Rear-End Crashes Commonly Cause Serious Injuries & Fatalities in Joplin, Missouri & Nationwide

1184005_on_the_way_home.jpgRear-end accidents are one of the most common causes of motor vehicle related injuries. Often, these crashes are caused by distracted driving or excessive speed. Whether the impact causes the airbag to inflate or not, these crashes can result in whiplash, soft tissue injury, catastrophic injury, and even death.

Recently, a Wisconsin truck driver was convicted of three counts of vehicular homicide and one count of careless driving in connection with a rear-end crash in May 2010. The driver, Jason Styrbicky, had been looking for an energy drink that had fallen at his feet when the crash occurred. It's estimated that his eyes were off the road for about 16 seconds as he approached traffic that had stopped due to road construction ahead. By the time he looked up, it was too late to stop.

Styrbicky's truck crushed two cars in front of him, killing 50 year-old Pamela Brinkhaus and 24 year-old Keri Rasmussen. Rasmussen was eight weeks pregnant at the time of the crash. The truck also struck another semi-truck, which was transporting an estimated 12 million bees. About 1 million bees were released at the scene.

"This is such a profoundly tragic case," said attorney Mark McDonough, who represented Styrbicky. "I know that Jason is as sorry about what happened to these women and their families as a person can be. He certainly never intended to cause anyone any harm."

As Joplin car accident attorneys, we know that injuries resulting from rear-end collisions can take years to heal, and that they often involve costly and painful medical treatment. Beyond the physical impact, accidents can take a serious emotional and financial toll on those involved.

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Memorial Day Weekend Brings Increased Risk of Auto & Boating Accidents in Joplin, Missouri & Nationwide

1024250_scuba_diving.jpgMemorial Day is fast approaching! According to the National Safety Council, for the past 6 years, Memorial Day weekend has averaged an 11.5% increase in auto accident fatalities compared to other non-holiday weekends. This Memorial Day, the Council expects to see 420 fatalities and 42,000 "medically consulted" injuries caused by car crashes nationwide.

In addition, Memorial Day often signifies the unofficial start of the boating season here in Missouri, and with boating season comes boating accidents. Although these accidents don't make the news as often as auto or semi-truck collisions, they are quite prevalent and can have equally tragic results.

On Jan. 24, 2011, the Department of Public Safety announced the merger of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Missouri State Water Patrol. "The result is a single, statewide law enforcement agency that will seamlessly patrol the state's roadways and waterways" said Governor Nixon at the time. Indeed, last June, the Water Patrol Division conducted sobriety checkpoints on Smithville Lake, and Missourians can expect to see similar initiatives in effect this summer.

The Water Patrol Division is commanded by Major Tommy Roam, a 30-year veteran of the Water Patrol. Last summer, Major Roam announced checkpoints to increase the boating public's awareness of the potential hazards of operating a boat while intoxicated. The Water Patrol seeks to reduce boating accidents, deter impaired boating, and remove intoxicated boaters from Missouri's waterways--in other words-- to vigorously enforce Missouri's boating laws.

The U.S. Forest Service estimates that 82 million people participated in boating in 2010. Coast Guard statistics indicate that 736 people died in drowning accidents that same year. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption is a factor in around 35 to 50% of all drowning and boating accidents.

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Motorcycle Safety Month Reminds Missouri Drivers to Share the Road

1016169_speed_of_motorcycle.jpgMay is Motorcycle Awareness Month! Motorcycle riding season is here, and it's especially important that drivers exercise caution and share the road safely with these riders. Our Joplin motorcycle accident attorneys ask that all motorists be extra-cautious on our roadways, keeping an eye out for hazards, other vehicles and especially motorcycles. Also, importantly, we urge motorcyclists take the necessary precautions to increase their own safety.

"Motorcycle fatalities represent approximately 10 percent of all Missouri highway fatalities each year, yet motorcycles represent approximately 2.6 percent of all registered vehicles in Missouri," according to a press release from the Missouri Highway Patrol. "One of the main reasons motorcyclists are killed in crashes is because the motorcycle itself provides no protection in a crash."

