Kansas Drivers See Upswing in Car Accident Fatalities in 2015

The number of car crash deaths has been on a downward trend over the last several years, with 2014 considered one of the safest years on record. Unfortunately, a reverse to this trend in 2015 suggests a big part of that downward trend may have been driven by the fact there were simply fewer people behind the wheel. As our nation’s economy has recovered from the 2008 crash, more people have jobs, gas prices are lower, and more motorists are behind the wheel. And sadly, more crashes are happening.

Drivers don’t have to simply accept the higher rate of car accidents in Kansas just because more people happen to be out on the roads. Motorists play a fundamentally important role in traffic safety and should make a commitment to avoid high risk behaviors and engage in safety practices which help to reduce collisions on the road. While 2015 was a bad year, motorists may be able to make 2016 a better year by exercising extra caution and making better driving choices.

Drivers Face Upswing In Car Accident Fatalities in 2015

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report about preliminary car crash fatality estimates in 2015, with a statement that urged motorists to view the crash data as a call to action.

In 2014, the fatality rate had dropped to 1.07 motor vehicle deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled on U.S. roads. The total number of deaths had also declined in 2014 from 2013, with 32,675 people losing their lives in traffic crashes nationwide over the course of the year. Of these deaths, 21,022 happened inside of vehicles, while the remaining fatalities in car crashes happened while individuals were walking, bicycling, or operating a motorcycle. The number of people killed in 2014 was actually the lowest since the 1970s when collection on crash data first was assembled.

In 2015, the fatality rate increased by 4.4 percent. The fatality rate looks at how many people are dying based on total miles driven, which means that the increased rates cannot be dismissed as a simple consequence of an increased in the number of people out driving. Instead, this metric suggests that there are other factors (like driver errors) which are causing a higher rate of deaths.

The total number of deaths also increased significantly from 2014 to 2105. There was an 8.8 percent increase in the number of people killed in car crashes nationwide in 2105 as compared with the year before.

In response to these troubling statistics, NHTSA stated that “the estimated increase represents a troubling departure from a general downward trend.”

Motorists need to do their part to make sure the downward trend gets back on track next year. To help make death rates go down again, drivers should stay within the speed limit, stay sober, avoid driving while fatigued, drive defensively instead of counting on other motorists, and otherwise make sure they are following all safety laws and best practices for crash avoidance. If motorists make a commitment to safe driving in the New Year, hopefully fewer lives will be lost in preventable accidents in 2016.

Where are Head-On Crashes Most Likely to Occur in Kansas?

The Kansas Department of Transportation reports a total of 900 head-on collisions in the state over the course of 2013. Drivers who are involved in head-on collisions face the serious threat of injury or death because these accidents involve so much force. When two cars hit head-on, the momentum of the accident is amplified and the body is forced to absorb much more impact. This means head-on crashes are disproportionately fatal when compared to other types of crashes.

Due to the high risks of head-on car accidents, it is important to understand where head-on crashes are most likely to occur. When drivers are more aware of zones which present an increased risk to safety they can make informed choices about how to drive carefully in these locations.

Where are Head-On Crashes Most Likely to Occur in Kansas

Kansas DOT reports 68 percent of accidents in the state occur in urban areas. However, urban areas are less likely to be the site of head-on crashes than rural areas. Safety Transportation indicates 75 percent of head-on accidents nationwide occur on rural roads. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also indicates head-on crashes account for 13 percent of fatalities in rural areas and 7 percent of deaths in urban areas.

While urban areas may not be as much of a danger zone for head-on crashes as rural areas, these types of accidents still happen in urban settings.  All drivers need to be aware of the dangers on any roads they travel. Accidents occurring in Kansas include:

  • Interstate highways, which were the location of 6,672 collisions in 2013 including 42 fatal crashes and 1,542 injury crashes.
  • S. Highways, which were the site of 8,963 total accidents in 2013, including 86 accidents causing fatalities and 1,773 accidents causing injuries.
  • Kansas highways, where 5,230 total accidents occurred including 35 fatal crashes and 1,005 injury crashes in 2013.
  • City streets, where 30,532 accidents occurred and where 81 fatalities and 7,183 fatalities occurred in 2013.
  • Country roads, which were the location of 7,075 total crashes in 2013, including 83 fatal collisions and 1,603 injury accidents.

