Recently in Driver Safety Category

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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"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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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."

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

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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Arrive alive: Safety tips for drivers in Columbia, Missouri

685365_traffic_light.jpgSometimes, Missouri car accidents can't be avoided, but there are some important steps you can take to reduce your chances of being injured in a serious crash. In this post, our Columbia personal injury lawyers discuss a few basic tips to help you and your loved ones arrive safely at your destination.

Roadway safety in Missouri: Tips to help you travel safe

• Make sure your vehicle is in good working order. Keeping your car well-maintained and having it serviced regularly can help reduce your risk of being involved in a crash. Before you hit the road - especially if you're planning a long trip - fill up your gas tank and make sure you don't need to change your oil or rotate your tires.

• Carry a few essential supplies with you at all times. Authorities recommend carrying an emergency kit in your vehicle, just in case. You may want to include items like a flashlight, blankets, bottled water, a first-aid kit and jumper cables. Click here to read more car emergency kit suggestions from Consumer Reports.

• Check weather and traffic conditions. Certain roadway conditions - like heavy traffic, construction zones and inclement weather - can have a significant impact on roadway travel. Columbia drivers can plan ahead by finding out about road closures, local weather, construction, and traffic by visiting the City of Columbia's website.

• Wear your seat belt. Buckling up is the simplest and most effective way to protect yourself from car accident injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), wearing a properly fitting seat belt reduces fatal injury risks by 45% in front seat vehicle occupants. Nationwide, seat belt use saves more than 13,000 lives every year.

• Don't get behind the wheel if you're impaired. Alcohol use and fatigue can have a dramatic effect on a driver's judgment, vision, reaction time and hand-eye coordination, making a serious accident even more likely. Don't get behind the wheel unless you're fit to drive.

• Keep your eyes on the road. It's no secret that distracted drivers are an ever-increasing threat to roadway safety. In 2011, 3,331 people were killed and 387,000 suffered injuries in crashes involving distracted drivers. While cell phones are the most notorious sources of distraction, any activity that takes your attention away from driving (eating or drinking, fiddling with the radio, reaching for a dropped object, etc.) increases your chances of having a crash.

• Use your turn signals. Always use your blinkers to signal your intentions to other motorists when you are preparing to turn or change lanes. Doing so will help prevent rear-end and side-impact collisions.

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Train/vehicle collisions often occur at railroad crossings, cause fatal injuries

1397213_crossing_light.jpgAs Columbia auto accident lawyers, we know that collisions involving passenger vehicles and trains are often deadly. Research indicates that passenger vehicle occupants are 40 times more likely to be killed in train/vehicle collisions than in accidents involving two passenger vehicles. Sadly, around two-thirds of these crashes "occur during daylight hours, in crossings equipped with automatic warning devices."

Recently, two young children were killed when their mother attempted to drive around lowered crossing gates at an Iowa railroad crossing, causing the family's minivan to be struck by an oncoming train. Police say 25 year-old Tara Lewman had initially stopped at the crossing, where a freight train was stopped on the tracks. Ultimately, however, Newman drove around the crossing's lowered gates and pulled in front of the stopped train, apparently unaware that another set of tracks ran parallel to the tracks where the freight train was stopped. The stopped train reportedly obscured Lewman's view of an oncoming train on the second set of tracks, and her van was struck on the passenger side, killing two of her three children, 4 year-old Erika Clark and 5 year-old Kallie Clark. Lewman and another daughter, 1 year-old Jordan Clark, were also injured in the collision: Jordan Clark remains hospitalized, but Lewman has since been released.

In the wake of this tragic accident, the Iowa Highway Patrol's Sergeant Scott Bright reminded drivers of the importance of yielding to gates, lights and other warning signals at railroad crossings. "They're down for a reason. People need to stop and wait until the cross buck goes back up and then proceed," Bright told KCCI News.

Auto accidents and railroad crossings: A few facts and statistics

• Nationwide, there are over 210,000 railroad crossings, according to the Angels on Track Foundation. Of that number, nearly 130,000 intersect with public roadways.

