Is Distracted Driving More Common Than We Thought?

How bad has the threat of distracted driving become? Bad enough that Texas passed its first law against cellphone use while driving, ending a back and forth debate that had been ongoing since 2011. And now, a company called Zendrive says it might be 100x worse than previous government statistics predicted.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration previously estimated that some 600,000 drivers made use of their phones each day. But according to Zendrive, which collected data from across 100-billion driver hours, says that they had reason to estimate that 69-million drivers use their phones while driving each day.
Zendrive also found that the there were more distracted drivers on the road between 11am and 5pm than any other time, and that since drivers spent an average of almost 2 minutes looking at their phone for every hour that they drove, it was almost as if they were closing their eyes and driving the over a mile totally blind each hour.
These new number have large implications. For instance, Texas’s new distracted driving law, while a good first step, requires that a police officer see and offender texting while driving instead of banning it in all cases. If there really are 100 times more distracted drivers on the road, it might be time for lawmakers to take a second look at the wording or penalties attached to distracted driving laws.
What else does Zendrive suggest? Most phones these days have access to modes or apps meant to help curb distracted driving. Up-to-date iPhones can now lock out text messages and phone calls while you are driving if you let them, and Android-based phones can accomplish much the same thing by using one of multiple well established distracted driving apps. Here’s eight other steps that Zendrive suggested:

  1. Hands free – Put your phone in a mount or cup holder while driving. Keep it out of your hands, and stay focused on the road.
  2. Set up your music and maps – The majority of phone use happens in the first 10% of a trip. Take an extra moment to get your technology in order before putting the car in drive.
  3. Finish up before heading out – Send one last text to let your friend know you’re getting behind the wheel and need to put the phone down.
  4. Airplane mode for phones – Use Do Not Disturb mode to block incoming messages, let people know you’re driving and that you’ll be in touch later. iOS 11 devices come with this functionality, while Android users can use an app.
  5. A little help from my friends – Designated drivers help us all get home safely after drinking. If you have passengers, ask them to help you navigate, change the music or respond to texts.
  6. Lock it up – Put your phone somewhere you can’t peek at it, like the trunk, backseat or glove compartment.
  7. Drive time, Zen time – Is a text worth your life, or that of someone else on the road? I didn’t think so. Be patient, and wait until you arrive to read your texts.
  8. Be the example – Speak up if you see someone driving while distracted. Tell them you’re uncomfortable with that behavior. Teach your children to speak up when they see you or a friend distracted behind the wheel.

School Bus Accident Liability

School Bus Accident Liability

It's been less than a week since the accident that took the life of a young boy in Athens Texas. This accident has affected many in our state and has raised awareness for improved school bus and train track safety standards. According to several news articles, the bus driver made the correct stop before crossing the track but unfortunately was still struck by the train. School buses may initially seem to be an unsafe form of transportation for children with their lack of seat belts and the large number of children that usually occupy the vehicle at one time. However, the fact remains that school bus fatalities are rare with an average of four to six annual fatalities, but they do still happen too often. Even though fatalities don't occur at an alarming rate it still causes a large number of injuries each year. These injuries can leave children injured emotionally as well as physically for long periods of time. For that reason, we feel it's important that East Texans know who is liable if their child is injured on a school bus.
In most cases, one of the following will be responsible for your child's school bus injury:

  • The school
  • A private bus company
  • Another driver
  • A parts manufacturer
  • A public entity

If your child is injured your first reaction may be to blame the school your child attends. This may be the case, but only under certain circumstances:

  • The driver was performing negligently while under the school's employment.
  • The vehicles malfunction caused the accident and should have been noticed under routine maintenance.
  • The school contracted through a private bus company did not legally have to perform the duties that caused the accident.

