Reduce Missouri car accident risks: Avoid these 5 bad driving habits

yield-sign-1340780-m.jpgEvery year, more than six million auto accidents happen throughout the United States. Sadly, a good number of these accidents are caused by driver error, which means they're 100% preventable. In this post, our Columbia personal injury lawyers discuss five bad driving habits that commonly contribute to Missouri car accidents.

1. Following too closely

Also known as "tailgating," this practice is a common contributing factor in rear-end collisions. When drivers follow too closely, they often don't have enough time and space to stop if traffic slows in front of them. To avoid tailgating, use the three-second rule to ensure you've left enough space between your vehicle and the one traveling in front of you. Choose a non-moving object on the road ahead of you, like an overpass or sign. Start counting to three slowly when the vehicle in front passes the object: if you reach the object before you get to three, you're following too closely.

2. Driving while distracted

A distracted driver is engaged in any non-driving related activity that takes his or her attention away from the road. Cell phones and other hand-held electronic devices are notoriously dangerous distractions, but there are several other activities that divide a driver's focus, making it more difficult to assess and react to roadway situations. These activities include eating and drinking, putting on makeup, fiddling with the radio or GPS system, talking to passengers, reading, and watching videos. Remember, to ensure safe travel, you need to devote all your attention to the task of driving.

3. Neglecting to use your turn signal

According to a study conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers, an estimated 25% of drivers fail to use their turn signals when making turns, and 48% don't use their signals when changing lanes. Furthermore, the study found that over 2 million accidents happen annually as a direct result of this issue. "The turn signal can no longer be considered 'optional' and all drivers have an ongoing duty to use it, just as they have a duty to stop at a stop sign or red light," said Richard Ponziana, author of the study and president of RLP Engineering.

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Missouri personal injury cases: A glossary of terms

file000871975023.jpgThe aftermath of a serious car accident can be a stressful, confusing time for car accident victims and their loved ones - and the idea of a personal injury claim can seem overwhelming. In this post, our Columbia car accident lawyers discuss some of the terms that are commonly associated with Missouri personal injury claims.

Missouri personal injury cases: A glossary of terms

• Catastrophic injuries: Extensive injuries that necessitate long-term medical treatment and often result in temporary or permanent disability. Such injuries can permanently restrict a victim's ability to perform everyday tasks and to maintain employment.

• Contingent-fee basis: An arrangement between a personal injury lawyer and an injury victim which means that the fee for legal services is contingent on recovering compensation. There is no initial payment required for representation, and the fee is a percentage of the compensation recovered on the victim's behalf.

• Damages: The various, reasonably-related costs associated with a victim's injuries. Depending on the circumstances, these costs may affect victims (and their loved ones) financially, physically or mentally.

• Loss of consortium: Refers to a loss of companionship, care and affection between an injury victim and his or her spouse. An uninjured spouse may be entitled to damages for loss of consortium when a car accident victim is fatally injured or disabled following a crash.

• Negligence: Careless or reckless conduct that causes injury to another person. Missouri law requires drivers to use reasonable care to avoid harming other people or property. A person or party can be intentionally or accidentally negligent.

• Settlement: A final compromise between both parties involved in a lawsuit, wherein plaintiff and defendant agree to end the lawsuit for a set amount of compensation.

• Soft tissue injuries: Damage to muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and other connective tissues in the body. Soft tissue injuries are extremely common in car accident victims. They often don't appear on X-rays and symptoms can take days to appear, so these injuries can be trickier to diagnose and treat. Depending on the severity of the damage, soft tissue injuries can cause chronic pain and long-term disability.

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Car accident risks & Columbia, Missouri teen drivers: Tips & info for parents

703781_car.jpgIn the last several years, the number of teen drivers on the road in Missouri has dramatically increased: although these drivers represent only 9.3% of all drivers on the road, they account for approximately 26% of all auto accidents and 15.1% of fatal wrecks.

Given the increased traffic on Missouri roads during the summer months, young drivers in Jefferson City, Ashland, and Fulton must take extra precautions to avoid dangerous road conditions, such as negligent truckers, drunk drivers, and road construction, among other risks. These precautions include limiting speed, minimizing distractions, buckling up, and avoiding alcohol before driving. Each of these steps can help reduce teen car accidents and prevent the terrible injuries that often accompany them.

