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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. 

Maine Spring Driving Safety Tips

fast moving traffic on major highway

spring safety tipsSpring can be a dangerous time for Maine drivers. Even though Mark Twain wasn’t concerned about driver safety as he addressed a room of New Englanders in 1876, he nevertheless noted, “In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.”  Having lived in Connecticut for many years, Twain was familiar with the fierce unpredictability of Spring in the Eastern United States.  Had he been a resident of Maine, however, Twain may have noted an even more mercurial and unpredictable Springtime weather pattern.

When it comes to driver safety,  Maine’s volatile spring weather conditions should never be taken lightly. Although it’s tempting to relax a bit when the sun begins to shine and the days grow longer, springtime in Maine is truly a dangerous time for motorists.  Drivers should prepare themselves for emergency road conditions during the spring months, just as they do during the challenging winter driving season.

During the erratic spring months,  when weather conditions vary quickly, it can be difficult to predict road conditions with any degree of certainty.  Within a very short period of time,  conditions can swing wildly between blue skies, rain, snow,  sleet and hail.  That makes it even more important to brush up on spring safe driving tips,  keep your vehicle in good working condition,  and minimize distractions while driving.  Brushing up on spring driving safety tips will help keep you and your family safer on the road, and may even save a life.

Maine Spring Driving Safety Tips: Don’t Forget About Old Man Winter Just Yet!

Although the days are getting longer and spring is in the air,  don’t forget about your winter driving safety skills just yet.  Snowstorms pop up throughout the spring months,  so it’s important to keep winter supplies in your vehicle in March and April (and yes, sometimes even into May). Black ice is also often a hazard in the spring months,  so it’s important to slow down and watch for slick,  wet-looking pavement when the temperatures begin to drop.  Many drivers don’t think about icy conditions when spring rolls around,  but it’s important to keep your winter driving skills in mind, even as the weather begins to warm up.

Maine Spring Safety Tips: Watch Out For Fog

Fog is another serious spring driving hazard in Maine.  According to Maine.gov, standing snowpack, rainy spring weather and fluctuating temperatures set the stage for heavy Spring fog,  which can happen very quickly.  Fog may start off patchy in some areas then become dense quickly in nearby areas,  so it’s important to slow down when conditions become foggy.  Do not use your high beam headlights (keep your headlights on low).  If the fog iis dense consider driving with your emergency four way flashers on,  and watch carefully for stranded vehicles (both on the shoulder of the road and on the roadway itself).  You may come up on stranded or slow moving vehicles very quickly in foggy conditions,  which is why it’s so important to drive slowly and cautiously when Springtime fogs set in.

Maine Spring Driving Safety Tips:  Beware of Heavy Spring Rains

Heavy spring rains often cause areas of standing water on roadways, especially when cycles of freezes and thaws, combined with mud and debris, clog storm drains. When driving through standing water, slow down.  If you drive too fast over an area of standing water,  you risk losing control of your vehicle and hydroplaning.  To stay safe in rainy Spring weather,  make sure you have good tires on your car with an adequate amount of tread,  and check your wiper blades to make sure they are in good working order.  In a heavy rain storm,  leave extra distance between vehicles.  Vehicles in front of you may throw excessive amounts of water from their tires,  which can obscure your vision, no matter how fast your windshield wipers are moving.

Maine Spring Driving Safety Tips: Watch Out For Potholes

Potholes are worsened when heavy Spring rains run into cracks in the roadways.  When  water repeatedly freezes and thaws,  potholes become larger and more dangerous to motorists.  Potholes can also be extremely difficult to see if they are covered by standing water, mud or other roadway debris.  Even if you travel a route often,  you can still be surprised by a pothole in an area of roadway that wasn’t there just days before.  It’s wise to slow down and watch for potholes in the Spring,  especially when traveling over standing water that makes the road surface harder to see.  Potholes can cause significant damage to your vehicle or make it more difficult to steer or maintain control of your vehicle if you are driving too fast for conditions.

Maine Spring Driving Safety Tips: Be On the Lookout For Increased Cyclists, Pedestrians, Etc.

As the weather becomes warmer,  there are bound to be more bicyclists, motorcycles, runners and pedestrians on the roadways.  In order to avoid tragic traffic accidents, drivers should always minimize distractions while driving,  especially from cell phones and other electronic devices. Drivers should never text while driving. Motorists should always pay attention to their driving in order to avoid deadly accidents with cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts who they must safely and mindfully share the roadway with at all times.

We hope our spring safety tips for driving in Maine help keep you and your family safer this season.  However,  if you or a loved one has been involved in an automobile accident, or injured in a car accident, please contact one of our experienced Maine personal injury lawyers at Hardy, Wolf and Downing.  For your convenience,  the caring attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing will direct you to an experienced Lewiston personal injury lawyer or Portland personal injury lawyer who will handle your family’s personal injury case with the utmost care and concern.  Our personal injury lawyers will assist your family in every aspect of your case, and help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.  Don’t make the mistake of battling insurance companies and lawyers on your own.  Hire the best Maine personal injury lawyers- the Hardy, Wolf and Downing personal injury team.

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.

Increased Risk of Depression After Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

brain with bandage

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Doubt and Diagnosis 

traumatic brain injury attorneyMild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) are serious injuries to brain tissue that may leave patients with lasting physiological damage and serious cognitive deficits. These injuries also have long-term effects on victims’ ability to earn a living and perform routine functions of daily living. Unfortunately, mild traumatic brain injuries are often misdiagnosed or dismissed as “inconsequential”  by the medical community because they can be difficult to diagnose correctly with conventional scans, x rays and other diagnostic tools available to most clinicians.

Additionally, symptoms of mTBI can appear months after the initial trauma and may mimic those of other diseases. Tragically, patients with mild traumatic brain injuries are often accused of faking or exaggerating their symptoms by doctors who are not up to date on the latest brain imaging techniques, research and treatment modalities.  But a study in The American Journal of Psychiatry notes that “…a normal MRI of the brain after mild TBI does not suggest the absence of injury but instead indicates only that any changes in the brain caused by the TBI are below the detection threshold of conventional clinical MRI.”

