Houston Ranks 19th Globally for Traffic Congestion

Skyline of downtown Houston, TX, at night with many cars on the adjacent highway.

Anyone who’s ever driven in Houston knows the challenges the city’s traffic poses on major highways and roads. Key arteries like the Katy Freeway (I-10), the Southwest Freeway (I-69), the North Freeway (I-45), and the West Loop (I-610) are notorious for their heavy traffic and frequent congestion.

While these thoroughfares are essential for commuting and traveling across the city, they also see a high number of car accidents due to traffic congestion. Other notable roads, such as the Hardy Toll Road and the Grand Parkway (TX-99), are also common sites for traffic incidents.

According to a report by INRIX, which the Houston Chronicle referenced in a recent article, Houston has been ranked 19th globally for traffic congestion. This dubious honor highlights the increasing challenges drivers face in the city as they navigate through crowded roads and frequent gridlocks.

The growing problem of traffic congestion in Houston, TX

The INRIX report reveals that overall traffic congestion in Houston is now 1% greater than pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Despite changes in work schedules and commuting habits, the city’s traffic woes continue to grow.

John Bond, a local commuter, told the Houston Chronicle, “I do not know anyone, not a single person, who thinks it is getting better.”

This sentiment echoes the frustration of many Houstonians as they face longer and more unpredictable travel times.

Key findings from the INRIX report

Several key points from the INRIX report highlight the nature and extent of Houston’s traffic issues:

Increased travel time

Houston drivers lost an average of 62 hours to traffic congestion last year, equivalent to over two and a half days of time that could have been spent elsewhere. This congestion costs local drivers approximately $1,082 annually in wasted time and fuel.

Long commutes

Houston ranks high among cities with the longest commuting distances, averaging about 9.5 miles per trip. This is longer than the average commute in New York, Los Angeles, and Boston.

Improved yet persistent congestion

While congestion in early 2023 dropped slightly by 1%, this pales in comparison to the more significant reductions seen in other major global cities like New York and London.

Traffic congestion and car accident claims

Increased congestion often leads to more accidents, ranging from minor fender-benders to severe collisions that result in serious injuries. Here are some common legal issues related to traffic congestion:

Accident liability

With more cars on the road, determining fault in an accident can become more complex. Multiple factors, such as distracted driving, speeding, and road rage, can contribute to collisions when there is a lot of traffic, and in some cases, there may be more than one liable party for a serious wreck.

Injuries and damages

Traffic accidents in congested areas often result in significant injuries, from broken bones and neck injuries to spinal cord damage and traumatic brain injuries. Victims may face long recovery periods, mounting medical bills, lost wages, and other losses related to the crash.

Complex insurance claims

Navigating insurance claims after an accident in a congested area can be challenging. Insurance companies might dispute liability or the extent of damages, and in multi-car pileups, determining fault and pursuing compensation can be challenging for crash victims.

Our Houston car accident lawyers are here to help

Houston’s ranking as the 19th most congested city globally stresses the need for drivers to remain vigilant and practice safe driving habits. However, no matter how careful you may be when behind the wheel, accidents caused by other drivers can still happen.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in Houston, TX, the experienced attorneys at Smith & Hassler are here to protect your rights and aggressively advocate for your best interests. Our dedicated legal team can assist with the following:

Investigating the crash

We conduct thorough investigations to determine the cause of the accident and establish liability.

Handling insurance claims

Our attorneys negotiate with insurance companies to ensure you receive the maximum compensation you deserve for your injuries and other related expenses.

Providing legal representation

If necessary, we are prepared to take your case to court and fight for the justice you deserve.

Our law firm understands what it takes to obtain meaningful results for our clients. For instance, in one case, we obtained $800,000 for a client who suffered back, neck, and shoulder injuries in an intersection accident. Before filing suit, the insurance company’s offer was approximately $45,000.

Shift your case into overdrive and find out how an experienced car accident attorney in Houston, TX, can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Crash Risk for Teen Drivers Spikes During 100 Deadliest Days of Summer

Teenager driver keeps hands on the steering wheel while driving down the road.

Summer typically brings a time of relaxation, with less work and school and more opportunities for vacation. However, the season also comes with a serious risk on the road: more car accidents. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, known as the 100 Deadliest Days, traffic fatalities involving teen drivers sharply increase.

Nationwide statistics reveal the alarming reality of teen driver-related crashes. From 2013 to 2022, 6,700 people lost their lives in summertime crashes involving teen drivers. In 2022 alone, these crashes claimed 707 lives, marking a 10% increase since 2019. Additionally, an average of 2,146 teens are involved in fatal car accidents each year, with 670 of them occurring during the 100 Deadliest Days. As a result, a total average of 744 people die in crashes during this time of year.

Why does the crash risk for teen drivers increase during summer?

During summer, teens have more free time and often drive for longer periods since schools are out. This extra time on the road leads to more opportunities for risky behaviors. Distracted driving becomes a major issue, with teens using phones and carrying multiple passengers. Speeding and running red lights also contribute to the increased danger.

