July 17, 2014

Are Selfies and Social Media Contributing to Car Accidents in Miami and Other Cities?

Selfies and social media may be a fun way to share memories, but according to some safety experts, they can also increase the risk of car crashes in Miami and other cities. You may already have seen drivers on the road filming videos for their social media accounts or taking selfies of their road trip. While no official studies have been conducted about the dangers of selfies, safety experts say that does not make the risks any smaller.

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How could taking selfies and using social media accounts while driving pose risks? There are a number of ways:

1) Selfies and social media use may encourage more interaction between passengers and the driver. Posing together for a selfie or talking to each other in a video may seem like a fun way to celebrate a road trip, but it can also be a big distraction for the driver.

2) Social media use in the car requires drivers to take their eyes off the road. Whether it’s uploading a video to a social media account, checking a photo just taken, or lining up a mobile device to take a picture, these activities take a driver’s eyes off the road. In many cases, this can mean that the motorist can travel the equivalent of a few football fields without looking at the road in front of them.

3) Taking and posting selfies may take more time and concentration than sending a text. Playing with social media can take more time than even sending a text, which can mean more time spent not looking at the road. Since texting has already been linked to traffic and pedestrian collisions in Miami and other cities, it seems likely that updating social media or taking photos is a similarly bad idea.

4) Selfies and social media use behind the wheel may encourage risk-taking behaviors. According to psychologists and other experts, people sometimes use social media in order to impress others. Some speculate that this may mean that people may do riskier things than usual – such as driving recklessly – in order to take a more exciting photo or video.

5) The use of social media coincides with more hazardous driving times.
According to the digital marketing company Razorfish, the peak times for uploading images to Instagram are weekdays at 8pm and Sunday at 5pm. Unfortunately, weekend and evening driving also comes with its own hazards – such as an increased instance of drinking and driving and increased traffic. Trying to upload photos or other media at any time is risky but trying to do so when there are other hazards just increases the risk of a serious truck or car accident in Miami or your city.

6) Social media use in the car requires drivers to take their hands off the wheel in many cases. Adjusting a phone, uploading a video, and taking care of other social media tasks can mean that drivers need both hands to scroll through menus or type in passwords.

7) Social media use and selfies while driving do not come with much stigma. There have been media reports of people taking selfies or video while driving and ending up in accidents. In some of these cases, the injured passengers continue to send selfies of themselves in the hospital after the crash. It seems that people do not feel stigma in using social media, which can mean it is harder to discourage the habit.

Although there are no studies (yet) to prove that selfies and social media are unsafe behind the wheel, there is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that they may be contributing to the risk of being in a car crash. Certainly, no one wants to see a driver taking selfies or creating a video in the car next to them.

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July 15, 2014

Recent Study Suggests Link Between Marijuana Use and Car Crashes

While the effects of drunk driving in Hollywood and other cities are abundantly clear and drivers know the risks of drinking and driving, the risks of drug use, unfortunately, are less often talked about. While some prescription and over-the-counter medication come with warnings that they should not be used by drivers, DUI car crashes in Hollywood and other cities continue to happen because drivers get behind the wheel of their cars after taking medication or after using illegal drugs.

Even drugs that are often not implied in car accidents – such as marijuana – can have an impact on driving ability, according to some studies. A recent study from Columbia University, for example, has found that the number of fatal traffic accidents involving marijuana rose three-fold between 2000 and 2010. Researchers conducting the study looked at the toxicological results of close to 24,000 fatal traffic collisions, finding that marijuana was a possible factor in 12% of the fatalities that occurred during this time period.

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Other studies have suggested that the use of marijuana before driving may disproportionately affect young drivers. A 2010 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey, for example, found that one in eight polled high school students admitted to driving after smoking marijuana. A federal study showed that about half of drivers killed in car accidents who had smoked marijuana before driving were under the age of 25. Another recent study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggested that marijuana can lower IQ in teens and can impair driving ability of young drivers. The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Highway Traffic Safety Administration are currently conducting a study about the effects of the drug on driving ability; results are expected to be released within the year.

These types studies tend to be controversial, with advocates of marijuana legalization discounting studies linking marijuana to addiction. The studies have also been criticized for failing to find a firm link between marijuana use and impaired driving ability, with some legalization advocates stating that there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that just because a driver took marijuana before being in a car accident it does not necessarily mean that the use of marijuana caused the collision.

