Archive for February, 2013

Drowsy Driving Puts Florida Motorists in Danger

When you don’t get enough sleep, you know that your reflexes slow down and that you may have a hard time paying attention. In some cases, you may even find your eyes closing involuntarily and you may struggle to stay awake and keep your head up. This is a common phenomenon that almost everyone has experienced at some point over the course of their lives. Unfortunately, a surprising number of people find themselves experiencing this fatigue when they are driving. This is extremely dangerous for the drowsy driver as well as for others on the road.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study to get a better idea of how many people are driving drowsy. Our West Palm Beach, FL accident attorneys believe that this study sheds light on an important public health problem. We urge every driver to be aware of the findings and of the risks presented by drowsy drivers and to commit to never driving when fighting fatigue.

The Widespread Dangers of Drowsy Driving

The Centers for Disease Control study was a telephone survey of 147,076 people who live across the United States. Those responding to the survey lived in a total of 19 different states as well as in Washington, D.C. Survey respondents were asked a number of questions about their sleep behavior and about their driving behavior.

The findings indicated that drowsy driving is common, and especially prevalent among certain groups. For example:

  • Of all drivers surveyed, 4.2 percent said they had fallen asleep at the wheel in the prior month before answering the survey.
  • Men were more likely to fall asleep when driving. 5.3 percent of men said they had fallen asleep when driving in the prior month as compared with only 3.2 percent of females responding to the survey.
  • Younger drivers were much more likely to fall asleep when driving as compared with drivers 65 and older. For adults ages 18-44, 4.9 percent said that they had fallen asleep in the month before responding to the survey. Only 1.7 percent of adults 65 and older said that they had fallen asleep. Among retired respondents, only 1 percent said they had dozed off.

The study results also revealed that adults who had sleep problems or insufficient sleep reported drowsy driving more frequently. This makes sense as people who frequently have their sleep interrupted or who are not able to get a full night’s sleep are much more likely to be in danger of falling asleep as they drive.

Unfortunately, for people of all age groups, drowsy driving can significantly increase the chances of becoming involved in a car wreck. Evidence suggests that a failure to get sufficient sleep can cause impairments just as severe as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This means that drowsy drivers, like drunk drivers, are a menace on the roads.

The laws, however, do not impose a widespread ban on drowsy driving. Such a ban would, unfortunately, be very difficult to enforce. Commercial drivers are limited in the number of hours they can drive in an attempt to curb drowsy driving crashes, but other drivers are simply expected to use their common sense, exercise reasonable caution and refrain from getting behind the wheel when they are too tired.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A., at (800) 608-2965 for a free and confidential consultation.

Archive for February, 2013

Florida Fair When it Comes to Traffic Safety Laws

Florida, like most states, has laws in place intended to restrict dangerous driving behavior and to make sure that drivers stay safe and keep others on the roads safe as well. Some states, however, have more laws in place to promote safe and responsible. Recently, the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety completed a state-by-state comparison of safety laws to see how each state is doing. This is the 10th annual survey of state highway safety laws. 

Our accident attorneys in West Palm Beach urge every Florida driver to take a look at the summary of safety laws. The summary can provide you with information on the safety laws you are required to obey and can give you an idea of some safety behaviors that you should practice even if the law doesn’t yet require you to do so.

Where Florida Stands on Safety Laws

Florida has been rated “yellow” by the Advocates, which means that the state has made fairly good progress as far as passing driving laws to make their roads safe. However, the yellow rating also means that the state still has quite a few improvements to make.

The Advocates summarized the different laws that exist in Florida as well as those that are lacking. For example:

  • Florida has a primary seat belt law. You do not need to be committing a traffic offense in order for law enforcement to pull you over for not wearing your seat belt.
  • Florida has no law requiring all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, so earned no credit from the Advocates on this issue.
  • Florida is also lacking in a booster seat law.
  • Florida does not have a law imposing a minimum age of 16 to obtain a license.
  • Florida does have a 6-month holding period for new teen licensees and receives credit for this.
  • Florida requires supervised drive time for new drivers and receives credit from the Advocates.
  • Florida has a law imposing restrictions on night driving for teens. However, the law is not sufficient for the state to receive credit on this issue.
  • Florida is lacking in a law restricting the number of passengers that teen drivers may have in their vehicles.
  • Florida gets credit for setting a minimum age of 18 for a new full license.
  • Florida does not require an ignition interlock device for all offenders convicted of drinking and driving.
  • Florida gets credit for having a child endangerment law for those driving drunk.
  • Florida gets credit for imposing a mandatory BAC requirement.
  • Florida gets credit for having an open container law.
  • Florida is lacking in a widespread ban on text messaging

Florida, therefore, gets credit for a total of seven safety laws. However, the state does need to impose tougher laws to, among other things, protect motorcycle riders and teen drivers and to reduce the significant risks presented by texting and driving.