Most head-on crashes are caused by drivers who veer into the opposing lane of traffic because they are intoxicated, because they are distracted by something and not paying attention to the road, or because they fall asleep and lose control of their cars.

There are other scenarios which lead to head-one collisions as well.  In rural areas, unsafe passing is the cause of almost 5 percent of head-on crashes. In urban areas, many head-on crashes are wrong-way collisions, which occur when drivers get onto highways going opposite the direction of traffic. Federal Highway Administration indicates some roadways present a higher risk of wrong-way crashes as compared with others. A cloverleaf design, which involves an entrance and exit lane adjacent and parallel to each other, is a particularly dangerous kind of roadway.

If drivers are more careful on rural roads and near highways, hopefully motorists can be safer and avoid head-on accidents.

Drugged Driving Accidents Rival Drunk Driving Crashes

The number of drivers under the influence of drugs who are  involved in fatal car accidents has skyrocketed nationwide in the last decade, according to a new study analyzing the risks posed by drugged drivers. Specifically, the study conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that 40 percent of all fatally-injured drivers tested positive for drugs – almost the same level as drivers testing positive for drunk driving.

The increase in the number of drugged driving accidents has happened quickly nationwide. In 2005, a total of 25 percent of deceased drivers tested positive for drugs. In 2013, that figure had risen to 39.9 percent, according to The Washington Post, one of several news organizations nationwide to report such startling figures.

The drugs involved in such accidents vary, according to the GHSA. Some drivers test positive to marijuana, which is legal for medical use in Washington, DC and 23 states, as well for recreational use in 4 states and Washington, DC. Other drivers test positive for powerful prescription pain killers.

What can be done to reduce car accidents caused by drugged drivers?

Jonathan Adkins, Executive Director of the GHSA, insists that the time for action on this issue is now. “Every state must take steps to reduce drug-impaired driving, regardless of the legal status of marijuana,” Adkins said. “This is the first report to provide states … with the information they need. And we encourage NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to issue guidance on best practices to prevent marijuana-impaired driving. We look to the federal government to take a leadership role in this issue similar to that of drunk driving and seat belt use.”

Dr. James Hedlund, who authored the GHSA report analyzing the dangers of drugged driving, and the GHSA both recommend implementing a nationwide educational campaign about the dangers of drugged driving. They are also urging authorities to continue to rigorously test drivers suspected of driving under the influence in order to accurately assess the scope of the problem.

Kansas car accident lawyer Matthew L. Bretz of Bretz & Young Injury Lawyers of Hutchinson, Kansas, strongly supports such efforts. “This dramatic rise in fatal car accidents caused by drivers under the influence of drugs should be the alarm that wakes up society to the seriousness of this problem,” Bretz said. “We as a country have done a tremendous job of educating the public about the dangers of drunk driving. Now we need to do the same about drugged driving.”

“Drivers under the influence of drugs cause all sorts of accidents,” Bretz said. “This includes the most common type of accident – rear-end car crashes. The risk of a driver causing a rear-end accident while under the influence of drugs is very real. Impaired drivers don’t react as fast as sober drivers. That’s why more needs to be done to put an end to rear-end car accidents and other types of crashes caused by drivers under the influence of drugs.”

How can a lawyer help me after a car crash caused by a drugged driver?

The laws regarding medical marijuana, prescription drugs and other medications change constantly. Currently, marijuana use is against the law in Kansas. But efforts to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in Kansas were introduced as recently as this year, according to KCUR radio.

The same news report on KCUR cited a study that marijuana-related care accidents would likely increased in Kansas if lawmakers decide to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Such findings were based on auto accident statistics in 14 other states that have legalized medical marijuana.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by a driver under the influence of marijuana or another controlled substance, it is critical that you have an attorney on your side who understands the laws in Kansas and knows how to investigate such cases. Without an experienced Kansas auto accident attorney on your side, you could jeopardize your ability to obtain the compensation you rightfully deserve.

