Nationwide Increase in Traffic Fatalities Affects Portland Drivers

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Traffic fatality rates across the United States have been on the rise for several years now. Oregon, too, has seen increases, and all road users at put in danger by this concerning trend. Luckily, the use of simple safety measures can dramatically reduce one’s chances of being involved in an accident, as well as the severity of injuries which are sustained in an accident. Be sure to contact an experienced Portland car accident attorney as soon as possible after any accident. You have legal rights which must be protected.

How Oregon Fatality Trends Compare to the Nation

According to The Washington Post , 2011 saw the lowest number of traffic fatalities ever recorded in the United States. This was a result of fewer vehicles being on the road after the economic crash of 2008. As drivers returned to the road again, traffic accident rates began to rise again. Unfortunately, traffic fatalities have been steadily climbing ever since. 2016 traffic data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed a continuation of the trend of increased traffic fatalities. A 5.4% increase placed the total number of fatality victims over thirty-seven thousand.  Now, in 2017, more than eighteen thousand people died on the roads of America between January 1 and June 31. Another 2.1 million people were seriously injured in car accidents during that same time period.

Oregon, too, has seen recent rises in fatal traffic accidents. The Oregon Department of Transportation reports that 2015 saw a nearly 30% in fatalities from the previous year. And before the DOT released its official 2016 data, The Northwest News Network had already declared it the deadliest year since 2003.

What Oregon Drivers Can Do to Protect Themselves

Despite these concerning statistics, there are simple things Oregon drivers can do to dramatically reduce their odds of being fatally injured in a car accident. Speeding is a significant predictor of fatal injuries. The World Health Organization reports that an injury victim is twenty times more likely to die in an impact at 80 kilometers per hour than impact at 30 kilometers per hour. Reducing speed is more than a simple safety precaution – it is also a legal obligation under Oregon state law. Section 811.100 of the Oregon Revised Statutes prohibits drivers from traveling at a speed that is greater than reasonable and prudent, having due regard to: traffic; surface conditions of the roadway; hazards at intersections; weather; visibility; or any other conditions then existing.

Seat belt use is also highly effective at reducing the severity of injuries sustained in a traffic accident. Dozens of studies over many decades have proven that failure to use a seat belt increases the likelihood that traffic accident injuries will be fatal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that seat belt use saved an estimated 64,000 lives between 2011 and 2015. This, too, is a requirement of Oregon law. (See Oregon Revised Statutes §811.210.)

If you or a loved one has been injured in any type of auto accident, seek the counsel of an experienced Portland auto accident attorney. He or she will ensure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries and losses.  

New Safety Features and Automated Technologies Can Save Lives on the Roads of Portland

New car buyers have more options than ever when it comes to staying safe

New car buyers now have more options than ever when it comes to selecting and customizing a vehicle. Amongst the many flashy entertainment systems are important new safety technologies that could prove lifesaving in a time when U.S. road fatalities are dramatically on the rise. automated safety features and safety

Despite experiencing a decline in injuries after the economic crash of 2008, Americans have since returned to the road en masse. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) projected that 2016 traffic fatalities would be at least eight percent higher than 2015 fatalities (which were, in turn, 7 percent higher than 2014 fatalities).

The Oregon Department of Transportation reports there were more than 55,000 crashes in the state in 2015, with 410 of those being fatal – a 27 percent increase compared to the year before.

When crashes do occur, injury victims have important legal rights which must be protected after any Portland car accident.

The New Safety Features

There are many new safety features available, including (but not limited to):

  • automatic emergency braking
  • forward collision warning
  • blind spot warning
  • rear cross traffic warning
  • rear automatic emergency braking
  • lane keeping assist
  • lane centering assist and
  • adaptive cruise control.

Unfortunately, it takes years of data and a robust body of research to accurately determine the effectiveness of such features. The example of lane departure system research shows the difficulty in analyzing the available research.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently published a study which found that lane departure systems decreased the risk of single vehicle, sideswipe, and head-on collisions by eleven percent. Injury rates in these collisions was reduced by twenty-one percent with the presence of lane departure technology. Conversely, Jalopnik reported on one study that found crashes to increase in vehicles with lane departure warning systems. This does not mean there was fault with either study. Like all statistical data, it requires a vast body of consistent results to draw accurate conclusions. Until there is a more extensive body of data, consumers are advised to carefully research and identify safety features which are best suited to their personal driving habits.