Earlier research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals insights into how passengers influence teen driving safety. When teens drive with only other teen passengers, the fatality rate for all people involved in crashes increases by 51%. On the other hand, having older passengers (age 35 or older) in the car reduces the overall fatality rate by 8%.

How can parents help prevent crashes involving teen drivers?

Parents play an important role in promoting safe driving for their teens. When choosing a driving school, parents should look for one affiliated with a professional association, such as The American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association or The Driving School Association of the Americas. Parents should ensure the chosen school uses a curriculum that meets national standards and covers modern topics, including advanced vehicle technology, sharing the road with vulnerable users, and Slow Down, Move Over laws.

Once teens receive their licenses, parents need to stay actively involved in promoting safe driving behaviors. This includes:

  • Parents should model safe driving to set a strong example for their teens. They should demonstrate good driving habits such as obeying speed limits, avoiding distractions like phone use, and always wearing seatbelts. Teens are likely to mimic the driving behaviors they observe in their parents, so it’s crucial for parents to exhibit safe driving practices.
  • Regular conversations about the dangers of speeding, impaired driving, and distracted driving. Consistent and open communication about the risks associated with unsafe driving behaviors helps reinforce the importance of safe driving. Discuss real-life examples and the potential consequences of speeding, driving under the influence, and using mobile devices while driving.
  • Setting and enforcing specific household driving rules and clear expectations. Establishing household rules such as no texting while driving, adhering to speed limits, and always wearing a seatbelt sets clear expectations for teen drivers. Consistent enforcement of these rules underscores their importance and encourages compliance.
  • Limiting the number of passengers in the car at once. The presence of multiple passengers can be a significant distraction for teen drivers and can increase the likelihood of risky behaviors due to peer pressure. Limiting the number of passengers helps teens stay focused on the road and reduces the potential for accidents.
  • Restricting nighttime driving and setting curfews. Driving at night presents additional challenges, such as reduced visibility and increased fatigue. Setting curfews and limiting nighttime driving can help teens avoid these risks until they gain more experience and confidence on the road.
  • Using tools such as the AAA Parent/Teen Driving Agreement. Such resources provide a structured way to outline expectations and responsibilities. This agreement helps facilitate discussions about safe driving and sets clear guidelines that both teens and parents agree to follow.
  • Teaching the importance of wearing a seatbelt, as buckling significantly reduces the risk of dying in a crash. Emphasize the critical role seatbelts play in saving lives and reducing injuries in the event of an accident. Encourage teens to buckle up and ensure that all passengers do the same. Reinforce that wearing a seatbelt is a non-negotiable rule every time they get into a vehicle.

Seeking legal help after a car accident

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident that was someone else’s fault, it’s important to take action immediately. Don’t let yourself be pushed around by insurance companies or left to handle the aftermath alone.

The experienced Houston car accident attorneys at Smith & Hassler are here to fight for your rights and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. With decades of experience serving clients in Houston, we’re ready to take on your case and maximize the value of your claim.

We build strong legal cases, negotiate with insurance companies, and, when necessary, represent our clients in court. Don’t wait to protect your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation, and let us handle every aspect of your claim while you focus on your recovery.

Texas Launches Motorcycle Safety Campaign: Look Twice, Save Lives

Riding a motorcycle during a vibrant sunset.

A motorcycle is more than just a vehicle; it carries a person with family and friends. Sadly, motorists often don’t think about this, and it shows in the staggering motorcyclist death rate. In 2023, nearly 600 motorcyclists in Texas lost their lives, and over 2,400 were severely injured in crashes. These aren’t just numbers; they represent individual lives and the wide-reaching impact on families and communities across the state.

May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

Motorcycle safety is not just a concern for riders but a critical responsibility for all drivers. With the increasing number of motorcycles on the road and a rise in fatalities and serious injuries, it’s clear that we need to make our roads safer for everyone.

The story of Al Peterson, a Leander resident whose life was nearly cut short in a devastating motorcycle crash, highlights the urgent need for increased awareness and precaution among all road users. Taking an extra moment to watch for motorcycles can be the difference between life and death. It’s not just good road sense—it’s a duty to our fellow human beings.

In May of 2023, Peterson was riding his motorcycle when a car abruptly turned left in front of him. Peterson was hit and thrown 20 yards from his motorcycle and landed with enough force to fracture several ribs, his left leg, and pelvis, along with suffering severe internal injuries.

“…Turns out they didn’t see me. By the time they pulled out in front of me I didn’t have any time to react in any way… I was thrown over the vehicle,” Peterson said, per News Channel 6. “The vehicle [was] parked on top of my leg and was parked there until first responders could come pick the vehicle off my leg.”

The crash not only left Peterson fighting for his life in the hospital but also sent shockwaves through his family. His wife and three children faced the very real possibility of life without him. Peterson’s long road to recovery included multiple surgeries and months of physical therapy. Even now, he continues to deal with the repercussions of the motorcycle accident, both physically and emotionally.

