Posted On: October 30, 2010

Tar on roadway can become hazard for motorcyclists

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A common sight on Missouri roadways, the black tar lines that criss-cross the street in many locations don't seem to pose much of a threat. This is true for the average motorist driving a car, but for motorcyclists it's a different story. Those lines, sometimes called "black tar snakes", can be incredibly dangerous to two-wheeled vehicles and have lead to a number of deadly motorcycle accidents.

The cause for concern stems from the fact that those tar lines can become very slick, especially in wet or hot conditions. Cars have four points of contact with the road so even if one tire loses traction on a tar line, the others will keep the car stable. Motorcycles and their two wheels are much more susceptible to losing control when hitting a slick spot.

Road crews use the tar to fill in cracks on the roadway. This is very common here in Missouri where winter temperatures cause wear and tear resulting in more cracks in the pavement. Rather than replace sections of roadway every year, the cracks are sealed with tar.

The way the tar is applied has an effect on how dangerous it can be. If excess amounts of tar are not scraped away, the slick area is larger and more likely to cause a Missouri motorcycle crash. Also, the tar is actually a mixture with different sealants and if this mixture is not made well, it can also make for a slicker finished product.

There are no numbers to show just how many wrecks are caused by the tar lines because it is not tracked by any national agency. Even in cases where the tar lines may have had an effect, the accident reports can be inconclusive. Motorcyclists who have been riding for years, though, will likely be very aware of these hazards. New riders need to be aware of these lines and the problems they cause, particularly if you hit them while accelerating or braking.

Posted On: October 26, 2010

Man killed after collision with passing vehicle

Jason Bollinger, 27, was killed in a Missouri car accident after a collision with a vehicle attempting to pass him on Route 47.

Bollinger, a resident of Park Hills, Missouri, was heading north on Route 47 in a Mercury Cougar at the time of the fatal car crash, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. At approximately 7:30 p.m., Andrew Gregory, 19, who was driving a Dodge Dakota, came up behind Bollinger. Gregory attempted to pass Bollinger's car, but the two vehicles hit each other on the center line.

After the impact, both vehicles ran off the road and hit a tree.

Bollinger, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Gregory was seriously injured and flown to St. John's Mercy Medical Center for emergency treatment. Two passengers in Gregory's car, Decker Ortmann, 18, and Samantha Randazzo, 18, were also injured, though not as seriously.

Passing vehicles is not an illegal maneuver, provided it is done in a controlled manner at a location where it is safe to do so. It is not safe to pass a car on a winding road or while approaching a hill crest because your viability is too low. The initial accident report does not describe the location where this latest accident occurred or indicate why the two vehicles collided.

Since there was a fatality, an accident reconstruction will be requested to try and fill in the details leading up to the crash. Information like the speeds of the two vehicles and where Gregory first began his passing maneuver will be helpful in determining just how this incident happened.

Posted On: October 24, 2010

FDA concerned over MRI drugs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a statement expressing concern over the risks associated with certain imaging agents used during MRI procedures. The agency warned against dangerous side effects of the drugs, especially for people who have existing kidney problems.

The specific substances in question are gadolinium-based contrasting agents which are injected into patients prior to a MRI scan. These agents help produce clearer MRI images for doctors.

Some patients who receive the injections develop a disorder called nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, a condition where the skin and other tissues thicken causing problems with movement and other bodily functions. The risks for this condition, which can prove to be fatal, are drastically higher for patients with kidney disorders, according to the FDA.

FDA officials have been aware of the risks of these potentially dangerous products for a few years, but the warnings have always been a general caution regarding all gadolinium-based agents. Now the agency is saying that specific products may be more dangerous than others and rates for developing the condition may be higher for contrast agents developed by some companies than others.

Specifically, the agents mentioned by the FDA as possibly being more likely to result in the skin condition are GE Healthcare's Omniscan, Bayer AG's Magnevist and Covidien's Optimark. Some of the companies have already issued statements saying they recognize the risks associated with their agents, especially for patients with kidney disorders, but feel there is no conclusive evidence to say that one product is more dangerous than another.

Posted On: October 22, 2010

Brake problems prompt two recalls

Toyota and Honda have both issued recalls for thousands of vehicles over brake fluid issues that could lead to diminished brake pedal performance and the possibility of a serious car accident.