What Can Parents Do?

According to the AAA Guide to Teen Driver Safety, it's crucial for parents to familiarize themselves with the issues that will likely impact your teen, and to set a strong example by modeling safe practices. Here are some of the key issues:

Safety belt use. Teens are much less likely to wear seatbelts than other age groups - but research has shown that teens are much more likely to buckle up if their parents do.

Driving conditions. Inclement weather, heavy traffic, and nighttime driving may present teens with circumstances that they don't know how to handle.

Distracted driving. Despite the proven dangers, many teens still believe it's safe to text and drive. Be sure to establish a "no texting" rule, and enforce it.

Speeding. Excessive speed is a major cause of car crashes involving teens. Here again, teens are more likely to speed if their parents do.

Driving with passengers. Research has demonstrated that teen accident risks increase dramatically with each additional passenger in the vehicle. Establish a rule to dictate how many passengers are acceptable when your teen is driving.

Alcohol use. AAA recommends setting a zero-tolerance rule for drinking and driving. Make sure your teen knows it's safe to call you if he or she needs a sober ride home.

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"Drowsy driving" a contributing factor in many Columbia car accidents

825580_freeway.jpgMost people are aware that distracted driving and driving under the influence are common causes of Missouri car accidents. However, there's another form of impairment that can prove to be just as lethal: drowsiness. In this post, our Columbia personal injury lawyers discuss some important facts about drowsy driving and share a few key warning signs and safety tips.

Drowsy driving and car accident risks: Facts and statistics

• According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), approximately 60% of adult drivers (or about 168 million Americans) admitted to driving a motor vehicle while drowsy within the previous year. In addition, 37% of drivers (or about 103 million Americans) say they have actually fallen asleep while driving.

• Estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that driver fatigue is a contributing factor in about 100,000 police-reported crashes every year. These accidents cause an estimated 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries.

• The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that drivers who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to cause an accident, compared to drivers who sleep eight hours or more. Drivers who sleep five hours or less each night are four to five times more likely to cause a sleep-related crash.

• Sleep loss affects the brain in a way that's similar to alcohol use. One study found that being awake for 18 hours is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05%. Being awake for a full 24 hours is akin to having a BAC of 0.10%.

Common symptoms of drowsy driving

If you experience any of these symptoms when you're behind the wheel, it may be time to pull over and rest:

• Frequent yawning, blinking or rubbing your eyes
• Wandering thoughts, confusion or persistent daydreaming
• Drifting or weaving in and out of your lane; veering onto a rumble strip
• Difficulty remembering the last few miles you've driven
• Missing exits, turns, traffic signs or signals
• Heavy eyelids; trouble keeping your head up

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Avoiding car accidents: 10 defensive driving tips for Columbia, Missouri motorists

broken_ice.jpgMost drivers don't get behind the wheel expecting to be involved in a crash. And yet, as our Columbia personal injury lawyers know, thousands of car accidents happen every single day in the U.S. In this post, our attorneys share some defensive driving tips to help reduce your accident risks.

Defensive Driving: Ten Tips for Missouri Motorists

1. Make defensive driving your top priority. The most basic step you can take toward becoming a defensive driver is to keep all your attention on the road in front of you. Stay aware of what other vehicles are doing, and remember to be prepared for the unexpected.

2. Put your cell phone away. As most people know, distracted driving has become a problem of epidemic proportions. Federal data indicates that drivers who use hand-held electronic devices are four times more likely to be involved in collisions resulting in injury. If you're talking or texting while you drive, you're automatically less able to identify potential issues and react to them safely.

3. Practice "high eyes" driving. When driving, it's easy to limit your attention to the vehicle traveling in front of you. However, doing so can prove problematic - especially if that vehicle's driver isn't paying attention. By keeping your eyes high, you can monitor the traffic ahead, which gives you extra time to decide how to react to an upcoming obstacle.

4. Be cautious when you change lanes. Lots of auto accidents happen as drivers move from one lane to another - one driver might cut another driver off; two drivers might try to merge into the same lane at the same time; etc. If you pick a lane and stay with it, you're automatically doing away with several factors that often contribute to crashes.

5. Watch for "fast lane changers" and "blind lane changers." Be on the lookout for drivers who continually dart in and out of different lanes, as well as those who change lanes without looking.