Risks bikers face on Texas roads

Motorcycles present unique challenges on the road due to their smaller size and different dynamics compared to larger vehicles. Motorcycles are harder to spot and can be more difficult for drivers to accurately judge in terms of distance and speed. They can easily fit into the blind spots of other vehicles, particularly large trucks and SUVs. If a driver fails to double-check these blind spots before changing lanes or turning, it significantly increases the risk of collision.

Other common risks motorcyclists face on Texas roads include:

  • Left turns at intersections
  • Sudden lane changes
  • Rear-end collisions
  • Car doors opening
  • Speeding and aggressive driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Failure to yield the right of way

How can Texas drivers help prevent motorcycle accidents?

In response to the alarming rate of motorcycle deaths, TxDOT has launched the safety initiative “Look Twice, Save Lives.” This initiative aims to educate motor vehicle drivers about the dangers motorcyclists face and what they can do to prevent motorcycle accidents. Here are some tips for drivers:

  • Before changing lanes or making turns, check blind spots carefully.
  • Maintain a safe following distance.
  • Use turn signals to give motorcyclists time to react.
  • Look twice at intersections before proceeding, especially when making left turns.
  • Avoid distractions such as texting or adjusting the radio while driving.
  • Allow motorcyclists a full lane width; don’t attempt to share the lane with or squeeze past them.
  • Be patient, as motorcycles may travel at different speeds than cars.

Safety tips for motorcyclists

Motorcyclists can take several measures to enhance their safety on the road:

  • Wear protective gear such as a helmet, gloves, boots, and jackets with armor.
  • Wear brightly colored or reflective clothing to increase visibility, especially during low-light conditions.
  • Use headlights, turn signals, and brake lights to make your intentions clear to other road users.
  • Scan the road for potential hazards, including other vehicles, pedestrians, road debris, and animals.
  • Anticipate the actions of other drivers and be prepared to react to sudden changes in traffic flow.
  • Keep a safe distance from other vehicles to allow for adequate reaction time and braking distance.
  • Avoid riding beyond your abilities, especially in challenging road or weather conditions.
  • Approach intersections cautiously, slow down, and be prepared to yield if necessary.
  • Be mindful of road hazards such as potholes, gravel, oil slicks, and uneven pavement.
  • Regularly inspect and maintain your motorcycle to ensure it’s in good working condition.

The truth about motorcycle wrecks

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car drivers are often found responsible for the majority of motorcycle accidents and fatalities. Furthermore, the National Safety Council reports that 60% of fatal motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle, with the car driver typically being at fault in these instances. In other words, the data shows that motorists in bigger vehicles have a greater responsibility to prevent motorcycle wrecks.

Get a Texas motorcycle accident lawyer who can help you build a strong case

If you were injured in a motorcycle accident in Texas that was not your fault, the attorneys at Smith & Hassler are here to protect your rights and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve. With over 30 years of experience helping injured motorcyclists in Houston, we take pride in advocating for bikers’ rights and holding negligent drivers accountable. To learn more about how we can help with your potential legal case, contact us today for a free, no-obligation case consultation.

Houston Mother Shares Heartbreaking Story Amid Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Driving and texting in car with blue tone

In honor of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, family members who lost loved ones in fatal distracted driving accidents in Texas have been telling their stories to remind the public about the dangers of not focusing on the road and causing serious or fatal collisions.

“Because somebody couldn’t put down their phone, my son and my daughter were killed,” said Dee Estelle in an interview with CW39 Houston News. “They shouldn’t have been. They should be here right now with us.”

Houston mother recalls fatal distracted driving crash

Estelle recently told her story to CW39 Houston News about her children’s deaths due to a distracted driving crash on Dec. 21, 2015. That day, Estelle, her husband, and their three adult children were driving home to Houston after going to see a Christmas light display in Fort Worth. On the way home, a texting driver slammed into the back of their car, going 70 mph.

The impact of the accident killed Estelle’s 19-year-old daughter, Gabbie Estelle, and 23-year-old son, Alex Trejo. “I tell my story, not so you can feel sorry for me,” Estelle said. “I tell my story so people don’t have to have a story to tell. This is what I’m trying to stop. So, from my family to everybody else, phones down — eyes on the road. The life you save just might be your own.”

Distracted driving is a problem in Texas

Distracted driving poses a significant problem across Texas, a reality tragically exemplified by stories like Estelle’s. Each year, thousands of individuals suffer injuries or lose their lives in car accidents caused by distractions behind the wheel, ranging from texting while driving to using GPS devices.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)), nearly one in six car accidents in 2022 originated from distracted driving, resulting in 2,824 serious injuries and 487 fatalities statewide. TxDOT emphasizes that all distractions, whether texting, eating, self-grooming, or conversing, pose significant risks on the road.

