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Child safety seats significantly reduce injury risks in Missouri car accidents

September 5, 2014

baby-feet-1439529-m.jpgAccording to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), seven out of 10 Missourians who suffer fatal car accident injuries are not wearing their seat belts. Seat belt use is an important part of safe roadway travel for all vehicle occupants, but especially for children, who can be particularly vulnerable to injuries in the event of a crash.

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. However, safety seats must be installed and used correctly in order to provide protection. 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.

Here 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).

• Safety advocates recommend that all children ride in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible: until they are at least 2 years-old and/or until they exceed the weight or height limits of a particular seat.

• Similarly, after age 2, children should continue using front-facing car seats until they reach the maximum height and weight limits for a particular seat: many front-facing seats place limits at 65 or 80 pounds.

• Booster seats are the next step, and should be used until a regular seatbelt fits properly. Before getting rid of the booster seat, be sure to check that fit: Safekids USA says "the adult lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt must lie snugly across the shoulders and chest (usually when a child is approximately 4'9" and between 8 and 12 years of age)."

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Distracted driving & Springfield car accidents: 10 reasons to put your cell phone away

its-a-wide-open-road-2-1-1422897-m.jpgDespite numerous national campaigns and safety initiatives, the problem of distracted drivers continues to plague motorists in Springfield, Missouri and throughout the U.S. In this post, our personal injury lawyers share 10 facts about distracted driving and its connection to serious car accidents and their resulting injuries.

Distracted driving: 10 shocking facts for Missouri drivers

1. Numerous studies have shown that certain forms of distraction (i.e. drowsiness, conversations) actually cause greater impairment than alcohol - in fact, a driver using a cell phone is more impaired than a driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.08%. Despite this research, more than 7 million people firmly believe that their driving is unaffected by these behaviors.

2. Every single day, more than 15 people are killed and over 1,200 more are injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.

3. When a driver is listening to music or conversation while behind the wheel, the amount of brain activity associated with driving decreases by nearly 40%.

4. In a Nationwide Mutual Insurance Study, 80% of respondents admitted to engaging in blatantly hazardous behaviors while driving, including changing clothes, painting fingernails and shaving.

5. Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to cause a crash serious enough to result in injuries. Contrary to popular belief, hands-free phones have not proven to be substantially safer than hand-held devices.

6. A State Farm Survey of 1,000 drivers found that 48% admitted to "webbing" (accessing the internet) while behind the wheel in 2012, compared to only 29% in 2009.

7. Distracted driving is now the number one killer of American teenagers. The Pew Research Center reports that 40% of teens say they have been in a car with a driver who used a cell phone in a way that put his or her passengers in danger.

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Safe driving in severe weather: Tips for Springfield, Missouri drivers

file000290552615_tornado.jpgSummer weather is moving in here in the Ozarks, causing drastic changes in air temperatures and creating the ideal atmosphere to produce tornadoes. Our Springfield personal injury lawyers want to offer area drivers a few helpful safety tips, just in case you find yourself faced with one of these unexpected natural disasters.

Tornadoes are unpredictable storms that can produce extremely dangerous conditions in a matter of moments. Because severe storms can develop quickly, it's important to act with safety and caution whenever tornadic conditions occur while you're on the road. Of course, it's always best to avoid driving when severe storm warnings have been issued, but it's essential to follow certain safety protocol if you happen to be on the road while a storm or tornado hits.

First, always be on the lookout for signs of dangerous weather approaching. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motorists should immediately seek shelter whenever there is a dark or green-colored sky; a large, dark, or low-lying cloud; large hail; and/or a loud roar similar to a train. All of these conditions suggest a tornado or large storm may be developing. When these conditions are present, immediately tune in to a local radio station or news outlet to check for warnings and watches in your area.

Again, if possible, stay off the road when there are signs of severe weather nearby. However, if you're already on the road when severe weather develops, don't try and outrun the storm or tornado. Strong winds can push or pick up a moving car, which can cause life-threatening injuries to motor vehicle occupants. Depending on the specific circumstances, there are several actions you can take to protect yourself, including the following:

Try and seek shelter in a sturdy building nearby. The best place to be is on the lowest level of the building, away from any windows.

