In our previous posts we talked about how to determine the at fault party in a car accident and what information / proof can be used. We will continue focusing on the remainder of the process, who to contact and how to file a claim.
Who should you contact after a car accident?
Immediately following a car accident, you should contact first and foremost 911. The emergency services will then dispatch the police and ambulance to the scene.
The dispatcher will ask you a series of questions and you should answer them as accurately as possible and remain calm.
Once the police arrive at the scene, make sure that you’re accommodating and helpful as much as you can. The job of the officer is to help you and it might take him some time to get through all the steps that were in the collision. You will also need to provide your license, vehicle registration and insurance card. And don’t forget to ask for a copy of the police report. Remember, we mentioned that the report can be of huge help when determining who’s at fault.
Once you’re done with the police, you should contact your insurance company. Under the terms of your insurance policy, you are obligated to report the accident even if you’re 100% that the other driver’s at fault.
Contacting the insurance company doesn’t mean giving detailed information on the accident, whose fault it is and what happened. You need to be aware that the insurance company is gathering information for one reason only, to try and find a way to justify not paying you.
Because of this, we strongly recommend that you don’t share any more information than you absolutely have to. You might not be aware, but you can tell the insurance company something which can costly you later in the process. That’s why when dealing with the insurance company you should always do it with a lawyer.
When dealing with car accident claims, we strongly recommend that you hire a personal injury lawyer. The process of negotiating with the insurance company and filing the claim can be pretty technical and you will need help from experienced attorneys, like the ones at Schenk Podolsky who can help you navigate the process and represent your best interests.
If you’re involved in a car accident in Arizona, and heed help negotiating with the insurance company so you could get the compensation that you deserve, contact us today and let us represent you.
The majority of car accident claims are part of the personal injury law. As such, the liability is determined on the concept of negligence. So if you were in a car accident that happened due to another driver’s negligence, you are entitled to be compensated for all the losses you sustained due to your injury.
When it comes to car accidents, there are many things that can be considered as negligence:
- Texting while driving
- Merging without looking, etc.
Factors like poor road maintenance or poor car maintenance can further support your claim, and Schenk Podolsky as your car accident law firm will conduct a thorough investigation in order to determine who is really at for the collision.
Since Arizona uses the traditional tort liability system, the person at fault will have to compensate you for your damages.
Arizona follows two key statutes and applies them in personal injury cases. These are Sections 12-542 and 12-2505 of the Arizona Revised Statues.
Under the Section 12-542, which determines the statute of limitation for car accident claims, the victim has two years to file a claim for the damages he/she suffered. In the event that the victim died in the car accident, the family also has two years from the date of death to seek compensation
Under the Section 12-2505 establishes comparative negligence. This basically means that you as the victim can seek compensation even if you were partially at fault for the car accident.
How can you determine who is at fault in a car accident?
In Arizona, fault in car accidents is determined based on the law of negligence. This of course requires extensive investigation in order to determine who was actually negligent. The investigation includes:
- reviewing photos of the scene,
- visiting the scene,
- examining the maintenance records of the vehicles,
- assessing the nature and severity of the injuries of those involved in the accident and
- reviewing other documentation.
Once all the information is gathered, experts are then able to reconstruct the accident and determine who was at fault.
If others witnessed the accident, make sure that you collect their contact information because they can play a significant role in determining who is at fault. Our attorneys at Schenk Podolsky will contact potential witnesses and determine whether their statements/testimonies might be beneficial for your case.
Another source of proof and support for your case can be police reports. When you’re in a collision, the first thing that you absolutely must do is call 911. Firstly, to determine if you have any injuries (and to asses them) and secondly so that the police can come to the scene of the accident and create a report. Police reports aren’t a must-have in order for you to file a claim, but it can certainly strengthen your case. The police report will usually contain:
- The other driver’s contact information
- Contact information of witnesses (if any)
- Description of the damage on each vehicle as well as skid marks
- The officer’s determination of fault
In our next post, we will dive further in the process of filing a car accident claim and what else might you expect in the process
After being in a car accident, some people wonder if they should hire an attorney or not. Legally, you’re not obligated to, but it should be in your best interest to schedule an appointment with lawyer so you can learn more about your rights. This applies specifically if the car accident wasn’t your fault. In cases like this, you may need to file a lawsuit against the driver at fault so you could be compensated for your injuries and damages.
