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Texas Highways Safer Than They Were, Still Potentially Dangerous For Drivers

Though traffic fatality numbers have dropped over the past few years, Texas highways remain dangerous.

Among the latest of traffic fatalities, the survivors of a man from East Texas who died have just filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful death. The suit alleges that a truck driver acted with negligence when he backed up his truck and an attached flat-bed trailer against oncoming traffic, which caused a fatal traffic accident.

The accident happened in November 2012. According to the lawsuit, the driver of a Peterbilt truck which was hauling a flatbed trailer missed a turnoff in Franklin County. The driver continued approximately one mile and then backed up his trailer onto a county road, across oncoming traffic. He was maneuvering in the dark, after sunset, as a way to reverse course and go back the way he came.

The deceased, Dennis Smith, was driving in the lane of travel into which the truck had backed up. Smith crashed his vehicle into the trailer, and died as the result of his injuries.

The lawsuit states that it was difficult to identify the trailer’s location in the dark, as Smith approached. Smith’s surviving spouse, Karen Smith, filed suit both individually and on behalf of the Estate against the truck’s company, Michels Corp.

The Texas Department of Public Safety pursued an investigation of the accident and determined that the following “contributing factors” caused the wreck: the truck had “backed without safety” and that the driver exhibited “inattention.” The driver was charged with negligence, criminally negligent homicide, negligence per se and negligence proximate causation.

Karen Smith now seeks an award of damages for bereavement, grief, mental anguish, loss of consortium, physical pain, loss of service, loss of advice, loss of future financial contributions, loss of society and companionship, and expenses covering the victim’s medical care, his funeral and the burial expenses.

Statistics show that Texas traffic fatalities have decreased by as much as 15 percent since 2006, according to numbers compiled by the Texas Department of Transportation. According to the most recent numbers available, Texas saw 3,028 traffic deaths in 2010out of approximately 234 billion miles of traversed by cars, trucks and motorcycles on Texas roads and highways. That translates to just over 1.25 deaths per 100 million miles driven, compared to 2006, when Texas had an estimated 1.5 deaths per 100 million driven. The rate has fallen every year since 2006.

Still, Texas has higher traffic fatality numbers than most states; nationwide traffic fatalities are just over 1.10 incidents per 100 million miles driven.

John Hale is a personal injury attorney and auto accident lawyer helping injury victims near Dallas Texas. Learn more at

Drowsy Driving Is An Underreported Danger

A study recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has shed new light on the number of “drowsy driving” incidents. “Drowsy driving,” or falling asleep behind the wheel is an underreported and dangerous issue on the roadways.

Because there is no definitive test to determine sleepiness behind the wheel, state reporting relies on driver self-reporting and police estimates. The NHTSA looked at motor vehicle accidents which resulted in fatalities across the U.S. during 2011. There were 29,757 fatal accidents reported; approximately 707 were assumed to be caused at least in part by drowsy driving. The NHTSA estimates that at least 100,000 police-reported crashes every year were caused by driver fatigue, but the real number may be quite higher.

According to a 205 poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of drivers (roughly 168 million people) admitted that they sometimes drive while drowsy, and approximately 103 million people admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel. Thirteen percent of those who admitted to sleeping behind the wheel reported that they did so at least once per month. Eleven million people reported that they had an auto accident or close call due to falling asleep behind the wheel or becoming too tired or sleepy to drive safely.

Sleep or fatigue-related car accidents are highest among adults with young children, late shift workers, and young adult males. Sleep deprivation has been found to greatly increase the risk of an accident; extreme sleepiness can be as dangerous, say researchers, as driving while inebriated. Individuals who sleep six-to-seven hours each night are twice as likely to be in accident as people who sleep eight-or-more hours per night. People who sleep less than five hours a night have a risk of four-to-five times that of individuals who sleep eight hours or more per night. A research study in Australia looked at people who were awake for 24 hours prior to driving and found that their level of fatigue caused them to drive impaired equal to a blood alcohol level of.08, the level considered legally drunk in the U.S.

Drivers may fall asleep at the wheel for as short a time as three or four seconds and not even know they have done so, behavior known as “microsleep.” Drivers who fall asleep at the wheel tend to do so while traveling along long, rural highways while moving at a high rate of speed. Most drowsy driving accidents or near accidents ten to occur between four a.m. and six a.m., between midnight and two a.m., and between 2 o’clock and four o’clock p.m.

Drowsiness while driving affects the reaction time and decision-making skills of the driver. If you or a loved one has been in an accident with a fatigued or drowsy driver, contact the personal injury lawyers at Hale Law Firm.

John Hale is a Waxahachie personal injury attorney and Ellis County personal injury lawyer helping injury victims near Dallas Texas. Learn more at