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Thanksgiving Travel in Maine: Stay Safe in Wintery Weather

distractions while driving

Thanksgiving is a busy time for holiday travelers. United States Department of Transportation statistics show that long-distance trips (50 miles or more) increase by 54% during Thanksgiving.  AAA estimates that  43.5 million Americans will hit the road for the holiday this year, and 90% of them will make their treks in automobiles (as opposed to air, train or bus travel).

Contrary to popular belief, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is not the heaviest long-distance travel day of the year. Thanksgiving Day is the heavier long-distance travel day, and therefore one of the most dangerous days to traverse Maine’s roads and highways.

safe driving tips

Holiday Travel Statistics

Unfortunately, this year’s Thanksgiving travelers will face heavy rain, high winds, ice and snow as they make their way across the state.  As any holiday traveler knows, slick road conditions combined with heavy traffic volume mean long, slow trips.  Most drivers who have traveled Maine’s winter roads know all too well the white-knuckled driving that accompanies a fierce, unpredictable Maine winter storm.

The large storms hitting the country have already been blamed for at least 11 fatal car accidents across parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas,  and this powerful storm is headed for the East Coast.

Congested highways,  backed up with holiday traffic and winter storms means Maine drivers must prep themselves and their vehicles to ensure the safety of their loved ones.

Sadly, the highways aren’t just full of happy travelers heading to grandmas.  Some of the drivers you’ll share the road with are Impatient, drowsy or even inebriated.

These dangerous drivers are a major cause of fatal traffic accidents over the Thanksgiving holiday.  According to the NHTSA, 40% of fatal Thanksgiving automobile accidents involved drunken driving in recent years.  A 2009 study by the Highway Loss Data Institute concluded that Thanksgiving is one of the four most dangerous US travel days (including New Year’s Day, Independence Day and Veteran’s Day.)

Stay Safe this Thanksgiving with Tips from the American Red Cross

The personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing want your Thanksgiving trip to be as pleasant and safe as possible.  Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate in our beautiful state of Maine, the following tips from the American Red Cross will help ensure your safety on one of the heaviest travel days of the year.

  • Check your vehicle carefully before you leave –  fluid levels,  tire air pressure and windshield wipers.
  • Wear your seatbelt!
  • Leave extra time for travel and observe the speed limits.
  • Be a calm and courteous driver.
  • Don’t drive impaired. Designate a driver who will remain sober.
  • Use caution in work zones and don’t tailgate.
  • Travel on a full tank of gas, and stop frequently for rest breaks.
  • Drive with your headlights on for increased visibility.  In darkness,  don’t “overdrive” your headlights.
  • Avoid distractions while driving, such as cell phones, GPS systems, and even passengers!
  •  Don’t text and drive.
  • Do not use your cruise control in bad weather.
  • Stock your vehicle with winter weather supplies, such as an ice scraper, blankets, sand or kitty litter, and a shovel (for extra traction if you’re stuck).
  • Review winter driving safety tips.  (Driving Tips, Safety Information and Accident Prevention
  • If you develop car trouble, pull off the road as quickly as possible.

Going home for the holidays is a cherished tradition.  Even if the Maine weather challenges this year’s travelers,  it is possible to travel more safely in an effort to avoid traffic fatalities. Follow the above safe driving tips.  Know that your loved ones are looking forward to seeing you this Thanksgiving, and don’t rush or drive distracted or impaired.  Buckle your seat belts.

Don’t become another traffic fatality – slow down, be careful and follow the law.  Your loved ones, along with your fellow Maine travelers, will thank you!

If you or a loved one is involved in a traffic accident,  please contact the caring, experienced Maine personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing. Our team will work hard to see justice done and to earn you the compensation you deserve.