Unfortunately, distracted driving incidents have surged in recent years in Texas. The 2022 statistics marked some of the highest numbers of injuries and fatalities related to distracted driving since at least 2017, as highlighted by a study from the Texas Strategic Highway Safety Plan. While 2021 witnessed a higher number of injuries, with 2,932 individuals harmed, 2022 stands out for recording the most distracted driving-related fatalities in the state’s recent history.

Why is distracted driving so dangerous?

When drivers divert their attention away from the road, the results can be catastrophic. Even a momentary lapse in concentration can lead to devastating consequences on the road. This shift in focus can be particularly dangerous given the high speeds at which many vehicles travel. For instance, engaging in tasks like reading or composing a text can cause a driver to take their eyes off the road for approximately 5 seconds. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), during this brief period, a vehicle traveling at 55 mph would have traveled the entire length of a football field without the driver’s attention on the road.

Now, consider the faster speeds permitted on many highways in Houston and across Texas, often ranging from 65 mph to 70 mph. At these speeds, distracted drivers can cover even greater distances than the length of a football field while their focus remains on their phones rather than the road ahead.

Holding negligent drivers accountable

If you or a loved one was injured in a crash involving a distracted driver, it’s crucial to understand your legal rights and options. Seeking guidance from an experienced car accident lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of your case and pursue the maximum compensation you deserve for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

At Smith & Hassler, our attorneys are dedicated to advocating for the rights of those injured due to negligence. Our experienced team has the knowledge, resources, and determination to fight for justice on your behalf.

Shift your case into overdrive and get the Texas law firm that gets results. Contact us today and schedule a free case evaluation. We have four offices conveniently located throughout Texas, including three offices in Houston.

What Are The Symptoms of Brain Damage After a Houston Car Accident?

Graphic of a skeleton holding head in pain from to indicate a brain injury

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), including concussions, are among the most common injuries resulting from car accidents. If you or a loved one has experienced a TBI due to a car crash, the repercussions can be life-altering, with potential short-term or long-term effects.

It’s crucial to promptly seek medical attention to diagnose and address a concussion or TBI. Early medical intervention often improves the chances of recovery. But how do you recognize the signs of a brain injury? What are the red flags indicating a TBI?

Our Houston car accident attorneys at Smith & Hassler provide valuable insights into identifying and addressing traumatic brain injuries.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month

Brain injuries resulting from car crashes are, unfortunately, quite prevalent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 14 percent of all traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are a result of motor vehicle crashes.

This translates to roughly 490,000 brain injuries annually across the nation caused by car wrecks, as estimated by the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA), the organization sponsoring Brain Injury Awareness Month.

Car accidents also consistently rank among the top 5 causes of brain injuries nationwide, according to data from the CDC.

What are common brain injuries?

Brain injuries sustained in car accidents can cover a wide range. Some of the most common brain injuries suffered by crash victims include:

  • Concussions: Often classified as mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs), concussions are among the most frequently occurring brain injuries.
  • Contusion: This type of brain injury involves bruising of the brain tissue.
  • Brain hemorrhage: This refers to bleeding that occurs within or around the brain.
  • Hematoma: Hematomas are blood clots that form within or around the brain.
  • Diffuse axonal injury (DAI): DAI occurs when the brain undergoes twisting or rotational forces, leading to the tearing of brain cells.

Warning signs of brain injury after a car accident

Recognizing the signs of a brain injury following a car accident is crucial for ensuring prompt medical intervention. If you experience any of the following symptoms after a collision, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Dizziness or impaired balance following the accident.
  • Persistent and severe headaches.
  • Sudden changes in mood or behavior.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Ringing in the ears.
  • Sensitivity to bright lights or loud noises.
  • Difficulty with cognitive functions, such as thinking or remembering.
  • Trouble waking up from a deep sleep.

How do doctors diagnose a brain injury?

Diagnosing a brain injury often involves a variety of medical tests and procedures. Among the most common methods are imaging tests like MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays, which allow doctors to visualize any abnormalities in the brain’s structure. Additionally, cognitive assessments are often conducted to evaluate a person’s thinking abilities and motor skills, with a particular focus on speech and eye movements.

In addition to imaging tests and cognitive assessments, doctors may perform neurological examinations to diagnose a brain injury. During these examinations, healthcare professionals evaluate a patient’s reflexes, coordination, strength, and sensation to assess any abnormalities that may indicate a brain injury. Neurological examinations can help doctors determine the severity and location of the injury, as well as guide treatment decisions.

Furthermore, blood tests may be conducted to assess levels of certain biomarkers associated with brain injury, such as proteins released into the bloodstream following damage to brain cells. These biomarkers can provide valuable insights into the extent of brain damage and help healthcare providers monitor patients’ progress over time.

In some cases, doctors may also use specialized diagnostic tools, such as electroencephalography (EEG) or evoked potentials testing, to evaluate brain function and detect any abnormalities in electrical activity. These tests can be particularly useful in identifying subtle changes in brain function that may not be apparent through other diagnostic methods.