Unfortunately, these small, two-wheel vehicles can also be easy to overlook. To avoid a crash, drivers of cars and trucks have to take the extra time to look twice before making a turn or switching lanes, simply to ensure a biker isn't traveling nearby. The majority of motorcyclists are law abiding drivers too, and they are entitled to the same roadway respect as any other motorist.

Drivers can also use the following safety practices to help avoid a collision with a motorcycle:

• Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Although it may seem that there is enough room in the traffic lane for a motor vehicle and a motorcycle, the motorcycle needs the room to maneuver safely. Do not share the lane.

• Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows motorcyclists to anticipate traffic flow and find a safe lane position.

•Allow more following distance -- three or four seconds - when following a motorcycle so the motorcycle rider has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.

To read more motorcycle safety tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), click here.

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3 Types of Insurance All Missouri Residents Need in the Event of a Car Crash

Missouri Auto InsurancesMissouri state law mandates that all drivers must carry liability insurance, which provides coverage when a driver causes a car accident that results in bodily injury or property damage to another party. In other words, liability insurance covers the "other guy": it is a necessary investment required by law. However, in addition, all Missouri residents also need uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage provides protection in the event the at-fault driver doesn't have insurance or doesn't have enough insurance to pay all damages.

Missouri Required Liability Coverage

While Missouri law requires each and every driver to have liability coverage, the minimum required is only $25,000. When you consider the medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering that often accompany a serious car crash, you'll find that $25,000 doesn't go a long way.

When you purchase car insurance, consult with your insurance agent to determine the appropriate insurance limits for you: in all likelihood, those limits will be considerably higher than $25,000. Most people benefit from purchasing personal catastrophic liability insurance which is also known as umbrella liability insurance.

Read "The Importance of an Umbrella Policy" (via the Boston Globe)

Umbrella liability insurance raises your home owner's liability insurance and your car liability insurance to the purchased coverage amount. Depending on the policy, $1 million in coverage can cost only about $150 per year. It's a very good investment.

Missouri Uninsured Motorist Coverage

If you are injured and/or your car is damaged by a hit and run driver who remains unidentified, or by a driver who has no insurance, your own Missouri uninsured motorist coverage (commonly called UM coverage) will contribute to your medical bills and property damage. This coverage is mandatory throughout the state: just like liability insurance, you're required to carry at least $25,000. To utilize this coverage, you would make a claim against your own insurance company.

Missouri Underinsured Coverage

If you are injured and/or your car is damaged by someone with insurance, but the insurance is inadequate to pay the damages, your own Missouri underinsured coverage (commonly called UIM coverage) will contribute to your medical bills and property damage. However, unlike uninsured motorist coverage, there is no state mandate on this form of insurance. Be sure to review your policy to confirm the limits on your UIM coverage.

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Evolving SUV Technology Keeps Drivers Safer in Joplin & Throughout Missouri

566449_stop_light.jpgSport Utility Vehicles have gotten considerably safer in recent years. After the introduction of electronic stability control, the death rate in SUV occupants dropped nearly 70%, according to USA Today. In the past, SUVs were associated with a death rate of 82 per million vehicles for the 1999 to 2002 models: now , they have a driver death rate of 28 per million vehicles for the 2005 to 2008 models. This new technology in SUVs greatly reduces your risk of injury or death in the event of a car accident in Joplin, Missouri or elsewhere.

As safety technology continues to advance, drivers can expect to be better protected in a car accident. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, SUV drivers are some of the least likely to be killed in an accident: in fact, these drivers are now considered to be much safer than occupants of small cars. However, the number one preventative measure that a driver can take is still much simple: practicing cautious, alert and defensive driving habits.

Electronic stability control has been introduced more quickly in SUVs than in any other passenger vehicle. This technology uses the vehicle's engine power and brake system to help prevent incidents of skidding or rolling over.

