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What You Should Know About Texting and Driving

Distracted driving is something that many of us have found ourselves guilty of at one point in time. There are numerous sources of distraction that can take our attention away from the road, such as talking on the phone, texting, adjusting the radio, using a GPS, applying makeup, eating, dealing with unruly kids in the backseat, etc. Regardless of the type of distraction, anything that takes our focus away from driving increases our chances of being involved in an accident. This article will take a look at the effects of distracted driving and analyze Louisiana’s laws regarding cell phone use.

The latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows there were 3,477 people killed and an estimated additional 391,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015.[1] This means that 10% of all fatal crashes in 2015 were related to distracted driving. Additionally, 15% of crashes resulted in injuries and 14% of all crashes reported to police involved distracted drivers. And 9% of drivers, ages 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of a fatal crash.

The subset of distracted driving that has received the most attention in recent years is cell phone usage; as a result, you’ll find many ad campaigns trying to bring awareness to fatal accidents caused by someone in the middle of sending a text message. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers texting the most dangerous distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds; at 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.[2]  More than one-third of people surveyed admit to reading a text or email while driving in the past 30 days, and more than one-quarter admit to sending a text or email.[3]

Although texting while driving has been getting the most attention recently, studies show that people talking on a cell phone are involved in more crashes than those texting. In 2010, an estimated minimum of 160,000 crashes involved texting or emailing, compared to 1.1 million crashes involving talking on cell phones.[4]  

One study indicated crash risk was two to six times greater when drivers were using a cell phone compared to when they were not distracted.[5] The NHTSA estimates that at any point during the day, 9% of drivers are using cell phones.[6] In 2016, the National Occupant Protection Use Survey found that handheld cell phone use continued to be higher among female drivers than male drivers; it also found that handheld cell phone use continued to be highest among 16- to 24-year-old drivers, and lowest among drivers 70 and older.[7] However, one study showed a bit of good news, a sign that awareness campaigns about cell phone use may be working: the percentage of passenger vehicle driver handheld cell phone use decreased from 3.8 percent in 2015 to 3.3 percent in 2016.[8]

Now that you know the extent of the danger involving cell phone usage while driving, here are the laws the state of Louisiana has enacted to combat this distraction:

  1. Anyone with a learner’s permit may not talk on the phone at any time unless its use is for emergency purposes.[9]  
  2. For all other drivers, you may legally talk on your cell phone even if you are not using a hands-free device unless you are in a school zone.[10]  If you are driving in a school zone, you may not engage in a call.
  3. It is illegal for any driver in Louisiana to write, read, or send a text message while driving; it is also illegal to access, read, or post to a social networking site.[11]  Under this statute, you will not be found in violation if you are reading, selecting, or entering a phone number or name in your phone; it is also not a violation if you are navigating using a GPS.
  4. In addition to being considered a moving violation, the penalties for texting/using social media or using a phone while in a school zone are the following:
    1. Up to $500 for a first offense
    2. Up to $1,000 for each subsequent offense
    3. If involved in a crash at the time, double the standard offense

In today’s world, distractions are all too common while driving. However, no matter how good of a driver or multitasker you think you are, it’s smart to minimize distractions as much as possible and devote your attention to the road so that you (or someone else) don’t become one of these statistics.

 


[1] https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812381

[2] https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving

[3] https://www.nsc.org/Portals/0/Documents/DistractedDrivingDocuments/Cognitive-Distraction-White-Paper.pdf?ver=2018-03-09-130423-967

[4] https://www.nsc.org/Portals/0/Documents/DistractedDrivingDocuments/Cognitive-Distraction-White-Paper.pdf?ver=2018-03-09-130423-967

[5] https://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/distracted-driving/qanda

[6] https://www.nsc.org/Portals/0/Documents/DistractedDrivingDocuments/Cognitive-Distraction-White-Paper.pdf?ver=2018-03-09-130423-967

[7] https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812426

[8] https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812426

[9] http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/Law.aspx?d=630882

[10] http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/Law.aspx?d=918939

[11] http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/Law.aspx?d=630881


Steps You Should Take if You’re Involved in an Uber Accident

Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services have become widely used in recent years. As a cheaper and more user-friendly alternative to taxi cabs, Uber has become the go-to service for a trip to the airport or a ride home when you’ve had a few drinks. The vast majority of Uber rides will result in arriving at your destination without incident. But what happens if your Uber driver gets into a wreck and you suffer an injury?

Uber and Lyft provide its drivers with third-party liability coverage up to at least $1 million per accident.¹ This means that if your Uber/Lyft driver is at fault, this insurance will cover liability for any damages to a third party such as the passenger. Uber also provides uninsured or underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage to its drivers. This covers any passenger in the vehicle when another driver is at fault, but that driver doesn’t have sufficient insurance coverage for your injuries. This coverage also applies to hit-and-runs where the at-fault driver is never identified.

So, if you are injured during an accident where your driver is at fault in Louisiana, both Uber and Lyft have a policy through the James River Insurance Company that covers your injuries for up to $1 million.² It is important that you contact a lawyer to ensure the proper party is sued.³ You don’t necessarily sue just the at-fault driver. Your lawyer would also send a letter to Uber and your driver instructing them to preserve evidence, requiring them to save all data or information related to your ride.