Automated Safety Features For Your Smartphone

In recent years, distracted driving has become one of the most common factors in auto accident fatalities. Mobile phone manufacturers are attempting to address this problem by improving and enhancing “do not disturb” features on smartphones.

As usual, Apple has been leading the pack with regard to this trend. Business Insider reports that the iOS 11 operating system for iPhone – due for release in late 2017 – will include a comprehensive “do not disturb while driving” function. This function will automatically detect when a user is driving and engage itself. The user receives no notifications and cannot access the home screen until he or she stops driving. The user can override this setting by following a series of prompts. While this override feature is necessary in the event a user is the passenger (not driver) of a vehicle, it leaves open the concerning possibility that users can override the feature and use a fully accessible smartphone while driving.

The fact remains that no vehicle or mobile device safety feature can prevent all car accidents. Drivers must accept personal responsibility for safe driving habits. Automated technologies also raise complicated legal questions of liability. Now, more than ever, it is important for injury victims to consult an experienced Portland auto accident attorney to protect their legal rights.

Deadly Crash in Portland Triple for Teen Drivers Compared to Adults

Most teen drivers eagerly await their chance to venture out in a vehicle on their own. With that, of course, comes enormous responsibility, given the grave potential for serious injury and death. A new study by AAA further underscores that point, revealing 16-and-17-year-old motorists were three times more likely to be involved in a deadly auto accident than older drivers. Teen driving risks

As the school season begins, parents must remain ever-vigilant in keeping a watchful eye on teen drivers, doing all they can to discuss the dangers and monitor problematic or risky driving habits, such as distraction, carelessness and impairment.

Victims of negligent teen drivers will likely seek damages from the bodily injury liability policy purchased by the young motorist’s parents. If that is inadequate, they may pursue coverage from their own uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage insurance carrier.

The Oregon Graduated Driver’s Licensing Program

Like many states, Oregon has implemented a graduated program for teen drivers to obtain driving privileges. According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, this occurs in three phases:

  • Teens may first obtain a provisional instruction permit at the age of fifteen. Permit holders may only drive when accompanied by a licensed driver over the age of twenty-one who is sitting beside the permit holder. Mobile devices may not be used by permit holders while driving.
  • After a permit holder has completed one hundred hours of supervised driving (or fifty hours plus a driver’s education course), he or she may take a driving test to apply for a provisional driver license. This test may be scheduled up to thirty days before a permit holder’s sixteenth birthday. Provisional license holders may not operate mobile devices while driving until they are eighteen years old. For the first six months of holding a provisional license, a driver may not drive with a passenger under the age of twenty who is not a member of his or her immediate family. For the next six months, the provisional license holder is prohibited from carrying more than three passengers under the age of twenty who are not members of the driver’s immediate family. Provisional license holders are also prohibited from driving between midnight and five a.m. with limited exceptions.
  • At the age of eighteen, a driver may apply for full driving privileges.

Keeping Your Teen Driver Safe

  • Ensure your teen has practical driving experience before driving in areas of heavy traffic. Practice driving in open, low-stress environments such as empty parking lots.
  • Enact and enforce clear rules about distractions in the vehicle. Most teens have smartphones, and these devices distract even the most experienced drivers from conditions in the roadway. Teens should only be allowed to use smartphones while driving in the event of an emergency. Apps such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter should be entirely banned while driving.
  • Smartphones are not the only driving distractions faced by teens: passengers pose a serious risk to driving safety. Consider the rules which will best protect your teen driver when passengers are in the vehicle. These rules may exceed those laws enacted by the state in the graduated driver’s licensing program.
  • Teach your teen driver to be particularly cautious in and around their high school. High schools have high concentrations of young, inexperienced drivers. Teen drivers should be prepared to respond to erratic movements, pedestrians, heavy traffic, and other hazards they will face at their school.

If your teen has been injured in an auto accident, he or she has legal rights which must be protected. Contact a Portland auto accident attorney as soon as possible.

Do Not Disturb Features Do Not Protect Portland Drivers from Injury

Drivers across Oregon are succumbing to a national trend of driving while distracted. Eating, drinking, attending to pets or children—there are some many things that can divert a driver’s attention from the road. Lately, technology has become an increasingly widespread problem for drivers. Navigation and entertainment systems in vehicles contribute to this problem, but the most obvious culprit is the ubiquitous smart phone.Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer

Mobile phone manufacturers are attempting to address this problem by improving and enhancing “do not disturb” features on smart phones. Apple has been at the head of this trend. Business Insider reports that the iOS 11 operating system for iPhone—due for release in late 2017—will include a comprehensive “do not disturb while driving” function. This function will detect when a user is driving and automatically engage itself. The user receives no notifications and cannot access the home screen until he or she stops driving. The user can override this setting by following a series of prompts. While this override feature is necessary in the event that a user is the passenger in a vehicle, it leaves open the possibility that drivers can override the feature and still be able to use their smart phones while driving.