What Causes Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries?

Our brains are made of soft, pudding-like tissue containing millions of nerve fibers. The human brain is also surrounded by cerebral-spinal fluid and is designed to “float” within the bony casing of our skulls. If the head strikes a fixed object, such as a steering wheel of a car during a car accident,  the force of the impact is transmitted to the non-stationary and extremely delicate brain, suspended in fluid inside our skulls.

In an automobile accident, when the accident victim strikes his or her head,  the brain can actually move, twist and experiences rotational forces that cause differential movement of brain tissue.  Although our skulls are designed to protect and encase our brains,  our delicate brain tissue is not designed to withstand such sudden, abrupt trauma (e.g. automobile accidents, shaken baby syndrome). When the brain, which is “floating” inside the protective enclosure of the skull and cerebral spinal fluid, moves inside the skull with enough force, it can actually hit the front and back of the skull. This is a form of TBI called a coup-contrecoup injury and is quite common in automobile accidents (even in low-speed crashes).

When the brain moves and stops abruptly inside the skull, neural cells and axons may be stretched, twisted and sometimes even torn. This can wreak havoc on the precisely balanced structures in a normally functioning brain. The damage isn’t always apparent with conventional medical imaging,  however,  and can be easily missed by both doctors and patients.

Depression After Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries

According to a study performed at the Department of Neurology at the University of Modena in Italy, doctors found that patients with mild traumatic brain injuries who appeared to have “relatively minor or microscopic” stretching and swelling of axons showed “significant” physiological and cognitive deficits.  The most significant finding of this study, however, was the relationship between mild traumatic brain injury and depression. The study’s authors note, “…depression is clearly more evident in the head injured group than in matched controls. Moreover, depression seems a more frequently reported symptom.”  The study suggests that 39 percent of patients who experienced a mild traumatic brain injury exhibited clinical symptoms of depression one year after their initial trauma.  The study’s authors conclude, “…patients who have sustained mild head injuries are at a substantially higher risk of developing depression when compared with an appropriate control group.” Other studies of patients with mild traumatic brain injuries report similar findings.  Depression usually occurs within one year of the initial head trauma, but studies show mTBI patients have a substantially increased risk of developing depression for many years after their initial injury.

Other groundbreaking research suggests that earlier head trauma may “prime” a victim of mild traumatic brain injury for more dramatic injury later in life.  For example, a previous head injury may put injured brains on “high alert” status from prior injuries.  Even if a head injury occurred many years before, researchers theorize that a previously injured brain mobilizes specialized defenses which somehow protect itself from future damage.  If an accident victim was previously injured, then receives a subsequent head injury (even if the injury was mild and occurred many years later)  their brain may be programmed to “over” react to the stress of their injury, no matter how mild.  Injury symptoms are then multiplied in the subsequent brain trauma, and accident victims suffer a greater degree of cognitive and physiological decline (which may explain the greater incidence of delayed onset depression among mTBI patients).

If you have been involved in an automobile accident,  it is critically important to seek medical attention immediately after your injury. Take careful note of all of your symptoms. However, do not assume that a lack of “obvious” signs of head trauma (broken bones, lacerations, trauma that shows up on an x-ray or MRI) means that you have escaped without injury. Symptoms of mild traumatic head injuries can occur months or even years after a car accident, and can seriously affect your health and wellbeing. Let the experienced personal and traumatic brain injury attorney team at Hardy, Wolf and Downing assess your case, help you deal with insurance companies, doctors and answer any questions you may have regarding your rights. Our experienced Maine personal injury team can help you and your family get the fair and just compensation you deserve.

Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly

Elderly woman sitting next to Christmas tree

at home care servicesIn the year 2000, the Family Caregiver Alliance reported that approximately 13 million Americans required some type of long-term care in nursing homes, assisted living facilities or at home.  According to current estimates,  by the year 2050,  this figure is expected to double to approximately 27 million.  This means that in roughly 36 years, 14 million older Americans will require paid long-term care services, either in a nursing home, assisted living facility or at home with the services of a home health care aide. 

As our population ages and life expectancy increases,  older individuals often need assistance with routine tasks of daily living (e.g. bathing, dressing, meal preparation, banking, shopping,  etc.)  Statistics show that by age 65, older individuals have a 68% chance of being physically or cognitively impaired in at least two tasks of daily living, and will require at home care services or assistance of some kind. 

Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly: Why Sound the Alarm?

We’ve known for many years that the elderly population in the United States is growing.  What many don’t realize,  however,  is that we’re also facing an imminent Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly.  According to employment projections released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for personal care aides, home health aides, and nursing assistant jobs is expected to grow exponentially over the next ten years.  These workers are trained to provide at home care services to the elderly in nursing homes, group homes and assisted livings communities, such as personal grooming, using the bathroom, eating, etc.  By 2020,  the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute estimates that there will be over 5 million paid caregivers in the US alone- making it the largest occupation,  surpassing employment in retail sales and food services.

But even in the current labor market, there often aren’t enough applicants to fill these relatively low-paying,  highly demanding positions.  There is a serious Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly,  and the problem isn’t showing signs of abating any time soon. Caregiving positions have high rates of turnover and low employee retention rates.  Caregivers are frequently subject to stressful working conditions,  low pay,  physically taxing work and typically don’t receive benefits.

In most cases,  when there is a large enough demand for labor,  wages increase.  Most economists and eldercare experts suggest this won’t be the case with direct caregivers,  because Medicaid and Medicare pay their salaries.  In the current economic climate,  both programs are under enormous cost-cutting pressures,  which make it highly unlikely caregiver’s wages will increase anytime soon.  Additionally,  when Medicaid and Medicare stop paying for caregiver services (e.g. when days are maxed out in a hospital stay),  the vast majority of low income and middle-class families simply can’t afford to pay for caregivers out of pocket.  Although the care these caregivers provide is invaluable, their services aren’t affordable for most families,  even at the already low wages they receive.