Car accidents often result with significant financial burden, so it’s imperative that you get the maximum you can for your compensation. Remember, the insurance company isn’t your friend in this case, because they want to pay out as little as possible for your personal injury claim. But, if you work with an excellent personal injury lawyer who has prior experience with car accident claims, you will get an adequate compensation for your damages.
The compensation is determined on your percentage of fault after a car accident
Some states in the US, including Arizona, use the doctrine of comparative negligence to determine the amount of damages you’re entitled to recover. Under the comparative negligence law in Arizona, you as the injured party are allowed to recover even if you are 99% at fault for the accident. In that case, your money damages as the plaintiff are reduced by the amount you’re at fault. So for example, if the investigation determines that you’re 20% at fault for the car accident, you will be able to recover only 80% of damages you sustained.
Often, the insurance companies will try to minimize your compensation by present you as partially at fault. They might present that your actions played some part in the accident to occur. In order to avoid this type of situation, where the compensation you’re entitled to is unfairly reduced, you should contact the personal injury attorneys at Schenk and Podolsky and let us help you. A good and experienced lawyer can build a strong care for you and minimize the fault of your actions.
An attorney can maximize your car accident compensation
Through years and years of experience, personal injury lawyers have learned how determine the extent of your damages and calculate your loss and the amount of compensation that will cover them. This usually involves some financial losses like car repair, medical bills for your treatment etc. These are all damages the personal injury lawyer can easily document.
However, not all car accident claims are simple and depending on the specific circumstances, you might also be able to recover damages for:
- Lost wages – In case the car accident caused you to be absent from work
- Diminished earning capacity – If the accident caused permanent damages and you can’t perform at work the way you used to
- Future medical bills related to your injuries – In case you require extensive rehabilitation or treatment
- Pain and suffering
When you work with a personal injury lawyers, these are all things that will be considered in determining your compensation.
Negotiations with the insurance company
When you file a personal injury claim after a car accident, the insurance company will offer you a settlement that is usually way lower than your actual damages. Insurance companies might also offer you to sing a waiver or release which will prevent you from further pursuing the case for additional compensation. This way the insurance company wants to ensure that they pay out as little as possible.
Personal injury lawyers at Schenk and Podolsky can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf in order to get a settlement that is just, fair and will compensate for the damages that you suffered. If you’re having doubts or need help negotiating with the insurance company, contact us today and let us help you.
When your insurance company denies you to payout your insurance claim, the only logical next step is to fight back.
By the time you receive your initial denial, the claim investigator has already gathered sufficient enough evidence to support his denial in court. Of course, the investigator may be open to negotiation but he/she won’t take any further steps until you take action. But once the denial is formalized, most investigators expect the client to just give up.
Don’t get emotional
After the insurance company refuses to pay for your bodily injuries or property damages, the first natural reaction is anger. Even though this is a natural reaction to this type of news, it won’t help you reverse the decision. Denying claims is something that insurance companies do quite often and they are used to emotional reactions and threats about legal action.
The personnel at the insurance company which is responsible for claims tend to avoid such reactions but that still won’t change their decision. Most of them realize that denied clients aren’t serious enough until they start taking legal steps.
Legal strategy is essential
When you don’t find back, insurance companies often take it as a sign of a win. The only way you can reconsider their position is if you provide new fact, evidence and legal theory that will eventually force them to rethink their decision.
Insurance companies are obligated by law, to maintain reserve on their books. But what happens is that the person handling your claim simply closes your file and waits for the statute of limitation to run out. They rely on the fact that the issues can be complicated, the fight can be challenging so some number of clients will rather give up and don’t pursue the issue any further.
But if your car accident caused you severe injuries and someone else is at fault, you shouldn’t back off from a fight. If you received a denial first time around, contact Schenk & Podolsky and let us examine your file and see if there are ways we can help.
Why did you claim got denied?
In order to fight a claim denial, you first need to know what was the main reason the representative denied it. Having some idea as to why it was denied just won’t do. You need clear and precise information, preferably in writing.
Once an insurance claim is denied, the insurance company usually send an explanation letter which outlines the rationale behind the decision. If you didn’t receive your explanation letter or you misplaced it, contact your representative at the insurance company and ask for another copy.
The next step
When you have the letter in hand, take it to a personal injury lawyer who will be able to better understand its content.
Insurance companies might deny your claim for many reasons. Since the issues can often be complicated, and the process too complex to navigate on your own, you will need an experienced personal injury lawyer, who will have your best interest in mind and do whatever he/she can for you to receive the compensation you’re owed.
