Drowsy Driving: A Dangerous and Common Road Behavior

Though drunk driving and distracted driving are the most publicized dangerous road behaviors, a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is highlighting another all too common issue on the road: drowsy driving.

The results of this study were released last Thursday and offered this nightmare of a statistic: 1 in 24 adults in the US admitted to nodding off or falling asleep while driving in the last month. That translates to approximately 4 percent of drivers in our country driving while drowsy.

Furthermore, the health officials who administered this particular test expect the number of drowsy drivers to be higher than reported. They believe that is because many people don't realize when they drift off for a few seconds behind the wheel.

Additional findings from this report, which surveyed nearly 150,000 drivers in 19 states, concluded that driving while sleepy was more common in people ages 25-34, for those who averaged less than six hours of sleep per night, as well as men. The CDC researchers who are experts in this field were not surprised by the results because they believe that many people are getting insufficient sleep. 

Warning signs of drowsy driving include: yawning frequently, feeling exceptionally sleepy or fatigued, not remembering the last mile or two driven, missing an exit or turn or drifting onto rumble strips on the side of the road. All of these behaviors signal that a driver should get off the road immediately and take a rest.

In order to prevent drowsy driving, health officials recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, treating sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or insomnia, closely checking medication labels to check for side effects of sleepiness and avoiding the consumption of alcohol prior to getting behind the wheel.

For more information on the dangers of drowsy driving, warning signs and prevention tips, please visit: http://drowsydriving.org/ and remember to get plenty of Zzzz's so that you are able to stay safe, alert and awake on the road.

Maine Driver Education Programs To Be Reviewed And Updated

Maine teenagers and young drivers are injured or dying in car accidents at an astonishingly high rate and something needs to be done about it. Our state legislators are seeking to bring change by improving Maine driver education programs.

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death of 16 to 24 year olds. In 2008, people among those ages constituted 14 percent of all drivers and accounted for nearly 37 percent of all crashes and nearly 32 percent of all fatal crashes.

This trend is beyond disturbing and often results in tragic outcomes.

Charles Summers, Maine Secretary of State, is advocating for an overhaul of Maine's driver education curriculums in hopes that stronger programs and enforced education can bring change.

According to reports from the Maine Secretary of State, 12 people died in Maine car accidents between December 25th, 2011 and January 9th, 2012 -- seven of those victims were young drivers. Another horrifying statistic - almost two young drivers die each month in Maine and more than 42 are injured in car crashes each week.

Summers, who reports that Maine driver education programs were last updated in 1996, is encouraging curriculums to take advantage of technological advances since then and incorporate new features such as interactive driving simulators. He also would like to see the educational programs updated to reflect current statistics and feature new instructional videos.

Another potential area for improvement is the number of practice hours young drivers complete with driving instructors. Maine's practice driving hour requirement is higher than other states, but it can always be higher. When it comes to driving, practice doesn't necessarily make perfect, but it can help save lives.

As required by state law, Summers has assembled a Technical Review Panel to evaluate driver education programs and incorporate changes and growth. The panel will gather public input from students, educators, law officials and parents in Maine communities and submit a report to the Legislature's Transportation Committee by the end of February.

The Legislature expects to begin working on the overhaul of curriculums during the current session.

In support of this statewide issue, Maine Governor Paul LePage has designated the month of January as 'Young Driver Safety Awareness Month.'

At the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein, we see firsthand the effects and devastation of car accidents that far too often involve young drivers. We are hopeful that improved driving instruction, education and practice can bring the change that Maine so desperately needs.

Texting While Driving Is Dangerous

A recent study found that texting while driving is among the most dangerous things a driver can do.

The study monitored truck drivers via in-cab video cameras to find that the risk of accident increases 23 times when sending or reading a text message. On average, drivers were taking their eyes off the road for an estimated 4.6 seconds to read or send messages, equivalent to the amount of time it would take an 18-wheeler at normal highway speeds to travel the length of a football field.

Currently, only 14 of the 50 U.S. states have a ban on texting while driving. Although in Maine drivers under the age of 18 are not allowed to use a cell phone while operating a vehicle, our state is not among those that impose a ban on texting. In June of 2009, however, Governor Baldacci signed a law that states there will be a fine imposed to drivers who commit traffic violations or are involved in a reportable accident when operating a vehicle while distracted. The new law goes into effect in September. The new study should continue to sway legislature and cell phone users alike.

The issue of texting while driving has recently come to national prominence. In May, more than 50 people were injured when a trolley car in Boston crashed while its driver was texting with his girlfriend. Last September, a commuter train in Los Angles crashed into a freight train seconds after the driver had received a text message and missed a red light. 25 passengers died in the accident, with over 130 more injured.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute revealed that 80 percent of accidents and 65 percent of near-accidents involve some form of driver distraction occurring within three seconds of the crash. Distractions that lead to vehicle crashes include:

  • Cell phone use.
  • Reaching for moving objects inside the vehicle.
  • Looking at an object or event outside of the vehicle.
  • Reading while driving.
  • Applying makeup.

More and more, insurance companies are now researching driver phone usage before accidents to help determine liability. In 2006, more than 158 billion text messages were sent in the U.S. with over a trillion sent worldwide. Those numbers are expected to continue to increase exponentially.

At the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein we see firsthand the results of tragic motor vehicle accidents. By eliminating distractions while on the road, including text messaging, your odds of having a safe commute increase considerably. It is a proven fact that we cannot urge enough.

So the next time you’re on the road and get a message from a friend, wait to you get off the road to respond. By doing so both you and your fellow commuters will thank you.

For more information on Maine’s driving laws, please visit:  http://www.maine.gov/portal/travel/transportation/highways.html

Fourth Annual Arrive Alive Winners Announced

The 4th annual Arrive Alive Creative Contest sponsored by The Law Offices of Joe Bornstein has come to a consummate close. 

The contest asks graduating seniors from local Maine high schools to think creatively and come up with a message that warns their peers about the dangers of drinking and driving.  Students may enter the contest by submitting an essay or creative project of their choice that urges teenagers to stay safe and Arrive Alive

The 2008 First Place Winners are:

Harrison Kenning - Thornton Academy - Video
Lacy McMoarn - Thornton Academy - Board Game
Rachel Roberts - Bangor High - Video
Kassim Sembatya - Deering High School - Poem

First place winners receive a brand new laptop computer, second place winners receive a new iPod, and all students who participate receive a gift bag from The Law Offices of Joe Bornstein. 

In four years, The Law Offices of Joe Bornstein has given away nearly $20,000 in scholarships and prizes to graduating high school seniors, including nine laptops and thirteen iPods.

For more information on the Arrive Alive Creative Contest, including a complete set of rules and to view all current and past winning submissions, please visit our website: www.arrivealivewithme.com