Avoid Missouri boating accidents: Make water safety your top priority

June 7, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

866691_seattle_boating_2.jpgHere in Kansas City, the temperature is definitely warming up as the first day of summer quickly approaches. Over the weeks ahead, many Missouri residents will be out to enjoy our state's lakes and rivers. Missouri waterways are popular sources of recreation during the summer months, and many visitors and residents will participate in water activities from boating to floating. As Kansas City personal injury lawyers, we want to remind those partaking in water activities to keep water safety in mind: doing you will help you protect yourself and others on the water.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is participating in a national campaign, Operation Dry Water, to help raise and promote waterway safety. Operation Dry Water focuses on reducing the operation of watercrafts while under the influence of drugs or alcohol by coordinating special patrols during the last weekend in June. Boating under the influence (BUI) is a serious offense and is punished similarly to driving under the influence. Boaters with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or above will be arrested for BUI.

The Operation Dry Water initiative involves more than 4,500 officers from 505 different local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. During Operation Dry Water Weekend 2012, officers nationwide arrested 337 boat operators for boating while intoxicated. Twenty of those arrests were in Missouri alone. If you are drinking while on the water, remember to have a designated driver and never operate any motor vehicle when you're under the influence.

In addition to alcohol use, there are other factors that can create increased safety risks when you're on the water. For example, docks can pose a threat to boaters who don't use proper caution - in fact, a rickety or poorly wired dock can be extremely dangerous. Fire station 1 in Osage Beach has estimated that 75% of docks on the Lake of the Ozarks do not meet dock inspection requirements. To eliminate the number of unsafe docks, the Fire District has proposed an expansion of current dock inspection requirements and inspection frequency. This new proposal would require dock inspections yearly and enforce stricter safety standards when docks are built, relocated or remodeled. Safety officials want to focus increased attention on regulating and upgrading electrical systems. Be sure to have your dock inspected prior to the summer season, and keep an eye out for potential hazards (like low-hanging electrical lines).

We encourage you to get out and enjoy the water this summer, but please do so safely. When you're operating a personal watercraft, take steps to create a safe environment for yourself and others on the waterway. Always wear a personal flotation device or life jacket, avoid alcohol, be aware of other watercrafts near you, and operate your vessel at safe speeds. It's also wise to prepare a back-up plan in case of an emergency: boat with friends and/or family, and notify someone off the water of your plans. Also, always be careful around docks and be aware of electrical risks. Finally (and importantly), remember to drink responsibly.

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Distracted driving accidents caused by sneezing?

May 24, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

894326_sneeze.jpgAs Kansas City personal injury lawyers, we know that distraction is a contributing factor in many Missouri auto accidents. However, in certain crashes, the source of the driver's distraction comes from places you might not expect.

Last November, a woman's sneezing attack led to a fatal auto accident in the Kansas City area. Authorities say the crash happened when Kathryn Brady had a sneezing fit while driving on a Smithville, Missouri highway. Brady then swerved across the highway's center line, striking another car head on. The other driver, 30 year-old Laura McClendon, died as a result of her injuries. In addition, McClendon's one year-old son was hospitalized in serious condition and was ultimately left paralyzed. Brady was charged with careless and imprudent driving and failing to have car insurance, and recently she was sentenced to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service for causing the crash.

Car accidents caused by sneezing aren't exactly common, but they do happen. Recently, in Maine, a similar accident occurred when a driver's sneeze caused her vehicle to cross a highway centerline and strike another car. Luckily, no one was seriously injured in that crash. The state police reported that the accident could have been fatal, but both drivers were following the speed limit and wearing their seatbelts.