Earlier this year, Washington and Colorado approved marijuana for public use, and other states are considering similar changes. It is uncertain whether the most recent studies will have any impact on the efforts of some states to legalize the drug.

Even if studies find that marijuana is dangerous when combined with driving, experts say that enforcing a no driving after smoking rule would be difficult. As in the early days of drunk driving campaigns, it may be difficult to convince drivers that using marijuana could put them at risk of car and truck accidents in Hollywood or their communities. Some experts have suggested setting a safe limit, as there is with alcohol, but more studies would need to be conducted to determine what safe levels of marijuana might be for drivers. A testing and enforcement strategy would also need to be introduced to crack down on marijuana use among drivers. Of course, first it would need to be determined whether marijuana does in fact lead to car crashes.

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July 10, 2014

Just How At Risk are Teen Drivers in Florida?

A great deal has been written about the dangers that face teen drivers in Homestead and across Florida. Statistically, new drivers tend to have higher car accident rates and risks for a few reasons. Lack of driving experience is obviously a big consideration, although some studies have suggested that in young drivers the brain functions differently, affecting decision-making processes. Studies have shown that young make drivers, especially, may have a higher risk of car crashes in Homestead and other cities when compared with young female drivers.

Now, new statistics from WalletHub.com suggest that not all teen drivers face the same risks. According to the website’s recent study, New York is the state that has the best track record, statistically, when it comes to teen drivers while teens in South Dakota may face more risks and inconveniences. The study compared the total number of fatalities involving teen drivers, the costs of car repairs, and DUI laws in each state. Using these and other factors, the study ranked states according to which states were the best and worst for young drivers.

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Florida ranked 34th on the list of 50, meaning that while the state was not in the ten worst states for young drivers, there is still much that needs to be done to make driving a better experience for new motorists. The state has already discouraged texting and driving with a ban this year and graduated licensing aims to give teens some additional experience before they get behind the wheel. What else can be done to make the roads of Florida safer for teens? There are a few things that may help:

1) Make roadways safer for all road users. Teen drivers are not only not used to driving, but they may have limited experience dealing with trucks, pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and other road users. Improving safety for everyone makes roads safer overall and can help prevent pedestrian accidents in Homestead as well as other traffic collisions across Florida.

2) Fix known road design issues in Homestead and other cities. Some roadways, ramps, and intersections are known to have high rates of accidents. If regular drivers are struggling with road design issues in these areas, of course teen drivers and new drivers may be at even greater risk.

3) Provide more driver training for new drivers. Even with graduated licensing, teen drivers can get their license with only limited in-car practical experience, and very often that experience happens in groups, so each teen does not get much individual instructor attention. Making it easier for teens to get more in-car training – including night driving training – would help new motorists gain confidence and driving skill. Financial incentives for teens to take additional instruction and affordable driver instruction options would help.

4) Provide more options for transportation. Unfortunately, many Florida suburbs and communities were designed for cars and without a lot of focus on pedestrian safety or public transportation options. Providing more public transportation options may help curb DUI crashes in Homestead and other communities and can also take care of traffic congestion that can contribute to collisions.

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July 8, 2014

In Addition to Car Accidents, Hollywood Motorists Also Need to be Aware of the Dangers of Hot Cars

A great deal is written about car and truck crashes in Hollywood and other cities. However, a car does not have to be moving to cause catastrophic injury. Tragedies in Florida and Georgia last month have shone the spotlight again on the dangers of leaving children unattended in cars.

During Florida summers, especially, the interior of cars can reach dangerously high temperatures in just minutes – even with car windows open. Hot cars can cause child injuries in Hollywood as well as fatalities. About 500 children have died across the country since 2000 because they were left in the back of a car by a caregiver. In 2013 alone, 44 children across the country died in car-related heat incidents.

In most situations where a person is trapped in a hot car, heat stroke occurs very quickly, especially for young children. Heat strokes occur when the internal temperature of the body increases to 104 degrees or more. In these cases, it is important to cool the patient at once, or they risk succumbing to their injury.