• A person or vehicle is struck by a train about every 3 hours, reports Operation Lifesaver.

• In 2012, there were 1,960 collisions at railroad crossings throughout the continental United States. These collisions resulted in 235 deaths and more than 900 injury victims.

• An average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds (200 tons) and can weigh as much as 6,000 tons, meaning "the weight ratio of a car to a train [is] proportional to that of a soda can to a car."

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Preparing teens for safe roadway travel: Tips and info for Missouri parents

February 25, 2013

1413873_.jpgAs teen drivers prepare to get behind the wheel, it can be an extremely frightening time for parents. After all, car accidents are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for about one out of three deaths within this age group. However, there are several steps parents can take to help keep their teenagers safe - in fact, parent involvement can be extremely influential on teens' driving habits. Numerous surveys have shown that teens are more likely to practice safe driving habits when their parents actively support and monitor their driving education. In this post, our Columbia personal injury lawyers share some tips and information to help parents stay informed and involved.

Facts about teen driving

• In large part because they lack driving experience, teen drivers between age 16 and 19 are four times more likely to be involved in auto accidents than adult drivers between age 25 and 69.

• Distracted driving is an especially prevalent problem among teen drivers: drivers under age 20 have the highest proportion of fatal crashes involving driver distraction.

• A teen driver's crash risk is even higher when other teens are in the vehicle. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly two out of three auto accident fatalities involving 16 year-old drivers occur when one or more peer passengers are riding in the vehicle.

• The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that two-thirds of teens who are killed in traffic accidents are not wearing seat belts.

• Teen drivers with involved parents are more likely to wear seat belts, avoid drinking and driving, obey posted speed limits, and refrain from using cell phones while driving.

Teaching your teen about roadway safety:

• Remember that obtaining a driver's license represents a major milestone for teens as an important step towards independence. Be sure to praise and celebrate your teen for the accomplishment.

• Research indicates that teens often fail to recognize their limitations as novice drivers, and many view driving "experience as something that's solved by getting a driver's license." That's why it's so important for parents to stay involved: talk to your teens about roadway safety on a regular basis, even after they've passed their driver's tests and started driving on their own.

• When you talk to your teen about driving, make the conversation a dialogue instead of a lecture. Teens are more likely to listen and respond when they feel their ideas and perspectives are being respected. If they feel they're just being criticized or reprimanded, they're more likely to stop listening and less likely to share their experiences and questions with you.

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Winter weather may cause holiday travel headaches, car crashes in Columbia, Missouri & nationwide

December 21, 2012

file0001207618542.jpgMerry Christmas! The holiday season is here, which means many drivers will be hitting the road in Missouri and nationwide. This year, winter weather conditions have already created some travel headaches throughout the Midwest - and there's more snow and ice expected in the days ahead.

Yesterday, heavy snow and whiteout conditions contributed to a fatal 25-vehicle pileup north of Des Moines, Iowa. Authorities say the winter weather blinded drivers on Interstate 35, making it impossible for them to see vehicles that had slowed or stopped on the road. These conditions resulted in several chain reaction crashes involving several semi-trucks and passenger vehicles. Two people died in the incident: 27 year-old Colby Bostick and 43 year-old Sheila Blood, both of Arkansas. Bostick was reportedly killed when she was struck by a vehicle after she got out of her car to check on one of her passengers. Seven others were injured in the pileup.

At the same time, jackknifed tractor trailers shut down sections of Interstate 80, and, closer to home, Interstate 29 was closed down from St. Joseph, Missouri to the Iowa border.

Traveling in winter weather: A few holiday travel tips

• Slow down. Traveling in winter weather requires drivers to make adjustments, given the conditions. Reducing your speed is especially important, since you'll need to be able to stop safely if a situation or obstacle presents itself. In good conditions, you should allow about three seconds between your vehicle and the one in front of you, but safety advocates recommend you increase that distance to eight to 10 seconds in winter weather.