If there is nowhere to seek shelter indoors, stop your vehicle and leave it running, if possible. Keep your seatbelt on and lower your head below the windows of your car. Then, cover your head with your hands or a blanket. Once the storm has passed, the Red Cross recommends that you collect yourself and evaluate your surroundings. If there is no debris flying around, check yourself and your passengers for injuries, and call for emergency assistance if needed.

Leave your car if you can get lower than the roadway. Most Missouri drivers are familiar with this familiar tornado safety tip: leave your vehicle and lie in a ditch with your hands over your head. However, in recent years, the Red Cross has changed its recommendation in response to new research, which "found that a relatively small percentage of vehicles are overturned, tossed, and demolished in tornadoes." However, if you feel more comfortable following the long-time safety rule, the Red Cross suggests getting far enough from the car that it will not potentially tumble onto you. Also, it is very important to cover your head to protect from as much debris as possible. (To learn more about both sides of the "Cars vs. Ditches" argument, click here.)

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Memorial Day weekend and Missouri car accident risks: Facts and tips for Springfield drivers

urban-traffic-768180-m.jpgMemorial Day weekend is fast approaching, and our Springfield car accident lawyers want to remind you to make roadway safety a priority during the busy holiday. According to a recent report from AAA, 36.1 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles over the three-day weekend, with 31.8 million traveling by car. It stands to reason that auto accidents are more likely when there are more vehicles on the road - and this is especially true during holiday weekends, when alcohol-impaired drivers are also more common.

Here in Missouri, Memorial Day tends to be one of the heaviest traveled holidays, and the Highway Patrol is taking steps to help prevent auto accidents this year. During the 2014 Memorial Day weekend (May 23 - May 26), the Highway Patrol will participate in Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort). During the operation, troopers will be assigned to 20-mile intervals on Interstates 29, 44, 55, and 70, and U.S. Highways 60 and 63. These troopers will be on the lookout for all traffic offenses, especially those involving aggressive driving, seat belt use, child safety seat use, driving under the influence and speeding. The Patrol says every available officer will be on the road over the three-day weekend.

"I encourage every driver--of a vehicle or a vessel--to be courteous and pay attention," said Colonel Ron Replogle, Highway Patrol Superintendent, in a recent news release. "Please, DON'T drink and drive. We want all of you to have a safe, enjoyable holiday weekend."

Facts about Memorial Day weekend and Missouri car accidents

• Nationwide, an average of 161 people are killed per day over the three-day holiday weekend each year. Approximately 40% of those fatalities are a result of drunk driving.

• During Memorial Day weekend 2013, six people were killed and 389 suffered injuries in 951 auto accidents throughout Missouri. 129 people were also arrested for driving under the influence.

Memorial Day weekend safety tips for Springfield drivers

Buckle up. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one in five Americans fail to wear seat belts regularly when driving or riding in motor vehicles - and men between the ages of 18 and 34 are less likely to buckle up than other age groups. Between May 19 and June 1, NHTSA will conduct its "Click it or Ticket" campaign nationwide: click here to learn more about why seat belt use is so important.

Don't drink and drive. If your Memorial Day celebration includes alcohol, make plans in advance: designate a sober driver, hire a car service, or arrange to stay where you are. Never get behind the wheel after consuming any amount of alcohol.

Avoid risky driving behaviors. In addition to driver impairment, the Highway Patrol says speed and inattention are common contributing factors in accidents statewide. Obey all traffic laws, be courteous to other motorists, and don't engage in any activities that divert your attention away from the primary task of driving.

Call the Highway Patrol if you need help. If you are in need of assistance or you wish to report a crime, call the Patrol's Emergency Assistance number: 1-800-525-5555, or *55 from your cell phone.

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Avoiding common bicycle accident scenarios: Tips for Springfield cyclists

963955_rollin.jpgRecent research suggests that more and more Americans are using bicycles as their regular method of transportation, citing factors like economic benefits, health advantages and the impact on the environment. Spring is here, and our Springfield personal injury lawyers want to encourage all motorists to share the road safely with bicyclists. We also recommend that cyclists take certain precautions to avoid auto accidents.


