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Children and Car Accidents: Part 2

children on trampoline

In part one of this series, the general nature of car accidents, children and emotional trauma was discussed. This post will delve further into issues surrounding child trauma stemming from car accidents.

Remember: Children And Adults Process Trauma Differentlychild trauma

When parents think of healthy, appropriate ways to approach their child after an automobile accident, they should note that the mind of a child and the mind of an adult are different in measurable and important ways.

Children and adults process information, especially information surrounding traumatic events, very differently. Because children interpret and react to traumatic events based on their age and ability levels, there is is no one-size-fits-all approach to emotional and physical recovery after an automobile accident, just as there is no one-size-fits-all approach for adult recovery.

One “Rule” For Approaching Children After An Automobile Accident

One “rule” to for parents to remember when approaching children after an automobile accident is to always interact with children with care and sensitivity.  Just as each and every situation is different, each and every child is different. All children should be treated with patience, sensitivity, and understanding after a car accident to ensure the best emotional outcome.

Your child should never be shamed or made to feel guilty for expressing their emotions following an automobile accident. Some children will experience little or no difficulty following a car accident, while others may have nightmares or show other signs of emotional trauma. Although your child’s reactions may not make sense to you as an adult, you should not minimize or make fun of them in a misguided attempt to get them “move on”.

Experts suggest ignoring or making fun of a child’s emotions is an unwise strategy for many reasons.  First, dismissing emotions without understanding their cause can harm a child’s ability to deal with emotions in a healthy way over the long term. When children don’t learn how to interpret and understand why they feel a certain way, the adults in their lives may very well be robbing them of a natural opportunity to develop emotional resilience and emotional intelligence. Being emotionally resilient, knowing yourself and your limits mean that as an adult, a child will be better able to understand, describe and handle their emotions. Furthermore, understanding their emotions now will help your child should they encounter any other traumatic situations again in the short term.

Why Identifying Trauma In Children Is Important

Helping your child recover emotionally after a car accident is of the utmost importance. Research indicates that children who have suffered a traumatic event before they turn 11 are as much as three times more likely to develop psychological symptoms than children who experience their first trauma as a teenager or adult.

The good news for parents and caregivers is that children are far more able to cope in healthy ways with traumatic events if they receive appropriate guidance and support from trusted caregivers and adults in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event.

So, following a car accident, it becomes even more important for caregivers to watch for signs of trauma and step in immediately if a child needs guidance and support.  Parents and caregivers should never force a child to talk about a car accident  This can actually make trauma worse, or even traumatize a child who wasn’t experiencing problems in the first place. Although it’s important for adults to monitor children closely for signs of physical and emotional trauma so that they can offer loving sensitive, consistent and appropriate support as soon as they see a child is suffering, an adult should never force a child to talk about their feelings if they aren’t ready.

Common Signs of Physical and Emotional Trauma

  • Unusual amounts of irritability, anger, tantrums
  • Lots of whining, sudden bouts of tears, crying
  • Child shows unusual misbehavior at home or school
  • Regression (child reverts to behaviors such as thumb sucking or bed-wetting)
  • Physical symptoms (headaches, stomach aches, etc.) that are not associated with any clear pattern of illness

Stay Connected and “In Tune” With Your Child After A Car Accident

As a parent or caregiver, it’s always important to be in tune with your child’s needs and personality. But in the aftermath of a car accident, it’s even more important to stay close. Parents must know their children in order to accurately assess their emotional and physical well being because signs of trauma in older and younger children may mask themselves as “normal” and can, therefore, be extremely difficult to tease out from more abstract and developmentally appropriate childhood behaviors.

Signs of Trauma In Younger Children 

In younger children who are experiencing emotional trauma as a result of a car accident, parents may notice changes in play. Younger children are typically less able to verbalize or express their feelings, so it can be harder for parents to “see” emotional trauma in this age group. But it’s not impossible, by any means.

If your baby or toddler stops playing or begins playing aggressively (e.g. banging toys, biting others, abruptly becoming very shy or alternately becomes violent during play), this can be a sign of emotional trauma. Younger children may also develop sudden fears or phobias, such as concerns about losing favorite toys (special blankets or stuffed animals) or abruptly lose trust in adults who they were formerly comfortable with.

Sadly, in the aftermath of a car accident, younger children may reason that if an adult couldn’t protect them from the car accident, perhaps they can’t protect them at all.  If a normally confident child doesn’t want to play with friends, go to grandma’s house or preschool, it may have something to do with emotional trauma from their car accident. Young children may also develop generalized fears in response to the trauma of a car accident (e.g. fear of loud noises, school, other children, dogs), which to an adult would seem to have no relation at all to the car accident, but in the child’s mind are clearly related.

Signs of Trauma In Older Children

In older children, signs of emotional trauma may be similar to those of younger children. But, older children can also develop unique signs of child trauma that are more representative of an older child’s way of looking at and relating to the world. Older children may “clam up” and refuse to talk about the car accident. Alternately,  they may fixate on details of the car accident and want to discuss the car accident nonstop, perhaps asking to drive by the scene, or suddenly begin asking questions about death or wanting to watch scary or violent movies.

After a car accident, older children may also withdraw from friends, have trouble concentrating in school, secretly feel they said or did something to cause the accident, have thoughts or fears about death (their own or their parents/siblings) or lose interest in their favorite activities. In some cases, older children feel more comfortable “talking” about the car accident with the help of action figures or by drawing.

Our Attorneys Are Here To Help

If you or anyone in your family is dealing with emotional difficulties in the aftermath of a car accident, it’s always wise to consult with a qualified mental health professional or your pediatrician. The personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing are also here to answer questions regarding your car accident and options you may have regarding settlements and insurance claims. We can help you understand why your insurance company may be trying to deny or minimize your claims following your automobile accident. Best of all, we can help your family get the settlement you deserve.

The Maine car accident attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing provide our blog as a service to our clients.  They are meant to be purely informational. If you or a loved one has been in an accident or has been involved in a crash and would like a free consultation with a personal injury attorney, please call our firm today at 1-800-INJURED to start understanding your legal rights.

Children and Car Accidents: Part 1

Mother Hugging Child

Car Accidents Affect All Areas of Your Life

child in car accidentAfter 35 years of helping Maine families deal with the legal, emotional and physical toll of car accidents, the personal injury attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing understand the unexpected, traumatic nature of automobile accidents. Car accidents are often all-encompassing, distressing events which involve many areas of your life, including your physical well-being, mental health, finances, career, even how well you relate to your family and friends. Automobile accidents often leave their victims feeling drained, depressed and “not themselves” for months, if not years.