Who is Responsible for Distracted Driving?

Do Not Disturb features raise a broader discussion into the issue of distracted driving. Distracted driving is responsible for thousands of deaths and injuries every year. In fact, Apple’s move to introduce the comprehensive function for iOS 11 comes after it was sued for failing to include such features in earlier versions. According to the Guardian, Bethany and James Modisette sued Apple for the wrongful death of their five-year-old daughter, who was killed in a car accident by a driver using FaceTime while driving. The Modisettes alleged that Apple held patents on technology to lock out iPhone functions while driving, but had failed to implement them in their products, thus contributing to their daughter’s death.

While the implementation of Do Not Disturb features can certainly help target the problem, each individual driver must accept personal responsibility for practicing safe driving habits. No technology can completely eradicate the dangers of distracted driving. No Do Not Disturb feature can be forcefully implemented in every driving situation. Only a personal commitment to avoiding distractions can prevent someone from becoming distracted. Passengers should speak up when they notice their driver is becoming distracted. Parents should enforce specific guidelines for their teen drivers, whose inexperience makes distracted driving particularly dangerous.

Just a few weeks ago, lawmakers in Oregon passed a strict new hands-free law that prohibits all drivers from touching their phones—or any electronic mobile device—while operating a motor vehicle. House Bill 2597 was approved by both the House and Senate and is expected to be signed by the governor. Language in the new statute will make it easier to cite and convict drivers of distraction. Historically, many such cases have been dismissed because the law requires police officers to actually see your fingers moving or your mouth talking into the phone in order to issue a citation. A one-time citation can be erased from your record by taking a safe driving course. However, if you are cited twice in 10 years, you face a maximum fine of $2,000. A third time citation will be accompanied by that same maximum fine, but also possible jail time.

Car accident victims throughout Oregon and Washington trust the attorneys at Zbinden & Curtis to secure full and fair compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident due to distracted driving or any other form of negligence. Zbinden & Curtis protects victims and holds negligent drivers responsible so that the roads of Portland are safer for everyone.

Oregon Summer Travel Raises Risk Of Portland Car Accidents

Portland has become a destination for travelers from around the country – and even across the world. Visitors spend an estimated $10.8 billion annually – up 66 percent since 2003. And while this has been fantastic for our economy, it’s been taxing on our roads. The state reports that fatal crashes rose 28 percent just from 2014 to 2015, and non-fatal injury crashes have increased more than 18 percent.

Visitors are not necessarily to blame for this, but the fact is, more cars on the road means more risk of a car accident. AAA reports more than one-third of Americans are planning to take a family vacation this year, and most of those are taking place in the summer.

Summer Travel Dangers

For those preparing to head out on summer road trips, common risk factors on the road include:

  • Distracted driving.
  • Commercial trucks.
  • Fatigued driving.
  • Congested highways.
  • Speeding drivers.
  • Impaired drivers.
  • Unfamiliar roads/ conditions.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that summer has a disproportionate number of traffic fatalities as compared to other months. This is especially true for children.

For example, while the average number of traffic accident deaths in June, July and August is 3,198, the average for the rest of the year is 2,833. This number is nearly 13 percent higher.

When we look just at deaths involving children under 13 (who are more likely to be traveling or on vacation during the summer months, when school is out), the difference is even more stark. While the summer months have an average of 100 traffic deaths, the other months have an average of 71. That’s a difference of 41 percent.

Portland car accident lawyers recognize that when out-of-town visitors are involved in crashes, there are complications local claimants may not face. In general, your insurance should extend coverage to you no matter where the crash occurs. However, there are sometimes logistical challenges that can make the process more challenging. That can include everything from where you will stay the night of a crash (if your car isn’t drivable) to returning to town for depositions, independent medical exams and court hearings.

Beyond that, the auto insurance laws in your own state could differ from the provisions in Oregon, leaving you potentially unprotected – or not as protected as you may have anticipated.

Oregon Auto Insurance Laws

Oregon is a “fault” state when it comes to liability for crashes, which means the driver who caused the crash is liable (legally responsible) to cover the damages. However, Oregon is also somewhat unique in that all car insurance policies sold in the state must also include personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which covers the policyholder and other insureds regardless of who was at-fault.