Meanwhile, smaller passenger vehicles have experienced skyrocketing popularity as our gas prices continue to climb. Unfortunately, they are now three times more likely to die in an accident than SUV occupants. "The trend from the reported data is clear: The lighter the vehicle, the higher the likelihood that its driver will be killed in a collision with another vehicle," says Mukul Verma, a veteran auto industry safety official.

The death rate for the drivers of these smaller, four-door vehicles used to be 110 per million vehicles for the 1999 to 2002 models. This rate has improved to 72 per million vehicles for the 2005 to 2008 models, representing only a 35% decrease.

"The rollover risk in SUVs used to outweigh their size/weight advantage, but that's no longer the case," says Anne McCartt, the institute's senior vice president for research. "It's a dramatic change and a testament to the incredible effectiveness of electronic stability control."

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Legal Consequences for Distracted Driving Deaths Become Increasingly Severe in Missouri and Nationwide

312490_man_talking_on_the_cell_phone.jpgThe legal consequences of distracted driving are becoming increasingly more severe. This week, a New Hampshire woman formally appealed her conviction for negligent homicide, a charge connected to a car accident involving 2 pedestrians - and the case is expected to go all the way to the state's Supreme Court.

In June 2009, 44 year-old Lynn Dion struck 2 pedestrians, causing fatal injury to 36 year-old Genny Basset, a mother of 4. At the trial, the prosecution used Dion's cell phone records to demonstrate that she had been talking on her cell phone for nearly a half hour leading up to the accident, and that she was still talking on the phone when the collision occurred.

In defense, Dion's attorneys argued that even if she was talking on the phone, that behavior didn't justify a Class B felony charge. After being convicted, Dion was sentenced to 1 ½ to 3 years in prison. She has no other criminal record.

"People are on their phones every day, and they have no expectation for believe, if they hit someone while they're on their phone...that they could face jail time for it," said Allison Ambrose, one of Dion's attorneys, reports the Concord Monitor.

If a driver using a cell phone crashes into your car, truck, or motorcycle (or into you, as a pedestrian), that driver may have been distracted and may be responsible for paying for your medical bills, lost wages, lost benefits, pain and suffering, general damages, and damages to your car. Using a cell phone while driving can be a distraction: 25% of all car accidents are attributed to driver distraction.

There's a common belief that some drivers are better at "multi-tasking" than others, and therefore, those drivers are able to balance safe driving responsibilities and phone conversations. Similarly, many drivers believe that hands-free devices eliminate the risks of accidents caused by distracted driving. Time and time again, research has proven these beliefs false. Cognitive distraction - meaning the division of your brain's focus between more than one task - always causes performance to suffer to some degree. While eliminating physical components of the distraction (i.e. holding the phone) may help, the cognitive distraction still exists - and thus, so does the risk of a crash.

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Driver Faces Multiple Charges (Including DUI) After Sideswiping Van & Spinning into a Group of Motorcyclists

REDBIKE.jpgIn Missouri, throughout 2010, there were 1,731 injury accidents involving motorcycles, which left 2,036 people injured, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol. An additional 94 fatal crashes occurred, resulting in 97 deaths. April has barely begun, and our Joplin, Missouri auto accident lawyers have already written about several fatal crashes involving motorcyclists. So far, in 2012, the Patrol is reporting that fatal Missouri auto accidents in general are on the rise: here in southwestern Missouri, Troop D has seen a 65% increase, compared to this time last year.

See our recent posts: Recent Motorcycle Accidents Cause Injuries, Fatalities in Webster County, Missouri & Throughout the Ozarks and Fatal Accidents Highlight the Importance of Motorcycle Safety in Kansas City, Missouri.

But Missouri riders aren't the only motorists who are vulnerable to fatal crashes. Last Sunday evening, in Perry County, Illinois, a passenger vehicle caused an accident that resulted in 1 death and caused injury to 9 others. It happened just after 5:00 p.m., when 43 year-old Thomas Harris attempted to pass a northbound van, just as 6 southbound motorcycles approached. Harris did not fully complete the pass before he attempted to move back into the northbound lane, and subsequently sideswiped the van. The impact caused his pickup to spin out of control, slinging it back into southbound traffic - and into the group of motorcycles.

