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When asked about causes of vehicle accidents, most people immediately think of impairment, such as alcohol, or distracted driving, such as texting. However, drowsy, or fatigued driving kills, and is a major problem in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines drowsy driving as, “the dangerous combination of driving and sleepiness or fatigue,” and the National Sleep Foundation estimates that sixty percent of American adult drivers, about 168 million, say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year, and more than one-third, approximately 103 million people, have actually fallen asleep while driving!

Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 100,000 crashes, 71,000 injuries, 12.5 billion in monetary losses and 846 deaths in 2014. However, these numbers are believed to be underestimated, as it is difficult to determine if fatigue caused driver error, and up to 6,000 fatal crashes may be caused by drowsy drivers each year.

The Warning Signs of Fatigued Driving

  • Disconnected thoughts or daydreaming.
  • Frequent blinking or heavy eyelids.
  • Persistent yawning or rubbing your eyes.
  • Feeling irritable or restless.
  • Trouble keeping your head up.
  • Trouble remembering driving the last few miles.
  • Missing your exit, road signs or traffic signs.
  • Hitting the rumble strips, tailgating or drifting into other lanes.

Fatigued driving is so dangerous because it impairs reaction time, reduces a driver’s vigilance and causes problems with processing information.

How to Determine a Fatigued Driver

In our fast-paced society people have learned to juggle many different responsibilities, including family, work and social life which may cause some to be exhausted by the end of the day. Although most people are prone to being fatigued at specific times, there are certain people that may experience a higher risk of fatigued driving, including:

  • Shift workers: People who work rotating shifts, nights shifts, double shifts or work more than one job are six-times more likely to be involved in a fatigued driving accident. Shift work may also lead to certain disorders, for example, according to the Alaska Sleep Education Center, shift work sleep disorder is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder that is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and insomnia. People who tend to work unusual schedules have their circadian rhythms disrupted, which may cause a number of physiological and mental problems.
  • Medication Side Effects: Many medications include sleepiness as a side effect. People that take these medications have a higher risk of fatigued driving. Examples of medications that have a sedating effect are: cold tablets, antihistamines and antidepressants, among others.
  • Drivers with untreated sleep disorders: Drivers that do not treat sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (“OSA”), narcolepsy and insomnia have a higher risk than the average driver for fatigued driving accidents. In all of these disorders the most common symptom is excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Age: Young drivers, from teen years to 25 years old (especially males) are considered an age group that is most likely to be involved in a fatigued driving accident. According to the NHTSA, “drivers younger than 30 accounted for almost two-thirds of drowsy-driving crashes, despite representing only about one-fourth of licensed drivers. These drivers were four times more likely to have such a crash than were drivers ages 30 years or older.” There are many theories as to why young drivers are involved in such a high percentage of fatigued driving accidents, however, the most common theory is that inexperience combined with sleepiness and the tendency to drive at night increases risk.
  • Commercial Drivers: People that drive a large number of miles and drive at night are at a much higher risk for fatigued driver accidents. Commercial drivers have also been found to be at a high risk for sleep disorders.
  • Business Travelers: People who travel frequently for their jobs or for leisure who may be suffering from jet lag and crossing different time zones, or spending long hours behind the wheel are also at an increased risk of being involved in a fatigued driver accident.

fatigued driving

Fatigued Driving Prevention

Many people believe that they can just “power through” a difficult driving situation by turning on the radio or rolling down their window to get some fresh air, however, these tactics do little to actually combat fatigued driving. There are better ways to prevent drowsy driving, before hitting the road drivers should:

  • Get a good night’s sleep before a long drive.
  • When taking longer trips plan to do the majority of your driving during the day.
  • If you are feeling fatigued, or notice signs that you may be drowsy, and you have a passenger in the vehicle, ask the passenger to drive.
  • If you are feeling drowsy, pull over and rest or sleep at a rest stop.
  • Use caffeine, which will provide a short-term boost, however, the effects may only last up to an hour and do not provide a long-term solution.
  • Consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any possible sleeping disorders.
  • If you are driving a long distance, schedule regular stops every 100 miles or two hours.

Get Involved

The National Sleep Foundation sponsors Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, an annual, national campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of driving while tired. In 2016, Drowsy Driving Prevention Week was November 6-13. The campaign chooses a week in November every year; people that are interested in Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, or becoming a Drowsy Driving Advocate, may find more information here.

uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage

What is the difference between uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage?