Consequences of Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly

When families can’t afford to hire a trained caregiver, they are often forced to provide care themselves.  This puts a strain on family members who have to juggle work duties, personal lives along with caring for an elderly family member.  Caregiver burnout is a real problem facing family members who choose to step up and care for an elderly family member.  Because most people don’t have any training or experience in caring for the elderly,  they may grow frustrated with the physical and emotional demands of caring for an older adult. This can be an extremely dangerous situation for the elderly,  who don’t always have ways to communicate if they are being abused or neglected by their overworked or frustrated caregivers.

Currently,  agencies charge $18 dollars an hour for personal care aides and $19 dollars an hour for home health aides.  The aides themselves take home about half that amount.  Many home health care aides and eldercare experts who see an imminent care crisis looming hope the government will set standards for fair wages for personal care aides,  especially when it comes to benefits, overtime pay and training.  In order to fill the positions we currently have and the ones we’ll have in the near future,  we need to make caregiving jobs accessible and attractive to people seeking employment.  These much-needed changes will help ameliorate a serious situation and prevent the Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly from reaching a crisis point.

Personal Injury, Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly

Elder abuse is a frightening consequence of poorly trained health care aides or family members that have taken on a role caring for an older family member which they are unable to handle.  If you have been a victim of elder abuse,  or know someone who has been a victim of elder abuse at the hands of a medical professional, health care aide,  or in a nursing home,  contact the personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing.  Your elderly loved one deserves to live their lives in peace,  safety and dignity.  Our experienced team of personal injury attorneys will assess your nursing home or elder care abuse case with sensitivity and can handle insurance companies,  nursing homes and administrators who may deny abuse occurred.  If you have been injured as a result of elder abuse, or nursing home abuse or neglect,  contact our personal injury team.  We will assess your nursing home abuse case,  and help you get the fair and just compensation you deserve for your injuries.

A Shortage of Caregivers – New York Times

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.

Maine Elderly Abuse Attorneys: When Is It Time To Take the Car Keys?

Heavy traffic on motorway

elderly driving lawsAs our parents age, many face health problems that make it unsafe for them to continue driving. The experienced Maine elderly abuse attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing know that adult children often face the difficult conversation with their aging parents when concerns arise about driving safety.

By age 70,  eldercare experts estimate that 80 percent of older adults will suffer from arthritis,  a painful condition which causes inflammation of the joints and makes turning, twisting and flexing involved in driving an automobile extremely difficult.  Advanced age often brings a host of conditions which can negatively affect driving performance,  such as weakening muscles, reduced flexibility, limited range of motion and worsening eyesight.

In addition to age-related health changes, studies also suggest that 75 percent of drivers aged 65 and above use at least one prescription medication,  but less than one third acknowledged that prescription medication can negatively impact their driving performance.  Overall,  many aspects of age-related physical and mental decline make driving more challenging for elderly drivers.  In some cases,  it can make driving dangerous or even deadly. The experienced Maine Elderly Abuse Attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing understand that initiating a conversation about driving with your parents can be difficult.  We’d like to make that conversation a bit easier by providing some background information that may help inform your discussion.

Role Reversal

As parents age,  adult children often step up to take on the role of caregiver, offering extra support, guidance and help.  But when parent and adult children reverse roles,  adult children may struggle with mixed emotions.  Guilt, anxiety, anger and sadness are just a few of the reactions adult children feel when they realize their aging parents may not be safe behind the wheel.  Worse,  adult children don’t know how to broach the delicate subject of taking the keys away from their elderly parents or don’t want to tackle the discussion because it is an emotional minefield fraught with hurt feelings, mistrust and fear.  But no matter how difficult it is to tackle this difficult subject, the answer is never total avoidance.  The Maine Elderly Abuse attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing have seen the repercussions of older adults who are no longer safe to drive, and know the havoc an automobile accident can wreak on a family.

There is simply too much at stake to sweep this difficult subject under the rug;  both the safety of your loved one and the safety of others on the road.  No matter how uncomfortable or stressful the conversation may feel,  it’s vital to plan your approach and discuss driving safety with your elderly parents.  Once you do,  you’ll both feel a great sense of relief.

The best case scenario is that an elderly parent who is experiencing difficulty driving will give up their keys voluntarily.  Unfortunately,  this isn’t usually the case. Understandably, many elderly parents resist giving up their keys because getting behind the wheel of a car represents freedom – the freedom to go wherever they choose,  whenever they want,  without having to ask for help or permission.  Losing that freedom is a psychological blow that can make elderly parents fear for their independence and quality of life.  Understanding the emotional side of the equation for your elderly loved one will help you approach the subject with care and sensitivity.

Families Struggle To Take the Keys Away From Older Drivers

Plan Your Discussion Ahead of Time 

Eldercare experts suggest approaching the emotionally charged discussion of handing over the car keys with a well thought out plan.  Before you bring up the subject of problematic driving with your elderly parent,  have a plan in place to reassure them that they’ll continue to have a full social life, even if they are no longer be able to drive independently.   Have realistic suggestions for how they’ll be able to see friends, take part in activities they enjoy,  and get to the store or appointments on their own.  If you are not prepared with good answers,  you’re likely in for a battle.

If mom or dad needs to give up driving, some families create driving schedules,  alternating driving duties among family members. Other families hire helpers who drive and do errands on set days of the week.  Although it can become fairly expensive,  other families rely on taxi cabs or public transportation.  If your parents will be using public transportation,  make the transition easier by practicing using buses, taxi cabs or other forms of public transit with them,  going on special outings and helping them become comfortable with the public transportation system.

In some cases,  especially in rural areas,  you may need to find creative solutions for transportation because public transportation won’t be readily available.  Check with local churches and volunteer organizations for senior care in rural areas.  Many offer volunteer-based driving services for the elderly.  Sometimes, unorthodox solutions work well.  For example,  a three-wheeled bicycle can be an excellent solution for an elderly parent who is no longer safe to drive a car but is healthy enough to ride a bike.  This option will only work well in warmer climates, and for seniors who live close to stores, churches and other commercial areas.

