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Keep your eyes on the road: April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

no-cells-1131636-m.jpgUnfortunately, the problem of distracted driving continues to have a serious impact on roadway safety in Joplin, Missouri and nationwide. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and Missouri lawmakers recently participated in a simulation exercise designed to illustrate the dangers of texting while behind the wheel. As state officials consider banning texting for all Missouri drivers, Dave Schatz, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee pointed out that texting isn't the only dangerous roadway distraction. "What we really need to focus on is distracted driving in general. There's other forms of distracted driving other than just texting. I'm trying to advocate how do we best move something forward that addresses that issue. Not just texting alone," Schatz said.

By now, most people have probably seen some of the numerous studies that illustrate the dangers of texting while driving: we know it causes car accidents and frequently results in injury and death. But other electronic devices affect the brain in the same way. For example, handheld GPS usage is a major contributor to distracted driving related collisions. It may seem ironic that a handheld GPS can be a driving hazard: after all, it was designed to help drivers arrive safely at their destinations. However, it can also be a distraction, if it takes a driver's eyes and mind away from the road. Likewise, ipods, mp-3 players, tablets, and other similar devices can drastically impair a driver's perspective.

And it doesn't stop there. Potential distractions are everywhere - and any task that diverts your attention from the primary task of driving can endanger you and everyone you're sharing the road with.

Staying focused on the road: A few reminders for Joplin drivers

• When you drive, let driving be your only task. Don't plan to focus on any other activities while you're behind the wheel, no matter how small.

• Drive defensively. Be on the lookout for distracted drivers: driver who don't appear to see you, who are veering in and out of lanes, who are failing to obey traffic signals, etc.

• Pull over to send a text, or have a passenger text for you.

• Pull over to use a handheld GPS or map or have a passenger check it for you.

• Pull over to make and take an important call, even on a hands-free device.

• Secure pets and children before getting on the road. If needed, pull off the road to provide attention and care.

• Don't put on makeup when you're driving.

• Don't eat or read when you're driving.

• Don't drive when you're tired or have been drinking.

Continue reading "Keep your eyes on the road: April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month" »

Outcome of "Google Glass" distracted driving case could impact future laws

January 16, 2014

driver-901196-m.jpgHere at Aaron Sachs and Associates, our Joplin car accident lawyers know that distracted driving continues to be a major safety issue on our roadways, both here in Missouri and nationwide. Any time a driver divides his or her focus between driving and another task, the driver is much more likely to be involved in a serious crash. While many people still think of texting as the main problem, distracted driving continues to change and evolve right along with technology. In other words, many drivers are finding new, equally dangerous ways to be distracted.

This week, a California woman is scheduled to appear in court after she received a distracted driving citation for wearing Google Glass while behind the wheel. In the first case of its kind, software developer Cecilia Abadie was pulled over and ticketed for driving while wearing the device, which projects a small screen into the corner or the wearer's eye and isn't even available to the public yet. Abadie, one of thousands of people who are currently testing Google Glass, has pleaded not guilty. Her attorney says there's no proof the device was operational when Abadie was stopped. Meanwhile, at least three states (Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia) are considering new legislation that would prohibit drivers from using Google Glass on the road.

The dangers of distracted driving
It's no secret that distraction often plays a key role in serious collisions. Consider these facts:

• In 2012, 3,328 people were killed and an estimated 421,000 more were injured in car accidents involving a distracted driver.

• According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at any given moment during daylight hours, there are 660,000 drivers who are using cell phones or other electronic devices while they're behind the wheel.

• A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) determined that "[e]ngaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times."

Distracted driving in Missouri
Currently, 41 states have banned text messaging for all drivers, and 12 prohibit all forms of cell phone use for all drivers. Unfortunately, Missouri's only distracted driving law prohibits texting for drivers under age 21. However, when a distracted driver causes an accident resulting in injury to another party, the driver may be subject to personal injury lawsuits filed on behalf of the accident victims.

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Does "hands-free" technology reduce distracted driving accidents in Missouri?

steeringwheel.jpgAs Joplin personal injury lawyers, we know that distracted drivers pose a serious threat to roadway safety, both here in Missouri and throughout the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,331 people were killed and an additional 387,000 suffered injuries in 2011 car accidents involving distracted drivers. Indeed, the risks associated with distracted driving have prompted several recent technological developments, including "hands-free" devices and apps that purport to be safer than using a hand-held cellphone while driving. However, two recent studies have indicated that hands-free technology is equally distracting - and dangerous - for drivers.

