$2.6 Million Settlement for Woman Hit by Cement Truck

Plaintiff Attorney Thomas Brandi of San Francisco

Plaintiff Attorney Thomas Brandi of San Francisco

The husband of a California woman who was killed by a speeding cement truck without brakes recovered a $2,592,090 settlement from the cement company and equipment rental company.

San Francisco attorneys Thomas Brandi and Brian J. Malloy of The Brandi Law Firm, represented the plaintiff.  Brandi is a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Attorneys and Malloy is a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 and NTL Top 40 under 40.

The case is Peter Callaham v. Hanford Ready-Mix, Inc., Hanford Sand and Gravel, Inc., Garston Equipment Rental, Inc., Preston Hanford III and James Ennenga, case number 34-2015-00186933 in Sacramento County Superior Court.

Plaintiff Attorney Brian J. Malloy of San Francisco

Plaintiff Attorney Brian J. Malloy of San Francisco

No brakes

On Monday September 22, 2014, at about 4:12 p.m., Theresa Vargo, the wife of Peter Callaham, was making a left turn onto Rough and Ready Road across California State Route 20 in Nevada County, California.

At the same time, a 2003 Kenworth cement truck operated by James Ennenga of Hanford Ready-Mix, Inc., Hanford Sand and Gravel, Inc., and Garston Equipment Rental, Inc. came flying down the hill on State Route 20, its brakes no longer working.

According to the driver James Ennenga about one week before, the same thing happened: he was driving the same cement truck down the same hill, when the brakes stopped working.  That earlier time, however, Ennenga, unable to stop the cement truck as it came down the hill, had a green light and made it through the intersection without impact.

This time, as he came down the hill without any functioning brakes, he entered the intersection on a red light and destroyed the Vargo vehicle, resulting in her death.  Ms. Vargo, the longtime partner of and newly married to plaintiff Peter Callaham and mother of three.

Plaintiff Callaham brought an action for the wrongful death of his longtime partner and wife. During discovery, defendants admitted that at the time of the accident James Ennenga was driving within the course and scope of his employment with Hanford Sand and Gravel Inc. and that the negligence of defendants were the substantial contributing factors to Ms. Vargo’s death.  Defendants successfully precluded the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages as the court found there was an insufficient basis to find malice.

The total available insurance was $3 million from which funds were expended for the toxic scene clean up costs and related expenses. The matter resolved for Plaintiff Callaham for $2,592,090.73, the available policy limits after payment to the three adult children and remedial clean-up costs.


Texas Driver with TBI from Auto Crash Recovers $26 Million Settlement

attorney Brent Goudarzi

Plaintiff attorney Brent Goudarzi

A 30-year old house painter who suffered a traumatic brain injury and aortic injury when his car was struck at a Texas intersection by another vehicle that negligently ran a red light has recovered a $26 million settlement.

Bessy Rodriguez filed suit on behalf of herself, her incapacitated husband Jose Lara Sanchez and their two children in connection with the 2010 crash in Mt. Pleasant, TX. The defendants are Jonathan Cunningham, driver of a pickup truck, and his employer Troy Construction, LLC, which owned the truck. It is Case No. 38,742 in 276th Judicial District Court of Titus County, TX.

The plaintiff’s attorney is Brent Goudarzi of Goudarzi & Young, LLP in Gilmer, TX. The case involved 34 depositions taken all over the US as well as more than 20 highly contested court hearings prior to the insurance company Berkshire-Hathaway offered is $26 million insurance policy limit, about five weeks before a jury trial.

Extensive injuries

Mr. Lara was transported by ambulance to a local emergency room, with a Glasgow Coma Score of 3 and from there, airlifted to a second hospital for more comprehensive evaluation and care.  A CT scan revealed a fracture of the right temporal bone and right-sided epidural hematoma, with underlying subarachnoid hemorrhage.

He underwent an emergent right triple craniotomy, and two days later, underwent endovascular repair of a traumatic transection of the descending thoracic aorta.  For the next three weeks, Lara was weaned off sedation and managed for rib fractures, scapula fracture, left acetabular fracture, bilateral pulmonary contusions and pneumonia.

He was discharged to a skilled nursing facility, where he got aggressive physical, occupational and speech therapies for five months before being discharged home to his family.  Lara continued to receive physical and speech therapies through outpatient rehabilitation. Altogether, he incurred $1.3 million in medical expenses.