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Adults age 25-39 most likely to admit to texting and driving

iphones.jpgAs Columbia car accident lawyers, we know that distracted driving is a major issue facing teen drivers - but recent research shows many older drivers may be just as vulnerable to accidents caused by texting and driving. According to a survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, adult drivers between age 25 and 39 were the most likely to admit to texting and driving. In fact, while only 20 percent of teens admitted to texting while behind the wheel, over 40 percent of drivers in the older age group said they used a cell phone "fairly often" or "regularly."

Furthermore, the survey also revealed that "88 percent of motorists believe distracted driving is a bigger problem now than it was three years ago. About 89 percent believe that other drivers talking on a cellphone while driving is a serious threat to their personal safety, while nearly all (96 percent) believe that others texting or emailing behind the wheel is a serious threat." Indeed, federal data reveals that distraction is a contributing factor in 1/10th of all fatal accidents in the U.S. each year - that's more than 3,000 deaths tied to distracted driving.

The AAA's survey indicates that older drivers can be just as prone to distracted driving behaviors as younger drivers. However, given the prevalence of mobile device usage among teens, distracted driving remains a serious problem for the younger set. What can parents do to discourage cell phone use in their teen drivers? Below, we offer a few tips.

Keeping your teen driver safe: What parents can do to curb distracted driving

• Always set a good example. When you're behind the wheel, put your phone away and avoid other distracting activities, like eating, drinking, and fiddling with the radio or GPS. Remember, as a parent, you're your child's first driving teacher - and research shows you can have a significant impact on your teen's driving education. Model the behaviors you expect from your teen.

• Establish clear ground rules about safe driving. Make sure your teen knows what you expect so there's no confusion about what kind of behavior is acceptable when driving. Many parents find it useful to develop a parent/teen driving contract that lays out rules, expectations and consequences.

• Consider using a monitoring device. These devices can track your teen's driving behaviors - some insurers even offer these at a reduced cost. There are also several useful apps that can be downloaded onto Apple or Android devices which work to prevent texting and driving.

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Alcohol use and Columbia car accidents: How drinking impacts your ability to drive safely

February 17, 2014

the-last-drop-1083566-m.jpgAs Columbia car accident lawyers, we know that alcohol-impaired drivers increase accident risks for everyone on the road, including the innocent motorists who are simply unlucky to be traveling near them. Any amount of drinking can impair your ability to drive safely: even if you think you're just "buzzed," you're jeopardizing your safety and the safety of others by choosing to get behind the wheel.

What exactly makes alcohol and driving such a dangerous combination? Studies reveal that alcohol use impacts driving performance in several dangerous ways:

• Alcohol slows a driver's reaction time. Since accidents happen unexpectedly - often within a matter of seconds - having a quick reaction time is an essential part of avoiding a collision. Even with a blood alcohol content as low as 0.02%, a driver's mental capabilities (including reason and caution) are already impaired. When your reflexes are slowed, you're simply unable to react to changing roadway conditions as quickly - which means you're much more likely to cause a crash.

• Alcohol impairs a driver's ability to concentrate on the task of driving. Safe drivers have to be attentive to a number of different factors while behind the wheel, including vehicle speed, lane position, traffic signs and signals, and the actions of other drivers traveling near them. Research shows that alcohol-impaired drivers are more likely to concentrate on a single action, meaning others are neglected.

• Alcohol limits a driver's comprehension skills. Alcohol-impaired drivers are less able to recognize potential threats to roadway safety and to respond to those threats appropriately in order to prevent a crash. Drinking before you drive can hinder your decision-making ability, leaving you confused about how to process and react to a roadway emergency. In other words, alcohol makes it harder to identify a dangerous situation.

• Alcohol has a negative effect on a driver's motor skills. Motor skills are functions that "involve the precise movement of muscles with the intent to perform a specific act." As a driver's blood alcohol content rises, his motor skills deteriorate accordingly, beginning with what are known as "fine motor skills" (i.e. putting your key in the ignition) and continuing on to "gross motor skills" (i.e. standing, walking, etc.).

• Alcohol is detrimental to a driver's vision and hearing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol use reduces visual acuity, peripheral vision, depth perception, and the ability to judge distances. In addition, alcohol use "reduces the ear's ability to hear, muffling sounds, and interfering with the ability to determine the direction of sounds."

