February 2012 Archives

Highway Patrol Releases Current Fatality Statistics for Southeast Missouri

file0001745124941.jpgThe Missouri Highway Patrol just released the latest traffic accident statistics for all of Missouri, including specific numbers for the southeast region of the state.

Our Cape Girardeau car accident lawyers wanted to share these traffic fatality statistics to help promote traffic safety and accident awareness in southeast Missouri drivers. It is our hope that with this information we will all drive a little more safely.

Southeast Region Fatality Totals as of February 25, 2012:
2012 Year to date fatalities - 16
2011 Totals as of 2/25/2011 - 15
6.7% increase for the year

Statewide Fatality Totals (reported on the MSHP Website as of February 27, 2012):
2012 Year to date fatalities - 104
2011 Totals as of 2/27/2011 - 81
28% increase for the year

2011 Year End Total = 782 (The total is preliminary due to late deaths not yet reported.)
2010 Year End Total = 821
2009 Year End Total = 878
2008 Year End Total = 960
2007 Year End Total = 992
2006 Year End Total = 1,096
2005 Year End Total = 1,257

What do these statistics mean for Southeast Missouri drivers?
As you can observe from the decreasing numbers above, Missouri roadways have become safer each year. From 2005 to 2010, there were 436 fewer traffic deaths, a decrease of 35%. Unfortunately, we are presently seeing a 28% increase in the number of statewide fatalities when compared to this time last year.

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Is it Legal to Ride in the Back of a Pickup Truck in Missouri?

1289287_under_sunset.jpgIn New Madrid and throughout Missouri, it's not uncommon to see people riding in the back of a pickup truck, especially during the spring and summer months: in fact, many of us have probably ridden in truck beds ourselves. And yet many people don't know what Missouri law says with respect to this issue. As temperatures turn warmer, our New Madrid car accident lawyers want to make sure drivers are well informed about the safety issues and state laws that affect passengers riding in truck beds.

Is it safe to ride in the back of a truck?
Part of the safety of a vehicle is based on design. Cars, vans, and SUVs are described as 5 passenger, 9 passenger, etc. Vehicles are described in this way because they're designed to safely restrain and protect a specific number of people in the event of an accident. When you carry more passengers than a vehicle is designed to protect - and especially when those passengers are riding in a truck bed - it's much more likely that people will sustain serious injuries, if an accident occurs.

Consider the outcome of these recent accidents:

Audrain County, Missouri: October 2011
Twelve people were injured - and another person later died - after a 2002 Dodge truck carrying all of them veered off the road and then rolled several times. The accident occurred on Audrain County Road 435, near Mexico, Missouri. The driver was traveling at a high rate of speed and lost control of the vehicle: he traveled off the left side of the road, hit a mailbox, and then careened back onto the roadway, overturning several times. 9 of the passengers were riding in the bed of the pickup and 2 were riding in the cab. All 11 passengers were ejected. No one was wearing a seat belt.

All of the passengers were transported to University Hospital in Columbia via 4 helicopters and 5 ambulances. A passenger died at the hospital, and 6 others sustained serious injuries. The driver subsequently faced multiple charges, including involuntary manslaughter, assault, and endangering the welfare of a child: 2 passengers were children under age 11.

Tuscola County, Michigan: December 2011
A 23 year-old man rolled his pickup truck onto its side while driving through a field: 3 passengers riding in the bed were ejected, and all 3 were seriously injured. 4 occupants of the cab, including the driver, were unharmed, and the driver was arrested on charges of DWI.

Salt Lake County, Utah: February 2012
A 16 year-old remains in critical condition after he fell from the bed of a moving truck. Police report that the teen initially decided to get into the back of the truck by climbing through the passenger window. At some point, the driver looked back to check on the passenger, then swerved, then overcorrected. The teen was ejected and suffered serious head injuries.

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Proposed Law Could Help to Prevent Distracted Driving Car Accidents in Southeast Missouri

773858_vibrate.jpg"(Distracted driving is) anything that takes attention away from driving. It's the No. 1 contributing circumstance to all traffic crashes in both Missouri and nationwide," said Capt. Tim Hull of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Cell phone use contributed to nearly 2,000 car accidents in Sikeston and elsewhere throughout Missouri in 2009, according to the Missourian. The problem continues to grow: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports a 50% increase in texting and other handheld device use while driving in 2010.

Our Cape Girardeau car accident attorneys understand that as technology continues to evovle, so will the potential distractions available in our vehicles. With no state laws governing the use of cell phones by drivers, motorists will continue to be at high risk for distracted driving accidents. That could change one day, if Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., gets her way.

