June 2, 2012

The Feds Shut Down Buses On I-95 Through North Carolina

bus crash.jpgYesterday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ordered 26 bus operators to stop transporting passengers. The bus companies carry passengers on Interstate 95 between New York and Florida.

The federal agency closed the bus companies for what it termed an "imminent hazard" due to continuous safety violations. The violations that were discovered included using bus drivers who did not have commercial driver's licenses and who had failed drug and alcohol tests.

Federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood described the action as the largest single shutdown in the agency's history.

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May 14, 2012

Longboat Key Police Chief Dies in North Carolina Motorcycle Crash

Longboat Key Chief Dies.jpgPolice Chief Al Hogle, of Longboat Key, Florida, was killed in a motorcycle crash today in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The details of the wreck have not yet been released by the State Highway Patrol.

The Longboat Key News reported that Chief Hogle was an Air Force veteran and a long-time law enforcement officer. Chief Hogle was also graduate of the FBI National Academy at Quantico. He lived and worked in Sarasota for many years before retiring from the Sarasota Police Department. He also held positions as a Sarasota City Commissioner and Mayor. After leaving politics, Chief Hogle returned to law enforcement and became the Chief of Police of the City of Bradenton. After reaching his goals for the Bradenton Police Department, he moved on to Longboat Key in 2002.

Chief Hogle's enthusiasm for riding motorcycles was well known. When interviewed last fall, Hogle declared his love for motorcycling in the mountains of Western North Carolina. During the interview, Chief Hogle commented about his love of high performance motorcycles. Western North Carolina, from Asheville to Robbinsville, is well known to motorcycle enthusiasts due to the scenic highways and curvy roads.The Blue Ridge Parkway and the Tail of the Dragon are two or the more popular roads among motorcyclists.

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May 7, 2012

Train Cuts Tractor-Trailer in Two - No Injuries Reported

Last Friday, a dangerous railroad crossing in Kings Mountain, North Carolina claimed a tractor-trailer loaded with cotton bails as its latest victim when a huge train sliced the 18-wheeler in two near Battleground Avenue and Oak Street in Kings Mountain. Luckily, no one was injured. The video is amazing.

Town officials have long known about the dangers presented by the dangerous railroad crossing according to the Gaston Gazette, but until now had failed to act. The problem is that the railroad tracts are quite high above the level of the road, and the road ramps sharply upward as you approach the tracks. In this collision, the tractor-trailer's landing gear caught on the tracts, and the truck was stuck.

Although there are signs on both sides of the tracks prohibiting tractor-trailers from using the crossing, there have been 4 such train wrecks at this crossing since 2011, and 14 since 1976. North Carolina DOT has been after city leaders since 2008 to make them close the crossing. City leaders have previously failed to take action. The near fatal collision in this case should cause the city to close the crossing.

The truck driver and his passenger narrowly escaped the speeding locomotive, jumping from the truck just seconds prior to impact. After the crash, city leaders decided to temporarily close the railroad crossing, and have indicated that they plan to hold a public hearing on the issue of permanently closing the crossing. For the City to Ignore such a clear safety hazard for so long amounts to a reckless indifference to the safety of the general public.

Cities and towns in North Carolina, in conjunction with DOT, decide where railroad crossings will occur. If any crossing presents an unusual hazard, such as this one, city leaders have the authority and obligation to close it.

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January 28, 2012

Bigger & Heavier Trucks Mean More Dangerous Roads

triple trailer truck.jpgThis image could become a common sight on the interstates and rural roads throughout North Carolina and around Asheville if the truck industry is successful in Washington this week.

Truck industry big shots are pushing Congress to let states decide how big and how heavy highway trucks should be, and their goal is simple: To Put Bigger and Heavier Trucks on the Road! The problem is that bigger and heavier trucks mean more deaths and destruction for our nation's citizens. This coming Thursday, Congress will vote on the bill.

One North Carolina State Trooper, Nathan Mitchell, will be in Washington on behalf of the NC Troopers Association. The Asheville Citizen Times reported that he plans to tell Congress that bigger and heavier trucks will mean more Americans will be killed and maimed if the measure passes. Trooper Mitchell's position is supported by statistical data.

