Thursday, February 25, 2016

Marijuana Use And Florida Drivers

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence [1]  confirms that marijuana use leads to impaired drivers:

“Since marijuana is the second most commonly used drug associated with drinking and drugged driving after alcohol, it is important to understand why it is particularly dangerous.  THC, the high producing element in marijuana, affects areas of the brain that control body movements, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment.  Evidence from both real and simulated driving studies indicate that marijuana negatively affects a driver’s attentiveness, perception of time and speed, and ability to draw on information obtained from past experiences.
Research also shows that impairment increases significantly when marijuana use is combined with alcohol. Studies have found that many drivers test positive for alcohol and THC, making it clear that drinking and drugged driving are often linked behaviors.”

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws that specifically target drugged drivers. Almost one-third of states have adopted the per se standard that forbid any presence of a prohibited substance or drug in the driver's body while in control of the vehicle, without any other evidence of impairment. Others have established specific limits for the presence of intoxicating drugs, while still others follow a zero tolerance rule with regards to the presence of intoxicating drugs in a person's system. In the state of Florida, Title XXIII, Chapter 316 of the Florida Statute [2] speaks to drugged driving and provides that it is illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, other drugs, alcohol, or a combination of substances.  Under the influence means that the driver was in physical control of the vehicle while affected by the drug, alcohol, or combination of both, to the extent that the driver’s normal faculties are impaired. The law specifically provides:

Except as provided in paragraph (b), subsection (3), or subsection (4), any person who is convicted of a violation of subsection (1) shall be punished:

1. By a fine of:

a. Not less than $500 or more than $1,000 for a first conviction.
b. Not less than $1,000 or more than $2,000 for a second conviction; and

2. By imprisonment for:

a. Not more than 6 months for a first conviction.
b. Not more than 9 months for a second conviction.

3. For a second conviction, by mandatory placement for a period of at least 1 year, at the convicted person’s sole expense, of an ignition interlock device approved by the department in accordance with Section
316.1938 upon all vehicles that are individually or jointly leased or owned and routinely operated by the convicted person, when the convicted person qualifies for a permanent or restricted license. The installation of such device may not occur before July 1, 2003.

(b)1. Any person who is convicted of a third violation of this section for an offense that occurs within 10 years after a prior conviction for a violation of this section commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s.
775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. In addition, the court shall order the mandatory placement for a period of not less than 2 years, at the convicted person’s sole expense, of an ignition interlock device approved by the department.”

Clearwater Vehicle Accident Lawyers

There is no accepted medical use of marijuana in the state of Florida at the present time which means, under Florida law, it remains illegal to consume marijuana.  In addition to the criminal statutes, which make it illegal for a Clearwater resident to consume marijuana and to drive, there are also safety concerns when an individual attempts to drive while under the influence of marijuana when their attentiveness, balance, and coordination are all affected.  If you are involved in a vehicle accident where the other driver was under the influence of marijuana or other drugs or alcohol, you can best protect your rights and obtain all of the compensation that is due to you, by speaking to a Clearwater automobile accident attorney.  At the Dolman Law Group, our skilled accident attorneys investigate your case and obtain all of the compensation you are owed for your losses. Please call our office at 727-451-6900 today.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 3375
(727) 451-6900


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Drugs Causing Impaired Florida Drivers

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence [1] sets forth many disturbing facts regarding the use of alcohol and drugs by impaired drivers:

·          An estimated 32% of fatal car accidents involve an intoxicated driver or pedestrian. (NHTSA)

·          3,952 fatally injured drivers tested positive for drug involvement. (FARS)

·          Over 1.2 million drivers were arrested in 2011 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. (FBI)

·          Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter of those accidents involve an underage drinking driver. (SAMHSA)

·               On average, two in three people will be involved in a drunk driving accident in their lifetime. (NHTSA)

The 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use [2] by Drivers published by the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speaks to the use of illegal and prescription drugs and impaired driving:

In this study, for marijuana, we tested only for THC (delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive substance in marijuana, and 11-OH-THC, its active metabolite. When marijuana is smoked or ingested, THC is absorbed into the blood stream and is distributed into areas of the body, including the brain. There are over 100 marijuana metabolites detectable in blood that research has not associated with the psychoactive effects of marijuana use.”
“[E]ven as drinking and driving continues to fall, use of illegal drugs or medicines that can affect road safety is climbing. The number of weekend nighttime drivers with evidence of drugs in their system climbed from 16.3 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2014. The number of drivers with marijuana in their system grew by nearly 50 percent.”
With regard to drug use, both illegal and prescription drugs, the study found that 22.4 percent of those participating in the study tested positive for drugs during weekday daytime hours and that 22.5 percent of those in the study tested positive for weekend nighttime drug use.  The study further found that the prevalence of illegal drug use increased from daytime to nighttime, with 12.1percent testing positive for illegal drug use during weekday daytime hours increasing to 15.2 percent testing positive during weekend nighttime hours. 
Drugged Driving