When another driver is at fault, you would first determine if the other driver’s insurance policy can cover your damages. If your injuries are serious and the other driver’s policy cannot cover the medical costs, then Uber and Lyft both have policies through the James River Insurance Company that could cover you up to $1 million.

If you get into a wreck while in an Uber, here are some recommended steps to follow that will assist your injury claims:

  •     Call 911 and take pictures of the wreck, including the license plates of all vehicles involved.
  •     Take down the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of any potential witnesses to the              crash.
  •     Write down the name of your Uber driver and the other driver.
  •     Take screenshots on your phone of the Uber ride and receipt.
  •     Finally, if you are injured or incur any medical bills, hire an attorney to handle your personal injury        claims.

We understand it might be intimidating to take legal action against a large corporate entity like Uber, but you are not alone. With the help of legal assistance, people hurt by negligent drivers have been successful in recovering damages from Uber and other rideshare companies.

 


[1]https://www.uber.com/drive/insurance/ https://help.lyft.com/hc/en-us/articles/115013080548-Insurance-Policy

[2]https://www.uber.com/newsroom/an-update-on-insurance/

[3]http://time.com/money/4851877/my-uber-got-into-a-wreck-can-i-sue/


What’s Driving Uber’s Pursuit of Driverless Cars?

On March 18th, a self-driving Uber car being tested in Arizona killed a pedestrian. The autonomous Volvo SUV struck a woman crossing the street outside of the crosswalk. There was a driver behind the wheel, but the car was in autonomous mode at the time of the accident. Uber began testing their Volvo SUVs in Arizona in February of last year. Uber is also testing its autonomous fleet in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto, and Phoenix. After this accident, Uber suspended the self-driving testing in all of these cities.

The economic potential that autonomous vehicles represent has triggered a high-stakes competition between Uber, Google, Apple, Tesla, and major car manufacturers. These massive companies are in a race to be the first to achieve true autonomy, and are throwing loads of money at solving the problem. The company that finds a solution first stands to gain a significant market advantage over everyone still catching up. Truly autonomous vehicles could wipe out the trucking industry, taxi industry, and delivery industry in one fell swoop. Full automation of the $719 billion trucking industry could result in labor cost savings of about $300 billion. Thus, there’s a huge economic incentive for eliminating human drivers.

This heated competition has triggered lawsuits. Google’s Waymo sued Uber, alleging theft of trade secrets. A week into trial, Waymo and Uber reached a settlement, but the lawsuit resulted in some dirty laundry being aired out. The discovery process revealed the internal communications of these companies, shedding light on the mindsets of top executives. A win-at-all-costs mentality and desperation about coming in second was evident between both companies. Emails between Uber executives revealed their desire to “take all the shortcuts we can” because they saw it as “a race we need to win, second place is the first loser.”

Between 2014-2016, about 37,000 people died in car crashes each year. Part of the push for driverless cars and trucks has been increased safety and fatality reduction. Proponents of autonomous vehicles argue that a computer will make far fewer errors than human drivers, considering computers will not get distracted by phones, get tired, get drunk, etc. However, the Waymo-Uber trial inadvertently revealed that Uber’s motivation lies in achieving market dominance.

Additional fatalities are likely to happen as this technology proliferates and becomes more common, but any PR spin from Uber about its commitment to safety may ring hollow due to the short-cut strategy endorsed by its executives. More importantly, Uber will face massive legal liability for wrongful deaths and injuries if plaintiffs show safety concerns were ignored in pursuit of winning the race.

Uber is fully aware of this potential liability. From a cynical perspective, it’s possible that Uber believes the profits they stand to gain from winning will dwarf wrongful death and personal injury losses by so much that shortcuts are worth it. Thus, paying for fatalities and injuries may just be a cost of doing business in Uber’s quest to dominate the autonomous car market.


Wrong-way crash on LA21 kills Florida driver

A Florida driver died in a wrong-way head-on collision in Louisiana on Sunday, September 11 at 3 A.M. The crash also injured the other driver and a passenger in her car.

According to Louisiana State Police, the crash occurred on LA 21, roughly three miles south of Bogalusa.  Daniel Elwood, 25, of Tallahassee, Florida, was killed at the scene while Jodi Vasbinder, 17, of Covington, and Nathan Nicolasi, 19, were injured in the crash.

Trooper Dustin Dwight with Louisiana State Police said a recent investigation showed Elwood was going southbound in the northbound lane of LA 21 in a 2005 Hyundai Elantra. The car collided with the 2005 Chrysler Sebring that Vasbinder drove. Elwood was not wearing a seat belt while Vasbinder and Nicolasi were properly buckled up.

Vasbinder was flown by helicopter to North Oaks Medical Center in Hammond with moderate injuries. Nicolasi was brought by ambulance to Our Lady of Angels Hospital in Bogalusa with minor injuries. Blood samples from all involved in the accident were sent to the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab for analysis, and the investigation is still ongoing.


