What to Do After a Motorcycle Accident

Advice, the saying goes, is cheap. And there is no shortage of advice on the internet about what to do after you get into a motor vehicle accident. You’ll find some of that type of advice here on our blog, in fact.

A significant amount of the advice you’ll find by Googling “what should I do after an accident?” recites a basic formula: call 911, see a doctor, be wary of insurance adjusters, consult with an attorney, and so on. And, in fairness, that is usually pretty solid advice. But when it comes to a motorcycle accident, it’s also perhaps a tad simplistic.

In this blog post, we aim to dive deeper into the post-accident-advice-giving genre and walk you, step by step, through some of the significant decisions you might face after a motorcycle accident disrupts your life. We will focus specifically on steps you can take as someone whose loved one suffered serious injuries in this type of accident, because the reality is that motorcycle accidents often put motorcycle riders and passengers out of commission and unable to tackle many of the tasks below.

A Common Motorcycle Accident Scenario

Your loved one was riding his motorcycle on the road next to a busy shopping center on a clear day, observing the 35 miles per hour speed limit in that part of town. Without warning, a car driven by a teenager who was texting violated his right of way by turning left across his path toward the shopping center entrance. Your loved one applied his brakes but he couldn’t avoid colliding with the side of the car. The accident is 100 percent the teen driver’s fault. Fortunately, her parents carry ample insurance.

The force of the collision threw your loved one over the roof of the car and onto the street. Luckily he was wearing his helmet or he would have been killed instantly. As it is, he suffered a severe concussion. But that’s not the worst of his injuries. He landed extremely awkwardly on the road. The impact with the road surface shattered his pelvis and broke his arm in multiple places. He has lacerations and abrasions, and when he’s admitted to the hospital doctors discover damage to his liver and spleen that are causing internal bleeding. These are typical motorcycle accident injuries.

The medical team stabilizes him, but they tell you he faces a long stay in the hospital and an extremely painful and lengthy course of rehabilitation. He’ll be out of his job as a roofer for months, and may never recover the mobility and balance he needs to navigate ladders and rooftops safely. He was relatively healthy until now, so he carried minimal health insurance with a high deductible to save money. The collision more or less destroyed his motorcycle.

The accident is going to cause your loved one and your family extreme physical, emotional, and financial pain. What should you do?

Get Appropriate Medical Care

The first piece of advice you see in any blog post like this is one we are going to repeat, because it’s indisputably accurate. The first thing your loved one should do, and that you should do for your loved one, is to ensure he gets appropriate medical care. For now, let the hospital deal with billing your health insurance company. Just make sure your loved one is stabilized and on the path to recovery. Nothing is more important for him, for you, or for your family than to do everything you can to give him the best chance of making a “full” recovery, however long that might take.

Preserve the Motorcycle

We’re still talking about what to do in the first hours after an accident, here. The next thing it is absolutely essential for you to do, right away, is to figure out where your loved one’s motorcycle is and to take possession of it. Do this as soon as possible. Do not let a towing company or clean up crew throw the bike away. Do not let someone try to fix it, and don’t try to fix it yourself. Collect the bike and (if possible) any parts that came off of it in the accident, no matter how small, and put all of them in a dry, safe place, like a garage. Then, do not touch them.

At every phase of this process, take pictures with your phone to document the exact condition of the bike and what you are doing with it. Imagine you are a character on one of those crime scene investigation TV shows. Take a picture of everything.

Why is this so important? Well, just like the characters on TV, you are preserving one of the most critical pieces of evidence of your loved one’s accident. What happens to the other vehicle—the car he collided with—is out of your control for the moment. But by preserving his bike and its parts in exactly the condition it was after the accident you can help him and (eventually) his lawyer eliminate the chance that someone will claim the accident was your loved one’s fault.

Contact Your Insurance Companies to Give Them a Head’s Up

It is usually a good idea to call your insurance companies (motorcycle and health) soon after an accident to let them know what has happened. If your loved one carries long-term disability insurance, like AFLAC, call that company, too. In these phone calls, do not try to characterize fault in the accident or go into detail about what you think happened. Just giving them a head’s up is all you typically need to do to fulfill your obligations as a policyholder (or as the representative of the policyholder). Do not agree to any interviews or to share any evidence with the insurance company, at least not yet. If they press you about this, tell them you are going to need to talk to a lawyer first and set a date to follow up with them.

Call Your Loved One’s Employer/Coworkers

Someone will need to tell your loved one’s employer and/or co-workers about the accident. Treat this conversation like the call with the insurance companies. Let them know what happened, but do not share more detail than is necessary to cover for your loved one until he is well enough to speak with them himself. If you need to make arrangements to make sure someone fills in for your loved one on a job, do that right away. The goal is to try to minimize the impact on others so that people remember those efforts when your loved one is ready to return to work.

Do a Quick Review of Your Finances

Figure out what the expected period of time your loved one will not be not working is going to cost your family. Identify how much money you need every month to stay afloat financially. Determine whether anyone can help pick up the loss of his income, whether by getting another job or seeking a loan from family or friends. Your aim should be to have as clear a picture as possible of how long you can hold out without your loved one’s income. This information is important. It helps you focus on what you need to accomplish to avoid the worst financial damage. And it can help your attorney to plan a legal strategy and to calculate potential damages you might recover.

Set up a File for Records

You are going to start receiving lots of records from insurance companies and medical providers. Try to keep all of them together in a file so that when anyone asks for them—especially your lawyer—you have them all on hand. These records document the precise nature and extent of your loved one’s injuries, and the out-of-pocket medical costs you have incurred. They will be critical to proving the amount of damages your loved one can seek to recover.

Take Care of Yourself

It is incredibly stressful to deal with the sudden shock of a loved one getting seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. To survive this moment of your life, it is important to care for yourself when you can. Do simple things like taking a daily vitamin and trying to exercise. Eat healthy foods. It might be hard to sleep, but do your best to get some rest. Let friends and family who care about you do their part to help out. Remember: being strong for your loved one as he recovers does not mean hurting yourself in the process.

Sit Down With an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Attorney

Motorcycle Accident Lawyers WAOnce your loved one’s health has stabilized and you have a reasonable sense of his outlook for recovery, and you have taken the other steps above to stabilize your own situation, schedule a free consultation with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney. If possible, bring your injured loved one along, or schedule the meeting at the hospital. The purpose of this meeting is to start the ball rolling on protecting your loved one’s, and your own, legal rights to compensation from the teen driver’s insurance, and potentially from others.

Think of a lawyer as a person who can take some of the burden off of your shoulders. You and your injured loved one need to focus on getting his health back and returning to living a “normal” life. Your lawyer helps you do that by taking over the process of gathering information and using it to convince insurance companies and others to pay your loved one the damages he deserves.