Harris' pickup truck struck a Harley carrying a passenger, and both riders were injured. The remaining motorcyclists, who were traveling in a standard staggered formation within their lane, were forced to take evasive action: as a result, 3 went to the pavement. 56 year-old Arlene Hackworth, a passenger on one of those three motorcycles, was killed.

Meanwhile, after striking the motorcyclists, the pickup continued off the west side of the road and rolled over. By the time it came to rest in a field, the vehicle was nearly a quarter of a mile away from the location of the initial impact.

3 helicopters came to the scene to transport the some of the injured, including a 13 year-old passenger in the pickup, and 2 motorcyclists: 38 year-old Scott E. Meadows; and 35 year-old Derek Clay Jenkel, who was driving the Harley that carried Ms. Hackworth. All 3 suffered major injuries. Several other riders and 2 passengers in the pickup truck were taken by ambulance to St. Louis hospitals.

Harris was arrested for DUI after failing a sobriety test at the scene of the accident. He also faces multiple other charges, including endangering the life of a child and failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash.

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Drunk Driver Stopped by Witnesses After Trying to Flee the Scene of an Accident in Joplin, Missouri

846753_martini.jpgPublic knowledge about the dangers of drunk driving is greater than ever before. Unfortunately, as our Joplin car accident lawyers know all too well, there remain impaired drivers on our roads.

Last weekend in Joplin, a suspected drunk driver tried to run away from the scene of an accident, but he was chased down and detained until law enforcement arrived. According to Joplin Police Cpl. Chuck Niess, 21 year-old Erin M. Hyder was speeding down Pool Street on Saturday night when he collided with a parked vehicle and a utility pole. Hyder attempted to flee the scene on foot, but the owner of the parked vehicle was able to stop him, with the help of another witness.

Hyder's passenger, 37 year-old Robert Frazier, was injured in the accident. Hyder was arrested: he is currently facing charges of driving while intoxicated, driving with a suspended license, driving without insurance, careless driving, and improper display of license plates. He is also charged with leaving the scene of an injury accident - a felony offense here in Missouri.

731834_bar.jpgDrunk Drivers & Car Accidents: The Statistics

• Nationwide, approximately 12,000 people die in drunk driving accidents every year, while about 900,000 people are arrested for drunk driving.

• About 300,000 (1/3 ) of these 900,000 drunk driving arrests are repeat offenders. What's more, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the average impaired driver has driven drunk 80 times before his or her first arrest.

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March Brings Multiple Missouri Car Accidents Involving Teen Drivers

111147_steering_wheel (1).jpgOur Webb City car accident lawyers have written at length about teen drivers and the risks that accompany them on Missouri roadways. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 1 in 5 licensed 16 year-old drivers will be involved in a crash. Meanwhile, the Ad Council reports that 4 out of 10 teens "have been in a situation when they felt concerned that a friend's driving behavior put them at risk as a passenger" within the last 6 months.

March has certainly been a difficult month for teen drivers throughout Missouri. Consider the following accidents:

March 10; Hillsboro, MO: 19 year-old Jacob Douglas was traveling north on Goldman Road in Jefferson County when he ran off the road: his vehicle struck a tree and a concrete culvert before overturning. Douglas, who was ejected from the vehicle, was killed. His passenger, 17 year-old Cody Dove, had to be airlifted to a St. Louis hospital.

March 21; Leslie, MO: 16 year-old Elisha Funston was killed after losing control of her vehicle as she navigated a curve in the road. She subsequently ran off the left side of the road and struck a tree: Funston was pronounced dead at the scene.

March 22; Exeter, MO: 16 year-old Allyson Cunningham was traveling east on Farm Road 2200 when she struck an unoccupied illegally parked vehicle that was partially obstructing the roadway. Cunningham was transported to Mercy Hospital in Cassville with minor injuries.