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When parents leave children in a car to suffocate, they can have charges brought against them by authorities. These cases also usually spark investigations by the Florida Department of Children and Families. If a caregiver such as a babysitter or teacher left a child in a car, civil claims can be brought against these parties. Of course, investigations and arrests cannot turn back the hands of time and advocacy groups say that more needs to be done to prevent these types of car-related injuries in Hollywood and other communities.

According to authorities, in many cases children are left behind in cars unintentionally, often as a result of distracted parents. While much has been written about distracted driving in Hollywood and other cities, distraction while parenting has received less attention.

The National Safety Council has several tips for parents to prevent this type of tragedy:

1) Focus on one task at a time. In many cases, parents leave a child behind in a hot car simply because they are so distracted by how much they have to do. Slowing down and taking the time to take care of each task individually can help reduce not only the risk of leaving a child alone in a hot car, but it can also reduce the risks of distracted driving.

2) Leave items in the backseat that you will need right away. If you cannot run errands or do your job without your cellphone or an important folder, leave this in the backseat so that you need to grab it and check the backseat before continuing on with your day.

3) Be especially careful if you have routines. If you lead a very structured lifestyle – for example, you drop off your child at daycare and then go to work – experts say that you are especially vulnerable because you may operate on “auto pilot.” In these situations, a minor change in parents’ routines have caused them to continue on to work or errands without checking the backseat of their car.

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July 3, 2014

Car Maker Recalls and Motor Vehicle Collisions

The past few weeks have been busy ones in terms of recalls. Last month, seven car manufacturers recalled over three million cars due to problems with the airbags. The air bag flaw could cause the airbags to rupture and cause shrapnel and debris to fly around the interior of the affected cars. The recalls were made by Takata Corporation, which had previously recalled other air bags due to problems. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had launched an investigation last month after thee reported injuries related to the airbags. Spokespeople for Honda stated that the company had been told about two fatalities and over 30 injuries related to the faulty air bags.

This month, General Motors has recalled an additional 8.2 million vehicles after already recalling more than 29 million vehicles in North America in 54 recalls earlier this year. This number is especially high when we consider that all car makers recalled a total or 22 million cars in all of 2013. The latest recalls from GM are for faulty ignition switches, which can switch to the “run” position if bumped or slightly jostled. So far, GM has reported that recalled cars have been linked to seven collisions, three fatalities, and eight injuries, although there is still no confirmed link between the injuries and crashes and the ignition switches.

Car manufacturers are not the only ones feeling pressure. Graco and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have recalled about 1.9 million infant car seats because of faulty buckles.

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Despite the recalls, personal injury lawsuits in Hollywood and other cities have already arisen from the defective parts and more legal claims may be forthcoming. Indeed, product liability claims in Hollywood and other cities are sometimes what prompt car makers to issue recalls.

Product recalls in the car industry are affected by tighter regulations and by the decreased competitiveness in the industry. According to experts, more car makers are using parts from the same manufacturers. For example, Takata Corporation accounts for about 20 percent of the air bag market. About three manufacturers dominate the market, after a number of consolidations among smaller businesses. This means that if something goes wrong, more brands of cars and more cars overall are affected. In addition, regulations regarding defective parts are stricter and car makers have more to answer for if their products harm someone. According to experts, this has pushed manufacturers to issue recalls more readily than they might have in the past.

The recalls do mean that buyers need to beware. Buyers looking for used cars, especially, may want to check to see whether the cars have been affected by any recalls that could put the driver at risk of a car accident in Hollywood or their community. Not all car owners will take their cars in to replace recalled parts, so it is important for consumers to be aware of recalled cars and consumer goods.

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July 1, 2014

Heading on a Trip with Your Pet? Review These Road Safety Tips First

Whether you are headed out to see family this July Fourth weekend or are taking advantage of the long weekend to go on a road trip, keep in mind that if you are traveling with your pet, you will need to take extra precautions. Many people who head out on road trips or to vacation homes at this time of year bring their pets along. Unfortunately, pets in the car can mean a greater risk of car collisions in Homestead or your community.

We all know that distracted driving in Homestead and other cities is a leading cause of broadside collisions, head-on crashes and many other types of accidents. Unfortunately, most of us think of distracted driving as something that involves mobile devices. In reality, anything that takes your mind or eyes off the road can be a distraction – and pets can certainly fit the bill.