The National Institute on Drug Abuse [3] provides that the effects of specific drugs differ depending on how they act in the brain. For example, marijuana can slow reaction time, impair judgment of time and distance, and decrease motor coordination. Drivers who have used cocaine or methamphetamine can be aggressive and reckless when driving. Certain kinds of sedatives, called benzodiazepines, can cause dizziness and drowsiness, which can lead to accidents.  Further, research studies have shown negative effects of marijuana on drivers, including an increase in lane weaving and poor reaction time and attention to the road. Use of alcohol with marijuana makes drivers more impaired, causing even more lane weaving and increased impaired driving.  That Institute further states:

A 2010 nationwide study of fatal crashes found that 46.5 percent of drivers who tested positive for drugs had used a prescription drug, 36.9 percent had used marijuana, and 9.8 percent had used cocaine. The most common prescription drugs found were (Wilson, 2010):

                alprazolam (Xanax®)—12.1 percent
                hydrocodone (Vicodin®)—11.1 percent
                oxycodone (OxyContin®)—10.2 percent
                diazepam (Valium®)—8.4 percent

Clearwater Automobile Accident Lawyers

Clearwater drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, whether as a result of prescription drug use and/or illegal drugs.  Many prescription drugs even specify that the patient must avoid or use extra precautions in operating a motor vehicle.  If you are taking prescription drugs or have even used illegal drugs, it is important not to drive a motor vehicle until the effects of the drugs are gone.  If you are involved in an automobile accident that included an impaired or drugged driver, it is critical to speak to a Clearwater automobile accident attorney.  At the Dolman Law Group, our skilled accident attorneys can help you receive all of the compensation to which you are entitled. Please call our office at 727-451-6900 today.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 3375
(727) 451-6900


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Become a Better Clearwater Driver In 2016

It is only February, 2016.  If you did not make a New Year’s resolution, maybe you should consider making one to become a better Clearwater driver in 2016.  To do that, here is what you need to know about Florida automobile accident statistics, how you can improve your driving, and what to do if you are ever involved in an auto accident in Clearwater.  And, if you resolve to become a better driver, you may save the life of someone else or even your own life. 

The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles [1] provides that in 2015 there were 372,208 automobile accidents, with 2,817 traffic fatalities and total injuries of 242,393.  In Pinellas County alone, there were 19,004 automobile accidents, including 101 traffic fatalities and 10,957 total injuries. 

There are many serious injuries that an individual can sustain in an automobile accident including, but not limited to:

·      Back and neck injuries
·      Spinal cord and spinal column injuries
·      Broken bones or fractures
·      External injuries
·      Internal bleeding
·      Traumatic brain injuries or concussions

Most of these injuries are preventable because the majority of automobile accidents are preventable.  A New Year’s resolution to become a better Clearwater driver may become a big part of the over solution. 

Learn Safe Driving Habits

Here are a few safe driving habits that are important to improve your safe driving habits:

1.    Do Not Drive Distracted:  There are many potential distractions for a driver including a cellular telephone, the radio, children in the backseat, trying to eat while driving and even a cup of coffee.  Focusing on the task of driving is necessary for overall driving safety.  In 2013, there were 3,143 individuals killed [2] in automobile accidents involving a distracted driver. 

2.    Be Patient:  Driving without patience can be a cause of accidents whether it involves failing to wait for a red light, failing to wait to turn or speeding.  Learning to leave early and to drive with patience can lead to safer driving habits.

3.    Allow a Safe Distance:  It is important to leave sufficient space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you.  AARP [3] recommends the following for creating a safe space:  When the vehicle ahead passes a fixed object, start counting seconds until you pass the same spot or reference point.  Allow three seconds when you are driving a car or van and three seconds for a truck.  Even more time is necessary for a tractor trailer.

4.    Make Safe Turns:  AARP also recommends making safe turns.
o   Right Turns:  Start close to the curb and do not drive wide to the left. 

o   Left Turns:  Do not make your turn too short.  Pull far enough into the intersection to make a proper, safe turn.  If the traffic situation does not permit an immediate safe turn, do not turn your front wheels while waiting.  If the wheels of a vehicle are turned and the vehicle is struck from behind, the automobile will be pushed into oncoming traffic. 

o   Communicate:  When making turns, be sure to communicate your intentions through the use of signals.  

5.    Backing Up: Backing up a vehicle can be dangerous even for a safe driver.  Use mirrors and, where necessary, get out and check the area you are backing into for dangers such as potholes, poles, signs and pedestrians.  It is also important to watch for overhead obstructions, such as utility wires, signs or overhangs. 