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January 15, 2012

A Computer Device That Stops Your Child From Texting While Driving

cell control device.jpgYou've heard the statistics: nearly 6000 dead and over 500,000 injured. The death and destruction on our roads continues, and at a recent safety summit in Washington, D.C., the experts are blaming cell phones.

A device at the recent 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), received a big award for stopping texting while driving.

A company called "Scosche" introduced CellControl. The electronic device plugs into a computer port in your car and after downloading an app to your, or your child's, smartphone, it restricts cell phone use if the vehicle is moving.

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November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Safety Tips For Those On The Roads


When you are speeding and not paying attention on a busy city thoroughfare, bad things can happen. Yesterday in Charlotte, a reckless driver caused a serious 5 car pile-up. When the driver of a Mercedes Benz sped down W.T. Harris Boulevard, which is a four lane highway, it ran another car off the road and then into another vehicle.

After the initial collision, the Mercedes flipped over onto its top and slid approximately 300 feet where it smashed into another car and an SUV. The Mercedes was destroyed.

Fireman responded to the crash very quickly. One person was pinned in their vehicle, and emergency workers had to cut that person out of their car. That person and three others involved in the collisions suffered injuries and were transported to a local hospital.

Careless and reckless driving charges will most likely be filed against the driver of the Mercedes. Police did not disclose what caused the initial collision.

Please read the Thanksgiving Safe Driving Tips below:

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November 8, 2011

Sleep Disorder Blamed in Many Fatal Truck Accidents

tired truck driver.jpgOdds are that if you are driving on an interstate highway, more than 25% of the tractor-trailers you see will be operated by a fatigued truck driver. This is because approximately 3 million U.S. truck drivers have what is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA is characterized by sleep-disordered breathing that results in daytime sleepiness, sleep attacks, micro-sleeps, psychomotor deficits, and disrupted nighttime sleep. OSA dramatically increases a truck driver's risk of being involved in a fatal truck accident. Unfortunately, many truck companies continue to deny that many of their drivers suffer from OSA and refuse to conduct company sponsored screening for the disorder. The problem of fatigued truck drivers has been a deadly problem for years.

In 2008, the medical advisory panel of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration - the government agency that regulates the truck industry - recommended that companies screen their drivers for OSA. Very few truck companies have done anything to identify which of their drivers have OSA. One exception, is Schneider National Trucking.

Don Osterberg is the Vice-president of Safety at Schneider. He stated, "[s]o now we're three and a half years later and the DOT has taken no action." The lack of a federal regulation did not stop Schneider from taking responsibility for its drivers. Schneider screened all of its more than 2000 truck drivers. They discovered that a very significant percentage suffered from OSA. The great thing about this disease is "how effectively it can be treated," Osterberg said. Schneider's program is not perfect, but at least they have taken a huge step in the right direction. More screening and regular monitoring is needed throughout the trucking industry.

Many doctors treat sleep apnea with a device called a CPAP - for "continuous positive airway pressure." The CPAP delivers air through a tube and mask into the nose and mouth, thereby keeping the airway open and allowing the patient to maintain continuous deep sleep. Without the device, those with OSA literally stop breathing for short periods of time, and then when their oxygen level gets to a dangerous point, they wake themselves up enough to start breathing again. This cycle repeats over and over again each night, preventing the person from ever reaching the very important deep "REM" sleep.

As a result of Schneider's screening program, the company saw a 30 percent decline in the number of truck accidents over a 2 year period. This has resulted in dramatic savings for the company and it's insurer. The cost savings, in the number of innocent lives that have been saved by this program, is what is really important.

Many fatal truck accidents in North Carolina are the result of an overworked, and over-tired truck driver falling asleep at the wheel. We have seen this problem way too many times in our law firm. As we have discussed before, there are several tips you can follow that might prevent you from being in a truck accident:

1. If you have to pass a tractor-trailer, watch for signs that the truck driver might be fatigued such as weaving or erratic driving. If you observe any signs of fatigue, back off and do not attempt to pass.

2. If you are going to pass a tractor-trailer, then wait until you have a clear path to drive completely past the entire big rig and accelerate so that you do not get caught in the truck driver's blind spot. Do not allow yourself to get stuck beside a tractor-trailer.