Avoiding Missouri bicycle accidents: Common scenarios in collisions involving bicycles and motor vehicles

Scenario 1: A driver pulls out of a side street or driveway on the right and either (1) strikes an oncoming cyclist or (2) pulls out in front of the cyclist, forcing the bicycle to strike the vehicle.
Avoiding this accident: It can be difficult for drivers to see bicycles coming straight towards them, so this kind of collision is fairly common. Be sure to ride with traffic rather than against it - after all, drivers won't be looking for traffic coming from the wrong direction. Also, using a headlight - even during the day - can help make cyclists more visible. If you're afraid a driver doesn't see you, consider waving your arm from side to side as you approach the vehicle - the side-to-side motion is easier for drivers to detect. And if all else fails, slow down enough so that you can stop if needed. It might be an annoyance, but it's far better to be annoyed than to be involved in an auto accident.

Scenario 2: A bicyclist moves slightly to the left to avoid a roadway obstruction and is rear-ended by a motor vehicle approaching from the behind.
Avoiding this accident: Don't shift into the traffic lane without checking for vehicles approaching behind you. Many cyclists use mirrors (attached to their handlebars, helmets or glasses) so they don't have to physically turn to check. Always signal before you move left, even if the movement is slight - some drivers don't allow extra space for cyclists, so shifting even an inch or two can put you at risk of being rear-ended.

Scenario 3: The driver of a parked vehicle opens his or her door right in front of an oncoming bicyclist.
Avoiding this accident: Unfortunately, this kind of collision happens frequently in metropolitan areas, where bike lanes tend to be placed as far to the right as possible. Cyclists use the term "door zone" to refer to the three to five-foot space in which a bicycle is in danger of being struck by a vehicle's door. To protect yourself, ride far enough to the left so that you won't be struck by a suddenly-opened door. It may mean that you have to ride in the traffic lane briefly, but you're less likely to be involved in an accident. Again, be mindful of other vehicles as you shift to the left.

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Eight "danger zones" create make teen drivers more likely to crash, pediatrician says

78225_driving.jpgEach year, car accidents account for one out of every three teen fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that novice drivers (from age 16 to 19) are four times more likely to crash than older drivers. Pediatrician Dr. Rima Himelstein examined the key factors that contribute to teen crashes, and found several common denominators - what she termed the "eight danger zones of teen driving."

1. Driver inexperience

Simple lack of experience is a contributing factor in numerous accidents involving teen drivers. Because they've spent less time behind the wheel, teens are less prepared to deal with the numerous unexpected situations that can present themselves on the road. Since crash risks are especially high during a teen's first year of driving, safety advocates recommend that teen drivers receive extensive supervised practice during that time. Teens need to gain experience driving at different times of day, in different kinds of weather, on different kinds of roads.

2. Driving with teen passengers

Research has shown that passengers can be an particularly dangerous distraction for teen drivers, especially when those passengers are also teens. A study conducted by AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the risk of a fatal crash increases by 44% when a 16 or 17 year-old has just one teen passenger. With two teen passengers, the risk is doubled; with three or more, the risk is quadrupled. Missouri's graduated driver license (GDL) law places restrictions on the amount of passengers a teen driver can carry, but safety advocates urge parents to establish rules that reinforce those restrictions.

3. Driving after dark

Nighttime driving comes with its own set of challenges. In 2009, 61% of teen traffic fatalities occurred between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Furthermore, a 2010 study from the Texas Transportation Institute found that "it is the nighttime risk that ranks at the top of the list for the youngest motorists on the road, primarily due to a combination of the visibility challenges caused by dark conditions, slower response time brought about by fatigue, and a lack of experience driving under such conditions." Here again, GDL laws restrict nighttime driving in novice drivers, but parents will want to monitor their teens and ensure they receive ample supervised practice.

4. Driving without seatbelts

While teen seatbelt use has increased significantly in recent years, teens are still much less likely to buckle up than older drivers are. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), "in 2009 the majority (56%) of young people 16 to 20 years old involved in fatal crashes were unbuckled."

5. Driving while distracted

In today's world, distracted driving is the number one killer of American teenagers. In the CDC's 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 1 out of 3 teen drivers admitted to sending a text or email while driving within the past month. Missouri law prohibits texting in drivers 21 and younger, but parents should establish a zero tolerance policy at home. In addition, parents are urged to set an example for their teens and refrain from using their phones while driving.

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Prepare for Missouri boating season: Take a boating safety course

866863_seattle_boating.jpgThankfully, warmer temperatures have made their way back to the Ozarks this week, and it won't be long before boating season is upon us once again! To promote safe boating and help prevent boating accidents, Missouri law requires certain individuals to pass a state-approved boating education course before hitting the water.

