Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Presidents, candidates, and car accidents

Presidents, Presidential candidates, their families and car accidents

Limited to recent presidential participants.

*President Bush's wife Laura ran a stop sign at 17 years of age and strikes another car, killing the other driver, 17 year old Michael Dutton Douglas.

*President Bush's mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, lost her mother, Pauline Robinson, to a car crash in 1949.

*Former President Clinton, and husband of Presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton, lost his father, William Jefferson Blythe Jr in a car crash in 1946.

*Presidential candidate and Senator John McCain's first wife, Carol Shepp McCain, was permanently injured after a car crash in 1969.

*Presidential candidate and former Senator John Edwards lost his son, Lucius Wade Edwards, in a single vehicle accident in 1979.

*Vice Presidential candidate and Senator Joe Biden lost his first wife, Neilia Hunter, and infant daughter, Naomi “Amy” Christina Biden, to a car crash in 1972. Having just won his first seat in the Senate, friends had to talk him out of resigning and he was sworn in at the hospital, where his two sons, Beau and Hunter, were hospitalized with serious injuries.

*Former Vice President Al Gore chose not to run for President in 1992, instead staying with his 7 year old son, Al Gore III, who was in recovery after nearly losing his life in 1989, after being struck by a car.

*(addition thanks to a Neosho reader) Presidential Candidate and Senator Barack Obama's father, Barack Hussein Obama lost both of his legs in a car crash and was killed in another car crash in 1982, both in Kenya.

Car crashes can affect anyone and don't play political favors.

Monday, August 25, 2008

High gas prices drive down traffic fatalities

Roll back the clock to 1961: John F. Kennedy was inaugurated president. The Peace Corps was founded. The Dow Jones industrials hit 734. Gasoline reached 31 cents a gallon.

And the number of people killed in U.S. traffic accidents that year topped 36,200.

Associated Press article here

University of Michigan report here

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cell Phone & Driving Studies

Cell Phone Use and Motor Vehicle Collisions: A Review of the Studies - the report here

Fatal Distraction? A Comparison of the Cell-phone Driver and the Drunk Driver - the study here

In 2003, researchers at the University of Utah put 41 people in driving simulators. They drove once while talking on cell phones, once while drunk. The drunks drove better.

List of some teens who have been killed while driving and texting here

Girl Driver Killed in Crash Had Been Texting

By The Associated Press

HIGHLAND, Calif. -- Authorities say a 16-year-old girl who died after losing control of her car had been texting on her cell phone moments before the accident.

-------, of Highland, was driving on the Interstate 10 Freeway in Redlands when she lost control of her car and crashed. She died of head injuries.

Authorities say ----- had been driving drunk and was speeding. But another factor may have contributed to the crash.

Phone records show ----- was texting just before the accident. Her cell phone, which was flipped open, was found resting on the floorboard by her feet.

----' mother ---- said she hopes the accident will make other people think before texting and driving.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

It took a lot of pushing to get the cables that save lives


I met Warren County Coroner Roger Mauzy in August 2001, when I was covering public safety for the Post-Dispatch. We agreed to have coffee at a restaurant in Lake Saint Louis, and Mauzy wasted no time getting to the point of the meeting.

He threw down a gruesome snapshot of a fiery crash that happened in 1999. A tractor-trailer crossed Interstate 70 and smashed into a car, taking the lives of an 8-year-old St. Clair boy and his grandparents. Mauzy thought cable median barriers could help prevent such tragedies, and he was right.

And now, his hard-fought campaign may end up saving lives in more than just Missouri.

The success of Missouri's program, which began as a response to a spate of fatal crashes near Warrenton, is helping to spur a national trend for the safety devices, according to federal highway officials.

To Missouri's credit, it agreed to string the protective cable not only in Warren County but along the entire length of I-70 and all of Interstate 44 within the state too.

A total of 500 miles of barrier has been added to highways that have narrow medians, and 100 more miles are set to go up soon on Interstate 55 and U.S. Highway 67, officials said.

