Drowsy Driving Prevention Week November 3-10, 2013

In an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes and to save lives, the National Sleep Foundation has declared November 3-10, 2013 to be Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®.  Most of us realize how dangerous driving under the influence or texting while driving is, but driving while drowsy can be equally dangerous. Sleepiness can cause slower reaction times, blurred vision, lapses in judgment, and delays in processing information.

FedEx Truck Accident in West Virginia

In October, 2012 near Morgantown, WV a FedEx truck was traveling north in the southbound lanes shortly before 1 a.m. when the driver tried to make a U-turn to correct his direction. FedEx Truck Crash on I-79 The FedEx driver caused a truck accident when he struck a tractor-trailer which then crossed the median into the northbound lanes and crashed through a guardrail on the east edge of the road.  A passenger car traveling ahead of the tractor-trailer ran off the west edge of I-79 south, coming to rest against a guardrail.  Amazingly, no one was killed or seriously injured.  Three people were taken to the hospital, treated, and released.  The FedEx driver was from North Dakota and the semi-truck driver was from Arizona.

Early Morning Collision in Huntington WV:

More recently,  The Huntington Police Department is investigating a crash involving two tractor-trailer trucks which shut down all westbound lanes of Interstate 64 in Huntington.  Dispatchers received word of the crash at about 4:30 a.m. Thursday, October 17, 2013.

The crash involved a box truck owned by the U.S. Mail and a tanker truck carrying an unspecified substance. Dispatchers said the box truck overturned due to the crash’s impact and was leaking fuel from its tanks. One of the trucks also hit a bridge and knocked off a chunk of its concrete wall.
The accident happened at the 9.5-mile marker, located just east of the 5th Street Road exit in Huntington. Officials were diverting westbound traffic off the Hal Greer and 29th Street exits.
Thankfully, there were no reported injuries, and unlike a May 2013 accident on I-64 in Kentucky involving a mail truck which caught fire as a result of a fuel leak, the contents of this US Postal Service truck was not destroyed and was transferred to another truck by Postal Service crews.

 

All of these truck drivers illustrate the type of drivers that are most at risk for driving error due to drowsiness.  Before we launch into the fall and winter holidays, we need to consider the potential impact of driving while exhausted could have on our own safety, our families, and other drivers sharing the road with us.

Specific At-Risk Groups for Drowsy Driving

  • Young people-especially males under age 26
  • Shift workers and people with long work hours-working the night shift increases your risk by nearly 6 times; rotating-shift workers and people working more than 60 hours a week need to be particularly careful
  • Commercial drivers-especially long-haul drivers – at least 15% of all heavy truck crashes involve fatigue
  • People with undiagnosed or untreated disorders-people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have been shown to have up to a seven times increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel
  • Business travelers-who spend many hours driving or may be jet lagged

Fast Facts about Driving while Fatigued:

  • 100,000 crashes each year are caused by fatigued drivers
  • 55% of drowsy driving crashes are caused by drivers less than 25 years old
  • Being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%, which is legally drunk and leaves you at equal risk for a crash
  • In 2010, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study that shows that fatigue is a factor in one in six deadly crashes; one in eight crashes resulting in hospitalization, and one in fourteen crashes in which a vehicle was towed.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths, 76,000 injuries, and more than 100,000 accidents every year.

Tips for avoiding becoming a drowsy driver statistic:

  • Get a good night’s sleep (seven to nine hours) before you begin your trip.
  • Plan breaks into your driving schedule; don’t be so rushed to arrive at your destination that you can’t stop for rest.
  • Stop every 100 miles or two hours for a walk, run, snack, or drink.
  • Bring a buddy who can share the driving.
  • If you think you could fall asleep, pull over and take a 15-20 minute nap.
  • Avoid driving at times you would normally be asleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and medicines that cause drowsiness.
  • Caffeine can increase alertness for several hours, but you will still need adequate rest if you want to prevent fatigue related errors.