While the plaintiffs alleged the need for lifetime medical care and the inability to return to any level of employment, the defendants alleged that a short course of appropriate outpatient therapy at an accredited rehabilitation facility would provide Lara with independence, including the potential to return to driving and return to working. This allegation was supported by surveillance video conducted over the course of multiple days, which showed Mr. Lara walking unassisted and unsupervised outside of his home, engaging in family outings, communicating with neighbors and even assisting with automotive maintenance.

The defendants also claimed contributory negligence on the part of Lara for the alleged failure to use a seatbelt, which caused his ejection and the right temporal bone fracture, hematoma and hemorrhage and most, if not all, of his residual physical symptoms, which were primarily left-sided (and controlled by the right side of the brain). Had Lara not been ejected, defendants alleged, he would have sustained no brain injury.

$12 Million Jury Verdict Against Alabama Transit System

Passengers injured in a 2015 bus crash in Fairfield, Alabama recovered a $12 million jury verdict against MAX Transit – Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority and its driver.

As part of their verdict, the jury also assessed $6 million in punitive damages.

With more than 20 passengers on a MAX Transit bus route, the bus driver lost consciousness, causing the bus to overturn and land in a ravine.

The lawsuit involved 15 of the crash victims, 10 of whom were represented by Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C. attorneys Brandon Bishop and Sara Williams.

The case is Charlsye Williams, et al. v. Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, Reginald D. Thomas; 68-CV-2015-900100, before Jefferson County, Alabama Circuit Court Judge Annetta Verin.

“For almost three years, the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority has failed to take responsibility for this wreck. We hope they will see this verdict as the rejection of that position by the people of Jefferson County and implement the necessary safety policies to ensure this never happens again,” stated Sara Williams, Managing Attorney of Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C.

Driver passed out twice

During the trial, there was evidence that the MAX Transit bus driver had passed out twice prior to this collision while operating a MAX bus through the greater Birmingham area. The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, which operates the MAX Transit system, had failed to take action after these two prior fainting occurrences.

The injuries of the passengers ranged in severity, with the most severe injury resulting in Charlyse Williams losing her leg. Upon recognizing that the driver was losing consciousness, Williams rushed to the front of the bus in an attempt to prevent the collision. As a result of her selfless act, Williams’ right foot and ankle were so severely mangled that doctors were forced to amputate her leg below the knee.

“We applaud the jury for banding together and taking ownership of this community. Even though none of the jurors rely on MAX bus for their means of transportation, their verdict makes clear that everyone, including those less fortunate than them, are worthy of protection,” said attorney Brandon Bishop.

“We are thankful to this jury for holding MAX Transit and its driver accountable for their failure to avoid what was a very preventable collision. I am proud of Brandon and Sara for the hard work they have put into the case for nearly three years. We as a firm will continue to fight for the safety of not only our clients, but all of those in our community who share the roads with these buses,” stated Alexander Shunnarah, President & CEO of Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C.


Florida Jury Awards $1.25 Million in Scooter Crash

Plaintiff attorney Adam T. Dougherty.

Plaintiff attorney Adam T. Dougherty.

A jury in Miami-Dade Circuit Court awarded $1.25 million to a Vespa rider who was severely injured when he swerved and fell avoiding a car that cut him off. The pre-suit settlement offer from Liberty Mutual was $25,000.

Attorneys Adam Dougherty of the Dougherty Law Firm in Hollywood, FL, and Gregory Ward of the Ward Law Group in Miami Lakes, FL, successfully represented the 38-year old scooter rider.

Plaintiff Oswaldo Rojas Perez, a construction manager and student, was riding on Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami at 6 pm on April 9, 2014, on his way to an evening class. Defendant Richard Wolfson pulled out of an office building driveway, turned into the right lane in front of Rojas and forced him to swerve left and lay his scooter down.

The car didn’t hit him but he was thrown more than 30 feet and the scooter slid another 80 feet. He injured his neck, shoulders, and back. Rojas had surgeries on both shoulders and a cervical fusion and discectomy. His surgeon testified he will need another cervical fusion and a lumbar fusion as his lower back worsens.

Rojas Perez’ expert in accident reconstruction opined that he was proceeding at about 35 mph in a reasonable and safe manner when Wolfson suddenly emerged in front of him, cutting him off.

