Distracted Driving Caused Cobb County Fatality

April 15, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for distracted driver.jpgThere is no doubt that distracted driving has become a dangerous practice among drivers throughout the country and within Georgia and the metro Atlanta area. Perhaps it is human nature to believe that we are above any tragedy that could occur if we text and drive or use our phones to make a call while trying to steer our vehicles. Unfortunately, this is actually a false sense of security, because it has been shown again and again that these distractions make it difficult for drivers to consistently manage the many faculties needed to properly and safely drive a motor vehicle. In a crash that occurred last month in the Austell area, one woman lost her life and another is now under arrest for this activity that is alleged to have caused a terrible crash on the C.H. James Parkway.

The driver alleged to have caused the crash that led to the death of a 36-year old female local basketball coach, had a text on her phone, calls that were received and a call that was made at the time of the crash. She apparently deleted the text to try to keep police from seeing that she had done this before the crash took place. But this information is not possible to delete or to avoid from the ultimate view of investigators in a situation like this. The police have finished their investigation and as a result, have charged the driver with a violation of Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 40-6-393 which includes second-degree homicide by vehicle. She has also been charged with violating involving driving too closely to the vehicle ahead of her and driving with a license that had expired.

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Teens Students' College Trip Ends in Bus Crash Tragedy

April 11, 2014, by

The Atlanta area has experienced its share of tragic accidents and their impact, including the heartbreaking accident that occurred two years ago in Florida in which several members of one Fulton County family were killed or injured. The loss of young life is always more difficult to comprehend. This morning we wake to the news that ten people have died, including teens, in a California crash. The crash occurred in the evening hours and involved a bus filled with Los Angeles area high school students on a trip to visit a college campus and a FedEx truck. The students were from various schools in the area and were already admitted to Humboldt State University. We pray that no additional lives are lost as a result of this accident. The first reports on this crash indicate that the FedEx tractor-trailor left its lane of traffic, possibly avoiding a small passenger car that was traveling ahead of the truck that was also at the scene. No one in that vehicle appears to have been injured. The National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched a team of investigators to the accident scene to begin an extensive investigation about why this tragedy occurred.

Authorities in California have advised that the drivers of both the bus, as well as the FedEx driver, were killed as the impact of the crash resulted in a horrific fire. Five students and three of their chaperones also lost their lives in this accident. The bus had been a charter that was arranged by a state university campus in northern California. Apparently, as the bus and the FedEx truck passed on a major interstate in California known as Interstate 5 which traverses the state in a north - south direction, the truck traveled across the highway divider and hit the bus.

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Dangerous Lane Changes Cause Tractor-Trailer to Roll

April 7, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Truck3.jpgLate last month, a major accident occurred in Gwinnett County during the morning commute. As it happens, I was traveling nearby at the time and ended up behind the back-up and closures that resulted from this crash. This crash involved a tractor-trailer, but that vehicle did not cause the crash. What did cause the crash was the alleged reckless driver at the wheel of a minivan. The accident resulted in the death of one person and the serious injuries of another. What is most tragic is that as is the case with many motor vehicle crashes, the loss of life apparently could have been avoided.

We are all witness to those on our roads who endanger us all by driving recklessly. And in general tractor-trailers have a weight advantage over other smaller vehicles in an impact. But in this crash, the reports reveal that a minivan driver's actions may have caused the crash. The Atlanta Journal Constitution indicates that a minivan entered I-85 and began to drive in a hazardous manner moving across traffic lanes resulting a tractor trailer being cut off. The minivan hit the truck by clipping it on the front end, causing both vehicles to lose control. This series of events ended with the tractor and the trailer being separated and rolling over which resulted in the death of one occupant in the truck. The other individual in the truck was hospitalized. Authorities are unsure who was driving the tractor trailer. But what is apparently quite evident is that the driver of the minivan was at fault for the collision and the sequence of events that followed. She was not injured seriously.

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The Long-Term Impact of DUI Crashes

March 27, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for DrunkDriver3.jpgRecently, two incidents occurred in the Atlanta area involving allegations that the drivers involved were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One of these involved the death of another driver. The other involved a school bus driver who is now facing allegations of DUI and endangerment of children. Some parents learned of this incident weeks after it occurred and are not pleased that it has taken so long for this incident to be reported to them. As a long-standing contributor to Georgia MADD and former board and and steering committee member, I cannot say enough about the deleterious impact of mixing alcohol or drugs and driving. When we can open the newspaper and find two such recent incidents in the Atlanta area, it causes me to consider once again at the statistics on what that picture looks like across America on any given day, week or month. More on this in a moment, but first what we know about these two incidents.