Unrestrained pets in a car can be a big danger. In the event of a crash, a pet can become a projectile and can cause injury. An unrestrained cat or dog is also more likely to sustain life-threatening injury if you are in a crash. Despite these concerns, a survey conducted by Kurgo and the AAA in 2011 found that 84% of survey responders stated that they travel with unrestrained dogs in the car.

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If you are traveling by car this summer and want to keep both you and your pet safe, be sure to:

1) Put your pet in a carrier. Choose a sturdy carrier that is appropriate for your pet’s size and weight.

2) Place carriers safely. Placing a pet carrier in the front seat is dangerous because if you are in a car or truck collision in Homestead or your community, your pet may be injured by airbags. Place pet carriers in the back seat. If the carrier is small enough, the safest spot may be between the rear and front seats, on the floor. Only use seatbelts with the carrier if you have a carrier meant to be secured with a seatbelt.

3) Take your pet with you when you leave the car. A hot car can easily prove fatal to a small dog or cat in just minutes. Cracking the window is not enough; take your pet with you.

4) Carry what you need for your pet. Make sure that your pet has collars and vaccinations. Have water, treats, and blankets available for your cat or dog and have a first-aid kit on hand as well as the number of your local veterinarian. If you are traveling with a cat, bring a litter box that is meant for use in the car or the carrier.

5) If your pet does not travel well, visit a vet before you travel. Even if your dog or cat is restrained, they can be a big distraction if they are in obvious distress. Severe stress can also be dangerous for pets. If you know your pet does not travel well, your vet can recommend medication or other solutions for a safer car ride.

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June 27, 2014

Cracking Down on Insurance Fraud and Uninsured Drivers in Hollywood and Florida

Uninsured and underinsured drivers in Hollywood and Florida are a serious problem. In the event of an automobile crash, insurance is meant to help pay for property damage, car repairs, and injury. When a person is in a traffic collision with an uninsured driver, it becomes harder for the injured party to secure compensation for their injuries. In addition, uninsured and underinsured drivers can also raise the insurance rates for all motorists.

Authorities have also noted that uninsured drivers may contribute to hit and run crashes in Hollywood and other parts of Florida. Quite simply, when drivers know that they have done something wrong – such as driving drunk or driving without a license or without insurance – they may have a legal or financial incentive to leave the scene of an accident.

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According to the Insurance Research Council, close to 24 percent of Florida motorists do not have car insurance, even though having this type of coverage is mandatory in the state. In fact, Florida is one of the top five states in terms of regions with the largest number of uninsured motorists.

The problem is so significant that Hollywood police are working with the National Insurance Crime Bureau to crack down on drivers who are driving with no insurance or fraudulent coverage. Insurance company agents have shown Hollywood police how to recognize fake insurance documents and police will be holding more traffic stops to put the information to use.

When drivers are caught without insurance or with fraudulent coverage, they can face criminal charges and other penalties. A motorist caught with expired insurance, for example, can be given a citation. Someone driving with falsified insurance documents can be charged and arrested.

Since uninsured and underinsured drivers are such a problem in the region, now is a good time for drivers to check their insurance coverage – before a car or truck crash in Hollywood occurs and that coverage is needed. If you are a motorist, take the time to:

1) Check to make sure that your insurance is valid and paid in full. In some cases, drivers are on the road without insurance inadvertently. They may allow their policy to lapse or may forget to make a payment. You don’t want to be in a car accident only to find that there is something wrong with your policy, so take steps now to ensure that everything is in place.

2) Read your insurance policy. In some cases, insurance law issues in Hollywood and other Florida communities occur because policy holders don’t understand their insurance policies. In many cases, insurance paperwork is not very user-friendly or simple to read, but making the effort is important if you want to understand your policy. If you have questions or don’t understand the terms of your insurance, contact your insurer – it is their job to explain your coverage.

3) Shop around for a better rate. If it has been a few years since you have compared rates or if you think your credit rating is better now than it was when you last applied for insurance, it pays to check to see whether you can get a better deal.

4) Get additional underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage on your policy. With the extra money you save by getting a better rate, invest in good underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage for your car insurance. With so many drivers in Florida driving without adequate insurance, this coverage is your best defense if you are ever in a collision with one of these drivers.

5) Get the most injury protection you can afford. Keep in mind that if your insurance is not enough, you may end up paying out of pocket for some of your expenses or you may find yourself sued by passengers or drivers injured in the crash.