The barriers are effective: Statewide in 2007, fatalities caused by vehicles crossing over into oncoming traffic dropped to 10 from about 55 annually before the barriers went up. The cables aren't foolproof; three of the 10 deaths were in areas that had them.

As coroner, Mauzy hasn't had to work a crossover fatality in four years, but he isn't touting his role in the drop.

"The goal was to stop people from being killed, not to get the credit," he said.

Mauzy's modesty contradicts the fact that he basically was a thorn in MoDOT's side until the department agreed to stretch the protective barriers throughout Warren and Montgomery counties. When the barriers stopped the crashes, MoDOT agreed to put up more of them.

Mauzy, who also works as a paramedic in the county, had noticed the high number of crossover crashes even before he took office as coroner in 1997. A letter-writing campaign got nowhere, but after the crash involving the little boy, Mauzy renewed his efforts with the state.

He came up with the idea of putting memorial crosses at mile marker 191, the same spot where the crash happened. He and some other paramedics constructed 23 crosses and put the names and the dates of death on each cross. Mauzy called police, fire and EMS workers in the county, and the family of the little boy, who came to watch as Mauzy placed the crosses.

The local media showed up, and the news splash got the attention of then-state Sen. Ted House, D-St. Charles, and U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulsof, R-Columbia. They wrote letters to the highway department, and a short time later the state put up 4.5 miles of barriers.

By the time I met with Mauzy, there had been another crossover in a different spot, and he had added one more cross to the memorial.

In the next year, Mauzy added five more. After each death, he fired off a letter to the state highway department and the media, which usually got TV and newspaper coverage for the issue.

In 2002, the state agreed to put up seven more miles of the guard cable, but Mauzy didn't stop his rant.

He didn't stop the next year either, even after the state agreed to nearly 20 more miles of barriers. People were still dying, and Mauzy was up to 31 crosses at the memorial.

In the seven months between the highway department's announcement and the beginning of the work, three more people died in crossovers.

Finally, in April 2005, the state agreed to a major expansion of the barrier program, saying that it had proved to be a lifesaver.

Officials say the three strands of braided cables strung loosely on closely spaced steel posts are as effective as concrete barriers at stopping out-of-control vehicles from crossing medians. Cable barriers cost about $100,000 a mile, often less than half the expense of concrete barriers, the state said. Cables have the added advantage of grabbing and stopping vehicles, which tend to bounce off concrete barriers and re-enter traffic.

When I talked to MoDOT engineer John Miller last week, he was at a regional meeting in Memphis where cable barriers were a hot topic. Other states that have highways with 40-foot medians are thinking about erecting them, he said. Illinois officials have already put up more than 42 miles of the cable in the Metro East and are considering more.

Missouri, Miller said, was getting a lot of kudos for its proactive stance on the barriers.

"Luckily our management at MoDOT made a big commitment at the time to say we're going to move forward with this," he said.

He didn't mention Mauzy in our conversation, but I know the truth: A little county coroner took on big state government and won.

Because of Mauzy, everyone is a lot safer.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Touching Video's

A sister from Texas talks about the loss of her brother here

More personal accounts - videos here

(opinion - Too many teen driving sites, are nothing more than web sites built to make a person, an organization, or company money. The few that are 'for-profit' are usually honest about it, the 'not-for-profit' are sometimes less honest about their motivation. This site, funded by the Texas Transportation Institute, is one of the few you will find on the internet that appears to be motivated 100% about teen driving safety, without the hidden agenda of making money at it. For that alone, I would give them a lot of credit. But the site itself is one of the best on the net, on its own merits. Cuddo's to the Texas teens that got it started, and keep it running. Teens In The Drivers Seat)

Top 5 Teen Driving Risks

The five top risks for teen drivers are driving at night, distractions in the car, speeding and racing, not using seat belts, and driving under the influence, according to the Teens in the Driver Seat program in El Paso.

