What are the most common holiday roadway hazards?

Dec 2019

Buffalo car accident attorney

As we approach Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year, some residents of greater Buffalo fully embrace the holidays. Others dread this time of year, due to the stress it may bring for them.

The actions drivers take on the roadway during the holiday season, however, often put lives at risk. An article in EHS Today attributes most holiday period crashes to four driving behaviors that are common this time of year. These include distraction, alcohol-impairment, aggressive and erratic driving, and roadway fatigue.

Why are drivers more distracted during the holiday season?

It’s now common knowledge that distracted driving is a growing problem on American roadways. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it kills more than 3,000 people each year.

During the holiday season, however, drivers may be even more likely to use cellphones behind the wheel for the following reasons:

  • To text family or friends regarding dinners, events, and celebrations
  • To send holiday greetings through texts
  • To check store hours or browse for products
  • To program GPS navigation

Does drunk driving increase throughout the month of December?

Adults who attend holiday work parties, family gatherings, or end-of-year celebrations will likely be offered a drink. Beer, wine, and spirits are a fundamental part of the holiday cheer for many people.

Unfortunately, those who drink too much will still likely get behind the wheel and endanger other drivers.

Drunk driving is a factor in roughly 32 percent of all traffic fatalities that occur on Christmas and 36 percent on New Year’s.

Does holiday stress result in more aggressive driving?

The demand to embark on holiday gift shopping, plan holiday celebrations, and travel can put many drivers on edge. Some drivers simply don’t manage their holiday stress well. These are the drivers who are most likely to exceed the speed limit, fail to yield the right-of-way, drive erratically, and show no regard for others.

Aggressive driving not only endangers other drivers, but it can also escalate into road rage. Over the past seven years, road rage and aggressive driving have resulted in 218 deaths and 12,610 injuries.

How likely are drivers to fall asleep at the wheel during the holidays?

During the holiday season, many people have more demands to meet with limited time. As a result, they tend to sleep less.

A 2106 AAA study finds that drivers who miss as much as three hours of sleep within a 24-hour period are four times more likely to be involved in a crash. Drowsy driving doesn’t always have to involve falling asleep at the wheel. It can also include loss of coordination, impaired judgment, and delayed reaction time.

Should you be injured in a crash this holiday, or lose a loved one, due to someone else’s reckless behavior, we urge you to take legal action. The Law Offices of James Morris, based in Buffalo, has more than 15 years of experience advocating for crash victims. We’ll investigate your crash and piece together the evidence to help you build a strong legal claim. We serve clients in Buffalo and across western New York.

To schedule your free case evaluation with our legal team, fill out our contact form online.

Warning: Rural roads as dangerous as urban roads

Nov 2019

Buffalo car accident attorney

Aside from Buffalo and a few other select cities, much of western New York is vastly rural. The wide-open roadways passing through expansive farmland and dense villages are starkly different from the bustling intersections and congested streets in Buffalo.

Driving on rural roads can be equally as dangerous as driving in an urban area. Here’s why:

  • There is usually less lighting from street lights and buildings.
  • Animals, such as deer, often cross the road.
  • Other drivers are more likely to speed on rural roads.
  • Curvy and winding roads can make rural roads unpredictable.
  • There is often less police presence, making it easier for drivers to violate traffic laws.
  • Snow and black ice is often a safety risk. In some cases, roads are never plowed or salted.
  • Some roads are riddled with potholes, uneven surfaces, and large cracks.

A large portion of New York State road deaths occur on rural roads

In 2018, New York had a total of 943 statewide traffic fatalities, according to state crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nearly half of New York’s road deaths occurred in rural areas.

Out of all fatal crash types:

  • 592 deaths involved a single-vehicle crash
  • 274 involved speeding
  • 113 involved a rollover
  • 429 involved a roadway departure

Out of the top deadliest New York counties in 2018:

  • Erie County ranked No. 5 with 44 traffic fatalities
  • Monroe County ranked No. 6 with 44 traffic fatalities
  • Onondaga County ranked No. 8 with 31 traffic fatalities

Officials address rural road safety

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) seeks to improve the conditions of rural roads, according to an article in Mass Transit.