When we think of distracted drivers, we tend to think of cell phones, but some of the most common distractions are attending to bodily functions. According to research from the Health Protection Agency, sneezing behind the wheel can be equivalent to a motorist traveling blind for 50 feet. To prevent a sneezing attack from causing an auto accident, always maintain a safe following distance. In good conditions (sunlight, dry roads, and low traffic), follow the "three-second rule." To determine if you are the appropriate distance behind a vehicle, first locate a fixed object along the roadway. Then, when the car ahead of you passes that object, count to see how many seconds it takes you to pass the object yourself. However, if driving conditions are less than ideal - or if you are feeling ill - it's wise to extend the three-second rule to six-seconds. Allowing more space between your vehicle and the cars ahead of you will give you more time to react, if a sneezing or coughing attack comes on suddenly. Of course, if you feel an attack coming on, pulling off the road is often the safest choice.

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Driver charged with DUI, murder, assault for causing fatal motorcycle accident

May 6, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

904598_escaping___.jpgMotorcycle season is now in full swing, and our Kansas City personal injury lawyers want to remind area drivers to be on the lookout for motorcyclists on our area roads. When motorcycle accidents occur - especially when other passenger vehicles are involved - riders are considerably more vulnerable to life-threatening injuries than other motorists, simply because there's very little to protect them from the force of impact. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that per mile traveled in 2010, the number of motorcycle fatalities was about 30 times the number of deaths in cars.

This week, a Kentucky man was arrested after police say he caused a fatal motorcycle accident and then left the scene on foot. According to WAVE 3 News, 27 year-old Genaro Herrera Hernandez has been charged with murder, assault, wanton endangerment, criminal mischief, driving without a license, leaving the scene of an accident and driving under the influence. Police say Hernandez was behind the wheel of a northbound vehicle when it crossed the roadway center line and struck a motorcycle head-on.

The driver of the motorcycle, 62 year-old Philip Frey, died as a result of blunt force trauma caused by the crash. Frey's female passenger was also hospitalized with injuries but is expected to recover. After the collision, a witness reportedly saw a man walking away from the scene, and investigators later located Hernandez, who had injuries consistent with being involved in a car accident.

Missouri motorcycle accidents: The facts

• The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported an increased number of motorcycle fatalities in 2011. Nationwide, 4,612 riders were killed, accounting for 14% of all auto accident fatalities for the year, and about 54% of those riders died in accidents involving other motor vehicles.

• Of all 2011 auto accidents in Missouri, 36% resulted in an injury or a fatality. In contrast, 80% of 2011 Missouri motorcycle accidents resulted in injury or death. Throughout the year, 82 motorcyclists were killed and an additional 2,166 were injured in traffic accidents.

• Head-on collisions with other passenger vehicles are among the most deadly of all motorcycle accidents. About 56% of all motorcycle fatalities occur when a motorcycle collides with a car or truck head-on.

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Hit and run driver receives prison time for causing fatal bicycle accident

April 27, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

824006_tire_1_3.jpgOur Kansas City personal injury lawyers know that bicycle accidents can have catastrophic consequences, especially when larger motor vehicles are involved. In fact, about one-third of all bicycle accidents occur when a passenger vehicle collides with a cyclist. And since bicyclists lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle, they are particularly vulnerable to serious, life-threatening injuries when these accidents occur.

Recently, a California man was sentenced to five years in jail after he pleaded guilty to one felony count of hit and run resulting in a fatality and one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. The Los Angeles Times reports that 40 year-old Michael Lopez struck rear-ended a bicyclist in September 2012 and then left the scene. Within three days, investigators were able to identify Lopez by reviewing surveillance video that was taken near the scene.

The victim, 57 year-old Dr. Catherine Campion-Ritz, was thrown from her bike onto the roadway on impact. She died of her injuries a few hours after the crash. During Lopez's trial, his attorney argued that drugs and alcohol were not involved and that the collision was simply a tragic accident. However, prosecutors pointed out that there's no way of knowing if Lopez was under the influence, because he fled the scene following the crash.