Some families choose to move their elderly parents to senior apartments with on-site amenities, or to an area within walking distance of shops, churches and hospitals. Being able to walk to the hair salon,  doctor’s appointments,  church services,  etc,  takes away the added pressure of needing to drive in order to complete the routine tasks of daily living.  No matter how you solve the driving problem,  make sure your elderly parent has a good plan in place to stay active and socially engaged.  No one should be asked to give up their keys without knowing how they’ll remain active and involved with their friends and family.

Who Will Your Parent Respond Best To?

Before sitting down with your aging parents to discuss concerns about their driving abilities,  there are several considerations to bear in mind.  First,  think about who your parent responds best to in emotionally charged discussions.  A doctor or trusted family friend may be less threatening and hold a neutral position of authority when it comes time to discuss their driving abilities.  If a doctor tells your elderly parent they are no longer safe to drive,  that may effectively let you off the hook.  The doctor will take on the role of  “the enforcer”,  and you can take on the role of the proactive problem solver who arranges transportation and helps your parent adjust to life without driving.

If you suspect your parent will not react well to the suggestion that they are not safe to drive,  choose your conversation style and methods with great care.  Don’t antagonize or lecture your parent about giving up the keys.  Be sensitive to the fact that losing the ability to drive is a difficult part of aging.  One conversation may not be enough to solve the driving issue.  Instead,  it may be wise to bring up your concerns over time,  asking questions like, “It seems like it’s more difficult for you to drive at night.  How are you feeling about your eyesight?”  Or,  “People sure drive fast nowadays.  Have you had problems driving on the highways?” Lastly,  you can always offer rides,  saying things like, “I always like to spend extra time with you.  Is it OK if I pick you up this time so we can have time in the car together to visit?”

Before you have any discussion about driving safety, think about your parent’s personality type. For example, if your parent is generally concerned for the safety and well being of others,  try appealing to their conscientious nature and natural concern for others. Give examples of times when their driving hasn’t been safe, and let them know that you are concerned they may hurt someone else in an automobile accident. In some cases, appealing to a parent’s concerns about personal liability and protecting their finances or financial legacy may be more effective. If that is the case for your elderly parent,  point out that if they get behind the wheel and injure another driver,  they could lose money or jeopardize their assets. 

The experienced Maine Elderly Abuse attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing know that there’s no one way to approach this difficult subject. Every older adult is unique, as is every family. If you’re patient and loving and determined to approach this difficult subject with care and concern, you’ll eventually find a solution that works for your family.

Sometimes,  taking your parents for a vision screening when it’s time to renew their driver’s license is one simple approach if it’s truly time to take the keys away.  For example, if their eyesight has deteriorated,  some states may not renew their driver’s licenses.  Although most states do not require road tests for elderly drivers,  most states require some sort of vision screening for driver’s license renewals. Maine,  for example,  requires vision screenings for drivers license renewals every year after age 62. Making sure your parent stays up to date on their driver’s license renewals and vision screenings is one way to ensure they’ll stay safer behind the wheel.

Maine Drivers License Renewal Laws

Maine elderly abuse attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing know that not every elderly driver is a dangerous driver. It’s important to note that age alone can not predict who is safe behind the wheel and who isn’t.  An 85-year-old driver may be safer than a 65-year-old driver who suffers from medical problems, or one any aged driver who texts behind the wheel.  Using common sense,  and looking for signs of poor driving,  can help you determine whether or not you have cause to worry about your elderly parent’s driving ability.  If you don’t live near your elderly parent but worry they are not safe behind the wheel,  check in with neighbors,  friends and their medical provider for potential insight into problematic driving behaviors.

Signs of Dangerous Driving Behaviors In the Elderly

  • Other drivers frequently honk while your parent is driving (or your parent complains other drivers are rude, impatient or always honking at them).
  • Driver struggles at higher speeds but does well on local roads.
  • Driver has deteriorating vision or complains about driving at night.
  • Driver gets lost often,  even in familiar areas.
  • Driver expresses concern about driving,  is fearful about driving or refuses to drive to new places.
  • Family members or friends have expressed concerns about a driver’s ability to drive safely.
  • Driver has been involved in accidents or received tickets.
  • Driver is no longer able to physically maintain automobile (pump gas,  check windshield washer fluid) or move easily (to put on a seat belt, turn to look for oncoming traffic, adjust mirrors, grip steering wheel).
  • Driver seems confused during long phone conversations. (As one eldercare expert points out,  it is easy to “fake” cognitive ability in shorter conversations,  but mental deterioration almost always shows up in conversations longer than 20 minutes.)

Tips For Taking the Keys

If you feel your elderly parent is not safe behind the wheel and you need to take the keys,  eldercare experts have suggestions to make the process smoother.  Don’t expect it the process to be easy,  but know it’s vitally important to the safety of your loved one and other drivers on the road to tackle this difficult and emotionally charged subject.

  • Remember,  this conversation isn’t any easier for your loved one than it is for you.  No one wants to lose their independence,  and losing the ability to drive is tough.  Let the reality of the situation sink in,  and don’t take a scolding attitude towards your parents.  That probably didn’t go over well with you when you were a teenager,  and it won’t go over well with them either!  Empathy will likely get you farther than a harsh attitude.
  • Appeal to their better nature – remind them of any fender benders,  tickets or problems they’ve had driving.  Remind them how much you care about them and their safety,  and that when they don’t have to worry about driving,  they’ll have more time to enjoy life without being afraid of hurting themselves or someone else when behind the wheel.
  • Suggest modifications to driving habits if that is appropriate to your parent’s situation.  For example,  if high speed or night driving is a problem,  suggest they limit their driving to daytime hours on familiar roads only.
  • Agree ahead of time when it will be time to give up driving altogether.  If you have a discussion with your elderly parents before there is a problem and agree on set parameters for giving up driving,  the situation should be much easier.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident,  it is important to contact the experienced Maine personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing.  We know how to handle insurance companies,  and get you the compensation for your pain and suffering that you deserve.  No matter what type of accident or personal liability issue your family is facing,  our personal injury team can help you sort out the facts and get the fair treatment and best result for your case.