Upholding Our Promise to Honor American Veterans: Part 1

Aircraft with Aerial Reconnaissance camera

World War I: The Eleventh Hour History of Veteran’s Day

World War I was dubbed “The Great War” by a Canadian magazine reporter who said, “Some wars name themselves. This is the Great War.”  The loss of life incurred during WWI was staggering.  Every day, 6,000 soldiers were killed in battle, making WWI one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.

wounded veterans

 The Human Toll of World War I

Although the Allied forces ultimately prevailed over the Central Powers, the victors lost more soldiers (an estimated 6 million) than the defeated Central Powers  (estimated 4 million).  Additionally, it is estimated that 21 million soldiers were wounded or crippled in the bloody, four-year-long battle.

WWI History

The Great War Ends

The war officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919.  But seven months earlier, on November 11, 1918, an armistice (cease-fire) was declared and people around the world celebrated an end to the horrific battle.  

Trusting the 11th Hour: Soldiers Experience Armistice Day

But as one WWI veteran so aptly pointed out, “…at the front, there was no celebration.” The battle-weary soldiers hoped and prayed for an end to the fighting, but found it difficult to trust in peace. They had seen too much bloodshed and experienced the horrors of war for too long. Their belief that the fighting had truly ended was tenuous at best.

So, rather than jubilant celebrations on November 11, 1918,  WWI soldiers on the front lines suffered from paranoia, battle fatigue, and extreme emotional stress while the rest of the world heaved a collective sigh of relief.

“What was to come next? They did not know – and hardly cared. Their minds were numbed by the shock of peace. The past consumed their whole consciousness. The present did not exist and the future was inconceivable.”  An Eyewitness to History

Still,  the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, November 11, 1918, marked a turning point for peace.  It is regarded by many as the true end of WWI.

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities.  This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect.”

President Wilson declared November 11 as the first Armistice Day with the somber proclamation,  “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

In 1938, Armistice Day was declared a legal holiday honoring the end of WWI and was officially “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.'”

Veteran’s Day: A Shift in National Perspective

“When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?” -George Canning

After WWII and the Korean War, the United States Congress amended the declaration of Armistice Day, officially renaming it Veteran’s Day (1938).   From that point forward, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

This Veteran’s Day, the attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing honor the sacrifices made by the American heroes who have fought valiantly to preserve our nation’s freedoms.  Our Maine personal injury attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of all citizens.  Giving voice to neglected, injured or abused veterans is one of our most critical duties as principled, ethical and dedicated personal injury attorneys.

The entire Hardy, Wolf and Downing staff,  which includes veteran Maine personal injury attorney William Hardy (who proudly served in the United States Air Force at home and in Vietnam), is dedicated to honoring the promises our country has made to serve and protect our veterans.

One way Hardy, Wolf and Downing offers unwavering support to veterans is by pledging to uphold and safeguard the rights of our nation’s heroes.  We also support projects such as Maine’s Campaign for Justice which directly benefit veterans.  In 2012, the organization helped 1000 Maine veterans by raising money for civil legal aid.

As we celebrate Veteran’s Day this year, we must pause to ask ourselves if we are truly upholding our promise to honor and protect the health, well being and dignity of our nation’s valiant warriors.  If we fail at this vital task,  then we fail to preserve the values of the great nation to which we belong.

“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys. Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death!”
— Sun Tzu

Black Ice: Driving Tips, Safety Information and Accident Prevention

Car slipping on black ice

march808bIn this part of the world, only Maine gives winter the welcome and the worship it should have.

-Tom Allen

Maine winters are indeed beautiful.   But when winter arrives in Maine,  its beauty is tempered by hazardous winter driving conditions.  Snow and ice increase the likelihood of serious and sometimes fatal automobile accidents and make safe driving a real challenge.

As we welcome winter in our beautiful state of Maine,  the personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing want to review winter driving safety tips so we can keep our roadways safe for all motorists. (more…)

Halloween Parties On College Campuses Keep Police Busy

jack'o lanterns

Festivities Tied to  Increase in Impaired Driving and Binge Drinking

Binge Drinking Among Underaged and College Students

High-Risk Drinking on College Campuses

halloween_100328161_l-624x416Many see the tradition of Halloween themed parties at fraternities,  sororities,  apartments and dorms at our nation’s colleges and universities as a rite of passage for college students.  In reality, they pose a significant threat to students and the community as a whole.  College students often make poor decisions after their Halloween revels,  especially when alcohol is involved.  Drinking and driving after campus Halloween parties is a known and potentially deadly occurrence on college campuses across America.

