March 2012 Archives

"No Refusal" DWI Law Showing Signs of Success in Christian County, Missouri

685439_police_5.jpgIn 2010, there were 208 fatal crashes on Missouri roadways that were caused by drunk drivers. An additional 2,642 drunk driving accidents left 3,823 Missourians injured during the same year. Recently, we reported that several law enforcement agencies participated in a statewide effort to curb drunk driving over St. Patrick's weekend. And this weekend, the Springfield News-Leader discussed the effects of Christian County's "no refusal" law, which is designed to help officers identify impaired drivers.

A "no refusal" law is designed to compel drunk drivers to submit to sobriety tests. If a suspected drunk driver refuses to take a breathalyzer in Christian County, police can seek a warrant for a blood test (to be administered immediately). The process works like this: when a driver refuses, an officer then contacts the on-call Christian County prosecutor. If the prosecutor believes there is enough evidence (probable cause), he or she will then contact a judge. The judge reviews the information and issues the warrant, and an emergency medical technician is dispatched to the Christian County jail to take a blood sample.

It's been a year since the law took effect, and, according to the News-Leader, "prosecutors have succeeded in obtaining breathalyzer tests or blood samples from 25 of the 31 drivers suspected of DWI who refused to be tested" in Christian County.

Assistant Prosecutor Ben Miller said the policy has equipped law enforcement with a very important tool. "Over the past few years we, and prosecutors around the state, have begun to see a trend in DWI cases: people (whether they be judges or jurors) want to see that 'magic' number in regards to a person's BAC," Miller said in an email to the News-Leader. "This is an extension of what most prosecutors call the 'CSI effect'...where people are so trained by what they see on TV, from what they hear from friends, and what they expect from a society that is big on technology that they absolutely expect physical scientific evidence because they can even consider guilt in a case."

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Good Samaritans Rescue Occupants from Burning Car in Stone County, Missouri

fire-IMG_3721.jpgOur Branson, Missouri car accident lawyers were amazed to hear about the bravery of 3 bystanders following a terrible crash last Sunday. It happened on Highway 86 in Stone County just before 4:00 p.m.: according to the Missouri Highway Patrol, 30 year-old Mystery Anderson was traveling north when she failed to negotiate a curve. Her 2005 Kia Optima ran off the road, smashed into a culvert, and flipped over in the air. When the vehicle hit the ground, it burst into flames. One of the occupants - a 12 year-old girl riding in the backseat - was able to free herself from the vehicle. However, Anderson and another passenger (22 year-old Jaylin Blackbear) were trapped inside.

Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers: Matthew Sams and Dennis Margritz were passing by and witnessed the accident and its aftermath. Margritz tried to use a fire extinguisher, but the fire had already grown too large. Instead, incredibly, the 2 men worked together and pulled Blackbear to safety,

However, the car continued to burn, and Anderson remained pinned between her seat and the steering wheel. At that point - when the flames were nearly 10 feet high - a third bystander, Brent Arnold, ran to help. Through their combined efforts, they were able to drag Anderson from the car: in the end, the men were forced to lift Anderson over the front seat and pull her through the back door. "We ended up having to rip pieces from the door, just rip them out to get us enough room so that we could reach in to get the seat released," said Sams in an interview with KY3 News.

All 3 occupants of the Kia sustained serious injuries and were taken to Mercy Hospital in Springfield. As of Monday, Anderson's condition had been upgraded to fair. Emergency responders say that the courageous actions of those 3 passersby most likely saved her life: the vehicle was fully engulfed in flames by the time fire trucks arrived on the scene.

"They truly are heroes," said Eric Nielson, Public Information Officer for the Southern Stone County Fire Protection District. "They said they weren't heroes but if they would not have been there the outcome would have been different." A news release from Southern Stone County Fire concurs: "These three individuals acted in a heroic way. The driver would have most likely sustained fatal injuries without their brave rescue."

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Weekend Checkpoints in Springfield, Missouri Result in DWI Arrests

Thumbnail image for Sequence 02_27795 copy.jpgLast week, we reported that multiple Missouri law enforcement agencies would participate in statewide DWI prevention efforts over St. Pat's weekend. Today, our Greene County car accident lawyers learned that the Springfield Police Department's contribution to this initiative was a success.