As experienced personal injury attorneys and parents, we also understand that any time a child is involved in a car accident, absolutely everything changes. When a child is injured, a parent’s first priority is always helping their child heal and grow physically strong again. But oftentimes, parents aren’t sure if their child’s injuries are purely physical.  Parents may find themselves wondering if their child’s emotional well-being has also been affected by the events surrounding an automobile accident, but may have no idea where or how to find answers to their questions and concerns.

The legal team at Hardy, Wolf and Downing understands that everything we do as parents is geared towards the health, safety and well-being of our children and families. It’s normal to be worried about your child following an automobile accident, and to wonder if they might have been affected psychologically by the events surrounding an automobile accident, even if others dismiss your concerns as overblown or even “crazy”.  Even if your child wasn’t actually injured in the accident, or if the accident wasn’t deemed  “traumatic” by others, your child may still experience emotional trauma following an automobile accident.

Car Accidents and Children: Some Common Parental Concerns

Sometimes, parents feel anxious following a car accident and need a little reassurance themselves that their children aren’t going to experience emotional trauma because they were involved in a car accident, and that’s perfectly OK! Once parents feel reassured that their child is safe, they may find themselves wondering, “Is my little one going to be OK after the accident? Will they have nightmares or any problems concentrating in school? What should I do if they say they’re afraid to ride in the car after the accident, or that they don’t want to drive past the place where the accident happened?”

Finding answers to these common questions will help these parents (and their children) move on emotionally after an accident, and gain confidence and peace of mind. All these things are important and healthy aspects of emotional healing for families, and all families will move on after an accident in different ways. Some will want to talk about the accident while others won’t. But all families need time and support in order to heal emotionally after any kind of stressful event. Sometimes,  the simple act of spending a little extra time talking together as a family your car accident will be all a family needs to move on. Other families might need the help of a professional counselor.  This depends on your unique situation, personality, family and the events surrounding your accident. There are no “shoulds” or “musts” when it comes to trauma and emotional healing after an automobile accident.

When parents have more complex concerns about their children’s emotional well-being after an automobile accident, their child usually has shown some unusual behaviors. These parents aren’t simply “crazy”! Sometimes, parents become worried when a child says or does something that raises behavioral red flags. For example, children may mistakenly believe something they said or did cause a car accident, and their parents inevitably find themselves asking,  “My child said the accident was somehow her fault yesterday, and I don’t know what to tell her to help her feel better. What can I say her to make her understand that isn’t true? Is there anything I can say to encourage my child to talk about her feelings after our car accident, or will encourage him to talk about the accident just make things worse? I just don’t know what to do.”  In these cases, parents need competent advice and help, and so do their children.

Parents Should Ask Questions and Be Aware Following A Car Accident!

Our personal injury attorneys believe it’s normal for parents to be concerned about how a car accident might have affected their child’s mental, physical and emotional well-being.  As both car accident attorneys and parents, we want you to know that we’re happy that you’re asking questions about your child’s emotional well being. That means you care about your child, not that you are “overly concerned”, or that you should be labeled as an anxious “helicopter” parent!

Part of being a good parent involves asking questions on your child’s behalf.  Sometimes, those questions will take you in difficult directions and require you to investigate complex issues, even in the face of other’s doubts. You should never allow others opinions to stop you from doing your homework and figuring out what’s best for your child. After all, YOU are the parent, you know your child better than anyone, and when all is said and done, you have your child’s best interests at heart.

What Kind Of Lawyer Does My Family Need After A Car Accident?

As both experienced personal injury attorneys and parents, the legal team at Hardy, Wolf and Downing have helped thousands of Maine families face the unique and sometimes all-consuming worries, pressures and concerns families face when a child has been involved in an automobile accident.  Because we are experienced personal injury attorneys, we are uniquely able to help and support families in these highly stressful situations. We are not general practice lawyers. We focus only on personal injury law.

Unlike general practice lawyers or even personal injury lawyers with less expertise than our firm, our experienced car accident attorneys focus only on personal injury law and have won thousands of cases and millions of dollars for families by focusing only on personal injury law for more three decades.  Because we are focused legal experts in personal injury and have dealt with thousands of car accidents cases, car accident experts, insurance companies and other lawyers, we know exactly how to win cases and get our clients the fair and just results they deserve.

The car accident attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing want families to thrive in absolutely every aspect of their lives. The aftermath of a car accident is certainly no exception. Parents have every right to ask questions and find answers after an automobile accident, and your concerns about your child’s physical and emotional should never be dismissed or downplayed (especially by an insurance agent or claims adjustor).

The experienced personal injury attorneys team at Hardy, Wolf and Downing are here to help your family get answers to your questions about your child’s mental and physical health after a car accident. Our car accident attorneys can help your family, especially if you are getting the run around by your insurance company or claims adjustor.  

At Hardy, Wolf and Downing,  we encourage parents to watch their children for signs of trauma after an automobile accident, not because we expect a child to experience problems after an automobile accident, but because we want parents to be aware that they might.  

Know When It’s Time To Seek Professional Help

As Miguel de Cervantes so wisely observed, “Forewarned, forearmed: to be prepared is half the victory.” Understanding signs of distress and emotional trauma your child may exhibit following a car accident can help you face the aftermath of a car accident with a greater degree of certainty and awareness. Knowing the signs of emotional trauma will also help you ask the right questions, and know when it’s time to step in and seek professional help.

Three Important Things For Parents To Remember If Their Child Has Been In A Car Accident

In order to help a child who has been involved in a car accident, it can be helpful for parents to keep the following three tips in mind as they monitor their child for possible signs of emotional trauma:

  1. There are many positive short and long-term strategies to help children cope with their emotions following a traumatic event such as an automobile accident, and their emotions should never be dismissed or made fun of.  Developing coping skills after a trauma is part will help your child become emotionally resilient, and this resilience will help protect them psychologically well into adulthood.
  2. No two children are alike when it comes to physical and emotional trauma. Therefore, their recovery is individual and should be treated as such.
  3. Above all,  adults must remember that children process and handle information, especially information related to traumatic events very differently than adults. What makes sense to an adult in the aftermath of an automobile accident may make little or no sense to a child because an adult’s brain processes, understands and stores information differently than a child’s brain.

When parents keep these three pieces of information about their children after an automobile accident, it can help the entire family deal more effectively with the possibility of emotional trauma.  In order to be the effective advocates for your children, parents must have a solid emotional framework themselves, along with a sense of what is normal for their children.  Parents can’t allow their vision to be clouded by what others believe is “acceptable”, or let misinformation, or the opinions of untrained or unlicensed professionals, family members or other well-meaning nay-sayers to affect their decision making when it comes to their children. If you think your child needs extra help after an automobile accident, talk to your pediatrician or other trusted provider.  Conversely, parents shouldn’t “see” fears or anxieties in their children where there are none.