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June 24, 2014

Why More Needs to Be Done to Prevent Pedestrian and Bicycle Accidents in Hollywood and Across Florida

Many studies and polls have identified South Florida as one of the worst regions in the country for bicycle and pedestrian fatalities. According to investigative reports by the Sun Sentinel and other media companies, the area is known as being largely a driving area, with a motorist and two pedestrians struck, on average, daily in the area. A recent poll ranked South Florida as the fourth most dangerous area for pedestrians. The top three regions for pedestrian fatalities were also all in Florida.

The Broward County Metropolitan Planning Office and others are trying to reduce the number of bicycle and pedestrian accidents in Hollywood and other areas. However, the process is slow. The planning office in Broward County has only one staff member dedicated to integrating pedestrian and bicycle safety ideas into major land-use projects in the area. And in order to integrate these ideas, it is important to ensure that the state Department of Transportation, county government, and municipalities all agree on the initiatives – which can be a challenge in and of itself.

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Even though the most dangerous intersections are known and authorities as well as city planners know what must be done to prevent the number of pedestrian and bicycle accidents in Hollywood and other South Florida areas, the executive director of the Metropolitan Planning Office in the area has stated that it may take between five to seven years to implement those ideas with the resources currently available.

Safety experts and the Metropolitan Planning Office understand that to prevent serious motor vehicle collisions in Hollywood and other cities, there are several things that need to be done in order to protect pedestrians and bicyclists:

1) Wider bike lanes and more bicycle lanes. Many bicycle accidents could be prevented if bicycles and cars did not have to share the road as often. Bicycle lanes move bikers safely out of the way of cars and make it easier for motorists to spot bicyclists. More bicycle lanes could help prevent accidents and wider bike lanes could give bicyclists more room to prevent cars from brushing bicycles.

2) Better street markings. Good street design and markings could prevent some motor vehicle collisions in Hollywood and Florida. Clear signs to delineate lanes, bike lanes, and crosswalks could help drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other users of roads.

3) Better signs. Good signage is important in helping everyone get to their destinations safely. Good warning signs for known dangers, signs indicating bike lanes and other road attributes helps drivers and bicyclists make better decisions on the roads.

4) Education campaigns. Everyone needs to be reminded of safety tips once in a while. Education campaigns that help bring awareness to pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and accidents could help curb right of way accidents in Hollywood as well as other types of pedestrian and bike collisions in Florida.

5) Lighted crosswalks. Crosswalks with good lighting ensure that drivers can see pedestrians and other users of the road at intersections.

6) Wider sidewalks and more sidewalks. Narrow sidewalks could push pedestrians out on the road and unfortunately some areas have no sidewalks on the road, forcing pedestrians to share the road to motorists.

7) New medians. Medians keep road traffic separate from pedestrians and help keep traffic traveling in different directions separate, helping prevent head-on crashes.

8) Better law enforcement. Unfortunately, even with good road design and more awareness of the problem some motorists will inevitably violate the rules of the road and put pedestrians and bicyclists at risk. Better law enforcement can pursue these dangerous drivers and potentially get them off the streets.

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June 19, 2014

Preventing Motorcycle Accidents in Hollywood and Florida This Summer

Many motorcyclists are attracted by summertime in South Florida. Hollywood and surrounding areas offer plenty of wonderful places to enjoy the freedom of the road. Unfortunately, while motorcycles are a great way to experience South Florida, they are not without risks. Each year, about 5000 people across the country are killed in motorcycle accidents and Florida has the unfortunate distinction of being third in the nation for the number of fatal motorcycle crashes.

Both passenger car drivers and motorcyclists need to act in order to prevent motorcycle crashes in Hollywood and across the region. This can be especially important in the summer months, when more people are on the roads and the area sees an influx of visitors.

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According to safety experts, there are a number of things that we can all do to help prevent motor vehicle accidents in Hollywood and Florida this summer:

1) Do not speed. Excessive speed is a factor in car, motorcycle, and truck collisions in Hollywood and other communities. Traveling at a safe speed is important, especially for motorcyclists who want to prevent losing control on turns in Hollywood or their communities. Motorcycles can be especially vulnerable in collisions involving speed, so traveling the posted speed limit is crucial.