“Rural America, which has a disproportionately high rate of fatalities and is historically neglected, needs to have its transportation needs addressed,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

The initiative launched by USDOT — dubbed the Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) — is intended to review rural infrastructure, identify safety and economic concerns, and work with other agencies to implement solutions.

Safety advocates and transportation officials invest a great deal of money and effort into improving infrastructure in urban areas. Rural areas, however, are often neglected, yet they account for more than 70 percent of all roadways across the U.S. In addition, nearly half of all road deaths occur in rural areas.

If you or a loved one was injured in a crash in Buffalo or anywhere in western New York, car accident attorney James Morris can help you pursue a solid legal claim. Attorney Morris has decades of real courtroom experience advocating for injured motorists and getting results. To get started on your claim, fill out our contact form online, so we can discuss the legal options available to you.

Drowsy driving car accidents more likely to spike after daylight saving time

Oct 2019

Buffalo car accident attorneyDrowsy driving doesn’t always involve falling asleep at the wheel. It is a form of driver impairment just like drunk driving. The difference is that drunk driving is illegal, but unless a drowsy driver causes a crash, police can’t just take a driver off the road for simply appearing tired. In addition, drowsy driving is very difficult to track and often leaves behind no physical evidence after a crash.

As more people juggle tight schedules and get less than the recommended amount of sleep (7-9 hours per night), drowsy driving has become a growing problem in Buffalo and across the United States.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving is a factor in about 91,000 crashes each year — resulting in nearly 800 deaths and 50,000 injuries. In 2014, New York State saw a total of 4,520 drowsy driver crashes, with 25 fatalities and 2,175 injuries.

Drowsy driving warning signs

According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are several warning signs that indicate when a drowsy driver should get off the road. These include:

  • Poor focus
  • Frequent blinking
  • Trouble keeping eyes open
  • Wandering thoughts and daydreaming
  • Poor memory of last few miles driven
  • Frequent yawning and rubbing eyes
  • Difficulty keeping head up
  • Drifting out of a lane or tailgating
  • Restlessness and irritability

Drivers who begin to notice these symptoms should pull over somewhere safe, turn off their car and take a short nap. Other ways to mitigate drowsy driving include:

  • Consuming caffeine
  • Opening a car window
  • Getting out and walking around
  • Have a passenger who is able to drive take the wheel

How daylight saving time may contribute to drowsy driving car accidents

Daylight saving time is just around the corner. On Sunday, November 3, Buffalo-area residents will “gain” an hour of sleep, but it could take up to a week to adjust. That one hour affects our circadian rhythm, our body’s internal clock that programs when we sleep and when we’re active.

A University of Washington Medicine video explains the effects of daylight savings and how it can lead to drowsiness. Turning back the clock is similar to experiencing jet lag, which happens when someone travels across different time zones. In order to minimize the impact of daylight saving time, the video suggests going to bed an hour earlier.

In addition to the time change, it will get darker earlier after daylight saving time. The reduced daylight can also impact our circadian rhythm by releasing the sleep hormone melatonin. That means, in the days following daylight saving time, crashes will likely increase.

That’s why if you were hurt in a crash, or lost a loved one, it’s important that you take legal action as soon as possible. An experienced Buffalo car accident attorney at the Law Offices of James Morris advocates for injured motorists who were involved in drowsy driving crashes. Our legal team knows how to uncover the evidence need to help you build a solid claim and get results.

To find out how we can help you, contact us online today.

The best ideas for back-to-school safety

Sep 2019

Buffalo car accident attorneyThe 2019/2020 school year has just begun in the greater Buffalo area. That means more kids will be walking, riding bicycles, and being dropped off at school. In addition, buses will be making frequent stops during the morning and afternoon hours.