Avoid All-Or-Nothing Thinking and False Assumptions Following A Car Accident

Some parents, health care providers and other well-meaning adults fall into the trap of All-Or-Nothing thinking when it comes to children and trauma, especially if a car accident wasn’t traumatic in THEIR eyes. Adults may say or think, “My child is acting normally, so they must be just fine. They’re acting as if nothing happened so they must not even be upset!” This is NOT necessarily true!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, some parents throw their hands up and give up even trying to help their child because they believe all hope is lost. If a child has behavioral problems after a traumatic event or has witnessed a serious accident, all hope is not lost! Never say or think things like,  “My child is scarred for life because of this accident and there’s absolutely nothing I can say or do that will change that.”

Both ends of this spectrum represent flawed thinking that won’t help your children. If a child is anxious, they need to approach their fears rationally. With help, children can develop long-lasting emotional stability and resilience after a trauma,  but they need sensible adults to help support their growth in that direction!

The car accident attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing hope that by opening a discussion of children and car accidents we will be able to answer some of your questions. We also hope we have encouraged you to keep asking those questions about your child. As parents, you are your child’s best guides and advocates.

If you or anyone in your family is dealing with emotional difficulties in the aftermath of a car accident, it’s always wise to consult with a qualified mental health professional or your pediatrician. The personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing are also here to answer questions regarding your car accident and options you may have regarding settlements and insurance claims. We can help you understand why your insurance company may be trying to deny or minimize your claims following your automobile accident. Best of all, we can help your family get the settlement you deserve.

The Maine car accident attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing provide our blog as a service to our clients.  They are meant to be purely informational. If you or a loved one has been in an accident or has been involved in a crash and would like a free consultation with a personal injury attorney, please call our firm today at 1-800-INJURED to start understanding your legal rights.

Maine Car Accident Attorneys: Parent-Teen Safe Driving Contract

teens texting and driving

The car accident attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing know that all parents want to keep their children safe.  This often becomes more of a challenge during the teen years, when teens spread their wings and gain more independence.

Fortunately, one of the best and most important ways parents can keep their teenaged children safe is by educating them about safe driving behavior. But teens read and send text messages 26 times more often than their parents believe they do.

It is vitally important for parents to discuss the dangers of distracted driving with the teenagers. The Maine Car Accident Attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing have parent teen driving contractprepared a sample Parent-Teen Driving Contract to encourage Maine families to begin having open, honest discussions with about safe driving behaviors.

Remember: Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers. Our experienced Maine Car Accident Attorneys have seen far too many precious lives lost to automobile accidents. We want to encourage our clients to sit down with their teenaged children and educate them about the dangers of distracted driving.  Parents,  know that your teens watch everything you do behind the wheel.  If you text, eat, apply makeup and talk on the phone while driving, studies show it’s much more likely that your teen will engage in the same risky behavior. If you want your teenagers to be safe behind the wheel and avoid risky, distracted driving, practice what you preach! Don’t model bad behavior yourself!

Take time to discuss safe driving habits with your teen. Fill out this Parent-Teen Safe Driving Contract with your teen, and remind them how much their safety means to you.

Sample Parent Teen Driving Contract

In the state of Maine,  it is against the law for teens to use cell phones (handheld or hands-free) while driving or to text while driving. (See DISTRACTION.GOV for further information.)

Parent’s Initials:__________     Teen’s Initials:__________

Are you aware that traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers?

Parents initials:__________     Teen’s Initials:__________

Are you aware that in addition to texting and talking on a cell phone, personal grooming, talking to passengers, eating, using a GPS, changing music, or any other behavior device that takes your attention from the road is a serious distraction and is a violation of Maine distracted driving laws?

Parent’s initials:__________     Teen’s initials:__________

I understand that if passengers are allowed in my vehicle, I must set rules for their behavior. If their behavior distracts me from the road, I will pull over and not drive again until their behavior has improved.

Parent’s initials:__________     Teen’s initials:__________

I will not drive if I am under the influence of alcohol or drugs or ride in a vehicle with someone else who has been drinking or using drugs.

Parent’s initials:__________     Teen’s initials:__________

I will not drive if I am too tired or mentally or emotionally unprepared to drive safely.

Parent’s initials:__________     Teen’s initials:__________

If I do not adhere to these rules, I agree to lose my driving privileges for ____________________________ amount of time.

Parent’s initials:__________     Teen’s initials__________

Maine distracted driving attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing provide our blog as a service to our clients.  They are meant to be purely informational. If you or a loved one has been in an accident or has been involved in a crash as a result of distracted driving and would like a free consultation with a personal injury attorney, please call our firm today at 1-800-INJURED to start understanding your legal rights.

Lewiston Car Accident Attorneys: Tragic N.C. Distracted Driving Accident

car accident on highway with ambulance

distracted driving lawThe Lewiston Car Accident Attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing are saddened by reports of a suspected distracted driving case in High Point, North Carolina. It is a stark reminder of the dangers of texting and driving, which has left a family grieving the tragic loss of 32-year-old Courtney Ann Sanford.  According to local authorities, Sanford’s decision to write a Facebook post about the song “Happy” caused her to lose control of her vehicle, cross the median and collide head-on with a truck. Ultimately, authorities say Sanford’s fateful decision to take her eyes off the road in order to post to Facebook ended her life and put other drivers on the road in grave danger.

According to investigators, at 8:33 am, Sanford posted; “The Happy song makes me HAPPY!” to the social networking site, Facebook. Moments later, at 8: 34 am, authorities received calls that Sanford’s vehicle crossed the median, crashed head-on into an oncoming truck, then ran off the road into a tree.

Fortunately, the driver of the truck Sanford collided with, 73-year-old John Wallace Thompson, was not injured in the accident. Sanford, however, did not survive the impact.  Authorities say that in addition to posting status updates on Facebook,  the victim was posting “selfies” as she drove down the highway that fateful morning.

Although investigators say Sanford was wearing her seatbelt, she was not using her seatbelt correctly.  Lt. Chris Weisner of the HIgh Point Police Department says, “In a matter of seconds, a life was over just so she could notify some friends that she was happy…As sad as it is, it is a grim reminder for everyone… you just have to pay attention while you are in the car.”

Help Save A Life: End Distracted Driving

The Lewiston car accident attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing know distracted driving kills, and we want our clients to understand this serious hazard. We also want our clients to do everything within their power to end this serious hazard. By providing the following tips. Our Lewiston car accident attorneys hope to spur discussions among family members and make you aware of the dangers associated with distracted driving. If you and your loved ones understand the danger of distracted driving, you can help end the problem.