In response to Campion-Ritz's death, California Assemblyman Allan Mansoor authored a bill that would have increased criminal penalties for drivers who flee the scene of fatal accidents, adding an additional five year prison term to vehicular manslaughter convictions. However, the bill was shelved because the California's Senate Committee on Public Safety has a policy that prevents the consideration of new legislature that would contribute to the state's current prison overcrowding problem.

In Missouri, leaving the scene of an accident is a class D felony if the accident resulted in injury or property damage in excess of $1000, or if the driver has been previously convicted of a hit and run offense. Class D felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison. In addition, these drivers may be subject to personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits filed on their victims' behalf.

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Parents of teen killed in pedestrian accident awarded $90 million in wrongful death lawsuit

April 20, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

263348_school_bus_stop_sign.jpgAs Kansas City personal injury lawyers, we know that pedestrians are especially vulnerable to serious, life-threatening injuries when they're involved in motor vehicle accidents. Sadly, a significant number of these accidents involve school-age children. This week, a Maryland family was awarded $90 million in a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from the death of their teen daughter in 2009. According to the Washington Post, a jury granted the award to the family of 13 year-old Ashley Davis, who was struck by a vehicle as she crossed the street to catch her school bus. Davis reportedly suffered serious injuries in the accident and died two weeks later.

Ultimately, Davis's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Prince George's County Board of Education, alleging that the school system failed to "provide a safe bus stop for students who lived on the north side of Brinkley Road." After Davis's bus driver "persistently negligently failed to stop at the appropriate stop," the young girl was forced to cross the street to catch a different school bus - which is what she was doing when she was struck. This incident reportedly came after years of complaints from area parents about the unsafe routes students had to use to get to school, and the Post reports that the district recently cut the number of available bus stops by 2,350.

"The school board was negligent," John Costello, attorney for Davis's parents, told NBC Washington. "They had adopted a policy to provide for safe transportation. The policy was they were going to pick up Ashley on her own side of the street. They never did. They forced her to cross the street. She got killed crossing the street."

Facts about pedestrian accidents:

• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely to be killed in auto accidents than vehicle occupants.

• According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,280 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 70,000 more suffered injuries in 2010 motor vehicle accidents nationwide. Pedestrians accounted for about 13% of 2010 crash fatalities.

• Of children age 14 and under who died in 2010 accidents, about one-fifth (21%) were pedestrians.

• Safety experts say parental involvement and education is the best way to prevent child pedestrian injuries in fatalities. To find some helpful resources and useful safety tips, click here to visit Safe Kids USA.

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Five safety tips to reduce Kansas City car accident risks

April 6, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

768180_urban_traffic.jpgOur Kansas City personal injury lawyers know that it's always a good time for a refresher on roadway safety. In this post, we discuss a few basic driving tips to help Missouri motorists reduce their car accident risks.

• Stay focused. It's no secret that distractedness is a contributing factor in many serious auto accidents nationwide. While cell phones are the most notorious form of distraction, there are in fact several common sources, including passengers, eating and drinking, reaching for dropped objects, and daydreaming. Anything that takes your eyes off the road (visual distraction), your hands off the wheel (manual distraction), or your mind off the task of driving (cognitive distraction) increases your chances of causing a crash.

• Make adjustments. Responsible, defensive drivers know that they must adjust their driving to adapt to roadway or traffic conditions. When you encounter wet pavement, road construction or congested traffic, you may need to turn off your cruise control, drive slower than the posted speed limit, and/or increase your following distance. (And remember, Missouri's Move Over Law requires drivers to slow down and move over a lane for emergency vehicles displaying red and blue lights and MoDOT vehicles displaying amber and white lights.)

• Don't tailgate. Following too closely is a surefire way to increase your chances of causing a rear-end collision - which can cause serious injuries to the occupants of the struck vehicle, even when the collision occurs at low speeds. By allowing extra space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you, you also allow yourself much-needed time to assess traffic conditions in front of you and respond to them safely. To ensure you're following at a safe distance, use the three second rule.

