Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

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The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has announced that it will recognize its 2nd annual “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week” (DDPW) during the week of November 10-16, 2008. The NSF is an independent, science-based, nonprofit health organization of physicians, scientists, researchers and other sleep professionals dedicated to improving public health and safety by achieving a greater understanding of sleep and sleep disorders. The NSF furthers its mission through public education, research and advocacy initiatives. One of these initiatives is “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week” which NSF sponsors to raise public awareness about the dangers of driver fatigue and drowsy driving.

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“Drowsy Driving Prevention Week” was first recognized in November 2007. At that time, NSF launched a new website: www.drowsydriving.org. On that website, readers can find more information about the dangers of drowsy driving and ways to help increase public awareness about this serious national safety problem. That website also features testimonials from victims whose lives have been permanently affected by a drowsy driving or sleep related crash. Moreover, every year during “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week,” NSF plans to release on its drowsydriving.org website an annual survey about progress being made on specific issues related to drowsy driving prevention and law enforcement. Ragland Law Firm, LLP agrees that driver fatigue and drowsy driving is a serious traffic safety concern. Therefore, the firm fully supports the efforts of NSF to raise awareness about this problem through its “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week,” and related education and prevention campaigns.

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Numerous studies have shown that fatigue and/or sleepiness significantly impairs a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Drowsy drivers have slowed reaction times, impaired judgment, diminished motor skills, more difficulty with information processing, and a tendency toward more aggressive driving behaviors. One study performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that compared to drivers who had gotten 8 hours or more of sleep, people who had slept less than 7 hours are twice as likely to cause a motor vehicle accident, and people sleeping less than 5 hours increased the risk of a crash four to five times. Researchers in Australia claim that being awake for 18 hours produced an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and sleep deprivation of 24 hours produced impairment equivalent to that of a drunk driver with a BAC of .10 which is above the legal limit of .08 in Georgia and all across America.
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A new pro-consumer “UM stacking” law has been passed which, beginning January 1, 2009, will allow car and truck accident victims in Georgia to maximize the benefit of any uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage contained within their own auto policy and/or any auto policy applicable to the motor vehicle in which they were traveling if it is not their own vehicle. The stated intent of this new statute passed by the Georgia Senate in March 2008 is “to change the definition of “uninsured motor vehicle” to allow uninsured motorist coverage to be stacked with other available liability coverages.”

On May 14, 2008, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law SB 276 which amends certain parts of O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11 and provides that, effective January 1, 2009, any non-negligent driver or passenger injured in an automobile or trucking accident will have access to both the at-fault driver’s automobile liability coverage, as well as the total amount of UM (uninsured/underinsured motorist) coverage which any injured victims purchased under their own automobile policy (and/or available to them as a passenger while riding in a non-owned car or truck). Under current Georgia law, car and truck accident victims can potentially recoup damages under their own auto policy (and/or the auto policy insuring a non-owned vehicle in which they were traveling at the time of the accident) only to the extent the total amount of UM coverages available to the injured victim exceeds the total amount of the liability coverages available to the at-fault driver. Thus, beginning January 1, 2009, SB 276 changes existing Georgia law by providing that accident victims can potentially recover the full amount of any UM coverage which may apply to them in addition to the amount of automobile liability coverage available to the at-fault driver.

Prior to the passage of SB 276, Georgia remained one of the few states in the Southeast which did not mandate that policyholder’s be allowed access to the full amount of any uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage they had purchased regardless of the amount of liability coverage available to the at-fault driver. After January 1, 2009, insurance companies in this state must allow the “stacking” of an accident victim’s UM coverage as excess insurance over and above the amount of liability coverage insuring the at-fault driver. Currently, twenty-three other states, including Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina, allow the stacking of UM coverages purchased by accident victims.
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