  • According to DISTRACTION.GOV, 78 percent of teens and young adults say they have an SMS message while driving, while 71 percent say they have sent an SMS message while driving.
  • In 2011, AT LEAST 23 percent of automobile accidents involved cell phones as distractions.
  • Texting while driving takes your eyes off the road for a minimum of 5 seconds. This is the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field blindfolded while driving 55 mph.

Maine distracted driving attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing provide our blog as a service to our clients.  They are meant to be purely informational. If you or a loved one has been in an accident or has been involved in a crash as a result of distracted driving and would like a free consultation with a personal injury attorney, please call our firm today at 1-800-INJURED to start understanding your legal rights. 

Portland Maine Car Accident Attorneys: Teens Model Parents Distracted Driving Habits

distracted driving accidents causing car crash

images-2The experienced Portland, Maine car accident attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing have seen the tragic results of distracted driving accidents far too many times in our personal injury practice. As a service to the Maine community, we would like to educate our clients about the dangers of distracted driving in an effort to protect families and save lives.

Many parents don’t realize how much of an impact they have on their teen drivers. But research indicates that parental driving habits affect teen driving habits in significant and lasting ways. Our Portland, Maine car accident attorneys want to help you and your family avoid tragic car accidents and the painful personal injuries that often result. Please read the following information about teens and distracted driving, and make it a point to discuss distracted driving with your teenagers. Above all, be a good role model for your kids by avoiding distracted driving yourself.

Research Indicates Teens Model Distracted Driving Behavior On Parents

A new study from the University of Michigan Transportation and Research Institute suggests that when it comes to distracted driving, teens have a case of “monkey see, monkey do”.  Parents know it’s wrong to tell their children how to be safe, then engage in a risky behavior themselves.  But what many parents don’t realize is how strongly they influence their teens’ driving behaviors. When teens witness their parents engaging in distracted driving (e.g. talking on cell phones, texting, applying makeup, using electronic devices, eating), studies show that teens are far more likely to engage in those same behaviors themselves.

Lead University of Michigan researcher Ray Bingham, research professor and head of UMTRI’s Young Driver Behavior and Injury Prevention Group, suggests that parents can be a powerful force in their teenaged children’s driving patterns, simply by being good role models.  Parents should be very aware what messages they send their children each and every time they get behind the wheel.  When parents behave responsibly, it’s more likely that their children will make safe choices when they’re behind the wheel one day.  But if parents model poor behavior by talking on cell phones, texting, rummaging around for maps or GPS devices while weaving in and out of traffic, there are serious repercussions.  Teens with parents who model distracted driving habits are likely to become distracted drivers themselves.

Our Portland, Maine car accident attorneys want parents to remember that it’s not good enough to tell your children about the dangers of distracted driving, then engage in those behaviors yourself. In order to make a real and lasting impact on teens and their driving habits, parents should discuss the dangers of distracted driving and, most importantly, model responsible and safe driving behavior.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do: A Dangerous Combination With Teens and Distracted Driving

Interestingly, researchers found that it’s not entirely about what mom and dad are doing behind the wheel when it comes to teens and distracted driving. What teens think their parents are doing behind the wheel affects their driving habits more than what their parents are actually doing!

If, for example, your teenager believes their parents become distracted when dealing with passengers, or that they text while driving, their teens are five times more likely to engage in those same distracted driving behaviors.  Surprisingly, if a teen actually witnesses a parent engaging in those same distracted driving behaviors, they are only twice as likely to model the behaviors themselves.

The attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing want parents to know that what your teen THINKS you are doing behind the wheel is an important factor in their driving behavior. According to researchers, it’s actually MORE important than what you’re actually doing!  That means parents must pay careful attention to how they act in front of their teens. They should NEVER allow their teens to see them making poor choices while driving.  Modeling distracted driving behavior in front of our kids has the potential to affect them and their driving habits for the rest of their lives.

The University of Michigan Study also found:

  • One-third of teens in the study believed their parents used an iPod while driving when in reality only 10 percent of the parents in the study reported using any music device while driving.
  • A whopping seventy-one percent of teens thought their parents read or wrote down directions while driving when only 55 percent of parents admitted to that behavior.
  • For the most part, teens believe their parents are engaging in distracted driving on a regular basis, and this belief affected their driving behaviors whether or not it was actually true.

Parents Underestimate Teens Cell Phone Use While Driving

Another major finding from the study is that parents often underestimate whether or not their teen texts while driving. More than a quarter of teens (26 percent) read or send a text message at least once every time they drive, although only 1 percent of their parents said their teen texted while driving.  The car accident attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing want you to remember your teen isn’t immune to the dangers of texting and driving. Don’t assume your child is a perfectly safe driver. Take the time to educate them about the dangers of texting while driving, and you may save their life.

The study also found:

  • Parents and teens used cell phones at similar rates (more than half of teens used cell phones while driving and 60 percent of parents used cell phones while driving).
  • Approximately one in ten parents admitted to responding to a text at least once every time they drive. Thirteen percent of parents admitted to reading a text or email while driving.
  • Approximately 25 percent of teens admitted to responding to a text while driving, while 30 percent read a text message at least once every time they drive.
  • Twenty percent of teens and ten percent of parents admit to having extended text conversations while driving.
  • More than 50 percent of teens admit to searching for music on a portable music player while driving.
  • More than one in ten teens admits to checking social media while driving (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Although passengers pose the biggest distraction risk for teens, teenagers regularly drive with passengers. More than two-thirds of the teenagers in the University of Michigan study reported that they drove with two to three teenaged passengers in their car (without adults). Studies indicate that teen drivers are more likely to be distracted by rowdy, loud passengers than electronic devices (Washington Post).
  • According to UNC’s Center for the Study of Young Drivers, teenaged drives are six times more likely to have to make an evasive maneuver while driving in order to avoid a crash when their passengers are talking loudly, and three times more likely to have almost been in an accident when their passengers are engaged in “horseplay”.
  • A teen who drives with more than 3 young passengers in the car without an adult is four times more likely to die in a car accident.

How Much Of A Concern Is Distracted Driving?

In 2012, the federal Department of Transportation reported that 3,328 Americans were killed in distracted driving crashes.  For teens (aged 15 to 19 years of age) who were involved in fatal distracted driving crashes, 21% were distracted as a result of using cell phones while driving.

Distracted driving is a serious issue for drivers of all ages, but is of particular concern for teenaged drivers because research indicates that teens are more likely to be injured or killed in distracted driving crashes. Because teens are less experienced and especially prone to being distracted by their passengers (especially when those passengers are other teens), they are at a substantially higher risk for distracted driving injury accidents and even death. Our Maine attorneys want to see you and your family safe and have gathered the information for adult and teen drivers in an effort to end distracted driving. 

  • Only 1 percent of parents believe that their teens text while driving. Yet University of Michigan researchers found at least 26 percent of teens read or sent text messages at least once every time they drove.