March 27; Goodman, MO: A Neosho teen and his 2 teen passengers were injured when he ran off the road 2 miles north of Goodman, according to the Highway Patrol. 16 year-old Johnathan Brodie ran off the road and collided with a tree stump. Brodie and his passengers (Austin Loomer and Alexis Muller, also age 16) were taken to Freeman Neosho Hospital with minor injuries.

1035021_my_car_key_1.jpgYou may notice a few key similarities here. Out of the 4 crashes discussed above, 3 were road departure accidents, where the vehicles eventually collided with a fixed object. A report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that younger drivers are more likely to be involved in these accidents than other age groups. Also, according to NHTSA, single vehicle road departure accidents are commonly caused by excessive speed and/or distraction. Though we don't know exactly what the causal factors were in these specific instances, we do know that these behaviors are often associated with teen drivers.

Finally, importantly, all 4 accidents involved a teen driver's response to an error or an unexpected situation. Because of their lack of experience behind the wheel, teens are prone to overcorrection when they are confronted with a dangerous roadway predicament. It is crucial that parents stay actively involved in the "learning to drive" experience, ensuring that their teen drivers are well-informed and that they get plenty of supervised practice.

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"Faces of Distracted Driving" Aims to Reduce Risks of Fatal Car Accidents in Lamar, Missouri and Elsewhere

IMG_6371_v.JPGHave you seen the Faces of Distracted Driving? We're referring to a campaign from the U.S. Department of Transportation: its goal is to raise awareness and reduce the risk of car accidents that are caused by distracted drivers.

Our Joplin, Missouri car accident lawyers understand the dangers that accompany driving while distracted. Sadly, the occurrence of distracted driving accidents has increased over the last decade as more and more technological advances have become available. Nowadays, drivers are checking their email, making phone calls, texting and surfing the Internet while operating a motor vehicle. Here in Missouri, there's no law that says you can't.

The Faces of Distracted Driving campaign consists of a number of 30-second videos from families that have been directly affected by distracted drivers. Some have suffered serious injuries. Others have lost a family member or a loved one. Just last week, the campaign added a new face: Alison Holden of Washington, D.C., a single mother who sustained a traumatic brain injury after she was rear-ended at a stoplight by a driver sending a text. "Distracted driving stole 2 years of my life," Holden says. "It robbed my son of 2 years with his mother. No text message is important enough to risk ruining someone's life."

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stresses the importance of hearing stories like this one. "Alison Holden's experience reminds us that distracted driving crashes don't have to be fatal to have devastating, long-term consequences," LaHood said.

As reports of distracted driving accidents have increased over the past few years, so has the research on this deadly habit. Distracted driving doesn't discriminate: it affects drivers of all ages on our roadways.

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When Big Rigs & Passenger Cars Crash: The Basics

no_semi_001.jpgIf you've been involved in a collision with a commercial truck, you know how serious these accidents can be. A commercial truck with a full load may weigh more than 80,000 pounds, whereas a passenger car likely weighs about 3,000 pounds. Serious injuries and fatalities are not unusual.

The Antagonists: What are Commercial Trucks?

A commercial truck is any large truck that is used for hauling goods. Usually, we think of eighteen-wheelers as "trucks." However, commercial trucks can be eighteen-wheelers, delivery trucks, cement trucks, dump trucks, garbage trucks, or tanker trucks.

The Cast of Characters: The Parties Involved in a Missouri Car/Truck Wreck

If you are involved in a car/truck accident, it's not just you and the truck driver that are involved. There are multiple parties, including you, the truck driver, the trucking company, the owner of the truck, and any other injured parties. In addition, it's possible that multiple insurance companies, the tire company, the truck maintenance company, and/or the truck manufacturer could be involved.

The Plot: Common Causes of Car/Truck Accidents

Distracted driving, drunk driving, and driving without adequate rest are all common causes of car/truck accidents. Other possible causes include failure to yield, speeding, running off the road, overloading the truck, lack of experience, and poor driving conditions. Lastly, unsafe or improperly maintained safety systems, oversized trucks and dangerous or reckless driving are also common factors.