Consequences of Abusive College Drinking:  National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Lauri Sidelko, director of Drug and Alcohol Education Programs at The University of Maine points out that students may engage in risky behavior while in costume because the disguises and general party atmosphere of Halloween give some students “a license to do things they wouldn’t normally do.”

Sargent Scott Curtis of the University of Maine Police Department notes that Halloween  brings out even more partygoers than on a typical campus weekend,  and gives students “a theme and purpose to ramp up,  in particular, drinking.”   Unfortunately,  students often don’t even realize how much alcohol they have in their system because they mix their own drinks at parties.  When dispensed in large cups and not measured,  a student could be downing one drink,  or perhaps five,  depending on who was pouring the concoction.

According to the NCADD (National Council On Alcohol and Drug Dependence),

  • 600,000 college students are unintentionally injured while under the influence of alcohol.
  • 700,000 students are assaulted by other students who have been drinking
  • 100,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape

Clearly,  drinking on college campuses is a  dangerous choice many young students are making,  often with dire consequences.

10 College Halloween Party Ideas:  Be Responsible and Have Fun 

Beverages served at campus Halloween parties also pose a unique problem.  Flavored hard alcohol,  especially when combined with other liquids which mask the taste of alcohol,  encourage students to drink even more than they normally would.  “They’re drinking straight alcohol with no idea what amount will kill you,” Curtis said.

Halloween Busy Time for University of Maine Police

Sidelko,  director of Drug and Alcohol Education Programs says, “Nationally, Halloween is the second-ranked drinking holiday of the year. When you look at our college campus, it translates to our first because students aren’t here for New Year’s.”

College campus education programs aimed at reducing binge drinking and preventing impaired driving are excellent ways to prevent Halloween tragedies and accidents.   Parents can also help mitigate the dangers of Halloween drinking and driving by educating their college-aged children about safe behavior,  the dangers of underage drinking,  and stressing that we are all responsible for keeping our communities safe by making sensible decisions when it comes to Halloween parties.  An increased police presence on Halloween aimed at stopping drunk drivers before they can cause serious accidents is also an extremely effective deterrent.

Halloween is a fun and exciting time on college campuses across the nation,  but it is certainly not an excuse to drink and drive.  The personal injury attorneys at Hardy,  Wolf and Downing want you to have a fantastic and safe Halloween – so keep things sensible while keeping safety a top priority.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of a drunk or otherwise impaired driver on what should be a festive,  happy holiday,  please allow the experienced Maine personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf an Downing to give your case the full attention it deserves.

Frightening Facts: Halloween Drinking and Driving

car headlights at night

Risky Ghouls and Goblins: Drunk Driving Poses Deadly Risks on Halloween

car headlights at nightHalloween isn’t just for little princesses, ghosts, and pirates anymore.  It has become the second highest grossing commercial holiday in the United States, second only to Christmas.  Adults and college students alike enjoy dressing up and attending costume parties and other Halloween themed get-togethers.  Unfortunately,  they often combine those festivities with alcohol,  then make the inexcusable choice to drink and drive and potentially to an unfortunate Halloween car accident. (more…)

Maine Drunk Driving – Dangers and Costs

auto accident drunk driver

Sobering Statistics on Drunk and Alcohol-Impaired Driving

  • Every day,  close to 30 people die in motor vehicle accidents that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. 31% of all fatal traffic accidents in the U.S. involved alcohol-related automobile accidents.
  • Every 90 seconds,  someone is killed or seriously injured in an alcohol-related crash.
  • Annually,  alcohol-related crashes cost the US more than $51 billion dollars.
  • In Maine,  fatal automobile accidents that involved at least one alcohol-impaired driver account for 39% of all traffic-related deaths.

