A speeding driver apparently lost control of his car, drifted over the median, and caused a four-car crash that killed one person and seriously injured several others.
The wreck occurred near the intersection of South Hairston Road and Wesley Chapel in rural Decatur County. Officers state that 23-year-old Jamon Freeman was northbound when he crossed over the median and onto the southbound side. His vehicle sideswiped a Hyundai Sonata before careening into a Honda Odyssey, U.S. Postal Service mail truck, and a Cadillac CTS. Mr. Freeman was pronounced dead at the scene; at least six other people, including three children, were rushed to area hospitals with serious injuries.
None of the other victims’ names were released.
Speed and Other Breaches of Duty
Motorists have a duty of reasonable care, which is not the same thing as a duty to follow the letter of the law. Excessive velocity is a good example. Speeding is a factor in about a third of fatal car crashes, and many times, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is not exceeding the posted limit. Some situations include:
- Icy Roads: Admittedly, this problem is not much of an issue in Georgia. But when the roads do ice over, the lack of sanding equipment combines with the fact that many drivers are not used to driving on slick surfaces to create very dangerous conditions.
- Wet Roads: Most people learned about hydroplaning in driving school. However, most people soon forget that many tires lose contact with the hard surface when the roads are wet, so most cars and trucks are essentially boats in these conditions.
- Driver Experience: Fast cars are much harder to control than slow cars, which is why some drivers’ licenses prohibit some drivers from operating vehicles on the freeway or at high speeds.
- Low Visibility: Many roads have lower posted speed limits at night, simply because it is much harder to see in the dark. Motorists should also slow down when going around curves or driving in fog.
In all these cases, and other similar situations, drivers have a legal duty to slow down as much as possible in order to operate safely.
One of the things that makes excessive speed so dangerous is that it has several effects. Newton’s Second Law of Physics states that velocity multiplies the force of an object, so in this context, excessive speed transforms “fender benders” that cause very little damage into serious injury collisions. The same principle applies to cell phones, briefcases, books, and other items inside the vehicle. If the car stops suddenly, these items continue travelling at their prior speed, and they essentially become high-speed projectiles.
Similarly, alcohol is a factor in about a third of fatal car crashes, and not all these motorists are legally intoxicated. In criminal court, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant was intoxicated, which means a complete loss of mental or physical faculties, beyond any reasonable doubt. However, in civil court, the plaintiff must only establish that the tortfeasor was impaired by a preponderance of the evidence.
In most cases, impairment begins at one drink. Moreover, a “preponderance of the evidence” means “more likely than not.” So, if there is evidence that the tortfeasor was drinking, or even evidence that the tortfeasor visited an establishment or party where alcohol was available, the jury can conclude that it is more likely than not that the tortfeasor was impaired.
That being said, the stronger the evidence in a negligence case, the more likely it is that the plaintiff will prevail and recover maximum compensation. In most car crash cases, such compensation includes money for economic damages, like lost wages, and noneconomic damages, like pain and suffering.
Statistics vary greatly on drowsy driving, which is the third common breach of duty. There is no BAC test for fatigue, and many law enforcement agencies do not even include this area as a possible factor in the crash. While the raw statistics are unclear, researchers are very certain about the effects of fatigue. In fact:
- Driving after 18 consecutive waking hours is like driving with a .05 BAC; and
- Driving after 24 consecutive waking hours is like driving with a .10 BAC.
Somewhat like alcohol use, a driver does not have to be literally asleep at the wheel for fatigue to be a factor, because it has an incremental effect. As a rule of thumb, any crash that occurs at night or that involves a tortfeasor who works odd hours can involve fatigued driving.
Despite the advent of advanced hands-free electronics, or perhaps because of it, distracted driving is a serious problem. Broadly speaking, there are three types of distracted driving:
- Manual (taking at least one hand of the wheel);
- Visual (looking away from the road); and
- Cognitive (thinking about something other than driving).
Note that hands-free devices, although they do allow operators to keep both hands on the wheel, still involve cognitive and perhaps visual distraction. There are also many other things that can cause distracted driving. In 2015, a Cobb County man was cited for eating a cheeseburger while driving. Prosecutors later dismissed that case because they did not feel they had enough evidence to convict him, but as stated earlier, the standard of proof is much lower in civil court, so that burger may have constituted a breach of the duty of reasonable care.
Contact a Diligent Attorney
For prompt assistance with a car crash, contact a hard-working auto accident injury lawyer in Fayetteville. At the Wade Law Offices, we are committed to maximum recovery for victims.