Don't take the risk! If you choose to drink, please call a cab, catch a ride with a sober driver, or simply stay put. Doing so just might be lifesaving.

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"T-Bone" collisions pose dangerous threat to Columbia drivers

February 7, 2014

yellow-traffic-light-669004-m.jpgCar crashes happen unexpectedly in a split second. Even the most routine driving maneuvers can cause them, and no amount of vigilance seems to be able to prevent them. Columbia car crash lawyers encourage Missouri drivers to wear their seat belts every single time they're behind the wheel - not just because it is Missouri law, but because they can and do save lives and decrease the severity of injuries.

One particularly common kind of auto accident occurs when a driver attempts to make a left turn and pulls into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Many times, the result is a side impact accident, also known as "T-Bone" collision or broadside accident. These crashes aren't just common - they're extremely dangerous. In fact, they're the second most deadly kind of accident, often causing serious injuries and fatalities to the motorists involved. Common consequences of side impact accidents include broken bones, head injuries, organ damage, whiplash and spinal injuries.

So, where does liability fall in this kind of collision? In most cases, the left-turning driver is liable: often, the turning driver is trying to "beat" another vehicle through a light, making an illegal turn, or failing to pay attention to oncoming traffic - due to drowsiness, distraction, or driving while impaired. However, there are exceptions - if the car going straight ran a red light, for example, or some kind of vehicle or road issue prevented the driver from fully executing the turn,

As you can see, even the simplest auto accident might require a thorough investigation to make a successful claim. If you have been injured in an auto accident or truck accident in Columbia or Jefferson City, you may require legal assistance to receive the proper compensation for your injuries. Do you need an auto accident lawyer to handle your claim, or is it more appropriate to let your insurance company and the other party's insurance company handle it? The fact is, most accident victims have no realistic idea of what their claim might be worth, and it is unlikely that the negligent party's insurance company will tell them.

Speak with the Columbia car accident attorneys at Aaron Sachs before signing any insurance papers, accepting a settlement offer, or giving a recorded statement about the accident. Call us today for a free initial consultation about your case.

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Texting, talking, taking "selfies": How distraction leads to Columbia car accidents

January 24, 2014

IMG_2767.JPGBy now, most people are aware that various forms of cell phone use are a serious threat to roadway safety, both here in Missouri and throughout the U.S. The vast majority of car accidents are entirely preventable and many are caused by drivers who have divided their focus between watching the road and performing another task - often using an electronic device. "You talk to any cognitive psychologist, they've known this for decades, that the human brain can only focus on one attention-requiring task at any given moment," said David Teater, senior director for the National Safety Council. "The other task is always in the background."

And it's no secret that the problem of distracted driving is particularly prominent among teens, who, in today's world, are likely to text frequently throughout the day. Due largely to their inexperience behind the wheel, teen drivers already have high crash risks, so adding a distraction to the mix can be especially dangerous. And it's not just texting that's the problem: numerous studies have indicated that talking on a phone - even if it's hands-free - increases a driver's chances of having an accident. Further, as technology continues to evolve, so do the forms of distraction plaguing drivers. One currently popular trend involves drivers taking "selfies," or self-portraits, while they're behind the wheel. In fact, CNN reports that "Instagram shows more than 3,727 posts under the #drivingselfie hashtag, more than 1,869 for the plural #drivingselfies, and more than 9,700 for #drivingtowork. Some users add the optimistic tag, #Ihopeidontcrash."

Facts about distracted driving:

• Sending a text message (or engaging in "visual-manual subtasks," like reaching for a phone or dialing a number) while driving makes you three times more likely to be involved in a crash.

• According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA),3,328 people were killed in 2012 distraction-affected accidents throughout the U.S. In addition, approximately 421,000 others suffered injury in these crashes.

• About 171.3 billion text messages were sent in the United States each month, as of December 2012.

• At any moment during daylight hours in the U.S., an estimated 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices while operating their vehicles.

• Of drivers under age 20 involved in fatal accidents, about 11% were reported as distracted when the accidents occurred. Data from NHTSA indicates that this age group has the biggest proportion of distracted drivers.

• 25% of teen drivers respond to a text message one or more times every time they get behind the wheel. What's more, 20% of teens and 10% of parents say they have "extended, multi-message text conversations while driving."