Overall, a comprehensive approach to diagnosing a brain injury may involve a combination of medical tests, physical examinations, and neurological assessments to provide an accurate assessment of the patient’s condition and guide appropriate treatment strategies.

Common brain injury medical treatments

When treating brain injuries, the approach can vary based on the severity and specific characteristics of the injury. Here are some common medical treatments:

Emergency Medical Care

In cases of severe or life-threatening brain injuries, immediate emergency medical intervention is crucial. This may involve stabilizing the patient’s condition, controlling bleeding or swelling in the brain, and ensuring proper oxygen supply to the brain tissues.

Brain Surgery

In certain cases, particularly those involving significant trauma or internal bleeding within the brain, surgical intervention may be necessary. Brain surgery aims to repair damaged brain tissue, remove blood clots or hematomas, or relieve pressure on the brain caused by swelling or fluid accumulation.

Hospitalization and Monitoring

Following a brain injury, patients may require hospitalization to be closely observed and monitored. This allows healthcare professionals to monitor vital signs, neurological status, and any changes in symptoms.

Medication Management

Depending on the nature of the brain injury and associated complications, patients may be prescribed various medications to manage symptoms and prevent further complications. These may include anti-seizure medications, pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, or medications to control blood pressure and reduce swelling.

Rehabilitation Therapy

Following the acute phase of treatment, rehabilitation therapy plays a crucial role in promoting recovery and improving functional outcomes for brain injury patients. This may include physical therapy to improve strength, coordination, and mobility, cognitive therapy to address memory, attention, and problem-solving skills, as well as speech therapy to address communication and swallowing difficulties.

Seeking legal help after a brain injury

Claims involving brain injuries often turn into complicated legal cases. That’s because head and brain injuries can have profound and long-lasting effects on the lives of victims, requiring extensive medical treatment, rehabilitation, and ongoing care.

Additionally, determining liability in brain injury cases can be challenging, especially when multiple parties may be responsible for the accident or when there are disputes over the extent of the injuries and their impact on the victim’s life. Insurance companies also often try to minimize payouts for brain injury claims, making it essential for victims to have experienced legal representation to advocate for their rights and pursue fair compensation.

Our Houston car accident lawyers at Smith & Hassler know the games insurance companies often try to play. That’s why we’re here to help. Our attorneys can help gather evidence, consult with medical experts, and build a strong case to seek the compensation you deserve for your losses, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and future care needs.

Contact us and schedule a free case evaluation. We have four offices conveniently located throughout Texas, including three in Houston. Our lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay nothing unless we secure a financial settlement or verdict on your behalf.

FMCSA Speed Limiter Rulemaking Aims for May 2024 Release

three semi trucks drive down the road during sunset.

Could semi-truck speed limiters help prevent commercial truck wrecks?

Federal officials are considering requiring commercial trucks to be equipped with a device that limits how fast semi-trucks can travel in an effort to prevent speed-related truck accidents, according to a recent proposal from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

“The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration now expects to publish its supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) on a motor carrier-based speed limiter mandate in May of this year, according to an updated Significant Rulemaking Report from the Department of Transportation,” reports CCJ Digital, a commercial truck news website.

What is the proposed FMCSA speed limiter mandate?

Since 2022, the FMCSA has been considering requiring commercial trucks that weigh more than 26,001 pounds (which would include most tractor-trailers) to be equipped with a speed-limiting device called an electronic engine control unit (ECU), according to an article published by CDL Life. The new FMCSA rules governing commercial truck speed-limiting devices are slated to be published in May 2024.

The FMCSA has not said what the maximum speed limit would be, if any, for the speed-limiting devices on commercial trucks. However, in September 2023, the FMCSA published a report that listed the maximum speed limit as 68 mph. However, the FMCSA then backtracked to remove a specific speed, CCJ Digital reports.

Many commercial truck drivers strongly oppose installing speed-limiting devices on trucks. “By limiting all trucks it will not improve safety in any meaningful way. In fact, it will most likely have the opposite effect by creating long lines of trucks on the roadways with no easy way to pass,” said one truck driver, according to some of the public comments published by CDL Life.

How common are speed-related tractor-trailer wrecks?

While some commercial truck drivers oppose the FMCSA proposal to install speed limiters on commercial trucks, it’s important to understand how common high-speed accidents involving commercial trucks are across the nation and how such crashes frequently cause severe injuries and death.

According to FMCSA data, speeding is the number one cause of fatal accidents involving large commercial trucks. Specifically, roughly 7 percent of all fatal motor vehicle accidents involving large commercial trucks were due to speeding truck drivers.

Other proposed rule changes

Requiring all large commercial trucks to be equipped with speed-limiting devices isn’t the only proposed rule change being considered by the FMCSA. Other proposed changes to rules governing commercial truck drivers include:

  • Requiring commercial trucks to be equipped with automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems, according to CCJ Digital.
  • Revising the knowledge test for new commercial truck drivers.
  • Changing the FMCSA fitness rules governing commercial truck drivers, which is known in the trucking industry as the FMCSA’s “safety fitness determination” rule, according to CCJ Digital.