In one of these incidents, a man was killed in Marietta when he was driving on a local road in a vintage vehicle. His 1920's era Model A Ford was struck and traveled into and rolled over into oncoming traffic. The Model A driver was killed and his passengers injured in this tragic crash. The other driver, a woman from Sandy Springs, has been charged with a second degree vehicular homicide which is a misdemeanor charge in Georgia. This charge was made under Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-393. She voluntarily went to the Cobb County Sheriff's Office to face these charges and was released on bail. She was also charged with other violations which indicate that she was believed to have been following too closely and failing to exercise due care.

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Building Condemned After Gwinnett Transit & FedEx Crash

March 17, 2014, by

13329361961LpY40.jpgLate last fall, a deadly crash occurred involving a Gwinnett Transit bus and a FedEx vehicle. At the time of the accident, which tragically resulted in the death of the FedEx driver, it was determined by Atlanta authorities that the crash was caused by the bus as it went through a red light. The bus driver was seriously injured in the crash as well. The other devastating factor in this crash was that the impact of the two vehicles included the corner of what once was a church and had been renovated to house an upscale and architecturally interesting bar. The building's foundation was damaged in the incident so severely that it has now been condemned and will be demolished in the near future. Until the building can be taken down, traffic is being diverted around the area due to its instability and the potential for falling debris.

We have all heard of vehicles crashing into homes and other structures due to a driver's negligence, speeding, a medical condition or other situation in which the vehicle leaves the road and hits a home, business or other structure. In this crash, the vehicles collided in such a way as to hit the corner of the recently-remodeled historic building and the structure simply could not withstand the damage. The impact of these large vehicles created a situation that has now become so dangerous, the building must come down.

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Georgia Legislature Speeds Up on Slow Drivers

March 13, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 1330873_27868463.jpgMinding the rear view mirror is something we all should do as careful drivers. But the Georgia legislature is about to put a bigger violation on driving too slowly in the left lane on those who fail to move over in certain circumstances. When driving in the left lane, traffic on a divided road is generally going faster than those in the right lane. But sometimes vehicles behind us as we drive in the left lane are clearly intending to go faster than we are traveling. In those instances, the law will be that slower drivers must move over to let the faster traffic pass. This avoids traffic pulling around and having to pass on the right. We all have likely been in both situations.

This new law will apply to those traveling on Georgia's divided highways as well as our interstates. House Bill 459 has been passed through our Senate. It will be a misdemeanor for slower left lane traffic to fail to move to the right. The language of the bill states that drivers may not impede the flow of traffic by driving too slowly in the left lane. But there are some exceptions that are a matter of common sense. In the case of an emergency or severe weather it might be necessary to drive more slowly. The rule will not apply when there are situations involving construction, emergency vehicles on the right or when a vehicle needs to exit on the left. It is now up to the Governor to sign the bill to make it law.

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DeKalb County Car Crash Kills Two

March 2, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 1175023_magnolia.jpgThe month of March has begun with a fatal crash reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in DeKalb County. A crash of unknown causes, with speed suspected as a factor has taken the lives of two people after their vehicle apparently ended up out of control and rolling over. As a result of this fatal crash, the eastbound direction of Georgia 78 was shut down completely for several hours. In addition, some westbound lanes also needed to be blocked for the investigation and debris removal of this tragic end of two lives. After the vehicle lost control and flipped over, having crossed lanes of traffic, it hit an SUV at some point during this event. The investigation and perhaps witness interviews will help piece together what caused the car to lose control, hit a guardrail and then travel across lanes. Thankfully, the driver of the SUV was not harmed in this accident.

In this accident, reports indicate that the vehicle hit the guard wire or guardrail on the road's shoulder and that the passenger was ejected from the vehicle at that time. Often passengers are ejected when they are not wearing a seatbelt which could have been the case in this incident. The impact of a speeding vehicle hitting a guardrail has been studied by experts and it is often a fatal combination. Guardrails are intended to keep vehicles from exiting the road and hopefully keeping them from rolling over. But when a vehicle loses control and hits a guardrail, the impact may also end up becoming a hazard in and of itself. And there are many accident reconstruction experts that spend their careers studying the design and safety of guardrails.

