The NSC's Guide to a Safer Driving

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This June, the National Safety Council (NSC)  is celebrating National Safety Month. Each week has a different area of focus, and this week’s goal is to raise awareness on the dangers of driving and to advise on the most effective ways to drive safely. According to the NSC, over 40,000 people were killed in fatal car accidents in 2017 alone! This number is nearly 6% higher than in 2015. It is key that drivers begin to take measures to ensure they are able to come home to their family safely each night.

The first step to becoming a safer driver is eliminating any dangerous driving habits that one might have. According to the Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA), in 38% of fatal car accidents, the driver was drunk. While the number of drunk drivers has been slowly but steadily decreasing, the number of drugged driving is on the rise. Of 44% of fatal car crashes, drivers were under the influence of non-alcoholic drugs, the most common drug used being marijuana. 

These drunk driving deaths and drugged driving fatalities are a shame since all of these car crash fatalities are avoidable! With technology constantly evolving, there are a few simple ways to get back home safely while under the influence. If someone anticipates a night of drinking, they should try to arrange a designated driver. Public transportation is also always available in metropolitan areas; in Detroit, the Q-line is a safe transportation option for drunk people. If drinking in an area without public transportation or finding a sober friend is difficult, the easiest way to avoid drunk driving is to hail a ride with a rideshare app  like Uber or Lyft. A safe and quick ride home is just a push of a button away. Much like driving under the influence, driving while sleepy is another form of impaired driving and can be just as dangerous.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 25 people reported having fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past 30 days! The American Academy of Sleep Medicine discusses a study which shows that about 21% or car accidents from 2009-2103 were caused by drowsy drivers. Drowsy driving accidents can be prevented by getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep regularly, and avoiding drugs or medications that can cause drowsiness prior to driving. As road trip season comes around, it is important to remember to take breaks every 2 hours, or every 100 miles of driving, and if possible, switch drivers. Preventing drowsy driving car crashes is an important way to create a safe driving environment for everyone on the road.

Another common factor in dangerous driving is distracted driving. In today’s fast paced society, it can be tempting to glance down at a  phone notification on the drive to work, or send a Snapchat of a funny bumper sticker on a pickup truck, but it only takes a few seconds of distraction to cause a distracted driving car accident. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association (NHTSA), in the 4 to 5 seconds it takes to read a text message while driving at 55 miles per hour,  the car will have traveled the length of a football field. In today’s busy world, people want to consolidate their time as best as possible, and try to be multitasking experts by eating or doing makeup while driving. However, by pulling over to send a text, eating a Big Mac inside the McDonald’s, or waking up a few minutes early to put on lipstick can create a safer commute for all drivers on the road. Distracted and impaired driving is irresponsible, and preventable. It is each driver’s responsibility to create as safe of a commute as possible.

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The NSC lists some simple safety tips to follow when deciding to get behind the wheel. The NSC encourages drivers to be aware of how a vehicle’s safety features work, as they can vary from vehicle to vehicle. However, the NSC also states that, “you are your best safety feature” as a reminder not to rely wholly on features such as blind spot alerts, as they can miss things and malfunction. Because of car malfunctions, it is important to take all car system alerts and warnings seriously. Ignoring safety alerts can be dangerous, as it can be difficult for people who are not auto experts to identify car malfunctions. While most warnings are for a loose gas cap or a faulty sensor, a check engine light could mean that the vehicle is in danger of catching fire or has low oil. It’s best to allow a professional to inspect the vehicle as soon as possible after the car displays an alert.

Another safety measure the NSC suggests to keep drivers aware of their surroundings is to clean all snow, ice, and mud off of the car prior to driving it. Cleaning the windshields is not always enough. In winter, driving a car with snow piled on top of it can impair the view of other drivers, when the snow flies off the top of a moving vehicle and onto other vehicles behind it. In addition, braking suddenly can cause snow to slide down from the roof of the car and to the hood, obstructing the driver’s view. Ice across windshields and windows can also severely impact the view of the road around the driver. No matter how short the drive, or how how much of a hurry the driver is in, it is not worth the risk of a car accident to drive in a car with obstructed views.