For kids returning to school, the greatest danger isn’t on the bus, however. It is when children approach, enter, or depart buses and school zones, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

From 2008-2017, there were 264 reported child fatalities that occurred in school transportation-related crashes. Approximately 203 of the children who died in crashes were pedestrians, bicyclists, or passengers in cars.

Back-to-School Safety Tips for Drivers

It may be tempting to become impatient when approaching the lengthy traffic lines in school zones. It is important, however, for drivers to understand that the actions they take when in a rush may put children in danger of being hit by a car. In order to avoid this, the NHTSA suggests allowing more commuting time and being prepared to stop for school buses and children crossing the street.

Teen drivers traveling to school are encouraged to buckle up and ensure all vehicle passengers are also wearing seatbelts. Risky driving maneuvers, speeding, and distraction should be avoided at all costs.

What parents and students can do

Parents should always be conscious and engaged in their children’s safety before sending them off or driving them to school. Children should be at the bus stop five minutes before the bus arrival. The NHTSA also suggests that parents and children practice the SAFE procedure, which involves these four steps:

  • Stay five steps away from the curb.
  • Always wait until the bus stops completely and the driver tells you to board before getting on.
  • Face forward when seated on the bus.
  • Exit the bus after it has come to a complete stop and look both ways before crossing the street.

For walkers, a parent or guardian should always accompany kids under 10. If available, sidewalks should be used. Otherwise, the edge of the street facing traffic should be used by walkers. If they are accessible, walkers should also use crosswalks and look left and right before they cross the road.

Bicyclists are urged to wear helmets, ride with traffic moving in the same direction, and follow all traffic signals and signs. Always use bicycle lanes if they are accessible and remain alert at all times.

If the actions of a negligent driver resulted in you or a loved one being injured, a car accident attorney can fight for justice on your behalf. The Law Offices of James Morris proudly represents injured motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and passengers throughout greater Buffalo. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

Best Ideas to Prevent Electronic Scooter Accidents

Aug 2019

Buffalo car accident attorneyElectric scooters may soon become a convenient mode of transportation in Buffalo, according to The Buffalo News. The New York State Assembly and Senate are in the process of considering this year’s budget, including adding potential provisions that would modernize state transportation. One provision would allow cities throughout New York State to implement their own rules regarding electric scooters.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, who advocates for electric scooters, sees this as a way to alleviate the state’s transportation challenges. Electric scooters would allow commuters to get from point A to point B without following public transportation schedules or paying for parking. In addition, they would take more cars off the road — potentially eliminating traffic congestion in the cities.

While residents of Buffalo may reap the benefits of electric scooters, they must also understand the associated crash risks.

Safety precautions Buffalo can learn from other cities

Electric scooters have become increasingly popular in cities across the United States and other parts of the world. With this growing popularity, many injuries have also been reported.

An article by Today points one incident in London involving a YouTube star, who did after her scooter collided with a truck.

In another incident, one person sustained a serious head injury in Austin, Texas while commuting to a Paul McCartney concert. There were reportedly no helmets on site and the scooter had a speed limit of 15 miles per hour. But the crash was caused by a defective brake.

The Today article also reports that injuries to the face and head tripled over the last decade. According to a study conducted by researchers at Rutgers University, there were approximately 2,325 incidents reported in 2008 involving electric scooter crashes. In 2018, that number was 6,957 incidents. In 66 percent of those incidents, riders weren’t wearing helmets.

Dr. Boris Paskhover, co-author of the study, explained what prompted him to conduct research on the dangers of electric scooters.

“Visit a city and you’ll see people whizzing by and none of them have protective headgear,” Paskhover said.

Regulation is key to safety

Since the rise of electric scooters, many states have begun establishing safety rules. For example, New Jersey now requires electric scooter riders under age 17 to wear helmets.

According to an article by EHS Today, helmets for electric scooters are free and available, but riders must request them through the app, pay shipping, and wait about a week for them to arrive.

Those who are using electric scooters on the fly or for the first time may not have the luxury of waiting for a helmet to arrive in the mail.