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Tragic Loss for Douglas County Family

February 18, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for AutoAccident3.jpgThere are few words to describe the terrible loss recently suffered by a Douglas County family. A tragic car accident turned deadly, not because of the accident itself, but because of what happened after it took place. First, our hearts are with the family as they suffer the loss of their loved one. The facts surrounding this situation are worthy of consideration. While traveling back from Florida and having traveled there to see a very ill relative, the Georgia family's truck was involved in a crash that did not cause injury. However, after the accident the Douglas County man got out of his truck while his family waited inside the vehicle. The man's wife was reportedly calling 911 to get support. But as the man reviewed the damage, another driver hit the man as his family sat in their truck. His injuries were fatal.

Reports of the fatal crash indicate that the Florida driver involved in the second accident was present and remained on the scene, which is also required under Georgia law. Under our motor vehicle laws, drivers involved in an accident must stop. Official Code of Georgia section 40-6-270 requires that drivers involved in a crash that causes injury or damage must stop and exchange information and in some cases help get emergency or medical support if the other driver is injured. Unfortunately, the Florida driver who was involved in the first crash with the Georgia resident, which ultimately caused his death, left the scene after an initial stop. It was later reported that his vehicle was located through witness tips. The identity of person who had been behind the wheel is still not known by authorities. Authorities have made it clear that they need to speak with the person since it is unknown how the first crash happened and who might have been at fault for it. Having been a witness to a situation that ultimately took someone's life -- the other driver could have very valuable information to share and should come forward.

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Infant Dies in Crash, Father Charged

February 16, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000003411145XSmall.jpgIf you have any doubts about whether your infants or children are properly restrained in your vehicles, the recent death of a baby in Smyra hopefully will prompt you to make sure they are. Later, we will share with you how you can do this at no charge. But first we want to express our sympathies to the family of a baby girl who has lost her life after a car crash. Several people, including other children, were injured when a vehicle driven by the baby's father was involved in a tragic car crash. Reports indicate that the dad driving the car is alleged to have been intoxicated at the time of the accident. His vehicle crossed into the opposing lane of traffic and crashed head on to an oncoming vehicle whose driver has been hospitalized at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, along with the baby's mother.

The Cobb County family is now dealing with not only the death of the infant, but injuries to at least two other children and three adults traveling in the vehicle. The infant was not properly restrained in her car seat and the other children were not wearing seat belts or sitting in booster seats. The other children have been under medical care since the late-night crash and are anticipated to recover from their injuries. The father has been charged with vehicular homicide and driving under the influence. It is quite possible as we have reported in other situations that he could be charged with an enhancement that involves child endangerment under Official Code of Georgia Annotated sections 40-6-391(a) and (l).

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Georgia's Historic Winter of 2014

February 12, 2014, by

IMG_0467.JPGThe Winter of 2014 will be remembered by our children and grandchildren. We will tell them stories about it and they will see photographs and carry memories of what has happened in the southern United States this year. The many vehicle crashes, stranded citizens, destroyed trees, power loss, kids at home rather than in their classrooms, these will all be remembered and shared for decades to come. The winter is serious. It has now taken lives of two more Georgia residents as we continue to wait out the freezing and dangerous conditions with accidents and injuries on many of our roads and highways over these past couple of weeks.

These conditions are not only dangerous for those attempting to drive in the snow and ice, but also those who are simply walking from one place to another. Although Georgians are not used to such severe weather here, most of us know that being outdoors in severe weather can be very dangerous for such hazards as frostbite. We also need to consider the danger that if something happens while we are outside, our bodies may not respond as they otherwise would in normal temperatures .

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Atlantans Don't Speed Regardless ...

February 6, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000017099921XSmall.jpgThis morning we read with interest in George Mathias' blog "News to Me" that it is legal to flash headlights in Georgia. Why does this matter to drivers? The local tradition around here is that we flash other drivers to warn them of "speed traps." This tradition now has some Constitutional law support from a Missouri federal judge. First, let me say that warning of a speed trap is one thing, but speeding is another. As a personal injury trial lawyer in Georgia, I am a complete proponent of abiding by the law and I also am a proponent of helping our neighbors. But drivers who are cited for driving over the speed limit might be less likely to speed again and also might avoid causing injury or death on our roads. So that is a good thing for public safety. Its good to slow down, but not good when you are slowing down only because law enforcement is present.

According to the Huffington Post, a Missouri federal judge has recently upheld this warning practice (for the time being) under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Having now performed a thorough investigation into this matter, I have concluded that if this is newsworthy for the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal and our own blogger at the AJC, it is newsworthy indeed. So let's dig deeper.