3. If you have to stop on the highway because of traffic in front of you, leave room between your vehicle and the vehicles in front of you - so that you have an emergency escape route, and you should watch for approaching trucks.

4. Avoid driving late at night. Many truck drivers prefer to drive at night because traffic is lighter, and law enforcement has fewer officers patrolling the highways. Unfortunately, this is also when many tired truckers fall asleep at the wheel.

5. Report truck drivers who are weaving or driving erratically to law enforcement. In North Carolina, you can dial the State Highway Patrol on your cell phone by pressing *47 and then "send".

At Davis Law Group, we believe that the federal government should require each motor carrier to pay for OSA screening of each of its truck drivers, and then mandate treatment for those with OSA. This would save countless lives each year on our nation's highways.

Please drive safely out there!

September 19, 2011

NC Hospital Pays $15.5 Million For Antidote Overdose

med mal.jpgA 21 year old woman walked into an emergency room complaining of having taken too much Tylenol for menstrual cramps. An emergency room doctor hooked her up to an IV that delivered a drug called acetylcysteine - the antidote for Tylenol overdose. The ER doctor had never given acetylcysteine by IV before, the emergency room's pharmacy had never dispensed the drug before, and the nurse who administered the drug had never given the drug before.

As a result, both the pharmacist and the ER doctor made mistakes regarding the amount of medicine the young woman should receive, at what rate it should be given, and over what time period it should be given. But the errors did not stop here. When the medicine got the the young woman's bedside, the nurse did not check to make sure it was correct. At this point, the woman started getting 16 times the recommended dose of antidote. It gets worse.

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August 18, 2011

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Cigarette Verdict

cigarettes1.jpgThe Florida Supreme Court has just declined to review a lower court's decision upholding a $3.3 million compensatory damages verdict and a $25 million punitive damages verdict for the widow of a smoker. The case name was Martin v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

The effect of the Florida Supreme Court's decision to not review the case is that the lower court decision stands as the final decision in the case. By declining to review the lower court's decision, the Supreme Court has basically said, "We think you got it right." RJR Tobacco is shocked and probably livid about the decision. For months, RJR has asserted that they fully expected the decision to be overturned on appeal.

The American Association for Justice reported that one of the lawyers for Ms. Martin said, "by leaving that ruling intact, the supreme court paved the way for juries to continue to consider all the evidence regarding the fraud and deceit of the cigarette industry and the tragic toll it's taken on American families."

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July 5, 2011

Truck Driver Crashes Into AmTrak Train - Wilmington Passengers Safe

nevada train crash.jpgA tractor-trailer driver slammed his big rig into the side of an AmTrak train at a public crossing in a rural Nevada town on Friday. The collision ripped several of the train cars apart and caused a terrible fire. The LA Times reported at least 6 people, including the truck driver, were killed and scores were injured.

The passenger train was traveling from Chicago to California at the time of the crash. Two of the passengers on the train were from Wilmington, North Carolina. Grandfather Jay Peterson and his grandson Chris Lachance planned for their train journey to be a great summer adventure - destined for a toy train convention - but it was full of more excitement than they expected. The two North Carolina citizens stayed calm during the disaster and provided much needed help and aid to those who were injured.

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May 31, 2011

Loser Pays Legislation Signed Into Law In Texas

scales of justice.jpgTexas Governor Rick Perry signed into law a measure that will further limit the filing of frivolous lawsuits by making the party who filed the lawsuit pay the other party's court costs. Under the loser pays model, if the party filing the lawsuit, usually referred to as the "plaintiff," loses the case, then the defendant can ask the judge make the plaintiff pay the defendant's court costs. Likewise, if the plaintiff wins the case, then the plaintiff can make the defendant pay their court costs. Court costs often run into the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars in bigger cases.

Most lawyers would agree that a fair definition of a "frivolous lawsuit" is one that has absolutely no merit and would eventually either be dismissed by the judge or ruled against by a jury.

North Carolina has long followed a form of the "loser pays" model of limiting frivolous lawsuits. In North Carolina, a defendant can file what is called an "offer of judgment," offering to pay the plaintiff an amount the defendant believes is reasonable, and if the plaintiff fails to accept the offer of judgment and goes forward to trial and recovers an amount that is less than the offer of judgment, then the defendant can ask the judge to make the plaintiff pay all of the defendant's court costs.

