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Adjust your driving style for Minnesota's winter weather

Frigid temperatures, snow and ice may make you want to hibernate until spring, but more than likely, your life has to go on despite winter weather. That means that you still need to drive to work, the store and many other destinations even in inclement weather.

If you have lived in Minnesota for any length of time, you probably already know that driving here in the winter months requires some adjustments. Changing your driving style and remaining cautious could keep you from ending up in an accident. You can control how you drive in winter weather, but other drivers may not take the necessary precautions to do so safely.

Driver distraction a serious threat to safety

With the Christmas and New Year's holidays fast approaching, Minnesota residents may be on alert to potential drunk drivers on the road. With an increase in festivities at this time of year, that is wise. However, drunk drivers are far from the only dangers that people face on the roads and highways today.

Drivers who are distracted primarily by their phones, navigation systems or other electronic gadgets are fast becoming one of the greatests threats to personal safety in the country. While alcohol, fatigue and general recklessness should be enough for people to worry about, there is yet one more concern. Even with increasing awareness about the true risks of distracted driving, it seems things are not changing for the better any time soon.

How serious are truck crashes in Minnesota?

Driving next to a tractor trailer or other massive commercial truck can easily make a driver in Minnesota in a standard passenger vehicle feel not only dwarfed but also quite vulnerable. If you have ever experienced this, you are far from alone and you are right to be aware of the potential danger that exists when cars, pickup trucks and other automobiles collide with these big rigs. A look at some statistics show just how many people die in these types of crashes each year.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 61 lives lost in large truck accidents in Minnesota in 2016 alone. Looking at the five years spanning 2012 to 2016, a big jump from 60 deaths in 2012 to 75 deaths in 2013 was noted. While the number of fatalities has reduced after that, there have still been a total of 326 people killed in those five years across the state.

FMCSA rules to combat trucker fatigue

If you are like many people in Minnesota, you may well wonder how the commercial trucking industry monitors fatigue among drivers. This is just one of many things that may be a factor in contributing to an accident. If you ever see a semi truck or other large commercial vehicle on the road, you should know that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration does have clear rules about when and how long a driver may work and when breaks are required.

These guidelines are referred to as the Hours of Service regulations. For drivers who transport material items, they may work either a 60-hour work week over the course of seven days or a 70-hour work week over the course of eight days. After a single work week has been completed, they must then take at least 34 hours off before starting their next 60- or 70-hour work week.

Can you trust the evidence?

You are probably the person who best knows your child. After all, you were the one who offered love and care, who nurtured during illnesses and who stood beside your child during the toughest years of growing up. You did your best to raise your child to know right from wrong, and you were shocked when police arrested him or her for a serious crime.

Yes, you know your child, and the person Minnesota police and other so-called experts described during the trial was not the child you raised. In fact, you may have felt very confident in your child's innocence until you heard the testimony of the forensics expert. Investigators found evidence at the scene. DNA samples, fingerprints or other clues confirmed what police already claimed to know, that your child was guilty.

Study shows roundabouts reduce accidents

People who have been driving in Minnesota for any length of time have no doubt seen many people virtually speed up to get through an intersection before a light turns red. This is just one of the many things that can contribute to a serious motor vehicle accident as intersections are common locations for crashes to happen.

Minnesota installed its first roundabout some 22 years ago and to date there are approximately 200 roundabouts statewide. The state completed a study involving 144 of its roundabouts that looked into the safety of these features and the results were recently made public. Overall the benefits of a roundabout compared to a traditional intersection were clear in both accident reduction and cost savings.

Factors in fatal car accidents

If you are like many people in Minnesota, sometimes it takes seeing hard numbers in print to fully understand and embrace the scope of a problem. Learning about just how many people die on the roads and highways in the state each year can be difficult but it can help people to understand the continued need to seek compensation and to keep looking for new ways to improve safety for all.

Information released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration makes it clear that really no one person can completely avoid the risk of being in a motor vehicle accident. Too many reckless people are able to make too many dangerous choices that put you and others in harm's way. In 2016, 392 people were killed in wrecks across the state. Of those, 45 were killed in Hennepin County alone. 

Are bus drivers able to use cell phones?

When it comes to distracted driving in Minnesota, more and more awareness is being brought to the dangers of this behavior. In the past decade, reports of accidents caused by drivers who were using their phones to make calls, send or receive texts or even to make social media posts are no longer unusual. Sadly, these actions have left many innocent people injured and have even taken the lives of others.

If you are concerned about this and wonder how safe your children are as you put them on the school bus every day, you are not alone. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the state does have some bans on phone use for drivers but these are not necessarily consistent for all drivers and may therefore lead to confusion at times. School bus drivers are actually the one group of people who face the strictest restrictions. In fact, the law does not allow for them to use phones while driving at any time without exception.

At fault, negligent, reckless, liable: Are they all the same?

What if you're driving along a Minnesota highway on your way to visit friends or family, and suddenly another vehicle tries to cut you off on the road, but misjudges the space between you and smashes into your vehicle? Although you may be happy just to be alive, you may also be looking at a long, hard road ahead for recovery. Hopefully, first responders attended your injuries in a timely manner and transported you to the nearest hospital for treatment.

Perhaps you had to spend several days in the hospital before you were able to go home. All the while, a million thoughts swarmed your mind, such as when you'd be able to go back to work, whether there was anything left of your car, and who should pay all the medical bills you knew would start rolling in before long.

Are Minnesota's DWI laws tough enough?

For several decades now, groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have tirelessly sought to raise public awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving in Minnesota and around the nation. While it may seem normal that people say they understand the risks associated with this behavior, lives continue to be lost at the hands of drunk drivers. Clearly, more is needed if there can ever be a way to stop this from happening.

You may wonder just what happens to someone who is convicted of or arrested for driving while intoxicated. Just how severe are the consequences? Maybe they are not harsh enough and if they were stronger, more people would think twice about getting behind the wheel after they have been drinking. Ignition interlock devices have been highlighted as effective ways of cracking down on impaired driving.

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