Our Springfield car accident lawyers were troubled to see the Missouri Highway Patrol's news release on March 7. The headline reads "Missouri Traffic Deaths on the Rise After Six Year Drop." According to the release, the Patrol is reporting a sharp increase in auto accident fatalities in early 2012: "When comparing early last year to the same time period this year, as of the date of this release, Missouri has experienced an increase of 29 traffic crash traffic crash fatalities." All Missouri drivers would do well to take note of the Patrol's findings, as many of these fatal accidents share common characteristics.
• Of Missouri auto fatality victims in 2012, 2/3 were not wearing seat belts.
• In recent fatal crashes, a "common theme of the contributing circumstances" is lane departure. Many of these accidents involved drivers who ran off the right side of the road, often overcorrecting in response; or drivers who crossed the center line and collided with other vehicles head-on.
It's difficult to identify a single causal factor for the increase. According to stltoday.com, Captain Tim Hull declined to single out texting and driving as the sole culprit: "It's a lot of things that take their mind off that full-time job of driving," Hull said.
This point is an important one. By now, most people know that texting and driving is dangerous, and that it has caused numerous fatal accidents (although many of those same people still admit to doing it anyway). However, it's a misconception that the "distracted driving" label is all about texting. A distracted driver is any driver whose focus is divided between driving and another task. Distracted drivers might be talking on handheld or hands-free cell phones. They might be eating lunch, or putting on lipstick, or flipping through iPod playlists. Or they might be texting. The crux of the matter is this: when your focus is divided, you are much more likely to cause an accident.
The Highway Patrol's news release provides a specific, crucial reminder: Missouri law requires drivers to "exercise the highest degree of care." In other words, motorists must take all possible actions to avoid causing harm to other drivers and their property.
In response to numerous recent run-off-road crashes, the Patrol offers the following advice:
• If you find that you have drifted off the roadway, stay calm: many drivers instinctively respond by jerking the wheel sharply and/or slamming on their brakes. This overcorrecting is the catalyst for many Missouri accidents.
• Instead of responding suddenly and sharply, grasp the wheel firmly, and gently ease off the gas pedal.
• Turn the wheel 1/8 to the left, until you feel your vehicle back on the payment; then turn the wheel 1/4 to the right.
Colonel Ron Replogle, superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol, offers this final advice: "Please give your full attention to driving. Drive according to the traffic laws of this state, and remember that seat belts can and do save lives. Please buckle up." It sounds simple, but it's absolutely vital. In order to reverse this disturbing trend of fatal accidents, Missourians must work together, actively deciding to make roadway safety a top priority.
The auto accident lawyers at Aaron Sachs and Associates represent injury victims in Springfield, Joplin, Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Kansas City and the surrounding areas. To schedule a free initial consultation, call 1-888-777-AUTO, or visit our website.