The potentially dangerous vehicle defect has prompted Toyota to recall 740,000 vehicles, including 2004-2007 Avalons, Highlanders and a number of Lexus models. The issue has to do with a rubber seal that may become misshaped over time or with certain types of brake fluid. If this occurs, brake fluid could leak, leading to a feeling of soft or unresponsive brakes.

Honda has not yet released the total number of vehicles affected, but they are recalling Acura cars and Odyssey minivans for a similar issue.

No injuries or serious accidents have been blamed on the problems yet. Both issues will be repaired by the automaker if the vehicle's owner brings it in for service.

For more specific information of the defect and to see if your car is one of the affected models, contact your local dealer immediately.

Toyota has recalled millions of vehicles since an uncontrolled acceleration problem was discovered last year. Since then, numerous lawsuits have been filed and many people have blamed various defects for some traffic accident injuries and fatalities.

Posted On: October 20, 2010

Rear-end collision injures Missouri family

Five people were hospitalized, three under the age of 13, after a Missouri rear-end collision on Highway 39 in Stockton.

The events leading to this serious injury accident began with Eric Luff, 49, bringing the 1997 Honda Accord he was driving to a stop in order to make a left turn. According to the investigating trooper with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, a second vehicle, a 2001 Ford Focus driven by Wade Thornton, 37, was following behind Luff. Thornton failed to see Luff's vehicle and slammed into the back end of the Accord causing extensive damage.

Luff and an adult passenger, Carrie Messick, 32, were both seriously injured and flown to St. John's Hospital for emergency treatment. The three children in Luff's car, Harmon Messick, 3; Londen Messick, 6; and Tanner Messick, 12; all sustained moderate injuries and were taken to CMH Hospital for treatment. Thornton was not listed on the injury report.

Fortunately, all those involved were wearing a seatbelt, or this crash could have been much worse. Hopefully everyone can make a full recovery.

In the majority of rear-end collision cases, negligence is assumed for the at-fault driver since everyone should be in control of where their vehicle is heading at all times. There are some rare exceptions, however, and there may be details not listed on the initial report that shed more light on this accident.

Posted On: October 17, 2010

Missouri man killed after motorcycle accident

Larry Winch, 59, was killed in a St. Francois County motorcycle accident when he collided with a car on Route D Sunday afternoon.

Winch was riding his 1999 Yamaha XVS1100 southbound on Route D at the time of the wreck, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. At the same time, Cynthia Streiler, 51, was driving a 1995 Subaru Impreza northbound on Route D. As both vehicles approached the intersection with Route O, Streiler attempted to make a left turn. She failed to yield to the oncoming motorcyclist and pulled directly into Winch's path.

Winch was unable to avoid a collision and hit the side of Streiler's vehicle. The force of the impact threw him from his bike and totaled both vehicles.

Winch was pronounced dead on the scene. Despite the extensive damage to her vehicle, Streiler was uninjured in this Missouri motorcycle crash, according to the initial crash report.

Our thoughts are with the families of the two involved in this terrible incident.

One of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents is other drivers not seeing the smaller motorcyclist and pulling into their path or merging into their lane. Motorcycles, because of their size, are more easily concealed in blind spots and behind other vehicles.

Another problem is a sort of optical illusion that is produced when looking at a motorcycle as compared to a car. When viewing an oncoming motorcycle, the narrower frame and single headlight plays tricks on our depth perception, especially when we are used to only looking at cars, and may make it harder to perceive the vehicle's speed.

Drivers have the responsibility to know what other vehicles are on the road around them, big or small, and use excessive caution when navigating around motorcycles.

Posted On: October 15, 2010

Another Missouri school bus accident causes injury

Two people were injured, including a 13-year-old student, after a Missouri school bus accident on Highway 47 in Lincoln County.

This wreck is the latest in a string of crashes in the past couple months. Earlier this month, a school bus was hit by a tractor-trailer and 19 people were injured. In August, two people were killed in an accident on I-44 involving two school buses, as well as a couple other vehicles.

Thankfully, the two injuries in the Lincoln County car crash were not described as life-threatening.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, this latest accident occurred at the intersection of Highway 47 and Ridge Road around 12:40 p.m. The school bus, which was being driven by Jean Thomasson, 56, was heading eastbound on the highway and attempted to turn left onto Ridge Road. As it did so, it pulled into the path of a 1993 Chevrolet 1500, driven by Kurtis Colbert, 30. Colbert tried to avoid a collision, but skidded out of control into the school bus.