(more…)

Winter Driving in Maine – Leave Sooner, Drive Slower, Live Longer

Maine winters are known the world over for their breathtaking beauty.  They bring to mind images of pristine winter woods,  sparkling snow and cozy nights snuggled by the fire.

But as the weather gets colder and the nights longer,  Maine residents must also remember the treacherous side of Old Man Winter,  and prepare themselves for winter driving on Maine’s ice and snow covered roads and highways.

Our experienced personal injury attorneys know that winter driving in Maine can be extremely risky.   We want our residents to stay safe and avoid car accidents,  so we’ve prepared some information and tips to help you stay safe this winter.

Maine Prepares for Winter – Maine.gov

The U.S. Department of Commerce statistics show that nearly seventy percent of automobile accidents resulting in death are ice-or-snow related. Maine drivers are spending more time on the road because of increased commuting times,  and communities are changing the ways they determine snow plowing routes in an effort to cut costs.  A high proportion of inexperienced teenaged drivers adds to an already dangerous winter driving equation. making Maine winter roads an even greater hazard when winter storms hit.

Maine Winter Roads Getting More Dangerous

Some of these tragic winter related automobile accidents may be avoided with careful planning and an eye towards driver safety.  So, our experienced Maine car accident attorneys have compiled the following winter driving tips in an effort to keep our fellow drivers safer.

  • Maine storms can strike with little or no warning.  Keep your vehicle winterized at all times so that you are always prepared. Keep your gas tank filled,  check your tires,  fluids, wiper blades, antifreeze, and battery often.
  • If you don’t have to leave the house,  stay home!  Staying off the roads is your best bet for avoiding a car accident when the roads are nasty.
  • Stock your care with extra winter supplies (warm clothing, shovel, sand, food, charged cell phone, blanket, etc.)
  • Tips for Winterizing Your Car – Weather Channel
  • Slow Down!  Leave plenty of extra room between cars (at least three times more space than you would in normal driving conditions.)
  • If you have a four wheel drive or all wheel drive vehicle,  don’t assume you are invincible or that your vehicle can handle all conditions.  Drive slowly and carefully!
  • Turn your lights on to increase your visibility.
  • Keep your lights and windshield wipers clean,  and make sure your blades are in good condition.  Keep de-icer in your car,  and always have an extra windshield scraper.
  • Brake gently to avoid skidding.  If you have an anti-lock brake system,  press the pedal down firmly and hold it.  If you don’t have an anti-lock brake system,  pump the pedal gently as you brake.
  • Don’t pass snow plows or sanding trucks.  They have limited visibility,  and road conditions are worse in front of them.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill.  Get gentle, controlled inertia on a flat surface before you take on the hill so that you can try to make it to the top by rolling.
  • Don’t try to power up hills,  as this will cause your wheels to spin.  Try to use inertia gained on a flat surface to get you to the top of the hill.
  • Stay alert,  don’t use cruise control,  and DON’T TALK OR TEXT ON YOUR CELL PHONE while driving on winter roads!
  • Don’t pull out suddenly in front of another vehicle.  When in doubt,  wait and take it slow.
  • Keep your gas tank full and use the bathroom before you leave for your destination.
  • If you do find yourself in a skid, steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. As you recover,  your wheels may start sliding the other way.  If this happens,  ease the steering wheel toward that side of the vehicle/skid. You may have to steer left and right repeatedly (gently!) several times to get your vehicle completely under control. If your vehicle starts to skid sideways,  shift into neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately.  Avoid sudden,  jerky movements.  As your vehicle slows, you will regain control.  Then steer in the direction you want to go,  put the transmission in “drive” and accelerate gently.

Our Maine personal injury attorneys hope you will follow these driving safety tips and have a healthy, safe Maine winter driving season.  We live in a beautiful state,  and with a little careful planning,  you’ll be here to enjoy it, accident-free!