baker said one of the department's goals remains to reduce the number of drunk driving accidents. Unfortunately, the 133 people arrested for drunk driving so far this year is 17 percent more than during the same period of time last year.

"Sadly, that slogan you may have heard on the radio and on television, “Over the Limit, Under Arrest,” hasn’t reached many drivers," Baker wrote in a News-Press column recently. "Avoid the use of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle and always make use of a designated driver if you have consumed alcohol. Don’t become a statistic; remember that the life you save may be your own!"

Safe driving tips from the Highway Patrol:

-Plan a safe way home before festivities begin.

-Designate a sober driver.

-If impaired, phone a friend, use a taxi or rely on public transportation.

-Report drunk drivers by calling *FHP (*347)

Continue reading "Drunk driving accidents in Fort Myers and Cape Coral are a weekend holiday danger" »

October 23, 2010

Fort Myers car accidents, premise liability issues a concern during Halloween

The Halloween season brings with it the increased threat of injuries resulting from premise liability issues and car accidents in Fort Myers and throughout South Florida.

Authorities will be conducting a drunk driving "Over the Limit. Under Arrest" campaign from Oct. 25 - 31, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Drunk driving was responsible for more than half of the 4,900 people killed over Halloween weekends during the last decade.
Nighttime is always a dangerous time to be on the road but Halloween night is frequently one of the deadliest nights on the road all year.

Car accidents are not the only danger during Halloween -- Issues involving premise liability in Fort Myers are commonplace. More walking dark sidewalks is done on Halloween night than all year long. Children are at increased risk of a whole host of injuries, including Fort Myers pedestrian accidents. And trick-or-treaters and/or guests or party goers can be subjected to everything from slip and fall accidents to dog attacks and swimming pool accidents.

When it comes to Halloween, pretty much anything can happen.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a fun list of safety tips that spell "Safe Halloween:"

-Swords, knives and other costume accessories should be soft and flexible.

-Avoid trick-or-treating alone.

-Fasten reflective tape to your costume to make yourself more visible to drivers.

-Examine treats for choke hazards and tampering.

-Hold a flashing so you can see and others can see you.

-Always test make-up in a small area and remove promptly to avoid irritation.

-Look both ways before crossing the street.

-Lower your risk for eye injury by not wearing costume lenses.

-Only walk on sidewalks or on the far edge of the road facing traffic.

-Wear well-fitting masks, costumes and shoes.

-Eat only factory-wrapped candy.

-Enter homes only with a trusted adult.

-Never walk near lit candles and be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

Continue reading "Fort Myers car accidents, premise liability issues a concern during Halloween" »

October 21, 2010

Cool weather means more bikers on the road - motorists encouraged to take steps to avoid Fort Myers motorcycle accidents

We've made it! The National Weather Service has called an end to the rainy season two weeks ahead of schedule, ushering in the lower humidity, more reasonable temperatures and light breezes that make October in South Florida the reason so many of us live here. The next six weeks, until the arrival of our winter friends and the start of heavy traffic and tourist season, are among the nicest weeks of the year.

Our biker friends think so, too. And October is a prime time for riding and a great time for motorists to remind themselves that the South Florida motorcycle season runs year around. In fact, most riders prefer the winter season in Florida. It's cooler and the lack of rain makes it safer. Unfortunately, motorists who fail to watch for riders are frequently responsible for causing motorcycle accidents in Fort Myers or elsewhere in South Florida.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 5,290 riders were killed in 2008 and more than 96,000 were injured. Florida motorcycle accidents accounted for 523 fatalities, or 1 in 10 fatal motorcycle accidents that occurred nationwide. Only California reported more riding deaths.

“It’s a fact that car drivers and other motorists are at fault most of the time in multiple-vehicle crashes that involve a motorcyclist,” said Tim Buche, of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. “That’s why we’ve initiated several public outreach tools specifically targeting the driving community. MSF has life-saving messages for everyone, whether they are behind a handlebar or behind a steering wheel.”

A bike event on the grounds of LaBelle's Swamp Cabbage Festival was one of the first events of the season. But bike nights in Cape Coral and Fort Myers will also be drawing riders from throughout South Florida in recent the coming weeks and months.

The following safety tips are adapted from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's "10 Things All Car, Truck and Bus Drivers Should Know about Motorcycles."

-Over half of all fatal motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle and most of the time the motorist is at fault. Drivers need to make a conscious effort to watch for riders. If in doubt of speed or distance, wait for a bike to pass instead of pulling out in front of a rider.

-Motorcycles are small and can be easily hidden in a vehicle's blind spot or by parked cars or other roadside obstructions. Always look twice for bikes, especially at intersections or when changing lanes or pulling out of a street-side parking space.