About 20-25 officers from the SPD conducted a DWI checkpoint last Friday night at the intersection of South Campbell Avenue and West Meadowmere Street. As a result, they made several arrests:

• 10 drivers were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
• 4 drivers were arrested for possession of drugs.
• 1 driver was arrested for an outstanding warrant.
• 8 drivers were cited for driving with a suspended license.

At the same time, the Greene County Sheriff's Department conducted its own checkpoint at South Campbell Avenue and Farm Road 192: deputies arrested 2 drivers for DWI, and 11 drivers for assorted violations, including drugs and driving without a valid license.

Sheriff Jim Arnott called the effort a success, and praised his team for their initiative. "These projects could not happen without so many employees volunteering to work overtime hours to help keep the Greene County roadways safe for all of us," Arnott said.

How does a checkpoint work?
In a recent news release, the SPD described the basic method that officers use to conduct sobriety checkpoints:

• Approaching traffic is divided into 2 lanes and directed to stop at a specific point.
• A police officer will speak to each driver and ask for a valid driver's license.
• The officer will also ask each driver if he or she has been drinking.
• Provided the driver is properly licensed and sober, he or she will be waved through the checkpoint, and should not be detained for any longer than 3 minutes.

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Failure to Yield Causes Fatal Accidents: When Do Springfield, Missouri Drivers Have the Right of Way?

697790_dont_turn_left.jpgThe Greene County car accident attorneys have noted several recent reports of local accidents caused by a driver's failure to yield the right of way. Failing to yield has long been a common catalyst for injury and fatality accidents - here in Missouri and nationwide.

This week in Aztec, New Mexico, police are investigating a fatal accident caused by one driver's failure to yield the right of way. Last Friday, 83 year-old John Gustafson was traveling west when he approached what has been called a "heavily traveled highway intersection." As the light turned yellow, Gustafson attempted to turn left, and his Kia Rondo was subsequently T-boned by an eastbound semi.

Gustafson was killed, while the truck driver sustained minor injuries. Local police continue to investigate the accident; however, Sgt. Joseph Gonzales of the Aztec Police Department says it appears that Gustafson simply failed to yield to the truck, and that the semi was too close to the intersection to stop in time. Police do not believe speed or driver impairment played a role in the collision, though they will have to determine how fast the semi was traveling when the collision occurred. They also plan to examine surveillance footage from a nearby bank.

Right of way issues cause numerous accidents throughout Missouri. In particular, these kinds of crashes are prevalent at intersections that are equipped with stoplights that do not have left turn arrows to allow protected left turns. At these intersections - and there are many throughout the Queen City - drivers making left turns are always expected to yield.

According to findings from the National Safety Council, 14% of all fatal traffic accidents are caused by a driver's failure to yield. Sometimes, this behavior is associated with aggressive driving tendencies - deliberately careless behaviors that increase the risk of an accident. The American Automobile Association's (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that these behaviors are "typically motivated by impatience, annoyance, hostility, or all of the above." In other words, a driver is frustrated by slow moving traffic, or in a hurry to make it through an intersection, or angry about another driver's actions: and, as a result, that driver makes a rash, reckless decision. However, there are also a good number of drivers who fail to yield simply because they don't understand who has the right of way.

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Safety Restraints Prevent Child Injuries, Fatalities in Springfield, Missouri Car Accidents

DSC06550.JPGOn Wednesday, following a car accident on Kansas Expressway, a 1 year-old was thrown from a vehicle - while still in her car seat. The driver of that vehicle (Cindy Wells, the girl's grandmother) was attempting to turn left onto Hovey Street when she was struck by a northbound car. The child, who was riding in a front-facing car seat, was ejected from the back of the vehicle.

No one seems to understand how such a thing occurred. In an interview with the Springfield News Leader, Wells said: "The only thing we could figure is that the pressure on the seat belt caused the lock to disengage." Miraculously, the child was uninjured. While we don't know the circumstances that caused this unbelievable incident, the proper installation and use of child safety restraints have long been concerns for parents and safety advocates.

