Archive for March, 2014

Columbia Bicycle and Pedestrian Crash Prevention Benefit of New Initiative

A South Carolina bicycle crash nearly killed a cyclist in Greenville recently, after state troopers say he was struck by a pickup truck while attempting to cross the road.  It was believed at first that the cyclist would not survive, but authorities now say he is likely to pull through. 

Our accident lawyers in Columbia, SC understand that such incidents are at the core of why legislators are aggressively working to pass the Safe Streets Act of 2014, also known as S. 2004. The measure would require all federally-funded road construction projects to follow the guidelines set forth by the Complete Streets model.

Whereas many of today’s current transportation infrastructure is focused on safety and efficiency for motor vehicle drivers, the Complete Streets initiative focuses on ensuring better streets for all travelers, with specific care paid to bicyclists, pedestrians and those using public transportation.

Aging “baby boomer” generation leads to increase in pedestrian traffic

Pedestrian safety will only grow more important over the next decade or two, as the baby boomer population ages. Those who have reached a point where they can no longer safely operate a motor vehicle must rely more heavily upon public transportation and walking.

The baby boom generation is the largest in U.S. history, and in 2011, the first wave turned 65. The last of these will not reach age 65 until 2030.

What’s more, The Atlantic recently published an article referencing a study last year by the National Alliance for Biking and Walking that indicated the southern U.S. states are the most dangerous per biker per miles traveled – by a wide margin.

For example, if you ride a bicycle in South Carolina, you are 10 times more likely to be hit and killed by a vehicle than if you rode a bike in Oregon (one of the country’s safer states for cycling). In North Carolina, you are eight times more likely to die. In Mississippi, you are 13 times more likely to suffer a fatal injury on a bicycle.

Can South Carolina do more to prevent pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities?

A recent report on transportation spending, conducting by the Advocacy Advance, discovered that southern states as a whole spend the least on biking and walking safety infrastructure. Where Massachusetts allocated more than 5 percent of its transportation budget to pedestrian and bicycling facilities, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Louisiana and Florida spent one half of one percent of their total transportation budget on the same.

This is despite the fact that bicyclist fatalities increased 9 percent from 2010 to 2011. This increase occurred even though overall motor vehicle fatalities have been on a steady decrease over the last several years.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that nearly 680 bicyclists were killed across the U.S. in 2011, and another nearly 50,000 were injured. A third of these incidents happened in a rural setting.

The average age of pedalcyclist fatalities in 2011 was 43. The average injured was 32. These are both sharp increases from what we saw in 2002, when the average age was 36 for bicycle fatalities and 28 for injuries.

The Safe Streets Act, which is currently before the Committee on Environment and Public Works, would require all states to become compliant within two years of passage.

Contact Columbia injury lawyers at Matthews & Megna LLC by calling 1-803-799-1700. 

Distracted Driving in South Carolina a Critical Risk

A recent analysis by KTX Insurance Brokers indicates that far more crashes are caused by distracted driving than previously believed.

For all the various kinds of distracted driving – from texting while driving to putting on makeup to scolding children in the backseat – it’s often tough to prove in the event of a moving violation or crash. Frequently, researchers found, these incidents are lumped into the category of “careless driving.”

Our Columbia, SC accident attorneys recognize that unlike drunk driving, authorities may find it all but impossible to establish that a motorist was distracted at the time of the wreck. They may rely on witness statements, the driver’s own statements or cell phone and text messaging records. But even those aren’t always reliable.

Distracted driving accidents on the rise in South Carolina

Formal estimates from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving in 2012. That’s a nine percent increase from what was reported from a year earlier.

The issue is major in South Carolina, which remains one of the only states in the country still lacking a cell phone or texting ban. There is a proposed measure that recently headed to the floor of the state senate. If the amended bill becomes law, it would mandate a $100 fine for a first-time texting while driving offense, a $200 fine for the second, and a $300 fine for the third, accompanied by two points on one’s driver’s license. The original draft would have required a $100 fine and no points for a first-time offense, a $500 fine for the second, with both carrying a two-point penalty.

