Entries in Driving (13)


Texas Girl, 11, Kills Mother With SUV

Hemera/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- A Texas mother of six died after her 11-year-old daughter accidentally drove the family SUV over her in front of her other children, exposing the siblings to trauma that experts said will be difficult for them to survive.

"This is something that is going to be very difficult for them to recover from," Kathrine Daniels, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Columbia Heights, Minn., said. "Recovering isn't even the right word. I definitely think the quicker they can get into family therapy, the better."

The family had arrived around 7 p.m. Wednesday at a for-sale home they were planning to tour in Jacinto City, Texas. The mother wanted to pull the vehicle closer to the front of the driveway, according to ABC's affiliate KTRK in Houston.

Instead of moving the car herself, however, she reportedly asked her daughter to get into the driver's seat while the car was running and move closer to the house.

The woman had planned to tell her daughter when she should brake. But the girl stepped on the accelerator by mistake, striking and killing her mother, ABC13 reported.

"That's just something that shouldn't have been done," Jacinto City police Chief Joe Ayala told ABC13."She should have gotten into the vehicle and done that herself, instead of instructing a child."

Police declined to release the family's name.

The deadly accident might have lifelong effects on the children who witnessed it, not to mention the 11-year-old, therapist Daniels said.

"Children can only have so much capacity to process and understand things," she said. "And depending on their developmental age, they process things differently."

"Oftentimes, there's so much for them to take in, it's so overwhelming for them. They can have problems just with general functioning," she continued.

Lawrence Balter, professor emeritus at New York University said, "The important point is that it isn't just the very instance of a parent dying, but it's the fact that the absence of the parent at important milestones in a child's life."

The legal driving age in Texas is 16, but teens as young as 14 can learn to drive through a state-approved, parent-taught, drivers' education course.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation's most recent statewide Motor Vehicle Crash Statistics from 2010, 10 drivers younger than 16 were involved in fatal crashes, down from 28 in 2009.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Judge Clears Woman from Boyfriend's Texting-and-Driving Lawsuit

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(MORRIS COUNTY, N.J.) -- A New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled Friday that a woman who sent a text message to her boyfriend while he was driving cannot be held liable for the motor vehicle accident he subsequently caused.

The decision stemmed from a 2009 case in which Kyle Best, 19, was responding to a text message from his girlfriend, Shannon Colonna, 19, while he was driving his pickup truck when he crashed into a motorcycle and severely injured David and Linda Kubert.

In an unprecedented legal twist, the Kuberts' attorney, Stephen "Skippy" Weinstein, amended the original complaint filed against Best to include Colonna as a defendant in the case, saying that she had been in frequent texting contact with Best throughout the day and ought to have known he was driving.

But Judge David Rand ruled Friday in Morris County Superior Court that Colonna could not be held responsible for Best's distracted driving.

"Drivers are bombarded with all forms of distractions," Rand told the courtroom, according to The Star-Ledger, a newspaper in New Jersey. "I find that there was no aiding, abetting here in the legal sense. I find it is unreasonable to impose a duty upon the defendant in this case under these facts. Were I to extend this duty, in my judgment, any form of distraction could potentially serve as basis of a liability case."

Rand said implicating Colonna as liable for an accident caused by text messaging when she wasn't present in Best's car was an argument that had never been addressed in any previous lawsuits, according to The Daily Record.

Weinstein said in a news conference that the Kuberts, who both became amputees as a result of the accident, "are understandably disappointed with the court's decision today," but that they plan to appeal it once the lawsuit against Best has been decided. The Kuberts recently moved to Florida from New Jersey for financial reasons and were just denied permanent disability status from an insurance company, Weinstein said.

Proceedings against Best, who pleaded guilty to distracted driving, will continue within the next few months.

Colonna's attorney, Joseph McGlone, did not respond to requests for comment following Rand's decision, but he had argued that she shouldn't be held accountable for the accident when she wasn't present in the vehicle.