Parents Can Make A Difference

The attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing want parents and caregivers to remember that children observe your behavior each and every time they get in the car with you. They are remarkably observant, and have extraordinary memories (often for things we wish they’d forget!) Even very young children notice how adults behave when they drive. Kids are storing away memories which they’ll rely on when they become drivers.

Vow to set the right example for your children. Keep your eyes on the road at all times. Don’t engage in distracted driving.  After all, you’re carrying precious cargo and teaching vital safety lessons every time you hit the road with your little ones (and not so little ones) as passengers.

When you are behind the wheel, be very careful not to distract yourself with the following activities. Remind Your Children It’s Never OK To Drive Distracted.

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Putting on makeup, grooming, styling hair, etc.
  • Adjusting the radio, CD or MP3 player
  • Using a GPS or other navigation system
  • Taking your eyes off the road to reach for things in the back seat or on the seat next to you

Kids won’t listen to what they’re being told; if your actions contradict your words, they’ll do what you do, not what you say.  When it comes to distracted driving, mom and dad must always practice what they preach.

Our experienced Portland, Maine Car Accident Attorneys want you to put away your smartphones while driving. Do your very best to avoid driving distractions. You are your child’s best and most important teacher.  When it comes to being a safe, responsible driver, teach them well by being a safe driver yourself!

The Maine Car Accident Attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing provide our blog as a service to our clients.  They are meant to be purely informational. If you or a loved one has been in an accident or has been involved in a crash as a result of distracted driving and would like a free consultation with a personal injury attorney, please call our firm today at 1-800-INJURED to start understanding your legal rights.  

Maine Distracted Driving Attorneys – Distracted Driving Crash Proves Fatal

Do and Don't of driving

An Orange County, California jury deadlocked today, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial in the distracted driving cpersonal injury compensationase against a 31-year-old driver who was charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence in an April 2011 accident that killed 23-year-old Deanna Mauer on the 405 Freeway. After 16 hours of deliberations, the twelve member jury could not reach a verdict. Eleven of the twelve jurors voted to convict Nicolas, while a lone juror was not convinced of her guilt. Pending a new trial, Nicolas was not convicted of distracted driving. Maine distracted driving attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing know that trials like these cause pain and suffering to the families of the victims, especially when a verdict is not reached.

During the trial, the facts of this distracted driving case rocked the community and caused Mauer’s family to relive the events that led to their daughter’s tragic death. Prosecutors alleged that Jorene Nicolas was driving approximately 80 mph when she slammed into the back of Mauer’s vehicle. The reason Nicolas didn’t notice traffic had come to a complete stop on the busy freeway? Prosecutors say that Nicolas was texting while driving, and was so distracted by her cell phone that she didn’t notice that traffic had come to a complete and total standstill in front of her.

The facts Nicolas presented were very different than the picture painted by the prosecution. Nicolas testified that Mauer’s white Hyundai “came out of nowhere”, and disagreed with prosecutors that she hit the back of Mauer’s car. Nichols also claimed that when Mauer’s car “came out of nowhere”, she veered to the left and saw the victim hit the center divider. Nicolas’ defense attorney also suggested that Mauer swerved in front of his client and that Mauer’s brake lights weren’t working or that she didn’t apply them before the crash. 

Mauer, a star pitcher at San Jose State University, did not survive the accident with Nicolas. Her vehicle careened into the center divider and her injuries proved fatal.  Accident investigators were not able to prove that Nicolas was texting while driving.

There were concerns in this case that jurors behaved inappropriately. Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker believes that one juror may have tried to use physics formulas to evaluate testimony, while another juror may have brought in a magnifying glass to examine the evidence.  She has asked the judge for a new trial setting conference on May 16. 

Despite the deadlocked jury, prosecutors, along with Mauer’s grieving family, are convinced that distracted driving led to their daughter’s untimely death. In the aftermath of their daughter’s tragic death, Mauer’s family wants to spread the word and help save a life. They urge drivers to put down their cell phones.  Distracted driving took the life of their daughter,  and they hope her death can serve as an example of the senseless danger of distracted driving. Distracted driving claims more than 3,000 lives a year, and injures more than 387,000 people per year. If there is anything to be learned from this tragic case, it is that distracted driving is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

In a distracted driving case, it is vital to have experienced attorneys, credible expert witnesses and accurate accident reconstruction. Experienced Maine personal injury compensation attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing have successfully litigated many Maine distracted driving cases, and have been voted the Best Online Attorneys in 2014 because of our extensive experience as Maine distracted driving attorneys.

Maine distracted driving attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing provide our blog as a service to our clients.  They are meant to be purely informational. If you or a loved one has been in an accident or has been involved in a crash as a result of distracted driving and would like a free consultation with a personal injury attorney, please call our firm today at 1-800-INJURED to start understanding your legal rights. 

Maine Car Accident Attorney: What To Do After A Car Accident

Rear end car crash

auto crashUnless you’re a demolition derby driver, no one leaves the house in the morning expecting to be involved in a car accident.  Automobile accidents are scary, costly and often involve time away from work and family dealing with automobile repairs, liability issues, and insurance claims. In the worst case scenarios, automobile accidents can lead to serious injuries and disabilities, including traumatic brain injuries, painful long-term disabilities, and even death.

Unfortunately, if you are a driver, it’s extremely likely that you’ll be involved in at least one automobile accident in your lifetime. Statistics suggest that the average driver will have three to four accidents during their driving years, and file a claim after a collision once every 18 years. Not exactly reassuring! No matter how carefully you drive or how safe your vehicle is, you won’t be able to prevent the careless actions of other drivers or predict hazardous road conditions that can cause a car accident.  Some of the most common causes of car accidents are distracted driving, driving too fast, drivers who do not follow right-of-way rules, drivers who ignore traffic signals and stop signs or who drive on the wrong side of the road.

Our Maine attorneys know that car accidents are an unfortunate and dangerous fact of life.  We also believe that when it comes to car accidents, to be forewarned is to forearmed.  You should know exactly how to handle yourself should an accident occur, especially if there is a personal injury involved.  Here are some tips from our experienced Maine car accident attorneys on what you should and should not do following an automobile accident.

What To Do After A Car Accident-STOP

First and foremost, although you may feel rattled, scared or even angry after a car accident, the very first thing you should do after a car accident is STOP. Breathe, calm down as best you can and assess your condition. Make sure everyone at the scene is safe. Call 911 if there are serious injuries or if you or anyone else requires immediate medical attention. Move to a safe place while you wait for the police to arrive so that you don’t risk further injury from other motorists.

