Archive for June, 2018

Hours of Service Laws: What Every Truck Driver Needs to Know to Avoid Accidents

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Hours of Service Laws: What Every Truck Driver Needs to Know to Avoid Accidents

Federal law dictates that truck drivers can only be on the road for a certain number of consecutive hours. Furthermore, the government has also placed limits on how many hours you can be on the road in a given week as well as how long of a break you must take between shifts. While the law pertaining to consecutive hours driven has existed since 1939, the other laws mentioned above are relatively new. The more society learns about sleep, sedentary lifestyles, and attention, the more lawmakers are starting to realize how detrimental certain aspects of a truck driver’s job can be. For this reason, Hours of Service laws continue to change and grow. However, you can only use the law to your advantage if you know what it says.

The Basics of the Hours of Service Laws

House of Service laws state that a truck, driven by one driver, can only be in operation for 11 consecutive hours out of a 14-hour work day. Once the 14 hours have passed, you are required by law to have at least 10 hours of rest before returning to your duties on the road. What’s more, you can only be behind the wheel for 60 to 77 hours in any seven-day period, and you’re limited to 70-88 hours in any eight-day period.

Why So Many Rules?

At first glance, the specificity of these rules may seem arbitrary and excessive. Even some truck drivers have stated that limited hours means limited income and have argued for looser regulations. That being said, these regulations were created not to hinder drivers’ earning potential but to protect them and others on the road. Significant data exists that points to a strong correlation between prolonged hours on the road and increased rates of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. In fat, the single leading cause of truck driver-related accidents is driver fatigue. It’s this underlying current of a tendency to overwork and the dangers of doing so that have led lawmakers to favor narrower work restrictions for truck drivers.

What Happens If You Break the Law?

Unfortunately, even though Hours of Service regulations are in place and are a matter of Federal law, plenty of companies and drivers continue to push – and break – those laws. Drivers who break the Hours of Service laws without the consent of their company can still land the trucking company for which they work in serious trouble. Conversely, some companies force their drivers to work beyond the scope of the Hours of Service. This can put drivers in a situation where they’re forced to make an impossible choice: lose their job or face legal consequences if an accident occurs.

What Should Drivers Do?

If your trucking company adheres to the Federal Hours of Service laws, make sure you comply with those laws at all times. However, if your company tries to force you to work beyond the hours allotted in the Hours of Service, make sure to think carefully before complying. It would be better to defend your job in court than to be the defendant in court in an accident, personal injury, or vehicular manslaughter case. Your Union representative should be able to help you if you’re being forced to work beyond the scope of the Hours of Service.

If you have to choose between fighting your employer or defending yourself in an accident case, it’s obviously better to opt for the former. Going against your employer can seem risky, and it often is, but hurting someone else or getting hurt yourself due to a fatigue-induced accident would be far worse. If you’ve already been in an accident, it’s important to contact a driving law attorney in your area. Only an experienced traffic lawyer will be able to help you obtain the most beneficial resolution given the unique parameters and circumstances of your case.

The Need For Speed: A Brief History of Speed Limits

Friday, June 15th, 2018

The Need For Speed: A Brief History of Speed Limits

You’re driving along the road and see the white sign stating that the speed limit is 50 miles per hour. Do you notice it? Do you heed it? Most people drive by without the slightest thought of speed limits, why we have them, and why they’re so important. However, speed limits have a long and interesting history worldwide, specifically where the United States is concerned. Let’s take a look at the history of speed limits and how they evolved to what we have today.

New York, 1652

The first speed limits weren’t imposed on cars, of course. Rather, they were imposed on horses and carriages. In 1652, New York deemed it unsafe and illegal for horses to travel any faster than a gallop. This was one of the first speed limits in the country.

Boston, 1757

If you were found to be riding your horse any faster than the standard walking pace of a pedestrian, you’d be fined 10 shillings.

UK, 1865

The first motor vehicle speed limit was imposed in the UK. Vehicles couldn’t travel faster than two miles per hour in the city and four miles per hour in rural areas. What’s more, cars had to be led by a pedestrian carrying a red flag. Remember that the next time traffic is moving too slow!

The First Speeding Ticket

The first speeding ticket was issued to a resident of Great Britain traveling at a blistering eight miles per hour. He was pursued, and caught, by a pedestrian on a bicycle.

Connecticut, May 21, 1901

Connecticut was the first state in the United States to adopt official speed limits. The speed limit was eight miles per hour in the city and 12 miles per hour anywhere else.

Detroit, 1914

The Detroit Free Press reported of a bridal party, including three children, whose vehicle flipped over or “turned turtle”, as the article called it, because they rounded a tight corner at 40 miles per hour. Drivers still didn’t understand the physics of driving at this point. This incident eventually became a case study used to explain centrifugal force in a driver safety manual.

Detroit, 1917

People in Detroit were still operating vehicles in an unsafe manner. In 1917, there were 65,000 motorists on the road in Detroit and its surrounding suburbs. That year, Detroit saw 7,171 accidents resulting in 168 deaths and countless injuries. Over 75 percent of the victims were pedestrians. Reports of vehicles smashing into groups of people, even children, due to the driver losing control were commonplace. There was even serious talk about whether or not vehicles should be classified as rabid animals and treated as such. Others believed that demons possessed the vehicles and efforts were made to ban cars. Eventually, public education became a priority and the mechanics and physics of driving were more widely understood. However, it was a contentious and confusing time in the history of speed limits and driving in general.

Speed Limits, Laser Guns, and Federal Laws

Even with all the mayhem happening, by the 1930s most states still didn’t have speed limits. However, most speed limits had been raised to a more reasonable 40 to 60 miles per hour by this point. Many states raised the then-legitimate point that there was no way to truly enforce speed laws, so why have them?

That changed in 1947 with the introduction of the laser gun. Police officers could now track vehicle speeds with reasonable accuracy and enforce those speeds. However, speed limits were still not a priority for most states.

Finally, in 1974, President Richard Nixon saw the danger of not having speed limits. At that time, the national traffic fatality rate was around 4.28 per million miles of travel. That might not seem like a lot, but consider that in 2015, the national traffic fatality rate was 1.22 fatalities – per 100 million miles of travel. Nixon decided that speed limits should be mandatory and that they should be set at 55 miles per hour. By 1983, the national traffic fatality rate had dropped to 2.73 fatalities per million miles of travel.

1995 – Federal Speed Limit Raised to 65 Miles per Hour

In 1995, the United States’ need for speed was evident in the national decision to raise the speed limit to 65 miles per hour. Ultimately, however, speed limit decisions were relegated to the discretion of the states. Currently, Texas has the highest speed limit in the country at 85 miles per hour.

Speed limit history is interesting and far-reaching. This is just a brief history of how we arrived at the current speed limit laws that are so ubiquitous in our society. Speed limits exist to protect us. Even in 1917, Detroit started seeing the repercussions of not having a speed limit. It’s unthinkable what would happen with our faster cars and advanced technologies now if we didn’t have them. However, sometimes we still break the law and make mistakes. Fortunately, lawyers who specialize in traffic law can help you defend yourself and obtain the best possible outcome if you do break a speed limit law and face serious consequences as a result.