Recent distracted driving research: "Hands-free doesn't mean risk-free"

The first study, conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), examined voice-to-text apps and the impact of their use on driving performance. Researchers observed 43 participants driving actual vehicles on a closed course. The participants completed the course four times: once without engaging in any form of cell phone use; once while texting manually; and twice while using two different voice-to-text apps (Siri for the iPhone and Vlingo for Android).

Ultimately, researchers determined that the voice-to-text apps did not provide any safety advantages compared to manual texting: the drivers' reaction times were equally delayed regardless of the method they used to send texts. "In each case, drivers took about twice as long to react as they did when they weren't texting," said Christine Yager, who directed the study. "Eye contact to the roadway also decreased, no matter which texting method was used." In fact, Yager said the voice-to-text apps actually took longer than manual texting, because the participants often had to correct errors in the electronic transcription.

In the second study, researchers from the University of Utah created a scientifically-based five point rating system in order to gauge the relationship between six specific tasks and the level of driver distraction caused by those tasks. The tasks were then assigned to one of the following categories:

Mild danger: Listening to the radio or an audiobook
Moderate danger: Talking on a cell phone (whether the device was hand-held or hands-free)
High danger: Using a voice-activated feature on a device (like a voice-to-text or voice-to-email app)

Continue reading "Does "hands-free" technology reduce distracted driving accidents in Missouri?" »

Texting and driving continues to be a deadly combination in Missouri, nationwide

781984_switch_off_mobile_phones.jpgAt any given moment during the day, an estimated 660,000 U.S. drivers are talking, texting, tweeting, or otherwise using their cell phones, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Our Joplin personal injury lawyers know that these distracted drivers are more likely to be involved in car accidents that cause serious, life-threatening injuries to other motorists or to the drivers themselves.

Recently, a Colorado family released a photograph of their son's final text message, which was composed in the seconds before he was killed in a single-vehicle accident. Witnesses to the crash say 22 year-old Alexander Heit appeared to have his head down when he veered out of his lane into oncoming traffic. When Heit looked up and realized what had happened, he jerked the steering wheel hard and overcorrected, causing his vehicle to run off the other side of the road and overturn several times. Heit was taken from the scene by ambulance, but he later died at the hospital.

When police investigated the crash, they found Heit's phone, open to a text message conversation and displaying a partially composed message: "Sounds good my man, seeya soon, ill tw". The message was never sent. Investigators say Heit was not speeding at the time of the crash and had a spotless driving record.

In a statement, Heit's mother said the family decided to release a photograph of the text message in the hope that it would deter others from texting and driving. "I can't bear the thought of anyone else having to go through something like this," Sharon Heit said. "Please, vow to never, NEVER text and drive. In a split second you could ruin your future, injure or kill others, and tear a hole in the heart of everyone who loves you."

Texting and driving by the numbers:

• 196 billion: the number of text messages that were sent or received by Americans in June 2011. The figure represents a 50% increase compared to June 2009.

• 31%: the number of American drivers who admit to sending or reading text messages while driving, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

• 77%: the number of young adult drivers who are "very confident" or "somewhat confident" that they can safely text while driving.

• 4.6 seconds: the average amount of time a driver's eyes are off the road while sending or receiving a single text message. At 55 miles per hour, that's like driving blind for the length of a football field.

Continue reading "Texting and driving continues to be a deadly combination in Missouri, nationwide" »

Missouri teens more likely to wear seat belts, drive sober, but 1 in 3 admit to texting & driving

February 18, 2013

186094_road.jpgCar accidents are the leading cause of death among young people, both here in Missouri and throughout the United States. So, what factors place our young drivers at such an increased risk? The Centers for Disease Control's annual National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which assesses health-risk behaviors among young people, sheds some light on the issue. Approximately 15,000 teens throughout the country participated in the survey, and the results were a mixed bag of good news and bad news. In this post, our Joplin personal injury lawyers discuss the survey's findings.

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 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 with 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.

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

In 2012, U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called texting and driving "an epidemic" when he released a new "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving" from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 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.

Secretary LaHood also announced that Delaware and California will receive $2.4 million in federal funding for pilot projects [link to] designed to discourage distracted driving. These projects will be modeled after recent initiatives in Hartford and Syracuse, which proved to be extremely successful: texting and driving declined 32% in Syracuse and 72% in Harvard following those efforts.