-It's tough to judge a motorcycle's speed. And a bike may look further away than it is. Predict a rider is closer than he looks.

-Motorcycles often slow down by downshifting or rolling out of the throttle -- neither of which activates brake lights. Allow more following distance and predict a motorcycle may slow without warning.

-Motorcycles often move around within a lane to avoid minor road defects or to improve vision or reduce wind, sun glare or other hazards. Never crowd a rider.

-Turn signals on motorcycles usually do not shut off on their own. Riders, particularly new or inexperienced riders, sometimes forget to shut them off. Make sure of a rider's intentions before proceeding.

-Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle's best characteristics. But don't expect a rider to always be able to dodge out of the way.

-Motorcycle's require about the same distance to stop as a passenger car -- and even more distance is required on wet or slippery roads. Don't expect a rider to be able to stop on a dime.

-See the motorcycle as a person, as its occupants are just as vulnerable.

-Motorists need to remember that motorcycle accidents typically --usually-- result in very serious or fatal injuries. Don't subject yourself to the guilt of causing a serious accident by hurrying or not watching for our riding friends on the road this winter.

October 19, 2010

Fort Myers accident attorneys encourage parents to speak with teens during Teen Driver Safety Week

Our Fort Myers personal injury lawyers encourage parents to speak with their teenagers about the importance of safe driving habits this week during National Teen Driver Safety Week (Oct. 17-24).

As we reported last week on our Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, parental involvement is critical to reducing the risk that your teenager will be involved in a serious or fatal car accident in Cape Coral or Fort Myers. The coming weeks are among the most dangerous of the year as school's celebrate homecoming, traffic gets intense with the start of tourist season, and South Florida heads into the holiday season.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that car accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers ages 15 to 20. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 2 of every 5 teenager deaths are the result of traffic accidents.

Teens have every bad driving habit in the book and are among the worst offenders when it comes to drunk driving, speeding, texting and driving, distracted driving, not wearing their seat belts, riding with too many passengers in the car, dangerous nighttime driving and driving too fast for conditions.

In fact, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports that 1 in 5 16-year-old drivers will be involved in an accident.

The Florida Drive with Care program is encouraging awareness by urging everyone to wear a white shirt on Oct. 19 to "White Out Teen Crashes."

Driving tips for teenagers adapted from the department of motor vehicles:

-Wear your seat belt.

-Adjust mirrors, seat, radio and climate control before moving.

-Make complete stops at stop signs and red lights. Avoid jamming on the brakes. When stopping behind another vehicle, stay far enough back that you can see its rear tires.

-Look left, right, straight, left before proceeding from a stop. Look left first and last because that is the direction of oncoming traffic.

-Do not rely on mirrors when backing up. Make visual checks in all directions to make sure your path is clear.

-Remain 15 feet away from trucks on all sides. If you cannot see a truck's rearview mirrors, the driver cannot see you.

-Don't speed. The chance of death or serious injury doubles for every 10 mph you travel over 50 mph.

Click here for additional tips on dangerous driving distractions, night driving and driving in bad weather. Here you will find a safe driving contract for your Florida teenager.

Continue reading "Fort Myers accident attorneys encourage parents to speak with teens during Teen Driver Safety Week" »

October 16, 2010

Cape's commitment to DUI checkpoints saves lives and reduces drunk driving accidents

Our injury attorneys in Cape Coral and Fort Myers were glad to hear that sobriety checkpoints will continue in the Cape despite a loss of grant funding.

For years, Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, have supported sobriety checkpoints conducted in Fort Myers, Cape Coral and by the Lee County Sheriff's Office. Our attorneys have spent evenings on the scene. And we have been invited to ride with the Wolf Packs -- roving saturation patrols of officers looking to take drunk drivers off the street. And we are proud supporters of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Mobile Eyes, which offers cash rewards to motorists who report drunk drivers.
Some of the most tragic cases we have handled as a firm have involved drunk driving accidents in Cape Coral and Fort Myers or traffic accidents caused by intoxicated drivers elsewhere in South Florida.

Nationwide, one-third of all fatal accidents involve a drunk driver, claiming 11,773 lives in 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In other words, somewhere in America an innocent motorist is killed by a drunk driver every 45 minutes. Florida drunk driving accidents accounted for 1,041 of the state's 2,978 traffic deaths that year.

Rarely, does a week go by where a tragedy caused by drunk driving does not make the newspaper. On Sept. 25, the News-Press reported the arrest of a 22-year-old North Fort Myers man on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide in connection with a June 11 Cape Coral car accident that claimed the life of his girlfriend. He faces 20 years in prison if convicted. The media reports the couple had been swimming and he was arguing with her about getting the seats wet in his 1992 Nissan Sentra when he slammed head-on into a tree.