Defense attorneys argued that his injuries were pre-existing and not related to the crash, and that Rojas was speeding and caused the crash.

The jury found the defendant liable and awarded $2.5 million, but allocated the fault at 50-50 between the parties.

The case is Oswaldo Rojas Perez v. Richard Wolfson, Case No. 14-14468-CA01.

Driver Struck from Behind Recovers $202,824 Verdict

Nicholas L. Ottaviano

Attorney Nicholas L. Ottaviano

A Florida woman who was stopped at a red light and struck from behind by another driver recovered a $202,824 jury award in Pasco County Circuit Court (near Tampa).

The plaintiff attorney is Nicholas L. Ottaviano, of Law Offices of Lucas Magazine, PLLP in New Port Richey, FL. He is a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100.

The case is Kathy Hardy-Ellzey v. Chantal Lefebvre, Case No. 51-2015-CA-001512-WS before Judge Declan Mansfield.

Plaintiff Hardy-Ellzey, a 58-year-old hair stylist, stopped at a traffic light on August 24, 2012. The jury found that defendant Lefebvre, also a hair stylist,  failed to observe the stopped car and negligently struck the hear of the plaintiff’s vehicle.

The plaintiff went to an emergency room, and was subsequently treated by a chiropractor and orthopedic spine surgeon, although no surgery was performed. She has continuing neck, shoulder and low back pain and pain, numbness and tingling that radiates to her arms and legs. She has been able to continue working but has faced restrictions in activities of daily living, where her husband has had to assist her.

The jury awarded $40,824.96 for total past medical expenses, future medicals of $85,000, past pain and suffering of $12,000 and future pain and suffering of $65,000.


$15.57 Million Verdict Against Driver and Broker in Trucking Accident Case

A Philadelphia jury awarded $15.57 million to a pedestrian who was struck by a drunken commercial truck driver, who had a history of drunk and reckless driving that the company failed to discover.

Following a three-week trial, attorneys Alan M. FeldmanDaniel J. Mann and Edward S. Goldis of Feldman Shepherd in Philadelphia, secured the verdict against J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. and driver Ricky Hatfield, finding Hatfield 60% responsible for the accident, and J.B. Hunt’s 40% responsible.

“Had J.B. Hunt performed even the most cursory background check, it would have discovered Hatfield’s terrible driving history that included a prior DUI while operating a tractor-trailer, and a prior reckless driving charge,” Feldman said.

The case is Isaac and Graciela Cerda de Espinoza v. J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc., Ricky Hatfield and Hatfield Trucking, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, June Term, 2015, No. 2656.

Over 4X the legal alcohol limit

On November 19, 2013, plaintiff Isaac Espinoza was standing on the shoulder of I-81 in Gilford Township near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, assisting a friend whose vehicle had become disabled.

While lawfully on the shoulder of the roadway, a truck-tractor operated by defendant  Hatfield left the travel lanes of the road and crashed into Espinoza and his friend. Hatfield fled the scene but was later apprehended and arrested by the Pennsylvania State Police.

His blood alcohol content measured .171, more than four times the legal limit for operators of commercial vehicles. Hatfield was convicted of DUI, assault with a commercial vehicle while intoxicated and other offenses, and is presently incarcerated.

In March 2013, Hatfield received motor carrier operating authority from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to have his own trucking company. He was recruited to haul freight as a contract motor carrier by J.B. Hunt’s brokerage division, which entered into contracts called “Outsource Carriage Agreements” with motor carriers, who were often one-driver, one-truck operations like Ricky Hatfield’s.

While the contract required the motor carrier applicant to certify that its drivers had no DUIs or reckless driving citations in the past 5 years, no effort was made by J.B. Hunt to conduct a background check to corroborate Hatfield’s claim of a clean record, or to otherwise obtain references or information about the safety history of Hatfield.

Had J.B. Hunt checked, it would have learned that Hatfield had in the preceding 5
years had a conviction for DUI while driving a tractor-trailer, two reckless driving violations, a speeding citation for driving a commercial vehicle in a construction zone, and had been dismissed from prior employment with a trucking company for failing a drug and alcohol test during which he tried to bribe the person who was administering the test to him.