2) Be wary of blind spots. Passenger cars and large commercial trucks have blind spots in which motorcycles can easily hide. It is vital that drivers of larger vehicles check their blind spots, especially when merging, passing, changing lanes, and turning. However, motorcyclists also need to be aware of the blind spots on larger vehicles and make an effort to stay out of these areas to avoid being involved in broadside collisions in Hollywood or their communities.

3) Consider the conditions when driving or riding. Heavy rain and other weather can affect a motorcyclist’s ability to stop as quickly. Gravel and other road conditions can also affect motorcycles more than they affect passenger car drivers, so it is important to be aware of surroundings at all times.

4) Be prepared when using the road. Fatigued driving, distraction, and drunk driving is equally dangerous, whether you drive a car, truck, or ride a motorcycle. Only use the road when you are physically prepared to do so and have the skill you need to operate your vehicle safely. This means that if you have always driven a car and decide to get a motorcycle, you may wish to get a motorcycle education course.

5) Use good communication on the road. It is important that motorcyclists stay visible and maintain eye contact with drivers around them. It is also vital that all vehicles on the roads, including trucks and cars, use signals and check for the presence of other drivers when driving and turning. No driver can assume that other motorists can see them.

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June 17, 2014

Teen Drivers At Risk of Summer Car Collisions in Homestead and Florida

According to Auto Club Group, teen drivers are most at risk for fatal collisions during the summer, especially the 100 days following Memorial Day. During this part of the year, the group reports, fatalities caused by motor vehicle crashes rise by about a third for teen drivers, when compared with other times of the year. During the summer, about 261 teen drivers lose their lives in car accidents, although steps can be taken now to prevent your teen from being involved in a car crash in Homestead or your community.

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One part of the problem, of course, is that teen drivers are learning to drive during the summer and spending more time on the road without classes to take up their time. According to safety experts, though, there are a few things families can do to prevent teen drivers from being injured in traffic accidents in Homestead or their communities this year:

1) Encourage your teen to drive within their skill level. Teen drivers may be very confident in their driving, but that does not necessarily mean that they are ready for night driving, road trips, and other more demanding driving activities. While your teen is still learning and new to driving, encourage your teen to drive during the day and to avoid longer trips in unknown areas.

2) Give teens plenty of time to practice driving in a controlled environment. New drivers may not have much experience on the road, and lack of experience can be deadly. If possible, get your teen additional driving classes or driving instruction. If that is not feasible, at least have your teen practice driving with you or with another adult. Keep practice to quiet residential areas at first, where new drivers can hone their skills without much risk of a broadside collision or other crash.

3) Explain the dangers of distracted driving. Studies have shown that many teen drivers feel that they can text and drive without risk, but TextingThumbBands.com and other groups have found that the risk of a collision can increase up to 23 times when texting. If you have a teen driver at home, it is important to review the dangers of texting and driving.

4) Give your teen good options to avoid drinking and driving. Make sure your teen knows that they can always call you for a ride home, no questions asked. Drunk driving in Homestead and other Florida cities claims far too many lives and a frank discussion now could encourage your child to make a safe decision after drinking.

5) Limit the number of passengers in your teen’s car. According to the Auto Club Group, accident rates for teen drivers increase with every passenger a teen allows in their car. With two or more passengers, teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 have a five-fold increase in accident risk when compared with drivers who drive without passengers.

6) Make sure your teen has a safe car to drive. Teens often have older, used cars due to budget constraints and while these can be safe it is important that teens don’t scrimp on maintenance or safety in order to save money.

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June 12, 2014

Drugged Driving in Homestead and Florida is Claiming Lives

Statistics show that drunk driving in Homestead and across the country already claims far too many lives. Many organizations and educational campaigns are dedicated to helping people make better decisions after drinking to help slash the rates of these accidents. However, researchers and police say that more needs to be done to alert the public of the dangers of drugged driving as well.

A new study from West Virginia University has found that between 1999 and 2010, prescription painkillers became an increasing cause of traffic collisions. The same time frame saw a drop in the number of fatal accidents caused by illegal drugs, possibly in response to anti-drug policies and educational campaigns.

Researchers in the West Virginia University study looked at fatal U.S. traffic accidents reported in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The study looked at drivers who tested positive for drugs -- including hydrocodone, barbiturates, methadone, oxycodone, benzodiazepines and cocaine – as part of the accident investigation.