  • Uninsured motorist coverage (“UM”) is designed to protect drivers and passengers if the at-fault driver in an accident does not carry automobile liability insurance coverage.
  • Underinsured motorist coverage (“UIM”) is designed to protect drivers and passengers if the at-fault driver has insufficient automobile liability insurance coverage to pay for your injuries.

For example, if you are in a vehicle accident and sustain $50,000 in damages due to injuries, but the at-fault driver only has the minimum $15,000 bodily injury coverage, UIM may help bridge the financial gap.

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia require UM. Just fourteen states require UIM. In Arizona, Colorado and California, however, UM and UIM are not mandatory. Nevertheless, each state has its requirements with regard to UM and UIM.

Arizona law states that every insurer writing a motor vehicle liability policy must offer, in writing, UM and UIM to their insureds in an amount equal to the insured’s liability coverage. If the insureds reject this coverage, insurers must prove compliance with the statute by having their insureds sign a Department of Insurance-approved form that indicates selection or rejection of such coverage.

Colorado law states it is mandatory that the insurance provider offer collision, medical-payments, and uninsured-motorist coverage. Such coverage may only be rejected by the insured in writing.

California law requires insurers to include UM and UIM in automobile policies, unless the insurer and insured execute a written waiver in a specific format that is laid out in California law. If the insured does not sign the three-page waiver, UM and UIM are made part of the insurance policy.

Automobile accidents occur every day. In fact, more than 75,000 people are injured each day due to vehicle accidents in the US. So, whether you are heading out for a hike, going to relax by the ocean, or taking your family to a Spring Training baseball game, make sure that you understand and have implemented your state’s automobile insurance requirements.

Our relationship with technological innovation is complicated and cuts both ways. Technology gives us the ability to stay connected through phone calls, text messages, emails and social media. Yet, it’s one of the leading causes of distracted driving, causing vehicle accidents, injuries, and fatalities. In turn, we are finding news ways to use technology to curb distracted driving, through smartphone apps.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2014 there were 3,179 people killed and 431,000 injured in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers. Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention from the primary task of driving. Some examples of distracted driving include eating, drinking, reading, talking with passengers, and using a cell phone.

With the advent of the smartphone, drivers essentially have a computer at their fingertips, causing accidents from cell phone usage to skyrocket. According to the National Safety Council, smartphone-related accidents have increased for the third consecutive year in a row, with texting while driving making a vehicle accident 8-23 times more likely.

State Laws that Aim To Prevent Distracted Driving

In 46 states and the District of Columbia, it is illegal to text while driving. The table below shows the penalties that each state imposes for texting while driving.

preventing distracted driving

As of 2017, Arizona does not have a statewide ban on the use of cell phones while driving. Multiple localities have ratified their own bans on text messaging. In Arizona, the cities of Phoenix, Flagstaff, Tucson, and Tempe have banned the use of texting while driving. Additionally, Coconino and Pima Counties have banned the use of texting while driving.

Phoenix Municipal Code § 36-76.01 bans texting while driving. The law states, in part:

A. A person shall not operate a motor vehicle on a street while using a personal digital assistant to send or receive a written message while the motor vehicle is in motion.

B. This section does not apply to any of the following:

1. Law enforcement and safety personnel.

2. Drivers of authorized emergency vehicles.

3. Holders of commercial driver licenses while driving within the scope of their employment.

4. Public transit personnel.

5. A person who is reporting reckless or negligent behavior.

6. The use of a personal digital assistant for the sole purpose of communicating with any of the following regarding an emergency situation:

(a) An emergency response operator.

(b) A hospital, physician’s office or health clinic.

(c) A provider of ambulance services.

(d) A provider of fire fighting services.

(e) A law enforcement agency.

7. A person who believes the person is in physical danger if the person is the only adult in the motor vehicle.

C. For purposes of this section, “personal digital assistant” means a wireless electronic communication device that provides for data communication other than by voice.

D. A violation of this section is a nonmoving civil traffic violation.
(Ord. No. G-4985, § 1, adopted 9-19-2007, eff. 9-19-2007; Ord. No. G-5034, § 1, adopted 12-5-2007, eff. 1-4-2008)

Distracted Driving Accident Liability

In order to prove liability in an accident involving cell phone use, it is very likely that evidence will be needed to prove that the driver was not paying attention. Three potential ways to prove the accident was caused by cell phone usage include:

  • Cellphone records proving the driver was on a call or texting during the accident;
  • Photos or video from a passenger cell phone, surveillance cameras or police dash cams; and
  • Police reports.