• Know your vehicle's limitations. Don't assume that your vehicle can handle any and all weather conditions: snow and ice can be troublesome for all vehicles, including those with four-wheel and front-wheel drive.

• Make sure you can see, and be seen. Drive with your lights on to make it easier for other motorists to see you, and keep your windshield and your lights clean as you travel.

• Avoid sudden maneuvers. Attempting to turn or brake suddenly can prove disastrous in winter weather. Signal your intentions in advance, and refrain from slamming on your brakes. Braking gently will reduce your risk of skidding - and if you do skid, ease off the brake slowly.

• Take precautions. Wear your seat belt, and make sure your passengers are buckled up as well. Give yourself plenty of time to travel so you don't feel you have to rush. Also, it's wise to carry a roadside emergency kit in your vehicle - jumper cables, blankets, flashlights and other similar items can come in handy if you find yourself stranded.

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MoDOT worker killed while assisting with early morning crash on I-70

September 21, 2012

589399_road_ahead_closed.jpgThis morning, a Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) worker was killed as he helped redirect traffic following an earlier crash on Interstate 70 in Independence. According to KCTV 5, the first accident happened on eastbound I-70 at around 1:40 a.m., near the Lee's Summit Road exit. It involved four vehicles and forced the closure of all eastbound lanes of the interstate. Sources say several people were injured in that crash, one person critically, when vehicle occupants were ejected.

Authorities responded to the scene, and MoDOT officials began to set up orange cones diverting traffic onto Lee's Summit Road. That's when police say an eastbound car struck a MoDOT motor-assist truck, which burst into flames. The worker, 50 year-old Clifton Scott, was struck outside his vehicle as he placed cones on the interstate. He died as a result of his injuries. The driver who struck him is also currently listed in critical condition. That driver has not yet been identified.

In a statement, MoDOT says Scott had celebrated 15 years with the Department just this week. He was hired in 1997 as a maintenance crew worker, but was promoted several times over the years, first to an intermediate and then to a senior crew worker. Scott had worked with Motorist Assist since 2002.

Authorities say I-70 re-opened around 6:00 a.m., but many commuters experienced delays due to backed up traffic.

Unfortunately, fatal accidents involving state Department of Transportation workers are not uncommon. On Tuesday, an Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) worker died a traffic crash as he worked with a maintenance crew on U.S. 36 near Bainbridge. 27 year-old Steven Overbay was reportedly acting as a flagman when a vehicle suddenly veered to the right of the line of stopped vehicles, attempting to avoid a rear-end crash. It struck Overbay, "propelling him onto the hood of the car and partially through the windshield," reports the Indiana Journal-Review. Overbay was pronounced dead at the scene.

Overbay's aunt, Donna Whitmer, told WTHITV 10 that Overbay had expressed concerns about erratic driving in work zones since he started working for INDOT in 2007. "I would beg people to pay attention and please slow down," Whitmer said. "Make sure you're watching the road and the surrounding when you're going through those work zones so another family doesn't have to lose their loved one."

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Five dead, including two children, in fiery single-vehicle crash

1191524__broken_window.jpgOn Sunday, a deadly auto accident in New York City left five people dead and an SUV in flames. According to the Wall Street Journal, five occupants of the SUV - three women and two children - were pronounced dead at the scene. Chief Stephen Browne from the New York Fire Department said it was one of the worst car accidents he has seen in his 26 year career. "To see this much human life devastation in a single-car accident on a side street is not normal," Chief Browne said.

Witnesses of the accident reported that the driver of the SUV was speeding when she ran two red lights only seconds before the accident occurred. However, witnesses also stated they saw the driver swerving to avoid other vehicles: she did not appear to be impaired, or to be running red lights intentionally. One motorist told ABC news that he had a green light and was in the intersection when he saw the SUV approaching him, almost causing an accident. Immediately after avoiding a crash with that vehicle, the SUV hit a concrete pillar supporting an AirTrain track. The vehicle then flipped over and somersaulted before it exploded.

