Articles Posted in Car Collisions

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I am not a mechanic. However, I have been driving cars for more than 30 years and have been around a shop once or twice. Recently, an Atlanta mother died when a motorist’s wheel (rim and all) allegedly came off his vehicle and crushed the roof of the mother’s vehicle causing instant death.

Most motorists don’t pay attention to their tires unless they see a little yellow light on their dashboard alerting them to low pressure. I believe the same conclusion applies to motorists who actually rotate (front to the back and back to the front) their tires. But – I digress.

The question is how does a wheel disengage from a moving vehicle. Let’s start by covering the bases of how a tire might blow or rip from the rim. If a tire is underinflated, then the tire has more surface area flat on the road surface while still keeping the chassis suspended on four wheels. In this situation, the tire can flex beyond its elastic limit and overheat and blowout. By contrast, an overinflated tire combined with longstanding tire wear or a poor retread could lead to a blowout. When a tire is overinflated, the tire tread does not adequately grip the road as less tire tread lies flat on the road. Over time, an overinflated tire can lead to a blow out. Yet, these situations don’t account for a complete wheel and rim coming off a moving vehicle.

Here are the basics. A tire is fit around a metal rim. Between the rim and the tire is oxygen or nitrogen that helps fit and secures the tire to the rim. The metal rim is secured to the car by several lug nuts. Additionally, some older vehicles have wheel ball bearings (steel bars held together by a metal ring) that need to be replaced or re-greased over the lifetime of the vehicle. Newer model vehicles have ball bearings that are sealed and do not need any maintenance. The wheel bearings (set of ball bearings) help support the wheel and ride on the axle shaft. The wheel bearing is located at the hub in the center of the wheel. The hub is located where the lug bolts come through the wheel.
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This is not just another shocking headline; unfortunately, there was indeed a woman who resided in Craighead County, Ark., who tried to escape from the police using a child’s battery operated toy truck. To provide some background, Craighead County is located in the far northeast portion of the state and has a population just shy of 100,000 people. This county is composed of two county seats: Jonesboro and Lake City, where the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited by law. This incident occurred in Jonesboro.

Now to proceed to the facts of the crime. On March 3, 2013, around 5:30 p.m., 29-year-old Jamie Jeannette Craft was operating a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am on the streets of Craighead County. Just prior to the accident, Ms. Craft was traveling in excess of the speed limit and had no regard for the safety of others or their property. She sped around a corner and collided into a stationary mobile home under the panel of said trailer.

Could things actually get worse for the young Ms. Craft? Always crafty on her feet, she got out of her vehicle and immediately grabbed the adolescent daughter of a nearby witness and proceeded to step into battery operated Powers Wheel truck to commence her getaway. Looking ever conspicuous in her white sweatshirt sans pants and shoes, Ms. Craft was still trying to determine how to operate the toy truck when the witness took his daughter inside his home.

The witness then came back outside with his son (owner of the toy truck) and forced Ms. Craft to exit said vehicle at which point Ms. Craft started to scream and made a beeline for her mother’s mobile home. When police arrived, they had to hold Ms. Craft up by the shoulders and administer a portable Breathalyzer test, which registered a 0.217 blood alcohol content (BAC); this is three times the legal limit.
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According to several studies, the number one cause of death among teenagers is driving a motor vehicle. In fact, car wrecks account for 25 percent of teen deaths per year. It is estimated that enough teenagers die each year to fill the halls of one to two large high schools.

The Governors Highway Safety Association released a report in February of 2013 that reflected that teenage deaths were up almost 20 percent between the first six months of 2011 and the first six months of 2012. If the final six months of 2012 remain statistically consistent with the past data, then 2012 is the second year in a row of increases in teenager driving related deaths.

According to the same report, Georgia had six teenagers die in the first six months of 2011 and five in the first six months of 2012 for a net of -1. Other states, such as Illinois and Texas have a much higher rate of teenage fatalities. For example, Illinois had 12 deaths over the same period and Texas had 30. It is easy to recognize that Illinois is currently in a serious fiscal situation and Texas has a much larger population as a whole.

