Every year, Chattanooga gets an average of 2”-4” of snow. That may not sound like a lot, but consider the treacherous mountain passes coming down into the city. That snow could turn into ice.
In 2016, there were around 70 crashes in the same day due to icy conditions according to the Times Free Press. Winter will be coming sooner than you think. This is a good time to start thinking about winterizing your vehicle and remembering the following safety tips to stay safe on the roads in winter weather.
Maintain Your Vehicle
The first thing to do is to keep your vehicle maintained, especially your brakes and tires. Bald tires will make your car harder to stop in wet or icy conditions. Bad brakes make it hard to stop quickly. Both of these can cause an accident that could easily be fatal. If you’ve been neglecting this all summer because of the dry and clear conditions, now is the time to get those repairs done.
Check your windshield wipers and replace them if they are getting worn out. In snowy or rainy conditions, your wipers help you see clearly in front of you. You might also want to put no-freeze fluid in your windshield washer reservoir to help melt snow and ice buildup.
Finally, don’t go out on the road if your windows aren’t clear of snow and ice. Keep an ice scraper in the front of your vehicle.
Practice Cold Weather Driving
Southerners get a lot of hassle from our northern neighbors for their inexperience driving in severe winter weather, but we get enough snow and ice here that knowing how to handle these situations is important.
If you feel your car start to skid, turn your wheel in the direction of the skid. This will force the vehicle’s front tires to drag against the direction you’re going and bring you out of it.
Know what kind of brakes you have. Anti-lock brakes are standard on most vehicles these days. With this kind of braking system, it’s okay to stomp on the brakes to come to a stop. But in older vehicles or ones with a broken ABS sensor, the brakes must be pumped to avoid a lock-out. This is a very dangerous situation where the brakes are applied but won’t slow the car down.
Stopping distances are much further on ice and snow, especially in the passes where the road grade makes stopping distances longer. Don’t be afraid to put a lot of distance between yourself and the car in front of you in dangerous conditions.
Winter weather also means that you should double down on your usual safety procedures. Never drink and drive. Keep a sharp eye out for pedestrians, especially in snowy conditions. And if you plan to go on a long car trip, stop every three hours for a break.
Dennis & King encourages you to practice safe driving during the upcoming winter season. It is one of the most dangerous times of year to be out on the roads. Follow these safety tips and you’ll go a long way to preventing a crash.
It’s a nightmare no injured driver wants to face. Everyone on the road is supposed to have auto insurance to help cover the costs of injuries. The other driver’s insurance company is supposed to provide compensation. But what happens if the other driver doesn’t have insurance? How do you get the money you need to pay for hospital bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, repairing your vehicle, and all the other troubles that go along with a personal injury situation?
Here are the steps you can take:
Get Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
All insurance companies are required to offer you uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. This is the first step in getting your bills paid if you’re injured by someone without insurance. The State of Tennessee requires motorists to carry uninsured motorist coverage. Unless you reject it in writing, there is a good chance that you can just contact your insurance company and invoke this part of your policy to get compensation. Generally, the amount that can be covered with the uninsured motorist coverage is the same amount that’s covered in your standard liability insurance.
If you have to use this insurance, you may have to pay a deductible. Assuming that the other driver was at fault, you can then sue the driver for your deductible amount in small claims court. A personal injury attorney can help you prepare your case if you plan on suing the driver.
Collision coverage covers the costs of vehicle repairs in the event that the other driver cannot pay enough to cover it. It does not cover the costs of any injuries. But if your car is totaled, then collision coverage can help you get the money you need to get a new vehicle. However, collision coverage is an extra purchase for your policy so it will raise your premium to add it.
What if it’s Not Enough?
If you only have the minimum coverage and your injuries are extensive or long-lasting, your coverage may not be enough to deal with all of the costs. In these cases, you may need to turn to the help of a personal injury attorney to sue the responsible party directly. Tennessee is an at-fault state. In other words, if you can prove to the court that the other driver was at fault in the accident, then they will be held responsible.