Continue reading "Missouri teens more likely to wear seat belts, drive sober, but 1 in 3 admit to texting & driving" »

"Webbing" and driving: New form of distraction creates threat to motorists in Joplin, MO & nationwide

December 7, 2012

Thumbnail image for 875772_pda_in_hands.jpgIt's no secret that cell phone use contributes to thousands of car accidents every year. Numerous safety campaigns have endeavored to raise awareness about the dangers of talking or texting while driving. Now, it appears the popularity of internet-equipped smartphones has created yet another threat to roadway safety: what researchers call "webbing."

According to a recent survey from State Farm Insurance, more and more people are "webbing" and driving, which is defined as surfing the internet while behind the wheel. The survey, which polled approximately 1,000 drivers, revealed a considerable increase in the number of "webbing" drivers over the last three years.

Webbing and driving has become especially prevalent among younger drivers, increasing from 28% in 2009 to 48% in 2012. "The mobile internet is generating another set of distractions for drivers to avoid," said Chris Mullen, Director of Technology Research at State Farm, in an official news release. "While the safety community is appropriately working to reduce texting while driving, we must also be concerned about the growing use of multiple mobile web services while driving."

Here are some of the survey's other findings with respect to young drivers (age 18 to 29):

• Looking at social media while driving increased from 21% in 2009 to 36% in 2012.
• Updating social media accounts while driving increased from 20% in 2009 to 30% in 2012.
• Checking and reading email while driving increased from 32% in 2009 to 43% in 2012.

In drivers of all ages, the survey determined that webbing and driving has increased from 13% in 2009 to 21% in 2012. 15% of all drivers view social media while driving, compared to 9% in 2009. And 13% of drivers admit to updating their social media accounts while behind the wheel, increased from 9% in 2009.

Continue reading ""Webbing" and driving: New form of distraction creates threat to motorists in Joplin, MO & nationwide" »

Fatal traffic accidents on the rise in southwestern Missouri, nationwide

file1081259592335.jpgAmerican traffic fatalities have consistently decreased every year for the last five years, according to federal statistics. In fact, the number of deaths reached a 60 year-low in 2011. However, newly-released data indicates that we may see that downward trend broken this year.

The new statistics are alarming for drivers in Joplin, Missouri and nationwide. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says car crash deaths have increased by 9% in the first six months of 2012, compared to the first six months of 2011. Approximately 16,290 Americans died in car accidents between January and June 2012; 14,950 people died during the same time period in 2011. This increase is the largest jump since 1974, when NHTSA officially began keeping track of such data.

Closer to home, the Missouri Highway Patrol's Troop D is also reporting a 7% increase in traffic fatalities this year, compared to the first six months of 2011.

What's causing the increase? NHTSA officials are reviewing the data, but the spike in fatalities could be attributed to factors like "the weather, the economy, gasoline prices or traffic safety scourges such as the increase in texting or the use of synthetic or prescription drugs," according to Reuters.

Sadly, many fatal accidents can be linked to one simple cause: driver error. Studies have shown that negligence or carelessness contributes to as much as 81% of crashes. And these preventable crashes often cause injury to innocent motorists who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What kinds of drivers cause Missouri car accidents?

• Distracted drivers. Many current safety campaigns focus on the problem of texting and driving, since it's such a widespread issue and texting is an especially dangerous form of distraction. However, drivers can easily become distracted by a number of other factors, including music, passengers, food and scenery, just to name a few - and those distractions can also have disastrous consequences.

• Impaired drivers. Almost 30 people die every day in car accidents caused by drunk drivers, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And about a third of all crash deaths are connected to alcohol use.

• Aggressive drivers. NHTSA defines an aggressive driver as "an individual [who] commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property." These offenses might include speeding, tailgating, aggressive or rude gestures, verbal or physical assault, and failing to yield, among others. In Missouri, the law says drivers must "exercise the highest degree of care" on state roadways, "so as not to endanger the property of another or the life or limb of any person."

Continue reading "Fatal traffic accidents on the rise in southwestern Missouri, nationwide" »

GHSA officials toughen policies on distracted driving, drugged driving

September 6, 2012

312490_man_talking_on_the_cell_phone.jpgThis week, the Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA) recommended a nationwide ban on the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, the Washington Post reports. The Association maintains that such a ban would help law enforcement officers enforce state laws related to texting and driving, which has proven to be problematic. Currently, only 10 states and Washington D.C. ban handheld cell phones in drivers, but 39 states have implementing texting bans. In states that allow drivers to use handheld phones, drivers who are stopped for texting and driving offenses often claim that they were dialing numbers on their cell phones.