Some causes attributed to the rise of deaths include a healthy economy and driver licensing laws. I also believe that the rise of cell phones along with the temptation of teens to stay in touch whenever and wherever with their peers while operating a car is another newsworthy cause. It has been argued that as the economy strengthens, more teenagers are able to drive vehicles in greater numbers on the roadways of America. I assume with more money in their pocket, teenagers are more prone to discretionary driving despite higher or lower gas prices. I am sure that a poor economy affected the number of teenagers actually applying for licenses and the amount of driving. And, states that have seen reduced revenues in the past are pumping less money into driver licensing laws for teenagers, which lead to fewer drivers’ education and programs.
Among teenage car accidents, a pattern has emerged. Typically, teen crashes occur with a group of teens generally driving with no set destination or purpose at night without seatbelts and in excess of the posted speed limit. The incidence of teenage driver crashes increases with more than one passenger, particularly if such passengers are male. The pattern reflects poor driving habits of teenagers.
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I learned how to drive a car by operating a Honda Civic with a manual transmission near the cornfields of Central Illinois in the early 1980s. As I recall, my father always told me to imagine that the steering wheel was a clock and I should grip the steering wheel at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock position to maximize control and quick maneuverability. So…that was the way I was taught; that was the way I drove; and that is way I continue to do it today.

The Honda Civic had power steering. The 1952 Chrysler Imperial was the first passenger vehicle to have power steering, and the technology became widely available in cars in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In short, the technological invention made it easier to turn the steering wheel with little effort; particularly, when the car was slowing or stopped. I remember that driving a car without power steering became a chore and took a good deal of muscular exertion with every turn.

Now, I drive a SUV and a Ford pickup, both of which have power steering. The SUV also has a faux wood steering wheel that needs to be gripped tightly. Up until yesterday, I was driving that car using the old 10 o’clock 2 o’clock position. However, today, I read an article that references a study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) that concludes that this grip technique is not only incorrect but dangerous as well. State Farm and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration both made this determination as well.

Apparently, in the days of yore before power steering, the “10 and 2” position enabled a motorist to exert more control by pulling down on the side of the steering wheel to enable a turn. However, most–if not all–cars produced today are equipped with power steering and the wheel does not require such force or placement of the hands.
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John Brent, a young, athletically gifted man from Illinois, parlayed a successful college football career at the University of Illinois into a spot on the coveted Dallas Cowboys football team. Brent left after his junior year of college and entered the supplemental draft when he was taken in the 7th round by the Cowboys.

While at the University of Illinois, Brent was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding on a suspended license in 2009 and placed on probation, which he completed in July of 2011. Fast forward to the present. Brent was driving his fellow teammate, Jerry Brown, in the early morning in a Dallas suburb just hours before Brent was to board the team plane to game in Cincinnati against the Bengals yesterday.

According to the facts as collected by the Irving, Texas, police department, Brent was speeding in his Mercedes above the 45 mph zone when his vehicle struck a curb, flipped and came to a rest upside down. Consequently, a small fire ensued which was later put out by the police. Brent dragged Jerry Brown from the vehicle as the police arrived at the scene.

Brent was cooperative with the investigating police, yet he failed a field sobriety test (i.e. walking a straight line, eye gaze test). At that point, he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. After Brown died from the injuries in the wreck, the criminal charge against Brent was upgraded to intoxication manslaughter, a second-degree felony in Texas subject to imprisonment from two to 20 years.
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In my 20 years of practice, I have seen motorists cause collisions in numerous ways: allergic sneezes; falling asleep at the wheel; being under the influence of drugs or alcohol; trying to beat a traffic control light or another vehicle at an intersection; speeding and faulty brakes, among others.

Over this period of time, mobile phones entered the marketplace and this new invention has caused significant impact on today’s motorists. Initially, these phones were large and cumbersome and did not adapt well to automobiles due to limited coverage, size or battery power. As time went on and technology improved, it was possible to bring a small cell phone into the car and operate as motorists traveled down roads. Then, the cell phone evolved into a smartphone, which allowed a motorist to text messages to others as well as speak while operating a vehicle. And…in my opinion…the ability to text while driving has caused a large upswing in car accidents today.