However, if the other driver isn’t carrying insurance they may not have enough assets to seize through a lawsuit to make it worth your while. A consultation with a personal injury attorney can help you understand your options, as well as help you determine whether or not it would be worth the time and money to file a suit. You have up to one year after the accident for personal injury claims and three years after the accident for property damage claims, so don’t feel like you have to rush this decision. Start with your insurance company first, then contact an attorney.
Hopefully auto accidents are rare occurrences in your life. But nearly everyone will go through an auto accident, large or small, at some point in their life. You need to know what to do, not just for legal purposes, but also for insurance purposes. Here are some tips you need to know to handle the aftermath of an auto accident:
Check for Injuries
If it is possible, pull over to the shoulder of the road to stay out of traffic. Then, check yourself and your passengers for injuries. If it is safe to do so and you are able to, go to the other car and check on the other occupants. Call 911 to report the accident and any injuries that happened. Follow the instructions of the operator.
After administering any necessary first aid, the next step is to exchange information with the driver. You will need their name, phone number, and insurance information. This will allow you to file a claim for the accident. Give them your information as well. Make a note if any of the drivers do not have insurance.
Do not claim that the accident was your fault, or their fault, to the other driver. That’s for the auto insurance people and the courts to determine. Claiming an accident was your fault could jeopardize your claim.
Document the Scene
Take photographs of the scene and the damage to your vehicle. This can serve as evidence for the insurance companies, and any potential court case you might file, about what happened. It will also help the insurance companies make a better estimate of what needs to be covered.
Give a Report
When the officer arrives, give your report of what happened. Be truthful and complete about the facts of the situation. Assuming nothing has happened that would require an arrest, such as a DUI, the officer will give you information that will let you contact the police station for progress on the investigation. The police should also be able to help tow your vehicle, if needed.
Gather Financial Documentation
Once your car is at a mechanic, get an estimate for the repairs. If there were injuries, get an estimate for medical bills as well, if you can. You may wish to call a lawyer at this point. They can advise you on what other documentation you might need to make a strong case to the insurance company.
Call the Insurance Company
Either on your own with good documentation, or with the help of a lawyer, contact the insurance company to report the incident and make a claim to cover the costs. Be prepared for a lot of questions and to file a statement. You might have to wait while the insurance company does their own investigation by calling the other party and the police to get their sides of the story.
When the insurance company comes forward with a settlement offer, your lawyer can help you determine whether or not it is a fair offer. Their first offer isn’t always the best one, but having a lawyer on your side can improve the likelihood that they won’t lowball you. If the offer is really unfair or violates the policy, your lawyer can assist you in fighting the offer in court.
Did you know that distracted driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do on the road? Yes, even more than drunk driving! One day, texting while driving might be as socially unacceptable as drunk driving. But that day hasn’t arrived yet, which is why we’re seeing cases like these:
- Four bus drivers in Knox County have been charged under a new law that prohibits school bus drivers from using electronic devices while on the road. The new law now mandates 30-day jail sentences for people convicted of this crime. Hamilton County was the first test of the law, but that case also involved vehicular homicide charges when six children were killed in the crash.
- You know that solar eclipse coming up soon? TDOT has issued a public service announcement warning people not to stop their cars on the interstate or otherwise interfere with traffic while the eclipse is occurring. They are worried that people will wear eclipse glasses and drive down the roads. They are also expecting a huge increase in traffic volume since Tennessee is within the eclipse totality path.
On a much more serious note, traffic fatalities are up in Chattanooga over last year due to distracted driving. The city has the second highest traffic fatality rate in the state this year. So far this year, 65 traffic deaths have occurred, which is 13 more than this time last year.
