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Columbia, Missouri Personal Injury Law Blog

Driverless cars not expected to ruin insurance industry

Missouri residents may be familiar with the various predictions as to what will happen when driverless cars become the norm. Some experts have focused on the fate of the auto insurance industry and made dire predictions: A 2016 Morgan Stanley report estimates that the industry will shrink by 80 percent by the year 2040.

However, two things suggest a different outcome: newer research and the recent spate of fatal accidents involving autonomous vehicles. A report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that the insurance industry will simply evolve rather than go away. The nature of policies may change, and who pays for them may change, creating opportunities for companies that are quickest to adapt.

Poorly maintained brakes are a roadway danger

People on the roads in Missouri may be troubled to learn that poorly maintained brakes are one of the top reasons that trucks are pulled out of service following inspections. Due to the size, mass and weight of large commercial trucks, an accident that involves these vehicles can easily lead to catastrophic injuries, permanent disabilities and even fatalities. Negligent maintenance of brakes can mean that a trucker is unable to stop his or her vehicle, especially in slippery, wet or emergency conditions, causing it to slam into other cars, properties or even pedestrians.

In response to this danger, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance conducts an annual Brake Safety Week for enhanced inspection of trucks on the road in an attempt to cut down on the number of truck crashes caused by negligent equipment maintenance. During 2018, the event will take place from September 16 to 22. While the brake initiative was reduced to a one-day event in 2017, it was expanded once more to a week after 14 percent of all of the trucks inspected on that day had to be removed from the roads due to violations of brake safety regulations.

Defending yourself against drug paraphernalia charges

It is possible to be charged with a drug crime without actually being found with any drugs in your possession. In an effort to control drug trafficking in Missouri, equipment known to be used in drug manufacturing processes or use is illegal to sell or have on your possession.

If enough evidence is found in regard to drug paraphernalia possession, you may be accused of drug trafficking or drug manufacturing, even if no drugs were found. If you have been found with drug paraphernalia on your person, it is important to understand how the law works in Missouri and how you should defend yourself on the charges.

Concussions — from diagnosis to treatment

While we often hear the phrase, "minor concussion" the reality is that any bump on the head can result in significant and long-term harm. A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that requires immediate medical attention. 

After suffering a blow to the head or sudden deceleration caused by whiplash in a car accident, you may not recognize common symptoms for many days. If you feel something is out of sorts, see a doctor to determine whether you may be suffering from a concussion.

How technology can help Missouri drivers

Using a cell phone or other technology while driving can be dangerous. According to a survey from the National Safety Council, 55 percent of respondents said that they would leave safeguards in place to prevent distracted driving. Only 23 percent said that they would deactivate those safeguards. Many developers are working on technology that could help prevent distracted driving.

One product called Groove connects to the vehicle under the steering wheel and sends a message to the driver's mobile provider through the cloud. This allows the mobile carrier to know that a person is operating a vehicle. While a person is driving, his or her cell phone is rendered incapable of receiving text messages or phone calls. At the same time, an individual is not able to send text messages or update their social media accounts while a car is in motion. However, it would still allow a driver to use a phone for navigation purposes or to listen to music.

Autonomous car crashes spark media interest

Missouri drivers may be curious about the potential posed by autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle technologies. Once the stuff of science-fiction portrayals, self-driving cars are being explored by a number of companies. For many, the technology presents an opportunity to significantly reduce the over 100 deaths that take place every day across the country as a result of motor vehicle collisions. However, there have been a number of accidents that have involved vehicles using some kind of semi-autonomous technology, all while a human driver was also present inside the car. These incidents have received widespread media attention, something executives and others involved in the industry have condemned.

People like Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, have criticized media coverage of autonomous car accidents, accusing the press of bias for putting more attention on these crashes than on deadly traditional crashes. These claims have been amplified when the car accidents involved cause few or no injuries. The industry supporters argue that fatal accidents receive no national attention, unlike relatively minor incidents involving some form of semi-autonomous technology.

Liver injuries can be caused by car crashes

When people in Missouri get behind the wheel, they may not expect that their next drive could result in severe, long-lasting injuries to internal organs. However, car accidents can cause major injuries, especially to organs like the liver. Researchers say that wearing a seat belt can lessen the impact of these injuries; however, it cannot completely prevent damage to the liver from taking place in a car crash.

Researchers studied over 50,000 people who had suffered liver injuries as a result of a car accident. People whose liver injuries were severe were twice as likely to lose their lives as those whose injuries were considered mild or moderate. Drivers and passengers who wore seat belts during the crash were less likely overall to suffer a severe injury to the liver and thus more likely to survive. Airbags could further reduce the risk of a severe injury; however, when used without a seat belt, they had no impact on the likelihood of severe damage.

Afternoon rush hours the peak time for texting and driving

Drivers in Missouri and across the U.S. tend to text the most during afternoon rush hours, according to data released by app company Drivemode. However, the data also showed that New York drivers are the worst offenders when it comes to rush hour texting.

Drivemode's app helps drivers of older vehicles use certain cell phone functions in hands-free mode, and analysts with the company studied data from the app's users to find out when drivers interact with their phones the most. They found that over a 12-month period, 177,000 Android users accessed the app 6.5 million times to send or receive hands-free messages. They also discovered that the peak messaging time was between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. with users sending an average of 6.87 messages per hour. The second highest period was between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. with an average of 6.59 messages sent per hour. Overall, 22 percent of all messages were sent between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

What should be done to make self-driving cars safe?

self-driving car.jpegSelf-driving car makers have every reason to plow full-speed ahead toward a profitable future when U.S. roads are clogged with autonomous, driverless vehicles. However, can we expect driverless vehicle makers to safely self-regulate when they have so much to profit from getting their cars on the road?

After a fatal accident in Arizona last month -- in which an autonomous vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian -- many people are asking questions about whether the self-driving technology is ready for testing in real traffic conditions.

The dangers of daydreaming behind the wheel

The disturbing rise in distracted driving accidents in Missouri and around the country is often blamed on the popularity of portable electronic devices, but the results of a recent study from Erie Insurance suggests that being lost in thought while behind the wheel actually kills and injures far more road users each year than cell phone use. The Pennsylvania-based auto insurer came to its conclusions after analyzing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System gathered over the last five years. The results of the study were released on April 3 to mark the beginning of Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

The researchers concede that the problem of distracted diving may be more serious than the FARS data indicates. This is because much of the information used by NHTSA is provided by police officers in the field, and motorists may be reluctant to admit to law enforcement that they were not paying attention when they crashed. However, these police reports do reveal that about 10 percent of the 172,000 road users who died in the collisions studied by Erie Insurance researchers lost their lives in accidents involving a distracted driver.

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