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Springfield Virginia Motor Vehicle Accidents Blog

The top causes of car accidents in the U.S.

Some motor vehicle accidents in Virginia attributed to human error involve minor damage and little or no personal injuries. However, some collisions result in serious or fatal injuries and extensive damage. While unique circumstances sometimes contribute to auto accidents, there are several common causes that play a role in many of the car accidents that occur in the United States each year.

One of the leading causes of car accidents in the U.S. is distracted driving, which can involve device use and other forms of distraction, such as eating, personal grooming and conversations with passengers. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol before getting behind the wheel impairs response time and inhibits the ability to remain focused on the road. It's also common for some drivers to simply ignore the speed limit as they make their way to their destination. High-speed driving makes it difficult to slow down, avoid or maneuver around unexpected obstacles.

Restrictions on truck driver hours may be relaxed

Truck drivers in Virginia and other states may soon have fewer limitations when it comes to their hours behind the wheel. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is moving forward with plans to relax regulations on how many hours truckers can work per shift. While the trucking industry has been pushing for fewer restrictions on hours, safety advocates are concerned about driver fatigue and similar issues that could put other motorists at risk.

Existing regulations involving commercial vehicles limit long-haul drivers to 11 hours on the road within a 14-hour on-duty period. Additionally, drivers are required to have 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time before on-duty time officially begins again. Plus, drivers planning to clock more than eight hours are required to take a 30-minute break when they hit the eight-hour mark. Violations could result in a driver being listed as out of service for one or more days.

Passenger vehicle drivers usually at fault in truck accidents

Research conducted by the Virginia-based American Trucking Associations reveals that commercial vehicle accidents are usually caused by mistakes made by passenger vehicle drivers. After studying more than 8,000 fatal truck accident reports, the trade group discovered that car, pickup truck and SUV drivers were found to be at fault 81% of the time. Passenger vehicle occupants also made up the overwhelming majority of the deaths.

Motorists can reduce these risks by driving defensively around commercial vehicles and bearing in mind that semi-tractor trailers weighing as much as 80,000 pounds do not stop as quickly or maneuver as deftly as cars. When truck drivers are blamed for accidents, fatigue or distraction are often responsible. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has hours-of-service rules to prevent drowsy driving crashes, but some road safety advocates believe that these rules encourage truck drivers to exceed speed limits in order to complete their journeys before rest becomes mandatory.

Teens at increased risk of dying in summer car crashes

For recently licensed high school students, the summer months can be a time of exhilarating freedom. Many young adults will find that they have their first opportunities to truly spend time independent of their families, thanks to their license and their access to a vehicle. 

During the school year, teenage lives are largely regulated by school and extracurricular activities. They have to deal with curfews and regimented daily schedules. The summer is an open expanse of time by comparison. 

Driver assistance systems mistaken for self-driving cars

A study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that many drivers in Virginia and across the U.S. do not know the limitations of advanced driver assistance systems. Devices like automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning are helping to prevent crashes, yet some drivers fail to realize that ADAS is meant to assist drivers: nothing more nor less.

By expecting too much from ADAS, drivers are becoming complacent behind the wheel. The IIHS had more than 2,000 drivers give their opinion as to what would be acceptable behavior when driving with these five ADAS engaged: Autopilot, Traffic Jam Assist, Super Cruise, Driving Assistant Plus and ProPilot Assist. Looking at the name "Autopilot," nearly half of participants assumed that they could drive hands-free with such a program engaged.

Advanced auto safety systems can drive up insurance rates

Virginia residents may be surprised to learn that cars equipped with advanced safety systems can actually cost more to insure. Features like automatic braking systems and lane departure warnings may prevent accidents, but they also make cars that do crash more expensive to repair. Insurance companies base their premiums on perceived risks, and the latest car safety features have not been in use long enough for their benefits to be fully understood. However, insurers know exactly how much replacement parts cost.

Insurance costs are rising because the latest safety features use cameras and sensors to gather information that can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to replace. The headlights fitted to cars sold just a few years ago cost about $200 to replace, but adaptive headlight units that provide far more illumination when rounding corners can cost as much as $2,000.

Trucking companies use technology to reduce distracted driving

Every day, roads in Virginia and around the country are filled with thousands of distracted drivers. These motorists take their eyes off the road to use their cellphones, GPS systems or other types of technologies, endangering themselves and others in the process. In fact, distracted drivers kill at least nine people and injure 100 others on U.S. roads each day on average, according to the National Safety Council.

Passenger vehicle drivers and commercial truck drivers are both guilty of driving while distracted, but truckers are potentially more dangerous. This is because the massive size and weight of big rigs often cause more property damage, severe injuries and deaths during a crash than passenger vehicles. As a result, some trucking companies are beginning to monitor truck drivers for distracted driving and giving them a safety score. Most of these programs are designed to reward drivers who have excellent safety records, not to punish those who do not. Some systems also add fun to the process by making safety scores a competitive game among drivers. This helps drivers willingly buy into the system and reduces the risk of them feeling resentment over being monitored.

Why truck accidents are so complex to settle

Virginia drivers who have been involved in a car accident know that the aftermath can be complicated and confusing. Unfortunately, the post-crash situation is usually even more complex for the victim of a commercial truck crash.

There are several reasons for this. For starters, trucks are larger and heavier, meaning they often cause more damage and injuries in the event of a collision. Cases involving extensive damage and injuries are always more complicated to sort out. Meanwhile, the ownership and liability of commercial trucks can be complex. While some truckers own their vehicles, others may drive a truck owned by a company or be involved in a lease-to-own contract. This can make it more difficult to determine liability after a crash.

Texting behind the wheel is more dangerous than you think

How many text messages do you send each day? You might even send while multi-tasking, for instance you may ask when family members will be home while cooking dinner. You could even be so pressed for time that you look down at the stop light to read a text or compose text messages while driving to pick up kids at their activities. 

Most people know there is a risk associated with texting and driving, but they tend to think they can drive safely enough to counteract it. It might come as a surprise then to learn that texting behind the wheel is more dangerous than most assume.

Most car crashes caused by negligent drivers

Many people in Virginia are severely injured in motor vehicle collisions every year. Across the country, thousands of people lose their lives or suffer permanent disabilities due to crashes. This can pose a particular danger on holiday weekends when the roads are crowded as drivers hit the road to go on vacation or celebrate with family and friends. In some cases, crashes may be caused by mechanical problems, wildlife or out-of-control weather. However, the vast majority of damaging collisions are linked to negligent and dangerous driving.

The precise definition of negligence matters when seeking accountability for the damages caused by a motor vehicle accident. Under the law, drivers can be held responsible for a crash if they are proven to be negligent, which means they breached a duty of care owed to their fellow drivers. When it comes to car accidents, the existence of a duty is often relatively easy to prove. All licensed drivers have the responsibility to drive safely, follow the rules of the road and aim to protect others on the roadways as part of the privilege of driving. There are a number of ways that people could breach that duty, including by driving while drunk or distracted, violating traffic laws or even getting behind the wheel while overly tired.

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