Minimizing your injuries is a typical thing after a car accident. People, when they don’t seem to be obviously hurt, tend to ignore the need to seek medical attention and avoid high bills. That might seem like a good idea at that time, but ignoring medical attention after a car accident can be a really big mistake. This especially applies if you suffer severe whiplash.
Whiplash is probably the most common injury we can experience in a car accident and the majority of people think that this is a minor injury from which we can recover pretty easily. Now, this might be true for most cases, but if it’s a severe case it can cause years of pain and discomfort.
When our head gets jerked front and back suddenly and with great amount of force, we call this whiplash. This jerking can stretch our neck muscles and tendons and in severe cases, it can also injure your spine. Suffering from whiplash is usually followed by:
- Neck pain
- Feeling dizzy
- Blurry vision
- Trouble concentrating
- Jaw pain
Not all of these symptoms develop all at once and some might even take weeks to manifest. Because of this, you might feel that you’re totally fine after the accident. But what appears to be a sore neck, might end up being something severe.
Complications after a severe whiplash
If you suffered a minor whiplash, you will most likely recover from it if you take care of yourself. But those that suffer severe whiplash might feel pain for years without any relief in sight.
If you suffered neck injuries in the past or you’re an elderly person, you are at particular risk of developing serious complications from whiplash. We’ve all heard stories where people claim they suffered whiplash only to get a bigger insurance settlement, but the reality is that the consequences of whiplash can be really difficult to manage and live with, including:
- Chronic headache
- Spine damage
- Constant soreness
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Nerve damage and stiffened neck
These symptoms can be persistent even after you had proper medical guidance and therapy. Sometimes, the pain can be so severe that you can find it hard to move your neck without experiencing severe pain. This can all impact our ability to function and work normally. We can minimize these symptoms with medication and physical therapy, and that’s why seeking medical attention after a car accident is so important.
After a car accident
After a car accident, no matter how small you think your injuries are, you need to make sure that you seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even if your injuries aren’t so severe, it’s important to be sure and alleviate all doubts and fears.
Furthermore, we highly recommend that you don’t settle with the at-fault insurance company too quickly. Some of these symptoms take time to develop, and they know this. So they will urge you to strike a deal as quickly as possible so they could compensate you as little as possible. Instead of settling with an insurance company, we recommend that you consult with the personal injury lawyer who knows the entire system inside and out and can provide the best guidance on how to handle these type of cases.
10 Steps to Take Following a Car Accident
If you are involved in a car accident, you are going to be shaken up. Even so, there are steps that you must take to ensure the safety of all concerned and to protect yourself against false claims. Unfortunately, some people will claim for more damage than occurred in a car accident, and some people will take advantage of the situation by making false personal injury claims. Here are the steps to take immediately following a car accident.
1. Stay Calm
Whoever was at fault in a car accident, your priority should be the safety of yourself, your passengers, and anyone else involved in the incident. Try to keep a cool head, and deal with the situation as calmly as you can. If you believe that the accident was not your fault, try not to get angry with the other driver. You will already have the motor vehicle accident to deal with, so you don’t want to add a road rage incident to your problems.
2. Check for Injuries
Immediately following the accident, you should check yourself and then your passengers for any sign of injury. Then you should find out if anyone else has been injured. If anyone has been hurt, then they should not be moved until the paramedics arrive. Someone injured in a car crash should not be moved unless leaving them where they are would put them in further danger.
3. Get to a Safe Place
If you are not injured, and it is safe to do so, you should get yourself and your passengers to the side of the road. If damage to your car is minor, and your vehicle is obstructing the road, you should drive your vehicle to the shoulder or the side of the road. If it is safe to do so, you might want to take photos of the crash site before you move any vehicles. However, gathering evidence must come second to safety. So, if your car is blocking a lane of traffic, it would be best to move the vehicle so that it doesn’t cause any further accidents.
4. Call 911
Unless the damage is minimal and you are sure that no one has been hurt, it is best to call the police after a car accident. In some states, you must notify the police about any motor vehicle accident. If the police attend the scene, they will document the accident and provide you with a police report, which your insurers may require to process your claim. If the police do not attend the scene, you can file your own accident report of the incident with the local police department.