In a nutshell, an attorney can:

  • Gather any additional evidence that’s available to help understand and explain how the accident happened and who was at fault;
  • Identify all parties who have potential “legal liability” to your loved one for damages. In the scenario above, this will certainly include the teen driver’s parents’ insurance. But it is always possible that there are others whose actions may have contributed to the accident. Your lawyer’s goal is to find as many potential sources of payment for your loved one’s injuries as possible, to give him the best chance of recovering every penny he deserves.
  • “Demand” payment from those parties, and engage in negotiations with them or their attorneys to try to achieve a “settlement” that pays your loved one an appropriate amount of money.
  • Take legal action if those negotiations do not bear fruit, which may include taking your loved one’s case to trial in Washington State courts.

The sooner you reach out to an attorney, the better your attorney’s opportunity will be to make the most of these steps and to obtain the maximum recovery available under Washington law.

Focus on the Positive

While your attorney works, try to focus on the positives of your situation. Your loved one survived a type of accident that many do not. By choosing the right attorney, you are in good hands. Life is going to get back to “normal.” It’s going to be okay.

Do Your Part to Educate Others

Finally, here at Boohoff Law we are constantly amazed and inspired by our clients when they use their own personal difficulties and tragedies as a way to help others avoid the same outcomes. People like you who have been through trials and tribulations can do an enormous amount of good by helping others understand how to stay safe on the roads.

Of course, none of us can predict if or when a disaster may strike while we’re out riding a motorcycle. The scenario above is one of a host of typical ways a motorcycle accident can happen. But even though we can’t avoid random accidents, we can educate ourselves and others about riding safely and about how to respond if the worst happens. The knowledge and insight we gain by doing so gives us the best possible chance of coming away from a frightening, potentially devastating experience with our lives renewed.

To learn more about your rights after a Washington State motorcycle accident, contact an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer.

What Happens in a Tire Blowout Accident?

Tire blowouts often happen in the blink of an eye. One moment, you are cruising calmly down the road, surrounded by other drivers equally committed to reaching their destinations. The next, a car spins out of control. With one tire missing, the vehicle might swing wildly through traffic and cause a car crash, difficult or even impossible to control, especially in the hands of an inexperienced driver.

Common Causes of Tire Blowout Accidents

Blowouts can happen to any tire. However, several common causes can add up to increased odds of a tire blowout, including:

  • Impact damage. Running over something on the road, even if you do not notice it at the time, can cause a tire to blow out. Sometimes, the blowout occurs immediately, as your tire strikes debris in the road. Other times, you may bump over an item in the road and think the vehicle suffered no damage, only to discover a mile or two down the road that your vehicle suffered more serious damage than you initially thought.
  • Old, worn out tires. Tires, like every other part of your vehicle, wear down. Your tires take a lot of abuse from the road. Over time, the rubber wears down, which means it can no longer expand and contract appropriately when temperature and pressure change. Worn tires have a much higher risk of blowout than new, fresh tires with deep treads and no damage.
  • Small punctures. Sometimes small punctures, including those from nails or rocks, can create a serious risk of tire blowout. These small punctures can cause air to drain out of the tire, often so slowly that the driver fails to notice it. When the driver hits higher rates of speed on the road, this can lead to a buildup of pressure that in turn leads to a blowout.
  • Overloaded vehicles. Vehicles carrying too much weight have an increased risk of a tire blowout. This includes vehicles carrying both too much passenger weight and too much cargo. Drivers of small pickup trucks, for example, may choose to overload their vehicles to transport cargo in the truck bed, which can put too much pressure on the tires, especially if the driver has allowed the tires to wear down.
  • Potholes. Like other hazards on the road, potholes can cause serious damage to a vehicle’s tires. Driving over a pothole can cause the tire to expand and contract rapidly, which can increase the risk of a blowout.

What Happens During a Tire Blowout?

During a tire blowout, the vehicle may slow abruptly, since the blown-out tire cannot continue rolling normally. Many drivers find that the vehicle pulls strongly to one side depending on which tire burst. In larger vehicles or vehicles carrying substantial weight, drivers may have particular difficulty moving the vehicle safely off the road. The driver may also struggle to control the vehicle, since steering will change as a result of the accident.

Tire blowouts may cause single-car accidents as the driver struggles to move the vehicle safely off the road, or they may cause multi-car accidents, especially on busy roads or at high speeds. Often, the driver with the blowout will struggle to safely maneuver the car. A driver following too closely behind that vehicle may be unable to stop fast enough to avoid a collision. In other cases, the driver with the blown-out tire may strike another vehicle while struggling to control their car.

What Does an Insurance Company Cover in a Tire Blowout Accident?

Traffic Accident Attorneys SeattleTypically, insurance companies will not pay to have a tire replaced after a blowout accident. Most insurance companies consider tire maintenance a normal part of maintaining a car. If your tire blows out on the road, your insurance company likely will not pay to fix it. Your insurance company may, however, pay for several other things related to the accident, such as:

  • Towing services. Many insurance companies offer payment for towing services, which will make it possible for you to take your car somewhere to repair the tire. Towing your car can prevent you from having to replace the tire on the side of the road. In some cases, the car has suffered additional damage that needs repairing, as well.
  • Damage to other parties’ vehicles. If your tire blowout causes an accident with another vehicle, your liability coverage will cover any damage to the other party’s vehicle. This coverage will fall within the normal limits of your policy. In Washington, this means a minimum of $10,000 of coverage for property damage in a single accident.
  • Injuries to other parties. Tire blowout accidents can cause serious injuries to other parties who share the road with you. As your vehicle spins out of control, you may accidentally strike pedestrians, cyclists, bikers, or other vehicles. When you cause serious injury, your car insurance company will usually cover those injuries to another party. This includes a minimum of $25,000 of coverage for a single individual injured in an accident, or, according to Washington law, a minimum of $50,000 of coverage for all parties injured in an accident.
  • Damage to your vehicle. Do you carry comprehensive insurance coverage on your vehicle? If so, your insurance company may cover any damage sustained to your vehicle in the accident. While your insurance company will not pay to replace the tire itself, it may offer coverage that will help take care of, for example, damage from your vehicle striking a telephone pole or guard rail that you collided with after your tire blew out. Comprehensive coverage can help you repair any damage your vehicle suffers outside the damage to the tire itself.

If you suffered injuries in an accident due to someone else’s tire blowout, you may have the right to seek compensation for those injuries. The other person’s insurance company will likely cover damages to your vehicle as well as offering compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages at work.

You may, however, need to file a claim with the insurance company and if that fails to work, you may need to file a lawsuit. A motor vehicle accident lawyer can help you do both of those things. By hiring a lawyer to file the claim, you’ll make sure everything is correctly done, while the insurance company will know it can’t push you around and has to take your claim more seriously.