What can be done to control distracted driving? These days even our vehicles seem like they’re designed to distract with new touchscreen interfaces and all sorts of connectivity options to our wireless devices. From the individual driver standpoint, there are a lot of things you can do:
- The best thing is to turn off all wireless devices in the vehicle and ask your passengers to do the same. We’ve trained ourselves to feel like we need to respond to every buzz and beep, so shutting a device completely off is the best route. Consider your car like you would a movie theater.
- If you must keep your phone on, use hands-free devices so you’ll never have to pick up your phone to use it. Keep your calls short and to the point. If traffic starts to get heavy, hang up. It’s better to stay safe.
- Don’t eat in the car if you can help it. While it may not be illegal like texting, it is a form of distraction.
- Keep your eyes out for other distracted drivers. Just because you’re safe doesn’t mean that the other drivers around you are!
If you are injured in an accident, any evidence that the other driver was distracted at the time will help your case considerably. The chances that your contributions to a percentage of fault in the crash will be much lower, which means more potential compensation. Likewise, if you’re shown to be distracted before an injury accident, your compensation will be at risk.
Don’t think you can hide it, either. Police are working on ways to detect whether you were using an electronic device prior to a crash. New York is examining a new device they’re calling a “textalyzer” that does just that. It’s still under development, but if it works well and holds up in court, it could create a chilling effect on distracted driving. Ultimately, that makes us all safer.
Have you ever driven down a road and had a motorcycle come up between the lanes? It’s common in California and in several other countries, but it’s not so common here. It looks really dangerous to a driver, but motorcyclists say that this practice, called lane splitting, can actually save lives.
An article from Clarksville Online talks about the practice. Basically, if the traffic is slowed or stopped, it’s very dangerous for motorcyclists. People get quite distracted during traffic jams and put riders at risk. Also, it is hard to start and stop quickly on a motorcycle.
In fact, around 60% of the motorcycle crashes in the country happen in moderate to heavy traffic. This is from the Hurt Report, a comprehensive motorcycle crash study report that is still the best of its kind despite its age. But if riders are able to split lanes, so the theory goes, then they can get out of the way of dangerous slow-moving traffic and clear up spaces for others on the road.
There are other advantages as well, according to proponents. Riders going between lanes are much easier to see in side mirrors rather than moving in and out of a blind spot. Motorcyclists will also be less fatigued from starting and stopping all the time. Also, they will be at less risk for exhaust exposure and heat-related conditions that can injure a biker caught in a traffic jam with no AC. Finally, the chances of a rear-end collision are greatly reduced. Even at low speeds, a collision with a motorcyclist can cause life-long injury or death.
However, as of this writing, lane splitting is only explicitly legal in one state, California. A few others states have pending legislation on it. Tennessee had a bill in 2015 to allow the practice but it died in the legislature. Studies done in California have suggested that motorcyclists who do practice lane splitting, also known as lane sharing or filtering, are at a much lower risk of trauma.
But if it were to happen, American drivers would have to go through an adjustment period. What may be normal practice in other countries (and California) could be a shock to a driver who doesn’t expect to have motorcycles passing them to the left and right between vehicles. Also, not all motorcyclists approve of the practice because it can seem rather dangerous. And there is the chance of some motorcyclists taking unnecessary risks or showing off between the lanes.
Right now, if you are a motorcyclist and got into an accident and you were lane splitting, it would be difficult to achieve a favorable outcome. Lane splitting is prohibited by Tennessee law. If you believe that this is a safe practice, you will need to continue the fight to get the law changed. Until then, please take care when you’re out riding by following these safety tips:
- Always wear full protective gear, including leathers and a helmet, to minimize the risk of injury
- Hydrate yourself well before you get onto the road, and take into account the heat. Carry extra water if necessary.
- Familiarize yourself with the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Pull over if you feel them coming on and seek help.
- Take care in traffic jams to avoid rear-end collisions. If you feel sick from exhaust fumes, try to leave the traffic jam at the earliest opportunity and seek fresh air.
Stay safe while riding, and don’t lane split until it’s legal!