Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Below is an article of mine that recently appeared in the June 11, 2019 edition of the Pennsylvania Law Weekly.  I am sending it along for your reading enjoyment (and to hopefully keep you safer out there on the road).

Driving Tips From Someone Who Has Seen It All

By Daniel E. Cummins | June 11, 2019

Daniel E. Cummins

After 20 years of litigating automobile accident cases, a trend of recurring types of accidents readily comes to light. Recognizing and acknowledging these common types of accident scenarios may help one to avoid dangerous situations and to become a more alert driver. Below are important safety tips to keep in mind every time you get behind the wheel that may help you to avoid a motor vehicle accident.

Hesitate when light turns green. Many an accident has occurred by another driver trying to beat the yellow light or continuing into the intersection even though the light has already turned red. And so it pays to wait a beat and look both ways before you take your foot off the brake and begin to go once your light has turned green.

Never wave the other person to go. Too many car accidents happen because one person waved another to go without the person who waved taking the time to first look to see if it was safe for the other person to proceed. And, typically, the person waved to proceed out, usually does so without looking themselves to see if it was safe to proceed.

Note that, if you wave someone to proceed and an accident happens, you could be held liable for contributing to the happening of the accident. As such, it is best never to wave another person to go.

Always look first if you are waved to go. As noted above, if you are waved to go, always signal back some form of a “no, thanks.” If the other driver continues to insist that you go, make sure you look both ways before you proceed. Chances are the driver waving you to go never looked in the first place to see if it was safe for you to proceed, and he certainly isn’t looking while angrily waving you to go in a persistent and careless fashion.

Let others go at a stop sign. In addition to being courteous, it is probably safer to always let the other driver go at intersections governed by stop signs. Most people don’t remember what we learned from the driver’s manual as to which car should go first when two or more cars arrive.

Rather, than trying to figure that out and wondering if the other driver remembers that rule of the road, just let the other person go—all the time. But don’t wave them to go. And if they wave you to go, signal back a, “no, thanks” or look down as if you did not see their wave and wait until they proceed through the intersection

Keep your distance when stopping at the end of an exit ramp. Many accidents happen at the end of an exit ramp off of a highway when the first car in the line of traffic begins to go and then stops again and then gets rear ended.

And so, when you come to the end of an exit ramp and you move up to be the car behind the first car at the end of the ramp, stop about a car length behind that car and stay put until that car is done starting and stopping, and starting and stopping before they proceed on. Resist the temptation to move until they are gone. Don’t even look back to the left on the roadway you are merging onto because you can’t go anywhere until that first car has moved on in any event.

When that first car is gone, move up to the line and come to a complete stop. Keep your foot tight on the brake and don’t move forward again until the road you are merging upon has cleared, allowing you to begin to accelerate and move forward without having to stop.

Keep your distance from delivery trucks and cars. Many delivery trucks and cars have drivers who are on a schedule and, therefore, are in a hurry at times. Whenever you see a UPS truck, a FedEx truck, a pizza delivery car or the like, keep your distance from them. Oftentimes, such drivers may be distracted somewhat due to a need to take their eyes off the road to look at a GPS device. They may also be prone to sudden turns based upon instructions from their GPS devices.
And so, when you are in the vicinity of such a delivery vehicle, give them a wide berth. Let them go at intersections. It may also be wise to keep your distance from the rear of their vehicles as they may stop or turn suddenly.
Keep your distance from tractor trailer drivers. Many an accident has occurred with tractor trailer drivers because those drivers could not see the vehicles around them. Keep a distance from the rear of their vehicle and try to avoid passing them on the right.

Keep in mind as a rule of thumb that, if you cannot see the tractor trailer driver in his side rear view mirrors, chances are he cannot see your vehicle. These types of drivers are also typically on a tight schedule and it therefore pays to give them a wide berth just like you would for any delivery driver.

Use Your Flashers. Using your flashers is a great way to make your vehicle more visible or to warn those behind you of issues up ahead.

In foggy- or snowy-highway traveling put on your flashers to make your vehicle is more visible to those traveling up from the rear. If your schedule permits, get off the highway under dense fog or heavy snow conditions as those conditions can lead to multi-vehicle chain reaction accidents. It may be safer to travel on side roads as opposed to the highway under those less than optimal conditions.

It is also wise to put your flashers on whenever you see traffic slowing up ahead on the highway as you slow to a stop on the highway. Your flashers will signal to the vehicles behind you that you are not only applying your brakes but that something else is happening as well. Utilizing your flashers in this regard may prevent you from being rear ended at a high rate of speed by an inattentive driver.

Obey the speed limit. A primary factor in most accidents is excessive speed. The faster a driver is traveling, the less time the driver has to react to the topography of the road or to any situation on the roadway. Slowing down to the range of the speed limit will provide any driver with a greater opportunity to avoid any of the many dangers one can face on any given trip.

Avoid people utilizing cellphones while driving. In Pennsylvania, while it is currently illegal for anyone to write or read a text while driving, drivers are permitted to utilize their cellphones to make or take calls. Whenever you see a driver utilizing a cellphone, do whatever you can to fall back from them or avoid them. Some studies compare drivers using cellphones to drunk drivers—both are extremely dangerous.

Know that people drive under the influence morning, day and night. Over the years, car accident cases have involved drivers who have been driving under the influence not only at night, but also during the course of a day and even, at times, in the morning. Some of the morning DUIs may involve third shift workers who have come off of work and have gone to their “Happy Hour.” 

Whenever you see an erratic driver on the road give them space and call 911 to report such activity.

Pull over for emergency vehicles. In order to avoid any accidents with any ambulances, fire trucks, or police vehicles, always pull over for them when they have their lights or sirens activated. This is not only required by law and is the safe thing to do, but wouldn’t you want people to pull over for you if you were in the dangerous condition that the emergency vehicle is responding to?

Keeping the above tips in mind while driving on the highways and byways may help to keep you and your family safe. In the end, it always pays to drive at or below the posted speed limit, keep your distance from other vehicles and always be alert for the unexpected.

Daniel E. Cummins is a partner in the Scranton law firm of Foley, Comerford & Cummins where he focuses his practice in automobile accident litigation matters.  In addition to litigating such matters, Attorney Cummins is also available to mediate such matters, and any other personal injury matters, through Cummins Mediation Services.

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