Unfortunately, when times get lean, there is often a temptation to do away with proactive law enforcement measures such as DUI checkpoints. And the News-Press reports that the drop in grant funding led to fewer checkpoints and fewer arrests for DUI in recent months. But police have committed to continuing with them despite the lack of grant revenue and overtime cutbacks. And for that, we are all safer.

October 15, 2010

Many Fort Myers car accidents caused by distraction -- But how bad is the text messaging issue?

We all know cell phones can be a hazard behind the wheel. And the government's push to ban drivers from text messaging has reached a fevered pitch this year. But now the USA Today reports that the emphasis on texting could be taking the focus off the many other forms of distracted driving that commonly result in serious or fatal car accidents in Fort Myers and throughout the nation.

And, ironically, laws against texting and driving may be exacerbating the problem; our Fort Myers accident attorneys reported last week on our Florida Injury Lawyer Blog that some states have seen an increase in such accidents since banning text messaging. Drivers attempting to hide their activities, and thereby taking their eyes off the road for longer periods of time, could be responsible.
Meanwhile, the many other forms of distracted driving are rarely mentioned. "I don't think we've made nearly as much progress in those other areas of distracted driving," says Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported last month that 5,474 people were killed and 448,000 were injured in accidents caused by distracted driving. Only speeding and drunk driving are blamed for more deaths. And, while traffic fatalities have been in decline nationwide, the number of accidents blamed on distracted driving has climbed 25 percent in the last five years, from 4,472 in 2005 to 5,474 last year.

But nobody really knows how many of those accidents are caused by cell phone use or text messaging. The USA Today reported that the federal government blames cell phones for just 18 percent of the fatalities and 5 percent of the injuries associated with distracted driving. However, the Chicago Tribune reported that a study from the University of North Texas found that two-thirds of distracted driving accidents were blamed on text messaging. Researchers there contend that 16,141 people died in accidents caused by a text messaging driver between 2002 and 2007. Without text messaging, an average of 1,925 deaths a year would have been caused by distracted driving, compared to the 5,988 deaths in 2007 that were blamed on distracted driving once text messaging was included.

Part of the problem is that there is no nationwide system of reporting distracted driving accidents and many state and local governments do not report distractions or their causes at the scene of a crash.

Other common forms of distracted driving include eating, drinking, smoking, grooming, using in-car electronics, talking to passengers and external distractions. The NHTSA lists a wide range of common distractions in its most recent annual report, including:

-Adjusting climate controls or the radio.
-Reaching for something inside the vehicle.
-Distraction by outside person, object or event.
-Driver lost in thought.
-Reading, including maps.
-Looking at previous crash.
-Looking for an address, business, person or building.

Continue reading "Many Fort Myers car accidents caused by distraction -- But how bad is the text messaging issue?" »

October 14, 2010

Parental involvement critical in reducing the risk of car accidents involving teenagers

Parents can go a long way toward helping teenagers avoid a car accidents in Cape Coral or Fort Myers by spending more time with them during the driver's education process, according to the results of a new Study by the AAA Foundation for Highway Safety.

More than a year ago, our Cape Coral Accident attorneys reported the dangers on our Florida Injury Lawyer Blog after an insurance study found Cape Coral the deadliest city of its size in American for teen car accidents.

The New York Times reports that most teens are allowed to get driver's licenses despite exhibiting a need for extra training behind the wheel -- particularly when it comes to challenging driving situations like night driving, driving in heavy traffic or driving in heavy rain or bad weather.

“One of the best things parents can do to reduce the risk is to spend as much time as possible with their children to provide guidance driving in a variety of situations so they can gain experience and competence,” said Peter Kissinger, chief executive of the foundation. “If they do, it will have a significant impact on the teenager’s later driving experience.”

Nearly half of all parents said they had concerns about a teen's abilities in one or more areas but one-third permitted teenagers to get their license within a month of becoming eligible. The study, which is one of the first to be conducted on the interaction between parent and child during the driver's education process, also found significant differences in the amount of time parents spent helping their children learn to drive.

Nationwide, car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers ages 15 to 20, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2008, a total of 6,428 motorists were killed in accidents involving teen drivers. Almost 10 percent of those deaths --516-- occurred right here in Florida. Only California and Texas reported more fatal car accidents involving teen drivers.

The National Safety Council noted that the need for training does not stop when a teen receives his or her license; the first year is particularly critical. “If they knew the risk, they would take a much more active role,” said the NSC's David Teater, of the parents of young drivers.

October 10, 2010

Buying a car with a good safety rating can help keep you safe in the event of a South Florida car accident

Today's new cars are safer than ever before. But some cars remain safer than others and what you drive can have a significant impact on the safety of you and your family in the event of a serious car accident in Cape Coral, Fort Myers or the surrounding area.

