With Memorial Day weekend coming up and tourists flocking to New Jersey, things are about to get wild on the roads. Holidays like Memorial Weekend, Fourth of July, and New Year’s Eve are inherently dangerous. Drinking, driving on unfamiliar roads, and driving at night all provide the perfect ingredients for a car accident.
Pedestrians are especially vulnerable and should take precautions to stay safe. Likewise, tourist drivers should remain vigilant. Don’t let your celebratory weekend end in tragedy.
Here are some simple tips for staying safe this Memorial Day weekend:
1. Prepare Before Leaving
Benjamin Franklin said it best, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” It doesn’t matter if you’re driving five minutes to your mom’s house or five hours to a different city, every trip should take some preparation. Check that your car is in tip-top shape, with lights working, clean windshields, all fluids topped, and tires checked for wear and tear. Make sure you’ve got your jumper cables, carjack, and flashlight handy in the trunk.
Make sure the interior of your car is clean as well. You do not want a lipstick on the loose to lodge itself under your brakes, or an old McDonald’s wrapper to hit you in the face and block your view as you’re trying to merge onto a highway.
Study where you’re going. We recommend you not fiddle with a map while trying to drive; that is a major distraction and is only cute in ‘80s movies, before the birth of Siri and iPhone maps.
2. Avoid Distractions
Your only job as a driver is to keep those inside and outside of the vehicle safe. You are not a DJ, you are not an entertainer of your kids, and you are definitely not a tour guide. Your focus should be squarely on the road. If you are bringing your kids with you, make sure they will be able to entertain themselves. Why not bring their iPads and coloring books to keep them occupied?
While your kids can play on the phone, you own iPhone should be put away. Texting or making hand-held phone calls is one of the most distracting things you can do while being in the car, and one of the leading causes of car accidents.
3. Stay Alert
While you can’t control what everyone else is doing on the road, you can make sure you’re doing your best to contribute to a safe road environment. Under no circumstances should you drink and drive. And if you notice anyone else weaving in and out of lanes or suspect that a driver is under the influence, look at the car model and license plate, pull over, and dial 911 to report a possible drunk driver.
Most importantly, if you begin to feel tired, stop driving. Many drivers don’t want to stop because they only have a short while to go or because they don’t want to lose time. But the difference between awake and asleep when you’re nodding off is a split second. If you start feeling tired, pull over and if possible have someone else drive. If not, then pull into a secure location and get out of the car to get some fresh air, or remain in the car and get some rest.
What to Do If You Are Injured by a Tourist Driver
If you are involved in an accident in New Jersey, make sure to do the following:
- Get immediate medical attention if necessary.
- Call 911.
- Get the name, address and contact details of the driver, along with insurance, driver’s license number, and license plate number.
- Take photographs at the scene of the accident.
- Take down contact information of any witnesses.
- Call a lawyer.
During a holiday like Memorial Day, many tourists might be using rental cars. You might be wondering who is liable for damages if you get struck by a rental car. When it comes to New Jersey law, rental companies are generally absolved from any liability if someone in their rental car causes an accident. Your best bet is receiving compensation from that driver’s insurance company.
If the accident was caused by a hazardous road or faulty light, you might also be wondering if the city could be held at fault. In most cases: no. Municipalities in New Jersey have something called “sovereign immunity,” which means they can’t be sued for personal injury. This immunity covers cities, towns, counties, school districts, and the state of New Jersey. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Under N.J.S.A. §59:4-2, you would have to prove that public property owned and operated by the government is in a dangerous condition, and that dangerous condition, when used by a foreseeable person in a reasonable manner, is the cause of your injuries. You must also provide medical proof that you have sustained permanent loss of a bodily function as a result of the injury, and medical expenses in excess of $3,600.
Being in an accident on a holiday weekend can certainly put a major damper on what should have been a fun time. But the sooner you contact a knowledgeable attorney to handle your claim, the better your chances of receiving full and fair compensation. The clock starts ticking the day of the incident. Find out more about your legal rights and options as an injured pedestrian by contacting Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C. We have fought for the rights of injury victims in NJ for over 25 years, and won our clients substantial settlements. Call us at (609) 240-0040 for a free consultation.