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Albuquerque New Mexico Personal Injury Law Blog

Motor vehicle fatalities down, but deaths rise for trucks

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released figures for fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2017. In 2015 and 2016, fatalities rose, but it appears that trend began to reverse in 2017. However, based on the report, people in New Mexico may be safer from fatal crashes in rural areas than urban ones. This is a departure from 2015 and earlier years when there were more fatal motor vehicle accidents in rural locations.

In 2017, crashes were down about 2 percent, but in several categories, they went up. In SUVs, fatalities were up 3 percent. For tractor-trailer crashes, deaths were up almost 6 percent, and in large straight truck accidents, fatalities were up more than 18 percent. Not all of the large truck accidents were commercial vehicles. All trucks that weigh over 10,000 pounds are included in this classification, so this includes vehicles such as dual-wheeled pickups.

Study raises concerns about autonomous vehicle safety systems

Research suggests that sophisticated driver assistance technology could reduce road deaths by up to 30 percent and prevent 40 percent of all crashes, but a study released by AAA reveals that theses safety gains may come at a cost. The organization's Foundation for Traffic Safety polled 1,200 drivers who bought 2016 or 2017 model cars or SUVs equipped with features like adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking systems. They found that motorists in New Mexico and around the country were more likely to act recklessly while behind the wheel because they believe these features are more capable than they actually are.

AAA researchers say that they found a worrying lack of awareness among drivers about the limitations of accident avoidance systems. Even the latest semi-autonomous vehicle technology requires drivers to remain alert and vigilant at all times, but almost a third of the poll's respondents told researchers that they sometimes take their focus off driving and attend to other tasks while their adaptive cruise control systems are in use.

When an ATV driver causes an accident

All-terrain vehicles, otherwise known as ATVs, are motorized vehicles typically used on off-road trails as a leisure or vacation activity. However, reaching speeds up to 35 miles per hour, these vehicles can quickly become deadly.

In 2015, there were around 660 ATV-related deaths, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. If you or your child has been injured in an ATV accident or if you or a neighbor own ATVs, it’s important to know the legal repercussions for causing an accident.

Smartphone-distracted workers may pose accident risk

Distracted driving presents a major threat to life and safety on New Mexico roads. When people pay attention to their phones rather than the road, the consequences can be severe, not only for themselves, but also for other people driving or walking nearby. While many people associate distracted driving with teens texting, the complicated reality is that people of all ages and levels of driving experience can be distracted and may pose a threat to others. One study by Motus looked at how the connected mobile workforce can contribute to distracted driving dangers. An increasing number of mobile workers are connected to their jobs through smartphones, and this has been accompanied by growth in motor vehicle accidents as well.

In 2013, 55 percent of mobile workers owned a smartphone. Four years later, in 2017, 77 percent had one. During that same period, car accident numbers grew 12.3 percent from 5.7 million to 6.4 million. Distraction has always been a concern for workers who spend many hours behind the wheel. However, these connected mobile workers, with strong expectations of a swift response to emails and other online workplace communications, also drive far more than other Americans.

What to do when hydroplaning

June through September is generally considered the rainy season in New Mexico and much of the United States. One of the biggest risks to drivers during a rain event is hydroplaning. This occurs when the car loses control while on a wet road because the tires are making contact with water instead of the road itself. In some cases, oil on the surface can mix with the rain to create a slippery mixture that can make gaining traction difficult.

This oil and water mix generally occurs during the few first minutes of a rain event. However, after a few minutes, the oil is generally washed away by the rain. Those who are driving a vehicle that is hydroplaning should resist the urge to use the brakes. Doing so could result in an even greater loss of control. Instead, it is better to steer into the skid.

Visiting hospital could help teens understand driving risks

Many New Mexico parents worry that their teens may not take the dangers of risky driving seriously enough. A new study shows that having teen drivers take a supplemental drivers' education program that includes visits to hospitals or morgues could help them better understand the consequences of their actions.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Baylor University, involved 21 teen drivers who attended the Texas Reality Education for Drivers, or RED, program. The participants were all referred to the program by a court, school or community group or enrolled by a parent. During the six-hour course, the teens were given lectures and videos that encouraged safe driving techniques. They were also taken to a hospital where nurses and other health care professionals explained their experiences with car crash victims.

Car crash fatalities still high despite new safety tech

New Mexico residents should know that despite advances in safety technology, car accident rates are still at an all-time high. According to preliminary figures from the National Safety Council, the U.S. may soon be recording more than 40,000 car crash fatalities for the third year in a row. However, it appears that a plateau effect has been achieved compared to the sharp increases seen in the previous two years.

According to the NSC, 18,720 people died on America's roads between January and June of 2018. This figure represents 50 fewer deaths than the first six months of 2017. Experts say that several factors contribute to the high numbers, particularly negligent or reckless behaviors like distracted driving, speeding, seat belt neglect and drug- and alcohol-impaired driving.

Human Rights Watch reports misuse of drugs at nursing homes

Families in New Mexico place their elderly loved ones in nursing homes with the expectation that residents will receive compassionate care. Unfortunately, abuse of residents is widespread in regards to dosing people inappropriately with antipsychotic drugs according to a report from Human Rights Watch. The practice is especially widespread among people with dementia despite a strong Food and Drug Administration warning against the practice. The drugs act as chemical restraints to subdue people that nursing home employees find difficult to manage.

The report from Human Rights Watch gathered information from government data and interviews with staff, residents and family members. The organization estimated that about 179,000 people on any given week receive these drugs without a diagnosis that would warrant the medication. Frequently, staff members give the drugs without gaining informed consent from residents or their relatives.

Rural traffic roundabouts may reduce car accident risks

After a car accident in North Carolina involving a fatal collision at a busy rural intersection with a stop sign, vegetation was cleared away, and signs pointing out the upcoming stop sign were posted. Serious accidents continued to occur. The stop sign was then replaced with a traffic circle referred to as a roundabout that allows traffic to flow nearly continuously in the same direction around an island in the center. It's a solution that may help reduce the seriousness of injuries and the risk of fatalities in rural parts of New Mexico.

Roundabouts don't necessarily reduce the number of car accidents. They do, however, eliminate the need for a driver to take a "best guess" when it comes to determining if there's enough time to make it through an intersection. With a roundabout, drivers simply have to glance to their left to look for other drivers. While it can cost about a million dollars to build one of these structures, it's estimated that they could save twice that amount in reduced injury and accident expenses.

Driving drowsy is both dangerous and prevalent

The American Sleep Foundation has reported that approximately half of the drivers in New Mexico and across the U.S. say they have consistently driven while they felt drowsy. Drowsy driving causes effects that are similar to drunk driving, including reduced reaction speeds. The Governors Highway Safety Association estimated that 5,000 people died on U.S. roadways in 2015 due to drowsy driving.

Drivers may not be aware that they are tired because the signs of fatigue are subtle. People who have been awake for more than 20 hours, though, may be impaired behind the wheel as much as a driver with a .08 percent blood alcohol concentration, which is the legal limit in New Mexico.

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