"I don't think it's a valid claim against her," he previously told ABC News.

McGlone added he had never heard of a case similar to the one against his client being brought to trial.

But Weinstein argued that the couple's back-and-forth texting was tantamount to a verbal conversation.

"She may not have been physically present, but she was electronically present," Weinstein said.

Best pleaded guilty to three motor vehicle citations earlier this year, but his driver's license was not suspended, according to The Daily Record.

The case has again brought up the question of how to balance safe driving with distracting mobile communication devices.

In December last year, the National Transportation Safety Board called for a ban on all "personal electronics" in cars except for those needed for emergencies or driver assistance.

Regardless of whether Weinstein's novel argument that Colonna partially responsible for the crash is ever repeated in future cases, he said the Kuberts "are gratified that if by bringing the case they have accomplished the goal of making people think before they text, whether while driving or while the recipient is driving."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Travel Increase Predicted for Memorial Day 2012

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of Memorial Day vacationers to travel more than 50 miles from home is expected to increase by 1.2 percent in 2012, according to an annual survey from the automobile group AAA.

As is typical, the number of people expected to travel by car far outnumbers those expected to travel by plane. More than 30 million people will get to their destinations by car, while roughly 2.5 million will get there by air.

Eighty-eight percent of holiday voyagers will travel by car; 7 percent by air and the remainder by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.

The total increase in travelers comes from drivers, at a rate of 1.2 percent. The number of people traveling by air is expected to decline 5.5 percent from last year's 2.7 million air travelers.

More than half of the survey's respondents said gas prices would not affect their Memorial Day holiday travel plans. However, the average travel distance is considerably less this year than in 2011. The average distance vacationers will travel will be 642 miles, which is 150 miles less than last year's average travel distance of 792 miles.

This is despite gas prices being, on average, 25 cents per gallon cheaper than this time last year, according to the AAA.

TripAdvisor, which ran its own Memorial Day travel survey, found a larger increase in the expected Memorial Day travelers: An 8 percent increase compared with 2011. The site also found that respondents weren't letting gas prices affect their summer vacations.

It's not only gas prices that are on the decline: AAA reports weekend daily car rental rates will average $36, which is 4 percent, or $2, less than last year.

Hotel rates, though, are expected to climb between 8 and 10 percent compared with last year.

The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 24, to Monday, May 28.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Many Young Drivers Text, Talk Behind Wheel Despite Knowing Risks

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(YONKERS, N.Y.) -- Most young drivers are aware that talking or texting behind the wheel is dangerous, but that hasn't stopped many from doing it.

A new survey out Tuesday by Consumer Reports found that while 80 percent of 16- to 21-year-olds polled said texting or using apps while driving poses serious risks, almost a third -- 29 percent -- admitted to texting as they drove in the last 30 days.  Another 8 percent said they used apps while driving and 7 percent confessed to using e-mail or social media.

The magazine also found that although 60 percent of young drivers surveyed considered talking on the phone while driving to be dangerous, half of them said they did it in the last 30 days.

Despite the findings, there are some safety-minded young people on the road as Liza Barth, an associate editor for Consumers Reports, points out.

"We found that about 50 percent said that they are speaking up for their safety, if they see some of their friends using these things behind the wheel," Barth said.

What's more, "74 percent have tried to stop their behaviors and they've read about the problem; 61 percent have heard or read about the problem of distracted driving; and 40 percent said the laws have helped them reduce or stop some of the behaviors," Barth said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Teen Driver Deaths Increase in First Half of 2011: New Report

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of 16 and 17-year-old drivers killed in automobile-related incidents increased 11 percent during the first six months of the year 2011, according to a new report.

Data released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) on Thursday shows a 16 percent jump in the deaths of 16-year-old drivers during the first half of last year, while the number of 17-year-old drivers who died edged up 7 percent. Of the 23 states that reported increased fatalities, Florida, Texas and North Carolina were among the states with the most significant increases, the report revealed.