Holding negligent truckers accountable

Holding negligent truckers and trucking companies accountable for their actions is essential to ensuring justice for victims of commercial truck accidents. While it may seem straightforward that the at-fault party should cover all accident-related expenses, the reality is often different.

In Texas, where the at-fault car insurance system is in place, many truck accident claims don’t unfold smoothly. Despite being entitled to compensation, injury victims frequently encounter challenges in obtaining the full extent of their rightful compensation. That’s because the stakes are often high in commercial truck accident claims and lawsuits. As such, truck drivers, trucking companies, and their insurance representatives often employ tactics aimed at minimizing or even denying compensation altogether.

At Smith & Hassler, our team of Houston truck accident lawyers understands the injustices that victims face in these situations. We firmly believe that individuals harmed in accidents caused by commercial truck drivers deserve fair and full compensation for their losses. You shouldn’t bear the financial burden of someone else’s mistakes, and we’re here to fight for your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve.

Get the Houston, TX law firm that means business. Contact us and schedule a free case evaluation with a truck accident attorney you can count on in a crisis. We have four offices conveniently located throughout Texas, including three offices in Houston. Our truck accident lawyers also work on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay no fees unless we win your case. Schedule a free case review today to learn more.

Tips to Overcome Bad Driving Habits in 2024

Driver holds soda in one hand and a sandwich in the other while trying to steer the wheel of a car, putting her at risk of a serious car accident.

During this time of year, many people are trying to maintain their New Year’s resolutions. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one of the top priorities on everyone’s list should be actively contributing to preventing car accidents.

So, what’s the most effective way to enhance road safety? It begins with addressing and changing bad driving habits. AAA points out that bad habits, whether it’s texting while driving, speeding, disregarding stop signs, or neglecting to use turn signals, have become ingrained in many drivers. The challenge lies in breaking free from these habits.

To shed light on this issue, let’s explore some of the most common bad driving habits and examine whether they are a concern in Texas. Additionally, we’ll provide some valuable safe driving tips to help drivers change these habits. Our team of Houston car accident attorneys at Smith & Hassler is committed to promoting safer driving practices.

What are the most common dangerous driving habits?

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently released the “2022 Traffic Safety Culture Index.” Based on responses from 2,500 drivers in 2022, the report identifies some of the most common dangerous driving habits, including:

  • Distracted driving – 15 percent of the respondents said they drove distracted within the last 30 days, including texting while driving.
  • Drowsy driving – 9 percent had trouble keeping their eyes open while driving within the past month.
  • Not stopping at a red light – 8 percent of drivers surveyed stated they failed to stop for a red light at least once within the past 30 days.
  • Speeding – 7 percent drove 15 mph over the speed limit on an interstate or 10 mph over the speed limit in a residential area.
  • Aggressive driving – 3 percent of drivers described themselves as aggressive drivers.
  • Drunk driving – 3 percent admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol within the past 30 days.

How safe are drivers in Texas?

Many drivers in Texas have bad habits that often result in serious or fatal car accidents. In fact, according to accident data collected by the Texas Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2021 was a record-setting year for three common bad driving habits.

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol – 1,906 people died in drunk driving accidents that year, the highest drunk driving death toll in the state in at least a decade.
  • Speeding – 1,568 deaths due to speeding, another decade-high record.
  • Not wearing a seatbelt – 1,172 deaths, the highest death toll in more than a decade.

Tips to be a safer driver in 2024

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and our legal team have several suggestions for drivers who want to break bad driving habits this year, including:

  • Minimize distractions: Turn off your cell phone or switch it to “do not disturb” mode before you start driving. Distracted driving, especially due to texting or using a phone, significantly increases the risk of accidents.
  • Obey traffic signals: Make it a habit to come to a complete stop at all red lights and stop signs. Rolling through stop signs or running red lights can lead to dangerous collisions.
  • Plan ahead: If possible, leave a few minutes earlier when heading out so that you’re not in a rush to reach your destination. Rushing can lead to aggressive driving behaviors and reduced attention to road conditions.
  • Never drink and drive: Always have a plan before heading out for the evening, especially if you’ll be drinking. Designate a sober driver, use rideshare services like Uber or Lyft, or rely on public transportation to get home safely.
  • Take regular breaks: When driving long distances, make it a point to take breaks every two hours. This practice helps prevent fatigue and drowsy driving, reducing the risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
  • Avoid eating and drinking while driving: Eating or drinking behind the wheel can divert your attention from the road. It’s safer to consume food and beverages when your vehicle is parked.
  • Drive defensively: Adopt a defensive driving approach, which means being prepared for unexpected situations while driving. Always anticipate that other drivers may make mistakes, and maintain a safe following distance to give yourself time to react to sudden changes in traffic.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, tell them you mean business

Don’t let anyone push you around if you or a loved one has been injured by a negligent driver. Get a Houston car accident lawyer who means business. Get Smith & Hassler. Our dedicated legal team has the knowledge, skills, and experience you need to demand justice after your car crash.