In order to remedy this problem, the EHS Today article suggests that companies establish central pickup and drop off locations, as opposed to allowing users to leave electric scooters anywhere on the street. In addition, scooters should be checked for defects by on-site employees and helmets and safety gear should be provided.

Until electric scooters become established in Buffalo, it’s important that residents and visitors consider the risks of using electric scooters and be prepared to ride safely. In the event of a crash, it’s important that you speak to an experienced attorney dedicated to holding negligent parties accountable.

To find out what your legal options are, contact the Law Offices of James Morris and set up a free case evaluation.

The Best Ideas to Avoid Distracted Driving Car Accidents

Jul 2019

The consequences of distracted driving are obvious – accidents resulting in injuries, property damage or even death. Yet, people continue their unsafe behaviors.

According to Psychology Today, distracted drivers:

  • Have reduced reaction times.
  • Are less aware of their surroundings, including traffic signs, other vehicles and pedestrians.

According to a 2006 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted drivers cause:

  • 78 percent of all crashes
  • 65 percent of near-crashes

More recent studies show one out of every six fatal crashes – 3,116 in 2017 – are connected to distracted driving.

A major contributor to distracted driving (spoiler alert) is cell phones. In addition to talking on their phones, drivers use them for navigation and other things (especially texting among younger drivers).

Buffalo auto accident attorney

Why Can’t People Keep Their Minds and Eyes on the Road?

A study in Canadian Psychology examines some of the factors that lead drivers, especially younger motorists, to ignore the dangers of distracted driving:

  • Attitude toward phone use: Young motorists often believe maintaining a presence on social media is worth the risk of unsafe driving.
  • The illusion of control: Young drivers have unrealistic confidence in their ability to drive safely while engaging in distracting activities.
  • Age: Older drivers have the benefit of more driving experience and, generally speaking, engage in safer driving practices, perhaps because cell phones are a new technology to them.
  • Hands-free technology: Bluetooth, voice-recognition technology and other innovations give young drivers a false sense of security. The simple fact, supported by research, is that any distraction has a negative impact on safe driving.

Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident? Now is the Time to Speak to an Attorney.

A distracted driving accident changes your life for the worse in less time than it takes to place a call. You may be seriously injured, unable to work and provide for your family as growing medical bills threaten your way of life. The distracted driver who caused your accident is unlikely to accept responsibility and may even blame you. The legal system is a frustrating puzzle to the outsider. Then you have an insurance company trying to take advantage of your desperation by pressuring you into accepting a lowball financial settlement.

The Law Offices of James Morris can help you put your life back together. Serving Buffalo and western New York, their team has decades of experience handling cases just like yours. Personal injury lawyer James Morris and his staff will investigate your accident, handle all of the legalities and deal with insurance companies – taking them to court, if necessary, to win a financial settlement that covers all of your costs and brings you peace of mind.

Contact us today for a free case consultation.

Best Ideas to Avoid Crashes with Motorcycles, Pedestrians, & Bikes

Jun 2019

Buffalo car accident attorneyWe’ve been hearing about motorcycle crashes (some fatal) in Buffalo and the surrounding area recently. In June, a motorcyclist reportedly lost control of his bike and crashed near Genesee Street and Nevada Avenue. He was treated at a nearby hospital but later succumbed to his injuries. In the same month, another motorcyclist was critically injured in a crash in Niagara County.

We’ve heard about bicyclists and pedestrians being fatally struck. In one recent incident, a bicyclist was struck by an SUV in Kenmore and rushed to a nearby hospital. The bicyclist sustained injuries to the head, chest, and legs.

In May, a Tonawanda pedestrian was injured after being struck by a pickup truck making a turn, according to The Buffalo News.

Motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists – the most vulnerable road users

These are the most vulnerable road users in and around Buffalo. They don’t have the luxury of airbags, seatbelts, and a sturdy front end that can absorb the impact of a crash. You never see pedestrians walking around wearing protective gear.

