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Speed-related car accidents in Springfield, Missouri: The costs and consequences

January 11, 2013

849618_speed.jpgWhen Missouri drivers exceed posted speed limits, they increase car accident risks for both themselves and for any motorists traveling near them. In this post, our Springfield personal injury lawyers discuss the way speed impacts roadway safety.

Why do drivers speed?

Research from the National Safety Council (NSC) indicates that many drivers cite speed as a specific threat to roadway safety. However, many of those same drivers also admit to exceeding the speed limit on a regular basis. Here are a few reasons why:

• They're in a hurry, running late, or feeling impatient with traffic.
• They're not paying attention to the speedometer.
• They don't feel like traffic laws apply to them.
• They don't feel that speeding is dangerous.
• They don't believe they'll be caught.

How does speed affect car accident risks?

A driver's stopping distance can be calculated by combining reaction distance (the time it takes to realize you need to brake and move your foot to the brake pedal) and braking distance (the time it takes your vehicle to slow and stop). The average driver requires about 1.5 seconds to react - and at 60 miles per hour, a vehicle travels approximately 132 feet during that short period of time. The faster you're moving, the less time you have to react and respond to roadway obstacles.

In addition, speeding increases the energy associated with a crash, which is dangerous because most vehicles are built to protect occupants at low speeds. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), "there are limits to the amount of crash energy that can be managed by vehicles, restraint systems and roadway hardware such as barriers and crash cushions. The higher the speed, the higher the likelihood that these limits will be exceeded in crashes, limiting the protection available for vehicle occupants." For instance, if impact speed rises from 40 miles per hour to 60 miles per hour, the crash energy rises by 125%.

What are the consequences of speeding?

The consequences of exceeding the speed limit can be numerous and far reaching, including the following:

Car accident fatalities. Annually, more than 13,000 people are killed in U.S. car accidents where speed is cited as a contributing factor.

Construction zone accidents, injuries and fatalities. In 2011, speed was one of the top five factors contributing to car accidents in Missouri construction zones. These accidents killed 11 people and injured an additional 701. Under Missouri law, drivers who speed in work zones are subject to increased fines.

Hazardous school crossing zones. During school hours, speed limits are reduced in school zones because slower speeds reduce the number and severity of pedestrian and bicycle accidents. Traveling through a school zone at high speeds can prove to be fatal. Missouri drivers who are ticketed for speeding in school zones are also subject to increased fines.

Numerous costs and expenses. The NSC estimates that "every minute 'gained' by speeding to a destination costs U.S. society over $76,000." Each year, speed-related accidents result in more than $40 billion in costs.

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Marine pleads not guilty to manslaughter charges in crash that killed his sister, her boyfriend

September 25, 2012

1103691_alley.jpgA U.S. Marine has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in connection with a drunk driving crash that killed his sister and her boyfriend. The Morning Sentinel reports that 23 year-old Travis Lawler was indicted this week on two counts of manslaughter and two counts of aggravated operating under the influence. A crash investigation conducted by the Maine State Police determined that excessive speed and alcohol use directly contributed to the crash.

Lawler was reportedly on leave from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina when the accident occurred in North Belgrade, Maine. Police say he was behind the wheel of a 2011 Toyota Carolla that ran off the road while negotiating a curve and struck a tree. The front seat passenger, 20 year-old Kristin Lawler, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her boyfriend, 25 year-old Jackson Bolduc, was riding in the backseat. He was taken to a Waterville hospital by helicopter, but he died from his injuries the next day. A fourth occupant, 20 year-old Dylan Desroches, was also airlifted from the scene with critical injuries, but ultimately survived the crash.

According to authorities, Travis Lawler was not in the car when emergency responders arrived, and police began organizing a search party to locate him. He was later found about a half-mile away on the shore of Great Pond, after a resident called police to report a man on his property. At that time, Lawler was taken by ambulance for treatment of minor cuts and scrapes.

After the crash, Lawler told the Kennebec Journal that he had no memory of leaving the accident scene. He said he couldn't remember why he walked away, or where the group had been prior to the accident. He also said he was in the water when police approached him. His uncle, David Leeman, told the Journal that the four occupants of the Carolla had been at the beach earlier in the evening. Leeman said Lawler was confused following the accident and believed his sister was lost, so he walked back towards the water to find her. "He was in a state of shock," Leeman said. "He thought he was searching for her and didn't know where she was."

Following the hearing on Tuesday, Lawler posted $1,000 cash bail. Under the conditions of his release, he is not allowed to drive or to use (or possess) alcohol. He is also prohibited from contacting Desroches, the other survivor of the accident. If convicted, Lawler could face a lengthy prison sentence: each of the manslaughter charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years behind bars.

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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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