5. Don’t Admit Responsibility
Even if you believe that you may have been at fault, it is best not to admit blame at the scene of a car accident. Immediately following an accident, you will be flustered, and you might admit fault when the responsibility lies with another party. If you think that you were to blame, then that’s only your opinion. So, stick to the facts, tell the police the truth, and avoid apportioning blame. It is advisable not to exchange small talk with the other driver either. A simple comment like, “I’m not hurt” or “no real damage done” might be used against you later.
6. Exchange Insurance Details
Following a motor accident, you should exchange contact and insurance details with the other driver or drivers. The information that should share includes your full name and contact information, and the name of your insurance company, and your policy number.
7. Document the Incident
Document as much as you can about the accident. Make a note of the make, models, license plate numbers, and colors of the other vehicles involved. Write down the location where the accident occurred. If the police attend the incident, note the names and the badge numbers of the officers attending the scene, and ask the attending police officers where you will be able to get a copy of the accident report.
8. Take Photos and Ask for Witnesses
Take photos of any damage to your car and the other car. If it is safe to do so, you should take pictures from several different angles of each of the vehicles involved in the accident. Your photos will be useful if your insurance company needs to fight a disputed claim on your behalf. If any third parties witnessed the accident, ask those people for their contact details as well.
9. Notify the Department of Motor Vehicles if Necessary
In some states, you may need to notify the local department of motor vehicles that there has been an accident. Whether you need to report an accident may depend on the value of the damage to the cars. In some states, it is also a legal requirement to report all car accidents to the police, however minor. Check what you need to do in your state to make sure that you meet all the legal requirements.
10. Notify Your Insurers
You may want to call your insurers while you are still at the scene of a motor accident. Your insurer can then tell you what they will need from you when you file your claim. Whether you call them immediately or later, your insurers will talk you through the claim process and explain what will be required from you.
In the immediate aftermath of a car accident, even the most experienced of drivers may feel flustered and disorientated. But, if you follow the above tips, you will have all the evidence you need to file your claim and protect yourself. The crucial thing, though, is always to put safety first immediately following a motor accident.
In many parts of the United States, it’s either winter or road construction season. Road construction zones are hazardous. Motorists, their passengers and construction workers are injured or killed in accidents in those zones every year. Nearly all of those accidents are completely preventable, and the overwhelming majority of them are caused by carelessness and negligence.
It’s Suddenly an Unfamiliar Road
Road construction and maintenance are necessary nuisances that every driver encounters. Although temporary inconveniences, they often make getting to and from locations more convenient in the long term while decreasing risk and danger. Adding to the inconvenience of road construction and maintenance in progress is the complex maze of signs, lane changes, barrels, barriers, closed lanes, flaggers, other workers, trucks and heavy equipment. Even roads that you’ve driven for years become confusing and dangerous, especially if everybody is in a hurry and drivers don’t reduce their speeds. If you were seriously injured in a construction zone crash that was caused by somebody else who was careless and negligent, you’re going to be in need of a dedicated and experienced car accident attorney.
Common Causes of Construction Zone Accidents
Construction workers need not be present or engaged in any activities for an accident to be considered a construction zone accident. So long as the zone exists, and it is appropriately and sufficiently marked, a construction zone crash can occur at any time when a driver is traveling from the beginning of the zone to where it ends. Here are a few common causes of construction zone accidents:
• A hazardous zone route design that confuses drivers and requires them to make unsafe maneuvers.
• Poor maintenance of that route.
• The failure to place or the improper placement of appropriate signage, including detour signs.
• Placing of signs, barrels, barricades or cones too close to traffic traveling through the zone.
• Requiring the operation of trucks or heavy equipment too close to where traffic is traveling through the zone.
• Poor lighting conditions.
• Vehicles traveling through the construction zone at unsafe rates of speed that rear-end vehicles driving safely ahead of them.
• Drivers who are operating their vehicles too quickly for traffic or weather conditions.
• Drivers who are under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two.
• Drivers who are distracted by phone calls, texting or using infotainment centers.
Determining Liability in Road Construction Accidents
More than one person might be held liable in a construction zone accident. What comes to issue is that a person claiming injury might be dealing with a federal, state or local government entity, one or more contractors and private individuals. In their attempts to avoid liability, expect everybody to be pointing their finger at everybody else while you’re caught in the middle. That’s why consulting and retaining a seasoned and successful car accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident is of the utmost importance in protecting your rights. He or she will know how to get the immediate attention of all responsible parties.