Remember, whether your accident was a minor fender bender or a major collision involving serious injuries, you must pull over and exchange information with the parties involved. According to Maine law, if you are involved in a car accident that involves a personal injury, or if there was damage to the vehicles or property exceeding $1,000, you must contact police to file a report. If there is any doubt about the amount of damage incurred in a car accident, it’s always a good idea to call the police.  If your accident involved personal injuries, it’s also a good idea to contact a Maine car accident attorney who can help you deal with your insurance company and ensure that you’ll receive fair compensation for your injuries.

What To Do After A Car Accident- Stay Safe and Call for Help

Remember; never leave the scene of an accident, even if you think the accident was minor or no one was injured. If you or someone in another vehicle has been seriously injured, call 911. If you don’t suspect any serious injuries, call the non-emergency police number to report your accident, and wait for them to arrive to make a police report. NEVER attempt to move a seriously injured individual unless they are in grave danger of sustaining further injuries. If your vehicle is blocking traffic, try to move it safely to the side of the road while you wait for the police. Turn on your emergency lights or set up flares to ensure that you are visible to passing motorists.

What To Do After A Car Accident- Exchange Information and Stay Calm

No matter what happens in the aftermath of an accident, it won’t help anything if you panic, get angry at the other driver or lose your cool. To the best of your ability, tell the police officers exactly what happened. Do not speculate or guess about the accident or exaggerate. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so.  Answer truthfully, but remember that anything you say may be recorded or be admissible. Don’t try to make the other driver feel better by saying the accident was your fault if it wasn’t.

The police officer who responds to your accident will typically record the following information, but it’s a good idea to get this vital information from the individuals involved in an accident yourself if possible:

  • Name, address, driver’s license number
  • Insurance Information (Check to see if this matches their driver’s license information. If not, find out how the individual is related to the insurance holder.)
  • License plate number
  • Make/model/year of vehicle
  • Description of damage to the vehicle (It’s a good idea to take pictures of damage if possible with a disposable or cell phone camera.)
  • If there were witnesses to the accident, get their names and contact information if possible.

What To Do After An Accident- Seek Medical Attention

If you were injured in an automobile accident, it’s extremely important to seek appropriate medical attention immediately after your accident. It is possible to sustain injuries in an auto crash even when there is little to no damage to your vehicle.  Never lie or exaggerate about your symptoms following an accident. But if you are experiencing pain after an automobile accident, do not brush off your symptoms as a simple neck ache or sprain, or minimize your symptoms when you visit your doctor. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health, and you should not assume any physical symptoms or pain after a car accident will magically go away. The physical force involved in car accidents, even slow speed/minor car accidents, can be enough to cause serious and long-lasting injuries to your body.  Sometimes those injuries don’t show up on conventional scans or x-rays, but they can show up and affect your health well being for many years after your accident.

It’s important to see a medical professional to truthfully and accurately document your complaints and symptoms. Sometimes, even medical professionals may dismiss a patient’s symptoms after a car accident. If this happens to you, remain calm and insist that they record your symptoms. You may want to see another medical professional for a second opinion. It’s always wise to call a Maine car accident attorney in cases like these. You are the only person who knows what it feels like to live in your body, and if you are experiencing pain as a result of an auto crash, it should not be dismissed or downplayed by anyone, including medical professionals or insurance companies.

What To Do After A Car Accident-Call A Maine Car Accident Attorney

Insurance companies often try to pay as little money as possible after an automobile accident. That’s why it is wise to contact an experienced Maine car accident attorney after your accident. Call the Maine car accident attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing BEFORE you speak to your insurance company. This move alone can often DOUBLE the size of your settlement. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing know exactly how to deal with insurance companies after car accidents, and can help you get the compensation for your injuries that you deserve rather than the lowest amount the insurance company wants to pay. Choosing the right Maine car accident attorney can mean the difference between getting a fair settlement, or being pushed around by an aggressive, unfair insurance company claims representative or attorney who would rather protect the company’s bottom line rather than your long-term health and well being. 

We provide our blog as a service to our clients.  They are meant to be purely informational. If you or a loved one has been in an accident and would like a free consultation with a personal injury attorney, please call our firm today at 1-800-INJURED to start understanding your legal rights.

Teenage Drivers and Car Accidents

teen car accident

“The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.” Dorothy Parker
teen car accident

Being the parent of a teenager isn’t for the faint of heart.  Seemingly overnight, the sweet toddler who was once begging you for another bedtime story is suddenly asking for the key to the family car so they can stay out past your bedtime.  Gulp! Although it may be tempting to keep your teenager at home so you can keep them safe  (perhaps using Dorothy Parker’s suggestion of letting the air of the tires),  teens do grow up and eventually spread their wings.  Inevitably,  that means driver’s licenses, cars and parents spending late nights worrying over their teens and whether they are safe. (more…)

Understanding Emotional and Psychological Trauma After A Car Accident

trauma visual notes

depression after car accidentWith roughly 250 million cars and light trucks on our nation’s roadways,  roadside automobile accidents are a familiar sight for most motorists.  It’s rare to cruise down a busy highway without seeing the tell-tale flashing lights of emergency vehicles at the site of a car crash. Makeshift memorials for victims of fatal automobile accidents dot overpasses and crosswalks, and billboards along the highways remind drivers of the costs of drunk and distracted driving.

Unfortunately,  no matter how carefully you drive, or how many technological advances have been made in driver safety, one simple fact remains- if you regularly drive an automobile in the United States,  it’s likely that you or someone close to you will be involved in an automobile accident during your lifetime.  Sadly,  many of those accidents will leave the involved parties with lasting disabilities.   A significant number will prove fatal.

Unfortunately, after years of declining numbers of automobile accidents, 2012 was the first year in recent history when the number of car accidents rose. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 2012,  the number of people injured in automobile accidents experienced its first statistically significant increase since 1995.   

Consider these statistics on roadside automobile accidents:

  • There are roughly 6 million automobile accidents per year in the United States, averaging one accident every 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Approximately 3 million people are injured in automobile accidents every year.
  • Approximately 2 million people who are injured in automobile accidents sustain permanent disabilities.
  • Approximately 40,000 people die every year as a result of automobile accidents.
  • Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 5 and 34 years (CDC).
  • Statistics suggest that 1 out of every 4 drivers will be involved in a car accident over a five year period.

Emotional and Psychological Effects of a Car Accident

The rise in traffic accidents is unwelcome news for motorists on many levels.  Car accidents are an obvious financial burden for both individuals and families.  According to AAA, roadside accidents cost drivers a staggering $299.5 billion dollars a year,  or $1,522 dollars per person per year.  But as anyone who has been involved in an automobile accident can attest,  the financial costs of car accidents pale in comparison to the physical and psychological trauma these accidents often leave in their wake.

What Causes Emotional and Psychological Trauma?