More teen driving facts

Thursday, August 14, 2008

2007 Traffic Safety Annual Assessment

2007 Traffic Safety Annual Assessment now online

The overall number of traffic fatalities in 2007 reached its lowest since 1994. This Annual Assessment provides highlights of the 2007 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data. Report here


The Reason Foundation's 17th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems measures the performance of all state-owned roads and highways from 1984 to 2006. The study calculates the effectiveness and performance of each state in 12 different categories, including traffic fatalities, congestion, pavement condition, bridge condition, highway maintenance costs, and administrative costs. rest of article here

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Safe Road Maps Review

We hear on the nightly news about traffic deaths, and it is such a regular feature, that we can find ourselves somewhat numb to the news, unless it concerns a family member or friend. I had a chance to review SafeRoadMaps.org. Even though I read news stories about trafic crashes in Missouri every day as part of research for the Operationstop.com web site, the map for 2006 traffic fatalities was still stunning. I suggest you review it.

Go to saferoadsmap.org and enter site. Click the link for Maps, and you should be here. On the right hand side of the page, select Missouri. Go to the bottom of this column and click reset map. It takes a moment for the map to load. If the map does not reload for a world view to Missouri map, then the site is not working properly (its new, they still have bugs - check back later).

If it is working, you will see our state completely covered in crash icon's. These signifying 2006 fatality crashes. If you are used to using Google Maps you know how to zoom in and check your area. If not, use the scale bar on the left of the map. Clicking the + button, will zoom the map in stages. If you are only interested in checking your immediate area, go to Safe Streets Map link and include your information.

This is one year in Missouri.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Traffic deaths fall as gas prices climb

(this was posted on 7/23 when gas was hovering around $4/gallon in Missouri. Compare the change to the number of road fatalities in the last few weeks as prices have begun to drop)

By Mark Williams
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Rising prices at the gas pump appear to be having at least one positive effect: Traffic deaths around the country are plummeting, just as they did during the Arab oil embargo three decades ago.

Researchers with the National Safety Council report a 9 percent drop in motor vehicle deaths overall through May compared with the first five months of 2007, including a drop of 18 percent in March and 14 percent in April.

Preliminary figures obtained by The Associated Press show that some states have reported declines of 20 percent or more. Thirty-one states have seen declines of at least 10 percent, and eight states have reported an increase, according to the council.

No one can say definitively why road fatalities are falling, but it is happening as Americans cut back sharply on driving because of record-high gas prices.

Fewer people on the road means fewer fatalities, said Gus Williams, 52, of Albany, Ga., who frequently drives to northern Ohio. “That shows a good thing coming out of this crisis.’’ He has also noticed that many motorists are going slower.

The federal government reported in April that miles traveled fell 1.8 percent in April compared with a year earlier, continuing a trend that began in November.

Experts say a slumping economy and fuel prices have brought down the number of road fatalities in a hurry.

“When the economy is in the tank and fuel prices are high, you typically see a decline in miles driven and traffic deaths,’’ said John Ulczycki, the council’s executive director for transportation safety.

States also cite other factors such as police stepping up their pursuit of speeders and drunken drivers, as well as better teen-licensing programs, safer vehicles and winter weather that kept many drivers at home. The Governors Highway Safety Association also says seat belt use is probably at record levels and will top 90 percent in several states when figures are released later this year.

But the last time road deaths fell this fast and this sharply was during the Arab oil embargo in 1973-1974, when fatalities tumbled 17 percent, from about 55,100 to 46,000; and as states raised the drinking age to 21 in 1982-83, when fatalities fell 11 percent, from roughly 49,300 to 44,000.

Chuck Hurley, a former official with the National Safety Council and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said half of the decline in road deaths during the 1970s was attributed to high gas prices. The remainder was linked to the lowering of freeway speed limits to 55 mph.

Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia has said Congress might want to consider reimposing a national speed limit.

Hurley, now chief executive of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said gas prices have helped curb drunken driving, too.

Even considering new safety measures by states, it is now clear that, just like in the early 1970s, motorists are cutting discretionary travel and reducing the kind of late-night outings for alcohol that often lead to deadly accidents, Hurley said.

“People are going home early or stopping by a store and buying a case of beer and taking it home,’’ said Maj. Daniel Lonsdorf of the Wisconsin State Patrol.


