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Knoxville Motor Vehicle Accidents Law Blog

Passenger dies after enduring two crashes

Residents in Tennessee who have ever been involved in a motor vehicle accident know the importance of all parties stopping to take responsibility for their actions. Sadly, some people are not this honest as hit-and-run crashes continue to be heard about and to occur. In some situations, an at-fault driver may eventually be found but the circumstances around how that happens can vary a lot. 

WATE.com recently reported on an incident in which a driver chose not to pull over after hitting another vehicle on the freeway even though the damage caused was said to be relatively minor. The at-fault driver, who was only 18 years old, kept going however and somehow managed to drive his vehicle off of the highway and into a guardrail. In this vehicle was also a passenger and this person was not only injured in this second crash but killed as a result of the injuries he sustained.

Holiday celebrations and highway deaths

As residents in Tennessee look to enjoy a long holiday to celebrate the nation's birthday, many people brace themselves for what has come to be known as a deadly time on American roads. The Fourth of July holiday is commonly celebrated with parties, backyard barbeques, boating excursions and more. These events often find people on the road to and from their destinations and it is during these travel times that tragedy can strike.

As reported by Fortune magazine, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Esurance have identified the Fourth of July as the number one most deadly day on U.S. roads and highways. As one might expect, alcohol is often a contributor factor or cause in these crashes. In the five years spanning 2007 to 2011, alcohol was found to be involved in the death of at least 40 percent of the people who were killed in auto wrecks over the Fourth of July weekends.

How should I drive in work zones?

Teen drivers in Tennessee often face new driving situations as part of the learning process. Sometimes the lessons come with a price that is too high, which is the case when teens drive in work zones along the state’s many roads and highways.

According to the state’s Dept. of Safety & Homeland Security, a teen dies every three days in the U.S. and seven more are injured in work-zone accidents. Known as a dangerous place for road crews themselves, work zones can be even more hazardous for teen drivers who are inexperienced. In highway work zones, four of every five deaths are vehicle drivers 

What are the rules for driving around emergency vehicles?

Most Tennessee drivers know they should yield the road to an approaching emergency vehicle. It is something they learn for a driver’s license exam, as well as from experience. It is safe to say that all drivers will have to pull over for emergency vehicles many times during their driving careers. What you may not know is how to respond when you are in an intersection or at a stoplight when you see flashing lights. Here is a look at some rules about yielding to emergency vehicles in different situations.

The state driver’s license manual explains that drivers must immediately yield to emergency vehicles either approaching or overtaking you by pulling to the right side of the road and stopping. In addition, drivers should respond to sirens and flashing lights by:

  • Completing your turn if you are sitting in an intersection, then pull over. Staying in the intersection may block the path of the emergency vehicle.
  • Being sure when pulling over not to block any driveways or roads as the emergency vehicle may need access to them.
  • Staying where you are when stopped at a red light. If the light turns green, you must wait for the emergency vehicle to pass or turn onto another path before moving, unless instructed otherwise by emergency responders.
  • Turning your music down or off. Emergency vehicles are equipped with loudspeakers, which they may use to instruct drivers out of the way. You need to hear any directions.
  • Moving right when you are driving in a middle or left lane. If cars are to your right, move ahead or behind them until you are able to pull over and stop.

How safe are highway work zones?

Tennessee drivers have been educated in a variety of road hazards. You know to slow down approaching a blind turn and when traveling through intersections. You know a good rainstorm coupled with driving too fast may cause you to lose control of your car. You know it is dangerous to drink and drive. Another hazard you should be aware of is work zones.

With lane closures, detours and moving equipment to keep track of, it is easy to understand why drivers get confused, despite the use of traffic cones and signs to direct approaching drivers. According to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, there were nearly 100,000 work zone accidents throughout the nation in 2015, which break down as follows:

  • 642 crashes resulting in one or more deaths, which equates to an annual average of 12 fatalities each week.
  • 25,485 accidents with injuries to one or more people, which on average, means there are 70 crashes each day that result in injuries.
  • 70,499 crashes with only property damage. An overall average of accidents that occur equals a work zone crash about every 5 minutes.

What is hydroplaning and why is it dangerous?

Hydroplaning—which happens when water comes between a car’s tires and the road surface, often causing loss of control—is one of the scariest situations a Tennessee driver can face. Not being able to control a sliding car traveling at high speed is unnerving for the driver and other area motorists, who may become caught up in an accident involving property damage and severe injuries.

According to U.S. News & World Report, tire treads help disperse water and keep the mass of the tire surface in touch with the road. Driving too fast on wet pavement can cause the water pressure before the front tires to lift them off the ground, just a bit, but enough to put water between the tire and the road.

School buses designed to keep kids safe

When children are victims of a car accident, it is tragic. When a school bus crash causes multiple child deaths, the entire community is touched by the tragedy. Despite the high-profile incidents of ongoing school-bus crashes, including one in 2016 in Tennessee, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that school buses are still the safest form of transportation for children headed to and from school. In fact, the agency puts a number to the safety factor, saying that a safe arrival at school is 70 times more likely by bus than by individual cars.

The agency attributes this safety factor to the general design of a school bus, plus the support of stop-arm laws in every state in the nation. School buses are very visible, due both to their height and the color they are painted—yellow, which in traffic signs and signals is the color for caution. They also have flashing red lights to attract attention, stop-sign arms to halt motorists and cross-view mirrors that give the drivers a better view of the road and the traffic on it. State laws support the use of the stop-arms, making it illegal for drivers to pass when it is used. Drivers use the stop-arm when children are getting on and off.

Sudden deaths can bring traumatic grief

Losing a friend or family member is always difficult, but when the death is through an accident or another surprising event, trauma is added to grief, giving survivors a one-two punch that sends them reeling. If you are dealing with the loss of a loved one from an accident, the legal team at Pryor, Priest and Harber offers our sympathies. We have worked with bereaved family members who are experiencing traumatic grief, and we know you need an extra measure of support and consideration.

Psychology Today describes traumatic grief as “extremely painful” because so many things can trigger reminders of the person and bring the loss back again and again and again—so it is always fresh and it is always a shock.

A current outlook on helmet laws

The debate over whether motorcyclists should wear protective helmets when riding has been a seemingly endless one. Motorcycle enthusiasts across the nation are divided on this subject, some arguing that it crosses the line in terms of one's freedom. Tennessee motorcyclists are currently required to wear a helmet while operating bikes on the road, but might those laws change in the future?

According to one U.S. News article, some motorcyclists have recently continued the fight for freedom, despite the rising numbers of fatalities in some states that have loosened laws surrounding required helmet use. Some riders even go as far as to connect the freedom of choosing to wear a helmet with the freedom of speech; others claim that a tumble from a bike will likely do damage regardless of helmet use. However, doctors and safety experts alike argue otherwise, stating that making this choice comes with serious risks. While studies show a rising number of deaths alongside changes in helmet laws, one motorcyclist highlighted in U.S. News' article pointed out that an increasing number of motorcycle registration across the country has actually reflected a decrease in deaths since helmet-less laws took effect. 

New guidance on personal use of big rigs

Among the many concerns that Tennessee residents must contend with on the roads is the danger posed by large commercial trucks. Fatigued drivers can be a serious problem given the number of long and lonely hours that truckers spend behind the wheels of their rigs. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a rule that was designed to reduce fatigue among truckers in an effort to reduce accidents and improve safety. 

Called the Hours of Service rule, this law caps the number of hours that a trucker may work in a given day or week, how many of those hours may be spent driving versus doing other activities, when breaks should be taken and how long those break periods must last before work is allowed to resume. 

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