teen driving laws

Teen Drivers and Distractions in Alabama

Distracted driving is a growing problem among all age groups. Statistics show that driving while distracted now accounts for approximately one-fourth of all motor vehicle crash fatalities. At any given moment during daylight hours, 660,000 motorists are texting while driving or doing something else with their electronic devices while behind the wheel. Distracted driving is an even greater problem among teenagers than the public at large.

According to a survey by AAA, more than half of all teens reported that they used a cell phone while driving, and one out of four admitted that they have sent a text message while driving during the past 30 days. This has resulted in higher instances of distracted driving-related accidents among this age group. Consider these statistics:

  • Driver distraction is responsible for 58% of all teen crashes;
  • Those ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than any other age group.

While all motorists must deal with distractions on the roadways, teenagers are the most inexperienced group of drivers, which makes them more susceptible to the hazards posed by distracted driving.

Teen Drivers and the Distractions they Face

Drivers deal with numerous distractions on a daily basis. These can be separated into three general categories:

  • Manual: A manual distraction is something that causes the driver to take one or both hands off of the wheel. Examples may include tuning the radio, adjusting the GPS, reaching for food or drink, digging for change in your purse or pocket, dialing a phone number on your cell phone, and holding the phone up to your ear to talk.
  • Visual: A visual distraction is one that causes drivers to temporarily take their eyes off of the road. Drivers can be distracted visually by their GPS, signs and billboards, passengers, and many others. When a driver takes his/her eyes off the road for too long, it can result in deadly consequences.
  • Cognitive: This type of distraction is one that causes a driver to take their mental focus off of the road. Drivers can be mentally distracted by talking on the phone or to other passengers, listening to the radio, or just letting their mind wander.

The increased use of electronic devices on the road has created a whole new level of danger for teen drivers and motorists in other age groups as well. While distractions have always existed on the road, those that involved using an electronic device are especially hazardous. The reason is that sending a text, responding to an email, or doing something similar distracts you manually, visually, and cognitively. This means your full attention is taken away from the road while you are sending an electronic message.

Alabama Distracted Driving Laws

The state of Alabama has been relatively slow to adopt laws that can effectively deter teens and other motorists from distracted driving. While there are laws against distracted driving, they only impose a $25 fine for a first offense, $50 for a second offense, and $75 for a third offense. It is widely believed that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving drunk, but if that is the case, the penalties should be far more reflective of the hazards this type of behavior poses.

Tips for Helping your Teen Avoid Distracted Driving

Parents can play an essential role in helping teens stay safer on the road. Here are some ways to accomplish this:

  • Explain to your teen the dangers of falling prey to distractions on the road. Talk to them not only about texting while driving, but other distractions such as eating, drinking, personal grooming, horseplay with passengers, watching videos, and similar hazards.
  • Prohibit your teen from having other teen passengers while driving. Other teens can be a major source of distraction for a new driver. This is why Alabama law prohibits drivers under age 17 from having more than one passenger in the vehicle (other than a parent or guardian).
  • Set a good example for your teen. Many teens pick up bad habits by watching what their parents do. You can change that by being a good example and not succumbing to driving distractions yourself.
  • Encourage your teen to sign the AAA Smart Parent-Teen Driving Agreement. This agreement provides some good ground rules for teens to follow when they first get behind the wheel.

What to Do if you are Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident

With distracted driving nearly reaching epidemic proportions, there is always a chance of being injured due to the negligent or reckless actions of a driver who was not paying proper attention to the road. When this occurs, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney, so you understand your rights and options.

At Burge and Burge, we have many years of experience representing victims injured in all types of motor vehicle accidents. We have in-depth knowledge of Alabama personal injury laws, and we put our experience to work to ensure that those responsible for injuries sustained are held fully accountable.

For a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, call us today at 205-251-9000, or you may send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.

motorcycle helmets in insurance cases

Do Motorcycle Helmets Impact an Injury Claim

Motorcycle accidents have been on the rise in recent years. The increasing number of distracted drivers on the roadways puts riders at the mercy of motorists who cannot seem to stay off of their cell phones. This leads to more and more accidents that are totally unnecessary; and we know that when a motorcycle rider is involved in an accident, they are 26 times more likely to be severely injured or killed.

In addition to distracted driving, there are a number of other reasons motorcycle accidents occur. Some of the most common include:

  • Speeding/Reckless Driving: When a motorist is speeding excessively or otherwise driving recklessly, they are often in a state of mind in which they have willful and wanton disregard for the safety of themselves and others on the road. So, when they encounter a motorcycle, they may not take the measures needed to avoid an accident.
  • Unsafe Lane Changes: Sometimes, it is hard to spot a motorcycle that has entered into the blind spot of another vehicle. When drivers try to change lanes without seeing the motorcycle, it can lead to disastrous consequences.
  • Turning Accidents: Similar to lane changes, turning (particularly making left turns) can also be dangerous if a motorist fails to see a motorcycle that is inside their blind spot.
  • DUI/DWI: Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can affect reaction times and make it more difficult to avoid a motorcycle accident.
  • Defective Vehicle Parts: A faulty vehicle (or vehicle part) that goes bad at just the wrong time can be the cause of an accident. Examples may include computer dashboard malfunctions, faulty brake lines, and tire blowouts.