The Maine Elderly Abuse 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 Is Mad For Motorcycles

Portland Maine Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

motorcycle accident attorneyMaine’s scenic highways are consistently ranked among the nation’s top ten motorcycle routes.  With 3,478 miles of breathtaking coastline, over 60 lighthouses and almost 50 peninsulas to explore, there’s plenty of natural beauty to appreciate as you travel the state’s picturesque byways.

But before you set out on the motorcycle adventure of a lifetime,  it’s important to refresh your knowledge of motorcycle safety.

Mom Was Right: Wear A Helmet

Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents. A rider not wearing a helmet is 40% more likely to die of a head injury than one who isn’t wearing a helmet during an accident.

Function:  When purchasing a helmet,  go for function and safety over looks.  Novelty helmets do not offer adequate safety protection.  Select a helmet that meets recognized safety standards and regulations.

Fit: Your helmet should fit snugly, and you shouldn’t be able to fit more than a fingertip between the helmet and your forehead. Consider a full face or flip-up helmet,  which offers more protection and also helps protect the rider from road debris, bugs, and the elements. Full face helmets are designed to be more aerodynamic,  which also helps minimize rider fatigue. Make sure your helmet has good ventilation and superior visibility.  Do not buy used helmets,  and replace helmets that have been dropped or involved in a crash.  Experts suggest replacing all helmets every five years.

Smooth Operator: Get a valid motorcycle driver’s license.  If you are a new rider, know your limits and understand how to keep yourself and your bike well balanced and maintained. Give yourself time to get the hang of riding.  Don’t push yourself or your bike past the limits of safety or common sense.

Arrive Alive: Never operate your motorcycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  42% of motorcycle riders who died in a single vehicle crash had blood alcohol levels above 0.08%.  If you are tired, stop and take a rest. Avoid all driving distractions. Save talking, texting and fiddling with the radio and other electronics for rest stops.

Need For Speed: Excessive speed is a factor in 48% of motorcycle fatalities.    You don’t have to go fast to have fun.  Slow down and enjoy the ride. Not only will take in more of Maine’s picturesque beauty, but you’ll also significantly reduce your chances of being injured in an accident.

Look Out Lefties:  38% of fatal traffic accidents (involving two vehicles) occur when a vehicle is turning left in front of a motorcycle (failure to yield). Approach situations where another vehicle should yield with extreme caution, because they may not see you.

Mind the Messes:  Sand, gravel, wet pavement, icy conditions, and fog are all dangerous for motorcycles, which have less traction than automobiles. Avoid driving on the road shoulder, and be extra cautious in construction zones.  If an accident occurs as a result of unsafe road conditions (such as gravel in a construction site or another vehicle leaking oil) it is possible that another party is liable for damages incurred in your accident.

Look Ahead: A good rule of thumb is to assume other motorists can’t see you.  That way,  you’ll learn to anticipate when other drivers make sudden lane shifts, to avoid their blind spots, and focus on keeping a safe distance between yourself and other vehicles.  Never split lanes, speed or drive on the shoulder of the road. In heavy traffic,  keep an eye on the motorist in front of you. Watch their head movements,  not simply their tail lights.  If they look down, slow down yourself (they may be distracted by a cell phone,  other passengers, etc, which you can then anticipate by slowing down yourself). Many motorcyclists are injured when distracted drivers don’t notice them. It’s in your best interest to drive defensively whenever possible.

Safe Gear: Increase your visibility by keeping your headlights on, and wearing bright,  reflective clothing.  Keep yourself safe by wearing high-quality safety gear when you are riding.  Although you may feel footloose and fancy-free hopping on your bike in a t-shirt,  shorts and pair of sandals,  you need appropriate safety gear- unless, of course, you want to be a SQUID (aka Stupid Quick Underdressed Imminently Dead)!

Exploring Maine’s spectacular scenery will be even more enjoyable when you stay safe, alert and don’t become another motorcycle accident statistic.  If you are injured in a motorcycle accident and suspect the other driver was at fault, or if you were injured in a hit and run accident, contact the experienced motorcycle accident attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing.  We understand motorcycle personal injury cases and can help assess your case and secure the fair and just compensation you deserve.

Automobile Accidents and Cervicogenic (CEH) Headaches

traumatic brain injury lawyer Maine

headaches after car accidentCervicogenic (CEH) headaches are defined as headaches caused by pain referred from the neck. Although Cervicogenic headaches sometimes mimic symptoms of tension, migraine or cluster headaches,  their origins, causative factors, and treatment are distinctly different.

‘Cervicogenic’ is a term that refers to the cervical area of the spine, which is located near the base of the skull.  Many patients with Cervicogenic headaches have suffered damage, compression or irritation to the first three spinal nerves (C-1, C-2, and C-3). These nerves make up the upper (cervical) portion of the neck, and allow the neck to move and experience the sensation.  If the spinal nerves in the cervical area are damaged,  it can lead to headaches or ‘referred pain’ which comes from the neck and may cause frequent headaches when the patient moves the neck and subsequently ‘triggers’ Cervicogenic headaches.

What are the Symptoms of Cervicogenic Headaches?

  • Most patients with Cervicogenic headaches have unilateral (one-sided) head pain.
  • Many patients describe Cervicogenic headaches as a steady pain near the base of the skull which sometimes extends to the back and shoulder blades.
  • Some patients also experience pain in the front of their heads (near their eyebrows or forehead).
  • Unlike other types of headaches (e.g. cluster, migraine, tension),  Cervicogenic headaches are not usually described as throbbing and are usually brought on by sudden neck movements (movements can be as minor as sneezing or bending).
Patients with cervicogenic headaches may also:
  • Exhibit sensitivity to light, motion, and sound (and may experience nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, etc.) but these symptoms are usually less intense and frequent than those experienced during a migraine and other types of headaches.
  • Experience pain in the same arm and/or shoulder where their headache occurs (but the pain sometimes occurs in both arms/shoulders).
  • Exhibit a limited range of motion in the neck.
  • Have their headaches triggered as a result of specific neck movements or pressures on their neck or spine (which can usually be pinpointed by a doctor’s physical examination of the neck and cervical area)?
  • Develop an extremely stiff neck during their headache (and may experience near immobility due to the neck or head pain).