GHSA officials have previously recommended text message bans for all U.S. drivers and a ban on handheld devices for novice and school bus drivers. In recommending the total ban, the Association also hopes to raise awareness about the risks of driving while using electronic devices in any fashion. "Passage of these laws will provide states a practical platform for discussing why any phone use while driving is dangerous," said Barbara Harsha, GHSA's Executive Director, in a recent news release.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 660,000 drivers were using handheld phones at a typical daylight moment in 2010. That's approximately 5% of the U.S. driving population. Frighteningly, a Carnegie Mellon study determined that talking on a handheld phone reduces the amount of brain activity connected to driving by 37%. Some form of distraction is believed to be a contributing factor in about a quarter of all car crashes: 3,092 Americans died and 416,000 were injured in 2010 distracted driving crashes.

Missouri is one of only 11 states that have yet to enact texting and driving bans: our state's only distracted driving law prohibits texting in drivers age 21 and younger.

In addition, the GHSA has broadened its drugged driving policy to support per se laws, commonly referred to as zero tolerance laws. Under the terms of these laws, individuals can be charged with driving while impaired simply because a drug is found in their system. Officials also recommend that states adopt enhanced penalties for drivers who are found to be under the influence of more than one drug, like alcohol and another drug, or multiple drugs other than alcohol.

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Canadian police ticket 22 distracted drivers for photographing accident scene

1091825_speeding_1.jpgOn Monday, officers from the Napanee Ontario Provincial Police cited 22 motorists for distracted and careless driving after witnessing multiple drivers take photographs of an auto accident scene on Highway 401 in Belleville.

According to the Toronto Sun, a transport truck had rear-ended another vehicle at around 6:00 a.m., leaving one driver seriously injured and another charged with careless driving. As law enforcement officials investigated the scene of the crash, they noted numerous drivers stopping to shoot photos and video footage of the damaged vehicles, using cell phones and other electronic devices. According to a news release from police, "[o]ne driver was seen using his elbows to steer his car as he videotaped with a video camera." That driver received a citation for careless driving, and 21 others received tickets for distracted driving, the Sun reports.

All 10 of Canada's provinces have enacted distracted driving laws. Ontario banned texting and driving in October 2009, and offenders face a $155 fine. This year, in Canada's East Region alone (from Quinte West to the Quebec border), police have issued almost 1,800 distracted driving citations.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., 39 states (along with the District of Columbia and Guam) have laws that prohibit all drivers from texting while behind the wheel. This week, officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation announced plans to provide $17.5 million to states that have enacted distracted driving laws in fiscal year 2013.

"Distracted driving is a persistent and growing epidemic on America's roads--but there has also been incredible momentum in the states in recent years to pass laws that tackle the problem head on," said Ray LaHood, U.S. Transportation Secretary, in a recent news release. "This new grant program will provide states that have distracted driving laws with important resources to help save lives and prevent injuries."

Missouri remains one of only 11 states without a texting ban for all drivers. Our only distracted driving law prohibits texting in drivers under age 21. This year, the Missouri Legislature has reviewed at least seven distracted driving bills, but none have come to a vote.

Continue reading "Canadian police ticket 22 distracted drivers for photographing accident scene" »

Roadway Signs Can Increase Car Accident Risks, MoDOT Warns

file0001325059646.jpgUpon hearing about car accidents caused by distracted driving, most people automatically think of cell phones. However, there are other common sources of driver distraction. As the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) pointed out in a recent news release, one such source is roadway signage, which is especially prevalent during the summer months. Yard signs, campaign signs, billboards and electronic message displays (EMDs) can distract drivers by taking their full focus away from the task of driving.

The hazard presented by signs has led MoDOT to ask citizens to keep yard signs and campaign signs away from state-owned property. Both state law and Missouri Department of Transportation policy "prohibit the installation or maintenance of non-approved items on state right of way." Non-approved items might include streamers, garage sale signs, political signs, banners and/or balloons.

According to MoDOT, these signs can cause restricted visibility, particularly for drivers attempting to enter or exit driveways and streets. In addition, "it is dangerous for persons when installing or maintaining these signs to be on highway right of way in close proximity to traffic," the news release points out. Finally, these signs can interfere with roadway maintenance projects and present obstacles to drivers who need to pull over quickly in emergency situations.