Distracted Driving Prevention Apps

As distracted driving injuries and fatalities continue to rise, companies have started to create a variety of apps to encourage safe driving and block cell phone usage while driving.

Apps that encourage safe driving include:

1. Drivesafe.ly: A free mobile app that reads text messages and emails aloud in real time and automatically responds without the driver touching the mobile phone.

2. SafeDrive: An app that starts awarding points once the driver exceeds 6mph and does not touch their screen. The driver may compete against other drivers or use their accumulated points on discounted products offered by responsible companies.

3. Drivemode: An app that turns your text messages into audio that your phone will read aloud with the touch of a button. There are prerecorded responses to send as responses back to the texts that the driver receives.

Apps that block cell phone use while driving include:

1. Live2Txt: An app that will block incoming calls and texts while driving. The app will silence incoming notifications and send a customized message alerting the person that you are unable to respond.

2. Cellcontrol: An app and device that is designed for parents and is subscription based. The device is placed under the vehicle’s dashboard and will block the driver from sending texts or phone calls while the car is moving. If the device is removed or deactivated the parent would receive an email or text alert.

3. TextArrest: An app that prevents emailing and texting while the car is in motion.

Teen-driver

Obtaining the honor and privilege of driving is a major milestone in the life of a teenager. Arizona has taken aggressive steps to ensure our teenage youth are prepared for the responsibility of driving.

Jonathan Negretti, Attorney at Law at Negretti & Associates, explains Arizona’s laws that affect teen drivers and their parents or guardians.

Learner’s Permit

The first step to becoming a prepared teen driver is receiving a learner’s permit. Teens are eligible for a learner’s permit at 15 years and 6 months.

Other requirements include:

  • Parent or guardian co-signer – A parent or legal guardian must co-sign on the license making the parent or guardian liable for any willful misconduct or negligence caused by the teen driver.
  • MVD Driver Course – the teen must complete a driver’s education course offered by the MVD.
  • Accompanied by a licensed driver – with a learner’s permit, a licensed driver, 21 years or older, must be seated next to the driver.
  • Expiration – these permits are only valid for 12 months from date issued. 

Graduated License (Class G License)

Once the teen driver has held a learner’s permit for a minimum of six months, he or she is now eligible to receive a Graduated License, also known as a Class G License.

In addition to holding a learner’s permit for a minimum of six months, the additional requirements include:

  • Age: The teen must be at least 16 years of age.
  • Driving experience: The teen must have a minimum 20 hours of daytime, supervised driving experience; a minimum 10 hours of nighttime, supervised driving experience for a total of 30 hours of supervised driving experience.
  • Time restrictions: For the first six months, the teen driver cannot drive between midnight and 5 a.m., unless one of these requirements are met:
    • A parent or guardian accompanies the teen driver
    • The reason for driving is for a work, school activity, religious activity or family emergency
    • Passenger restrictions: For the first six months the driver cannot have more than one passenger in the vehicle. The exception to this rule is if parents or siblings are in the vehicle.

To learn more about the requirements for Arizona teen drivers licenses, visit Arizona Department of Transportation’s website.

If you or your teen driver has experienced an accident or injury while operating a vehicle with a Learner’s Permit or Class G license or is the victim of a motor vehicle accident by a teen driver, contact Negretti & Associates to understand and protect your rights.

For more information on Arizona teen driving laws, call us at 602-531-3911.

do i have a personal injury case

One of the most common questions the personal injury attorneys at Negretti & Associates are often asked is, “How do I know if I have a personal injury case?”

“Personal injury cases all look different — we see auto accidents, medical malpractice, dog bites and a variety of other injuries,” stated Jonathan Negretti, founder of Negretti & Associates. “The common denominator throughout nearly all of our personal injury cases is that during our client’s initial case consultation, it is clear the case meets all three of the personal injury case criteria, including injury, fault, and a responsible party.”

Personal Injury Case Criteria

1. Injury: Did the incident result in an injury? This can be a temporary, long-term or permanent injury. Death is also cause for a personal injury / wrongful death case.
2. Fault: Was someone at fault in the injury? Was there another party that caused or could have prevented the accident or injury? This could be a driver, doctor or store owner — just about anyone.
3. Responsibility: Is there an entity or organization responsible for payment? This could include an insurance company.

If your injury does not meet the three criteria listed above for a personal injury case, it may be a difficult case to prevail on.

It is important to note that each personal injury case comes with unique circumstances. If you think you may have a personal injury case, contact the attorneys at Negretti & Associates for a free consultation. Call us at 602-531-3911 or click here to write to us.