PIP requirements are standard in no-fault states, but Oregon is unique as a “fault” state that requires this no-fault provision. Still, unlike many “no-fault” states, the PIP requirement doesn’t prevent injured victims from suing the at-fault driver for compensation of losses such as medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. There is no threshold of injury or expenses the victim must incur or suffer before filing a claim against the responsible party.

PIP covers all necessary medical, hospital, dental, ambulance or prosthetic services within one year of the date of the person’s injury – up to $15,000 total.

If you have questions about your car accident claim, our dedicated car accident attorneys in Portland can help.

Portland Car Accidents Spurred by Aggressive Drivers

Most of us are guilty at some point of aggressive driving, sometimes without even realizing it. But some drivers allow their anger to get the best of them and take driving aggressively to a whole new level, described colloquially as “road rage”. Road rage can result in shocking levels of violence that sometimes end up splashed across news headlines.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports more than half of all fatal car accidents are the result of aggressive driving, which may include:

  • Driving too close to another vehicle to compel them to speed up or move over (tailgating);Car Accident Lawyers Portland
  • Making an angry gesture at another driver;
  • Yelling at another driver;
  • Blocking other drivers from changing lanes;
  • Purposely cutting off other vehicles;
  • Honking horn to show anger or annoyance;
  • Bumping or ramming another vehicle on purpose;
  • Speeding;
  • Failure to yield or stop for a traffic sign or signal.

Our Portland car accident attorneys are committed to fighting for the rights of those who are injured by aggressive drivers, as well as those who take their inappropriate rage out on other innocent motorists.

A recent analysis by non-profit journalism outlet The Trace revealed the number of road rage incidents involving a firearm more than doubled in the last three years, totaling 620 incidents in 2016. Over the course of the study period, 354 people were injured and 136 people died in these road rage incidents. Most of these cases appear to be disputes among strangers.

It can be difficult to obtain damages in these types of cases, because most auto insurance policies contain exclusions for injuries inflicted by an intentional act of violence, as opposed to an accident. One could still potentially seek damages from the individual, but recovering those damages will depend on the extent of his or her personal assets.

Those kinds of incidents are still in the minority in terms of car accidents. Most crashes will be the result of some form of aggressive driving.

The AAA Foundation reported that more than 78 percent of drivers admitted to having engaged in at least one of the aggressive driving behaviors examined in the last year. Half had tailgated another driver. Forty-six percent had yelled at another driver, a quarter intentionally blocked another vehicle from changing lanes, and 12 percent intentionally cut off another vehicle. Only about 4 percent exited their vehicle to confront another driver.

A significant percentage of drivers say they engaged in these behaviors fairly regularly.

In order to prove negligence, our injury lawyers will need to show:

  • At-fault driver owed a duty of care (to operate vehicle in a safe manner);
  • That duty of care was breached;
  • This breach of duty proximately caused the accident;
  • The accident caused our client injuries.

Oregon is considered a “fault plus PIP” insurance system. It’s a hybrid between the “fault” and “no-fault” auto insurance system. Personal Injury Protection insurance covers a portion of one’s own injuries — up to a certain limit — in the first year after the crash. However, unlike most no-fault states, the law in Oregon doesn’t prevent injured motorists or passengers from filing a lawsuit against another driver before exhausting PIP limits.

To get a better understanding of your legal rights after a Portland traffic accident, contact our experienced injury attorneys.

Portland, OR Accident Risks are Greater for Young Adult Drivers

Young people are the highest risk drivers on the road. You might be surprised to find out it is not necessarily the newly-licensed drivers who are posing the greatest risk of a car crash. It is the group between the ages of 19 and 24 that is flouting the law and their duty to use reasonable care behind the wheel. This troubling information on the irresponsible driving behaviors of this age group Younger drivers pose a greater car accident riskcomes from a new survey conducted by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Young Adult Drivers Engage in High-Risk Driving Behaviors

Three of the most dangerous behaviors on U.S. roads involve driving while distracted, running red lights, and speeding. AAA Foundation found young adults ages 19 to 24 were more likely than any other age groups to engage in each of these dangerous behaviors. When asked if they had done any of these three things in the prior 12 months, 88.4 percent of drivers aged 19 to 24 said they had, compared with just 69.3 percent of drivers ages 16 to 18.