What’s the Diagnosis

It can be difficult to diagnose Cervicogenic headaches because their symptoms often mimic other headaches, and the exact cause of a headache is not always immediately clear to the patient or the medical provider.  Diagnostic tests are often inconclusive (x-rays and scans such as MRIs and CAT scans do not show damage to soft tissues,  which often contribute to Cervicogenic headaches).

In order to properly diagnose and treat a Cervicogenic headache,  your medical provider must first determine that your pain is definitely referred from your neck.  This can be done with a physical examination (which will determine exactly where your pain is coming from,  and what neck movements trigger your headaches). Other tests may include a diagnostic anesthetic blockade, combined with additional diagnostic tests.

Cervicogenic Headaches After Car Accident

CEH Six Years After Whiplash Injury – According to a large study of Cervicogenic headaches after a car accident and from whiplash injuries  (Department of Neurosurgery, Ullevaal University Hospital, Oslo, Norway), current imaging techniques and electrophysiological tests are not usually able to show the neck damage that causes Cervicogenic headaches.  This is a significant finding for victims of automobile accidents, especially victims of low-speed automobile accidents.

Victims of low-speed automobile accidents may not suffer “obvious” trauma as a result of an automobile accident.  For example, they may not lose consciousness as a result of their crash or suffer any broken bones.  They may not even suffer visible bumps or bruises.  But that does not necessarily mean they were not injured in the crash

Contact an Attorney 

What Does it Mean to Have Soft Tissue Injuries?

Soft tissue is the connective tissue that holds our bones in place and helps maintains its proper alignment.  If the delicate soft tissues that hold our bones in place is being damaged in an automobile accident, it can cause long-term health problems.  Even low-speed automobile accidents (accidents which occur at speeds under 5 mph) have been shown to cause damage to soft tissues and may lead to lasting injury or damage that does not readily show up on radiographic or x-ray studies.

Injuries to soft tissue,  especially injury to the delicate soft tissue of the cervical spinal area,  are often sustained by victims of low-speed automobile accidents when neck flexion and extension causes microtears,  irritation or damage to soft tissues in the cervical area.  But these soft tissue injuries are notoriously difficult to ‘see’ on conventionally available diagnostic x-rays and scans and are often missed by medical providers (especially ER doctors,  who are trained to look for more obvious signs of trauma).

Victims of low-speed automobile accidents may suffer damage to soft tissues as a result of their automobile accident,  but often show no obvious signs of physical trauma.  This is why it’s vitally important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately after an automobile accident.

Cervicogenic headaches are just one example of “invisible” injuries that may occur after a low-speed automobile accident.  Headaches after an automobile accident occur immediately following the accident,  or they may show up days, weeks or months after the accident occurred. Doctors and patients may miss or dismiss these symptoms (“I’m fine,  I don’t even have a bruise!”).  This is one reason why it is extremely wise to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney after an automobile accident. Don’t gamble with your well-being; your long-term health and ability to live a productive and active life are too precious and valuable.  If you have been injured in an automobile accident,  let the Maine personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing assess your case, and help you get the just and fair compensation you deserve.

ADHD, Distracted Driving and Auto Accidents

distractions while driving

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)  is a common developmental problem that affects millions of children, teens, and adults.  It can be difficult to diagnose correctly but is typically characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

distractions while driving

ADHD: Background

According to current estimates:

  • 1 in 5 high school boys has ADHD.
  • 11 percent of school-aged children over-all has a current diagnosis of ADHD.
  • 60 percent of children with ADHD will continue to have symptoms into adulthood.
  • 4 percent of the adult US population is affected by ADHD (roughly 8 million adults).
  • More men are diagnosed with ADHD than women.
  • There is a shortage of psychiatrists who specialize in the diagnosis treatment of ADHD.

Rise In ADHD Diagnosis: Cause for Concern?

In the past decade,  the number of children and teens being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has risen by 66 percent.  Some experts believe this increase is a welcome sign, indicating that the medical community is effectively recognizing and treating the symptoms of ADHD in children and teens who suffer from debilitating symptoms that negatively affect their performance in school.

Other doctors, researchers, and patient advocates, however,  are not so easily convinced.  They see the steep increase in diagnoses as a sign that ADHD is being seriously over diagnosed and over treated with powerfully addictive psychostimulant medications that carry a high risk of addiction and abuse.

While it is true that the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD are not without controversy when children,  teens, and adults who suffer from ADHD do receive proper diagnosis and treatment, they are able to control their symptoms and function more effectively at school, work and home.

More Diagnoses of ADHD Causing Concern – New York Times

Parents whose children receive an ADHD diagnosis are often confused,  and unsure whether the risks of using powerful psychostimulant medications to treat ADHD symptoms outweigh their benefits.  Recent studies indicate that psychostimulants were used in 96 percent of ADHD treatments in 2000 but fell to 87 percent in 2010.  Although the exact reason for this decrease is not clear,  other medications were not used in substitution.  This could mean that children,  teens and adults who need treatment are not receiving the help they need,  but studies have not reached any definitive conclusion on the matter.

Rise In ADHD – Science Daily

Adults and ADHD

Adults who suffer from ADHD typically exhibit difficulty concentrating, organizing tasks, following directions, remembering information and completing work within appropriate time limits.  If their symptoms are not treated,  they can suffer confusing and difficult consequences that affect their social,  emotional, and academic lives.  Their career prospects may suffer. Undiagnosed ADHD can also be at the root of long-standing difficulties relating to co-workers, friends, and family.  Studies show that fewer adults with ADHD are treated for their symptoms because many mistakenly believe that ADHD is a “children’s” disorder.

The consequences of ignoring the symptoms of adult ADHD are serious because it is a disorder that affects so many aspects of adult functioning.  Adults with untreated ADHD are more likely to engage in a variety of risky behaviors and are more likely to have substance abuse problems.  Adults with symptoms of ADHD should consult a qualified physician who can assess and diagnose their condition so that they can receive proper help and treatment.