• Avoid alcohol. Over 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence in 2010, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That's about one percent of the 112 million self-reported drunk driving episodes that occur in the U.S. every year. And these impaired drivers are extremely dangerous: every single day, nearly 30 people are killed in car accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver. Alcohol slows your reaction time, impairs your judgment, and damages your motor skills. Don't drink and drive.

• Buckle up. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that seat belts are the "most effective traffic safety device for preventing death and injury." Between 2004 and 2008, seat belt use saved more than 75,000 lives. And according to the CDC, seat belts reduce car crash injuries and fatalities by approximately 50%. It only takes a second to fasten your seat belt, and it might just save your life. Always buckle up when you're behind the wheel, and insist that your passengers to do the same.

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Distraction remains a serious roadway safety issue in Missouri & nationwide

March 21, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

312490_man_talking_on_the_cell_phone.jpgIt's no secret that distracted drivers pose a serious threat to roadway safety. Federal research reveals that using a cell phone while driving (either handheld or hands-free) impairs a driver's reaction time as much as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08%. In this post, our Kansas City personal injury lawyers discuss recent research on the problem of distracted driving and recommend a few strategies to help Missouri drivers avoid distraction-related crashes.

Americans and cell phones: Statistics from the Pew Research Center

• 2012 findings from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project indicate that approximately 87% of adults in the U.S. now own a cell phone.

• Of that number, about 45% own a smartphone, and 55% report using their mobile phones to access the internet (nearly double the number reported in 2009).

• Americans send almost 200 billion text messages every single month (up nearly 50% compared to 2009).

• Around 67% of cell phone users report checking their phones for messages and notifications even if they don't hear a notification sound come from the device - in fact, 18% of cell phone owners reported doing so "frequently."

Distracted driving in the United States: Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control

• According to a CDC survey, 69% of Americans between ages 18 and 64 admitted to talking on their cell phones while driving within the previous 30 days. In addition, 31% of respondents said they had texted while driving within the past month.

• The problem of cell phone use among drivers is worse in the U.S. than it is overseas. The survey, which included seven European countries, found that drivers were the least likely to text in Britain, where distracted driving laws are very strict. Only 21% of drivers in Britain admitted to talking on the phone while driving within the previous 30 days.

• In 2011, 3,331 people were killed and 387,000 were injured in U.S. crashes where distraction was reported as a contributing factor.

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Preventing child injury in car accidents: Facts and tips for Kansas City parents

March 13, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

file00047256199.jpgYoung passengers are a parent's most precious cargo. In this post, our Kansas City personal injury lawyers discuss car accidents involving children and recommend a few precautions to help ensure our little ones travel safe.

Car accidents involving children: The facts

• Car accidents are the leading cause of death in American children between ages one and 12.

• Nationwide, 1,314 children under age 14 died in 2009 traffic crashes. Approximately 179,000 more were injured, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

• A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that head injuries are the most common injuries suffered by child passengers who are involved in motor vehicle accidents.

What are the leading contributing factors to injuries affecting child passengers?

Using safety seats and proper restraints. NHTSA research indicates that nearly 75% of child safety seats are "misused in a way that could be expected to increase a child's risk of injury during a crash." Furthermore, according to Safe Kids USA, almost half of children under age 14 who suffer fatal injuries in car accidents are completely unrestrained.

Alcohol use. More than 2/3 of children who are fatally injured in traffic collisions are riding in vehicles in operated by impaired drivers.

What can parents do to ensure their children are protected as they travel?

The most basic - and essential step - toward protecting the safety of your young passengers is to ensure they are properly restrained in child safety seats. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia offers four basic tips for parents of children of all ages:

• Restrain your children every single time they ride with you, even if you're just making a short trip.

• Keep your young passengers in the back seat, as experts agree this is the safest place for children.

• Choose the right safety seat, given your child's age and size. (Click here to find useful resource information to help you select the best seat.)

• Make sure your child's safety seat is installed correctly, and that your child is properly buckled into the seat.