Warning Signs that it is time to pull over:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, heavy eyelids.
  • Trouble keeping your head up.
  • Drifting onto rumble strips, swerving in your lane.
  • Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven.
  • Missed exits or traffic signs.
  • Repeated yawning.
  • Feeling restless or irritable.

Posted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC in Morgantown, WV.  You may not have been able to avoid the collision that caused your injuries, but you can avoid the unnecessary pitfalls of dealing with the insurance adjusters who are motivated and trained to devalue your claim, if not destroy it altogether.

Call our office today for free books for WV accident victims: Collision Care: West Virginia Auto Collision Guide, and Righting the Wrong, West Virginia Serious Injury Guide. 

304-594-1800 

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Ten Warning Signs for Senior Drivers

Should Grandma and Grandpa Still Be Driving?

For those of us who find ourselves in the “sandwich” generation , we are concerned about our teenage and young adult drivers.  At the same time, we also worry about the safety of our aging parents on our curvy and sometimes slippery West Virginia roads.  Statistics tell us that fatality rates for drivers begin to climb after age 65. From ages 75 to 84, the rate of about three deaths per 100 million miles driven is equal to the death rate of teenage drivers.  Even more concerning, for drivers 85 and older, the fatality rate skyrockets to nearly four times higher than that for teens.  If you are in that difficult position of caring for an aging parent or grandparent, the following are some signs to be looking for in evaluating your loved one’s driving safety, especially if prescription pain medicines or the onset of dementia are issues.

Ten Signs That it is Time to Stop or Limit Driving:

  1. Almost crashing, with frequent “close calls”
  2. Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.
  3. Getting lost, especially in familiar locations
  4. Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs, and pavement markings
  5. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving their foot from the gas to the brake pedal; confusing the two pedals
  6. Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps
  7. Experiencing road rage or causing other drivers to honk or complain
  8. Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving
  9. Having a hard time turning around to check the rear view while backing up or changing lanes
  10. Receiving multiple traffic tickets or “warnings” from law enforcement officers

Even if we know or suspect any of the above indicators to be true, do we really want to be the ones to tell an aging parent that it is time to give up the keys?  As people advance in age, it seems that they are losing more than they are gaining, and giving up independence and mobility is going to be a hard blow.  “Having a professional involved can keep family relationships intact,” said Pam Bartle, a driver rehab specialist at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton, Ill.  It’s a hard choice for people. They can’t imagine how they’ll manage without driving.   Getting a doctor or occupational therapist involved can shift the hard choice to a neutral professional, rather than a close family member.

Insights from a Driver Safety Professional

Glenard Munson, a corporate trainer, business owner, driver safety trainer with 30 years’ experience, and award-winning author and speaker on driver safety issues shares his insights:

“One PART of the solution (I am a senior who teaches driving, both novice and remedial) is for physicians and LEO’s to enforce their own regulations requiring reporting of irregular driving.  Families also have a moral obligation to report ANY family member, irrespective of age, for erroneous/irresponsible driving.

Once reported, most states REQUIRE a minimum of a written test to re-evaluate the driver in question, and/or a drive test to subjectively, (no drive test is completely OBJECTIVE), evaluate the driver’s skillset. I take many seniors and or medically-tagged drivers out for lessons, and I find that, over my 20 years+ of experience, that roughly 2/3rds of those tagged by the DMV/LEO/Doctor were correctly evaluated.

It is hard for me to tell anyone that they will need to give up their driving privilege, but an independent desire to drive does NOT outweigh the safety and security of the public at large.”

Simple Tests for Doctors to Use in Evaluating Older Drivers:

Today, the American Medical Association recommends that doctors administer a few simple tests in advising older drivers.