At most, the helmets worn by bicyclists and motorcyclists may be effective at preventing severe head injuries, but both are still susceptible to broken bones, spinal injuries, lacerations, bruises, and abrasions.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

  • Approximately 783 bicyclists were killed in crashes in 2017
  • 5,977 pedestrians were killed in crashes
  • 5,172 motorcyclists were killed in crashes

We’re in the midst of summer – a time of year when the streets are heavily occupied and the roads are shared by many. That’s why it’s important for drivers to practice caution, stay alert, and avoid speeding or aggressive driving.

Crash prevention

According to the NHTSA, a great way to prevent collisions is by simply understanding that motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists have the same right to the roads as drivers.

In addition, drivers should be aware that others using the road are smaller and often less visible. In order to prevent a crash from occurring, drivers should:

  • Slow down and watch out for pedestrians in areas with heavy foot traffic.
  • Maintain three feet distance when passing bicyclists on the side of the road.
  • Keep a safe distance from motorcyclists and avoid driving too close behind.

If you’re a motorcyclists, pedestrian, or bicyclist who was injured in a crash due to a driver’s carelessness or reckless behavior, you should discuss your accident with an experienced Buffalo attorney as soon as possible.

Let the legal team at the Law Offices of James Morris fight to help maximize your compensation. Contact us today to learn more.

Highway deaths still a problem despite vehicle safety advances

May 2019

Buffalo car accident attorneyCars are getting smarter each year. Many modern vehicles can warn drivers who are changing lanes that another vehicle is too close. Car makers are testing vehicles that can pilot themselves. Cars also have more features than ever to protect passengers, from airbags to adaptive cruise control and rear-view cameras.

Despite advances in technology, crashes continue to happen, and people continue to get seriously injured or killed in car accidents. In 2017, over 37,000 people died on roads and highways across the United States. A few years earlier, in 2011, about 32,000 people died. A recent Consumer Reports article raises the question: Why are there so many road deaths when cars are built to be safer than they’ve ever been?

Factors behind road fatalities

Some of the latest safety features include automatic emergency braking. Automakers are also beginning to install vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, which allow cars to “talk” to each other.

While their cars may be equipped with safety features, many drivers continue to make careless and reckless decisions while behind the wheel. Some of the factors behind fatalities in New York and elsewhere include:

  • Drunk driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving
  • Running red lights or stop signs
  • Driving while drowsy

Consumer Reports notes that poorly designed roads also have an impact on safety. A slight curve in the road can be deadly, especially during icy or snowy conditions. Some cities are looking at ways to redesign roadways. For example, New York City has made improvements to Queens Boulevard, making the road more pedestrian and bike friendly. After the boulevard was redesigned, fatalities dropped significantly.

Speed has been cited as a cause of deadly car accidents. Many states have been increasing – or are considering increasing – their speed limits on highways. One recent study found that every 5-mph increase in the speed limit leads to an increase in the number of road fatalities.

What to do after a car accident

Unfortunately, despite technological advances, drivers will continue to make poor choices. They may be distracted by a smart phone or they’re operating their vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If they cause an accident, they must be held accountable.

Accident victims might think they can handle an insurance claim on their own, especially if the other driver was at fault. Insurance companies for at-fault drivers often will push back against claims, however. They may argue that the injuries you suffered were minor or they may even suggest you were somehow at fault.

At the Law Offices of James Morris, we know all the arguments insurance companies make to keep their payments to a minimum or deny the claim. To get the justice you deserve, you need an experienced lawyer fighting for you. Contact us today to find out how we can make a meaningful difference.

A Buffalo Attorney Reveals Growing Drugged Driver Dangers

Apr 2019

Buffalo car accident attorneyBuffalo drivers are not immune to the growing epidemic of prescription opioid abuse. When a person under the influence of an opiate gets behind the wheel, everyone on the road is put in greater danger.

According to the results of a public investigation posted on the JAMA network, the use of prescription opioids by drivers is increasingly implicated as a contributory cause in fatal motor vehicle crashes.