Take command of your case right from the start. Contact us and schedule a free case evaluation with a Houston car accident attorney focused on winning your case. We have four offices conveniently located throughout Texas, including three offices in Houston. In addition, our lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. That means you only have to pay us if we secure a financial settlement or verdict for your car accident injury.

Intersection Accidents Spark Right-on-Red Debate

Houston City Hall building and traffic at night in downtown Houston, Texas

Texas considers ending right turns on red due to spike in crashes

Most states, including Texas, permit right turns at signaled intersections in the absence of oncoming traffic. However, an increase in fatal intersection accidents  – particularly in Houston – has prompted calls to restrict right turns on red lights.

Just this month, Houston has experienced several fatal accidents at intersections, including:

According to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, this optional maneuver always posed a risk but has become more dangerous over time due to the popularity of large trucks and SUVs, which can limit a driver’s visibility. When scanning for gaps in traffic to take a right turn on red, the larger vehicles increase the potential for drivers to miss pedestrians, cyclists, and on-coming vehicles.

Determining who is at fault in a right turn on red accident is often complicated, but an experienced Houston car accident lawyer can guide injured victims successfully through the process.

Who has the right of way in a right-on-red turn?

In Texas, as in many other places, the right of way law says that drivers are allowed to make a right turn after coming to a complete stop, provided that it is safe to do so and there is no conflicting traffic. Here are the key points regarding the right of way for right turns on red lights in Texas:

  • Come to a complete stop. Before making a right turn on red, the driver must come to a complete stop at the stop line or before entering the intersection.
  • Check for traffic. Drivers must ensure that there is no oncoming traffic from the left and that it is safe to make the right turn. This includes checking for pedestrians and bicyclists in the crosswalk.
  • Yield to pedestrians. Pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks – even in intersections with RTOR options.
  • No turn on red signs. Some intersections may have specific signs indicating that right turns on red are not allowed. In such cases, drivers must wait for a green signal.
  • Traffic signal changes. If the traffic signal changes to green while a driver is waiting to make a right turn on red, they should yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians and proceed with caution.

Who is at fault in RTOR accidents?

Fault and liability can be unclear in RTOR accidents, as well. Typically, the turning driver is at fault, but not always. There are many questions to ask and factors to consider, including:

  • Did the crash involve any traffic law violations?
  • Could the driver see the victim, or was their view obstructed?
  • Did the driver fail to gauge the speed and distance of other vehicles?
  • Was the driver impaired?
  • Did they yield to pedestrians and others with the right-of-way?
  • Did the driver safely execute the turn?
  • Did the driver check for oncoming traffic?

An investigation by a car accident attorney with extensive experience handling claims in Texas can help injured victims find answers to these questions. They can interview witnesses and collect important documents and evidence to build a strong claim.

Compensation for intersection accident victims in Houston, TX

In Texas, victims injured in car accidents involving right turns on red lights may have options for financial compensation. When a driver’s negligence leads to such an accident, victims can seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other accident-related expenses.

The experienced car accident attorneys at Smith & Hassler, Attorneys At Law, can investigate the crash, gather evidence, and negotiate aggressively with insurance companies for maximum compensation.

If you were injured in a car accident in Houston or the surrounding community, contact us for a free case evaluation. A member of our team is available 24/7 to hear from you. We can answer your questions, explain your potential legal options, and help you decide how to move forward.

Texas Approves $345 Million for Pedestrian and Bike Safety

Pedestrian signal for crossing street in downtown Houston, TX.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently approved $345 million worth of projects, including bicycle paths and pedestrian walkways, designed to make the state safer for everyone and reduce the number of bicycle and pedestrian accidents in Texas.

“This is a major investment in communities across the state that will help make it safer and easier to get around on foot or a bike,” Texas Transportation Commissioner Robert “Robie” Vaughn said in a statement recently released by TxDOT. “This optionality supports safety, active lifestyles, health and wellness, and can provide alternatives to traveling by vehicle.”

Pedestrian and bicycle projects in Houston, Texas

The $345 million will be spent on 83 projects throughout the state. According to TxDOT officials, “These projects will help improve safety for people walking, biking, or using wheelchairs, including 24 projects that will go in areas with a high pedestrian crash history.”

In the Houston area, such bicycle and pedestrian projects include:

  • Construction of West Loop shared-use path and Bayou Bridge in Harris County, Texas – $18.45 million.
  • Multi-modal path construction in University Asia Town area – $8.87 million.
  • Construction of shared use path in The Woodlands, Texas – $7.47 million.
  • Construction of Emancipation Trail shared use path in La Marque, Texas – $4.5 million.
  • Bicycle lane and sidewalk construction in Angleton, Texas – $4.27 million.
  • Sidewalk construction, traffic signal improvements, and other pedestrian projects in Dickinson, Texas – $2.8 million.
  • Construction of sidewalks and other public safety improvements in Hitchcock, Texas – $2.45 million.
  • Sidewalk improvement project in West Columbia, Texas – $2.26 million.
  • Bicycle transit study in Harris County, Texas – $920,000.
  • Planning study for Improving Safety and Access to White Oak Bayou – $460,000.
  • Pedestrian and bicycle master plan designed to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety in Houston – $368,000.
  • Transportation plan in Clute, Texas – $288,075.