Construction zone accident cases are extremely complicated. Don’t even try to take the first step yourself. You’re likely to harm rather than help any case that you might have. If you were injured in a construction zone accident, make a call or send an email to a qualified and respected car accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. Most car accident lawyers offer free consultations and case evaluations. Nearly all of them take accident cases on a contingency fee basis without requiring any up-front payments. Making that contact will be the best thing that you can do to protect and invoke your rights.
Did you ever wish you had a personal injury attorney in reserve? Probably not. Either you think “it could never happen to me” or you equate the profession to “ambulance chasers.”
Until you are injured because of another person/company’s negligence, like most people, you don’t consider finding a personal injury lawyer.
If you sustain a serious injury and remain hospitalized for a long time, your medical expenses will skyrocket. Health insurance will not cover everything. Your job could be in jeopardy if you continue to miss work.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to find a personal injury attorney before “it” happens to you. You will be in a better position to evaluate personal injury lawyers and make an informed decision.
How to Find a Good Personal Injury Lawyer In Mesa
Personal injury attorneys grappled for decades to rise above the stigma of “ambulance chasers.” Ambulance chasers literally followed an ambulance and talked to victims of auto accidents. Nowadays, personal injury lawyers are well-respected members of the legal community.
Start your search by contacting family members, friends, and colleagues to find out if they have used the services of a personal injury lawyer. If they recommend a certain lawyer, set up a consultation with him.
If you have used the services of an attorney, ask him for a referral to a personal injury lawyer. You might also contact your local Bar Association. Again, schedule a face-to-face meeting with the personal injury attorney.
How to Evaluate Personal Injury Attorneys in Advance
Like you need to know a good plumber if your basement floods after midnight, you need to know a good personal injury attorney in the event you need one. If you wait until after the event happens, you will likely be too emotional to make informed decisions.
Try to find an attorney you resonate with who works for a large firm. You don’t know in advance what kind of injury might cause you to need their services. Personal injury lawyers specialize in various types of injuries. For example, a car accident lawyer may not have experience working with slip and fall injuries. By choosing a large law firm, you’ll have access to lawyers that have different specialties.
What Kinds of Cases do Personal Injury Attorneys Represent?
There are several instances when you may need the services of a personal injury lawyer:
Vehicle Accidents: motorcycle, bicycle, car, truck; slips and falls, wrongful death, animal bite, medical malpractice.
Consultation with Potential Personal Injury Lawyer
Don’t expect to find out everything you’ve always wanted to know about personal injury lawyers if you consult with several before you need their services.
When you make an appointment, ensure the attorney knows it is in the nature of “meet and greets.” Then, be considerate of his time. The idea is to determine if you and your attorney of choice have a mutual connection.
Ask a few questions, thank him for his time, and leave before you become a pest.
“How many years of experience do you have in personal injury law?”
Chances are, you can expect a greater settlement when your attorney has a lot of experience under his belt. It’s a comfort to know your lawyer will fight for your best interests in court.
“What are the typical types of cases you handle?”
If the attorney doesn’t practice personal injury law exclusively, he cannot represent you for your highest good. Personal injury law is intricate and requires specialized knowledge.
Also, find out what areas of personal injury he specializes in.
“Do you generally settle out of court or prefer trying cases in court?” His answer will show his strengths and weaknesses as an attorney. Typically, you won’t get the best settlement if he prefers settling out of court with the insurance company. A strong, confident lawyer will settle your case in a court trial.
Ask your areas of responsibility for upfront payment. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee. (they only get paid if you get paid).
Thank the attorney for their time and depart. You will still have unanswered questions but wait until if or when “it” happens to get down to the nitty-gritty.
If you are in an auto accident and you sustain an injury, you may have the right to file a personal injury claim. You must be able to prove the extent of your injuries and figure out who is liable for the accident. Even when you share fault for the accident, you can file a claim against the other party if they are 50% at fault or more for the accident.
The Initial Accident Report
When officials respond to the scene of the accident, they will write a preliminary accident report that establishes fault. It’s important to remember that this is only the assessment of the responding officers, and not necessarily what the final outcome will be. If you find mistakes in the accident report and you can prove you are less at fault, it’s important to address these issues with the officer that wrote the report. You might be able to get the accident report changed if you can prove the report is wrong.
The Extent of Your Injuries
By filing a personal injury claim, you are trying to make the case that you have losses. You have suffered in pain, you are struggling or unable to work, and you have property damage to be compensated for. If you walk away from the scene of an auto accident and return to work the next day, it’s going to be difficult to prove you had losses. The extent of your injuries and the financial losses you have endured are taken into consideration when coming up with an award amount should you win your case.