McCarthy has introduced legislation (H.R. 2333: The Safe Drivers Act of 2011) that would ban drivers from using a cell phone for all states across the county. Last December, in response to rising accident and fatality rates, McCarthy issued a press release calling again for the passage of a national ban. Currently, these types of laws are managed by individual states. If H.R. 2333 gains ground, the U.S. Department of Transportation would be required to set up a nationwide standard, prohibiting cell phone use while driving, according to Auto Trends Magazine.

"Driving while making a phone call, texting or using apps can be as dangerous as driving drunk, and much more common," Rep. McCarthy said. "With some basic commonsense rules that are already in place in some parts of the country, we can reduce injuries and save lives in America."

The only law that is currently in place to regulate driver distraction in Missouri, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, is one that prohibits drivers under the age of 21 from text messaging. All other drivers are free to do as they wish behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

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Do GDL Programs Really Reduce Risks of Teen Car Accidents in Perryville?

1035921_gps_driving_2.jpgYoung Missouri drivers are required to follow the Graduated Driver License (GDL) law, which allows teen drivers to gain driving experience through a number of stages that slowly expose inexperienced drivers to certain hazards. The program ultimately aims to decrease the risks of teen car accidents in Dexter, Sikeston and elsewhere throughout Missouri. According to CNN Health, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that from 1985 to 2007, the number of fatal car accidents involving 16-year-old drivers dipped by more than 25%. On the flip side, accidents involving 18-year-old drivers, or those who obtained an unrestricted driver's license, increased by approximately 12% during the same time period.

Our Southeast Missouri car accident attorneys understand that the increase in the number of fatal accidents involving 18-year-old drivers in areas with strict GDL programs counteracts the progress made in the safe driving habits of 16-year-old drivers. For this reason, parents and guardians are urged to stay active and involved in their teens' driving career long after they've completed the GDL program. It's important to keep safe driving as a frequent topic in your household. Parents are among the most effective influences on a teen's driving habits.

Experts are unable to explain the spike in the number of fatal car accidents experienced by 18-year-old drivers. Some speculate that it's a form of "payback" for all of the previous restrictions, which experts believe limit a novice driver's ability to get a real-life feel for the driving world.

There is some form of GDL program established in every state, requiring new drivers to first obtain a learner's permit (which allows them to drive only with a parent or other licensed adult). Beyond that step, each state's regulations vary.

The GDL program in Missouri includes an instructional permit, an intermediate license and an unrestricted license:

The instructional permit: A driver must be at least 15 years-old and is required to drive with a licensed driver in the front seat.

The intermediate license: A driver must be at least 16. This license restricts a person from driving without another licensed driver between 1 and 5 a.m.

The unrestricted license: A driver must be at least 18 to be eligible for unrestricted privileges.

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Fatal Rear End Collision is a Cautionary Tale for Southeast Missouri Drivers

145319_car_accidents_3.jpgAn investigation of a recent fatal accident that happened near Mountain Home, Idaho has revealed that following too closely, excessive speed and distraction all contributed to the collision. Drivers in southeast Missouri can learn from this senseless accident, which was caused by several common driving behaviors and claimed a young life. Rear end collisions are one of the most common kinds of car accidents, and - as in this instance - the outcome can be fatal.

In January, 18 year-old Taylor Sauer was killed when she rear-ended a slow moving semi-truck on the interstate: after the initial impact, Sauer's car was struck from behind by another semi. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Lieutenant Sheldon Kelley, of the Idaho State Police, says Sauer was commuting home from Logan, Utah, where she attended college.

The investigation of the accident scene revealed that Sauer was traveling 88 mph when she struck the semi, and that she was following the truck too closely. The semi, which was pulling a tanker trailer, was forced to slow while going up a long grade. Police believe that Sauer was distracted and didn't notice the truck slowing: her phone records show that she had been sending text messages and Facebook updates in the minutes leading up to the crash. Tragically, one of her last Facebook posts reveals that even she knew she wasn't driving responsibly: "I can't discuss this matter now. Driving and Facebooking is not safe!" She and her friends had been discussing Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.

Rear end collisions are most commonly caused by driver distraction or by driver aggression. Both distracted and aggressive drivers are prone to certain dangerous driving behaviors, particularly tailgating, or following too closely.

Following too closely is defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and in the Missouri Driver Guide as" following another vehicle so closely that even if the driver is attentive to the actions of the vehicle ahead he/she could not avoid a collision in the circumstance when the driver in front brakes suddenly." And of course, if the driver is inattentive, the collision is all the more inevitable (and all the more severe).