Defense: driver should have screened himself

J.B. Hunt maintained that it had no responsibility to screen or vet Ricky Hatfield, who was doing business as Hatfield Trucking. J.B. Hunt contended that under applicable federal regulations, motor carriers were responsible for screening their own drivers, and that accordingly, Ricky Hatfield should have screened himself.

The plaintiff needed to establish that Hatfield was actually performing work under the contract at the time of the accident. Hatfield, testifying by video deposition taken at the prison where he is incarcerated, stated that he was not working for J.B. Hunt or anyone else at the time of the accident, but rather had the day off, and had made a personal decision to become intoxicated. Another issue was that when the accident occurred, Hatfield was 125 miles away from the location he had been dispatched to and was headed in the opposite direction.

To counter this testimony, Plaintiff introduced evidence that on the day of the accident:

• Hatfield was under dispatch by J.B. Hunt to pick up a trailer in Fredericksburg, Virginia the following day, and remained under dispatch at the time of the accident.
• The dispatch had been confirmed by a load tender form sent to Hatfield by J.B. Hunt.
• Hatfield had used his J.B. Hunt debit card to purchase nearly $500 worth of diesel fuel in preparation for picking up the load the following day.
• Hatfield had also used his J.B. Hunt debit card to obtain a $100 cash advance, which he used to buy the bottle of liquor found outside his truck after the accident
• Hatfield was operating his tractor, rather than his personal vehicle, because he needed the tractor to hook up to trailers in his work for J.B. Hunt.

Espinoza sustained serious and permanent injuries which left him with a completely non-functional right upper extremity, limited use of the left upper extremity, multiple pelvic fractures, rupture of the diaphragm, multiple cervical fractures requiring cervical fusion surgery and a traumatic brain injury.

He requires attendant care 24/7, which is provided by his family at his home. Espinoza suffers chronic pain unrelieved by medication, and he will never be able to engage in gainful employment or recreational activities for the rest of his life.

Florida Jury Awards $45 Million in Truck Crash that Killed Medical Student

Plaintiff Raymond Astaphan’s was killed when his car struck a truck that was making a U-turn across four lanes of traffic in the dark.

After a four-week trial, a Broward County, Florida, jury returned a $45 million verdict against a construction company whose truck driver caused a multiple-vehicle crash that killed a 29-year-old medical student.

Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. had a contract with the state of Florida for construction along Interstate 75, most of which was in the highway median. One of its truck drivers, Juan C. Calero, attempted to make a U-turn in Pembroke Pines, FL, crossing all four southbound lanes of I-75 into oncoming traffic at 11:35 pm on May 28, 2015.

Plaintiff Raymond Astaphan’s car struck the trailer, shearing off this roof and killing him on impact. Patrissia Rolle, 26, a doctor, was a passenger in his vehicle and she suffered multiple orthopedic injuries and a brain injury. A 17-year old woman in another care was also killed, and an 18-wheel tractor-trailer also collided with the construction truck.

The plaintiff argued that the only safe way off of the I-75 median construction site that night was with a lane closure, proper supervision, lighting, and the assistance of Florida Highway Patrol. Instead, Ranger Construction and its supervisor left truck driver Calero unsupervised in an area he had never been to before, in complete darkness.  Ranger loaded up the flatbed tractor-trailer with an 80,000-pound load of concrete barrier wall and instructed Calero to drive about one mile south, to the Miramar Parkway Bridge, for unloading.

Based on e-mails uncovered by the plaintiff’s legal team, Ranger Construction supervisors and managers simply blamed the truck drivers and the motoring public for the problems construction vehicles were having entering and exiting the medians. Ranger Construction allegedly did nothing to fix the danger it was imposing on the roadways. 

At trial, the plaintiff argued that Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. not only put lives at risk of harm and death, but also violated the terms of its contract with the Florida Department of Transportation requiring it to give construction vehicles a safe means of exiting median construction sites on I-75.

The jury found Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. violated its contract with the FDOT and found Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. negligent in causing the death of Raymond Astaphan

The jury found the defendants responsible and entered a $20 million verdict for compensatory damages.  The jury also awarded punitive damages of $25 million against Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. and $5,000 against the truck driver. The jury also found that Calero was Ranger Construction Industries, Inc.’s agent and that Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. was engaged in an inherently dangerous activity.  The jury apportioned fault equally between the two defendants.   The entire verdict was for $45,005,000.