How Does the Use of a Helmet Impact an Injury Claim after a Motorcycle Accident?

The question of whether or not a motorcycle rider wore a helmet is not usually related to the cause of a motorcycle accident. In most cases, the accident most likely could not have been prevented even if the rider had a helmet on. That said, insurance companies may still use that fact that a rider was not wearing a helmet as a reason to argue that they share some fault for the accident.

The use of a helmet may very well become a factor, however, in determining how much the responsible party (or their insurer) will end up paying in damages. This depends on several variables, among the most important being the helmet laws in the state in which you were riding when you had the accident.

Alabama is one of 19 states along with the District of Columbia that has universal helmet laws. Everyone in this state, regardless of age, is required to wear a helmet when they are out riding a motorcycle. In addition, the state has strict requirements on the specifications of helmets to be worn by riders and passengers, and it is illegal to sell any helmet in the state that does not meet these specifications. This means that if you were a rider in a motorcycle accident in Alabama and you were not wearing a helmet, this could be a major factor if you are pursuing an injury claim.

There are a couple ways the other party and their insurer might use the fact that you were not wearing a helmet against you. First of all, they might argue that you are a reckless rider and that not wearing a helmet makes you partially at fault for the accident. Alabama applies the legal doctrine known as contributory negligence, which holds that even if you are 1% at-fault for an accident, you are barred from recovering compensation. So, if the defense can successfully argue that your failure to wear a helmet makes you partially responsible, you might not be able to recover damages for your injury.

Another argument the defense might make is that your injuries would have been less severe if you were wearing a helmet. This could be a particularly effective argument if you suffered head injuries as a result of the accident. In such cases, you need an experienced advocate in your corner who can skillfully argue that your head injuries would have been just as severe even if you had been wearing a helmet.

Speak with a Seasoned Alabama Motorcycle Accidents Lawyer

If you or someone close to you was injured or killed in a motorcycle accident, it is important to understand your rights and options. Regardless of whether or not you were wearing a helmet, you might still be entitled to compensation, depending on the specific circumstances of the case. At Burge and Burge, we have represented countless clients who have suffered injury in all types of motor vehicle accidents, and we have a successful track record with even the most complex and challenging cases.

For a free consultation with one of our skilled personal injury attorneys, call us today at 205-251-9000, or you may send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.

motorcycle accident lawyer in birmingham alabama

What Do I Need to Know After a Motorcycle Accident?

Each year, thousands are killed and tens of thousands are injured in motorcycle accidents throughout the country. When a motorcycle crashes into a passenger vehicle, motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to be killed than those driving and riding in other vehicles. Some of the leading causes of these types of accidents include alcohol, speed, and distracted driving.

Being involved in a motorcycle accident is an unsettling experience. Immediately afterward, you may be shaken up and it might take a while to collect your thoughts. Once you have calmed down and assessed what happened, it is important to know what to do next. The actions you take right after a motorcycle crash will have serious repercussions with regards to dealing with your insurer and ensuring that your legal rights are protected. Do your best to remain calm and keep your composure during the aftermath of the incident.

Here are five steps you should take right after a motorcycle accident:

  1. Seek Medical Attention for Anyone who is Injured

The first priority is to make sure that anyone who is hurt gets medical help immediately. Check yourself and others for injuries and call 911 if anyone is hurt. Some injuries may be difficult to detect right away. For example, if a car collided into your motorcycle and your head hit the ground, you may not feel anything immediately, but you should definitely get something like that checked out ASAP. Another type of injury that is hard to detect is internal bleeding and other internal injuries. Injuries to internal organs can become fatal if not treated promptly, so be sure to have everyone checked for that as well.

  1. Take Multiple Photos of the Scene

Once you have ensured that the accident scene is safe, take as many photos as possible from several different angles. The more photo documentation you have, the easier it will be to prove who was at fault for the accident. This is especially important in states like Alabama, where they use the legal doctrine known as “contributory negligence”. Contributory negligence means that even if a plaintiff is just 1% at fault for an accident, they are barred from recovering damages. So if you want to be successful with any type of legal action, you need to have extensive amounts of evidence to prove your case.

  1. Gather Information

Exchange information with the other driver(s) involved in the accident. Obtain their name, address, phone number, insurance information, and driver’s license numbers. In addition, note plate numbers and the make, model, and description of the vehicles. You will also want to speak with any witnesses that saw what happened and obtain their contact information. If possible, take note of (or even record on your smartphone) what the witnesses say while everything is still fresh in their mind. Memories can fade, and it will help your case to have as much information as possible before everyone goes their separate ways.