Adults who have been diagnosed with ADHD are statistically more likely to:

  • Have suspended licenses.
  • Have been cited for driving violations (such as speeding).
  • Rate themselves as having poorer driving habits.
  • Use illegal substances more frequently.

Web MD

Study Shows ADHD Tied to More Traffic Accidents

According to a recent study of Swedish drivers, men with ADHD who were being treated with ADHD medication were 58 percent less likely to be involved in a traffic accident when they were taking  ADHD medication.  Researchers also found that men who were taking ADHD medication were 29 percent less likely to be involved in a serious traffic accident while taking their medication.

No substantial difference in risk for traffic accidents was found for women who were being treated with ADHD medication,  but researchers noted that fewer women were involved in the study overall, so the numbers reflected  by the study may not have been accurate.

For the study,  researchers collected data on Swedish drivers between 2006 and 2009.  During that time frame,  there were approximately 214 serious accidents for every 10,000 men with ADHD  each year.  In that same time frame,  there were about 77 serious accidents per 10,000 men without ADHD.

Researchers suspect that because ADHD typically involves an increase in inattention and impulsivity,  distracted driving and dangerous driving behaviors may increase when drivers are not receiving appropriate treatment for their ADHD symptoms.

Distracted Driving and ADHD

Distracted driving puts all motorists at increased risk for serious traffic related crashes in injuries, and should be avoided at all costs. According to the DISTRACTION.GOV site:

  • At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving.
  • Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing, and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.

No driver should engage in any behavior that takes their focus off the road and their driving and endangers other drivers.  AAA notes that distracted driving accounts for 25 to 50% of all traffic accidents.

For teens and adults with ADHD,  it is especially important to avoid distracted driving. Any of the following behaviors can distract a driver,  causes an accident.

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

Not all drivers with ADHD are distracted or poor drivers.  But if a driver has ADHD or untreated ADHD, it may cause an increase in distracted driving or impulsivity.  A diagnosis of ADHD should be taken very seriously.  If you suspect you or a loved one has ADHD,  consult a qualified physician for assessment and treatment.

If you have been injured in an automobile accident and you suspect distracted or impaired driving may be a factor,  please call the experienced and caring personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing. Our Maine personal injury attorneys understand how to approach distracted driving cases, answer your questions about insurance companies and get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries.  Being injured in a car accident is traumatic and painful,  and not something you need to deal with on your own.  Let the personal injury attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing fight for your rights, and get you the just and fair compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering.

Ring In the New Year Safely

2014 New Year celebration

It’s hard to believe, but the holiday season whizzed by in a flash and we’re poised on the edge of a new year. New Year’s is a time for reflection when we cast out all things old and ring in a new year with style and sparkle.

no drinking and driving

Sadly,  there is a  darker side to this festive holiday, due in part to the spike in drunk and impaired driving deaths and automobile accidents and injuries which occur on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  We have some important safety tips for party goers and party hosts that may help you stay a bit safer this New Year’s.

Although the statistics vary slightly from year to year, drivers are far more likely to share the road with an impaired driver and be killed or injured in an automobile accident on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day than almost any other day of the year. In 2012, MADD reports that 70 people were killed in drunk driving automobile accidents, which represents over half of all traffic fatalities for that year alone.

So, whether you’re are hosting a New Year’s Eve party or attending one, here are a few safety tips and ideas to keep in mind.

Safety Tips for Ringing In the New Year 

Ideas for Maine Party Hosts:

  • When guests RSVP to your event, ask them whether they plan to drink alcohol. Confirm they will have a sober/designated driver (or another safe plan to get home).
  • Serve food alongside alcoholic beverages to keep guests from drinking on an empty stomach.
  • Have plenty of water and other beverages available (especially non-alcoholic mocktails for the designated drivers) and don’t serve too many salty snacks (which tend to make guests thirsty and apt to drink more).
  • Post the numbers of local taxi services prominently at your front door and have the numbers programmed into your own phone.
  • 90 minutes before your party ends,  stop serving alcohol.
  • Do not rely on coffee to sober up a driver.  Only time can make people sober.
  • If you are serving an alcoholic punch, don’t use a carbonated base. Carbonation causes alcohol to enter the bloodstream faster.
  • Don’t push drinks!
  • NEVER serve alcohol to minors.
  • Plan party games or other activities to keep guests busy and having fun. Alcohol does not need to be the sole focus of your event.
  • A MADD survey showed that at least 73% of adults have witnessed a driver get behind the wheel of a vehicle after having had too much to drink; 19% of those adults did nothing to stop the impaired driver. If you suspect someone is impaired and is therefore not safe to drive, MADD suggests  these alternatives:  be as non-confrontational as possible, but try to  take their keys; offer a ride home; call a taxi; enlist the help of others to convince the impaired guest to seek another safe way home; offer them a place to stay; if necessary, alert the authorities.

Tips for Party Goers:

  • If you plan on drinking this New Year’s, designate a sober driver you can rely on. Leave your keys at home, plan to use public transportation, call a taxi, walk home, spend the night at a friend’s or ask for a ride home with a someone you know is sober. Above all,  do not drink and drive and wear your seatbelt.
  • Refuse to ride in a vehicle with someone who has been drinking. Your life and safety are worth too far too much – don’t turn those precious gifts over to a drunk driver.
  • Program the number of a taxi service and friends you know plan to remain sober on your phone before you go out for the evening.
  • Choose to stay home for the evening. If you drink, then you know for certain that you won’t be getting behind the wheel or be sharing the roadways with impaired drivers.
  • Celebrate New Year’s without drinking.  New Year’s and alcohol don’t have to go together.
  • Ring in the New Year at a party or restaurant within walking distance of your home.

The Maine personal injury attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing want each and every person across our beautiful state of Maine to celebrate a safe, happy and healthy New Year.  So please, wear your seat belts, don’t drink and drive and don’t ride with an impaired driver.