Since so many car accidents are preventable, the NSC has taken the fourth week of June to teach drivers which habits to avoid and which practices to follow. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving while sleepy, or driving with obstructed views are all unsafe decisions that drivers are choosing to make. The NSC reminds us that each decision a driver makes can affect the lives of everyone on the road around them, making it each individual driver’s responsibility to make the right decision each time they hit the road.


Car accidents may be common, but many of them are preventable. If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident due to a negligent driver, contact The Michigan Law Firm, PC at 844.4MI.FIRM. Our attorneys fight for Michigan’s injured drivers. 
 

June Is Alzheimer's Awareness Month

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As June comes to a close, so does Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. The Alzheimer’s Association defines Alzheimer’s as the most common form of dementia that can cause problems with memory, behavior and thinking. While the illness can start off mild, it’s severity can increase overtime, and interfere with daily tasks and life and is typically found in people over the age of 65. And according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2013, as many as 5 million Americans were living with Alzheimer's. 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s can affect day to day functions such as writing checks, dressing appropriately for the weather, identifying the day's date, and driving. While it is not necessary for someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s to stop driving when the disease in its earliest stages, it is important to pay close attention to driving behaviors, as the number of driving errors may increase as the illness becomes more severe. The following are some of the warning signs that the Alzheimer’s Association suggests watching for, that indicate that an Alzheimer’s patient should stop driving.


How Alzheimer’s Affects Driving

  • Forgetting how to locate familiar places, such as the grocery store or a family member’s home

  • Failing to observe traffic signs

  • Making slow or poor decisions while driving such as driving at an inappropriate speed
  • Making errors in basic driving, such as driving at inappropriate speeds, hitting curbs and drifting between lanes, confusing the brake and gas pedals, and forgetting the destination during the drive

  • Difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast,

  • Impairs decision making abilities

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A study done by the University of Ottowa in 2016 showed that drivers with Alzheimer’s were less likely to use their brakes appropriately - whether using them too much or not enough, more likely to be in the wrong lane, speed, disobey traffic lights, and more likely to lose control of their vehicle. These errors could lead to potentially fatal car accidents for both passengers and drivers on the road, as well as the Alzheimer’s patients themselves.

Failure to navigate a busy intersection properly or ignoring traffic signs can also lead to car accident injuries and fatalities. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s symptoms increase over time, and as the severity of the illness increases, the patient’s ability to drive safely without getting into car accidents decreases. In addition, as the patient’s ability to think and make decisions deteriorates, they are less likely to be able to react quickly to the scenarios around them, such as not recognizing that the driver in front of them has slammed on their brakes until it is too late.

Having a conversation with a loved one about not driving anymore can be difficult and it is important to approach the matter gently. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests sitting down with those who are close to and taking care of the loved one, and creating a plan for when they should stop driving, discuss alternate methods of transportation and setting up a GPS system in their car. The Alzheimer’s Association also recommends periodic assessments of their driving, as this allows close monitoring of their driving and whether they will be able to continue to drive safely.

When the time comes, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends beginning the conversation by expressing concern, and showing love and support, as this may be a hard transition for them, and explaining to them why they should no longer be driving, and why it is a safety hazard for them, as well as those around them. If they express anger or resistance, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends being firm but understanding and empathetic, explaining that while this is a difficult transition, but is something that must happen. They also suggest, that if necessary, consult their doctor and have them reinforce that it is time for them to turn in their keys. If there is still resistance, it may be necessary to take away their keys or their car entirely. Even though this may be difficult, it is a matter of safety and an effective form of accident prevention.

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Arranging alternate forms of transportation does not have to be challenging, however, it will take communication between family members to ensure the loved one can get to where they need to be without too much difficulty. The most basic alternate form of transportation is to have family and friends drive the loved one when possible. They can take turns or shifts, and work around each others’ schedules. Unfortunately, this is not always the most convenient option, and it may be simpler to arrange for a taxi service instead. If there is not a taxi service available, there are transportation options created specially for elderly people; local senior citizens services and homes often provide transportation at low cost or free of charge. If possible, reduce the need for someone with Alzheimer’s to drive, by having groceries, prescriptions and other day to day necessities delivered.