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Wrongful death, personal injury lawsuits filed in connection with 2012 Columbia drunk driving accident

November 7, 2013

gavel-4-1409594-m.jpgRecently, the families of two Missouri car accident victims filed lawsuits against a Columbia man and the establishment that served him alcohol in the hours before a deadly crash on Providence Road. According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, the lawsuits come in connection with a December 2012 accident that left one victim dead and the other in a coma. Law enforcement officials say Spencer Gordon was southbound on Providence when he drifted out of his lane and struck a Ford F-150, causing the pickup to smash into the center median and roll over multiple times.

Two occupants of the truck were ejected, and both sustained life-threatening head and brain injuries. Passenger Michelle Morrow, 24, died the following day at University Hospital. The driver, 23 year-old Michael Tufts, remains in a coma to this day. Neither Gordon nor his passenger was injured in the accident.

Gordon, who was 20 when the accident occurred, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and two counts of second-degree assault. Investigators say his blood alcohol content was 0.122%. He is scheduled to face trial on those charges in December.

The lawsuits, filed by relatives of Morrow and Tufts, seek damages from Gordon and from Déjà Vu Comedy Club, where Gordon was apparently drinking prior to the accident. Tufts' family maintains that the bar was negligent for both serving Gordon alcohol while he was under age 21 and for continuing to serve him "after he was visibly intoxicated." In their own wrongful death lawsuit, Morrow's parents have made similar claims against Acumen Corp., the company that owned the comedy club last December (although it no longer does). An attorney representing Déjà Vu has "denied the allegations against [the club] and said either Michael Tufts or Gordon is at fault," reports the Tribune.

Missouri's dram shop law: Section 573.053 RSMo

• In Missouri, under most circumstances, "it has been and continues to be the policy of this state to follow the common law of England...to prohibit dram shop liability and to follow the common law rule that furnishing alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries inflicted by intoxicated persons." In other words, a bar or restaurant is not automatically liable for an accident simply because it serves alcoholic drinks.

• However, the law allows for certain exceptions - specifically, "when it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the seller knew or should have known that intoxicating liquor was served to a person under the age of twenty-one years or knowingly served intoxicating liquor to a visibly intoxicated person."

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Columbia parents: Make bicycle safety a priority & help prevent child accidents

October 1, 2013

learner-2-583388-m.jpgBeautiful fall weather has finally come to Missouri, and our Columbia personal injury lawyers know that many Missourians are getting out and about to enjoy the comfortable temperatures. At this time of year, we want to encourage local parents to make bicycle safety a top priority. Recently, PedNet and City Hall's "Get About Columbia" program partnered to host a free awareness event, the Columbia Kids' Bike Workshop. The workshop championed one key goal: to "teach children how to ride safely on local streets and traffic." At the event, participants received instruction on safe bicycling, maintenance, and other important skills.

Bicycle safety essentials: Key tips for the parents of young bicyclists

• Require your child to wear properly fitting safety helmet when riding a bicycle. More children between ages five and 14 receive emergency room medical treatment for bicycle-related injuries than for injuries connected to any other sport. Since head injuries are an extremely common consequence of bicycle accidents, it's essential that young cyclists wear a helmet every single time they ride. Research indicates that safety helmets can reduce the risk of severe head injuries by as much as 88%. However, despite these findings, only about 45% of cyclists age 14 and under regularly wear a helmet. (To learn more about our law firm's bicycle helmet safety program, please click here.)

• Be a good role model. Children learn quickly from the examples set by their family members and caregivers. When you're bicycling with your child, model the safety practices you want to see your young cyclist adopt: wear a helmet, ride with traffic on the right side of the roadway, use hand signals to alert drivers to your intentions, and obey all traffic signs as signals. Doing so will also give you an opportunity to discuss the rules and responsibilities of the road with your children.

• Find ways to help your children see and be seen. It's challenging for young children to gauge a vehicle's speed and proximity. Experts recommend that you limit your child's riding area to sidewalks, parks and designated bicycle paths at least until they reach age 10: it takes practice to develop an awareness of the motorists traveling around you, and to anticipate their actions. And it's wise to equip your children (and their bicycle) with lights and reflectors to make them easier to see at dawn, dusk and after dark.