These individuals include:

• Operators who were born after January 1, 1984.

• Operators who have been convicted of certain boating offenses, which include boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, negligent operation of a vessel, leaving the scene of an accident, and failing to yield to an emergency watercraft. Click here for more information.

Boating safety certification courses: What Missouri boaters need to know

• You are required to pre-register online in order to take a course. Courses have a maximum size and may also be cancelled if there is not sufficient interest. Click here to pre-register, or to view a complete list of boating safety classes offered throughout the state.

• You must be present at the course in order to receive certification.

• The course is free. If you pass, you can order a boating safety certification card for $15.

• There is also an online boating safety course available, which is approved by the Highway Patrol. Click here for more information.

Boating accidents: The statistics

• According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 4,588 boating accidents nationwide in 2011. These accidents caused 758 deaths, over 3,000 injuries, and $52 million in costs associated with property damage.

• Here in Missouri, the Patrol says 19 people were killed and 86 people were injured in 2011 boating accidents.

• Of 2011 boating accident deaths nationwide, 70% drowned, and of that number, 84% were not wearing life jackets.

• Only 11% of boating accident fatalities nationwide occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety training.

• The Coast Guard reports that the top five contributing factors in boating accidents are as follows: operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and equipment failure.

Here at Aaron Sachs and Associates, we encourage you to make safety a priority when you're on the water this year. Happy boating!

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Avoiding car accidents this spring: Tips for Springfield, Missouri drivers

February 28, 2014

1377780_highway_in_the_sky.jpgSpring is nearly here, and our Greene County personal injury lawyers know that many Missourians are looking forward to some relief from cold temperatures and wintry weather. However, springtime also brings certain changes that can also impact roadway travel. In this post, we discuss five useful safety tips for spring driving.

Spring driving safety tips for Missouri motorists:

• Use caution when traveling in unpredictable spring weather. As Springfield residents know all too well, springtime in the Ozarks can mean rain, sleet, hail, flash flooding, fog and widely varying temperatures, all of which can complicate roadway travel. When you encounter wet or slick roads, remember to slow down and increase your following distance. You'll also want to use your headlights and your defroster to help yourself see and be seen. Finally, avoid driving through large puddles, which can affect your brakes or cause you to hydroplane.

• Expect to see farming equipment on the road. With spring comes the planting season, which means more farming vehicles will be on the move. During the months ahead, drivers should expect to encounter these large slow-moving vehicles, especially on rural roads. Be sure to slow down and give them plenty of room, and be especially careful when passing. Remember that wide farming vehicles make extremely wide turns, so don't assume that a vehicle is moving to the right to allow you to pass. The driver may be preparing to turn left.

• Watch for increased recreational traffic. Missouri is home to a beautiful landscape, several rivers and lakes, and numerous state parks, so it's no surprise that many Ozarkers will be out enjoying the outdoors as temperatures continue to warm. Anticipate increased traffic, including local motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians. Also, expect more cars and trucks on the road, especially over the weekends.

• Have your vehicle serviced. Many drivers "winterize" their vehicle to prepare for traveling in cold temperatures, but spring is also an excellent time of year to ensure your vehicle is in good working order. Replace your windshield wiper blades, check your headlights and your tire pressure, and chance your vehicle's cabin air filter (especially if you suffer from seasonal allergies).

• Make safe driving a priority. Taking a few basic safety precautions can help ensure that you and your passengers are protected in the event of a crash. Buckle up, put your cell phone away, and don't get behind the wheel if you've been drinking. It's common-sense advice, but it might just save someone's life.

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10 facts to know about car accidents in Springfield, Missouri & nationwide

January 31, 2014

480202_broken_car.jpgCar accidents happen in a matter of seconds, but they can have devastating long-term consequences for victims and their loved ones. In this post, our Springfield personal injury lawyers discuss ten facts about motor vehicle crashes and common contributing factors.

Ten facts about car accidents for Missouri drivers:

1. The average American has a 30% chance of being involved in a serious motor vehicle crash at some point during their life.

2. Annually, more than 30,000 people are killed in U.S. car accidents. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that the total societal cost of these fatal accidents is more than $200 billion each year.