The findings could spell the end of years of progress on the issue.

“If the trend continued for the second half of 2011, it will mark the end of eight straight years of cumulative declines in deaths for this age group,” the group said in announcing its findings.

The data was compiled by Dr. Allan Williams, formerly of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“Dr. Williams attributes much of the increase to the fact that the benefit of state Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws may be leveling off, as most of these laws have been in place for some time,” the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit said. “Additionally, Dr. Williams speculates that improving economic conditions are contributing to an increase in teen driving, thus increasing their exposure to risk.”

The GHSA notes that its report, “comes as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released a statistical projection suggesting that total motor vehicle deaths for the first six months of 2011 declined 0.9 percent.”

Meanwhile, transportation officials issued new guidelines Thursday aimed at limiting driver distractions.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood worries that drivers pay too much attention to their dashboards and too little attention to the road. In 2010, LaHood said, more than 3,000 people were killed in crashes involving distracted driving.

"While it is good news that overall deaths appear to have declined during the first six months of 2011, we are concerned that the trend with teens is going in the opposite direction," GHSA chairman Troy E. Costales said in a statement.

"As parents, we must set and enforce strict rules for our new drivers, making sure risks are minimized,” Costales said. “This includes limiting other teens in the car, limiting nighttime driving and absolutely prohibiting any type of cell phone or electronic device use while driving."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


California to Crack Down on Distracted Drivers, Even Those Eating

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- With all the emphasis law enforcement agencies have been putting on distracted driving lately, more drivers are suddenly becoming aware that perhaps talking on the phone or texting may not be the smartest thing to do behind the wheel.

But the California Highway Patrol is going one step beyond that this weekend, warning motorists that they can be ticketed if a cop feels that food is causing risky driving.

Eating while driving in the Golden State between 6 a.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Saturday could mean as much as a $1,000 fine if it impairs a driver's ability to operate a motor vehicle.  But the likelihood of such a steep penalty isn't great since texters usually face a $20 ticket on a first offense.

Cops will also be on the lookout for other forms of distracted driving, such as reading newspapers or applying makeup.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Drowsy Driving Kills

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Driving tired. Experts say it can be as dangerous as drunk driving.

A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds nearly a third of drivers admitted nodding off at the wheel during the past month of driving.

“I think that drowsy driving might be the largest, most unrecognized traffic safety problem that we face in this country,” said Peter Kissinger of the AAA Safety Foundation.

Drowsy driving may cause as many as 17 percent of all accidents and 5,000 deaths a year on the nation’s roads, according to the foundation.

In the study, 96 percent of drivers said it is not OK to drive while you’re sleepy. Despite that, 32 percent admitted they had done just that within the last month.

“A lot of people have gotten away with it in the past and, therefore, they’ve built up a false sense of security, they’ve reinforced a bad habit,” said Kissinger.

In a 2010 study, the AAA Foundation estimated that tired drivers were responsible for one in six fatal crashes, and one in eight crashes that sent someone to the hospital.

In more than half of the accidents, sleepy drivers drifted into another lane or off the road entirely.

The AAA Foundation said many drivers think they can simply will themselves to stay awake.

“Many drivers simply underestimate the problems associated with drowsy driving but, at the same time, they overestimate their ability to deal with it and that’s a deadly combination,” said Kissinger. “You cannot will yourself to stay awake. And when your body says enough’s enough, you are going to go to sleep.”

So what’s an exhausted driver to do?

“The only thing that really works is getting some rest,” said Kissinger. “So if you are driving and you start getting tired and finding yourself rolling the window down or turning up the radio, it’s time to pull off the road and get some rest.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


4-Year-Old Joyrides Mom’s Car

Photodisc/Thinkstock(FULLERTON, Calif.) -- A 4-year-old California boy got behind the wheel of his mom’s SUV and went on a wild ride after she left him unattended in the car.