“This case is a reminder of how powerful and important our third branch of government is for enforcing safety and protecting everyone from harm,” said Stuart Ratzan, lead trial counsel for the plaintiff.  “Through its verdict, the jury, a cross-section of our community, with humility, discipline, and order understood that highway construction companies must follow the rules, not just in Broward County, but all over the country,” Ratzan said.

Raymond Astaphan is survived by his parents, Jennifer and Reginald.  “They are heroes…heroes for our community and for us all,” said Ratzan and Weissman.

The Plaintiff was represented by Stuart N. RatzanStuart J. Weissman, and Evan Gilead of Ratzan Law Group, P.A.Miami, Florida.  Ratzan Law Group was assisted by Lincoln Connolly of Lincoln J. Connolly Trials & Appeals, P.A. 

Family of Victim of Drunk Driver Recovers $1.26 Million Settlement

Plaintiff attorney Roger Booth of Booth & Koskoff in Torrance, CA.

Plaintiff attorney Roger Booth of Booth & Koskoff in Torrance, CA.

The family of a California tow truck driver who was hit and killed by a drunk driver settled their wrongful death claim for $1,265,000. The defendant California Highway Patrol (CHP) had called him to a crime scene, but left, leaving him exposed to traffic as he loaded a vehicle in traffic on Freeway 10.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys Roger E. Booth, a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100, and Carly L. Sanchez, both of Booth & Koskoff in Torrance, CA, achieved the settlement.

On Jan. 28, 2014 at 1 a.m., two California Highway Patrol officers pulled over a motorist on Cedar Avenue near the 10 Freeway in Bloomington, CA, and arrested him for driving under the influence.

The officers called for a tow truck to impound the vehicle, and Ricardo Valdez, 39, responded to that call. The vehicle was located in a lane of traffic, and Valdez had to load the vehicle onto his flatbed tow truck in that location.

While loading and securing the vehicle, a second drunk driver, defendant Maria Ochoa, struck Valdez who suffered fatal injuries. (Ochoa later pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter.)

The plaintiffs are the decedent’s mother (age 66 at the time of the settlement) and two daughters, are 10 and 15 years old. The case is Vianey Valdez, Aylen Valdez, Josefina Santoyo v. State of California, (CIVDS1416659) before San Bernardino Superior Court Judge John M. Pacheco.

Officers leave after 3 minutes

The video footage from the CHP vehicle showed that, about three minutes after Valdez arrived on the scene, the officers left with the suspect. Valdez had to finish loading and securing the suspect’s vehicle with no traffic control in place.

Approximately 10 minutes after the officers left, Ochoa traveled down Cedar Avenue towards Valdez’ location. At that moment, Valdez was at the rear of the tow truck, performing the final steps of securing the car to the bed of the truck.

Ochoa testified that she was following another car in front of her, that the other car suddenly swerved to the left and that she applied her brakes, but she could not stop in time. Valdez was crushed between the front of Ochoa’s car and the rear of the tow truck and was declared dead a few hours later.

Plaintiffs contended that because the CHP officers called Valdez to the scene and placed him in harm’s way, as he was in the middle of an active traffic lane, they had a special relationship with him and owed him a duty to provide reasonable protection.

The officers breached that duty by leaving the scene promptly after Valdez’ arrival. The CHP’s own procedures regarding special relationships allow the officers to leave only if there is an emergency elsewhere, they have been relieved by other law enforcement officers or they have been ordered to leave by a superior officer.

Plaintiffs contended that had the officers stayed on scene, with their vehicle parked behind the suspect’s vehicle, the drunk driver would have, at worst, struck the rear of the CHP vehicle and caused some property damage. Valdez would have been uninjured.

Defense: no special relationship

The defendants contended that there was no special relationship between the officers and Valdez and that getting struck by a motorist is simply an inherent risk of working as a tow truck driver.

Defendants also contended that most or all the fault for the crash rested with Ochoa, the drunk driver, who had consumed two shots of tequila and four to five beers at the bar where she worked. Ochoa fled the scene after the crash, and when the police finally tested her blood alcohol level about eight hours later, it was .08 percent.

Defendants’ toxicologist opined that her BAC would have been approximately .21 percent at the time of the crash. Defendants argued that it was Ochoa’s intoxicated condition that prevented her from seeing and avoiding the bright, flashing lights of the tow truck, which were visible from 350 feet away.