Decreasing Your Risk of a Tire Blowout

To keep yourself, your passengers, and others on the road with you safe, follow these steps to decrease your risk of a tire blowout accident:

  1. Replace your tires when needed. Check your tires regularly—every time you put gas in your vehicle, for example. Walk around your vehicle and check all four tires. A problem with your suspension or your car’s alignment can cause tires to wear unevenly, so the knowledge that one tire looks fine does not necessarily tell you that they have all worn out at the same rate. Try the penny trick: if you put a penny in the tread of the tire with Lincoln’s head pointing down, you should not see the top of Lincoln’s head. If the tread wears down further than that point, it is time to replace your tires.
  2. Follow the rules of the road. Pay particular attention to speed limits, especially when driving through unfamiliar areas. Drop your speed in residential areas and around construction, where increased hazards can cause problems for your vehicle’s tires. Slower rates of speed can help protect your tires, especially if you need to drive over potholes or around construction hazards.
  3. Get a good idea of what weight your vehicle can handle. Check your owner’s manual or contact your vehicle manufacturer, especially if you regularly use your vehicle to haul heavy loads. You want to have a good idea of exactly how much pressure your tires can handle before increasing blowout risk.
  4. Keep your tires properly inflated. Get in the habit of checking your tire pressure regularly, especially during changes in the weather, which can lead to underinflated or overinflated tires. Both under- and overinflation can increase the risk of a blowout. Check your owner’s manual to get a better idea of exactly what your tire pressure should be. Many facilities that offer oil changes will also check your tire pressure and air them up for free if needed. If you notice that you regularly need to reinflate your tires or that your tire pressure drops rapidly for no reason, you may want to check your tire for nails, small punctures, or leaks. Patch and repair your tire or, if needed, replace it as soon as possible. Slow pressure leaks can cause just as much danger as a quick puncture.
  5. Pay attention to the road around you. If you travel at a safe rate of speed and maintain an appropriate following distance from vehicles in front of you, even if you do suffer a tire blowout, you should have plenty of time to slow down and get your vehicle off the road safely. If you choose to travel at unsafe rates of speed or to weave in and out of traffic, on the other hand, a tire blowout can cause a catastrophic accident. Paying attention to the road can also help you avoid potholes and give you a good idea of where to stop your car in the event of an accident. Keeping your eyes on the road can help keep you safe even if you do suffer a tire blowout.

If you suffered injuries in a tire blowout accident, you may need an attorney to help negotiate with the other party’s insurance company on your behalf. Contact an attorney as soon after the accident as possible so that you can start seeking the help you need and the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

Truckers Must Pay Attention to Their Blind Spots

Truck drivers operate large, ungainly vehicles. Of the many hazards that come with driving a big rig—and there are a lot of them—blind spots pose one of the toughest challenges for truckers. It takes constant vigilance to monitor vehicles of all sizes, from other large trucks to motorcyclists, passing through or riding in a big rig’s blind spots. Truckers know that one missed vehicle, one moment of inattention, can lead to tragedy.

But truckers are only human. The physical and mental demands of trucking take a toll on their attention and focus. They make mistakes and can cause trucking accidents with deadly consequences.

In this blog post, we explore the importance of truckers paying attention to their blind spots. We look at the dangers of truck blind spots, how truckers get educated about checking their blind spots, technologies available to assist truckers in avoiding blind spot accidents, and how anyone who shares the road with a big rig can protect themselves against blind spot accidents.

Truck Blind Spots: A Large and Constant Hazard

Let’s start by taking a look at the dimensions of the typical big rig’s blind spots, with help from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

A Four-Sided Problem

Many people do not realize it, but big rigs have blind spots all around them, and they’re very difficult to monitor.

As drivers of ordinary passenger vehicles, we think of “blind spots” as that area you can check by glancing quickly over either shoulder before changing lanes. Not so on a big rig. The typical 18-wheeler with a single trailer has substantial blind spots on all four sides.

  • In front of the truck cab, the blind spot extends about 20 feet forward of the truck. If you drive (or walk) in this area, you are totally invisible to the truck driver. (Incidentally, the same applies to buses and other large, high-riding vehicles. It is why we teach school children to walk well in front of a school bus if they must cross the street before getting on or after getting off.)
  • Behind the standard-size trailer, the blind spot extends about 30 feet. Again, this area is totally invisible to the trucker without some sort of video-aided assistance.
  • At least half the length of the trailer on the driver’s side, extending about one lane-width from the door of the cab to at least the mid-point of the trailer. The driver’s mirrors may cover most of this area if they’re the right shape and configuration, but there is no guarantee and there is always likely to be at least some area the mirrors do not see, especially just behind and below the driver’s seat.
  • The length of the whole tractor-trailer on the passenger side, extending backward at a diagonal across two lane-widths. As above, the size, shape, and configuration of a truck’s mirrors will establish the exact dimensions of this blind spot, but it always exists.

The best defense against riding in a big rig’s blind spot is to follow the rule of thumb that if you cannot see the driver in their mirrors, then they cannot see you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you see the mirrors the driver sees you. If you can’t see the truck driver in their mirror, then you are out of their range of view.

A Turning Problem

The size and shape of blind spots change when a tractor-trailer turns, because the cab and trailer pivot at their junction point. While turning right at an intersection, for instance, a trucker’s view in the passenger-side mirrors is of the side of their truck. Any person or vehicle sitting in the right-hand lane next to the truck at that moment is, in effect, totally invisible to the driver.

A Dynamic Problem

As we noted above, on the highway, smaller vehicles pass or ride in big rig blind spots all the time. It is a real and constant challenge for truckers to keep tabs on these smaller vehicles using only their mirrors and (in more modern trucks) blind spot warning systems. Any vehicle that disappears from view could be in the truck’s blind spot, could have dropped off behind the truck, or could have passed the truck without the driver taking notice.

Educating Truckers, and the Public, About Blind Spot Risks

Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyers WAEducation about big rig blind spots plays an important role in reducing the risk of blind spot accidents. Truckers who obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) must demonstrate proficiency in operating a big rig. This includes demonstrating awareness of and limiting the danger of their vehicles’ blind spots. Commercial truck driving schools emphasize the importance of learning about and managing blind spot risk. Trucker safety initiatives by the Washington State Department of Labor include reminders to monitor blind spots.

More than a decade ago, Washington State also recognized the critical role law enforcement plays in educating the public about the dangers of big rig blind spots and other unsafe driving behaviors around or involving big trucks. The Washington State Patrol’s Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks (or TACT) program aims to crack down on aggressive driving behaviors by both truckers and passenger vehicle drivers who encounter trucks on the road. The goal of TACT is to educate and remind the public about blind spot risk through highly-visible enforcement and public outreach efforts by local and state police.