The article states that in this study of 3,642 drivers involved in 18,321 fatal 2-vehicle crashes, prescription opioid use as indicated by toxicological testing results was associated with a significantly increased risk of crash initiation, due in large part to failure to keep in proper lane.

In the United States, motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of unintentional deaths. Drug overdose is the first.

Increase in drugged drivers

In the past two decades, prescription opioids have been detected in more than 7 percent of fatally injured drivers, up from just one percent prior to the onset of the epidemic in the mid-90s.

The study provides compelling evidence that driver use of prescription opioids may double the risk of fatal 2-vehicle crashes, independent of demographical characteristics, driving history, and alcohol use. This finding is generally consistent with previous studies. A recent meta-analysis found that prescription opioid use was associated with a 47 percent increased risk of crash initiation.

Stay in your lane

The study found drivers under the influence of prescription opioids often failed to stay in their proper lane. Failing to stay in their lane accounted for 54.7 percent of errors leading to 2-vehicle crashes by drivers that took prescription opioids, compared with 40.4 percent of errors by drivers not under the same influence.

Crossing the center lane was identified as being a particularly dangerous error.

Know the laws

Driving under the influence of drugs, such as opioids, is prohibited in every state. The study notes that currently, 16 states have zero-tolerance laws for all or select opioids, while Ohio and Nevada have per se laws that specify legal cutoff concentrations for some opioids. Variation in regulations across states is due in part to inadequate research and lack of consensus on prescription opioids and driving safety. To tackle the problem of driving under the influence of drugs, law enforcement personnel are increasingly using oral fluids for quick roadside tests to screen for marijuana, opioids, and other drugs.

If you are a New York driver who was injured in an accident and you suspect prescription opioids were a factor, one of the experienced Buffalo attorneys at the Law Offices of James Morris can help you navigate the laws and get the compensation you deserve.

Contact us today to learn more.

Buffalo attorney considers drugged driving laws in face of legalization of marijuana

Mar 2019

Buffalo auto accident attorneyAs New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pushes legislators to legalize marijuana, concerns are being raised about the issue of potential drugged driving.

Buffalo drivers need to know what drugged driving is, how driving high could affect them, and how the legalization of marijuana could potentially change the law. The answers to these questions are unclear as the debate over legalizing marijuana continues.

How marijuana use can affect drivers

The New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) states that Delta (9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most important psychoactive substance in cannabis, is often detected in blood from drivers suspected of drugged driving.

THC affects areas of the brain that control the following:

  • Movements
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Memory
  • Judgment
  • Sensation

The OASAS states that although these effects are known, most laws relating to impaired driving have dealt with alcohol.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, drugged driving is more complicated than drunk driving for several reasons, including limited data and the lack of a single test to detect the hundreds of drugs that could influence a driver.

How is drugged driving tested and how can driving high affect you?

Officer Albert Wheech of the Rochester Police Department is one of the 15 to 20 Drug Recognition Experts, or DREs, in the county, according to a report by WHAM.

Wheech, who said he makes about 200 arrests a year for both DWI and DUI, told the ABC affiliate that all DREs go through extensive training to learn how to detect an impaired driver. He also said there is a marijuana pre-test similar to a breathalyzer; however, it is expensive.

Police departments throughout the state will need to consider how and when to invest in training and equipment of this kind. Driving high can be just as dangerous as driving drunk, creating the same risks for all vehicles on the road.

An increase in opioids

In Monroe County, alcohol or drugs played a role in 15 fatal crashes in 2017. It was the same number in 2016.

We should expect to see this number increasing. A study co-authored by Dr. Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University Medical Center, found that car crashes involving a driver under the influence of painkillers have tripled in the past 25 years.

Dr. Li confirms also that the “use of prescription opioids plays a significant role in the causation of fatal motor vehicle crashes.”

Injured in a drugged driving accident? Contact us!

As Buffalo and all of New York inches closer to legalizing marijuana, the Law Offices of James Morris continue to stay on top of potential changes in laws. If you have been injured in an accident caused by a driver under the influence, contact the Law Offices of James Morris for a free consultation.