Signs may be placed on privately owned property - even by main intersections - as long as they do not interfere with traffic safety or visibility. To place signs on state-owned property, you must obtain a permit from the state. Since there are more state regulations than city regulations concerning roadways, it is easier to get permission to place signs on streets maintained by the city. However, it is important to note that each city has different rules and processes that must be followed.

When Missouri sign regulations are violated, MoDOT attempts to contact the owner of the unauthorized sign before removing it. After removing the sign, MoDOT will hold it 30 days at a local maintenance facility, and the owner can retrieve it within that time frame.

Continue reading "Roadway Signs Can Increase Car Accident Risks, MoDOT Warns" »

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.

Continue reading "Legal Consequences for Distracted Driving Deaths Become Increasingly Severe in Missouri and Nationwide" »

"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.

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

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."

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

Aggressive Driving Increase Risks of Car Accidents in Pierce City -- Especially during Summer Months

February 22, 2012

Aggressive driving is no joke. In fact, these poor driving habits are now a common contributor to car accidents in Joplin, Lamar, Carl Junction and elsewhere in Missouri. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), aggressive driving is when a driver commits a number of driving offenses that endanger other people of property.
The NHTSA has recently been working with prosecutors and law enforcement agencies to help reduce these aggressive and dangerous driving habits in an attempt to reduce the risks on our roadways.

Our Joplin car accident attorneys understand that aggressive driving habits can include following too closely, speeding, not using signals and other actions that we are all guilty of from time to time. We also understand that there is another level of aggressive driving, which we refer to as road rage, that typically involves assault or other criminal offenses.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety offers these tips to help you avoid being the victim of an enraged driver:

• If you encounter an aggressive driver, try not to react. You are urged to avoid making eye contact. Keep your driving pattern smooth. Avoid accelerating, braking or swerving.

• If you find yourself in congested traffic with an enraged driver, lock your car doors and keep the windows up.

• If you're in stopped traffic, leave enough space to be able to pull out from the car you're following.

• If someone tries to get into your vehicle, honk your horn or sound your personal alarm to attract attention.

• If you're being harassed by a driver or think you're being followed, drive to the nearest police station or busy place to get help. Do not take matters into your own hands.

• Keep your distance and stay away from the aggressive driver.

• Don't start a fight.

• Ignore their "friendly" gestures. Do not return the favor as it will only add fuel to their fire.

Continue reading "Aggressive Driving Increase Risks of Car Accidents in Pierce City -- Especially during Summer Months" »

3 Single Vehicle Accidents On Same Day Cause Injuries, Fatalities Near Joplin, Missouri

February 8, 2012

739118_crash.jpgNormally, when we worry about car accidents, we're thinking about the dangers caused by other drivers. However, our Missouri personal injury attorneys know that single vehicle accidents are common here in Joplin and our state - and these accidents often cause serious injuries and fatalities.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly half of fatal crashes involving 16 year-old drivers only involve one vehicle. What's more, single vehicle rollover accidents cause more fatalities than any other kind of accident, because they commonly cause head injuries and/or occupant ejection. Drivers and passengers are equally vulnerable.

Typically, single vehicle accidents are road departure accidents caused by driver error, although this category also includes collisions with roadway debris, and with animals. There are multiple driver behaviors and influences that can cause such accidents, including speed, distraction, and/or intoxication. According to a report from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, single vehicle crashes can also be caused by certain environmental and roadway factors, such as inclement weather, narrow lanes and shoulders, and sharp curves.

Last Friday, there were 3 separate single vehicle accidents in the Joplin area:

West 32nd Street & Ashwood Drive (Joplin)
Details surrounding this accident remain unclear. According to a press release from the Joplin Police Department, 35 year-old Ryan Parker and 40 year-old David Sage were killed in a single vehicle accident at 2:04 a.m.. Both men were thrown from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. The other occupant of the vehicle, 34 year-old Richard Tibbets, was hospitalized with minor injuries. Police continue to investigate.

Missouri Highway 59 (south of Anderson)
At 8:45 a.m., 71 year-old Virginia E. Jackson was traveling north on Highway 59 when her pickup truck ran off the road. Jackson overcorrected, and struck a bluff. She was taken by helicopter to Freeman Hospital West, but she later died as a result of her injuries.

Missouri Highway 54 (west of Nevada)
At 3:04 p.m., 49 year-old Susan Thornton was injured in a single car accident in Vernon County. Thorton was westbound and lost control of her car due to wet pavement. The vehicle left the roadway and struck a guardrail: Thornton was taken to Nevada Regional Medical Center by ambulance. Her vehicle was totaled.

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