Allowing yourself a safe stopping distance affords you more time to make safe, well-planned decisions while you are driving. If you give yourself enough space, you should be able to scan along the sides of the road and into the other lanes. You should also be able to look far enough down the road to view traffic conditions ahead of the vehicle immediately in front of you. This distance gives you the time to react, and, if needed, to avoid running into the back of the vehicle you are following. Preserving this distance is one of the best ways to avoid a car accident.

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Officials Offer Safety Advice to Avoid Risks of Winter Car Accidents in the Bootheel

Today, Missouri got its first taste of real winter weather winter weather, which has created hazardous driving conditions throughout the state. Our Perryville car accident lawyers understand that serious traffic accidents are more likely to happen in these dangerous driving conditions. With this in mind, we wanted to share some safety tips from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to help reduce the risks associated with driving during the cold months.
There are ways to get your vehicle ready for snowy and icy roadways before the weather even gets here. Make sure your car has a good battery, fresh antifreeze, a properly working exhaust system and motor oil that can stand up to the cold weather. Officials also recommend that you check your tires to make sure that they're in good condition, that you have enough windshield wiper fluid and that your windshield wipers are in good condition. With the proper safety precautions, we'll all have a better chance of avoiding car accidents that occur due to weather conditions.

MoDOT is also ready to help preserve the condition of our roadways during the snowy and icy weather. The department has more than 3,000 employees and more than 1,500 pieces of snow-removal equipment ready to fight the snowy roads. The crews work out of 10 districts throughout the state, covering more than 30,000 miles of our highway system. These districts are also prepared to hire emergency equipment operators, if needed, to assist in clearing our roadways and creating safer driving conditions after a snow or ice storm.

Before planning a trip - especially when there's winter weather in the forecast - you're urged to check out road conditions through MoDOT's Traveler Information Report page. MoDOT also offers a Traveler's Information map, along with several webcam feeds that shown road conditions throughout the state. You can also contact MoDOT directly by calling 888-ASK-MODOT.

When possible, motorists are asked to avoid driving until the roads are plowed, safe and passable. If you absolutely must drive in dangerous conditions, there are some safety tips that can help you get to your destination safely.

Winter Driving Tips:

• Obey all speed limits. They're there to keep motorists safe.

• Use common sense behind the wheel. Adjust your driving habits to current road and weather conditions.

• Never pass a snowplow, and allow these vehicles plenty of room to operate safely.

• Always wear your seat belt.

• Be extra careful when driving when the temperature is near 32 degrees. That's when it's the most dangerous to be out on the road.

• Keep an eye out for disabled vehicles.

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New Technology Aims to Decrease Pedestrian Deaths in Cape Girardeau and Elsewhere in Southeast Missouri

Our Cape Girardeau car accident attorneys know that car/pedestrian collisions are often accompanied by devastating injuries: spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and severe trauma often result. Soon, there may be a new way to help reduce the risk of these accidents: engineers are currently developing technology that could help cars avoid pedestrians, just as there are other currently technologies that help cars avoid collisions with other cars and with road debris. This new system is designed to override driver instruction if the car approaches a pedestrian too closely, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"The best way to protect pedestrians is to separate them as much as possible from vehicle traffic," says David Zuby, the Institute's chief research officer. "But the paths of walkers and drivers inevitably are going to intersect at some point, and new warning systems, as well as vehicle design changes required in Europe, have the potential to make those meetings less deadly."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were more than 4,000 pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in the United States in 2009. Another 59,000 pedestrians suffered injuries in these accidents. These statistics average out to a pedestrian being killed every two hours (and one injured every nine minutes). Missouri saw nearly 100 pedestrian fatalities in 2009.

The technology is still being developed and engineers have several kinks to work out, but many drivers worry the technology will never be accurate enough.

"Pedestrians can change course quickly, so just as it can be hard for a driver to know what a person at the curb is going to do, it also can be tricky for a computer," Zuby says."It's important to get that right because too many false alarms could turn a warning system into an annoyance and make drivers reluctant to accept the new technology."

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Poplar Bluff Drivers: How Well Do You Know Missouri's Rules of the Road?

600704_quiz_1.jpgAfter gaining years of experience behind the wheel, drivers sometimes forget the basic rules they learned in driver's ed--ironic, but true. Below, you'll find a short quiz from our Poplar Bluff car accident attorneys to test your knowledge of Missouri traffic laws. You might be surprised at your score...