The occupants of the SUV were all ejected from the vehicle, except for the driver, who was still in her seat and wearing her seatbelt when police arrived. Firefighters discovered the eight year-old girl approximately ten feet away from the SUV. Another woman was found pinned beneath the SUV. However, all three were hospitalized with some injuries. Victor Lopez, who was sleeping at a friend's house near the scene, woke to the sound of the crash and went outside to investigate. "There was one body here, one there, one there," Lopez told the Times Ledger. "Man, there was a lot of blood." Three passengers survived the crash: the driver, a male passenger and a 7-year-old boy.

No criminal activity is suspected in connection with the crash: the driver reportedly told police that her brakes failed. No charges have been filed against her, but a crash investigation is currently underway. Because the driver's car was totaled, it's difficult to tell whether or not the brakes were functional. At present, investigators are examining all possible contributing factors, including the vehicle's maintenance history.

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Safety Advocates Recommend Taking Precautions to Avoid Child Deaths in Hot Cars During Summer Months

821462_mixed_up.jpgAs temperatures get warmer during the summertime, law enforcement officials consistently report an increased number of hyperthermia-related deaths in vehicles. These fatal incidents are more commonly known as "hot car deaths." After car crash injuries, hyperthermia is the leading cause of vehicle deaths in children under fourteen.

All Missouri parents should be aware of this hazard and take the proper precautions to guard your child's life. Since 1998, 531 children nationwide have died of hyperthermia after being left in hot cars. In 2011 alone, 33 children died. There have been at least 4 hot car deaths reported this summer, including a 13 month-old boy in Lee's Summit.

If you have never heard of a hot car death, consider this: The temperature in a closed car in the summer can rise 30-50 degrees in a matter of minutes. Such an environment becomes very dangerous very quickly, especially for small children, who cannot regulate the heat the way older children and adults can. If left in vehicles during hot weather, small children are at risk of a serious injury or death from hyperthermia.

When hot car deaths make the news, many people wonder what kind of person could forget a child in the backseat. Writer Gene Weingarten explored this question in a Pulitzer Prize winning article for the Washington Post, pointing out that parents from all walks of life have made this terrible mistake:

"What kind of person forgets a baby? The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist."

Here are some facts that Missouri parents should know:

• Even with the windows rolled down a couple of inches, with temps in the low 80s, the temperature inside a car can reach levels that are fatal to a child in only 10 minutes.

• Infants and children under four are at greatest risk for heat-related sickness and death.

• Left in a hot vehicle, a small child's temperature can increase three to five times as fast an adult's. Extreme body temperatures can cause permanent injury to a child, or even death.

Continue reading "Safety Advocates Recommend Taking Precautions to Avoid Child Deaths in Hot Cars During Summer Months" »

Roadway Safety Advocates Report 73% of Child Restraints "Used Improperly"

1281125__baby_boy__1.jpgMotor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children under the age of 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) - and many of these deaths are preventable. A CDC study found that, within a single year, more than 618,000 children between ages 10 and 12 "rode in vehicles without the use of a child safety seat, or booster seat, or a seat belt at least some of the time." Making sure your young passengers are properly buckled up can help reduce the number of child fatalities resulting from car accidents in Columbia, Missouri, and throughout the country.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that nearly 73% of child restraints in automobiles are not used properly. In 2010, eight children under age eight died in Missouri car accidents, and more than 1,600 children suffered injuries. Officers handed out more than 2,100 citations to drivers who neglected to properly secure a child under the age of nine. In addition, there were more than 1,000 additional citations issued to drivers who neglected to seat belt a child who weighed more than 80 pounds (or who was taller than 4 feet 9 inches).

The Missouri Highway Patrol asks that every driver makes sure that child passengers are properly restrained at all times.

Child Safety Restraints & Missouri State Law

• Children under the age of 5 must be seated in the appropriate child safety seat.