Another Washington State initiative aimed at reducing big rig blind spot accidents involves education in our public schools. The Washington Traffic Safety Education Association is an organization run by Washington State educators who aim to develop curricula and resources for educating student drivers about on-road hazards, including the blind spot “No-Zones” surrounding large trucks.

These are essential initiatives to keep new and veteran truckers, and the motorists with whom they share the road, informed about blind spots.

Tackling Underlying Causes of Blind Spot Inattention

While education and enforcement play critical roles in reducing blind spot accidents, tragedies will continue to happen if we do not address two underlying features of trucking culture that lead to blind spot inattention: trucker fatigue and trucker distraction.

Trucker Fatigue

Truckers who get behind the wheel of a big rig without adequate rest put themselves and others on the road in extreme danger. Truck driving while fatigued causes the same degree of impairment as driving while drunk. And, distressingly, it happens all the time.

In a nationwide survey of big rig drivers conducted in 2010 and published in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that at least one-third of truckers have nodded off behind the wheel of a big rig, and that about one in every fifteen long-haul truckers drives very drowsy every day. Truckers commonly feel fatigued for a host of reasons, but the two main reasons are that their irregular schedules make it difficult to get quality sleep, and that truckers represent an aging group of workers who are in relatively poor health compared to the general population.

Tired truckers lose focus, have slow reaction time, make poor decisions behind the wheel, and even “micro-sleep” (dozing off for a few seconds at a time). In that kind of condition, they lose the ability to keep constant track of other vehicles in their blind spots.

Nationwide initiatives to educate truckers about the dangers of drowsy truck driving, and regulations limiting the number of hours a trucker can spend behind the wheel, aim to reduce the number of tired truckers on the road. For now, however, tired truckers increase the danger of their own blind spots.

Trucker Distraction

Like all Americans, truckers are learning to adapt to a world dominated by mobile screens that draw their attention away from the road. Truckers who text, fiddle with a GPS, and otherwise interact with a screen while driving risk leaving their lanes and harming vehicles in their blind spots.

Truckers also conduct a significant portion of their lives “on the road.” The highway is their workplace and their truck cab is their “office.” Managing life while also managing a multi-ton truck can lead to inattention to the constantly-changing swirl of vehicles moving into, out of, and around a truck’s blind spots. Truckers must exercise vigilance not to become distracted by conversations, music, or thoughts that take their minds off of the complex task of driving safely.

Law enforcement crackdowns on distracted driving can help prevent big rig blind spot accidents. So can increased public awareness of the dangers of using screens behind the wheel.

Emerging Technologies Can Help, but Are Not Yet Widespread

Various technologies aimed at reducing large truck blind spot risks have emerged that will undoubtedly help to make Washington State roads safer. Similar to automated systems on upper-end passenger vehicles, these include lane-departure warning systems, blind spot awareness systems, and camera systems that make blind spots visible.

Unfortunately, these technologies are not yet widespread enough for motorists to count on. According to industry publication Fleet Owner, only about 40 percent of respondents to a 2018 survey of trucking fleet owners said they had so-called “advanced safety systems” installed on trucks in their fleet. Rates of adoption of these technologies will no doubt continue to improve, but for now drivers should not assume that a truck has these advanced systems or that a truck’s driver is familiar enough with the technology to make effective use of it.

Keeping Yourself Safe From Big Rig Blind Spot Risk

For now, following best practices around big rigs is the safest way for motorists to avoid blind spot inattention accidents. Here are some important tips for all drivers when sharing the road with long-haul truckers:

  • Avoid blind spots. This may sound like obvious advice—you can’t get into a big rig blind spot accident if you avoid truck blind spots. But in practice this advice is not so easy to follow. In heavier traffic conditions, drivers can find themselves effectively “stuck” next to a large truck, directly in the truck’s blind spot, if they do not take active avoidance measures. As a rule, drivers should spend as little time in a truck’s blind spot as possible. Do not pass trucks on the right. Pass quickly on the left. And keep plenty of distance between the front or back of your car and any truck in the same lane.
  • Be visible. The more visible your vehicle is, the better the chance a trucker will notice it. Use your daytime running lights, especially in less-than-ideal driving conditions. If you ride a motorcycle, wear bright colors. And of course, always remember: if you can’t see the trucker in their mirror, they can’t see you.
  • Respect the size and weight of trucks. Trucks take a lot longer to stop than other vehicles. Do not cut in front of them and into their front-end blind spot. Do not try to pass them on a downhill where they might need to change lanes quickly before they overtake a vehicle in front of them. In high-wind conditions, especially cross-winds, give trucks a wide berth and if you must pass, pick a moment when you can zip by as quickly as possible.
  • Check your own blind spots, too. Even a small car has blind spots. Be a responsible driver and always check yours. Practicing this basic safe driving technique keeps you and others out of harm’s way, and heightens your awareness of when you are riding in someone else’s blind spot.

Truckers Need to Check Blind Spots, but Do Your Part, Too

Truck blind spots will not disappear from Washington State roads anytime soon. Perhaps one day a perfect combination of technology, public health initiatives, education, and enforcement will bring us a drastic and lasting reduction in truck blind spot accidents. But until then, we should all exercise caution around trucks, give them a wide berth, and assume we share the road with a trucker who is at least as tired and potentially as distracted as we have all been at one time or another.

If you have questions about your rights after a truck accident involving a trucker who failed to check their blind spots, contact an experienced Washington truck accident attorney.

Truck Driver Fatigue

Drowsy Driving Is as Dangerous as Drunk Driving

Truck accidents involving fatigued truck drivers should not happen. Since at least 2007, when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released its comprehensive study of the causes of truck accidents, we have known that truck driver fatigue plays an overwhelmingly significant role in truck-involved collisions and single-truck accidents.

But, unfortunately, truck accidents because of driver fatigue still happen in Washington State. The Washington State Department of Transportation reports that 162 heavy truck-involved crashes occurred in the state in 2018, which resulted in 138 serious injuries and 57 deaths. If the FMCSA’s research is any indication, a large percentage of those crashes likely involved a fatigued truck driver.

Below we take a look at the problem of fatigued truckers in Washington State and around the nation. We examine why fatigue is so dangerous behind the wheel of any vehicle, especially a heavy truck, why and how often it occurs, and what you can do to protect your physical safety and legal rights around heavy trucks.

Driving Any Vehicle While Fatigued Is Extremely Dangerous

Several years ago, the Governors’ Highway Safety Association published a comprehensive report urging states to take action to curb fatigued (or drowsy) driving. The report highlighted the extreme dangers of getting behind the wheel without adequate rest, and the potential breadth of the problem:

A drowsy driver is an unsafe driver. A lack of sleep negatively impacts performance. It slows reaction time, impairs judgment and situational awareness, increases lapses in attention and risk taking as well as the potential to microsleep—literally dozing off for a few seconds while driving. To compound the problem, being tired impairs our ability to judge just how tired we really are. While one in four motorists has admitted to driving at least once during the past month when they were so tired they could barely keep their eyes open is that self-reported assessment truly accurate?