Your Percentage of Fault
When you are less than 50% at fault for an accident, you can file a personal injury claim for damages. The lower your percentage of fault is, the more money you can expect from your claim. For example, if you are awarded $10,000 and you are 10% at fault, you receive a $9,000 award. If you are 40% at fault, your award will go down to $6,000. It is important to establish fault and argue down your percentage of fault if possible. Your personal injury attorney will be able to assess your case carefully to determine what fault you should share with the other party.
Proving Your Injuries
Proving your injuries goes beyond an emergency room visit and heading back home. You must follow through with all of your medical care in order to show a clear picture of what is going on with your injuries. If you are referred to specialists, you have to make these appointments and do all that you can to heal. If you skip appointments, it will look like you aren’t really as injured as you claim to be. During the course of your treatment, take pictures if that makes sense and document how you are feeling every day in a personal journal. Your progress and compliance with all therapeutic interventions must be easy for your medical providers to report.
Losses That You Can Measure
If you are out of work because of your injuries, it is simple to calculate your lost wages. Car damage and medical bills are easy to prove, as well as any damage to property that was in your vehicle. These are your pecuniary damages, and only a part of your overall compensation. You also have non-pecuniary losses, which are those losses that are more difficult to assign value to. These include things like pain, suffering, or loss of enjoyment. This is where the extent of your injuries and your ability to recover fully becomes important. If your treatment team determines that you are at a medical end to treatment, and you still can’t return to work, your award should become much higher.
Settling Your Personal Injury Case
When you work with a personal injury lawyer, you may come to a place where you are ready to settle your case. Your attorney will have a good idea of what your case is worth and what you are likely to receive if you take the case to trial. The defendant and their attorney will also understand this, and they are going to want to cut their losses. Trials take time and money, and an insurance company would rather settle the case out of court. If you are comfortable with a settlement offer and you can live with the final amount, you may consider a settlement offer and take it.
You have the right to file a personal injury claim, even when you are partially at fault. It’s important to point out any problems with the accident report that will reduce your percentage of fault. When you are injured and you are suffering, a personal injury claim makes it possible to recover and get the financial compensation you need during this time.
On any given day, the average driver will comply with traffic laws due to the strength of social influences. Drivers on the road, passengers, police officers, and personal characteristics often affect driving behaviors. In social psychology, the driving behaviors that arise from these factors are due to conformity and social norms. Conformity is defined as “adjusting our behavior or thinking to coincide with a group standard.” These group standards or social norms are often what changes a person’s behavior or morals. This change occurs as a result of the need to belong, the fear of rejection, or simply the desire to be a part of a group without standing out. For example, a person might quit smoking because his or her group of friends frowns upon tobacco. This article explores the topic of conformity and covers the positive and negative aspects of conformity, concluding with the effect of conformity traffic laws.
Imagine yourself on the interstate in a big city, driving along with traffic that is traveling at 80 miles per hour (mph) in a 55 mph zone. Even though you know you’re breaking the law by going over the speed limit, you don’t slow down because you don’t want to be perceived as a “jerk” for slowing down everyone around you. At the same time, your conscience is telling you that you are violating the law and that you can’t afford a ticket. Studies show that you are more likely to continue to drive with the flow of traffic simply because everyone around you on the road is doing it. In big cities, this type of driving, even though it might go against one’s personal beliefs, is a social norm. In order to fit in, you are forced to conform. In one study, people were surveyed about the effectiveness of a 55 mph speed limit and their actual driving speeds in that zone. Out of the sample, 28.9 percent of the people that thought the speed limit was too low, reported driving at a higher speed. Others responded that the speed limit was somewhat useless because no one else followed it anyway, making the speed limit irrelevant, which ultimately had little effect on driving speeds. While speeding due to conformity and social norms is one of the most common driving violations that we can observe and relate to, there are more dangerous driving behaviors that drivers engage in due to various social influences.
Social and peer influences that result in a violation of traffic laws are the most common among teenagers. One study reports that drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident when there are passengers in the car. Under the pressure from friends, young drivers engage in risky behaviors including speeding, swerving in and out of the traffic, street racing, and other reckless driving behavior that leads to a higher chance of making an error, which ultimately results in serious accidents. The author adds, “passengers encourage drivers to conform to the prevailing norms of their social group.” Additionally, two more studies support that teens are likely to drive recklessly if the driver believes this type of driving is expected by their peers, even if these peers are not in the car. Even though these actions are extremely dangerous and possibly fatal, this shows how society and the social environment can influence us to conform to what we perceive will make us feel accepted by a group.