Pedestrian accidents on the rise

One of the driving forces behind these projects is the dramatic increase in the number of pedestrian accidents and fatalities throughout Texas in recent years. Between 2013 and 2022, the number of pedestrian accident deaths in Texas has increased by 72.9 percent, from 480 deaths in 2013 to 830 deaths in 2022, according to accident data collected by TxDOT and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Bicycle accidents are also a problem

Along with pedestrian fatalities, fatal bicycle accidents have increased sharply in the past decade in Texas. Between 2013 and 2022, bicycle accident deaths have increased by a staggering 91.6 percent, from 48 deaths in 2013 to 92 bicycle fatalities in 2022, according to the NHTSA and TxDOT.

“People who walk and bike make up about 1 out of every 5 deaths on roadways here in Texas,” said Texas Transportation Commissioner Alvin New in a recent statement. “These projects will help the state move closer toward the goal of zero deaths by giving people a place to walk and bike separate from traffic.”

Contact a Houston, TX pedestrian accident attorney

An insurance claim involving a cyclist or pedestrian hit by a car might initially seem straightforward. But many times, they become complicated legal cases. That’s because the stakes can be high, and rather than paying injury victims the money they deserve, insurance companies will often do everything they can to reduce or deny injury claims.

Our Houston pedestrian accident lawyers at Smith & Hassler know how to handle insurance companies and can help you every step of the way. We know how to investigate such accidents and what evidence to look for to build a strong legal case. Many insurance companies agree to negotiate in good faith once they see we’re serious about your case. If not, we’re not afraid to file a pedestrian accident lawsuit on your behalf, seeking the compensation you deserve.

Get the law firm that gets results for injured Texans, and schedule a free case evaluation with a Houston pedestrian accident attorney who puts your best interests first. We have four offices conveniently located throughout Texas, including three offices in Houston. We also offer legal representation on a contingency fee basis. That means you pay no fees unless we win your case. Contact us today to learn more about your potential legal options.

Texas Launches ‘Survive the Drive’ Campaign Amidst Alarming Spike in Roadway Deaths

Interstate traffic towards Downtown Houston on a sunny day

AAA Texas and the Insurance Council of Texas are launching a campaign called Survive the Drive to combat a troubling trend on Texas roads that has emerged since the COVID-19 pandemic. Before 2020, Texas drivers were heeding warnings about the dangers of reckless driving. However, when the pandemic began, risky driving behaviors such as speeding, impaired driving, distracted driving, and aggression became more prevalent. As a result, Texas experienced a surge in roadway deaths and serious car accidents.

Roadway deaths spike in Texas

From 2019 to 2022, deaths due to impaired driving increased by over 22%. The Insurance Council of Texas also reported a rise in claims from serious car accidents.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas saw a concerning rise in the fatality rate on its roadways in 2021 alone. That year, the state had 1.58 roadway deaths per hundred million vehicle miles traveled. This marked a 5.45% increase compared to 2020.

The total number of motor vehicle traffic fatalities also increased, with 4,497 recorded in 2021, signifying a significant 15.43% uptick from the 3,896 deaths reported the previous year. Furthermore, 2021 saw 15,769 serious injury crashes in Texas, involving 19,456 individuals who sustained severe injuries.

Contributing factors

According to Rich Johnson, Director of Communications for the Insurance Council of Texas, the increase in population is one contributing factor to the surge in traffic accidents. “We’re getting bigger. We have more people on the roads,” he said in a statement.

Other common factors include:

Safety advocates respond

As a response, Survive the Drive aims to educate Texans about safe driving habits on the road. One important tip is to use rideshares or other transportation alternatives instead of driving impaired. They also advise drivers to put away their phones while driving to minimize texting and other distractions. That can be either in the glovebox, with a passenger, or in the trunk.

The message becomes particularly vital as the days grow shorter during the fall season. Survive the Drive encourages a return to safer, more responsible driving habits to help reverse the trend of increased Texas crashes and fatalities.

Protect your rights if you were injured in a crash

While safety advocates are doing their part to address the growing number of Texas roadway deaths, the problem could persist for years. That’s why it’s important to understand your rights if you or a loved one was hurt in a crash on Texas roads.

The Houston car accident attorneys at Smith & Hassler can be your ally in the pursuit of justice. Our legal team understands the physical, emotional, and financial devastation that you may be going through. We’re committed to holding negligent drivers accountable and fighting to maximize compensation for injured motorists and their families.

To find out how we can help you, contact us online. We would be glad to answer any questions and help you explore your potential legal options during a free consultation.