Kansas Law Protects Consumers from Car Insurance Issues

Drivers purchase car insurance to protect them if an accident happens. Collision and personal injury insurance provides coverage for your own injuries and property damage when you are at fault for a wreck. A liability policy-which is required by Kansas law-provides coverage for victims if you cause them harm or property damage in an accident. If you are involved in a wreck your accident-related expenses may be covered either by your own insurance or by the liability insurance of the at-fault driver.  At least, that is how it is supposed to work.

In reality, car accident insurance issues routinely arise after a Kansas car crash. These issues make it hard for those who have been involved in accidents to successfully make their claims. Laws have been passed in every state in the U.S. to try to protect consumers from some of the most egregious violations of insurance companies, but insurers still manage to deny claims, delay claims and pay injury victims less than their claims are worth after accidents happen.

What Kansas Laws Protect Consumers from Car Accident Insurance Issues?

Unethical behavior on the part of insurance companies happens nationwide. This is why every state has some variation of a model act known as the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act. Insure.com reports the National Association of Insurance Commissions created the model laws, which have been adopted in whole or in part nationwide. In Kansas, the state’s version of the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act is found in Article 24: Regulation of Certain Trade Practices.

Insurers are prohibited by this law from engaging in certain behaviors when car crash victims make claims after collisions.  For example, one of the most important requirements is that insurers not impose needless and lengthy delays in processing and paying claims. Unethical insurers use a number of delay tactics. They may not respond to claims in a timely manner, may not move investigations forward quickly, and may ask crash victims to provide lots of repetitive or unnecessary paperwork. These practices are prohibited when insurers are found to be using them as a method of delaying a claim rather than moving forward to pay out claims in a reasonable manner.

Some insurers delay and drag out the process because they know people have bills to pay (especially when they have sustained serious injuries), can’t work, have mounting medical expenses and are left with an un-drivable car. Insurers hope that these accident victims will become desperate for money by the time they process the claim, and thus will accept less than they should receive.

Kansas Law not only prohibits unreasonable delays in claims processing, but also prohibits insurers from misleading consumers about the terms of their policies or from suddenly changing policy terms without notification or authorization. If an insurance company changes policy terms after the insurance is purchased and the consumer does not consent to the change, the insurer may not be able to enforce new policy provisions.

Car accident victims can make claims to the Kansas Insurance Commissioner when insurers do not follow the rules in reasonably processing claims. A bad faith lawsuit may also be filed under certain circumstances when insurance issues arise.

Football Season Brings New Drunk Driving Risks to Kansas

Football season is approaching fast, with preseason games already beginning, fantasy teams getting started, and the countdown to the first game only days away. While football is a great pastime and many people enjoy cheering on their team, there is a significant risk of drunk driving accidents during football season.

ABC News reports that approximately one in 12 people who attend a pro sporting event will leave a football game intoxicated. There are also many people who watch games at home parties or sports bars and  who consume far too many drinks before getting behind the wheel of a car. This football season, make a commitment to stay safe and avoid putting yourself and others at risk..

Football Season is a Dangerous Time for Drunk Driving Collisions

Many people attending sports events tend to drink too much, especially those who spend time tailgating before or during the event. Researchers from University of Minnesota recently conducted an anonymous study and administered a breathalyzer test to people attending pro sports events. One out of four tailgaters at the sporting event said they had consumed at least five alcohol beverages. People with the highest blood-alcohol concentration range (BAC range) said they had an average of 6.6 drinks. Consuming alcohol at this level is not only likely to put someone well over the legal limit but it can also be classified as binge drinking.

Young people are most likely to engage in such high-risk drinking behavior while watching professional sports. People under age 35 were eight times as likely as older adults attending baseball and football games to be legally drunk. Many people who tailgate arrive as early as 9 AM for a 1 PM kickoff, and thus spend the entire day drinking. Even once the game is over, some people continue to drink alcoholic beverages while they wait for the parking lot to clear out.

While drinking and sports seem to go hand in hand for many people, there is a safe and responsible way to ensure you do not get into a dangerous situation due to consuming too much alcohol. Whether you are tailgating, attending a game, or watching a sporting event at a friend’s house or a bar, make sure you have a designated driver before you head to the event. Then, be sure your designated driver actually remains sober the entire time!