Driving without enough sleep, it turns out, is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol; and we all know how dangerous that can be for any driver of any vehicle. So, while truckers, thankfully, have a much lower rate of drunk and drugged driving than the general population, any occasion when they take the wheel without adequate sleep is a significant threat to public safety. Trucks are large and heavy. In a collision with a passenger vehicle, they inflict horrific damage and terrible injuries. When they crash on their own, they cause extensive destruction and pose significant risks of secondary accidents and other harm to the public.

Truckers Are Prone to Fatigued Driving

Unfortunately, studies show that truckers drive drowsy a lot. Their jobs, lifestyles, and typical state of health make them prone to fatigue behind the wheel. Specifically:

  • Truckers work erratic schedules dictated by the needs of the parties whose cargo they carry. Sometimes they work during the day, and sometimes they work at night. This inconsistent work schedule means truckers also have an inconsistent sleep schedule, which translates into poor-quality sleep and feelings of waking fatigue. The monotony of driving a big rig on long, straight roads for hours at a time can compound truckers’ drowsiness.
  • On average, truckers are also less healthy than the general population. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a nationwide survey of truckers and found they have higher-than-average rates of obesity, diabetes, smoking, and sleep disturbances. This is not altogether surprising. Truckers work a sedentary job. They get a less-than-ideal amount of exercise. They lack healthy food options at rest stops and other roadside eateries. More than a third of them do not carry health insurance. And they are an aging group – almost half of all long-haul truckers are over age 50.

Truck Driver Fatigue Accidents WashingtonLack of quality sleep and lack of overall healthfulness feed on each other. The worse one gets, the worse the other gets. The result is a group of workers who are bound to feel worn down all the time. The CDC’s trucker survey results bore this out. In responding to survey questions, more than one-third of the truckers admitted to having nodded off or fallen asleep behind the wheel. A small but significant number (7 percent, or about one in 15) told researchers they felt very drowsy behind the wheel every day.

The consequences of these widespread levels of fatigue also became apparent in the survey. Nearly a quarter of the truckers who responded to the survey admitted to having had at least one near miss incident behind the wheel in the previous week. More than one-in-ten admitted to two or more such near misses in the previous week.

Perhaps the scariest thing about these responses is that they almost certainly under-estimate the scope of the problem. Like any group of workers who are asked to rate their own performance, truckers likely downplayed how often they engaged in unsafe driving behaviors and narrowly avoided disaster.

And even if the survey respondents were completely accurate in self-reporting about their poor driving, what they admitted should frighten anyone who takes to Washington’s highways and byways. It is virtually certain that on anything but a short drive around the block, a Washington driver will encounter a truck being driven by a fatigued trucker whose reaction time, decision making, and motor function are just as impaired as a drunk driver’s.

What’s Being Done

You might wonder, with this much evidence available about fatigued driving, what’s being done to keep the roads safe from tired truckers?

For starters, Washington State has made an effort to educate truckers about the dangers of fatigue. The current edition of the Department of Licensing’s Commercial Driver Guide contains a lengthy discussion about the dangers, warning signs, and means of combating fatigue behind the wheel. All truckers should read it and follow its recommendations.

The Washington State government, and Washington D.C., have also implemented regulations that limit the number of hours truckers can spend behind the wheel, and require detailed record keeping to ensure drivers follow the rules. These rules are known as hours of service (HOS) regulations. The HOS regulations passed by federal regulators apply to truckers who drive loads across state lines (known as interstate commerce). The Washington State regulations apply to truckers who drive within the boundaries of the state (known as intrastate commerce).

To keep things simple, Washington State’s HOS regulations are identical to the federal HOS regulations. All truckers in Washington State may not drive after:

  • Driving 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty;
  • Being on-duty for 14 hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty; and
  • Being on-duty for 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days.

They must also take a 30 minute rest break after 8 consecutive hours of driving. They must keep detailed logs of their driving activities, and be prepared to present these logs to law enforcement upon request.

The goal of the HOS regulations is to keep drivers off the road when they have not gotten adequate rest. Unfortunately, because they are a one-size-fits-all type solution, HOS regulations only go so far in solving the problem of fatigued truckers. The requirements of the job still make it difficult for truckers to establish a reliable, consistent sleep schedule, and to get enough exercise and healthy food. At Boohoff Law, we like to be optimistic. But when it comes to fatigued truck driving, we find little reason to think HOS regulations alone can solve the problem or keep drivers safe on Washington’s roads.

What You Can Do to Stay Safe

All drivers should take measures to keep themselves and their passengers safe whenever they share the road with a large truck. First, they should always follow the widely-known rules about driving in proximity to a big rig: avoid the blind spots on all four sides of a truck, do not cut trucks off, give trucks ample stopping distance, and be extra careful of trucks driving in poor weather conditions.

There are also some specific steps you can take to stay safe from fatigued truckers in particular. We recommend:

  • Heightened caution in high-risk situations. Although truckers drive tired all the time, the danger of encountering a fatigued trucker is highest at night on a lonely road. Give trucks on late-night roads extra room to operate and be on the lookout for warning signs of a drowsy trucker: weaving, sudden course corrections, drifting out of lane, and erratic braking. And if you see a truck operating dangerously, call 911. Yes, the trucker might get in trouble if law enforcement pulls them over, but at least they and others won’t end up in a hospital, or worse.
  • Respect the realities of trucking. We need trucks on our highways to get products on store shelves and raw materials to manufacturers. They’re a vital part of our economy. And for truckers, the highway is the office. Give truckers the space to do their job safely.
  • Don’t drive fatigued. You can make the road a safer place for truckers and everyone else if you also take care never to get behind the wheel without adequate rest, and if you get to know the warning signs that you feel fatigued. Before a long road trip, always get a good night’s sleep. Try to drive during your normal waking hours, not at odd times of day or night. Do not rely on caffeine or other stimulants to keep you awake – they can temporarily make you more alert, but they cannot make your body feel less fatigued.

Washington Legal Help for a Fatigued Trucker Accident

Despite your safe driving, you may end up in an accident with a fatigued trucker. If you do, what should you do, and what are your legal rights?

Well, the first thing anyone should do after any kind of accident is to seek medical care. Your health is precious. Do not assume that just because you feel okay in the immediate aftermath of an accident that you are, in fact, okay. Only a doctor can tell you so after an examination for conditions that frequently go unnoticed at an accident scene, like brain injuries or soft tissue injuries. Seeing a doctor also generates records of your care that can prove useful if you ever need to prove the accident caused your injury.