  • Walk 10 feet down the hallway, turn around and come back. Taking longer than nine seconds is linked to driving problems.
  • On a page with the letters A to L and the numbers 1 to 13 randomly arranged, see how quickly and accurately you draw a line from 1 to A, then to 2, then to B and so on. This so-called trail-making test measures memory, spatial processing and other brain skills, and doing poorly has been linked to at-fault crashes.
  •  Check if people can turn their necks far enough to change lanes, and have the strength to slam on brakes.

Dr. Gary Kennedy, geriatric psychiatry chief at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center, often adds another question: Are his patients allowed to drive their grandchildren?  ‘‘If the answer to that is no, that’s telling me the people who know the patient best have made a decision that they’re not safe,’’ Kennedy said.

Restrictions can Prolong Driving Independence

Rather than prematurely taking away the privilege of driving from a person who may still have the ability to safely drive for several more years, individually assigned restrictions may be the answer to prolonging an aging person’s independence for as long as possible.  Restrictions similar to those assigned to teenage drivers may include no driving on high-speed roads, driving outside a certain area, or driving at night.  These restrictions would increase safety for those with visual impairments, prescription medication dependence, and impaired physical mobility.

The best situation, of course, is when the older driver independently comes to the conclusion that they need to limit or quit driving, but in cases involving dementia, Alzheimer’s, and plain stubbornness, a consensus of caring adults may be needed to persuade that older driver that “the time has come.”  A great rule of thumb is to “let everything you do be done with love.”  That principle should especially apply to those older folks to whom we need to show the most honor and respect, while at the same time, looking out for their personal safety and the safety of other drivers on the road.  Remember, they had the same concerns about you when you were young!

righting_the_wrong_3dBeside_Still_Waters_-_Covers_3DCollision CareTwitterLinkedinGoogle +Facebook

Sources:

The Dominion Post, “Families Key, but Docs have a Big Role in Driving Decisions,” AP: Lauran Neergaard, Associated Press writer Carla K. Johnson in Chicago contributed to this report,Washington, September 27, 2012.

Website:  AARP: “10 Signs that it’s Time to Limit or Stop Driving,” http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/info-05-2010/Warning_Signs_Stopping.html, January 2010.

Risk Factors for Senior Drivers in West Virginia

When is it Time to Hand over the Keys?

Since 1863, the West Virginia State Motto has been Montani Semper Liberi, or “Mountaineers are Always Free.”  We love and value our freedom, no matter what our age.  One of the greatest freedoms we possess in this country is the freedom to travel without restrictions, usually by car.  Ask older folks in the nursing homes what they miss the most, and many will tell you that they miss the ability to drive when and where they like.

According to the U.S Census Bureau’s population estimates by age and gender, West Virginia remains among the oldest states in the nation. The median age of West Virginians is 40.5 years (third highest) and the share of those who are 65 years or older is 16.2 percent (second highest), and these percentages are predicted to rise every year. As the number of older drivers increases, senior-driver safety is becoming more relevant for many families. With years of experience behind the wheel, older drivers likely are among the safest on the road. However, skills and abilities required for safe driving do deteriorate with age. The “silver tsunami” or great increase in the percentage of seniors driving in West Virginia raises the question of how families and doctors must be working together to determine if and when age-related health problems — from arthritis to frailty to Alzheimer’s disease — are severe enough to impair driving.

A recent hit-and-run tragedy in West Virginia illustrates the need for families to keep a watchful eye on Alzheimer’s patients in their care.

The investigation of a fatal hit and run accident in Kanawha County this week took an unexpected turn when sheriff’s deputies learned that the woman behind the wheel of the vehicle which struck Terry Stanley, 50, of Hernshaw, was an 80-year-old who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

The sheriff commented:  “We know from past dealings with individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia they are at times able to sneak off and get into a vehicle without the knowledge of family members.”

Investigators said the woman had a valid driver’s license.

Fatality rates for drivers begin to climb after age 65, according to a recent study by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, based on data from 1999-2004. From ages 75 to 84, the rate of about three deaths per 100 million miles driven is equal to the death rate of teenage drivers. For drivers 85 and older, the fatality rate skyrockets to nearly four times higher than that for teens.