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Seat belts reduce car accident injury risks in Kansas City and throughout Missouri

March 5, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

107206_buckle_up.jpgCar accidents are the leading cause of death in Americans between ages five and 34, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Experts say there is one simple step that motorists can take to dramatically reduce their risk of serious injuries: buckle up. In this post, our Kansas City car accident lawyers share some facts and statistics about seat belt use.

What is the effect of seat belt use on auto accident injuries and fatalities?

• Safety experts say that wearing a seat belt is the simplest, most effective way to prevent crash-related injuries. According to the CDC, wearing a seat belt reduces your risk of moderate to critical injury by 50%.

• Seat belts significantly reduce your chances of being ejected from your vehicle in the event of an accident. Many crash fatalities occur because of occupant ejection: in 2008, 77% of passengers who were totally ejected from their vehicles were killed.

• Appropriate restraints and child safety seats are even more essential for young passengers. Using a safety seat properly reduces fatal injury risks by 71% in infants and 54% in toddlers between ages one and four.

• Between 2004 and 2008, seat belt use saved more than 75,000 lives in the U.S.

Why don't more people wear their seat belts?

Thankfully, more and more people are using their seat belts in recent years. In fact, in 2012, seat belt use reached an all-time high of 86% nationwide. However, some motorists still refuse to buckle up. Here are some common reasons people give for choosing not to wear a seat belt:

Seat belts are uncomfortable. Seat belts are designed to keep you safe while allowing you to move comfortably. Many motorists who find seat belts uncomfortable simply aren't used to wearing them on a regular basis. It's important to remember that the advantages of wearing your seat belt far outweigh any minor inconveniences of buckling up.

My vehicle has air bags, so I don't need to wear a belt. Air bags and seat belts are made to work together to provide motorists with protection in all kinds of crashes. Air bags can provide important protection in accidents involving front or side impact, but seat belts can be essential in rear-end collisions or rollover crashes. Don't assume that you don't need your seat belt because your vehicle is equipped with air bags.

I don't want to be trapped if my vehicle catches fire or becomes submerged in water following a crash. Only one-half of one percent of motor vehicle accidents involve fire or water. If one of these crashes does happen to you, you're much more likely to avoid being knocked unconscious if you're buckled up - and remaining conscious is essential if you're going to escape your vehicle.

I'm just driving down the road, and I won't even be going that fast. All too many crash deaths occur close to home and at low speeds. There's never an excuse not to buckle up.

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Underage driver charged with DUI manslaughter, sued for wrongful death after hit and run crash

February 25, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

844621_speed_1.jpgOur Kansas City personal injury lawyers know that drunk drivers continue to pose a serious threat to roadway safety. In 2010, 10,228 people were killed in U.S. auto accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver, which means alcohol was a factor in about one-third of all fatal accidents that year. All too often, the victims of drunk driving accidents are innocent people who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Recently, a Florida woman and her son filed separate wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of 49 year-old Stefano Riccioletti, a well-known Miami chef who died in a hit and run crash caused by an underage drunk driver. According to the Miami Herald, 20 year-old Karlie Tomica's blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit when she struck and killed Riccioletti as he walked to work. Authorities say Tomica did not remain at the scene, but a good Samaritan who witnessed the accident followed Tomica to her apartment and notified police.

The two wrongful death lawsuits name Tomica and Nikki Beach Miami, the nightclub where she worked as a bartender and where she reportedly spent the hours leading up to the accident. Riccioletti's family members say the operators of Nikki Beach allowed Tomica to drink during her shift, even though she is underage, and that the club "knew or should have known that [Tomica] was going to drive. It was foreseeable to the club that she posed a dangerous risk of injury or death to other motorists and/or pedestrians."