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Atlanta's Dangerous Gridlock and Storm Aftermath

January 30, 2014, by

DSC00671.jpgBefore sharing my thoughts about the serious weather crisis we have been experiencing in the Atlanta area, I want to express my concern for our community and for all our citizens who have been through some very trying days. As I write, I am hopeful that our neighbors have returned to some level of normalcy after this incredibly difficult weather event.

As we are all aware here in Georgia, Winter Storm Leon has truly been our lion in winter. The national news covered the storm plight in our city and state and our elected officials, including Mayor Reed apologizing to us all on national television after folks like Al Roker criticized our local and state official for what he said was lack of proper planning and execution.

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Georgia Injury Prevention

January 11, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000016030629XSmall.jpgWithin Georgia we have so many wonderful assets and we should all be proud of these. One of the greatest assets in our state are the fine institutions of learning at all levels, whether Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, Emory or Georgia State, just to name a few, we are so fortunate to have these fine colleges and universities throughout our state. Some readers may not be aware that the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has a great resource in the area of injury prevention in partnership with the Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS). The public can access information and about programs offered and safety resources at ridesafe.org.

The Ride Safe site includes several key traffic and highway injury prevention efforts. For example, the site has information about programs for parents and teens to become better informed about how to best utilize the 40 hour requirement under Georgia law for supervised driving prior to teen licensing. This program, called PRIDE, stands for Parents Reducing Injury and Driver Error helps educate parents and teens about maintaining the best attitude by both during the process of supervised driving. Also included in this are child passenger safety certification programs, which provide training for those wishing to be certified to properly fit child safety seats in vehicles. Getting the help of a certified fitter has become an important way to ensure that your infant or child is as safe as possible while riding in your vehicle. Parents, grandparents and caregivers can rely on these certified fitters for the proper seating and safety precautions for infants and children while driving.

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Rockdale and Smyrna Accidents Result in Serious Injuries

January 6, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000003411145XSmall.jpgThe Rockdale County sheriff's office has suffered a blow early in this new year after one of their deputies has been arrested while off duty. She has now resigned from her position. The basis for the arrest involves allegations that she was driving under the influence of alcohol which is alleged to have caused a crash that resulted in injuries to two others traveling with her. Another more minor charge against her is failure to maintain her lane. Apparently the vehicle she was driving left the road and hit some trees. Sometimes when an accident involves local law enforcement, the local authorities will request the Georgia State Patrol to get involved to ensure the investigation is neutral and unbiased. That is what happened here. The injured passengers went to an Atlanta facility for medical support. Those involved have said they are grateful that there were no fatal injuries involved.

In general, the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-391 prohibits driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There are increased penalties for repeated convictions of this crime. Additionally, punishment for crimes involving the endangerment of children while driving a vehicle under the influence are governed by Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 16-12-1 (d).

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Safe Driving for Elderly Loved Ones -- Part 2

December 30, 2013, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000017099921XSmall.jpgMany older drivers are not only experienced, but very careful and considerate on the roads. But with age can also come the normal medical conditions that might affect safe driving. In our prior post, we have shared the statistics gathered by experts that elderly or older drivers and occupants in vehicles are more likely to be seriously or fatally injured in a crash due to the increased frailty of their bodies. This is true even in more minor collisions. These age-related changes and the increased danger to the elderly driver, may cause greater concern for families and adult children of the elderly about their loved one's safety. There is good reason to think about what to do when an older family member seems to be having more difficulty with driving. We might become aware of this as we notice damage to bumpers and other places of impact on a vehicle that are more likely to be damaged when the driver is visually or otherwise impaired. Often the bumpers of the vehicles driven by older family members are a first sign as to whether they are fully able to manage the challenges of driving. When we begin to observe these issues, we need to think about how to approach our elderly loved ones with our concerns. We recommend the resource How to Understand and Influence Older Drivers, published by our National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as an excellent place to start.

Some experts recommend that it is helpful to be a passenger on a regular basis with your older relative. This is a natural way to make sure your relative is managing his or her driving skills well. Sometimes when we drive with an older relative we can better assess things like how that person is handling normal driving conditions. For example, are they signaling before making a lane change or are they making that critical check for the blind spot before doing so? Are they stopping at intersections in the right location and are they coming to a full stop? Are they watching for other vehicles properly when moving through an intersection, making sure not to go on green for example until they are sure the intersection has cleared? Are we detecting visual impairment of any kind based on the way they are driving?

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