I have blogged about the dangers of cell phones and driving here, here and here. Today, the Atlanta Journal Constitution published another online article regarding a car collision caused by the use of a cell phone. Earlier this morning, an older gentleman from Henry County, Ga., was killed as the proximate cause of a young motorist who lost control of her vehicle as she voluntarily took her eyes off the highway to the floor of her car to retrieve a dropped cell phone.

According to the article, 18-year-old Selena Gonzalez of Seffner, Fla., was driving southbound on I-75 near Tampa, Fla., when she dropped her cell phone on the floor of her vehicle. When Ms. Gonzalez took her eyes off the road and reached down for several seconds to retrieve her phone, her Ford Expedition moved over to the shoulder of the road. As Ms. Gonzalez brought her gaze back to the highway, she attempted to steer her vehicle back onto the road and overcorrected, which caused her Expedition to flip several times before it came to rest facing east in the middle lane. At that point, Ms. Gonzalez exited her vehicle on a national highway in the middle lane and attempted to call 911 when another vehicle also traveling southbound on I-75–a Chevrolet Suburban operated by the motorist from Henry County–collided into Gonzalez’s vehicle. A short time later, a freight truck traveling in the same southerly direction struck the driver’s side of the Suburban killing the driver. The driver of the freight truck and Ms. Gonzalez were taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries.
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A major manufacturer/developer/distributor of smartphones has now developed a free smartphone app to help teens decrease and/or completely stop texting while operating a motor vehicle. On September 19, 2012, AT&T celebrated national “No text on Board Pledge Day” at a local high school in Atlanta that was attended to by an impressive gathering of law enforcement officers, state and city government officials, private sector leaders and teenagers.

In essence, the event promoted abstinence of texting while driving and reinforcing the notion that a text can wait. The event also included a simulator that allowed teenagers to get behind the wheel and experience the hazard of texting while operating a motor vehicle. As the simulator demonstrated, it is virtually impossible to do both at the same time and expect safe results. The students wore virtual reality goggles, sat in a stationary car and were required to text, steer and/or brake – pretty much at the same time. Considering that more than 100,000 car crashes occur each year due to texting and driving (source: the National Safety Council), this is welcome news.

The number one method of communication between and amongst teens is texting via a smartphone. The article estimates that today’s teenagers (persons between the ages of 12 and 17 years old) text 60 times a day on average. This average is up from 50 times a day in 2009. The time spent in receipt or composing a text while operating a vehicle is an average of 4.6 seconds. Depending on the speed that the texter is driving, the feet per second traveled varies. For example, if the teenager is driving at 70 mph, the maximum speed allowed on most state highways, the teen has travel approximately 102.667 feet per second for a grand total of 472.2682 feet over 4.6 seconds which is roughly 1.3 x the length of an American football field. That is a lot of ground to cover in such a short period. Of course, the ground covered is essentially in a blind state by the teenager. Cornerbacks covering wide receivers should be so unlucky.

A survey by A&TT reflects that: 75 percent of teens text while driving; 89 percent of teens expect a reply text or e-mail within the time frame of five minutes or less; and 77 percent of teens witness their parents text while the parents are driving an automobile. These are sobering statistics indeed and the fact that the percentage is so high regarding parents’ use of smartphones while operating a motor vehicle is frightening. More so, when you think that teenagers look up to their parents for guidance and leadership. It appears that parents should’ve accompanied their children to this event for a ride in the simulator.
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Hit-and-Run collisions are common in Greater Atlanta. Too often, the reason behind a hit-and-run collision is due to the fact that the motorist is under the influence of alcohol or drugs and does not want to stick around for the police and get arrested. In my law practice, I have handled many hit-and-run crashes where the hit-and-run motorists had outstanding criminal warrants or were illegal aliens at the time of the accident.

Another hit-and-run fatality occurred this past Sunday night on Moreland Avenue and South River Industrial Drive in DeKalb County. Tony Smith was operating a Chevrolet Camaro northbound and chose to make a left turn in front of a southbound motorcyclist driven by 30-year-old Jose Santiago-Maldonado. Consequently, Mr. Smith struck Mr. Santiago-Maldonado at a high rate of speed.