Tomica also faces several criminal charges in connection with the accident, including DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, DUI with property damage and resisting an officer without violence. If convicted, she could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Missouri law and drunk driving accidents

• When drunk drivers cause crashes that result in injuries or fatalities, they may face other criminal charges in addition to DWI, including assault and involuntary manslaughter (which are both felony offenses that carry punishments like prison time, significant fines, or a combination of both). Offenders may also be subject to personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits filed on behalf of their victims.

• Under very specific circumstances, Missouri's dram shop law permits injury victims to take legal action against establishments that serve alcoholic drinks to individuals who then cause drunk driving accidents. Such action is only possible when there is "clear and convincing evidence that the seller knew or should have known that intoxicating liquor was served to a person under the age of twenty-one years or knowingly served intoxicating liquor to a visibly intoxicated person." In most cases, however, Missouri adheres to the common law rule that "furnishing alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries inflicted by intoxicated persons."

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Avoiding motorcycle accidents in Kansas City

February 18, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

337864_road_king_2.jpgSpring is just around the corner! As temperatures begin to warm, Kansas City drivers can expect to see more motorcycles back on the road. With that in mind, our Missouri personal injury lawyers want to encourage all motorists to be on the lookout for motorcycles, and to use increased caution when you're traveling near them. After all, riders lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle, so motorcycle accidents commonly result in serious, life-threatening injuries.

Motorcycle accidents: The alarming facts

• Between 1997 and 2005, motorcycle accident fatalities increased by 115%, even though fatality rates decreased for other kinds of passenger vehicles during the same time period.

• Federal data indicates that, per mile traveled, the number of motorcycle deaths in 2010 was about 30 times the number of deaths in other kinds of vehicles.

• According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, 80% of all 2011 motorcycle crashes resulted in a death. By comparison, only 36.3% of all 2011 traffic crashes proved to be fatal.

Common contributing factors in Missouri motorcycle accidents

Poor weather or roadway conditions. Inclement weather can make motorcyclists even more difficult to see, and certain road conditions (wet roads, gravel patches, uneven pavement, etc.) can be especially perilous for motorcycle riders.

Failing to obey traffic signs or signals. Many motorcycle accidents happen when other vehicles turn left in front of an oncoming motorcycle. It's especially important to watch for motorcyclists

Failing to yield right of way to a motorcyclist. Sadly, many drivers simply don't treat motorcyclists with the same respect as other kinds of vehicles. Remember, motorcyclists have the same rights and privileges on the road - when you're driving near them, you should act accordingly.

Failing to see a motorcyclist due to an obstructed view or inattention. Bikers can easily disappear into blind spots, so be sure you always look before you turn or change lanes. In addition, a disturbing number of fatal motorcycle accidents occur when other drivers are simply not paying attention and thus fail to see a motorcycle traveling near them.

Failing to recognize a motorcycle's unique operating characteristics. Motorcycles handle differently than other kinds of vehicles, and they can be less stable when attempting to stop or turn suddenly.

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Bus accidents can cause serious injury to KC motorists, pedestrians

February 4, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

655548_school_bus_red_light.jpgOur Kansas City auto accident lawyers know that personal injury claims connected to bus crashes can be extremely complicated. Because buses are often owned by companies, cities, counties or school districts, there can be numerous parties involved in the aftermath of an accident - and such accidents can have devastating consequences. For example, school buses are designed to provide enhanced occupant protection in the event of a crash, but because these vehicles are so large and heavy, they can cause extensive damage when they strike pedestrians, bicyclists, and smaller passenger vehicles.

This week, a Chicago-area school bus caused multiple injuries when it struck nine cars within a half mile after the driver reportedly experienced a medical emergency. According to CBS Chicago, the 77 year-old bus driver suffered an unspecified "medical condition" immediately prior to driving the school bus directly into oncoming traffic on Oakton Street in Park Ridge. The bus apparently struck several vehicles before knocking one vehicle into a nearby house and then hitting a taxicab head-on.