A passenger in Colbert's vehicle, Steffan Pogue, 23, was injured and taken to St. Joseph Hospital West for treatment. Pogue was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the wreck, according to the investigating officer.

Jonathan Halbert, 13, who was a student on the bus, was also injured, but his injuries were described as relatively minor. Halbert also received treatment at St. Joseph Hospital West.

Continue reading " Another Missouri school bus accident causes injury " »

Posted On: October 13, 2010

Six teenagers injured in head-on collision

A total of six people, all 18 or younger, were injured in a Missouri head-on collision on County Road 418 in Livingston County.

According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, the accident occurred around 6:20 p.m. Tuesday near Ludlow. Two vehicles, a 1993 Ford Ranger driven by Justin Jones, 16, and a 1990 Geo Tracker driven by Aaron Reed, 17, were approaching each other from opposite directions. Jones' car was heading eastbound and Reed's was heading westbound as they topped the crest of a hill at the same time.

As the two vehicles came over the hill, they collided head-on. The initial crash report said the collision took place on the westbound side of the roadway.

Reed and a passenger in his car, Anthony Sayers, 14, were both seriously injured and taken for emergency treatment at local hospitals. Three other passengers in Reed's vehicle suffered moderate to minor injuries, as did Jones.

Jones was wearing a seatbelt, but none of the passengers in Reed's car were wearing one at the time of the car accident.

Posted On: October 12, 2010

Missouri man killed in skydiving accident

Jonathan Bullar, 24, a Missouri resident, was killed Saturday evening after falling thousands of feet in an Illinois skydiving accident.

Investigators are still looking into the cause of the fatal accident, but at the moment, they believe the death was an accident caused by an apparent parachute malfunction.

The tragedy happened in Vandalia, Illinois. The skydiving company Bullar was using is called Archway Skydiving.

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim.

A couple years ago, the FAA released a study on the number of skydiving accidents around the country. In the 28 years from 1980 to 2008, there were about 200 deaths associated with a skydiving jump out of approximately 3 million total skydiving trips. Perhaps the most surprising fact revealed in the study was the vast majority of these deaths, 172 to be exact, were caused by airplane accidents on the way to the jump zone and not the actual act of jumping and deploying the parachute. Only 30 deaths resulted from parachute malfunction or skydiver error.

While the risks of jumping out of a plane are obvious, the statistics seem to indicate that it is a relatively safe sport so long as all proper safety procedures are followed, particularly those having to do with with plane maintenance and pilot procedures. Hopefully the cause of this most recent accident can be uncovered so that future fatalities and injuries can be prevented.

Posted On: October 11, 2010

Google developing fleet of self-driving cars

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Science fiction films and literature have often been overly ambitious in predicting what our day-to-day lives will be like in the future as technology progresses. Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke's version of 2001 projected our ability to explore space to be a little more advanced than what the reality of 2001 brought us. Back to the Future's hoverboard technology also seems out of reach. Countless movies have also shown a future where cars are no longer subject to human error and drive themselves.

I don't know about space travel or hoverboards, but Google thinks they've figured out the self-driving car, and the benefit to society in terms of limiting car accident injuries and fatalities could be huge.

The high profile tech company has been secretly working on the automated car project using a fleet of modified Toyota Priuses and one Audi TT and has recently let information on the project go public. The cars they have developed have already driven 140,000 miles, some of that with limited human interaction and some completely automated. They've even gotten permission from local police departments and have run the cars on actual city streets with actual city traffic.

Since they've taken them on the road, there's only been one minor accident, and that occurred when another driver rear-ended one of the automated test cars. Google engineers are always in the car to monitor the vehicles and take over if things look unsafe.

The cars use a combination of radar, laser guidance, and video cameras to map out the surroundings and read street lights.

Human error is by far the number one cause of traffic accidents here in Missouri and around the country. If the technology for self-driving cars advances to the point that it becomes a standard feature on many vehicles and also commercially viable, we could see a big decrease in the number of accidents.

Of course, the sci-fi vision of highways full of automated cars is still a long way out. Estimates vary, but the Google self-driving car could be in development for another eight years or more.

Posted On: October 9, 2010

Meridia to be taken off the market over health concerns

The Food and Drug Administration has announced the drug Meridia (also known as sibutramine) is being taken off the market by its distributor after clinical trials demonstrated there was an increased risk for strokes and heart attacks among people who used it.