If you plan to host a tailgate or a party, provide non-alcoholic beverages for designated drivers to consume. You should also consider having the phone number of a taxi or a car service app in case a designated driver does consume alcohol or in case you or guests are otherwise unable to get a sober ride.

While football is a great pastime and a fun way to spend the fall season, it is no excuse for endangering your life or anyone else’s. Make a commitment to stay sober behind the wheel during the upcoming football season.

Contact Bretz & Young Injury Lawyers at  or visit https://www.byinjurylaw.com if you have been hurt. Serving Hutchinson, Wichita and surrounding areas.

Premises Liability Law and Risk of Deck Collapse in Kansas

A deck collapsed in a North Carolina rental home recently, with 24 people from an extended family standing on it to take a photograph. The deck and its occupants fell 10 to 12 feet. The rental home was a vacation house valued at approximately $1.5 million. The victims sustained injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones and injuries that left them in critical condition. Chicago Tribune reported a mass casualty vehicle had to respond to the scene in order to render assistance to all of the injured victims and to transport them to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Deck collapses happen far more often than many people might realize. Last Thanksgiving, multiple people sustained serious injuries when a deck collapsed in South Carolina, according to WISTV.

When these collapses happen, it is important to determine who should be held responsible for injuries to victims. Premises liability laws determine what a property owners’ duties are, and whether a property owner is responsible for harm that happens due to unsafe property conditions.

Deck Collapses Can Result from Maintenance Issues

The Chicago Tribune indicated the deck on the vacation rental home that collapsed under the weight of 24 people had been constructed along with the house in 1986. When the deck was built, it was likely built according to code. However the home is located near the ocean, and salt in the air -along with the elements – caused the nails to corrode over time. The deteriorating nails were not able to support the deck, resulting in the collapse as the people stood on it to take a picture.

Decks are not required by state law to be inspected periodically by building code enforcement to ensure they remain in good condition. In most cases, building code investigators will only come to a home if there is a complaint or a problem in most cases. Otherwise, it is up to property owners to make sure they do not allow dangerous conditions.

The specific responsibilities of homeowners and other property owners varies depending upon the purpose of the property. In the case of restaurants and retail stores, property owners have a higher duty of care under premises liability laws and must inspect the premises regularly and correct defects or provide adequate warnings about risks. For homeowners with casual guests, there is a duty to correct problems they know or should know about the property.

In the case of the deck that collapsed under the weight of 24 people, the owners may have had a higher duty of care since the property is a rental property. If a rental company facilitated the rental, that company might also be responsible for maintaining the property and ensuring the safety of the property. That’s why it’s always important to consult with an experienced premises liability lawyer to learn about your rights in such complicated cases.

Bigger Fines Could Reduce Kansas Trucking Collisions

The price tag for trucking companies and truck drivers who violate Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) has gone up. Trucking Info reports fines were raised for many different violations – not just for FMCSR infractions but also for violations of commercial driver’s license requirements and rules for commercial driver’s licenses.

An experienced personal injury lawyer knows federal and state rules applicable to truck drivers are designed to prevent serious collisions and protect the public. Hopefully, the increase in fines will make truck drivers and trucking companies increasing wary of breaking the rules in order to avoid being hit with large penalties. By acting as a deterrent for rule breaking, the larger fines should help to reduce the number of dangerous violations among motor carriers and truck drivers. This, in turn, could help to reduce the rate of truck accidents.

Larger Fines Could Reduce Risk of Truck Accidents

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has substantially raised fines for certain violations, according to Trucking Info. For example, an egregious violation of hours-of-service rules used to have a maximum fine of $11,000. The purpose of hours-of-service rules are to reduce the incidence of truck collisions caused by fatigued drivers-the rules require drivers to take breaks after a certain number of hours driving per day and per week. The new fines, which went into effect June 2, establish a maximum fine of $16,000 if there is an egregious breach of hours-of-service rules, Trucking Info reports.

