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South Carolina Personal Injury & Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Concussions: more common than some think

Every year, more than 250,000 people in South Carolina and across the U.S. are hospitalized for traumatic brain injuries with about 50,000 dying from their injuries. Concussions are the most common form of traumatic brain injury and are defined mainly by the neurological deficit that results from them. They can be caused by a blow or jolt to the head or even by vigorous shaking.

Approximately 1.8 million people visit an emergency room each year following a concussion while an estimated 2 million people suffer a concussion but never seek medical treatment. Many incur concussions through contact sports like football and hockey; it was through sports injuries that awareness of concussions spread among doctors. However, concussions are not limited to this field.

Texting while driving a major roadway danger

Texting while driving is recognized as one of the most dangerous behaviors a driver can engage in behind the wheel by a great majority of survey respondents in South Carolina and across the country. Distracted roadway behavior can be associated with social developments and trends like the use of the smartphone or cannabis legalization. In particular, distracted driving due to texting or social media activity has led to a number of severe car crashes. A study conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America found that the vast majority of Americans view texting while driving as dangerous on the road.

The respondents recognized a range of activities as having the potential to lead to devastating car crashes. For example, 99 percent of survey recipients said that social media use while driving is a danger to others on the road. Ninety-eight percent said that texting while driving poses a similar threat. Of the respondents, 91 percent noted that driving under the influence of marijuana would be dangerous, and 87 percent said that it would also cause a threat to other drivers and passengers on the roadways.

Study puts Pokémon Go road accident death toll at 250

The augmented reality game 'Pokémon Go" became wildly popular in South Carolina and around the country following its July 2016 release. However, a recent study from Purdue University suggests that the nationwide passion for the free-to-play game could have led to as many as 250 additional road deaths. Purdue researchers studied crash statistics compiled in the months prior to and following the game's release, and they discovered that accidents rates soared near Pokéstop locations.

Players visit Pokéstops, which are usually monuments, statues or other historic markers, to download items onto their Android or iOS devices that are needed to play 'Pokémon Go." The Purdue researchers noticed that the number of crashes involving distracted drivers increased significantly near Pokéstop locations in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, in the 148 days following the game's July 6 release. They estimate that the same kind of accident surge near Pokéstops nationwide would have led to 145,000 accidents, 29,000 injuries and 250 deaths.

Even drivers in South Carolina should prepare for winter weather

Heavy snowfall is rare in South Carolina, but this can actually make the roads of the Palmetto State even more dangerous when temperatures do drop below freezing. Drivers in northern states must learn quickly how to cope with icy road conditions and blinding blizzards, but those who live in more temperate parts of the country often lack these crucial skills. Even modest amounts of snow can bring traffic to a halt in southern states, but there are steps that motorists can take to prepare for winter weather and reduce their chances of being involved in an accident.

Road safety experts say that the best way to avoid a winter car accident is to slow down and give other drivers plenty of room, and this advice may be especially prescient in parts of the country where drivers are not accustomed to slick and icy road conditions. When winter accidents do occur in states like South Carolina, they are often chain reaction crashes that could have been mitigated or avoided entirely if motorists had reduced their speeds and maintained safe distances.

Thanksgiving holiday brings higher crash fatality rates

While Thanksgiving may be one of the happiest holidays in South Carolina, it is also our nation's most dangerous for drivers. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, 764 fatalities were reported in connection with crashes during Thanksgiving in 2012. In addition, almost 50,000 non-fatal car crashes were also noted. Only 654 fatal crashes were reported during Christmas that year.

The 2012 research comprises the most recent data from the NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System. For 2017, agency officials have issued an alert in advance of the holiday weekend, advising motorists to take safety precautions before traveling. Drivers are encouraged to check their windshield wipers and tire pressure as winter storms have been predicted in some parts of the country. Given the 2012 data, motorists should also remember to wear their seat belts and avoid driving drunk.

Medication can cut accident risk for drivers with ADHD

For drivers in South Carolina with ADHD, medication can make a substantial difference in lowering the risk of auto accidents while on the road. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry shows that car crashes occur significantly less frequently among ADHD patients taking medication than among those who do not. The study included more than 2.3 million people.

Male patients taking medication had their risk of auto accidents reduced by 38 percent, while female ADHD patients taking medication had a 42 percent lower risk of car crashes. In prior studies, people with ADHD were shown to have a higher number of auto crashes. ADHD can include inattentive symptoms, limited impulse control or hyperactivity. Some of these symptoms can interfere with concentration while on the road.

How to drive safely in during the fall season

On Nov. 5, daylight saving time began in most of the United States. This means that drivers in South Carolina may need to adjust their driving habits to account for animals on the road during the morning or evening commute. Drivers are encouraged to reduce their speed and stay alert for any animals that might be on the roadways.

If an animal is encountered, it is possible to startle it by honking the horn or flashing the car lights. This may also make it possible for other drivers to be aware that an animal is up ahead. Drivers should also follow all traffic signs, including posted speed limits. Speed limits are generally lower in areas where animals are most likely to be. Other warning signs may also be posted in an effort to keep drivers safe.

Phone distraction underreported as cause of traffic fatalities

Many South Carolina motorists have either used a smartphone while driving or seen others do it. Safety advocates are increasingly blaming smartphone distractions for the rise in traffic fatalities, especially the sharp jumps in deaths of pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists. Putting precise figures on the number of crashes caused by distracted drivers, however, remains impossible. Safety advocates believe that inconsistent reporting from the states has undermined the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's ability to accurately calculate how many people died because of smartphone distractions.

Across the country, fatalities rose by 14.4 percent between 2014 and 2016. Modest increases in miles driven, drinking and speeding cannot account for the spike in deaths. Law enforcement overwhelmingly focuses on alcohol and drug use when investigating accidents. The reporting forms for some states do not even include a checkbox to indicate smartphone involvement. These factors produce incomplete data about the true causes of wrecks.

NHTSA seeks rule changes for self-driving cars

The roadways of South Carolina and the entire nation might be very different in the near future as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is seeking to eliminate regulations that are currently preventing the approval of some self-driving vehicles. The agency is looking in particular toward vehicles that do not allow a human to take control.

Currently, there are 75 safety standards that automakers must fulfill. These standards were designed with the idea that a human would be in control of the vehicle. However, the regulations have seriously hindered the approval process for vehicles that do not need licensed drivers on board. A U.S. Senate committee approved a bill that will allow the NHTSA to waive requirements for self-driving vehicles within the next three years and issue exemptions for up to 80,000 self-driving vehicles in that period. In the meantime, more research would need to be conducted and the NHTSA must write new safety standards and regulations designed to address self-driving vehicles specifically.

Study says shift work increases risk for car crashes

Millions of Americans work a night or rotational shift, and according to a study made by researchers at a prominent Boston health care facility, approximately 28 percent of drivers admitted that they fell asleep at the wheel at least once in the previous year. This could make some South Carolina motorists worried about their safety on the road.

The problem is compounded by the fact that night shift workers tend to become drowsy during their daytime commute home. The researchers, in an effort to measure drowsiness and driving performance in night shift workers, brought together 16 such workers for two driving sessions. The first was conducted after a full night's sleep, the second after they were off work.

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Anderson, SC 29621

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