There are many layers to who is responsible for getting your child home safe while on a school bus. The laws vary from state to state and from school district to school district so it's important to ask for help from a local professional. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families affected in last Friday's accident. We know authorities are doing all they can to make sure all the facts are in place before any blame is placed. If you're struggling with knowing who is liable for you or your family members injury in any situation, don't hesitate to call our office for a consultation. (903) 526-1600


Tips For Staying Safe on New Year's Eve 2018

Tips For Staying Safe on New Year's Eve 2018

It's one of the most fun and exciting holidays of the year. There are fireworks, bonfires, and sparklers all around and large amounts of people gathered together. It's a time to think about how far we have come as well as the goals we have for the future. However, for some the new year will begin with a DWI charge on their record and some jail time. It's important to be smart on this holiday and plan for any potential mistakes that may come your way. Here are our top safety tips to keep your new year moving in a positive direction.
Forget the Alcohol
This will be a hard tip to follow for most people, but it could end up saving lives. If you have been designated as the driver for the night, this is your only option. When you think about it, this can only help you with drunk drivers all around the roads and cops keeping a look out on every turn.
Have a Sleepover
If you find yourself out at a New Year's Eve and you think you've had too much to drink don't be embarrassed to ask to stay the night.  Any good host will have already made sure this was possible for their guests. A good thing to keep in mind is that you can always ask ahead of time if this is an option. If not, you might want to think about going to another party.
Pick a Driver
Make sure you and your group have chosen a reliable and responsible driver to get everyone home safe. There are plenty of New Year's Eve activities to partake in for fun besides drinking. Try and stay encouraging to your DD and help them have fun without the drinks.
Download Uber or Lyft
Choosing a ride share option is one of the smartest and easiest ways to avoid drunk driving on this holiday. Make things even easier by downloading and creating an account with the app before the party even starts.
At Martin Walker Law, we want to encourage all East Texans to stay safe out there on New Year's Eve. It's important to have fun on this holiday, but it's not worth it if you get hurt or if you cause someone else to get in an accident. Happy New Year! Stay safe out there.


Common Personal Injury Terms

There are a lot of terms that we use in the legal profession regarding personal injury lawsuits. Keeping track of what means what, especially when talking about the different types of personal injury damages, can get a bit tricky. Below is a quick guide to help you get a better understanding of different types of damages:

  • In car accidents, there are the normal types of damages that are easier to account for. Things like the cost of repairing your vehicle or medical expenses. There are other types of damages that can come into play during a car accident suit, however.
    General Damages are are typically things that don’t have a fixed or easily calculated value. Something like mental anguish would be listed among General Damages.
    Special Damages, in contrast, are things like medical expenses or property damage. Things that can be specifically calculated based on costs and fair rates.
  • Punitive Damages are damages awarded in cases where someone’s actions go beyond the normal bounds of negligent or intentional. Punitive Damages are awarded when someone’s conduct is instead fraudulent, reckless, or malicious.
  • Damage Caps are limits on damages that are often outlined in state laws. They often vary by state and by the type of case. For instance, awards from medical malpractice cases are sometimes restricted under a lower cap than those associated with a product liability case.

If you or a loved one was injured and have questions about personal injury lawsuits, give us a call today at (903) 526-1600.


Distracted Driving vs. New Car Tech

Distracted driving kills thousands of people each year, but somehow we still keep looking away from the road. If casually asked, most people would probably say that they are good drivers and that they do not let anything distract them from the task of driving. But, when taking part in a formal survey, the result work out very differently.
Car insurance company Esurance recently conducted a study relating to distracted driving and how new vehicle technologies like lane-assist or automatic breaking are affecting drivers. In this study the real facts begin to come out. According to Esurance, 95% of those that took part agreed that texting while driving was a serious distraction, but then more than half of those people reported that they do text while they drive on a daily basis.
Interestingly, talking on the phone no longer ranks as the most distracting thing drivers do anymore. According to the study, the number one cell phone distraction is now using apps while driving, with talking while driving only a close second.
The study also took a look at how newer, automated driving technologies were affecting driver distraction. Surprisingly, they found that new in-car technologies actually increased driver distraction slightly. They can also lead to overconfience that the car itself will protect against bad driving behavior. One respondent is even quoted as saying he likes his car’s lane-keeping feature because it lets his car stay in its lane while he leans over to recover a dropped French fry!
At the end of the day, the best way to prevent driving accidents and deaths, even with new safe driving technologies, is to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.