3. Distraction is a leading cause of serious traffic accidents. A study conducted by Monash University found that drivers who use hand-held electronic devices are about four times more likely to be involved in crashes resulting in injuries.

4. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), speeding was a contributing factor in 31% of 2011 auto accidents. Since 2002, speeding has played a role in about one-third of all traffic crash fatalities nationwide.

5. Nearly 30 people are killed every day in U.S. crashes involving drivers who are under the influence of alcohol - that's one death every 48 minutes.

6. Pedestrians accounted for about 14% of 2011 auto accident fatalities. Approximately 69,000 pedestrians were injured in car crashes and 4,432 were killed.

7. Younger and older drivers have an increased risk of involvement in accidents. Teens between age 16 and 19 have a higher crash risk than any other age group - in fact, they're three times more likely to crash than drivers over age 20. And the IIHS reports that 'per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase noticeably starting at age 70-74 and are highest among drivers 85 and older."

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Preventing child injuries: Safety resources for Springfield, Missouri parents

January 16, 2014

file0001704977235.jpgKeeping children safe on the road is a top priority for parents and caregivers, but learning to use car seats properly can be confusing and overwhelming. In this post, our Springfield car accident lawyers provide some useful tips and resources for drivers with little ones on board.

Traveling safely with children: What Missouri parents need to know about car seats

• Rear-facing seats are significantly safer for small children. Infants should always ride in rear-facing seats, and safety experts recommend that parents keep their children in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible. A child's spine is made of cartilage that doesn't harden until around age 4, and for this reason, car accidents involving children can result in serious neck and spinal injuries. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), toddlers are more than five times safer in rear-facing car seats up to age two, so it's best to hold off on switching to a front-facing seat until it's absolutely necessary.

• Proper installation is essential. Every car seat is different and will thus have different installation instructions. Consult the manual that came with your car seat and your vehicle owner's manual when installing a car seat, and remember that all car seats should be installed "using either the lower anchors of the LATCH system or the seat belt to secure it in place." A car seat should always be installed in a vehicle's back seat, and it should be secured so that it doesn't move more than one inch from side to side or front to back when you pull at the belt path.

• Make sure your child is fitted correctly in the seat. Safety straps should be flat, not twisted, and positioned appropriately to secure your child. According to safercar.gov, the seat's chest clip should be positioned at the child's armpit level, and the harness should be tightened so that extra material can't be pinched at the shoulder.

Seek help if you're not sure you're using your child's car seat correctly. There are numerous resources available online for parents who want to learn more about car seat safety or ensure that their seats are properly installed. For example, the AAP offers a useful guide, "Car Seats: Information for Families," that provides an overview of the different types of car seats and general guidelines for their use. You can also click here to review Missouri's Child Restraint Law (RSMo 307.182). And finally, if you'd like to locate a Child Car Seat Inspection Station, there are several in the Springfield area: click here to use the National Highway Traffic Administration's Inspection Station Locator tool.

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DOT facing lawsuit from consumer advocates after backup camera rule delayed

September 30, 2013

backupcamera.jpgOur Springfield personal injury lawyers know that backover accidents involving young children are all too common, both here in Missouri and throughout the U.S. Federal data indicates that, on average, backover accidents cause 292 deaths and 18,000 injuries each year. One tool that could dramatically reduce the number of backover accidents is the installation of backup cameras in all new vehicles: experts say these devices would prevent 95 deaths and more than 7,000 injuries annually. Unfortunately, despite this research, too many vehicles still lack this potentially life-saving technology.

Recently, media outlets announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation is being sued by a group of consumer advocates for delaying the passage of a federal rule requiring backup cameras in new vehicles to improve rear visibility. The rule, which was signed into law in 2008, included a deadline of three years for the DOT. Now, in 2013, the DOT says it will complete the standards outlined in the rule by 2015, citing the need for additional research. However, the consumer advocates behind the lawsuit say that's simply not good enough. "When Congress ordered this rule issued in three years, they meant three years, not seven," said Scott Michelman, attorney for the plaintiffs. "It's time for a court to step in and make the Transportation Department issue the rule. No administration is above the law."

Facts about backover accidents from KidsandCars.org:

• Every week, at least 50 children in the U.S. become the victims of backover accidents. Research indicates that 48 of these children are treated in emergency rooms for backover-related injuries, while two children suffer fatal injuries.

• One year-old children are the most likely to suffer injuries in a backover accident.