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Are Hands-Free Mobile Devices Safe for Drivers in Webb City, Missouri and Nationwide?

bluetooth.jpgOur Webb City car accident lawyers have written many posts on the subject of distracted driving. We all know that hand-held mobile devices are a main cause of driver distraction, but what about hands-free devices that are built in to newer models of vehicles? Are they safer for Jasper County drivers than calling and texting with a hand-held phone?

David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) made an unpopular speech to a crowd at the Telematics Detroit 2011 conference. At the conference, Strickland firmly and publicly opposed unsafe technologies that can contribute to distracted driving, reminding his audience that "a car is not a mobile device." Strickland's stance was in direct opposition to the philosophy and purpose of the Telematics conference, which focuses on technological innovations that transform cars into the "ultimate" mobile devices (in fact, this goal is even stated on the conference's website).

To be clear, Strickland wasn't expressing concerns about useful IT functions such as GPS, OnStar, automated emergency notification or internal vehicle diagnostics: his issue is with on-board systems for entertainment and social media. Indeed, these features are currently a major selling point for certain vehicles. It's true that automakers are developing more and more hands-free devices, which most people assume are considerably safer. However, recent studies have proven this assumption false, and NHTSA is taking action in response.

The Hands-Free/Hand-Held Debate

In February, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) proposed a new series of guidelines for automakers that provide dashboard access to digital information and entertainment. Under the DOT's recommendations, text messaging, internet browsing, and social media features would be blocked when a vehicle is moving. The guidelines would also prevent drivers from manually entering data (phone numbers, GPS address entry, etc.) unless they are nonmoving. As NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said, "It is not where your hands are, but where your mind is that counts."

In general, the DOT had this advice to offer automakers:

• "Reduce complexity and task length required by the device;
• Limit device operation to one hand only (leaving the other hand to remain on the steering wheel to control the vehicle);
• Limit individual off-road glances required for device operation to no more than two seconds in duration;
• Limit unnecessary visual information in the driver's field of view;
• Limit the amount of manual inputs required for device operation."

In response, several automakers have called on NHTSA to give equal focus to the problem of hand-held devices, according to a March 12 report by the Associated Press. Several parties stressed the importance of developing technology to prevent the use of hand-held devices in a moving car: Rob Strassburger, Vice President for Safety at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, "compared restricting dashboard devices but not hand-held devices to building a fence around 3 sides of a yard while leaving the 4th side open."

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Design Defects Can Be a Contributing Cause of Joplin, Missouri Car Wrecks

DEAD END SIGN.jpgCar wrecks are an all too familiar sight in Pineville and Lamar, and on roadways throughout Missouri. We've all turned to look at car accidents as we pass them by, and we often assume that one of the parties involved must be at fault for the accident. In the majority of cases, collisions happen because of actions taken by drivers. However, in rare cases, the at-fault party is thousands of miles away, with no idea that an accident has even occurred.

Defective design is still a contributing cause to many auto accidents: when certain parts fail to operate properly, the vehicle can become inoperable and even dangerous. Automobile makers are required to design and build cars that meet federal safety standards, but even with minimum standards in place, there remain a number of cars on the road with defective parts.

Just yesterday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) announced that it will investigate approximately 1.92 million vehicles, specifically Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable sedans built between 2001 and 2005. According to NHTSA spokeswoman Linda Tran, "The agency is actively investigating a potential issue with a stuck throttle resulting from cruise control cable detachment involving certain Ford vehicles."

The investigation comes in response to 14 complaints from Taurus owners who reported their vehicles were accelerating suddenly. One driver reported that her Taurus was midway through a red light by the time she was able to make it stop. Other motorists say that in order to stop, they had to shift to neutral or shut their vehicles completely off.