Report indicates driver in wreck that killed sheriff’s deputy was distracted by cell phone

The driver of a car that struck and killed a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy on his bicycle was distracted by a cell phone and other electronic devices during the accident, a Kansas Highway Patrol report said.

The report indicates that inattention and failure to yield the right-of-way by the 20-year-old driver were contributing circumstances in the wreck.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Teen Turns Tragedy Into Triumph

A car accident changed his life forever

MIAMI (CBS4) ― Nick Williams was the epitome of a scholar athlete. He had a 4.58 GPA and was the captain of his volleyball team at Cardinal Gibbons. But a car accident, changed his life forever, but didn't change the heart he puts into everything he does.

"It's not a blur, it's a blank. It's a blank. I can't remember anything," Nick said about the car accident.

The accident happened on Sunday, May 4th. Early in the morning, Nick left his father's house to pick up his uncle at his mom's house to take him to the airport. The exact cause is uncertain, but while on I-95, Nick lost control of his Ford Explorer and crashed into a tree. His immediate prognosis wasn't encouraging.

Now 17, Nick is paralyzed from the waist down and has problems with short term memory. He may inspire sympathy from some when they first see him, but when one listens to him, all that is displayed is his strong spirit.

"I could easily just lay in bed and just say no, 'I'm not doing anything. I can't walk. I'm going to be sad the rest of my life,' I can't go anywhere with that. I'm not dead, I can go places now," Nick said.

rest of article

Driver's ed teacher killed in accident in Minnesota

A driver's education instructor died Tuesday after he was involved in a crash while giving a lesson. ......, 58, was riding with a 15-year-old Chisago Lakes High School student when a Chevrolet Blazer that appeared to have run a red light slammed into their vehicle's passenger side door at state Highway 8 and Pioneer Road in Chisago County, the State Patrol said.

rest of article

Monday, August 4, 2008

Morgan Freeman seriously injured in car crash


Oscar-winning U.S. actor Morgan Freeman was hospitalized in serious condition on Monday with a broken arm and other injuries after the car he was driving careened off a rural highway and rolled several times, authorities said.....

Freeman's injuries included a broken arm, a broken elbow and "minor shoulder damage," but the actor "was in good spirits when I spoke with him a short time ago" at the hospital trauma center in Memphis, his publicist, Donna Lee, told Reuters in a statement on Monday.

She said he would undergo surgery later in the day or on Tuesday "to help correct the damage." She added: "He says he'll be OK and is looking forward to a full recovery." ....

...he appeared to be headed toward his home, Mississippi Highway Patrol Sgt. Ben Williams said.. .... "The vehicle went off the edge of the road and flipped several times," Williams said. No other car was involved in the accident. Williams said it was "possible" that Freeman, who co-stars in the current blockbuster Batman movie "The Dark Knight," had fallen asleep at the wheel, but he added that authorities had ruled out alcohol as a factor in the wreck. ....

Link to rest of story

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Inspiring Story

Back in the saddle
Success follows paralyzing injury.

In the world of competitive sports, showing horses requires a particularly delicate touch. A rider must be in total command, and the slightest motion of the rider’s leg or a tug on the rein can cause a horse to make a mistake.

So that makes the fact that Rock Bridge High School graduate Cara Walker is a world champion today all the more amazing.

Because of a car accident and resulting neck injury, Walker, 19, has no feeling in her left leg.

Rest of Article

Free Background Checks on the Internet

I recently came across an article written by a woman, who was sharing with female readers how to check up on pending "blind dates", using the free internet. While the article's intent was great, the links the writer gave were not the best available. Here are some good links for checking up on people online.

Zaba Search - find people across the US

Case Net - find Missouri present and past court cases using a person's name, or business name.

Neighborhood Criminal Check - check your zip code for individual's with criminal backgrounds

Someone away on a trip? - Check the MODOC offender guest list

Sex Offender Map - local sheriff's department sites sometimes carry a more reliable map

Yoname - sometimes successful in tracking by name or screename