As for your legal rights, if someone else’s careless or reckless conduct caused the accident, and you ended up injured, then you likely have the right under Washington State law to seek compensation. This is almost certainly the case in an accident caused by a fatigued truck driver, who should have known better than to get behind the wheel.

How do you recover compensation for your injuries? Speak with an experienced Washington truck accident attorney right away. A lawyer can evaluate the facts and circumstances of the truck accident that injured you, and determine who has legal liability to you for damages. In the typical truck accident case, that may include the trucker and their insurance carrier, the trucker’s employer (if any), the truck owner, the cargo owner, and others whose actions may have contributed to the trucker’s fatigued condition or unsafe driving.

How much compensation can you recover? That depends on a wide variety of factors, including the severity of your injuries, your out-of-pocket costs, your lost wages, and the availability of insurance or other funds to pay you damages. An attorney can help to evaluate the losses you have sustained in a fatigued driver truck accident and advise you on the amount of damages you might seek.

Trucker fatigue, as we have shown, is a real and persistent problem on American roads. Unfortunately, laws and regulations limiting trucking practices can only do so much to keep the public safe. If a fatigued trucker causes an accident in which you sustained serious injuries or lost a loved one, Washington State law entitles you to seek compensation. Do not wait to speak with an experienced Washington State truck accident lawyer to learn about your rights to compensation.

How to Find Your Personal Injury Lawyer

Whether in a traffic crash, by a dangerous feature on someone’s property, or due to a defective product, people are injured in Seattle by someone else’s negligence every day. If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by negligence, you may be eligible to receive compensation for the damages you suffered. Your best chance of receiving a settlement or damage award that fairly compensates you is with the guidance and assistance of a personal injury lawyer.

Most people don’t think about hiring a personal injury lawyer until they need one. So, now that you are looking, what should you look for and what questions should you ask? Read on for tips about how to find the personal injury lawyer who is best equipped to handle your case.

What Is Negligence? What Type of Accidents and Expenses Does Personal Injury Law Cover?

Negligence is the foundation of most personal injury claims and is defined as a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. A successful outcome to your case depends on your ability to prove that another party was negligent.

As noted by Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, this is done by satisfying these four elements:

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty of care. For example, the duty of care in a car accident case is that all drivers have a duty to operate their motor vehicle safely and to obey all traffic laws.
  2. There was a breach of that duty of care. Using the above example of a car accident, the breach may be speeding, driving drunk, tailgating, or any other driving behavior that falls outside of the law.
  3. Proof that the plaintiff suffered an injury.
  4. Proof that the breach of the defendant’s duty of care resulted in the plaintiff’s injury.

It is not unusual for a person’s injuries to be the result of more than one person’s negligence, and even for the injured person to be partially to blame themselves for the accident that caused the injury. Washington follows the pure comparative negligence rule, which allows an injured person to seek compensation for their injuries from an at-fault party even if their own actions were partially to blame.

Some situations a personal injury attorney can help injured victims with include:

  • Traffic accidents, including those involving cars, trucks, buses, watercraft, aircraft, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians;
  • Medical malpractice, including birth injuries, misdiagnosis, surgical error, and medication errors;
  • Construction accidents;
  • Dog bites;
  • Premises liability;
  • Defective products;
  • Workplace injuries; and
  • Nursing home abuse.

Some damages an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you recover include:

  • Medical expenses relating to your injury, including estimated expenses for long-term and chronic issues;
  • Assistive medical devices and accessibility features for your home;
  • Physical and psychological therapy that is necessary due to your injuries;
  • Property damage;
  • Lost wages;
  • Lost income or employment opportunity due to your injuries;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Damage to personal relationships; and
  • Damage to your quality of life.

Do Your Research

Once you have determined that your accident was at least partially caused by another person’s negligence and that there are damages you may be eligible to recover through an insurance claim or legal process, it’s time to look for a personal injury lawyer to help you with your case. If you know someone who has used a personal injury attorney before, ask if they would recommend that attorney. You can also search online for personal injury attorneys who are licensed to practice law in your state and who work in your area. Additionally, many review sites such as Yelp or Angie’s List can provide leads.

Once you’ve gathered a list of personal injury attorneys who are licensed in your state and who work in your area, you should visit their websites to find out what kinds of cases they take. You can also usually find reviews of that attorney’s services on their website, as well as on third party sites like Yelp. Another part of your research should involve checking with the legal directory made available by the Washington State Bar Association, or, if you live in another state, your state’s bar association, to ensure that the attorney you’re considering has an active state bar license and that their license is in good standing.

Preparing for Your Consultation

Many personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation and case review for prospective clients. This is a time for you to meet the attorney and share details about your case so that the attorney can determine whether your case falls within their practice area and that they can provide you with the services you’re seeking. It is also a time for you to ask the attorney questions of your own to determine whether they are the person you want to hire to represent you in your case and provide you with legal guidance.

Once you’ve pared down your list of potential attorneys to two or three with whom you’d like to have a consultation, you should call the attorney’s office or contact them online to schedule a time to meet. Be sure to confirm that the consultation is, in fact, free or that you’re aware of the cost of the meeting. When preparing for your consultation, be sure to gather and take with you all the documentation you have that’s relevant to your case, including:

  • Any medical bills you have incurred due to your injuries, as well as any documentation regarding your diagnosis or referrals for further treatment.
  • Any bills or estimates for property damage you may have incurred due to your accident, such as car repair bills if your injuries were the result of a car accident.
  • The name and contact information of the individual or entity at fault for your accident, as well as any insurance information, including your own policy number and carrier as well as that of the other party.
  • The names and contact information for anyone who witnessed your accident as well as anyone who spoke to you about the accident in an official capacity, such as an insurance company representative.
  • Proof of wages lost due to being too injured to work or for time you missed from work to attend doctor’s appointments or therapy related to your injury.
  • Any official reports that you filed, as well as copies of any accident reports that were filed on your behalf, such as police reports or reports submitted to the entity responsible for keeping the property safe (in the event of a premises liability claim), and any insurance claims you have made.
  • Details about how your accident occurred, including the time and date of the accident, who was involved, what took place, and any photographs of the scene or of your injuries.

Because the time for your consultation is limited, you should also prepare a list of questions you’d like to ask the attorney, as described below.

Questions You Should Ask

There are many questions that the attorney you’re meeting with will likely anticipate and provide answers for without even being asked. However, it is still good to be prepared by having all of your questions written down ahead of the meeting. These questions will give you a lot of insight as to the experience your attorney has in working on cases like yours, how comfortable they are with pursuing settlements or litigation, their track record on this type of case, the services they can provide for you, and how they expect to be paid.

Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they will not charge you a fee for their services unless they achieve a successful outcome to your case. However, it is important to never assume that your attorney works this way or that the contingency fees cover all costs associated with the representation the attorney is providing. For example, many attorneys who work on a contingent fee basis expect clients to cover the costs of copying, filing fees, or deposing witnesses no matter what the outcome of the case is. It is always best to ask for a complete run-down of expenses you will be expected to cover.

The questions you should ask a personal injury attorney you are considering hiring include:

  • How long have you been practicing personal injury law? How many cases have you worked on?
  • How many cases do you work on at a time? Beware of an attorney with a large caseload, as you may experience delays with your case or with communication about your case.
  • Do you have references? Don’t be shy about asking your attorney for references. Just as you would be expected to provide references when applying for a job that demonstrates your experience and skills, a personal injury attorney should have past clients who would be happy to speak to you about their experience with the attorney.
  • How many cases like mine have you worked on? How many settlements and awards have you received for clients with cases like mine?
  • Will you be the only attorney working on my case? Who else will be involved? At many law firms, the senior attorneys only work on the case if it goes to litigation, leaving the rest of the work to junior attorneys and other staff members. You should know upfront if this is the situation with the attorney you’re considering hiring.
  • How would you like me to communicate with you? How will information be provided to me, by whom, and how often?
  • How long do you anticipate it will take to resolve my case? Note that while attorneys cannot precisely predict how long any case will take, their experience should allow them to make an educated guess based on the facts of your case. Beware of an attorney who says they will push for a fast settlement, as this may mean less compensation for you.
  • What is the value of the recent settlements you have obtained for clients with cases similar to mine?
  • Are you comfortable with litigation? What is your success rate with cases like mine that have gone to court? While the majority of personal injury cases are settled by insurance companies before they ever see the inside of the courtroom, your attorney should be comfortable with the notion of representing you in court.
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case? It is better to know before you even get started if there are weaknesses in your case and how confident the attorney feels in their ability to work past those weaknesses to obtain the compensation you need for your recovery.
  • How much is my case worth? While your attorney likely won’t be able to answer this question right away, they should be able to give you an estimate based on the facts of your case and the expenses you’ve incurred. Ethically, an attorney cannot make false promises as to how much money you will get, so do not expect this number to be set in stone.
  • What is your fee structure? How and when will payments be made? What additional costs might I face, if I win or lose the case?
  • If the case goes to trial and the defendant appeals, will you continue to represent me?

After You’ve Selected Your Personal Injury Lawyer

Once you have selected the attorney you would like to hire and they have agreed to take your case, they will likely let you know if there is additional information or documentation you need to gather. If they do not let you know, ask whether they have everything they need to begin working on your case. You will be given some paperwork to read and sign. It is vitally important that you understand everything contained in the paperwork and that you get answers to any questions you have before you sign.

Speeding is a Factor in 37.7 percent of Fatal Accidents in Washington

If you drive on Washington’s roads and highways, you’ve probably learned to be cautious of speeding drivers. Speeding is a risky yet common driving behavior. When traffic or roadway conditions present even a minor problem, excess speed sometimes leads drivers to lose control of their vehicles. When an auto accident occurs, speed increases the force of impact and heightens the potential for damage and injuries.

From 2015 to 2017, Washington law enforcement authorities documented speed as a contributing factor to 37.7 percent of fatal accidents statewide. Only alcohol and drugs present a higher risk.

When a driver is speeding, adverse circumstances come together to increase the odds of accidents and serious injuries. Because excessive speed reduces a driver’s ability to control their vehicle, a speeding driver is more likely to crash. Speed increases a car’s stopping distance. This simultaneously increases the need for a quick response while minimizing the driver’s chance of meeting the challenge. When a crash occurs, speed increases the impact severity, which can contribute to serious or catastrophic injuries. It also diminishes a vehicle’s safety system’s effectiveness, reducing the system’s ability to provide occupant protection.

Speeding Is a National Concern

Washington’s speeding issues mirror a national problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists speeding as one of the Risky Driving Behaviors that consistently cause accidents. A network of concerned national agencies spend time and energy tracking and reporting the numbers. Providing critical information about speed-related accidents and deaths is an important element of local and national prevention programs. For example:

  • Speed was a factor in 26 percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide.
  • 49 percent of speeding drivers in fatal accidents were not wearing seatbelts when they crashed.
  • For more than two decades, speed has been a factor in one-third of all accidents nationwide.

Speeding Is Aggressive Driving

The NHTSA explains that speeding is an aggressive driving behavior and it’s occurring more frequently. Aggressive driving is often an overreaction to traffic conditions that are out of the driver’s control. If you drive, you will be forced to at least occasionally share the road with aggressive drivers. It’s important to recognize the circumstances that sometimes trigger speeding and other threatening behaviors on the road. These can include:

  • Traffic congestion: When caught in traffic, some drivers respond with improper lane changes, overt expressions of anger directed at other drivers, and excessive speed.
  • Schedule delays: Drivers sometimes act aggressively in traffic simply because they’re running late. Speeding is some drivers’ go-to response to minimize commute time.
  • Anonymity: Some drivers speed because they feel anonymous while they’re in their cars. Their vehicles allow them to feel set-apart from others so they feel less compelled to control their behavior.
  • Disregard for others: While some drivers speed occasionally, speeding and other aggressive driving behaviors are the norms for some drivers.

Similarly to alcohol or drug-impaired, or fatigued drivers, aggressive drivers are unpredictable. The NHTSA suggests that drivers should initiate proper measures to avoid aggressive drivers when they’re in adjacent traffic. If an aggressive driver wants to pass you, let them. Allow a cushion of space between your cars in case the aggressive driver loses control. Don’t let an aggressive driver intimidate you into similarly aggressive behavior. The NHTSA also recommends that if an aggressive driver makes you feel threatened, you should call local law enforcement authorities.

NHTSA National Speed Surveys

When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducts speed surveys, they confirm that excessive speed isn’t an isolated problem. The agency published its most recent findings in the 2018 report, National Traffic Speeds Survey III. The report analyzes research conducted nationwide during 2015. The study concluded that most drivers exceed posted speed limits.

The most recent study analyzes randomly collected speed data from devices placed on all types of highways and roads. The research team used self-contained on-road sensors and trailer-mounted side-fire units. They left the devices in place for 24-hour periods to collect speed data from every vehicle using a road. They placed collectors in hilly areas, flatlands, mountainous regions, and other types of terrain in urban and rural areas. During the collection periods, the devices recorded speeds from 12,330,540 vehicles and found several interesting facts:

  • Vehicles were speeding at higher rates than in the previous study, which was conducted in 2009.
  • The data confirmed that many drivers traveled 10 miles per hour or more over the speed limit.
  • Time of day had a minimal effect on speed during the 2015 study. (In the 2009 study, speeds changed based on the time of day).
  • Speed decreased with changes in road curvature and gradient.