Our Cape Coral personal injury lawyers want you to know about an improved government rating system and encourage you to make it part of your review process when considering the purchase of a new vehicle.
For the first time, the government's 5-Star Safety Ratings System includes an overall vehicle rating. New, more rigorous crash tests are also performed using female crash-test dummies, in addition to the standard male test-dummies that have been in use for years.

“More stars equal safer cars,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “With our upgraded Five-Star Safety Ratings System, we’re raising the bar on safety. Through new tests, better crash data, and higher standards, we are making the safety ratings tougher and more meaningful for consumers.”

It's no secret that some vehicles are safer than others. We have all seen some of the new subcompact vehicles hitting the road and certainly potential buyers will want to review safety ratings before making a purchase. But the well-publicized rollover dangers of some SUVs and the Toyota recalls of the last year prove that no vehicle is immune from vehicle defects or poor safety ratings.

“We want consumers to embrace these new safety technologies as a way to make vehicles safer,” said National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland. “We believe electronic stability control, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning offer significant safety benefits and consumers should consider them when buying a new car.”

And the good news is you do not have to pay a fortune for the added protection of a safer car: The BMW 5 series earned the best "5-star" rating but so did the modestly priced Hyundai Sonata.

Safety ratings for new and used cars are available here.

October 9, 2010

Florida's lack of texting ban for drivers may not be increasing risk of distracted driving car accidents

In a bizarre twist, a new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found that laws aimed at preventing drivers from text messaging may actually be increasing the risk of distracted driving car accidents.

As our Fort Myers accident attorneys reported last week on our Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, Florida has been chastised for being one of a dwindling number of states without a law that prohibits drivers from text messaging while behind the wheel.
The report, which was sponsored by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, examined statistics in four states with text-messaging bans and compared them to four states that have not prohibited drivers from text messaging.

"In a perverse twist, crashes increased in 3 of the 4 states we studied after bans were enacted," says Adrian Lund, president of both HLDI and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "It's an indication that texting bans might even increase the risk of texting for drivers who continue to do so despite the laws."

Like speeders who still speed, the study's authors believe texting bans could be increasing accidents as drivers attempt to do a better job of hiding their activities.

"If drivers were disregarding the bans, then the crash patterns should have remained steady," Lund said. "So clearly drivers did respond to the bans somehow, and what they might have been doing was moving their phones down and out of sight when they texted, in recognition that what they were doing was illegal. This could exacerbate the risk of texting by taking drivers' eyes further from the road and for a longer time."

The effectiveness of the laws is an important question as the federal government and safety advocates continue to push text messaging bans and hand-held cell phones bans as a way to reduce the risk of serious and fatal car accidents. Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 5,474 motorists were killed and about 450,000 were injured in car accidents caused by distracted driving.

The IIHS was quick to caution that the report's findings do not indicate that there is not significant risk associated with texting or using a cell phone while driving.

"There's a crash risk associated with doing this. It's just that bans aren't reducing this crash risk," Lund said. "The point of texting bans is to reduce crashes, and by this essential measure the laws are ineffective."

October 8, 2010

Help law enforcement locate family following South Florida car accident -- add emergency information to statewide database

If there is one thing our Fort Myers accident attorneys could encourage you to do this week, it would be to sign up for the state's emergency contact registry so that your loved ones can be notified in a timely fashion in the event that you are involved in a serious Fort Myers car accident or a traffic accident elsewhere in Florida.
This week -- October 3 to October 9 -- has been declared Register Your Emergency Contact Information Week, though motorists can register at anytime throughout the year. Your information can be accessed only by law enforcement officers looking to contact you in case of emergency. The program was introduced four years ago and we have blogged about it before here on our South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog.

“While the steady rise in ECI registrants is encouraging, it represents only a small portion of Florida’s driving population,” said DHSMV Executive Director Julie L. Jones. “Everyone with a Florida driver license or ID card should register their emergency contacts with us, either in an office or online. This will help our law enforcement officers identify who to notify when every second counts.”

You can click here to register your emergency contact information online.

Christine Olson learned of the tragic need for a statewide emergency contact resource when her daughter was killed in a Florida motorcycle accident in 2005. It took authorities more than six hours to notify the family. She worked with state lawmakers to establish and promote the database and has since founded "To Inform Families First" an organization dedicated to establishing up-to-date contact information in the event of an emergency. So far, more than 3 million motorists have registered and the database has been used more than 600,000 times.

You never know when you or a family member will be involved in a traffic accident. Last year, more than 640 traffic crashes a day were reported in Florida, injuring almost 200,000 people and claiming 2,563 lives, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Help law enforcement notify your family in an emergency and participate in this important effort.

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