Clearwater Lawyers for Automobile Accident Victims

Driving safely can reduce your risk of being involved in an accident with injuries, can prevent a traffic citation from being issued and may assist to keep your insurance premiums lower.  Even a safe driver can still be involved in an automobile accident, however.  If you are involved in an accident and your are harmed as a result, it is important to speak to a Clearwater automobile accident lawyer.  The attorneys at the Dolman Law Group can review your case, assist with the filing of claims or in dealing with insurance companies and, where appropriate, to file a lawsuit on your behalf.   Please call our office at 727-451-6900 today.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 3375
(727) 451-6900


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Clearwater Bicycle Accidents

The Florida Pedestrian and Bicycle Strategic Safety Plan, prepared by The Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of Southern Florida, the 2011 Florida pedestrian fatality rates were nearly double the national average and bicycle fatality rates were nearly triple the national average. Based on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Traffic Safety Facts reports, Florida had the highest pedestrian fatality rate among all states in 2011, 2.60 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 persons. While the Florida pedestrian fatality rate declined slightly in 2011 compared to 2010, the bicycle fatality rate increased from 0.40 fatalities per 100,000 persons, to 0.63.  Further, Florida represented six percent of the U.S. population in 2011 but accounted for 11 percent of all U.S. pedestrian fatalities and 17.4 percent of all U.S. bicycle fatalities [1].

Between 2007 and 2011, there were 532 bicycle fatality crashes on Florida roads and highways, and 21,935 bicycle injuries. The top ten counties in Florida with the highest number of bicycle fatalities and injuries during this time period were as follows: Broward, Miami-Dade, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Orange, Duval, Palm Beach, Pasco, Lee, and Alachua. These counties represented 62 percent of bicycle fatalities and injuries in Florida from 2007 through 2011. 

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Strategic Safety Plan suggests that alcohol plays a key role in both pedestrian and bicycle accidents:

“Alcohol impairment is a contributing factor to pedestrian and bicycle crashes in Florida. Based on the Florida Traffic Crash Statistics Reports, the crash rates for Florida residents involving impaired driving, impaired operation of motor vehicles by persons under 34 years of age is a very serious problem.   Further, according to the impaired driving data by county analysis from the FDOT, the total numbers of pedestrian fatalities, injuries, and crashes caused by impaired driving from 2009 to 2011 were 336, 778, and 924, respectively. Alcohol consumption by pedestrians is also recognized as a significant contributor to pedestrian crashes. Based on the Florida DHSMV 2008-2010 data, approximately ten percent of all pedestrians involved in crashes had been impaired. Alcohol consumption by bicycles [2] is also a problem in bicycle crashes according to the 2010 Florida DHSMV data. In 2010, 6.43 percent of all bicycles in crashes had been impaired.”

Bicyclists must take precautions

Spring is almost here making it a good time for bicyclists and pedestrians alike to begin to take extra precautions.  With the warmer weather of spring, there will be even more bicyclists which, in turn, leads to an increase in vehicle versus bicycle accidents.  

Even in a minor collision, the bicyclist is in danger and susceptible to serious harm and injury.

For those who are driving, it is important to know and understand the laws that protect bicyclists:  

·      Right to a lane:  In all fifty states, a bicycle has the right to a full lane on the road and a motor vehicle is not allowed to prevent a bicyclist a full lane. 

·      Sidewalk driving can be dangerous:  Statistically, cycling on the sidewalk is the most dangerous as it involves crossing driveways.  If you are a motor vehicle driver it is important to always double check for bicycles and pedestrians when leaving out a driveway. 

·      Traffic signs:  Bicyclists must observe traffic signs and signals like a motor vehicle. 

·      Florida law:  In the state of Florida, Title XXIII, chapter 316 discusses bicycle law and specifically refers to the requirement that bicycle drivers and passengers under the age of 16 required to wear a helmet [3].

Clearwater Bicycle and Pedestrian Accident Lawyers

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center [4] provides that in 2013, 4,735 people were killed in pedestrian/motor vehicle crashes, more than 12 people every day of the year.  Additionally, 743 people died in bicycle/motor vehicle accidents every day which is nearly two people every day of the year.  The approximate amount of bicycle/motor vehicle accidents totals 48,000 annually.  These statistics remind us that both the pedestrian/bicyclist as well as the motor vehicle operator must take precautions.   
If you were involved in a bicycle accident, it is important to speak to a Clearwater bicycle accident attorney.  At the Dolman Law Group, our skilled accident attorneys investigate your case and protect your rights under Florida law. Please call our office at 727-451-6900 today.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 3375
(727) 451-6900