Fines also increased significantly for many violations related to the transport of hazardous materials. While most violations related to HAZMAT rules previously had a maximum $50,000 penalty, the new system imposes a maximum $75,000 penalty, according to Trucking Info.

Fines were raised in many other areas as well, including higher penalties for violation of an out-of-service order and higher fines for a trucking company that fails to record when a commercial driver has violated FMCSRs.

Fines and penalties may also be imposed on trucking companies and truck drivers if FMCSA identifies the violations during an inspection and/or during an audit of the trucking company. Trucking Info reports that high-risk companies with multiple violations may be put into a Compliance, Safety, Accountability Enforcement Program. These programs involve more frequent inspections and additional oversight by FMCSA.

When FMCSA takes action and imposes penalties and fines against a driver or against a trucking company, the steps the agency has taken and the penalties levied become public record. Information from FMCSA proceedings can be used as part of the evidence a plaintiff presents in a truck accident case to demonstrate the truck driver or trucking company was negligent and should thus be held responsible for a collision and resulting losses.

Hopefully the new penalties will make everyone involved in the trucking industry will be more focused on compliance with the rules in order to avoid the more stringent consequences associated with failure to follow safety guidelines.

Kansas Drivers Need to Move Over to Prevent Collisions

Whenever vehicles are stopped on the roadside, passing cars need to move over to reduce the risk of serious injuries. Law enforcement officers, other first responders, tow truck operators, and even Good Samaritans providing assistance to broken-down motorists have all been killed as a result of cars that come too close and fail to follow move over laws. A car accident involving a driver who has failed to follow rules can result in legal liability for the driver who violated the law.

Move Over Laws Can Save Lives

Pew Charitable Trusts reports 10 to 12 police officers, 50 tow truck operators, and between 8 and 10 fire rescue and EMS workers are killed working in or near moving traffic annually. The problem exists nationwide.

Every state in the U.S. has a move over law, and 44 states have strengthened their laws since 2010 as a result of ongoing deaths among first responders and tow truck operators.  Unfortunately, too many drivers are not always aware of move over laws and thus do not follow them. A survey conducted in 2007 revealed 71 percent of Americans had never heard of move over laws. There must be additional public education and greater efforts to enforce these laws. Move over laws will not have an effect on improving safety unless drivers know about their obligations.

When passing obstacles on the roadside, move over laws typically require drivers to get into another lane when possible, or to slow down if it is not possible to safely change lanes. Drivers who fail to move over or slow down create unsafe conditions for those who are stopped. At the same time, drivers who do not understand move over laws can also create a hazard when they try to force their way into a lane with too much traffic. This can cause vehicles to go out of control and result in injuries to other motorists.

All move over laws cover police, fire, and ambulance and require motorists to either move over or slow to a safe speed when lights are flashing. A safe speed is below the posted speed limit. Tow truck drivers are covered by move over laws in every state but Louisiana and New Mexico.

Move over laws do not specifically require drivers to move over or slow down if motorists are on the side of the road with a broken down vehicle or if a Good Samaritan has stopped to try to help the broken down motorists. Even though it is not required in these situations, drivers should still consider slowing down or changing lanes any time a vehicle is stopped on the side of the road in order to avoid the risk of a collision. If a driver fails to slow down or move over and strikes someone on the roadside, the driver could be held responsible for his or her negligence.

Hutchinson Pedestrians Face Accident Risks With Hybrid Cars

Hybrid and electric cars are designed to help save the planet by reducing reliance on fossil fuels, but they may be costing pedestrians their lives. An experienced pedestrian accident attorney knows walkers routinely rely not just on their eyes to tell when cars are coming but also on their ears. Hybrid and electric cars do not have the same engine noises as typical motor vehicles with gas powered engines and this is creating a significant risk for pedestrians.

While walkers should ensure they are looking carefully before crossing the road and not simply going across if they don’t hear engine noise, drivers of electric and hybrid cars need also to be aware that pedestrians may not see their vehicles. In some cases, artificial engine noises are actually being added to electric and hybrid cars to reduce pedestrian accident risks caused by these nearly-silent vehicles.