According to the article, the eyewitness L.C. Wheat stated that the strength of the impact sent the motorcyclist and motorcycle in the air. Mr. Wheat took note that Mr. Smith, the driver of the Camaro, failed to stop at the scene of the crash and fled the scene of the collision. Mr. Wheat followed Mr. Smith for over several miles and led police to the vicinity where they were able to take Mr. Smith into custody and arrest. Mr. Smith denied being involved in the collision; however, Mr. Smith was unable to refute Mr. Wheat’s first hand witness testimony that he was the operator of the Camaro.

As a result of the injuries sustained in the collision, Mr. Santiago-Maldonaldo died. Our condolences are extended to the family of Mr. Santiago-Maldonaldo. It was unclear if he was pronounced dead at the scene or transferred to the hospital for emergent care. It was not apparent if Mr. Santiago-Maldonado was wearing a helmet. Frankly, after seeing the pictures of the extensive property damage to the motorcycle, I am not so sure that a helmet would have made any difference. Operating a vehicle in Atlanta is dangerous but operating a motorcycle in Atlanta is even more so.
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Intersections in Atlanta are very dangerous. Just driving home today from work I noticed 50 percent of the drivers looking down at their cell phone – the other 20 percent of drivers were talking on their cell phone. The remaining 30 percent were looking straight ahead at the road. As an Atlantan, I wish the 70 percent were more like the 30 percent. The real danger is when the 70 percent are passing through intersections at relatively high speeds as any collision can be life altering or life ending. As most Americans own cell phones, I would be willing to bet that these percentages apply in most major cities to a greater or lesser degree, which is absolutely worrisome.

Although it really did not make the headline news in Atlanta, a teenage motorist from Alabama was killed when a motorist hit her vehicle in a side impact collision in Atlanta. By all accounts, this teenager was accomplished for her age as she was a nationally ranked equestrian and according to her friends and a family, a daughter, sister, niece and best friend.

In mid July of this year, Claire Briggs, 16-years-old, was in Fairburn, Georgia attending a team equestrian event. As she left the event to drive back to her home in Alabama, she traveled near or through an intersection and was immediately T-boned/broadsided by another vehicle. She was immediately taken to the hospital and her extended family flew in to be by her side. The article states that Ms. Briggs’ organs were severely damaged as a result of the collision.
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The City of Austell, Georgia has a population of approximately 6,581 according to the 2010 Census. It is located within Cobb County and is strategically located near I-285 and I-20. Traffic accidents, car collisions and wrecks are handled inside the city by the Austell Police Department and within the county by Cobb County Police.

On Thursday, July 26, 2012, yet another high-speed car chase took place within Greater Atlanta and specifically within Douglas County, Georgia. Recently, another high-speed car chase involving an Atlanta Police Department police officer resulted in a fatality and the termination of the employment of the officer. Another recent car chase in occurred in Atlanta that resulted in the death of the motorcyclist. It seems as if high-speed car chases and resulting car accidents and auto collisions are becoming more prolific throughout Greater Atlanta.

Flash back to last Thursday in Austell, Georgia. The motorist of the offending vehicle, Jeremiah Mathis, 30, of Atlanta, had several outstanding unrelated criminal warrants on him from several different Georgia counties. Although one article is unclear as to the genesis of the chase, one can assume that the Douglas County Sheriff either determined through a vehicle tag check or witnessed an improper traffic maneuver that resulted in a high-speed car chase throughout Douglas County. According to another article, Mr. Mathis was speeding.

On Thursday evening, Mathis had been speeding in a Chevy Aveo, a subcompact vehicle, with four passengers, including two children – one of which was a front seat passenger. Austell police began to chase Mathis throughout Douglas County. At the intersection of Thornton Road and Maxham Road in Austell, Mathis struck a Chevy Avalanche, a five or six passenger heavy SUV, and caused the Avalanche to flip and roll into a third vehicle.
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