Risk Factors Linked to Aging Process

Specific physical and cognitive abilities may decline with advancing age such as changes in vision, hearing and reaction time. However, there are large individual differences in the onset and degree of functional impairments, so age alone does not provide sufficient information to judge driving ability. Still, functional impairments can interfere with driving and may become particularly evident in stressful or challenging driving situations such as merging or changing lanes.

Several studies have shown that higher levels of physical, cognitive or visual impairment among older drivers are associated with increased risk of crash involvement. Statistically, fatal crash rates begin to increase at age 75. Per mile traveled, crash rates and fatal crash rates start increasing at about age 70.

A study of older drivers’ elevated fatal crash rates per mile traveled between 1993 and 1997 revealed that the main factor was not seniors’ over-involvement in crashes but their fragility, defined as the risk of death in a crash. Fragility increased starting around ages 60-64 and continued to rise with age.

Compared with younger drivers, senior drivers are more likely to be involved in certain types of collisions — angle crashes, overtaking or merging crashes, and especially intersection crashes. Studies of senior-involved crashes have found that failure to yield the right-of-way is the most common error among seniors.

Many older drivers also take medications with side effects which can impair driving ability of both young and old. As a person ages, their muscle mass and liver and kidney functions decline, so that person’s ability to metabolize (break down, use, and eliminate) medicines declines as well, leaving a higher concentration of medications in the body which may affect response time and driving ability.

Simple Restrictions can Prolong Driving Independence

Rather than prematurely taking away the privilege of driving from a person who may still have the ability to safely drive for several more years, individually assigned restrictions may be the answer to prolonging an aging person’s independence for as long as possible. Restrictions similar to those assigned to teenage drivers may include no driving on high-speed roads, driving outside a certain area, or driving at night. These restrictions would increase safety for those with visual impairments, prescription medication dependence, and impaired physical mobility.

Study Finds that Warning Patients of Risk Greatly Reduces Collisions

A large study from Canada in 2011 found another key component in reducing serious crash injuries among older drivers: simply having the doctors warn patients, and tell driving authorities that the older patient may be medically unfit to be on the road. Where this has occurred, there’s a drop in serious crash injuries among those drivers. The study, in the New England Journal of Medicine, couldn’t tell if the improvement was because those patients drove less, or drove more carefully once the doctors pointed out the risk.

While the study included adult drivers of all ages — for conditions ranging from epilepsy to sleep disorders, alcoholism to dementia — most were over age 60. This study highlighted one reason physicians don’t like to get involved: About 1 in 5 of the patients who were warned changed doctors. There also was an uptick in reports of depression.

Doctors aren’t necessarily trained to evaluate driving ability, and the study couldn’t tell if some drivers were targeted needlessly, noted Dr. Matthew Rizzo, of the University of Iowa. Yet he considered the research valuable. ‘‘The message from this paper is that doctors have some wisdom in knowing when to restrict drivers,’’ Rizzo said. His own research shows some cognitive tests might help them better identify who’s at risk, such as by measuring ‘‘useful field of view,’’ essentially how much your brain gleans at a glance — important for safety in intersections.

Other families turn to driver rehabilitation specialists, occupational therapists who can spend up to four hours evaluating an older driver’s vision, memory, cognition and other abilities before giving him a behind-the-wheel driving test. Some doctors and state licensing authorities order those evaluations, but programs can be hard to find, often have waiting lists and cost several hundred dollars that insurance may not cover.

Having a professional involved can keep family relationships intact, said Pam Bartle, a driver rehab specialist at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton, Ill.

Still, “you could have the sweetest, nicest little old lady and she’ll turn on you on a dime if you tell her she can’t drive,” Bartle said. “It’s a desperate thing for people. They can’t imagine how they’ll manage without driving.”