Hybrid and Electric Cars Endanger Pedestrians

Daily Mail reports pedestrians are 40 percent more likely to be run over by a hybrid car or electric car than a vehicle with a gas or diesel engine. This is becoming a big problem as motorists increasingly purchase electric vehicles. From 2012 to 2013, there was a 54 percent increase in the number of pedestrian/vehicle collisions involving hybrid cars.

Motorists recognize the cars present an added danger, especially to pedestrians who are blind or who have limited sight. More than 3/4 of respondents to a YouGov poll said quiet hybrid and electric cars make the roads less safe for the visually impaired. A similar number of respondents said silent vehicles also made roads more dangerous to children and seniors. These vehicles are likely to surprise people who are travelling on foot and expect to hear engine noise before a car comes upon them.

Hybrid vehicle manufacturers are working on artificial sound generators so pedestrians can hear vehicles coming. Typically, these systems involve attaching speakers to the hood of the vehicle. The speakers point in the direction the vehicle is moving, so there is minimal annoyance to those around the car. The speakers use different types of sounds, from a rumbling sound similar to a traditional engine to the sound of an old computerized motor to a squeaking sound.

European Union regulations will require noise generators be installed in quiet cars; however, the mandate does not require noisemakers to be installed in new vehicles until 2021. Safety advocates for the visually impaired warn there will be thousands more dangerous green cars on the road before this time, and more people will lose their lives because of the delay in imposing the requirement. A campaign has been initiated to require governments to impose a requirement sooner and to mandate the systems not only be included in vehicles but also be prevented from being turned off.

Car manufacturers may choose to fit their vehicles with noise-making devices even though there is no current requirement, as this can help to save pedestrian lives.

Protecting Hutchinson Drivers From T-Bone Accidents

Since 2003, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been evaluating vehicles to determine how well they protect passengers involved in side-impact collisions. An experienced T-Bone accident lawyer knows IIHS crash tests are a good predictor of whether a car will prevent injuries or fatalities when a vehicle is hit from the side.

Some side-impact accidents are so serious, and the intrusion so great, that there is nothing to prevent serious injuries or death. In a typical accident, however, the car you are in can mean the difference between permanent impairment and walking away with minimal injury.

Drivers who cause car accidents will be responsible for compensating you for losses regardless of whether you choose to buy a car with advanced safety features, but it is important for your own health and well-being to choose a car with the best crash test ratings you can find if you are serious about road safety.

T-Bone Accident Risks Can be Reduced By Cars With Good Safety Features

IIHS mimics T-Bone or side-impact collisions by using a barrier designed to simulate a pickup truck or an SUV. The barrier hits the car on the side as though it is causing a broadside collision. An assessment is completed to determine injury ratings for injuries most likely to occur in a side-impact collision, including injury to the head or neck; to the torso; and to the legs and pelvis.

Vehicles are rated based on how well they are able to prevent the striking car from intruding into the compartment where occupants sit. Vehicles are also rated based on whether occupants’ heads were protected by safety features installed in the vehicle.

IISH gives cars a rating of good, acceptable, marginal, or poor depending upon how well side airbags and other protective features worked to prevent serious injury. Only vehicles including head and torso protection and driver side air bags are included in IIHS crash tests.

IIHS also assesses driver fatalities after accounting for driver and vehicle factors. IIHS crash test dummies used to determine driver death include not just standard sized men, but also crash test dummies intended to represent women and children. The crash tests can be a fairly accurate predictor of the likelihood that a car crash will have permanent or fatal consequences.

In vehicles IIHS rated as good, drivers are 70 percent less likely to be killed in a left-side crash than drivers in vehicles rated as poor. In vehicles rated “acceptable,” drivers have a 64 percent lower death risk compared with drivers in vehicles rated poor. Results are statistically significant and demonstrate the impact of vehicle design and safety features. The factor making the biggest difference in whether a driver might be killed in a T-bone accident is vehicle structure.

IIHS reports that side-impact crashes caused 27 percent of all deaths of vehicle occupants in 2009 collisions. As automakers receive IIHS crash testing ratings, many move forward to improve safety features if their cars did not perform well. This means death tolls could go down as more car manufacturers try to implement features to prevent deaths in T-Bone accidents.