Research suggests that lasting emotional and psychological trauma can result from stressful events we experience in our lives, including car accidents.  Although these events do not necessarily involve physical harm or injury, they are typically associated with unexpected, stressful events that are outside of our control.

Many unexpected, stressful event that causes someone to feel a loss of control can cause psychological trauma. These events can include job losses, being diagnosed with a life-threatening or disabling condition, the death of a spouse, loss of a significant relationship or being the victim of a crime.

But, not everyone who experiences a stressful or traumatic event goes on to develop symptoms of emotional or psychological trauma.  Psychological and emotional trauma develops when an individual who experiences a stressful or traumatic event feels overwhelmed, alone and unable to cope in the aftermath of the event.  They then struggle with the requirements of normal,  everyday life, and find themselves unable to process the stress of the traumatic event on their own.

Often, individuals who suffer psychological and emotional trauma after stressful, unexpected events experience debilitating symptoms of fear, helplessness, panic, disconnection or depression that leave them unable to work and enjoy their lives and personal relationships to the fullest.  Those individuals can recover,  but they need support, guidance and often professional help.

Understanding Emotional and Psychological Trauma After a Car Accident

Experts agree that being involved in an automobile accident,  regardless of the severity of the accident,  can lead to lasting emotional trauma that detracts from an individual’s ability to function optimally in work, school and at home.  Researchers note that significant emotional trauma can take place, even if the automobile accident did not cause lasting physical damage. How can this occur?  If an automobile accident was “minor”,  or didn’t cause any permanent or lasting injury,  how can it cause lasting emotional trauma?

Car accidents can lead to emotional and psychological trauma,  regardless of their severity, because it is the individual’s experience of an automobile accident that causes them to feel traumatized, not simply the severity of the crash itself.

No matter how or why an event caused emotional trauma,  experts suggest that emotional traumas share three common elements:

  • The trauma was unexpected.
  • The person was unprepared for the trauma.
  • There was nothing the person could do to prevent the trauma from happening.

An individual’s experience of an event is (generally) what determines the level of trauma that they ultimately experience (the experience of trauma includes a complex interplay of factors, which may include the severity of the accident, prior experiences with accidents, psychological history, social support systems, etc).  So,  what one person experiences as stressful and frightening,  another person may experience as completely benign.  For example, if an individual is involved in an automobile accident,  their brain will respond to the accident in a unique way, based on their individual makeup.  There is no way to predict exactly how one person will respond to an accident, or whether they will develop symptoms of psychological trauma. The wide variety of emotional responses to automobile accidents occurs because individuals react very differently to stress, injury and trauma. These reactions are based on a complex interplay of factors, which include their personality, psychological history, and overall health.

Understanding the Brain’s Role In Emotional and Psychological Reaction to Car Accidents

Researchers are making great strides in understanding why some people have strong emotional reactions to stressful events such as car accidents. In the past,  researchers were limited to studying the brains of accident victims after they had passed away.  With the advent of new, high tech brain scans,  researchers can now “see” how brains react to unexpected, stressful stimuli,  such as car accidents.

Brain scans have revealed that the stress of being in a traumatic situation,  such as a car accident, can literally change the structure and function of the brain.  Brain researchers suggest that the brain can be divided into three areas: The cortex (outer surface of the brain), where our higher thinking skills take place; the center of the brain (the limbic system), where our emotions take place;  and the brain stem (also called the reptilian brain), which controls basic survival functions.  Brain scans show that traumatic situations affect the frontal cortex (where the emotional part of the brain and the higher, thinking part of the brain “meet”).  Researchers believe this pattern of functioning (affecting the frontal cortex) after a traumatic event appears in individuals with PTSD.

 Symptoms of Emotional and Psychological Trauma

Symptoms of emotional and psychological trauma after a car accident may present themselves immediately after an automobile accident.  Or,  they may not show up for several weeks or months after an accident.  This is highly individual. Your symptoms and emotional reactions to a car accident are a normal, natural part of healing. However,  there are signs that emotional and psychological symptoms are becoming overwhelming,  and you may need help dealing with those symptoms in order to truly recover from your trauma.

If you are experiencing difficulty with any of the following symptoms, it may be time to consult a qualified, licensed medical or mental health professional who can assess your mental health and help you regain a sense of safety, stability and emotional well-being.

If you experience any of the following symptoms for more than a few days,  or if your symptoms seem to be worsening following your car accident,  it may be time to consult a qualified medical or mental health professional:

  • Deep, persistent anxiety, panic
  • Anger, irritability, agitation.
  • Feelings of guilt and shame for having survived an accident.
  • Social withdrawal, feelings of sadness, depression, lack of interest in activities you formerly enjoyed.
  • Feeling detached emotionally (numbness)
  • Mood swings
  • Flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, phobias (e.g. driving)
  • Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness
  • Hypervigilance, excessive worrying, preoccupation with safety
  • Stomach pain, headaches,
  • sexual dysfunction
  • marked changes in eating patterns (weight loss or gain)
  • Sudden crying spells, frequent crying, feeling out of control
  • Nightmares, difficulty sleeping

If you or someone you care about has been involved in an automobile accident and is showing persistent signs of psychological trauma,  it’s important to seek professional help.  If your psychological symptoms are getting worse rather than better,  please, don’t dismiss your feelings.  No matter what others may suggest,  “burying” your feelings will not make them go away,  and you are not abnormal for feeling the way you do.  If you are struggling with your emotions after a car accident, seek professional help so that you can return to the life you enjoyed prior to your accident.

If your symptoms are interfering with your interpersonal relationships, ability to work,  go to school or you are having difficulty doing things that remind you of the accident (driving, going past the accident scene, etc), you can find a qualified therapist, mental health professional or medical professional who understands emotional trauma after car accidents. Together, you will be able to create an effective treatment plan tailored to your symptoms and personality.

There is help and hope for those suffering from emotional trauma after a car accident.  But before you can feel better,  you must take that all important first step and reach out for support.  As you heal,  remember to be patient and kind to yourself,  and know as you head down the path to recovery that you are not alone and there are brighter days ahead.

If you have been injured in an automobile accident and are experiencing symptoms of emotional and psychological trauma,  you deserve to be compensated for your injuries.  Let the experienced Maine personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing assess your personal injury car accident case,  free of charge.  We understand the physical, financial and emotional ramifications of automobile accidents in Maine,  and we work to get every one of our Portland and Lewiston car accident victims the just and fair compensation they deserve. We are an experienced personal injury law firm who knows how to fight for your rights after you have been injured in a car accident.  We’ve worked for clients across the state of Maine, and helped them fight for their rights when they have been injured in an automobile accident.  So, if you or someone you love is struggling emotionally,  psychologically or physically after a car accident,  know that our car accident attorneys understand.  Don’t make the mistake of fighting insurance companies on your own.  Let the experienced Maine personal injury team of Hardy, Wolf and Downing fight for you.

