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Atlanta Disabled Vehicle Dangers and the Holidays

A DeKalb County police officer - a 26-year veteran - was recently killed in a hit-and-run accident while on duty, assisting a stranded motorist.
As our Atlanta car accident lawyers mourn alongside the rest of Georgia for this tragedy, we also know that police officers won't be the only ones at risk of such scenarios as we enter the holiday season.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Georgia has more than 6.5 million licensed drivers - with a large number of them planning to be on the road or on their way to the airport in preparation for the holidays. That doesn't include the unlicensed drivers who all too often take to the streets. Either way, there is a great deal of opportunity for cars to break down, and further for fatal accidents to occur as a result when so many people may be imbibing with alcohol to celebrate the holiday.

In 2010, the state reported a total of 1,244 traffic fatalities. That's a slight decline from the year before, when there were 1,292, but it is still far too many.

Among those fatal crashes in 2010, roughly a quarter involved alcohol - and that figure has remained unchanged since 2011. In fact, of the drivers whose blood alcohol level was tested after a fatal crash, 60 percent had been killed, and another 21 percent had been severely injured.

Twenty percent of the time, the people killed in those fatal DUI crashes were passengers and 15 percent of the time, they were pedestrians or bicyclists.

And it's not that Georgia drivers aren't being safe. In fact, the NHTSA reports drivers here had an observed seat belt use rate of nearly 90 percent in 2010. That's higher than a lot of other states throughout the country.

And indeed, the officer who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver recently in DeKalb was doing everything right. He was assisting a stranded motorist on North Hendry Boulevard - coincidentally, a roadside assistance worker. Witnesses said the officer's blue emergency lights could be seen for miles, so it was not as if a passing motorist would have simply not seen what he or she was approaching.

It was on a rural road, where he was struck so hard his gun was knocked out of his holster. The driver never even tapped the brakes.

Days later, police arrested a 43-year-old man from Stockbridge on charges of vehicular homicide, serious injury by vehicle, failure to maintain lane and hit-and-run.

But none of that can bring him back.

If you find yourself stranded in the midst of your holiday travel, here's what AAA recommends you do:

1. Take note of your vehicle's location. Specifically, know where you are in relation to major exits or cross streets and any major landmarks. You may need this information when calling for help.

2. Pull off the road. On most roadways, you should exit onto the far right shoulder as far off as possible while remaining on level ground. If you're on the interstate or a multiple-lane highway with medians, you may consider pulling onto the left shoulder, but make sure you are as far away from traffic as possible.

3. If you get out of your vehicle, proceed carefully and watch for oncoming traffic, particularly at night or bad weather.

4. NEVER stand directly behind or in front of your car. Other motorists might have trouble seeing you and you put yourself at risk of being hurt.

5. Turn on your emergency flashers, especially at night or during bad weather. Raise your vehicle's hood and if you have a brightly-colored scarf, tie it to the antenna or door handle.

6. Place flares or warning triangles to direct oncoming traffic away from your vehicle.

7. Communicate your situation. If you have a cell phone, immediately use it to call for help from inside your vehicle or a safe distance from the vehicle and the road. If you have to ask a stranger for help, do so through a cracked window and request that he or she call for emergency road service.

If you have been injured in a car accident in Macon or Atlanta, contact Gary Martin Hays & Associates at 1-800-898-HAYS.

More Georgia Traffic Accidents Expected as Year-End Holidays Approach

The National Safety Council is reporting more accidents occurred during the first 8 months of this year than during the same period last year. It's a trend that is of particular concern to safety advocates given that the last three months of the year are typically the deadliest on the nation's roads.

A total of 21,560 people were killed through August this year, up 7 percent from last year and 5 percent from 2010. Georgia traffic accidents claimed 761 lives through August this year, compared to the 722 motorists who were killed last year.

Atlanta personal injury attorneys understand an increase in the number of serious and fatal accidents has been expected as the economy continues to recover. More people working means more motorists commuting. And more families on weekend getaways or hard-earned vacations.

But the end of the year is a particularly tragic time for traffic accidents for a number of reasons. Understanding the risks, and discussing them with family, friends and loved ones, can go a long way toward keeping you safe during what should be the most joyous time of the year.

Teen Driving: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was among the organizations that opened October with a push to get teens and parents to better communicate about the importance of safe driving habits. Teens are more likely to die in a car accident than by any other means. Nearly 2,000 teenagers were killed and nearly 200,000 were seriously injured in traffic accidents in 2010. "Immaturity, inexperience, and a penchant for risk-taking are the major reasons for high crash and fatality rates among teen drivers," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "In addition to comprehensive state graduated driver licensing systems and strong bans on teen cell phone use and texting while driving, parents who are involved throughout the learning-to-drive process are vital in creating safe and prepared young drivers."

Pedestrian & Bicycle Accidents:
School is in session and the end to Daylight Savings Time is upon us. Making the afternoon commute at dusk increases accidents risks for everyone, but these risks are particularly acute for bicyclists and pedestrians.

In recent months, safety advocates have grown nearly as concerned about walkers as they are about distracted drivers. Everyone needs to put the smartphones down and concentrate on getting where they are going in as safe a manner as possible.

Drunk Driving: From the beginning of football season, through the year-end holidays, the risk for drunk driving accidents is at its peak. Nationwide, more than 10,000 people are killed in an accident with a drunk driver. That's one death every hour -- making drunk driving a cause of one-third of the nation's fatal accidents.

Few of these accidents are truly accidents. By sticking to safety basics you can help ensure you and your family avoids a tragedy this holiday season.

If you've been injured, call the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates. Call 1-800-898-HAYS for a free consultation.