• More than 60% of backover accidents involve a large vehicle like a truck, van or sports utility vehicle, and in more than 70% of these accidents, a parent or close relative is behind the wheel of the striking vehicle.

Avoiding backover accidents: Safety tips for parents, family members and caregivers:

• Be aware of the size of your "blind zone" - i.e., the area behind your vehicle that you can't see while sitting in the driver's seat. According to KidsandCars.org, a driver who is five-feet-one-inch tall and operates a pickup truck can have a blind zone that is around eight feet wide and 50 feet long.

• Walk in a circle around your vehicle before reversing out of a driveway or parking spot. If there are children in the area, know exactly where they are before you move your vehicle.

• Talk with children about the dangers associated with playing around vehicles. Since young children often act impulsively, it's imperative they are taught that parked vehicles may move without warning and that drivers may not always be able to see them.

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Teen driver fatalities increase in early 2012: What can parents do to help?

1105860_my_keys_2.jpgDuring the first six months of 2012, car accident fatalities increased by 19% among 16 and 17 year-old drivers, according to a recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA). As Springfield personal injury lawyers, we know that teens are already an at-risk age group when it comes to serious crashes, so the 2012 data is worrisome, to say the least. However, there's good news: research indicates that parental involvement has a significant impact on a young driver's behavior behind the wheel. "Parents play a key role in preventing teen crashes," says Erin Sauber-Schatz, Senior Researcher for the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. "When asked whose opinions they listen to, teens most often said their parents."

Consider the following statistics, compiled by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia:

• Teen drivers are half as likely to crash and twice as likely to wear their seat belts when their parents "set rules and pay attention to their activities in a helpful, supportive way." These drivers are also 70% less likely to drink and drive and 30% less likely to use a cell phone while driving.

• Conversely, teens who report having "easy access to the keys" are more than twice as likely to crash, compared to young drivers who share vehicles.

So, what are some specific actions parents can take to safeguard their young drivers? Here are a few basic steps to help you stay involved with your teens' driving education and reduce their accident risks.

Be a hands-on driving teacher. Under Missouri's Graduated Driver License Law, drivers must receive 40 hours of supervised instruction (including 10 hours of nighttime driving) to graduate from an Instruction Permit to an Intermediate License. Use the opportunity to help your teen build experience by practicing on different kinds of roads, at different times of day, and in different weather and traffic conditions.

Know what your teen is doing. Always ask where they're going, who they're going with, and when they'll be home - and hold them to their word! Teen drivers are more likely to take risks on the road when they're not being held accountable for their whereabouts and actions.

Develop a parent-teen driving agreement that's right for your family. Establish clear ground rules so your teen understands your expectations and the consequences of breaking the rules. (Click here to view a sample contract.)

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Share the road: Look twice for Missouri motorcyclists this spring

file371285361226.jpgToday is the first day of spring, and recent weather forecasts indicate that warmer temperatures are on the way. It won't be long before drivers can expect to see Missouri motorcyclists back on the road in increased numbers. Since there's little to no motorcycle traffic during the winter months, many drivers have forgotten all about motorcyclists by the time riding season rolls around. In this post, our Springfield personal injury lawyers discuss five key points that other drivers should keep in mind when sharing the road with motorcyclists.

Risk factors & motorcycles: What other drivers should remember when traveling near riders

• Motorcyclists lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle. When accidents happen, passenger vehicle occupants are afforded a level of protection from a vehicle's outer structure and safety devices, which include air bags and seat belts. Since there's virtually nothing between a rider and the road, motorcyclists are extremely vulnerable to injury when they're involved in collisions. A collision with minor consequences for car occupants can have extremely serious implications for motorcycle riders.

• Motorcycles are less visible than cars. All too often, motorcycle accidents occur because a driver simply didn't see the motorcycle until it was too late to avoid a crash. Because they're smaller and narrower than other vehicles, motorcycles can easily disappear into blind spots or be obscured by objects on or along the road. Always look twice for motorcycles, especially when you're turning or changing lanes - it really might save someone's life.

• Motorcyclists must make sudden adjustments for roadway conditions and hazards. Being prepared for the unexpected is a key part of defensive driving for all motorists. However, common hazards like loose gravel, wet pavement, and uneven train tracks can be extremely dangerous for riders. For this reason, motorcyclists are often required to make sudden adjustments (like slowing down or changing lane position) when they encounter these conditions. Be alert when you're following riders, and expect them to make such adjustments as needed.