Those who want to be as safe as they can when driving should make the choice to wear helmets, use booster seats, refrain from cell phone use and otherwise live up to the Advocate’s recommended safety regulations.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A., at (800) 608-2965 for a free and confidential consultation.

Archive for February, 2013

New West Palm Beach Red Light Cameras Aim to Reduce Accidents

Running a red light is very dangerous behavior. However, a recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey revealed that 38.4 percent of drivers had driven through a light that had turned red in the past month. This is almost two out of every five drivers. When a driver runs a red, he puts himself at risk of an accident, and he endangers drivers coming from the other directions or making turns. Pedestrians, who may cross the street when the light changes, are also put in danger.

It is illegal, of course, to run a red light. However, law enforcement cannot be everywhere, and too many motorists take a calculated risk to run a red if they believe they won’t get caught. To help cut down on this potentially dangerous behavior, West Palm Beach has begun to use red light cameras at certain targeted intersections. Toward the end of January, The Palm Beach Post announced that more of these cameras are now being added.

Our West Palm Beach personal injury lawyers believe these cameras are a good thing as long as they are strategically placed to curb accidents, as opposed to just raising revenue. We applaud efforts to help stop the dangerous practice of running red lights and hope these cameras can make a positive difference.

New Red Light Cameras Coming to West Palm Beach

According to the Palm Beach Post, the city’s expansion of the red light camera program is significant. The 25 new cameras will bring the total number of red light cameras to 32. They will be installed at various locations including 45th street and Military Trail,  as well as on Dixie Highway and North Congress Avenue. The cameras will target both eastbound traffic and westbound traffic.

The red light camera program has, thus far, not been as successful as hoped. A recent police report, for instance, found that the number of accidents actually doubled in areas where five of the existing seven red light cameras were located. A spokesperson for the police also indicated that it was inconclusive whether the red light cameras have reduced the total number of accidents.

However, advocates of the cameras indicate that the placement of the existing cameras was not as strategic as it should have been. The Palm Beach Post was told by the police spokesman that the new cameras are in higher traffic areas where they can hopefully do more good. Further, it was made clear that the purpose is not to raise money from the cameras, which have thus far lost money, but instead is to make the roads safer.

Past auto accident victims also spoke out to The Palm Beach Post in favor of the new red light cameras. One advocate, for example, had lost her husband to an auto accident in 2003. These victims know first hand the pain of losing a loved one or of suffering a serious and permanent injury in a crash and are in favor of any efforts – including red light cameras – that can help to improve safety and reduce the number of auto accidents that will occur.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A., at (800) 608-2965 for a free and confidential consultation.

Archive for February, 2013

What You Need to Know about Florida’s New PIP Laws

Personal injury protection (PIP) is a very important type of insurance for people throughout Florida. Personal injury protection must be purchased by drivers in the state. The insurance provides benefits in the event that you are involved in an auto accident and are injured.

Recently, however, some changes have been made to PIP laws. The changes became effective on January 1, 2013, and our West Palm Beach car accident attorneys urge everyone to be aware of the new changes and of how they affect your legal rights.

The Changes to Your Personal Injury Protection

Personal injury protection covers the cost of medical bills for drivers who are involved in an accident, regardless of who was at fault for causing the crash. You can also receive lost wages benefits through your personal injury protection coverage if you are hurt in a way that necessitates taking some time off from your job in order to recover. Many people depend upon personal injury protection to cover bills and costs that could otherwise be crippling after a serious auto accident.

As of 2013, however, the longstanding PIP law – also called Florida’s no fault law – has changed. Some of the changes include the following:

  • Your $10,000 personal injury benefits are available to you only if a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, dentist, registered nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant indicates that your injuries have created a need for immediate medical attention. A need for immediate medical attention exists only if failure to treat would cause serious impairment of your bodily functions, serious dysfunction of body parts, or serious jeopardy to your health.
  • A determination must be made within 14 days of your accident that you have an emergency medical condition. In other words, if you do not get medical help and a diagnosis of your serious injuries within 14 days from the time of the crash, you will not be able to obtain your $10,000 in benefits.
  • If it is not determined that you have an emergency medical condition that needs immediate medical attention within 14 days, then you will be limited to $2,500 in medical benefits. If you do not get any treatment within fourteen days of your accident, you will not be entitled to any personal injury/PIP medical benefits at all.
  • Chiropractors, massage therapists and other alternative medicine providers are not permitted to render an opinion on whether you are suffering from an emergency medical condition that requires immediate treatment.

It is very important to be aware of these new rules and limitations on PIP benefits. In some cases, people do not visit a hospital immediately after an accident because they do not believe that they have been seriously hurt or because they think they have only minor aches and pains that will go away on their own. If you make this decision and it later turns out that you actually have been seriously hurt, you’ll be out of luck when it comes to benefits. As such, it is VERY important that you get immediate medical help after any Florida auto accident to preserve your right to receive the insurance benefits that you pay for and deserve.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A., at (800) 608-2965 for a free and confidential consultation.