At least five motorists were injured in the series of accidents, which one police officer described as "a scene out of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie." Luckily, at the time of the incident, no students were on the bus, which was en route to a Des Plaines school. If the accident had happened a half-hour later, authorities say at least 40 to 50 students would have been on board. In another stroke of good fortune, no one was at home when the bus pushed a vehicle into a residence just off Oakton Street.

When the taxi driver tried to speak with the driver after the final head-on collision, the woman was reportedly incoherent. "She was out of it when she got here," taxi driver Dimitri Coffey told CBS. "She thought she was still driving and she was (asking), 'Where am I?' and 'What happened?' and she didn't even know what had gone on." The bus driver was cited for driving in the wrong lane, failing to obey traffic signals, and driving too fast for conditions. Prior to this incident, she had a spotless driving record and no medical conditions previously reported.

Sadly, federal research suggests that driver-related factors are a prevalent cause of bus accidents resulting in injury. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that approximately 63,000 U.S. buses are involved in auto accidents every year, including 325 accidents resulting in fatal injury and 14,000 accidents resulting in non-fatal injury. Of school bus accidents caused by driver error, the most common contributing factors are failure to yield, driver inattention, and speed. There are a number of other factors that commonly contribute to bus accidents caused by driver error, including impairment, fatigue and poor training.

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Sharing the road with tractor trailers: Facts and tips for Kansas City drivers

January 26, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

file000474832304.jpgTraveling in and around the Kansas City area means drivers must share the road with large semi-trucks, often on highways and interstates and at high speeds. In this post, our Missouri car accident lawyers discuss a few basic facts about semi-trucks, and recommend some precautions drivers can take to avoid collisions with these large vehicles.

Semi-trucks can weigh 20 to 30 times as much as passenger vehicles. Because of this discrepancy in size and weight, passenger vehicle occupants are particularly vulnerable to injuries when they're involved in collisions with large commercial trucks. Of people who died in 2010 crashes involving a semi and a passenger vehicle, 97% were occupants of the passenger vehicles. In addition, semis are much taller and have greater ground clearance, so it can be harder for truck drivers to see smaller vehicles traveling near them.

Semi-trucks have much larger blind spots than passenger vehicles. Semi-truck drivers have to deal with oversized blind spots created by the size of their trucks and trailers. These blind spots, also known as "No Zones" can be especially treacherous for the drivers of smaller cars and trucks. When you're traveling near a semi, remember that the vehicle has large "No Zones" on the side of the truck (from the back of the cab to the trailer), behind the truck, and immediately in front of a truck. Avoid lingering in these areas, especially when passing. And remember that semi-trucks don't have rearview mirrors, so they count on their side mirrors. If you can't see a trucker's mirrors, he probably can't see you.

Semi-trucks require more time and distance to stop than passenger vehicles. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a fully loaded tractor trailer needs 20 to 40% farther to stop, and they require even more space when the trailer is empty. Be sure to allow plenty of extra space between your vehicle and semi-trucks traveling near you. Don't follow too closely, and avoid cutting in front of big trucks. Many semi-truck accidents happen when a trucker simply isn't able to stop in time to avoid a collision.

Semi-trucks need more room to turn corners. Especially when making right turns, semi-truck drivers may need to swing the truck wide into another lane in order to negotiate the vehicle around the corner. Be cautious as you approach a turning truck, and never try to pass on the right as a truck prepares to turn. Remember, as the trucker executes the turn, the only thing he'll be able to see in his side mirrors is his trailer, so attempting to pass could be a deadly mistake.

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Distraction & Missouri car accidents: Facts and statistics for Kansas City drivers

January 19, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

file0001483118872.jpgDistracted drivers continue to be a serious threat to roadway safety in Kansas City and throughout the U.S. Despite numerous campaigns designed to raise awareness about the dangers of driving distracted, many motorists continue to divide their focus between driving and another task (often cell phone use). In this post, our Missouri car accident lawyers explain the basic facts about distraction and discuss its impact on driving performance.

