On Easter Sunday, a terrible car crash in Independence claimed the lives of 2 men from the Kansas City metropolitan area. Bruce Stansberry, a witness to the accident, described the aftermath: "Probably one of the worst accidents I've ever seen," he said. "It was pretty clear if there was anyone in there, they weren't alive."
It happened on South Noland Road, at the East 35th Street intersection. According to local law enforcement, a southbound vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed when the driver lost control and slammed into the concrete support of the traffic signal at 35th Street. The vehicle was destroyed beyond recognition.
Neither of the occupants was wearing a seatbelt: both the driver and his passenger were ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. Their names have not yet been released, but police say the driver was a 23 year-old man from Independence, and his passenger was a 29 year-old man from Kansas City.
Like Stansberry, several other witnesses were beyond shocked at the horrific outcome of the crash. "The whole passenger's side of the car was ripped off, completely open, the motor of the vehicle was in the passenger's seat," witness Hunter Darling told KCTV5. Meanwhile, Ben Titleman, a witness who was passing through en route to Columbia, told The Examiner that he had never seen a vehicle sustain that kind of damage. "Just...it didn't look like a car," Titleman said.
Police do not believe that alcohol or drugs were factors in this collision, but one witness reported that the driver might have been texting in the moments leading up to the crash. At present, police believe that speed was the primary causal factor.
Independence's Truman High School is only a block away from 35th and Noland, and several teen drivers who pass through that intersection on a daily basis were shaken up by the incident. "It is scary because I'm on that road all the time, I'm on Noland," said Bailey Mill, a senior at Truman. "And people going 90 like that, you can hurt more than just yourself, and the people in your car."
"A lot of kids think that could never happen to me...I'm a good driver," said Midori Saito, a junior at Truman, "but it could happen to anybody."
According to Arrive Alive, 7 out of 10 Missourians killed in 2011 car accidents were not wearing seatbelts. Thus far, in 2012, the Missouri Highway Patrol reports that 2/3 of those killed in car crashes were not wearing seat belts. Overall, 79% of Missouri drivers wear their seat belts regularly (compared to a national usage rate of 85%).
And speed remains a primary cause of collisions that result in injuries and fatalities. SmartMotorist.com reports that speed is one of the most dangerous driver behaviors:
"The faster the speed of a vehicle, the greater the risk of an accident. The forces experienced by the human body in a collision increase exponentially as the speed increases...Most people agree that going 100 mph is foolhardy and will lead to disaster. The problem is that exceeding the speed limit by only 5 mph in the wrong place can be just as dangerous...Speeding is a deliberate and calculated behavior where the driver knows the risk but ignores the danger."
If we're honest, many of us would have to admit that we're guilty of failing to wear a seat belt or driving too fast at one time or another: in fact, many Missouri drivers have a fairly casual attitude about these behaviors. An accident like this one is a tragic reminder that these mistakes can come with an enormous cost.