Priest In Wreck After Being Ordained

Reverend John Pitzer was enjoying his Saturday after his ordination as a priest, only to wind up in a hospital just hours later.

Pitzer and a friend were riding in the back seat of a Mercedes when a Nissan ran a red light, rear-ending their vehicle. Pitzer suffered from bruises and broken ribs, while his fellow 54-year-old passenger George Mabon sadly succumbed to his injuries. The driver of the Mercedes, John Baur, was arrested for a first-offense DWI and reckless operation of a vehicle. Baur failed a field sobriety test and was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.13 percent, which in Louisiana can be used as presumptive evidence of drunken driving. The driver of the Nissan was also taken to the hospital for injuries he sustained in the incident.

Baur has been released on a $3,000 bond, but could face multiple charges. Many individuals are put in danger when reckless drivers are on the road, whether disregarding traffic signals or choosing to drink and drive. If you or a loved one has been killed or injured in a wreck caused by a negligent driver, please call personal injury attorneys at the Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm at (225) 650-7400 today.


Christmas Eve crash in Raceland kills woman

At around 11:00 p.m. on December 24, a single-vehicle crash on Lousiana Highway 308 in Lafourche Parish killed a 34-year-old woman from Raceland. According to the investigation, a 2002 Lincoln LS, driven by a 33-year-old Raceland man, was traveling north on the highway when it drove off the right side of the road and onto Rodriguez Drive, where the vehicle struck a driveway. Apparently, the angle of the crash led the vehicle to become airborne before striking two utility poles.

The driver was thrown out of the vehicle and was brought to Terrebonne General Medical Center after sustaining non-life threatening injuries. His passenger, the 34-year-old woman, sustained serious injuries and was taken to St. Anne Hospital for treatment. She was set to be transferred to University Medical Center in New Orleans due to the serious nature of her injuries, but she died on the way.

It is unknown whether the driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident, but he submitted to a blood test and results are pending at the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab.


Former New Orleans policeman killed in crash

According to a report by the New Orleans Advocate, a former New Orleans policeman and investigator died on December 5 following a two-vehicle crash on Interstate 12 east of La. 1088.

The investigators of the accident said that the 69-year-old former police officer, who was a resident of Covington, was driving westbound when his pickup truck was hit from behind by a Toyota Corolla driven by Sloan, New York resident John Joseph Gold. The former policeman’s vehicle drove off the right side of the road, overturned, and struck several trees. The officer was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident and was thrown from the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Gold’s vehicle hit a cable barrier, but he was uninjured. He submitted to a breath test, but no trace of alcohol was found. He was cited for careless operation, and further investigation into the circumstances of the collision is ongoing.


Baton Rouge crash kills parents and child

A two-vehicle accident on Interstate 10 near Bluebonnet Boulevard in Baton Rouge took the life of a young couple and their infant son at around 3:00 in the morning on November 28. The authorities said that the 56-year-old driver of a Freightliner box truck was traveling west on I-10 when he pulled onto the right shoulder of the interstate to make a phone call.

Upon re-entering the right traffic lane, he was struck from behind by a Ford F-150 driven by a 20-year-old man. The passenger of the Ford, a 22-year-old woman, suffered critical injuries and died at the scene. Their 2-month-old son, who was in a child seat facing rear, was brought to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center after sustaining serious injuries. He died later of his injuries.

The 56-year-old box truck driver suffered minor injuries and voluntarily took a breath test. No trace of alcohol was found.

The accident is still under investigation.


How long after my catastrophic accident will I have to file a claim?

Louisiana law generally only permits accident victims a single calender year to file a claim against the party responsible for their accident. That being said, you should consider taking legal action as soon after the accident as you are able to do so. Our legal team in Baton Rouge understands that this is probably a difficult time for you and your family right now, and we can help you take the action necessary to put this legal matter behind you once and for all.

If you or a loved one was injured in a catastrophic accident, you should consult with one of the catastrophic personal injury attorneys at Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm about what legal actions may be available for you to pursue at this time. To speak with a personal injury attorney in Louisiana about the particulars of your accident, please call our Baton Rouge offices at (225) 650-7400 today.


Baton Rouge man struck and killed while changing tire

Baton Rouge police officials are investigating a traffic accident resulting in the death of a man attempting to change a flat tire on his van on Sept. 11. The motorist was struck while on the side of Louisiana Highway 42, also known as Burbank Drive.

The victim was identified and reported to be 80-years-old. He had parked his Toyota Sienna on the shoulder of the expressway. As he was changing his tire, he was struck when another driver lost control of his vehicle while maneuvering a curve in the road.

The incident resulted in the death of the man on the side of the road. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The condition of the other driver is unreported. Charges are pending and an investigation is ongoing for further causes of the accident.

Reckless drivers present a danger to other motorists on the road as well as pedestrians in the area. If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident due to the negligent and dangerous driving behaviors of another driver, contact the Baton Rouge personal injury attorneys at the Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, damage to your vehicle, and lost wages as a result of injuries. Please call (225) 650-7400 today for more information on how our practice can help you.

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