Further, the defendants contended that the officers had a legitimate reason to leave the scene because Valdez allegedly told them he did not need their assistance and because their CHP office was shorthanded that night. Defendants argued that Valdez’ employer bore a significant share of the fault because he allowed Valdez to perform towing operations for the CHP without having obtained CHP certification.

The defendants’ tow truck expert opined that it was unsafe for Valdez to stand at the rear of his truck to secure the suspect’s car and that the safer practice was to perform that task from the side of the truck.

Mother depended on Valdez

Valdez lived with his mother at the time of the incident. Plaintiffs contended that the mother was financially dependent on her son, on account of the $300 per month that he contributed towards the mortgage payment, and that this established her wrongful death standing under CCP 377.60(b). Defendants disputed that there was financial dependence, and this likely would have been an issue for the jury at trial.

Valdez had not lived with his daughters since 2008 and was never married to their mother. However, he did see his daughters almost every day. Because Valdez earned just over minimum wage and because it would have been extremely difficult to estimate the amount of money that he contributed to his daughters, plaintiffs chose not to seek economic damages. The only damages sought at trial would have been non-economic damages for the loss of plaintiffs’ relationship with the decedent.

A total settlement of $1,265,000 was reached with retired judge Joe W. Hilberman, ADR Services, serving as mediator.

At the mediation, the CHP agreed to pay $1,250,000 to settle the case, and plaintiffs agreed to dismiss the individual officers. Of the total settlement amount, $100,000 was allocated to decedent’s mother and $575,000 each to decedent’s two daughters. The children’s money is being placed into annuities, which will pay out $670,000 to the elder daughter and $707,000 to the younger daughter over the course of the next 30 years. Prior to the mediation, the insurance carrier for the drunk driver, Ochoa, agreed to pay its $15,000 policy limits. This money was used to resolve the entire workers’ compensation lien, which totaled $278,438.

The plaintiff’s expert witnesses were Charles Dickerson, accident reconstruction, Mesa, Ariz.; Jesse Enriquez, tow truck standards, Los Angeles; Mark S. Sanders, Ph.D., human factors, Encino; Alvin Yamaguchi, law enforcement practices, Chino Hills.

11 Surprising Factors that Mean You’ll Get Hurt in a Car Crash

By Duncan Garnett.

The number of traffic deaths and injuries are up by 7.2 percent, according to the US Department of Transportation. It’s more dangerous than ever to on the road. Are you likely to get hurt in an auto accident? Check out these danger factors to see if they fit you.

  1. You are a young guy or an old-timer, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). At all ages, men had higher per capita crash death rates than women in 2015. Males ages 20-24 and 85 and older had the highest rates of crash deaths, and women ages 12 and younger had the lowest rate.
  2. You are crossing a street on foot in Washington, DC. 15 percent of crash fatalities in 2015 were pedestrians. Pedestrian accidents are up nationwide by 9.5 percent. The percentage of pedestrian deaths was highest in Washington, DC.
  3. You drive in one of the 9 most dangerous states: Most fatal vehicle crashes occurred in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.
  4. You use a cell phone for any reason while driving. Drivers using mobile phones are 4 times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers not using a mobile phone, according to the World Health Organization. Hands-free phones are not much safer and texting considerably increases the risk of a crash.
  5. You drive a pickup truck in a rural area. Pickup truck, vans, and SUV occupant fatalities increased by 4.7 percent. Wyoming and North Dakota had the highest percentage of deaths involving occupants of SUVs and pickups.
  6. You drive on the fatal 5 days of the year: July 4, August 2, November 1, October 11, and January 1, according to the IIHS.
  7. You drive during the deadly hours of the day: 3 pm to 9 pm. Saturday is the most dangerous day.
  8. You drive more than 55. Fatalities in speeding-related crashes increased by 3 percent. Speeding where the limit was 55 mph was a contributing factor in 48 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths, according to the DOT.
  9. You ride a motorcycle without a helmet. The proportion of motorcyclist fatalities increased to 14 percent in 2015. In states without universal helmet laws, 58 percent of motorcyclists killed in 2015 were not wearing helmets, as compared to 8 percent in states with universal helmet laws.
  10. You drive high or drunk. About one-third (29 percent) of the total fatalities were in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. In the case of drink-driving, the risk of a road traffic crash starts at low levels of blood alcohol concentration and increases significantly when the driver’s BAC is more than 0.04. In the case of drug-driving, for example, the risk of a fatal crash occurring among those who have used amphetamines is about 5 times the risk of someone who hasn’t
  11. You don’t wear a seatbelt. 88.5 percent of drivers do wear seat belts all the time. But almost half (48 percent) of passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in 2015 did not wear a seat belt.