It is important for the family and friends of those living with Alzheimer’s to understand the disease and create a supportive and loving environment to help them with this challenging time. Alzheimer’s Awareness Month aims to create an empathy and awareness around the illness. While many people have heard of the illness, many don’t know the extent of the effects that Alzheimer's can have on day to day life. Since Alzheimer’s is a fairly common disease, it is important for everyone to understand in order to support loved ones fighting the illness.


The Michigan Law Firm, PC handles all types of motor vehicle accident cases. Our accident attorneys make the legal experience as easy for clients as possible, so that victims of auto accidents can focus on recovering from their car accident injuries. Contact The Michigan Law Firm, PC at 844.4MI.FIRM, for a free consultation.

Drowsy Driving Dangers During Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is coming up this upcoming Sunday, March 11, 2018. Unfortunately, the hour we will be losing as we “spring forward,” is an unpleasant experience. Many people wake up thinking they have more time because of the lack of light outside, only to remember that DST just occurred and they need to get up immediately, in order to make it to work on time. Beginning our day an hour earlier may be annoying but it can also be dangerous. The sun comes up later in the day, causing the morning commute to be darker and proving drivers with less visibility than they are used to. People may become exhausted as they begin their day an hour early and may get onto the road with heavy eyes and sleep-deprived minds. A tired and dark morning are two factors that can lead to car accidents.

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According to The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), our society is chronically sleep deprived, and the hour change after DST does not help with that. Both “spring ahead” and “fall back” are equivalent to the jet lag that occurs when traveling to a different time zone, and even an hour can make a massive difference in energy. These changes tinker with our sleep cycle and it may take at least 5 days for our bodies to get accustomed to them. During those 5 days, the road will have inattentive, drowsy drivers with drooping eyes, who will be waking an hour earlier than they are used to, in order to get to work or school on time.

Drowsy driving due to DST afflicts so many people that a Johns Hopkins Hospital and Standford University study from 1999 reported that the Monday after “spring forward” resulted in an average increase in car accidents, jumping from the average of 72.8% rate of a usual Monday to 83.5% the Monday after DST. That is a 10.7% increase on the Monday after spring DST, which is a shocking increase in car accidents in one day every year! 

Along the lines of NEJM's findings, Richard P. Allen, a Johns Hopkins neurologist who oversaw the study, told Vox, "We didn’t expect to see anything, actually. To me it was really amazing that one hour made that difference." According to Vox, "Allen stresses that a one-hour sleep disruption will be more severe for someone who is already sleep-deprived. "A lot of these accidents occur because we don't have residual sleep [reserves] to survive that insult," he says. "When we're running nearly empty on our sleep-wake status, it doesn't take much to push it into a negative area."

Another study by the University of Colorado Boulder also confirmed DST’s role in the rise of motor vehicle accidents, when it reported that in the first six days after DST, there were 302 motor vehicle accident deaths in 2007. The Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) also found a 17% increase in traffic accidents the Monday after losing an hour, because of DST in 2007. These newer statistics means that there has been a 6.3% increase in the number of DST car crashes, since the study conducted by Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1999. These results show the significant difference that losing an hour sleep can make to our driving, before our bodies become accustomed to the time change, and how the percentage of DST car accidents may be increasing over time.

Luckily, the Johns Hopkins and Stanford study also showed that by the end of the week after DST, the number of car accidents settled back to nearly the usual number of car crashes as the Monday before DST occurred. Perhaps this is because drivers have had the 5 days they needed to get adjusted to their new sleep cycles, and therefore were attentive enough to avoid car accidents. 

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People who are especially vulnerable to the changing sleep cycle during DST are those who get 6 or less hours of sleep. They are already sleep deprived and losing an additional hour of sleep due to DST can make a bigger difference in these peoples’ abilities to drive safely. What we can take away from these DST car accident studies according to Vox is that, "even small decreases in our sleep times can stress our bodies. And good sleep increasingly is seen as a subtle yet critical component of our health...To prepare for a rough Monday after the clock change, it's a good idea to get enough sleep in the days leading up to it." It's better to get catch some extra z's than to chug coffee and cause car accidents!


If you or a loved one has been injured in a Michigan car crash, call The Michigan Law Firm, PC at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free legal consultation. Our Michigan personal injury lawyers are ready to talk to you about your claims.