What is distraction?

There are four basic forms of distraction that can impact a driver's performance:

Visual distractions. A driver is looking at something other than the road.
Auditory distractions. A driver is listening to something unrelated to the task of driving.
Manual distractions. A driver is doing something with his hands other than steering.
Cognitive distractions. A driver is thinking about something unrelated to the task of driving.

Research indicates that certain activities are particularly dangerous for drivers because they create more than one form of distraction. For example, texting causes visual, manual, and cognitive distraction, and as such, it can be especially lethal when you're behind the wheel. A texting driver's crash risk is 23 times higher than an undistracted driver's.

Talking on a cell phone can also prove to be deadly. Using a phone while driving causes a 37% reduction in the amount of brain activity associated with driving, and hands-free phones are not believed to be substantially safer than hand-held devices.

Distracted driving statistics:

• A study conducted by the Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA) observed 100 drivers for a year and found that those drivers were distracted between 25% and 50% of the time.

• In recent GHSA surveys, approximately 2/3 of respondents admitted to using a cell phone while driving, with about 1/3 reporting that they did so routinely.

• While some drivers believe they can "multitask" and safely drive while using a phone, research suggests that such a thing is not possible. According to a new study from the University of Utah, "Drivers who believe they are skilled at multitasking...actually are the least likely to be capable of safely doing so, a new study reveals. In fact, drivers who multitask may be inclined to do so because they have difficult focusing closely on even a single task."

• Here in Missouri, cell phone use was a contributing factor in more than 1,780 auto accidents in 2009.

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Aggressive driving & Kansas City car accidents: Statistics & safety tips

January 5, 2013
, by Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

481997_traffic_jam.jpgHere in Kansas City, heavy metro traffic can agitate even the most patient driver. However, as our Missouri car accident lawyers know, aggressive drivers can pose a serious threat to all motorists on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines an aggressive driver as "an individual [who] commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property." While many people think that aggressive driving is the same thing as "road rage," that's actually not the case. Road rage is a media-invented term that's used to describe violent roadway incidents, like when a driver physically assaults another motorist, or uses his or her vehicle as a weapon. Those actions are criminal offenses. In contrast, aggressive drivers commit traffic offenses - like speeding, tailgating, illegal passing or dangerous lane changes - that endanger other motorists on the road.

How big is the problem of aggressive driving?
In a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 78% of respondents said aggressive driving was a serious or extremely serious safety issue on U.S. roadways. In spite of these concerns, respondents also admitted to engaging in the following behaviors within the past 30 days:

• Nearly half of respondents said they had exceeded the posted speed limit by 15 miles per hour on major highways.

• 58% admitted to speeding up to beat a yellow light.

• 41% said they had honked at other drivers.

• 22% said they had followed another driver too closely.

• 6% said they had deliberately run red lights.

• Behaviors commonly linked to aggressive driving factor into an estimated 56% of all fatal crashes nationwide.

What factors contribute to the problem of aggressive driving?
Research from the Automobile Association suggests that numerous environmental and psychological factors can influence driver aggression, including:

Overcrowding. Drivers are more prone to aggressive behavior in congested traffic conditions.

Noise & temperature. While these factors don't necessarily provoke aggressive behavior, loud or hot conditions can directly influence the level or intensity of aggression.

Territoriality. From drivers' perspective, researchers found that motor vehicles appear to straddle the line between public and private domains. It's common for drivers to view the vehicle as their own private space, or an extension of their home, which can affect the way they behave when they drive the vehicle on public roadways.

What should I do if I encounter an aggressive driver?
Here are some basic safety tips to remember if you find yourself traveling near an aggressive driver:

• Do everything you can to move out of the driver's way. Don't speed up or attempt to challenge the driver in any way.

• Don't make eye-contact with the driver, and refrain from returning any gestures or comments.

• Report aggressive driving to law enforcement officials. (Be sure you pull over in a safe place before using your cell phone.)

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