The boy, whose name has been withheld by police, was traveling with his mom around 4 p.m. Thursday when she pulled over to the Summit House restaurant in Fullerton, Calif.

While his 27-year-old mom got out of the car to use a pay phone, the nimble toddler unbuckled his car seat, jumped behind the wheel, put the vehicle in gear and sped away, police said.

He managed to sideswipe another vehicle, cross into oncoming traffic, roll the car over, see it land back on its tires and just keep driving. The boy drove about a third of a mile in all before the car hit trees and came to a stop.

“We’re still investigating how all this happened,” Sgt. Andrew Goodrich of the Fullerton Police Department said.

No bystanders or fellow drivers were hurt, and police said the child sustained minor to moderate injuries. The SUV was badly damaged.

“He was very fortunate,” said Goodrich.

The Fullerton Police Department’s traffic unit and family crimes detectives are investigating the accident, the Orange County Register reports.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Los Angeles Gears Up for 'Carmaggedon'

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- "Carmaggedon" is almost here -- and Los Angeles is on pins and needles.

The much-ballyhooed shutdown of a 10-mile stretch of the key 405 freeway -- used on a typical weekend by half a million motorists -- starts at midnight Friday and continues until early Monday. In a city where walking is considered weird and public transportation an afterthought, the closure has sparked anxiety and generated huge publicity.

It has its own Facebook page, the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Widening Project, and Twitter-savvy celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Tom Hanks have tweeted to warn drivers to stay home.

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the closure area, has a countdown clock on his website anticipating the shutdown to the second. He is planning on spending much of the weekend in the emergency operations center downtown. "I think the preparation has gone extremely well," he said. "Most people understand that the guaranteed way to avoid aggravation is to not be in your car."

He said LA residents are organizing block parties and barbecues and are stocking up on DVDs for a weekend staycation. "Everybody's going to do it their own way."

The 53-hour closure -- which will happen again in 11 months -- is part of a $1 billion highway improvement project that involves constructing a northbound carpool lane and reconstructing the Mulholland Bridge.

Officials have been grave about the prospect of misery ahead. "There's gridlock on the 405 virtually any time of the day, but particularly during the rush hour, and if you think it's bad now, let me just make something absolutely clear: On July 16 and 17, it will be an absolute nightmare," LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at a recent press conference.

But on Wednesday, Yaroslavsky was more upbeat. "Now it's up to the people," he said, adding: "I have confidence in Los Angeles motorists."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


No Evidence Cellphone Bans Are Effective, Report Shows

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Despite nationwide initiatives to curb cellphone use while driving, there is no evidence indicating that the bans are effective, according to a report out Thursday.

Nevertheless, the 40-page document urged states to enact cellphone and texting bans, even as it declared that there is "no solid evidence that any [ban] is effective in reducing crashes, injuries, or fatalities."

The report, Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do, developed by a host of transportation safety officials, also called on employers, the automobile industry and the federal government to continue to develop tests and implement measures to combat all forms of distracted driving.

The report summarized all research on distracted drivers available as of January 2011 and focused its attention on distractions caused by cellphones and text messaging.

One recent study said that about two-thirds of all drivers reported using a cellphone while driving.

The new document found that there was no conclusive evidence whether hands-free cellphone use is less risky than hand-held use.  It suggested that texting may carry a higher risk than other forms of cellphone use, but again found there was no conclusive evidence to verify that claim.

As of June 2011, 34 states and the District of Columbia had enacted texting bans for all drivers, but a 2010 study conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HDLI) found that the bans did not reduce collision claims.  In fact, claims increased slightly in states enacting texting bans compared to neighboring states.

HLDI suggested two possible reasons for the increase.

"Texters may realize that texting bans are difficult to enforce, so they may have little incentive to reduce texting for fear of being detected and fined," the HDLI report said.  Or, the institute suggested, texters may have responded to the ban by "hiding their phones from view, potentially increasing their distractive effects by requiring longer glances away from the road."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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