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Labor Day auto accidents caused injuries, fatalities throughout Missouri

September 3, 2013

traffic-jam-59308-m.jpgAs Columbia car accident lawyers, we know that an increased number of Missouri crashes tend to occur over holiday weekends, largely due to contributing factors like heavy roadway traffic and alcohol use. Recently, the Missouri Highway Patrol released 2013's Labor Day crash statistics, which provide an overview of traffic and waterway incidents that happened during this year's holiday counting period, which began on Friday, August 30 at 6:00 p.m. and ended on Monday, September 2 at 11:59 p.m.

During that time period, Missouri law enforcement officials investigated 248 auto accidents statewide, compared to 201 crashes during the same time frame in 2012. Officers statewide also participated in Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) over the weekend, meaning all available officers were on patrol, aiming to enforce state laws related to speed limits, seat belt usage, and driving under the influence, while also being on-hand to provide assistance to motorists in need. Additionally, officers took part in an initiative known as "The 20 Mile Trooper Project," meaning officers were positioned at 20 mile intervals on highways and roadways throughout the state. This year's patrol efforts were of particular importance: Missouri crashes, which had been steadily declining for the past six consecutive years, spiked during this time period in 2012.

Labor Day Weekend in Missouri: Data from the Missouri Highway Patrol

• During the 2013 Labor Day Holiday, seven people were killed and at least 112 more suffered injuries in Missouri accidents.

• Highway Patrol troopers arrested 119 motorists for driving while intoxicated. Comparatively, 147 people were arrested for drunk driving during the 2012 holiday weekend.

• No boating fatalities were reported by the Patrol this year, but troopers responded to nine boating accidents involving seven injured boaters. In addition, 14 people were arrested for boating while intoxicated.

• Here in Columbia, officers participated in sobriety checkpoints on both Friday and Saturday evening. Nearly 620 motorists were stopped at these checkpoints, according to the Columbia Missourian: ultimately, eight people were arrested for drunk driving and two others were charged with minor in possession of alcohol by consumption.

Facts about Labor Day Weekend Accidents from the National Safety Council (NSC):

• Nationwide, the NSC estimates that motor vehicle collisions caused about 400 fatal accidents and an additional 42,000 injuries requiring medical treatment over the Labor Day Holiday.

• Further, the Council reports that at least 143 lives were saved over the holiday because vehicle occupants opted to wear safety belts. An additional 99 more lives could have been spared if everyone on the road had chosen to buckle up.

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Today's teenagers more likely to wear buckle up, drive sober, but 1 in 3 admit to texting and driving

August 15, 2013

girlwithphone.jpgAs Columbia personal injury lawyers, we know that texting and driving poses a serious threat to roadway safety - and that young drivers are especially prone to this form of distraction. A 2011 study conducted by the Ad Council found that 77% of teen drivers felt "very or somewhat confident that they could safely text while driving." What's more, the Centers for Disease Control's most recent National Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed alarming data about teens' texting and driving habits. The results of the nationwide survey, which assesses health-risk behaviors among young people, were a mixed bag of good news and bad news. While teen drivers have shown "significant process" in areas like seat belt usage and drunk driving, distraction (particularly texting and emailing) remains a prominent risk factor.

"We are encouraged that more of today's high school students are choosing healthier, safer behaviors, such as wearing seat belts, and are avoiding behaviors that we know can cause them harm, such as binge drinking or riding with impaired drivers," said Howell Wechsler, director of the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health, in a news release. "However, these findings also show that despite improvements, there is a continued need for government agencies, community organizations, schools, parents, and other community members to work together to address the range of risk behaviors prevalent among our youth."

Significant findings of the CDC's National Youth Risk Behavior Survey:

• Over the last 20 years, the number of teen drivers who never or rarely wear seat belts has dropped dramatically (from 26% in 1991 to 8% in 2011).

• Within the same time period, the number of teens who admitted to riding in a vehicle operated by a drunk driver also declined (from 40 to 24).

• Only 8% of teen drivers said they had driven a vehicle after drinking alcohol within the last 30 days, compared to 17% in 1997.

• However, about 1 out of 3 teens (32.8%) said they had sent at least one text message or email while driving within the previous 30 days.