Duncan GarnettDuncan Garnett is an owner of Patten Wornom Hatten & Diamonstein LC in Norfolk, Virginia. If you or someone you know was hurt or killed in a traffic accident, please contact him on his direct line at (757) 233-4550 or via email  at [email protected].

Distracted Driving Involved in 52 Percent of Car Trips that End in a Crash

Data from a study involving several hundreds of thousands of drivers shows that phone distraction occurred during 52 percent of trips that resulted in a crash, according to a new report by Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT).

Apps by CMT, a smartphone-centric telematics provider, measure driving behavior in six categories: phone use while driving, excessive speeding, braking, acceleration, cornering, and time of driving. These apps provide actionable information to drivers so they can understand and improve their driving behavior.

Threat of distracted driving

Key findings of the CMT study include:

  • Distracted driving occurred during 52 percent of trips that resulted in a crash.
  • On drives that involved a crash, the average duration of distraction was 135 seconds.
  • Phone distraction lasts for two minutes or more on 20 percent of drives with distraction, and often occurs at high speeds: 29 percent at speeds exceeding 56 miles per hour.
  • The worst 10 percent of distracted drivers are 2.3 times more likely to be in a crash than the average driver, and 5.8 times more likely than the best 10 percent of distracted drivers.

Road fatalities have increased significantly in the past few years. The National Safety Council (NSC) found that the number of fatalities on U.S. roads rose by 14 percent since 2015, the largest two-year increase in five decades.

Anti-phone laws marginally effective

The Insurance Information Institute has found that phone use while driving has increased steadily in recent years, especially among young drivers. The NSC reports that 11 teens die every day as a result of texting while driving. To combat this issue, 37 states ban all cell phone use by novice or teen drivers, and many states have enacted some anti-cellphone legislation.

CMT’s data shows that states with anti-cellphone laws have only slightly safer drivers than those that don’t. The average duration of phone distraction per 100 miles of driving for three categories of states is:

  • States with laws against all handheld use: 3.17 minutes
  • States with laws against all handheld use for “under 18” drivers: 3.25 minutes
  • States with no laws against any handheld use: 3.82 minutes

Collision claims frequency has also skyrocketed in the U.S. over the past several years, causing auto insurance companies to experience record losses in the billions of dollars. Although smartphones have contributed to this problem, CMT’s work shows that the smartphone presents a new opportunity to accurately measure and reduce distracted driving at a low cost.

Changing course

“Distracted driving due to smartphone use is intuitively blamed for the increase in road crashes and claims,” said Hari Balakrishnan, Chief Technology Officer of CMT. “What’s less intuitive is that smartphones hold the solution to the problem they created. Drivers now have access to tools that analyze their driving and achieve real behavioral change through immediate and ongoing feedback.”

Apps based on CMT’s DriveWell solution automatically record phone sensor data when a drive is occurring. By analyzing this data after a drive, these apps provide feedback to drivers. They also use contests, leaderboards, achievement goals, and personalized driving tips.

The feedback and gamification in these apps engage users well and lead to dramatic improvements in driving behavior. Within only 30 days of use, phone distraction reduces by 35 percent (40 percent by day 60), while risky speeding and hard braking reduce by 20 percent, on average across all users. Even after 200 days of use, DriveWell users sustain at least a 25 percent reduction in distracted driving.

In addition to drivers, insurers around the world have benefited from the sustained driving improvements of DriveWell users. Participating insurers report higher retention rates, doubling of customer growth rate, 34 percent reduction in claims, and 19 percent reduction in the severity of claims.

“This data makes it clear that distracted driving is one of the most urgent public safety problems facing our communities today,” said Balakrishnan. “With April being Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it’s important to take a critical look at how we can most effectively reduce the danger that drivers face. By harnessing the very technology that threatens driver safety, and using it to help drivers understand and improve their behavior, we’re making the world safer by the day.”