When used correctly, car seats can reduce car accident fatalities by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers (children aged 1 to 4) when compared to seat belts. Accordingly, booster seats can reduce accident injuries by 45% for children aged 4 to 8. In 2009, 31% of children under age 4 who were killed in crashes were completely unrestrained. Shockingly, according to Safe Kids USA, "the overall critical misuse for child restraints is about 73%." Infant seats and rear-facing convertible seats are the most commonly misused devices.

Dscn0360.jpgHere are a few guidelines aimed at keeping young passengers safe:

• Make sure you are familiar with Missouri's Child Restraint Law (RSMo 307.182), which requires safety seats for children ages 4 and under (or who weigh less than 40 pounds); and booster seats for children ages 4 to 7 (or who weigh less than 80 pounds or who are shorter than 4'9").

• When you purchase a safety seat, remember to register the product with the manufacturer so you'll receive any pertinent recall information. You can also visit www.recalls.gov.

• Purchasing safety seats secondhand (at yard sales, resale shops, etc.) is a risky endeavor. You have no way of knowing whether or not the seat has been through an accident.

Babycenter.com stresses the importance of reading both your car seat and vehicle manuals to ensure you install the seat properly. If you're not sure, call the seat manufacturer and/or the automaker. There are also several workshops that teach proper installation (see the resources at the end of this post).

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Fleeing Suspects Endanger Springfield, Missouri Drivers: Law Enforcement Reports 3 Recent Police Chases Within City Limits

7524_slow_down.jpgOur Springfield car accident attorneys have noticed a disturbing trend in the Queen City: in less than 2 weeks, there were 3 separate high speed police pursuits within city limits. Even more distressing is the common factor that links all three pursuits: each one involved alcohol and/or drugs. Consider the following headlines:

February 15: Suspected Drunk Driver Who Crashed into Square Was on DWI Probation

When police attempted to pull over a suspected drunk driver at around 1:30 a.m., the vehicle sped away. Police pursued: the chase reached speeds of 50 mph within the city, and 90 mph after the suspect led law enforcement onto I-44. Eventually, the driver reentered the city: stop sticks were used to disable the vehicle's tires, and the driver crashed into concrete barriers on Park Central Square. 37 year-old Andrew Hegger was arrested and charged with DWI, along with several traffic and probation violations. Police also found alcohol in the vehicle.

February 22: Man in custody after speedy chase: Speeds reached 100 mph during pursuit through Springfield

This chase began around 1:00 p.m. when a deputy from the Greene County Sheriff's Department attempted to stop a white Mazda at the intersection of Route H and Missouri AA, just north of Springfield. The deputy followed the vehicle into the city, where at least three other patrol cars joined the pursuit: the driver was believed to be wanted for several felony crimes. Officers fell back when the car reached speeds around 100 mph near Hillcrest High School.

Shortly thereafter, a Springfield driver called 911 to report seeing the Mazda being driven dangerously: the Mazda forced cars off the road and ignored traffic signals as he sped through several major Springfield intersections during the middle of the day. Again, stop sticks were deployed, and the Mazda was finally disabled at Oak Grove and Sunshine. Even at that point, the driver attempted to flee on foot, and deputies had to use a Taser to subdue him. Ultimately, 29 year-old Jason Capps was arrested and charged with felony resisting arrest, and more charges are forthcoming.

Capps is a suspect in several local burglaries. Deputies removed several allegedly stolen items from the Mazda (including a flat screen TV), and they believe Capps threw a bag out the window during the chase that contained 29 grams of methamphetamine.

February 27: High-speed chase in Springfield results in two arrests: Police were trying to pull over the driver for suspected DWI

In the early hours of the morning, another suspected drunk driver led police on a high speed chase, reaching speeds of up to 80 mph in the city. And once again, during the chase, police say it appears that drug paraphernalia was thrown from the vehicle (which was later recovered by police). The chase ended near Walnut and Warren, when the driver struck a guy wire. The driver was charged with DWI, while a passenger was charged with resisting arrest. No names or further details have been released at this time.

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