Meridia is developed by Abbott Laboratories, who voluntarily withdrew the drug, and is used to treat obesity. 8 million people around the world use it.

Clinical trials showed the potential dangers of taking the drug were a 16 percent increase in non-fatal heart attacks and strokes. Representatives from the study said the drug has only a small effect on a patient's weight and the risks far outweigh the benefits of the drug.

The FDA recently changed regulations regarding clinical trials aimed at finding health risks of defective drugs. No indication was given as to whether the new regulations contributed to the withdrawal of Meridia.

Posted On: October 7, 2010

Missouri plane crash claims one life

Kathy Collins, a resident of Springfield, Mo., was killed and two others were injured in a Missouri small plane crash as the aircraft was attempting to land at a Springfield airfield.

Many details, including the type of plane and cause of crash, have yet to be revealed by investigators, but there are some facts being reported by local media. The plane, which was believed to be piloted by Coby Cullins, crashed during its landing descent. Witnesses near the crash site rushed to the wreckage to try and pull survivors from the plane and were successful in rescuing at least one of the passengers from the smoldering cabin. Rescue crews quickly arrived to help.

Cullins and another passenger, Thelma VanHooser, were taken to St. John's Hospital for emergency treatment. VanHooser's injuries were described as being more serious, according to the Springfield News-Leader.

This early into the investigation it is impossible to know what caused the crash. NTSB investigators have taken the wreckage from the crash site to try and identify whether or not there was some sort of mechanical failure.

A full report of this fatal airplane accident might not be available for weeks while investigators try and piece together the cause of the crash.

Posted On: October 5, 2010

Motorcyclist injures pedestrians after losing control performing trick

Three people were hospitalized, including two pedestrians, after a St. Charles County motorcycle accident on Highway 94.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, John Gall, 36, was traveling southbound on the highway on his 2006 Kawasaki Motorcycle when he attempted to perform a wheelie just north of Firehouse Drive. Gall lost control of his bike and it slid off the right side of the roadway. The motorcycle hit three pedestrians and a utility pole before coming to rest on the side of the road.

Two of the pedestrians, Mark Jesse, 53, and Kelly Roth, 44, sustained significant injuries and were taken to a local hospital for treatment. The third pedestrian was not listed as having serious injuries on the accident report.

Gall also sustained serious injury and was taken by ambulance for emergency treatment.

While the laws vary from state to state, and each municipality enforces motorcycle laws differently, in almost any area of the country a wheelie is considered a reckless maneuver and negligent behavior on the part of the rider. Serious personal injury can happen when a rider loses control performing these stunts. Hopefully Gall can make a full recovery and has learned this painful lesson.

This incident also shows the bikes themselves can become deadly projectiles capable of serious damage. Fortunately, the injuries sustained by Jesse and Roth were not described as life threatening.

Continue reading " Motorcyclist injures pedestrians after losing control performing trick " »

Posted On: October 1, 2010

Hit-and-run driver triggers accident that injures St. Louis woman

Lynn Blackey, 59, was hospitalized after a St. Louis car accident which began with her car getting struck by a hit-and-run driver on I-44.

Blackey was heading eastbound on the interstate in her 2009 Kia Spectra at the time of the accident, according to the initial crash report. Suddenly, an unidentified vehicle rear-ended her car and sent it spinning out of control. Blackey's car was hit by a third vehicle, a tractor-trailer, before skidding off the left side of the roadway and into the cable median.

The driver who hit Blackey didn't stop and continued heading east on I-44.

Blackey was taken by ambulance to a local hospital for treatment. Her injuries were not considered life-threatening. Fortunately, nobody else was injured in what could have been a much worse situation.

If you have any information on the driver of the vehicle that started this incident before fleeing the scene, please contact the Troop C headquarters of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at (636) 300-2800.

Leaving the scene of an accident is a serious offense. Whether you think you were at-fault or not, you must remain at the scene until emergency responders arrive and tell you it's okay to leave. If found, the hit-and-run driver in this Missouri car accident case will likely face criminal charges.

Even if the driver is not found, those injured by a hit-and-run driver can often claim the accident against their own insurance policy's uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. For more information on how to handle a complicated car accident case, consult a St. Louis personal injury attorney.