Driving Safety Tips provided by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC:  http://www.robinettelaw.com — Morgantown, WV Car Accident Injury Lawyers

Source: The Dominion Post, “Families Key, but Docs have a Big Role in Driving Decisions,” AP: Lauran Neergaard, Associated Press writer Carla K. Johnson in Chicago contributed to this report,Washington, September 27, 2012.

Drowsy Driving Prevention Week November 12-18, 2012

In an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes and to save lives, the National Sleep Foundation is declaring November 12-18, 2012 to be Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®.  Most of us realize how dangerous driving under the influence or texting while driving is, but driving while drowsy can be equally dangerous. Sleepiness can cause slower reaction times, blurred vision, lapses in judgment, and delays in processing information.

FedEx Truck Accident in West Virginia

In October, 2012 near Morgantown, WV a FedEx truck was traveling north in the southbound lanes shortly before 1 a.m. when the driver tried to make a U-turn to correct his direction.  The FedEx driver caused a truck accident when he struck a tractor-trailer which then crossed the median into the northbound lanes and crashed through a guardrail on the east edge of the road.  A passenger car traveling ahead of the tractor-trailer ran off the west edge of I-79 south, coming to rest against a guardrail.  Amazingly, no one was killed or seriously injured.  Three people were taken to the hospital, treated, and released.  The FedEx driver was from North Dakota and the semi-truck driver was from Arizona.

At least two of these drivers illustrate the types of drivers that are most at risk for driving error due to drowsiness.  Before we launch into the fall and winter holidays, we need to consider the potential impact of driving while exhausted could have on our own safety, our families, and other drivers sharing the road with us.

Specific At-Risk Groups for Drowsy Driving

  • Young people-especially males under age 26
  • Shift workers and people with long work hours-working the night shift increases your risk by nearly 6 times; rotating-shift workers and people working more than 60 hours a week need to be particularly careful
  • Commercial drivers-especially long-haul drivers – at least 15% of all heavy truck crashes involve fatigue
  • People with undiagnosed or untreated disorders-people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have been shown to have up to a seven times increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel
  • Business travelers-who spend many hours driving or may be jet lagged

Fast Facts about Driving while Fatigued:

  • 100,000 crashes each year are caused by fatigued drivers
  • 55% of drowsy driving crashes are caused by drivers less than 25 years old
  • Being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%, which is legally drunk and leaves you at equal risk for a crash
  • In 2010, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study that shows that fatigue is a factor in one in six deadly crashes; one in eight crashes resulting in hospitalization, and one in fourteen crashes in which a vehicle was towed.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths, 76,000 injuries, and more than 100,000 accidents every year.

Tips for avoiding becoming a drowsy driver statistic:

  • Get a good night’s sleep (seven to nine hours) before you begin your trip.
  • Plan breaks into your driving schedule; don’t be so rushed to arrive at your destination that you can’t stop for rest.
  • Stop every 100 miles or two hours for a walk, run, snack, or drink.
  • Bring a buddy who can share the driving.
  • If you think you could fall asleep, pull over and take a 15-20 minute nap.
  • Avoid driving at times you would normally be asleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and medicines that cause drowsiness.
  • Caffeine can increase alertness for several hours, but you will still need adequate rest if you want to prevent fatigue related errors.

Warning Signs that it is time to pull over:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, heavy eyelids.
  • Trouble keeping your head up.
  • Drifting onto rumble strips, swerving in your lane.
  • Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven.
  • Missed exits or traffic signs.
  • Repeated yawning.
  • Feeling restless or irritable.

Robinette Legal Group, PLLC in Morgantown, WV.  You may not have been able to avoid the collision that caused your injuries, but you can avoid the unnecessary pitfalls of dealing with the insurance adjusters who are motivated and trained to devalue your claim, if not destroy it altogether.

Call our office today for free books for WV accident victims: Collision Care: West Virginia Auto Collision Guide, and Righting the Wrong, West Virginia Serious Injury Guide. 

304-594-1800