Texting and driving was a big problem for young motorists ages 19 to 24. Study authors reported 66.1 percent of these drivers said they had either read a text or an email while behind the wheel, compared to 40.2 percent of drivers overall who had read an email or a text. Sending texts or email was an even bigger issue. Drivers 19 to 24 were about twice as likely as other motorists to admit they’d typed up text or email communications while driving. Just 31.4 percent of all drivers had done this, compared with 59.3 percent of drivers 19 to 24.

Speeding 10 mph or more over the speed limit was another behavior drivers 19 to 24 were more likely to engage in. Five percent of all drivers thought it was fine to exceed the speed limit in a residential area by at least 10 miles per hour. Meanwhile, among drivers 19 to 24, twelve percent found this to be OK. Since young millennial drivers were more likely to find speeding acceptable, it should come as no surprise they were 1.4 times as likely to go this fast as compared with other drivers.

Finally, while just 36 percent of all drivers admitted to running a red light, almost 50 percent of motorists ages 19 to 24 said they had gone through a light shortly after it turned red, even though they could have stopped.

Young drivers need to know how unacceptable and dangerous these behaviors are. Addressing these issues effectively will likely involve some combination of approaches, including increased law enforcement and ongoing education. We don’t want more young motorists to learn the hard way how deadly these kinds of careless actions can be.

Trucker’s Increase in Opioid Use Increasing Accident Risks in Portland

Opioid use has hit epidemic levels throughout the United States. Since 1999, the number of deaths due to opioid use have quadrupled, according to Health and Human Services. More than 165,000 people have been killed by opioid overdose since 1999, and opioid overdose is rapidly moving up the list as a leading cause of death. According to HHS, 2014 had the highest number of deaths because of drug overdose since the time when records started to be first kept on this cause of death. Truck Accident Risks

Approximately six out of 10 of the drug overdoses that occurred in 2014 were caused by opioids, according to HHS. The term “opioids” refers to heroin and prescription drugs like fentanyl and oxycodone.

Those who use opioids are not just endangering themselves by putting themselves at risk for overdoses. Some opioid users hold jobs where they must be alert, but opioids undermined their abilities. For example, when truck drivers use opioids, they could cause a collision that could cause serious injury or even death for the victims.

There are growing concerns about how the rise of opioids will effect safety as truck drivers begin using opioids in increasing numbers, along with others caught up in the opioid epidemic.

Because of the concerns about escalating risks of drug use among professional truck drivers, Trucks.com reports that some industry carriers actually want to change the way that trucking industry employees undergo drug screenings. The carriers want to use hair tests to check for signs of substance abuse, rather than continuing to use the current method of urine testing. Carriers believe switching to a hair test could help to identify cases of substance abuse that might otherwise go unnoticed.

The concern about trucker drug use is not an unfounded one, as Reuters reported back in 2013 that there was a major drug problem among truck drivers. Reuters showed how drivers were using drugs to try to be deal with the realities of their job. For example, some drivers were taking cocaine or other similar drugs to drive for longer and stay away for longer. Around 20 percent of truckers who had been surveyed admitted to marijuana use, according to Reuters, and one study showed 12.5 percent of truckers testifying positive for alcohol.

Opioids can also be justified as necessary by drivers who have a prescription for opioid-based pain medicine. Driving while under the influence of opioids is dangerous regardless of whether or not the driver holds a prescription. Getting a prescription for these types of drugs can often lead to dependency, which means the potential for more truck collisions to occur.

Who’s Responsible for Car Accidents Involving Self-Driving Cars? Investigators Explain

Remote Sensing System of Vehicle, front view. smart car, safety car, autonomous car, vector

Car technology continues to move closer to self-driving cars. And with each advancement, the promise of a future free from car accidents seems possible. But what happens when such systems fail? What if a self-driving car causes an accident? Who’s legally responsible for financially compensating accident victims for their damages and injuries?

Such questions came to the forefront recently in response to an investigation of fatal car accident involving a self-driving car. On May 7, an Ohio driver was killed in Florida when his Tesla Model S crashed while being operated using the car’s autopilot system. The car drove in front of a tractor-trailer, which crashed into the car, killing the car’s driver, according to The New York Times.

Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) closed its investigation of last year’s deadly car accident. Investigators ruled the accident was not caused by a defect and that the vehicles did not need to be recalled, according to The Los Angeles Times. Specifically, the NHTSA ruled that the vehicle’s autonomous driving system worked as designed and that the company should not be held responsible for the accident.