The 2018 AAA Traffic Safety Culture Index

In discussions about speeding, cultural acceptance is a common theme. Drivers recognize that speeding is wrong yet they accept the behavior in themselves and others.

The AAA Traffic Safety Culture Index is a key indicator of this trend. This 2018 study gathered information through a survey of 3,349 drivers age 16 and older. Respondents provided answers about driving habits through KnowledgePanel®, an online platform. The respondents were representative of households in the general US population. The study found that:

  • 54 percent of the drivers believed that speeding on a highway was dangerous.
  • 64 percent acknowledged that speeding on a residential street was dangerous.
  • 66 percent expressed a fear that if they did speed 15 mph over the speed limit, the police would catch them.
  • Despite expressed fears of danger and being caught, 50 percent of the respondents reported exceeding highway speed limits by 15 miles per hour within the prior 30 days.

Speeding in Washington

Speed is just as much of a problem in Washington as it is in other states. The state has made it a priority of Target Zero, Washington’s plan to reach zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. One of Target Zero’s goals is to keep law enforcement, communities, Tribes, and other partners involved and aware of speeding and its connection to state traffic casualties. In the state:

  • 20 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state involved a combination of speeding, alcohol or drug impairment, and lane departure.
  • Speed-related deaths in 2017 exceeded the previous year’s speed-related fatality rate by 11.7 percent.
  • Men are more likely to speed: in all fatal accidents that occurred in Washington, 30 percent of the male drivers were speeding, while only 17 percent of the female drivers were speeding.
  • Highly visible enforcement is one of the most effective methods for reducing the number of speed-related accidents.
  • During 2018, grant-funded mobilizations and Target Zero teams issued 10,374 speeding citations throughout the state.

Washington’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan

The Strategic Highway Safety Plan is a key element of the state’s ongoing push to achieve zero auto accident fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. Federal, state, local, and Tribal governments have partnered to focus on the top contributing factors. Since its initial implementation nearly two decades ago, the state has seen significant reductions in accident fatalities, including:

  • Reductions in deaths among drivers ages 16 to 25 due to high visibility enforcement and Party Intervention Patrols;
  • Reductions in deaths caused by passengers not wearing safety restraints. Authorities credit education programs and the “Click it or Ticket” campaign; and
  • A reduced number of lane departure crashes.

Based on these achievements, the updated Safety Plan for 2016 projects that the state will meet some of its Project Zero goals long before 2030. The state attributes this progress to the combined efforts of targeted enforcement, improvement in highway designs, vehicle crash avoidance technology, and educational programs. Studies also include high gas prices as an overall factor.

Speed-Related Casualties Remain a Problem

Despite Target Zero measures, fatal accidents still occur in both rural and urban areas. Often, fatal and serious injury accidents combine one or more factors such as speed, youthful drivers, and drug or alcohol impairment. Washington’s Safety Plan is to address these common causes of casualties with evidence-based solutions, including:

  • Broader automated speed enforcement: Officers can’t be everywhere at once. Some roads, such as those with no shoulders, physically limit speed enforcement. Except for Tacoma, Washington, state laws only allow camera-based speed enforcement in work zones, school zones, and at intersections governed by traffic signals. The Safety Plan recommends legislative changes that will allow for more cameras at key locations.
  • Licensing changes: The Safety Plan recommends revised teen licensing procedures that include a higher age qualification, longer supervised driving time, and extending the learner’s permit phase to 12 months.

Automated Speed Cameras Can Help

Safety Plan research has determined that automated cameras are an effective speed deterrent. When placed at conspicuous, fixed locations, they’ve reduced speed-related crashes by 20 percent to 25 percent. With more extensive placement, authorities project that cameras will prevent 17 speed-related deaths and 1,700 injuries each year. They will also reduce crash-related costs. Upgrading the existing speed-camera system requires legislative action. Changes in state camera laws may help garner public support and acceptance and fund additional installations.

It’s Not Just About Posted Speed Limits

Reckless Driving Accident Attorneys WASpeeding isn’t always about whether or not a driver complies with the posted speed limits. The limits posted along roads and highways are considered conditional. Signs reflect the maximum limit for a driver when all other conditions are favorable. If the road surface is snow-covered or traffic is backed up and slow, a reasonable driver should know to adjust their speed accordingly.

Drivers learn about speed-related strategies during driver’s training, as part of licensing test preparation, and through driving experience. Unfortunately, this knowledge is meaningless for drivers who customarily exceed both the posted and reasonable speed limits. As research shows, speeding is often tied to a driver’s tendency to resort to aggressive tactics while in traffic.

Speed-Related Accidents and Injuries

High-speed crashes often cause significant injuries because they render vehicle safety systems ineffective. As the IIHS explains, speed “increases the crash energy exponentially.“ It generates forces that neither the vehicle nor its passengers can endure.

While most studies and statistics focus on the fatalities caused by this dynamic, high-speed accidents can also cause significant injuries. Injured victims sustain traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, paralysis, complex fractures, crushed bones, internal injuries, and other serious and catastrophic physical impacts. Treatment is costly and often continues indefinitely. Some injured victims deal with permanent physical impairments, family issues, and financial and lifestyle changes that last a lifetime.

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association discusses pedestrians, motorcycles, bicyclists, and speed in their report “Speeding Away From Zero.” While all types of road users are vulnerable to catastrophic injuries caused by high-speed crashes, a pedestrian often sustains severe injuries when struck by a vehicle traveling just 16 miles per hour. The chance of fatal injuries increases with the striking vehicle’s speed.

The 783 bicyclists who died in nationwide accidents during 2017 reflect a growing trend. As the number of bicycle riders increases, states are witnessing a corresponding increase in serious injuries and fatalities.

Motorcyclists present slightly different safety challenges. They often travel in traffic alongside speeding vehicles, which puts them at an even greater risk for high-speed crashes. A crash often sends a motorcyclist airborne. They land on roads or other paved surfaces that cause serious or catastrophic injuries. A helmet provides some protection but a motorcyclist’s body is still vulnerable when a speed-induced crash occurs.

Contact an Attorney if a Speeding Driver Injured You

If you or a family member has been injured in a speed-related auto accident, it’s important to discuss your situation with a personal injury attorney. Accidents are serious, regardless of the circumstances. When speed is a factor, it increases the potential for serious injuries and legal complications. A personal injury attorney has the expertise and the resources to provide insight into your most important accident-related concerns.

When you schedule a legal consultation, you have no obligation to file a lawsuit or proceed with any other legal action. A consultation allows you to discuss your accident with a knowledgeable legal professional and review your options.