Although the penalties are substantially weaker, they are considerably higher than what the original draft proposed, which was a $25 fine.

Some individual municipalities, such as Summerville, have been pursuing their own texting bans, but some of those have been set aside in anticipation of a statewide ban.

Hands-free technology may do more harm than good

Even if the measure passes, it’s highly unlikely to curb all forms of distraction. In fact, more continue to emerge. Take, for example, the rise of in-vehicle “infotainment” systems. Most new models of vehicles are being manufactured with infotainment systems standard issue. These are systems that are equipped with GPS navigation, speech-to-text technology, hands-free phone capabilities, music systems, access to social media and even videos and games.

Some manufacturers have promoted these systems as “safe” – or at least “safer” than using handheld devices.

However, new research from the AAA Foundation suggests that not only are these systems equally if not more dangerous than handheld devices, the way they are marketed may provide drivers with a false sense of security.

The study found that the typical, in-car activities were highly cognitively distracting. Study results were rated on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 was a single driver with no distractions. Listening to the radio boosted the distraction level to 1.21. Having a passenger in the car upped the distraction level to 2.33. Talking on a cell phone increased the distraction level to 2.45.

The most dangerous? Listening and responding to e-mail using speech-to-text infotainment systems – rating 3.06 on the distraction scale.

Contact a Columbia, S.C. accident attorney at Matthews & Megna by calling 1-803-799-1700. 

Columbia Car Accidents Deaths Remain Serious Risk for Children

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brightly asserts that child fatalities stemming from motor vehicle accidents are down 43 percent over the last decade. 

But of course, the Columbia, South Carolina personal injury lawyers of Matthews & Megna, LLC know there is a lot more to this story.

You may recall just recently the car accident death of a 7-year-old in Sumter County. The South Carolina Highway Patrol reports it happened around 7 a.m. on a Monday, when a Mazda and a Saturn collided on the highway. The Mazda driver was unhurt, but the man in the Saturn was injured, as was an 8-year-old passenger. The 7-year-old in that car was pronounced dead at the scene.

All had been wearing their seat belts, authorities say, and the crash remains under investigation.

The fact is, traffic collisions remain the top cause of fatalities for children who are under 4 and also for kids between the ages of 8 and 14. They are one of the leading causes for kids of all ages.

In South Carolina, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports there were 31 child traffic deaths in our state in 2011, the last year for which finalized figures are available. Of those, eight were between the ages of 1 and 3; seven were between the ages of 4 and 7; and 16 were between the ages of 8 and 14.

We rank in the top 15 states in the nation for the number of child deaths attributed to motor vehicle crashes.

The South Carolina Budget and Control Board reports that while traffic deaths of children under the age of 5 have been on the decline here in the Palmetto State, they continue to be a leading cause of death for children in this age group.

The recent drop-off is partially attributed to stricter child safety restraint laws and better parental education of those requirements. Still, South Carolina has one of the most lax child restraint laws in the country. It is among 12 other states that only require child safety restraints up to age 5. The majority of other states require them until age 6 or 7. Two states, Tennessee and Wyoming, require them until the child reaches 8 years-of-age.

About one-third of the 9,000 children who were killed in traffic crashes from 2002 through 2011 weren’t wearing a proper safety restraint, the CDC reports. Among black children, that figure was 45 percent. Among Hispanic children, that figure was 46 percent.

The study did not further explore why these racial differences were so pronounced, though the authors did suggest that socio-economic factors may play a role.

This is troubling, of course, but it also means that the majority of parents are buckling their children the right way. Seat belt use overall increased from 88 percent in 2002 to 91 percent in 2011 among children 7 and under.

Where researchers identified the biggest lapse was among older children, between the ages of 8 and 14. South Carolina statistics bear out those findings as well.

Properly belting in your child won’t prevent a fatigued trucker or drunk driver from causing a collision. It can, however, give your child a fighting chance for survival in the face of a serious motor vehicle collision.

Call Matthews & Megna in Columbia, SC today at 877-253-7705 or visit www.matthewsandmegna.com for a free consultation.