Have fun with the quiz, and then check your answers below. We think brushing up on traffic laws is a worthwhile exercise: after all, a driver who knows and follows roadway rules is less likely to be involved in a collision. The more safe drivers there are on Missouri highways, the better.

Test Your Knowledge of Missouri Rules of the Road

1. True or False - Even when approaching a green light, you must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.

2. True or False - Drivers can block a crosswalk when stopped at a red traffic signal.

3. True or False - The penalty for littering can be up to $1,000 and/or up to one year in jail.

4. True or False - It is the right of every Missourian to hold a driver's license and to drive.

5. True or False - Only the driver is required to wear a seat belt at all times.

6. True or False - It is acceptable to back up if you miss your turn on the highway and the traffic lane is clear.

7. True or False - You may pass another vehicle by using the shoulder of the road if that vehicle is traveling too slowly.

8. True or False - Two solid yellow lines on the pavement mean passing is not allowed.

9. True or False - A flashing red light must be treated the same as a stop sign.

10. True or False - The "No-Zone" refers to parking in restricted areas.

Keep reading to check your answers...

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NHTSA Wraps Chevy Volt Investigation: Is the Volt Safe for Drivers in Kennett, Missouri and Elsewhere?

mgyoaZ2.jpgOur Kennett, Missouri car accident attorneys have been following the media storm surrounding the controversial safety issues plaguing the Chevy Volt. Back in November, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating the Volt in response to reports of unexpected fires under the hood. When these vehicles were tested for occupant protection and crash safety, it was discovered that the vehicle's lithium-ion battery could be damaged in a side-collision car accident, causing the coolant line could rupture.

After engineers conducted a test side-impact accident, the car's battery caught fire some days later, all by itself. The NHTSA has worked alongside General Motors, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to figure out more about the problem, to correct the situation, and to alert vehicle owners.

This week, officials closed that investigation, announcing that GM would install a protective casing around the battery in existing Volts, which would resolve the issue and make a recall unnecessary. While the NHTSA concluded that electric cars are no more likely to catch fire than gas powered cars, they also released new guidelines for firefighters and other emergency responders, outlining the appropriate approach to an electric vehicle fire. (To read these guidelines, click here.) Notably, the guidelines warn that toxic fumes can leak from damaged batteries long after a fire has been put out. Additionally, according to NHTSA's report, "The closing of this investigation does not constitute a finding by NHTSA that a safety-related defect does not exist."

Vehicle recalls are inevitable, even when we think we've purchased a safe car. For this reason, it's important to keep an eye on the current vehicle recalls. You can do so by visiting the Recalls.gov website. Recall announcements frequently offer free repairs or replacements, but it's important for consumers to stay well informed about the most recent recalls to prevent a serious accident.

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Distracted Drivers Continue to Cause Injury Accidents in Potosi and Throughout Southeastern Missouri

2009-01-04_07-30-56.jpgOur Potosi car accident attorneys continue to be frustrated by the number of distracted driving accidents on Missouri roadways. Cell phone use and text messaging are among the most common distractions for drivers, and consequently, they're also common causes of serious (and totally preventable) accidents. Several states have banned the use of electronic devices while behind the wheel, as evidenced in the above photograph of San Francisco's Interstate 80. However, Missouri's only law related to cell phone use is a texting ban for drivers under age 21. Furthermore, this law is difficult to enforce, as it's nearly impossible to estimate a driver's age from a passing patrol car.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has a message to all drivers: Stop engaging in distracting behaviors. Focus completely on safe driving, and help prevent accidents in southeast Missouri and nationwide.

GHSA's recent report, Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do, is designed to inform motorists about the consequences of driver distractions. The report defines distracted driving; outlines the dangers it causes; explains how often drivers are distracted; and suggests countermeasures states can enact to help prevent distracted driving accidents.

The report concluded the following:

• Distractions significantly hinder a driver's performance behind the wheel.
• Drivers are distracted for about half of their time behind the wheel.
• Nearly 30 percent of all accidents are caused by driver distractions.
• Texting increases the risks of an accident more than using a cell phone.

States are urged to adopt the following practices to improve roadway safety:

• Consider constructing center-line and edge-line rumble strips to alert motorists who may have drifted off the road.
• Consider enacting and enforcing a complete ban for newly-licensed drivers on cell phone use and text messaging devices.
• Enforce all current distracted driving laws.
• Keep better records of traffic accidents caused by distracted driving.
• Evaluate distracted-driving programs and laws in other states to determine which will work best for their state.

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