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Fort Walton BeachLegal Blog

5 important facts about drunk driving accidents

Drunk driving continues to be a serious issue in the United States, year after year. These crashes took 10,874 lives in 2017, for instance. That was a drop of 1.1 percent from 2016, when another 10,996 people lost their lives.

Maybe you lost a loved one in a DUI accident, so you know only too well how common it is. You understand how drunk drivers never think it will happen to them until it does. You know all about the emotional and economic impact such a loss can have on a family.

What should you do if someone is going to drive drunk?

You're out with friends when one member of your group says that they're going to leave. They drove to the bar, while you took a cab. They claim that it's fine for them to drive, drinking a cup of water at the bar before they go.

You know that it's not true. You watched them drink more than you, and you know you're well over the legal limit. They're definitely too drunk to drive, and they're putting everyone at risk by getting behind the wheel. What should you do? Here are a few steps you can take, though this can be a potentially difficult situation:

Florida has always been a leader in drug courts

For many years, drug cases were simply treated as criminal cases. If you broke the law, you went to jail. That's the same punishment used for many other criminal actions, with the hope that those who went to jail would then change their ways when they got out. Jail could also act as a deterrent if people knew they could go and wanted to avoid it.

However, it quickly became clear that drug crimes were often something of a different nature. Was jail really the best option? Was it wise to treat these cases like other criminal cases?

How you can do your part to make the roads safer

The roads are only as safe as the worst driver.

It's an unfortunate reality. Say you have 10 cars on a stretch of highway. Nine of those drivers can observe the speed limit and drive safely. If the third driver is speeding, changing lanes without using a turn signal and texting while driving, though, they can easily cause a multi-car crash. Suddenly, despite the fact that most of the drivers were very safe, half of them are on the way to the hospital.

Avoiding truck accidents while on the road

Our roadways are increasingly congested these days, and it seems like more and more lanes are full of large commercial trucks hauling heavy cargo. Regular consumer cars don't usually fare very well in truck accidents, and the results can be devastating. It is always wise to remain aware of ways you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe when driving.

Commercial trucks have many more blind spots than consumer vehicles, and may need much more room to come to a complete stop. Every day, drivers put themselves in serious danger by failing to understand these dangers and avoid them.

The worst driving distraction? Your kids

You know a distracted driver when you see one. Maybe it's a man on his cellphone who weaves all over the road while he talks. Maybe it's a teenage girl who keeps looking down and texting her friends. Maybe it's a group of college students on a road trip, laughing and talking and singing along with the music. Or maybe it's someone's elderly parent trying to fight with the GPS while still driving along in afternoon traffic.

None of these things are good. They're all distractions, as are things like drinking coffee, eating breakfast, doing your makeup and a thousand other activities that people engage in behind the wheel. But they may not be the worst. Do you know what some research indicates is one of the biggest distractions? Your children.

DNA proves that eyewitnesses are unreliable

You go before a judge and jury, accused of a crime that you swear you never committed. You give your side of the story, telling them that you were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time when you got arrested, but you never even went to the crime scene. It was someone else. You just want to go on with your life.

Then an eyewitness comes forward and tells the court that they saw you at the scene. They claim to be 100 percent confident it was you. You can tell that the jury thinks you're trying to lie your way out of the charges. That witness testimony carries a lot of weight.

8 tips for staying focused and alert behind the wheel

With as much of a problem as distracted driving has become, it is incredibly important for drivers to focus and stay alert behind the wheel. Many accidents happen when drivers let their minds wander or pay attention to something besides the road -- the radio, a cellphone, the GPS or a conversation with friends, for instance.

So, what can they do to really dial in and pay attention to what is happening around them? These eight tips can help:

  1. Drink enough water. People often avoid drinking water while on the road because they don't want to have to stop, but dehydration can make you feel fatigued and sluggish. Getting enough water keeps you awake.
  2. Turn off your phone notifications. You don't have to turn the device off entirely -- you may need it in an emergency -- but turning off the notifications means it doesn't suddenly pull your attention away.
  3. Chew a stick of gum. This can help you stay awake during night drives because it gives you a physical activity to do that does not inhibit your driving. It's far safer than eating behind the wheel.
  4. Keep the air conditioning on. Your body naturally tends to get comfortable and move toward sleep when you're stationary in a warm, comfortable place. Turning on the AC keeps that edge in the air so that you don't quite get comfortable enough to nod off.
  5. Drive by yourself. While it can be helpful to have someone talk to you when you're tired, passengers are more often a distraction than anything else. You wind up thinking about the conversation -- a mental distraction -- and looking at them while you talk. That's a physical distraction.
  6. Get enough sleep before driving. If you feel too tired to continue, do not be afraid to pull off of the road and take a nap. You need a well-rested mind to stay alert and focused while you drive. If that means you need to sleep for a few hours in a hotel parking lot, so be it.
  7. Don't multitask. You feel like a long, boring drive is a great time to get some other things done. Maybe you wanted to read an email or make a phone call for work or put on your makeup. Don't do it. Multitasking isn't a real thing; you just force your brain to split its attention between two tasks. This can lead to an accident.
  8. Don't drive when you're feeling too emotional. If you're elated, you may speed. If you're depressed or angry, you may stop thinking about driving and brood about whatever happened. You need to be calm and collected to drive safely.

4 questions about drunk driving stops in Florida

Seeing a police car pull up behind you leaves you with a knot in your stomach. You feel nervous even if you did not do anything wrong. This is especially true if they pull you over at 2 a.m. and you know that the officer wants to check and see if you are driving under the influence.

Maybe you have never been involved in a traffic stop like this before. You know that your nervousness and lack of experience could make you act suspiciously. Could that lead to legal trouble? To help you, here are four common questions and answers:

Mobile phones aren't the only major source of distraction

Distracted driving has reached epidemic proportions in this country. With the rise of mobile technology, there are simply too many potential distractions for people to avoid them all. However, mobile phones and tablets are not the only problem leading to dangerous distractions behind the wheel. People getting lost in thought or bored is a leading cause of distraction.

While they do pose a significant risk, screens are not the only thing keeping drivers from focusing on what is most important on the road. Understanding the major causes of distraction in a vehicle can help you in two ways. First, it can help you avoid engaging in distractions when you drive. Second, it can help you identify if someone else is driving while distracted.

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