Our Springfield, Missouri car accident lawyers were saddened to hear about the death of a young girl in Stone County who ran in front of an oncoming vehicle. It happened on Saturday night, north of Cape Fair. Family members of 5 year-old Sahara Blevins say that the little girl ran down their driveway, which declines steeply into State Highway 173: they speculate that Sahara may have been going too fast to stop herself before darting into the roadway. Sahara, who was deaf, would not have heard a vehicle approaching, nor could she have seen it, because of a blind spot on that section of the highway. She was struck by Jeep Cherokee pulling a utility trailer.
Read the Missouri Highway Patrol's official crash report.
Sahara was airlifted to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, but she ultimately died as a result of her injuries. The driver and his passenger were not injured. As is required by Missouri law, law enforcement officials tested the driver for alcohol, but they do not believe alcohol was a factor in the accident. "Right over the top at a hill is a blind spot, a bad spot, and the driver...had nothing he could do," according to Lieutenant Bob Ramsell of the Southern Stone County Fire Protection District. "He did everything he could to avoid her."
Warm, comfortable temperatures have come early to the Ozarks this year: motorists can expect to see children outside shooting baskets, or riding bikes, or simply playing with their friends. We urge drivers to exercise extreme caution by driving defensively and keeping a constant lookout. It only takes a moment for a child to run into the street, chasing a stray ball; or to fall into your path after crashing his or her bike. Slow down, especially in residential areas. And always be prepared to stop.
• In 2009, an estimated 13,000 children ages 15 and under were injured as pedestrians in vehicle collisions, while 1/5 (19%) of all children between the ages of 5 and 9 who were killed in car accidents were pedestrians.
• Of child pedestrian fatalities, 74% occur at non-intersection locations, and 42% occur between 4:00 p.m. and 7:59 p.m.
• A staggering number of child pedestrians are injured in their own driveways. Of non-fatal back-over injuries in children as pedestrians, 50% occur at home, and 4 out of 5 injured were ages 4 or under.
Keeping Our Kids Safe
Safety advocates recommend that children not be allowed to cross the street unattended before the age of 10. According to Safe Kids USA, "the maturity level of a child under 10 years of age makes him or her less able to correctly gauge road dangers and renders him or her at greater risk of injury or death." Research from the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin concurs, pointing out that children under age 10 lack the cognitive development to assess traffic safety dangers:
• They tend to act impulsively, without considering consequences.
• They believe that if they can see a driver, that driver also sees them.
• They have difficulty judging traffic speed and distances, and they believe a car can stop instantly.
What Parents Can Do
• Before allowing your children to cross any roadways by themselves, you should cross with them repeatedly, emphasizing the importance of always looking both ways carefully, and making sure they're visible to drivers. Make sure they understand they should always stop before crossing.
• Set some basic rules, and review them regularly with your children. Head Start, an Office of the Administration for Children and Families, offers several recommendations: among them, "if a toy or pet goes out into the street, always ask an adult for help getting it back."
• Supervision is essential when children are playing near a roadway, until they are old enough to understand pedestrian safety practices.
After the accident, according to KSPR 33, Lt. Ramsell immediately went home and hugged his granddaughter. He then painted a yellow line on his driveway to create a boundary for her and the other neighborhood kids who often play there. "In the blink of an eye, a child can be gone," Ramsell said. "It really hits home, more than anything."
It's our hope that drivers and parents alike will take extra precautions to keep our children safe, particularly with the spring and summer months ahead. After all, it's our job to make sure our community is a safe one for kids to play in.
Information provided courtesy of Aaron Sachs and Associates.Attorney meetings by appointment only