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The study’s authors concluded that between 1999 and 2010, the rate of fatal collisions where a driver tested positive for drugs increased by 49% overall. The biggest increases involved drivers who tested positive for painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. These prescribed medications can cause confusion and drowsiness.

In contrast, cocaine use among drivers involved in fatal collisions grew until 2005 and then dropped. Researchers concluded that prescription drugs, rather than illegal drugs, are becoming an increasingly common cause of car crashes and suggest that authorities need to address the issue.

Since prescription drugs are legal, however, legislation to prevent DUI/DWI accidents in Homestead and other communities involving these medications will be a challenge. Rather than simply turning to legislation, it’s possible that a better solution might be to focus on education. An education campaign should focus on teaching drivers:

•That there are risks associated with both illegal drugs and prescription medication
•That they need to check with their pharmacist and doctor before taking a new over-the-counter or prescribed medication to see whether the medication will affect driving ability
•That they need to find alternative forms of transportation if they feel dizzy or disoriented after taking medication
•That they may need to give their bodies time to adapt to a new medication and during this time they should be prepared to take alternative forms of transportation if they notice serious side effects

Doctors and pharmacists, too, need to be part of the solution to help prevent more motor vehicle crashes in Homestead and other Florida cities. Doctors and pharmacists can help by:

•Alerting patients when a medication or group of medications used together could affect driving ability
•Warning patients about side effects or allergic reactions and make it clear when patients should seek help or stop driving after a reaction
•Encouraging patients to report any symptoms that could affect their driving
•Helping patients change medications if a drug causes serious side effects
•Telling patients when they need to hang up their keys (permanently or temporarily)

Continue reading "Drugged Driving in Homestead and Florida is Claiming Lives" »

June 10, 2014

Pregnant Passengers At Risk in Car Crashes in Hollywood and Other Cities

Pregnant drivers and passengers face additional risks in a car or truck collision in Hollywood or their communities. There is of course the risk to the unborn child. In addition, the very safety systems designed to protect passengers can pose a risk. Airbags, for example, can place additional pressure over the abdomen while seat belts can cut into the stomach area, causing additional injury to a pregnant passenger. A new study, however, suggests that the risk of collisions itself may be higher for pregnant drivers.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, reported that women in their second trimester of pregnancy had a higher rate of car accidents. According to researchers from the University of Toronto, female drivers who were in their second trimester of pregnancy were 42 percent more likely to need emergency room treatment for car accident-related injuries when compared with the same women before pregnancy.

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Before pregnancy, the women had an average collision rate of 4.55 accidents per 1,000 individuals per year. According to researchers this is almost double the average crash rate of the population as a whole, although this may be due to the younger age of the women. By the second trimester of pregnancy, however, researchers found that the women had a car accident rate of 6.47 collisions per 1,000 individuals per year. Young men in the same age range had an even higher rate of accidents.

The study’s authors suggested that part of the reason for the increase in accident risk may be because about half of pregnant women report absentmindedness while pregnant, and this may contribute to distracted driving as well as accidents. Researchers also noted that women who are pregnant may be affected by stress, morning sickness, and fatigue, which can also affect driving.

Critics of the study noted that the study’s authors did not consider how often women were driving during the second trimester. If women were driving more often as they took care of doctor’s appointments and various errands in preparation for the birth, this could help explain the seeming increase in numbers. Researchers did note that following birth, car crash rates dropped for these women again. Since new mothers may be more fatigued due to taking care of an infant, it seems unlikely that these drivers would somehow be safer drivers than women who are in their second trimester.

Some critics of the study also noted that women who are pregnant are more likely to visit the ER after even a fender bender to check that the baby is fine, and this could explain the seeming jump in ER trips. Women who are not pregnant, in other words, may not see a need for a visit to an emergency room unless they were seriously injured.

Despite these criticisms, the fact is that all drivers should use extra caution on the road. Women who are expecting a baby may be especially vulnerable in a traffic collision in Hollywood or their community as a car accident could affect the health of their unborn child. Doctors recommend that avoiding a car crash in Hollywood and other communities begins with some basics, such as:

•Avoiding speeding
•Obeying traffic laws
•Driving only when well-rested and alert
•Avoiding multitasking when driving
•Wearing a seatbelt

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