U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called texting and driving "an epidemic" when he released the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's official "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving." The Blueprint outlines a practical, comprehensive strategy to reduce distracted driving accidents throughout the country. "We need to teach kids, who are the most vulnerable drivers, that texting and driving don't mix," LaHood said at a news conference.

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One person killed, 16 injured when man drives into crowd of pedestrians

boardwalk2.jpgBecause pedestrians have nothing to shield them from the force of a vehicle's impact, pedestrians are extremely vulnerable to serious, life-threatening injury when they're involved in car accidents. Our Missouri personal injury lawyers know there are a number of common factors that contribute to pedestrian accidents, including speeding, reckless driving, and driver distraction. However, though it's hard to believe, there are some collisions that simply aren't accidents at all.

This week, a Colorado man pleaded not guilty to one count of murder, 16 counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and 17 counts of hit and run after he drove around a vehicle barrier and into a crowd of pedestrians on the Venice Beach boardwalk. Authorities told NBC Southern California that 38 year-old Nathan Louis Campbell has been accused of intentionally driving his vehicle onto the boardwalk, killing one woman (32 year-old Alice Gruppioni, an Italian woman who was visiting Los Angeles on her honeymoon) and injuring 16 others.

Surveillance video footage shows Campbell driving a Dodge Avenger into the crowd on the boardwalk, striking several pedestrians without stopping. "There was no indication that he knew anybody that he hit," Los Angeles Police Department Commander Andy Smith told CNN. "It looks like this guy wanted to run over a bunch of people. One guy bent on doing evil." Eventually, Campbell abandoned the vehicle and ran away on foot, but turned himself into police within a matter of hours, saying he was "connected" to the incident. Investigators and witnesses believe he intentionally drove into the crowd, but Campbell's lawyer maintains that the incident was just a "horrible accident." Campbell's bail has been set at $1.48 million. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Pedestrian accidents: The facts

• Within the next 24 hours, an average 460 people will receive emergency room medical treatment for traffic-related pedestrian injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Within the next two hours, a pedestrian will be killed in a traffic crash.

• On each trip, pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to suffer fatal injuries in a motor vehicle accident.

• The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that 4,432 pedestrians were killed and over 69,000 suffered injury in 2011 auto accidents.

• The CDC says "higher vehicle speeds increase both the likelihood of a pedestrian being struck by a car and the severity of injury."

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Missouri Water Patrol releases drowning, boating accident statistics

648678_sparks.jpgOur Columbia personal injury lawyers know that Missouri's waterways experience more traffic during the warm summer months. Many people take advantage of the beautiful weather by hitting Missouri's bodies of water for various forms of recreation, like boating, fishing and swimming. Unfortunately, increased activity on waterways during the summertime tends to increase the number of accidents that take place. To raise and promote water safety awareness, the state of Missouri has implemented an annual initiative called "Operation Dry Water," which is a national campaign that raises awareness of the dangers accompanied with boating under the influence (BUI) by highlighting enforcement efforts.

This year Operation Dry Water held their fifth national campaign during the weekend of June 28-30. In Missouri, troopers inspected 747 vessels and 1,405 boaters in total. The boat inspections led to 14 arrests for boating while intoxicated. Along with BUI arrests, the Missouri Water Patrol had 114 boating violations, 482 warnings, and 82 non-boating violations. The special sobriety checkpoints, saturations, and heightened awareness during normal patrols helped detect and remove hazards from state waterways.

As is customary in Missouri, many people were out enjoying the water over the Fourth of July holiday. During the holiday counting period (July 3rd through July 8th), troopers investigated 17 boating crashes and 11 injuries. In addition, 17 people were arrested for boating while intoxicated and 3 people drowned. Comparatively, during the 2012 Fourth of July holiday, there were six crashes with two injuries; seven arrests for boating while intoxicated; one drowning; and two electrocutions. Authorities say the increase in water fatalities can be partly attributed to a longer holiday counting period this year.

Alarmingly, our state has experienced a large increase in the number of water fatalities this year. The number of drownings has tripled in Missouri, compared to 2012. Thus far, 24 people have drowned in Missouri - last year, at the same time, eight people had drowned, reports the Kansas City Star. The Army Corps of Engineers connects the increase in drownings to busier public beaches and unnoticed slips under water. The Corps highly recommends that people use life jackets and/or other floating devices to help reduce water safety risks.

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