• Children who weigh less than 40 pounds must be buckled into a child seat appropriate for the child's weight and height. This rule disregards age.

• If a child is between ages four and eight; weighs between 40 and 80 pounds; and is shorter than 4 feet 9 inches; he or she must be buckled into a child passenger restraint system that is appropriate for the child.

• Children ages eight to 15 are required to wear a seat belt, no matter which seat they're occupying in a vehicle.

Missouri's Child Restraint Law is a primary law, meaning that an officer does not need to find a prior offense to stop a vehicle and issue a citation.

• Vehicle occupants under the age of 18 who are in a truck of any kind must wear a seat belt.

• No one under age 18 is permitted to ride in the unenclosed bed of a truck with a gross weight of less than 12,000 pounds on lettered highways; on highways maintained by state or federal governments; or within city limits. Exceptions to this rule include special events, agricultural purposes and parades.

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Fatal Crash in Centralia, Missouri Caused by Deer in the Roadway

file000238098773.jpgOn Monday evening, a Centralia woman was killed after she struck a deer on Missouri Highway 124. According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, 46 year-old Beth Weber was traveling north when she hit the deer, causing her Jeep to spin counterclockwise into southbound traffic. A 2010 Kia slammed into the passenger side of Weber's vehicle. She was pronounced dead at the scene, while the driver of the second vehicle was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

From a driver's perspective, deer can be difficult to see, especially since they tend to be on the move at dusk and dawn (when they change areas to eat or sleep). Deer are most active from about one-half hour before dawn until about an hour after sunrise; and from twilight until about 11 p.m. Many deer-related car accidents happen when drivers swerve to avoid a deer (or swerve to avoid someone else who has swerved or stopped to avoid a deer). Often, by the time you see a deer in your path, you only have fractions of a second to react.

Read the Insurance Information Institute's article, "Avoiding Deer/Car Collisions"

Several Missouri communities are experimenting with strategies aimed at reducing the numbers of car-deer collisions. For example, at a Cape Girardeau city council meeting in September 2011, a council member raised the issue of the growing deer population in Cape Girardeau. In 2010, the city received 76 deer related calls (including 47 to pick up dead deer and 38 about collisions or car accidents involving a deer), and those numbers have only continued to increase.

This coming Monday, the Council will meet again to discuss a deer-feed ban within the city limits, which would make it a citable offense to leave out food to attract white-tailed deer. The idea, supporters argue, is to keep from attracting more deer into the city, and thereby reduce the chances of an accident. The Council will also address adding more deer crossing signs throughout the area, reports the Southeast Missourian.

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New Study: Tax Day Brings Higher Risks for Fatal Car Accidents in Columbia, Missouri & Nationwide

369109_taxpapers.jpgIt's tax time, which means lots of Missourians will be on the move this afternoon, trying to ensure that their returns are mailed on time. We urge residents of Columbia, Jefferson City, and the surrounding areas to exercise special caution if you're planning a last minute drive to the post office: new research has shown that the risk of a fatal car accident increases by 6%.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on April 10, presented these findings:

• Over the past 30 years, throughout the country, 19,500 Americans have been killed in car accidents on Tax Day, amounting to 226 deaths each day.

• By comparison, 13,000 were killed on "control days" (a week before and a week after Tax Day).

• The conclusion, according to the study, is that an additional 13 people die in accidents every year on Tax Day. Researchers suggested that the increase is "similar in magnitude to the increase in crashes on Super Bowl Sunday."

The study wasn't able to conclusively identify a specific causal factor, but offers a few theories as to the "why" behind this increase:

• "Stressful [deadlines] distract drivers and contribute to human error," the study suggests.

• Also, it's possible that drivers "may have consumed alcohol, changed their driving pattern, or had less sleep on Tax Day," summarizes CBS News.

There is much you can do to avoid a Missouri car accident, today and year-round. Here are 4 types of car wrecks that are 100% preventable, when attentive drivers make responsible choices:

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