However, investigators insisted that vehicle manufacturers need to do a better job explaining to consumers how self-driving cars work so drivers fully understand their responsibilities. Others agreed. “Carmakers have to be clear on what the driver’s responsibility is,” Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst at Autotrader.com, said in an interview with The New York Times. “No car buyer should think there are fully automated vehicles on the market.”

Can car companies be held responsible for self-driving auto accidents?

The NHTSA’s finding seems to let auto makers off the hook for accidents involving self-driving cars. But like other car crashes, not all motor vehicle accidents involving self-driving vehicles are the same. As a result, car companies could potentially be held responsible for future self-driving car accidents, especially if the accidents involve defective product liability claims.

“Not all systems can do all things,” NHTSA spokesman Bryan Thomas said in a recent interview with The New York Times. “There are driving scenarios that automatic emergency braking systems are not designed to address.”

Specifically, Tesla’s self-driving software has been effective at preventing rear-end car accidents, Thomas said. However, situations involving crossing traffic “are beyond the performance capabilities of the system,” Thomas said.

In addition, in the case of last year’s fatal Tesla car accident, investigators determined that the driver “was not paying attention to the road,” The New York Times reported. Tesla has said the accident occurred because the vehicle’s camera “failed to recognize the white truck against a bright sky,” according to The New York Times.

As a result, even though the car’s self-driving system was not found to have been at fault for this accident, the investigation leaves the door open to the possibility of future legal cases involving self-driving car accidents. This means that autopilot systems – and thus their manufacturers – could potentially be held liable for future self-driving car accidents.

What are possible product liability cases involving self-driving cars?

There are many possible scenarios in which a car company could be held responsible for an accident caused by a self-driving car. Such scenarios include:

  • Mechanical defects
  • Computer errors
  • Failing to take hazardous weather conditions into account
  • Failing to educate drivers about how to properly use self-driving car
  • Falsely inflating safety features of self-driving cars
  • Car manufacturers not including features requiring drivers to keep hands on wheel

These are just some of the ways accidents involving self-driving cars could occur. Car accidents can happen any time for a wide range of reasons. And in each case, the person or company responsible for such accidents should be held accountable for their actions. Otherwise, similar accidents could occur in the future. And as our Oregon auto accident attorneys can tell you, no one ever wants to be in a serious motor vehicle accident.

Inaccurate GPS Devices and Portland Accident Risks

Many motorists rely on GPS devices to tell them how to get where they’re going, but the mapping programs sometimes contain inaccurate or incomplete information. If a GPS device directs a motorist to a dangerous area because mistakes were made in the mapping software, they could get hurt or could hurt others. In such a situation, victims may wonder exactly who is to blame for what happened.

Google Maps Navigation on a Samsung S6 smartphoneRisks of Accidents From Inaccurate GPS Devices

GPS devices can help contribute to motor vehicle accidents in many different ways.

Pedestrians getting walking directions from a GPS device could be directed to a high-risk area, like a highway. Motorists who are getting driving directions could be told to take roads that are one-way in the opposing direction, or could be told to drive on a road that abruptly ends or goes into water. Motorists could also be directed to areas where there are at-grade railroad tracks. These are particularly dangerous, with New York Times reporting around 200 annual fatalities happening at areas where there are railroad tracks on the same level as the ground.

If a GPS device directs a motorist to a place that is not safe and an accident happens, injury victims may want to blame the GPS maker for this series of events. In one case, a pedestrian was led to a highway by the Google Maps app on her Blackberry. She was hit by a car and hurt, and she sued Google Maps. She lost the case, with the court holding in Rosenberg v. Harwood that Google didn’t have an obligation to her. The court also indicated it was reluctant to impose what would amount to virtually unlimited liability on Google.

So, if the GPS maker is not responsible, who is? Generally, the driver. In its report on at-grade railroad tracks, the New York Times told the story of one of the fatal accidents that happened at one of these locations. The accident occurred when a tired driver followed GPS directions to an at-grade railroad crossing and proceeded to get his truck stuck on the railroad. The driver left his truck, where a commuter train approached and struck it. The resulting accident killed the train engineer along with 32 other people. The driver of the truck was charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Regardless of what a GPS device says, a motorist still has an obligation to follow the rules of the road and to pay attention to what is going on around him. This includes looking for hazards that could result in accidents. It is not a defense for a driver who causes an accident to claim he had followed the instructions of GPS software. Drivers remain responsible for their own safe driving behavior and can be held accountable to victims if they cause accidents to happen.