One Taurus owner's complaint is especially frightening: when stopped at a light, the engine began revving uncontrollably. The driver writes: "[I] could not hold on brakes enough to stop moving. Went through red light, around 2 cars as speed reached about 70 miles per hour. Both feet on brakes. Could smell them burning." And another owner wrote the following in August 2010: "This is an extremely dangerous situation. There needs to be something done about this before it becomes fatal."

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Young Drivers Face Highest Risks for Car Accidents in Wheaton and Elsewhere in Missouri

1094865_car_interior.jpgYoung drivers are the most at-risk for serious injuries in car accidents in Webb City, Missouri and throughout the country, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).

Last week, a judge in Rhode Island made national news when he imposed a lifetime driving ban on a 17 year-old. Chief Magistrate William Guglietta handed down the penalty to teen driver Lyle Topa, after Topa pleaded no contest to speeding, violating seat belt laws, and overtaking where prohibited.Guglietta had agreed to drop several other charges, including graduated driver's license violations for carrying too many passengers and driving past the allowed curfew.

The charges are connected to an October 2011 accident: Topa (whose license was already suspended) had been drinking at a Homecoming party. Local police say it appears that some of the teens were racing illegally - including Topa, who failed to navigate a curve, ran off the road and hit a tree. Only one occupant was wearing a seatbelt. Two passengers suffered minor injuries, while Topa was hospitalized in critical condition. A 3rd passenger was in a coma for several weeks.

When asked to justify the imposition of such a harsh sentence, Guglietta said he felt it was time for courts to get serious about dangerous teen drivers. The local police chief, Jack Shippee, agrees - he had the following words for Lyle Topa: "As a young man I would hope he takes time to reflect on the significance of his actions that night and realize, while the accident was horrific, and those boys will be dealing with it for a long time, the outcome could have been much worse," Shippee said in a statement to an NBC affliate. "Hopefully, he and others will understand poor choices have consequences, not just for them but for their families and friends."

Whether or not you agree with Guglietta's decision, it's impossible to deny that teen drivers and passengers are at risk. Our Joplin car accident attorneys urge all parents to get involved with their teen's driving education. Parents may be some of the most influential people in a teen's acquired driving habits. It is our responsibility, as parents, to send them off with as much driving knowledge and experience as possible to help reduce their risks of being involved in a serious accident.

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Car - Train Collisions Cause Serious Injuries and Fatalities in Joplin and Throughout Missouri

February 28, 2012

Missouri Car Train AccidentsCollisions between cars and trains are very serious: because of the speed and weight of an oncoming train, these accidents cause serious injuries and fatalities more often than not. Typically, the occupants of the car are the most vulnerable, but if a train is carrying passengers, a collision can pose a risk to those occupants as well. It is imperative to follow safety precautions to avoid Missouri car - train accidents.

According to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), Missouri is home to 4,400 miles of main track; 2,500 miles of yard track; and nearly 7000 crossings, or points where track intersects with various roadways. Many of these crossings are visibly marked with lights, bells, signs, and crossing arms that lower when a train is approaching: these intersections are "controlled." However, there are also several intersections - especially in more rural areas - that are "uncontrolled," meaning these crossings may only be marked with white crossbucks signs.

In recent years, several Missouri car - train collisions have occurred at uncontrolled intersections, usually when motorists drive directly into the path of an oncoming train. Sometimes this happens because drivers foolishly expect to beat the train: from a distance, trains often appear to be moving much slower than they actually are. However, a fair number of these accidents happen because drivers simply don't see the train coming.

Maybe it sounds unbelievable - after all, trains are big and loud - but without the benefits of a controlled intersection, a driver might fail to notice an oncoming train for several reasons:

• In rural areas, trains may pass through a certain crossing infrequently, or only at certain times of day: thus, residents don't expect to see a train, and they simply become accustomed to driving through the intersection without stopping.

• If your windows are up (and especially if there's noise inside the vehicle, like loud passengers or music), it is absolutely possible that you will not hear an approaching train.

• Car - train collisions are sometimes caused when a driver waits patiently for a train to pass, and is then struck by a second train coming the opposite direction, or on another track.

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