We provide our blog as a service to our clients, and they are meant to be purely informational. If you or a loved one has been in an accident and would like a free consultation with a personal injury attorney, please call our firm today at 1-800-INJURED to start understanding your legal rights.

Avoiding Pedestrian and Automobile Accidents

Pedestrian Walk Sign

car pedestrian accidentIf you live in Maine, you’ll never run out of wonderful places to explore. But in order for everyone to enjoy hiking, walking and sightseeing safely,  motorists and pedestrians must be mindful of each other’s whereabouts and focus on sharing the roadways safely.  Especially as the weather warms up, more pedestrians will head outdoors to enjoy the beautiful sights around the state.  In order to help prevent tragic, unnecessary automobile and pedestrian accidents,  motorists and pedestrians must follow the rules of the road and make safety a top priority. Understanding pedestrian and driving safety can help prevent a car pedestrian accident, and may even save a life.

Statistics on Pedestrian and Automobile Accidents

Across the state, there are hundreds of hiking and biking trails, historic sites and museums to visit, even walking tours designed just for foodies offered in beautiful downtown Portland.  But whether you’re strolling through the Old Port area of downtown Portland,  (which is quite convenient to Hardy, Wolf and Downing’s downtown Portland legal offices), or strolling along the shore at Kettle Cove, pedestrians should be especially alert and aware anytime they are crossing the roadway.   According to recent national trends,  one pedestrian is injured every 8 minutes,  and one pedestrian dies every two hours.

Bustling downtown Portland and Lewiston are wonderful places to visit.  But whether you’re hiking, window shopping or taking a stroll after dinner,  pedestrians should also keep in mind that urban areas are much more dangerous than quieter roadways. Almost 75% of pedestrian deaths occur in urban environments,  where traffic is heavier and there are more drivers, distractions and activity happening all around.  70% of the pedestrian deaths occur at nighttime, and many involve alcohol.  According to recent studies, 47% of traffic accidents that involved the death of a pedestrian involved some alcohol in the systems of either the driver, the pedestrian, or both.  Alcohol is a serious contributing factor in many pedestrian/automobile accidents; 33% of pedestrians involved in fatal automobile accidents had blood alcohol levels above the legal limits.  Alcohol impairs driving,  but may also impair your senses when walking, crossing the street and judging distances of oncoming traffic.

One simple way to prevent pedestrian/automobile accidents is for pedestrians to limit the number of alcoholic beverages they consume before they hit the streets.  Alternately, they can ask a friend to walk with them if they feel at all impaired.  Drivers,  of course,  should never drive under the influence of alcohol;  impaired driving puts pedestrians at risk for grave injuries or even death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control,  male pedestrians are more likely to be injured in a pedestrian/motor vehicle accident than females,  and your risk for being involved in an automobile/pedestrian accident rises as you age.  Teens and young adults (15-29 years of age) are also more likely to be treated in emergency rooms for crash-related injuries than any other age group.

Safety Tips for Pedestrians

Pedestrians can keep a few tips in mind to help keep them safer when they need to cross busy streets or share the road with automobiles. Although motorists should always be on the lookout for pedestrians, drivers all too often fail to see pedestrians,  especially at intersections where they are making turns or when it’s dark.  Pedestrians should always wait until traffic is clear before crossing the street in a crosswalk whenever possible.

Far too many drivers are distracted by cell phones and other electronic devices when they are behind the wheel. Other drivers are fatigued, have poor driving skills or be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  So,  it’s wise for pedestrians to be vigilant anytime they cross a street.

Drivers may make mistakes when they drive distracted,  but distractions are also a problem for pedestrians.  If a pedestrian is walking without paying attention to their surroundings, it’s easy to make a deadly mistake by crossing in front of a car. Pedestrians can help keep themselves safer by minimizing distractions while they are in traffic (such as talking or texting while walking or listening to music,  which may make it difficult to hear an oncoming car). Whenever possible, pedestrians should use the sidewalk.  However, there are times there are no sidewalks available, or you using the sidewalk isn’t feasible.  In those cases, the CDC recommends that you walk facing traffic, using great caution.

Children At Increased Risk For Pedestrian Car Accidents

Children are at the greatest risk for serious injury or death from pedestrian/automobile accidents,  in part because of their small size.  Children are also less familiar with traffic rules and have a more difficult time judging the speed and distance of an oncoming car.  The CDC estimates that 1 in 4 traffic deaths for children age 14 and under are due to pedestrian/automobile accidents.

Parents should take time to educate their children about crossing the street safely,  and always keep an eye on children when they are playing near busy roads and streets.  Instruct your children never to follow a lost ball or other toys into the road.  Practice looking both ways with your child while crossing the street.  Although crossing the street may seem like an elementary task, even older children can become distracted while chatting with friends and simply forget about safety.  Keep practicing safe pedestrian behavior with your children,  and they’ll stay safe as they grow.

Children should be reminded to use crosswalks at all times,  never cross between parked cars and wear bright, reflective clothing and carry a flashlight when walking in the early morning or evening hours.

If your children walk to school,  map out a safe walking route with together.  If possible, minimize the number of times your child needs to cross busy streets,  and help them recognize traffic patterns and when it’s safe to cross.

Practice walking the route with your children several times, at different times of the day, to ensure they are consistently following safety precautions. Safe Kids Worldwide offers excellent advice for keeping children safe while walking, along with information on a variety of important safety topics related to children and their health and well being.

The Hardy, Wolf and Downing Personal Injury Team Knows How to Help If You’ve Been Injured In A Pedestrian  Automobile Accident

So, whether you are planning a trip from Lewiston to the Thorncrag Nature Sanctuary (close to Hardy, Wolf and Downing’s Lewiston law offices), or a relaxing stroll along Lewiston’s Riverwalk, the unfortunate reality is that being a pedestrian can be dangerous. When motorists are distracted, driving under the influence, driving too fast for conditions or otherwise driving in a dangerous fashion, pedestrians are at risk of being seriously injured in an automobile accident.

 If you or a loved one has been injured in a car pedestrian accident while you were walking, call the experienced personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing.  With three convenient locations, two in Portland (Congress Street, on Auburn Street) in Portland,  and an office in Lewiston,  Maine, our experienced Maine car accident attorneys will assist your family in all aspects of your pedestrian/automobile accident personal injury case.  If you have been hit by a car and the driver was at fault, you deserve to be compensated for your physical and emotional injuries. The Hardy, Wolf and Downing personal injury team has extensive experience with pedestrian and car accidents in Maine,  and we will fight for your rights and help get you the fair and just treatment you deserve.