Conformity can also have a positive influence on a motorist’s life. Using the principle of conformity, a social group can work together to change their member’s or friends’ driving behavior. Though conformity often carries a negative connotation, it can be used to prevent potential accidents, tickets, and/or fatalities. Before discussing how to apply this principle to drivers, we have to understand how it functions. In order to increase the likelihood for conforming behavior to occur, individuals must be in a group with at least three people, made to feel incompetent or unconfident, have one common belief or opinion, know that their behavior is being observed, and they have to admire the group’s status and/or attractiveness. However, if these characteristics are absent in the group, the likeliness for someone to conform dramatically decreases. Nevertheless, if they are all present, this could be applied in real-world circumstances.
Conforming behavior can be manipulated for good or bad, and it is easy to see in real-life circumstances. Social groups can influence a person to change their behavior with group efforts. This can be done by getting everyone in a group to voice the same opinion towards the behavior of an individual with the goal to get him/her to conform. For example, if one person within a group of people constantly exceeds speed limits, doesn’t use turn signals, and runs stop signs, that group can express that they are against this type of driving because it is dangerous and it could be fatal. When everyone in the group agrees and expresses their concerns toward these negative behaviors, the individual with risky driving behaviors is more likely to change and begin exhibiting prosocial behaviors, due to the group’s unified disapproval and concern. When an individual is made to feel insecure about their actions compared to a group or social norm, they are more likely to change and conform in order to fit in.
Another way to use conformity to increase awareness of traffic laws is by reinforcing positive punishment. For example, speeding tickets written by a police officer are a form of punishment, done in an effort to change an individual’s bad driving habits. To increase the awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence, an ad featuring popular celebrities speaking out against driving under the influence, sharing stories of losing loved ones to these types of accidents, or even just encouraging people to take a taxi after drinking can be very effective. This sort of conformity is known as mimicry or the subconscious copying of someone else. By using a famous person to spread a message, fans are more likely to conform and begin to start mimicking or copying their behaviors.
A famous example that shows the power of mimicry in conforming behavior is the popularity of “short shorts” in basketball. Coaches believed short shorts would allow for more agility and better performance. However, with the airing of professional basketball games on TV, famous players like Michael Jordan wore loose-fitting shorts. The Washington Post noted that “Michael Jordan inspired a major alteration when he appealed for a longer and baggier cut”. Even though many believed short shorts were better for agility and performance, most still followed the trend Michael Jordan and other famous players set. Shortly after, the coaches’ attitudes changed towards baggy shorts. They began to see that the same high level of performance can be achieved, even if a player isn’t wearing short shorts. This can be used as an example of how, by gaining celebrity support, awareness for following traffic laws could be raised through the reinforcement of perceived dominant ideology.
State legislators create laws to discourage deviant behavior. They do this by reinforcing punishment, such as by giving speeding tickets that are paired with a required safe driving class. This type of pairing fosters cognitive dissonance with speeding. Cognitive dissonance theory is “discomfort caused by two simultaneous inconsistent thoughts,” and can cause an uncomfortable reaction, which can change one’s attitude towards negative behaviors. A person subjected to repeated reinforced punishment after breaking traffic laws is, in theory, less likely to break traffic laws.
Finally, conformity can be used to prevent automotive accidents and catastrophes. Since everyone in a group must agree on an issue in order to pressure the group members to conform, it only takes one group member stating a different opinion for the likelihood of conforming behavior to decrease significantly. This can be applied to group standards in a positive or negative way. However, in this case, it’s negative. One study stated that college students that have friends who drive under the influence are more likely to drive under the influence themselves. These students conform and go along with their friends in the car, overlooking the dangers of impaired driving. This behavior is also found in Ashch’s 1940 conformity experiment. For example, a person might not speak up because they don’t want to get put down for speaking up with an unpopular opinion or get called a “sissy.” However, if one person speaks up and reminds everyone that it’s not a good idea because it’s against the law and dangerous, it will make a great difference in preventing drunk driving. It only takes one person to change the group members’ minds and shift their behavior from risky to safe. Though the individual might create tension in the group, ultimately their actions will be safer.