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April 6, 2011

Consumer Reports Finds Young Adults Texting While Driving

texting-while-driving.jpgA sobering study by Consumer Reports regarding mobile device use for drivers under the age of 30 recently found that of those surveyed:

63% used a cell phone while driving in the last 30 days;

30% texted while driving in the past 30 days;

Only 36 % were very concerned with distracted driving;

Only 30% thought using a cell phone while driving was very dangerous; and

58% saw a dangerous situation because of distracted driving in the last 30 days.

Consumer Reports released this data just as it is beginning a joint public services campaign with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The campaign aims to bring awareness of the dangers of distracted driving to young people.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, distracted driving injured almost half a million people in 2009, and killed nearly 5,500. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that dialing a phone makes it six times more likely to get into an accident, while texting while driving multiplies the chance of an accident by 23.

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February 21, 2011

North Carolina Moves Forward To Ban Cell Phones While Driving

cell phones prohibited.jpgWith the epidemic of texting while driving causing more and more serious crashes, injuries and deaths, the North Carolina Legislature is taking up the issue of a total ban of cell phones while driving a motor vehicle. North Carolina Lawyers Weekly covered the story this week.

Representatives Garland Pierce, D-Hoke, and Charles Graham, D-Robeson, filed the bill to ban cell phone use while driving on February 2, 2011. The bill is known as H. 31 and is titled, "An act to make using a mobile phone unlawful while driving a motor vehicle on a public street or highway or public vehicular area." The bill is currently in the House Rules Committee.

The bill basically bans any use of a cell phone, even via blue tooth hands-free technology, while one is operating a motor vehicle. This ban would include school bus drivers. The only exception under the new bill would be in the case of an emergency.

The penalty for violating the proposed new law would be a $100 fine and no insurance points.

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January 30, 2011

Teen Texting While Driving Continues Despite Deaths & Laws

With public attention focused on decreasing the use of cell phones in cars, by both teenage drivers and adults as well, data from the most recent studies indicate the danger continues to grow. The number of serious crashes and deaths caused by distracted driving certainly continues to increase. While almost every state has passed laws that make it illegal to send or receive text and/or email messages while driving, these laws have proved ineffective at stopping the dangerous behavior. The latest numbers show that almost 6000 people are dying each year from car crashes caused by distracted driving.

There are two basic problems with the current approach, first enforcement is difficult for police officers because it is not illegal to dial a cellphone while driving, so identifying someone who is actually texting while driving is all but impossible unless the officer observes a driver weaving all over the road, then pulls the driver over, asks them if they were texting or emailing, and the driver actually admits to the illegal activity. According to court records reviewed by the Associated Press, this process has resulted in approximately 1200 people receiving tickets under the "texting ban" in North Carolina since the law went into effect in December of 2009. The second problem is that many drivers fail to appreciate the deadly danger.

Studies that have interviewed teens and adults find that most people who text while driving feel that they can text and also drive safely. They feel that they can look away from the road and still keep their car under control. This is a naive attitude at best. As this author has asserted in prior posts, education is the key to solving his social epidemic.

The Distracted Driving Safety Alliance (DDSA) is taking steps to gather and educate individuals and organizations from all across society to find ways to curb all behaviors that distract teens and adults alike. Educating all drivers about the "best practices" for driving is something the the DDSA is trying to accomplish. Here are the DDSA's best practices for new drivers:

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January 7, 2011

Texting While Driving Claims Another North Carolina Teen's Life

chocowinity-teen-killed-in-accident.jpgAnother North Carolina teenager has tragically died as a result of texting while driving. WITN news just reported that yesterday afternoon at 3:42pm, Sarah Edwards appears to have glanced down at her cell phone to read a text message. That distraction caused her Honda Accord to drift across the yellow line into the on-coming lane where it struck the rear tandems of a tractor-trailer logging truck. She died instantly. The collision occurred on Chandler Road in Beaufort County. Her cell phone records show that she read a text message one minute before the first of several 911 calls were placed reporting the collision.

Ms. Edwards, 18 of Chocowinity, was a senior at Southside High School in Washington. Her funeral is this Saturday at 11 a.m. at Pamlico Memorial Gardens in Washington.

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