  1. Call the Police

If anyone is hurt or there is substantial vehicle damage, contact the police. The police will interview those involved in the accident as well as any witnesses and prepare a report. Having a police report on file will be another piece of evidence that can help your case. However, be sure to review the report as soon as it is available for any discrepancies that may need to be corrected.

  1. Report the Accident to your Insurance Company

As soon as is convenient, contact your insurer to report your motorcycle accident. Most insurance companies want to be notified within 72 hours of the incident, so do this sooner rather than later. Be ready to present your insurer with all the facts about what happened. Also, it is very important when you talk to them or anyone else that you do NOT admit any fault at all for the accident.

As stated earlier, any admission of fault severely damages your chances of recovering compensation. Along these same lines, do not give your insurer any detailed information about property damage or injuries. Insist that you will wait for an estimate from an auto shop and for a full medical exam, so you can provide the most accurate assessment.

Speak with an Experienced Alabama Personal Injury Lawyer

After a motorcycle accident, it is not uncommon for the other party’s insurer to approach you with a settlement offer. Insurance adjusters often make lowball offers in hopes of settling quickly and getting the case off the books. Before accepting any offer from an insurance company, speak with a seasoned accident injury attorney, so you fully understand your rights and options.

At Burge and Burge, we have more than five decades of combined experience handling motorcycle accidents and other types of personal injury cases. Our extensive knowledge and successful track record in this area of the law give our clients the assurance that when they work with us, they are in the best possible position to obtain a favorable result.

For a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, call us today at 205-251-9000 or send us a private and confidential message through our online contact form.

school bus accident lawyers in birmingham alabama

Our Kids are Back in School: School Bus Safety Rules

Earlier this month, most Alabama kids returned to the school. State school districts operate more than 7,000 buses, and they travel a combined 150 million miles per year transporting our kids to and from school. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that students are 70 times more likely to get to school safely riding a school bus than a private passenger car. But while school bus accidents are less common other types of auto accidents, when they do occur, they can result in severe and catastrophic injuries.

Now that school is back in full swing, it is a good time to focus on safety and what we can all do to keep our kids protected. Here are five things motorists can do to avoid school bus accidents:

  1. Avoid Distractions while Driving

Mornings can be pretty hectic. Sometimes, we are in a rush to get our breakfast and coffee and get to work on time. On top of that, we have people texting us or trying to call us because they need something. We need to do our best to stay focused and avoid distractions any time we are driving, but especially in the morning when you are around school buses. Allow yourself plenty of time to get ready and take care of everything you need to before going to work. And put your cell phone away, it is not worth risking a life to answer a text – whoever it is can wait until you get where you are going.

  1. Be Mindful of Young Pedestrians

Children are at risk not only of an accident while riding a school bus, but also when they are walking to school or walking to and from the bus stop. When you are approaching a bus stop, slow down and watch for kids gathered around the stop and those that might be rushing to make the bus. Kids are unpredictable, and they often dash across the street at the last minute without paying attention to traffic. This is especially true with younger kids. Stay alert and be aware of kids walking nearby.

  1. Be Mindful of Young Bicyclists

Lots of Alabama kids like to ride their bikes to school, especially when the weather is nice. Kids on bikes can also be unpredictable. Sometimes, they ride through intersections paying no mind to vehicles that are stopped and waiting for them to cross. They also tend to make turns in front of cars without looking or signaling. Be extra careful and watch for kids on bikes in school zones and residential areas.

  1. Slow Down while Driving near a School Bus

Buses tend to drive much slower than regular vehicles. They also make frequent stops to pick up and drop off kids, and they are required to come to a complete stop at a railroad crossing. When you are driving behind a school bus, it is best to drive slowly yourself and give the bus plenty of extra space. A good rule of thumb is to stay at least 10 feet behind the bus at all times.

  1. Never Pass a School Bus Illegally

Alabama drivers are not allowed to pass stopped school or church buses under most circumstances. And if you are driving behind a school bus, you are required to stop when the signal arm is raised and remain stopped until the signal arm is lowered again. You also must stop while the signal arm is raised if you are approaching the bus from the other direction. The only exception is if you are driving on a divided highway with either four or six lanes, and there is a barrier or unpaved area between the directional lanes.

The state of Alabama is cracking down on motorists who pass school buses illegally. In 2016, a new law went into effect that gave school districts the option to install stop-arm cameras on their buses. Motorists who are caught on video violating school bus passing laws can be ticketed $300 and have points added to their driving record.

What to Do if You are in a School Bus Accident

Accidents can happen even if we drive safely and follow all the rules. This can occur because of poor driving conditions, negligence on the part of other drivers, mechanical defects, faulty vehicle parts, and other reasons. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a school bus accident that was the result of another party’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.

At Burge and Burge, we have extensive experience with even the most complex personal injury cases, including those involving school buses and other types of government and commercial vehicles. We are aggressive advocates on behalf of our clients, and we have the skills, resources, and commitment to ensure that parties responsible for vehicle accidents are held fully accountable.

For a free consultation with one of our seasoned attorneys, call us today at 205-251-9000, or you may send us a private and confidential message through our web contact form.