Missouri Interstate & Highway Accident Safety Update

Because of high speed, traffic volumes, congestion, and an increasing number of drivers who are distracted by using cell phones, driving on the Missouri interstates and state highways has become a more dangerous proposition.

In fact, after a 6 year decline in traffic fatalities, in 2012 Missouri reported a 3% increase in motor vehicle accident deaths. It is also expected that accidents causing serious injury also were higher, primarily because of the national epidemic of distracted driving.

Following is a safety update focused on car, truck, and motorcycle accidents occurring on Missouri highways, including I-70, I-44, I-470, U.S. 50, and U.S. 36.

High Speed Accidents

Given the technology which allows us to build safer vehicles, coupled with the pressures to meet societal demands, the law in many states has been changed to allow for higher speed limits. While it is difficult to compare motor vehicle accident rates over the decades, there is no question that the risk of a highway crash is higher now because drivers are going faster. Drivers who drive at excessive speeds have an increased crash rate primarily due to the fact that they have less reaction time to avoid hazards or other vehicles.

Our case experience also shows that speeding drivers are more “risk averse”, meaning they do not fully appreciate the risk of harm associated with speeding. Their tendency to drive without regard to the risk of harm also makes them more prone to reckless driving habits like sudden lane changes, distracted driving, and driving under the influence.

Speed and surface conditions also effect braking distances and reaction times. For instance, on dry pavement, a driver who is going 70 mph will need over 300 feet to come to a safe stop. That same driver, who is driving 70 mph on wet pavement, will need over 500 feet to come to a safe stop. A safe driver will leave plenty of margins between their vehicle and the vehicle in front and always consider the condition of their tires and road surface conditions.

Speeding drivers are also a significant risk in traffic congestion on interstates and highways. Because of their need for speed, they tend to make risky lane changes in order to pass slower traffic. Driver impatience leads to “pressured driving”, a concern among those who study national driving trends. Also, momentary distractions, which cautious drivers can over-come, are particularly dangerous for speeding drivers who have less reaction time to compensate for a distraction.

While state highway patrol and police can take steps to enforce speed limit laws in particularly dangerous stretches of road, there are limitations on the benefits of enforcement. Because of the perils associated with speeding drivers, many experts believe an increase in fines would be effective in reducing accidents and fatalities.

Sudden Lane Change Accidents

Both pressured and inattentive drivers have a tendency to make sudden lane changes and collide with other vehicles or force other vehicle to make a sudden stop which then causes a collision. In our experience, pressured drivers make sudden lane changes when faced with a desire to get around stopped or slower moving traffic ahead. This is more evident during the rush hour traffic on the interstates surrounding St. Louis, Columbia, and Kansas City.

Inattentive drivers are more apt to make a sudden lane change in order to exit the highway or interstate. We commonly see both rear-end and broad-side crashes where a driver cut across a lane in order to exit to another roadway.

Keep alert for drivers who are anxious to pass. If you are a victim of a sudden lane change accident, if you are able, obtain the names of other persons who witnessed the crash. Unlike accidents caused by speeding, sudden lane changes are more difficult for police to investigate and document.

Truck Accidents

Missouri interstates and highways have a lot of truck congestion. In fact, Missouri has the 7th most roads of the 50 states and a great majority of our roads are being utilized by semis and other large trucks that are packing 80,000 pounds of weight.

Trucks cause a significant safety risk to all motorists, especially on the highways where the speed limits are 65mph and above. Trucks are difficult to maneuver and require significantly more braking distance to come to a safe stop. When passing a truck, keep in mind that you must pass the truck by a considerable amount before merging back into the truck’s lane of travel.

Also, keep in mind that truck drivers have blind spots. If you don’t leave adequate space, they can’t see an approaching vehicle.

As a Kansas City lawyer who concentrates in motor vehicle accident cases where people have been injured or killed, I have a private responsibility to fully investigate the facts, handle the legal claims, and obtain fair and full compensation for victims and their families. I also have a community responsibility, through my professional activities, to advance safety for the public at large. As it relates to driving safety, please navigate to the driving safety pages which helps to explain our current efforts to improve our driving culture.