If you have been involved in an automobile accident or have been otherwise injured by a drunken or impaired driver, please call our experienced Maine personal injury lawyers. We will handle your case with the utmost care and concern. Our personal injury attorneys have the skill, knowledge and personal injury expertise required to get you the compensation and justice you deserve.

Stay safe, and have a happy 2014!

Black Ice Causes Multiple Accidents on Maine Turnpike

distractions while driving

Black ice brought traffic to a standstill on the Maine Turnpike Sunday evening.  During the daylight hours,  the roads remained relatively safe.  But between 5 and 5:30 pm,  the sun began to set and conditions changed drastically.  Around 5 pm, a tractor-trailer jackknifed across the northbound lanes of traffic, between Falmouth and Gray, forcing Maine emergency responders to shut down several northbound lanes of traffic.  The Maine Turnpike Authority also reported multiple motor vehicle accidents in the northbound lanes.

driving on icy roads

This winter driving scenario highlights the importance of understanding the dangers of winter driving in Maine,  especially when black ice becomes a factor on roadway surfaces.
All vehicles (such as the tractor-trailer involved in Sunday’s turnpike accident) respond differently to black ice.  It is important to understand how your vehicle responds in snowy, icy conditions before they occur so that you can keep yourself and the occupants of your vehicle safe.

Although good tires and a well maintained vehicle are important safeguards for winter drivers, experts cautions that there are no tires, brakes, vehicles or equipment that can help you stop on black ice if you are driving too fast for conditions.  Excessive speed is one of the biggest factors in deadly winter automobile traffic accidents,  and overconfidence due to four wheel or all wheel drives, anti-lock brakes or other bells and whistles on your vehicle can lead to deadly over confidence when  driving in wintery conditions.  It is vital for your safety and the safety of other motorists to  leave extra distance between vehicles (a minimum of 8-10 seconds between vehicles), and to travel no more than 35-40 mph in icy, snowy conditions.  If black ice conditions exists, speeds of 10 mph may be too fast!

AAA suggests that motorists practice slow speed maneuvers in an empty snow covered parking lot to get a feel for how your vehicle responds in icy conditions. In addition,  it’s wise to familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s breaking system by reading your owner’s manual.  Above all,  remember that no matter how experienced of a driver you are,  no driver is immune to the dangers of black ice, and should therefore always remain vigilant and cautious when driving in  wintery conditions.

Maine.gov-Dangers of Black Ice 

Black ice can form very quickly,  and can be extremely difficult to detect.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration calls black ice one of the deadliest of all winter driving hazards.   Remember: there are no tires or equipment that can help you easily stop or start on black ice – no drivers are immune to this extreme danger. ALL drivers must slow down and take extra precautions on black ice. If you can,  stay off the road when winter driving conditions are forecasted to get ugly.  Better to be at home safe than battling the snow, ice and traffic on the turnpike if at all possible!

Maine drivers must be on the look-out for this dangerous,  deadly hazard so that they can recognize to respond to this dangerous condition by slowing down. The following tips will help you recognize black ice,  and give you some should you encounter icy road conditions or black ice.

Watch for Black Ice In the Following Areas:

  • Areas of road that look wet, dark or like new pavement.
  • Bridges and underpasses.
  • Shady areas, or areas with puddles , standing water or areas that may get run off water from melting snow or rain.
  • Any time the temperature is below 40 degrees.
  • Evidence of other vehicles sliding.
  • If the road surface looks dark or wet, watch the vehicle directly in front of you.  If the vehicle is not leaving tracks or “throwing water” from its wheels, the roadway may be covered in black ice. Proceed with caution!

If You Encounter Black Ice, Remember the Following Tips:

  • Do not use cruise control in icy conditions. You must have complete control of your vehicle in icy, snowy conditions.
  • Slow down, don’t tailgate and leave extra distance between vehicles.
  • Avoid sudden, jerky movements when conditions are icy.  Make smooth, precise movements with your steering wheel,  and don’t slam on the brakes.
  •  Anticipate lane changes, curves in the road, exits, etc.  Don’t pull out suddenly into oncoming traffic.  This will help you avoid skids and emergency situations.
  • Drive with your headlights on.
  • Wear your seatbelt, and insist the occupants in your vehicle buckle up as well.
  • Minimize distractions. Don’t text and drive or drive impaired in any way.
  • Don’t drive when you are fatigued.  Winter driving demands the full use of your faculties and demands a great deal of concentration and attention.

Black Ice Causes Numerous Crashes on Maine Turnpike

Braking Tips:

  • Don’t slam on the brakes.  Use smooth,  controlled movements if you need to hit the brakes or slow down. Anticipate curves, lane changes, and look ahead 20-30 seconds for any moves you may need to make so that you’re prepared.
  • If you have anti-lock brakes,  do not pump the brakes if you need to stop.  Depress the brake completely and hold it. The vehicle’s ABS system should allow you to brake without locking and allow you to slow your vehicle as you steer.
  • If you do not have anti-lock brakes, use the “heel-and-toe” braking method.  Keep your heel on the floor as you use your toes to press the brake pedal firmly without completely depressing and locking the brake. Do this repeatedly until you come to a full stop.  If the brakes lock,  release your foot briefly, and go back to the “heel-and-toe” braking method.
  • If your vehicle begins to skid,  remember to steer in the direction of the skid.  It may also be helpful to shift your transmission into neutral when you are trying to come to a controlled stop on black ice.  Above all,  remain calm.  If possible,  steer away from other vehicles,  into the side of the road and away from trees, girders, etc.

Educating yourself about the dangers of winter driving in Maine is an important way to keep you, your family and other motorists safe.  If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and you suspect the other driver was impaired, driving recklessly or knowingly driving an unsafe vehicle,  please contact the experienced Maine personal injury team at Hardy,  Wolf and Downing.  We have handled thousands of Maine personal injury cases and motor vehicle accident cases, and know exactly how to handle insurance companies, investigators, and what questions to ask to get you the compensation you deserve.  Don’t settle for less than you deserve if you have been injured in an automobile accident due to another driver’s negligence.  Call the personal injury team at Hardy,  Wolf and Downing,  and let us fight on your behalf.