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Black ice, winter weather can cause car crashes in the Ozarks

December 19, 2012

file0001592765561.jpgThe first signs of winter have finally arrived in the Ozarks. During Tuesday's morning commute, there were multiple accidents reported - including one fatal crash - as a result of Missouri's notorious "black ice," which affected sections of Interstate 44, U.S. 65 and James River Freeway. Black ice is most likely to form on bridges and overpasses: cold air flowing above and below the structures causes them to collect ice and snow more quickly. For this reason, the flyover bridges in the James River Valley were especially treacherous yesterday morning.

According to the Springfield News-Leader, the fatal crash occurred on I-44, west of Halltown, just before 7:30 a.m. Larry Hall, 55, was killed when his vehicle ran off the road, hit a guardrail, overturned and rolled down an embankment. Shortly after, a secondary collision occurred - this one involving a semi-truck and a car - but no one was injured in that accident. Meanwhile, commuters on U.S. 65 experienced serious congestion and delays following a multi-vehicle wreck on the bridge over Springfield Lake. Traffic was redirected onto Evans Road for several hours after that crash.

Black ice
is most common during the night time hours and in the early morning, when temperatures tend to be at their coldest. In addition to being dangerous, black ice can be extremely difficult to see, because it forms with almost no air bubbles and is almost completely transparent. All too often, drivers mistake patches of black ice with wet spots on the pavement. Studies have shown that the distance a driver requires to stop is nine times greater on black ice than it is on dry pavement.

What if I hit a patch of black ice?

• Stay calm, and don't make the mistake of slamming on your breaks or jerking your wheel.

• Slow down by easing off the accelerator. If you instinctively hit your breaks when you hit a patch of black ice, you mill most likely skid.

• If possible, shift into a lower gear. This will give you more control over the vehicle.

• Maneuver your vehicle toward areas of pavement where you can find better traction.

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Highway Patrol: Springfield, Missouri motorists at increased risk for drunk driving accidents over New Year's holiday

December 12, 2012

660188_champagne.jpgDuring the upcoming New Year's traffic crash counting period (Friday, December 28, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. to Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 11:59 p.m.), the Missouri Highway Patrol plans to have every available officer patrolling Missouri roadways. Drivers can expect to see increased patrols and DUI checkpoints throughout the counting period. Our Springfield personal injury lawyers were pleased to see a recent news release from the Patrol urging Missourians to make responsible choices as they celebrate 2013.

Celebrating New Year's safely: Tips from the Missouri Highway Patrol

• If you plan on involving alcohol in your New Year's celebration, also plan ahead for alternative transportation. Designate a sober driver or call a taxi service - and remember that buzzed driving is drunk driving. If you've been drinking any alcohol, your safest best is to avoid getting behind the wheel. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that a driver's risk of a fatal crash increases considerably when his/her blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches 0.05%, which is within the legal limit. Once a driver's BAC reaches 0.08% and beyond, the fatal crash risk spikes dramatically.

• Wear your seatbelt. Of Missourians who died in 2011 auto accidents, seven out of 10 had failed to buckle up. Wearing a seat belt reduces your risk of fatal injury by 45%.

• Be alert and follow all traffic laws. Since the New Year's holiday increases your chances of encountering an impaired driver, you'll want to stay especially aware of what's happening around you. Don't assume you know what another driver will do: instead, slow down and allow plenty of extra space between your car and the vehicles traveling near you

Drunk driving accidents in Missouri and nationwide: The sobering facts

• According to estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one in three Americans will be involved in a drunk driving crash within their lifetimes.

• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says more than 1.4 million U.S. drivers were arrested for drunk driving in 2010. Staggeringly, those arrests represent approximately one percent of the 112 million self-reported drunk driving episodes that occur every year.

• The holiday season has proven to be a particularly deadly time of year. Federal data reveals that an average 25 Americans were killed every day in December 2010 as a result of crashes caused by impaired drivers.

• In a 2011 survey conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance, one out of 10 teen drivers admitted to driving drunk on New Year's Eve.

Continue reading "Highway Patrol: Springfield, Missouri motorists at increased risk for drunk driving accidents over New Year's holiday" »