Texas has more road construction zone fatalities than any other state

In 2016, there were over 750 road work zone fatalities in the United States, 172 of which occurred in our state of Texas. Only Florida had numbers remotely comparable, and even then they only totaled 80 work zone fatalities in the same time period.
Based on the latest data from the Federal Highway Administration, well over 50% of road work zone fatalities occur when a driver strikes an object or debris that has been left or made its way into the roadway. The next most common type of fatal work zone accident are rear end crashes.
There are a number of things you as a driver can do to reduce your chances of being involved in a work zone accident. They include:

    • Slowing down and following the indicated work zone speed limit.
    • Paying attention to the location of workers and road work supplies.
    • Keeping a safe, reasonable distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.
    • Watch for construction vehicles pulling out onto the roadway
    • Obey the signals and instructions of workers directing traffic

If you or a loved one were injured in an auto accident involving road work, your case may have an added layer of complexity compared to a normal traffic accident. At Martin Walker P.C. we will work with you to see your case through to its proper conclusion. For a free case evaluation, give us a call at (903) 526-1600 or email us at info@martinwalkerlaw.com .


What Would A New Takata Airbag Settlement Mean For Car Owners?

For years now, airbag maker Takata has been dealing with the fallout of the faulty airbag inflator modules it designed for Honda and several other automobile manufactures. These defective airbags could sometimes explode during an auto accident sending shrapnel flying at a driver or passenger.
Now, after an investigation by the Department of Justice and a bankruptcy filing, Takata is attempting to set aside a fund for consumers who were injured by their airbags. One new issue that is currently in discussion is how those injured by a Takata airbag will get compensation. Takata is looking to set up a “channeling injunction” that directs future claims to a shared bankruptcy trust for compensation.
This kind of injunction has been before in the asbestos settlements of the 1990s, but setting up a similar structure for a different type of injury case has not been tried since. Currently, a court in Delaware is working on deciding how and if Takata will be allowed to set up such a channeling injunction.
If you or a loved one were hurt by an exploding Takata airbag, you may want to consider contacting an attorney sooner rather than later, because depending on what the Delaware court decides, the rules and procedures for making a claim may soon change drastically.


Ways To Stay Safe On The Road This New Year

While their are fewer overall driving deaths on New Years Eve and New Years Day than on some other holidays, the hours between 6pm on Dec 31st and 6am on Jan 1st are one of the most dangerous times to be on the road. The combination of holiday travel, late night parties, and alcohol push the number of crashes and driving related deaths during that period far higher than almost any other night of the year.
There are any number of statistics out there about how dangerous New Years driving is. You can find a good summary of the reasons not to be on the road during New Years here.
So, what's the best way to stay safe during the New Years holiday?

  • Don't drive unless you have to. Play it smart and stay off the roads.
  • Consider using a designated driver, cab service, or ride sharing service if do need to get somewhere, especially if you are coming home from a New Years party.
  • Above all, if you must drive this New Years, don't drive drunk.

From all of us at Martin Walker, P.C., we hope you have happy and safe new year.


Personal Breathalyzers, A New Tool To Help Prevent Drunk Driving?

With Thanksgiving now behind us, the final two big holidays of the year are fast approaching. The New Years holiday is one of the most dangerous times of the year to be driving, but perhaps a new trend can help make it safer in the years to come. More and more people are buying and using personal breathalyzers.
Though they aren't yet in widespread use, a recent study by the National Safety Council showed that up to 26% of those that responded had at one time either used a personal breathalyzer themselves or used one to help convince a friend that they were too impaired to drive safely.
Personal breathalyzers come in a variety of form factors ranging from one-time-use tubes that don't require batteries, to smartphone connected devices, all the way up to professional tools used by law enforcement. While the accuracy of individual breathalyzers can vary quite a bit, even the less accurate versions can be a good tool to help prevent others from driving drunk.