Archive for May, 2011

Lessons of Recent Head-On Collision Involving Elderly Driver

Monday, May 9th, 2011

A driver who was traveling in the wrong direction in McPherson County caused a fatal head-on car crash Friday afternoon.  The impact caused the death of the driver that was driving in the opposite direction of traffic.  The other driver and a passenger were also injured and transported to Memorial Hospital in McPherson.  The driver who was traveling in the wrong-direction was 80 years old.  While no other details are available at this time about the accident, this tragedy underscores the danger associated with head-on car accidents, which typically are caused by one of the vehicles traveling the wrong way on the freeway.

These accidents are particularly deadly because the force of the impact is multiplied exponentially as the vehicles absorb all of the force.  Head-on collisions are the most likely type of passenger vehicle crash to result in catastrophic injuries or wrongful death.  What is unusual about the McPherson County crash is that it happened during daytime hours at 3:00 PM.  These crashes are more typical at night when drivers become confused and make a mistake or are in someway impaired and do not notice that other vehicles are traveling in the opposite direction.

Head-on car crashes typically are a result of serious driver error or driver impairment.  Factors that most commonly contribute to head-on collisions in Kansas include:

  • Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Advanced age or inexperienced drivers who become confused
  • Poorly marked or designated on-ramps or off-ramps

While there is too little information available to know if the driver’s age contributed to the accident, there is a lot of data that suggests it is important to more closely monitor elderly loved ones who continue driving.  A study conducted by Carnegie Melon University found that drivers who are over the age of 85 have a 400% greater chance of being killed in a car accident than inexperienced teen drivers.  The study also revealed that drivers between the ages of 75 and 85 have the same likelihood of being involved in a fatal car accident as teen drivers between the ages of 16-20.  Certainly, many elderly drivers continue to remain good drivers even at the later stages in their lives.  However, an older driver’s sensory skills and physical abilities can decline with age creating the following increased accident risks:

  • Hearing declines makes it harder to hear horns, siren and motorcycles
  • Poor vision can make it difficult to see down the road or distort depth perception
  • Reflexes can be slower increasing the reaction time needed to respond to hazards
  • Some elderly drivers experience impaired cognitive abilities which can affect decision making

This is only a short list of factors that can make senior drivers in Kansas more likely to be involved in fatal head-on accidents like the one in McPherson County.  Many of us have ridden with an elderly family member and had a white knuckle ride.  However, it can be extremely difficult to approach the topic of an older family member discontinuing their driving.  Driving is a sign of freedom and independence that many older Kansas drivers have no desire to surrender.  The attempt to take car keys away from a senior citizen can lead to hard feelings and outright refusal.  However, the consequences of not taking action to prevent your love one whose driving skills have declined due to age from taking to the road can mean death or serious injury to your loved one or someone else on Kansas roads.

If you have a loved one that may represent an unreasonable risk of causing a car accident, there are some approaches that you can take to help your loved on preserve their independence:

  • Set up a buddy system so that a person is always available to ride in the passenger seat
  • Arrange for local van service, which can be prepaid
  • Schedule outings where you or someone else can transport your loved one
  • Make your elderly relative appear at DMV for a behind the wheel driving test and vision exam
  • Ride with your family member periodically so that you can evaluate their driving

At the law firm of Cummings & Cummings LLC, we assist those throughout Sedgwick County and the south-central region of Kansas who have suffered debilitating injuries to recover the compensation that they need to rebuild their lives.  We understand that the aftermath of a Kansas car accident can mean emotional, physical and financial challenges.

Our caring and dedicated team is here to handle the administrative, insurance and financial issues so that our clients can focus on their physical recovery.  Our Wichita auto accident law firm has over 30 years of combined trial experience so call us today at 316-264-1548 to see how we can help.  No Recovery No Fee!

Why Breath Test Results in Your Kansas DUI Case May Be Inaccurate?

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Flashing red lights in the rearview mirror when you have been drinking can induce panic for many Kansas drivers.  Many people become resigned to the idea that they will be arrested and convicted of DUI.  Many Kansas drivers pulled over for DUI may never have had any experience dealing with the criminal court system.  Some drivers presume that a DUI arrest and failed field sobriety tests and breath tests mean that a conviction is inevitable.  This misguided but understandable misconception is promoted by the belief that field sobriety test and breath test results are based on reliable science.  As a practical matter, breath test results may be inaccurate for a wide variety of reasons.

There are many issues that may interfere with accurate breath tests including the inability of the device to distinguish between alcohol and other substances.  The device cannot reliably distinguish alcohol from other chemical substances like acetone or ketones.  A diabetic or someone on a low-carb diet will typically have elevated levels of these chemical substances which can result in inaccurate breath alcohol test results.  It is important to remember that it is not illegal to consume alcohol and drive in Kansas, but is illegal to drive while your driving ability is impaired by alcohol or with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above .08.  This means that if you are a diabetic or have high levels of ketones because you are on a low-carb diet these factors can have you test over .08 percent BAC even though you really have a lower BAC.

There are other problems that can result in unreliable BAC test results including the mathematical formula used to convert alcohol in breath to the volume of alcohol in blood.  It is important to know that a breath test machine does not directly measure the alcohol in one’s blood.  The breath testing device uses a mathematical ratio called the partition ratio to convert the volume of alcohol in one’s breath in the deep lungs (alveolar breath) to the corresponding level of alcohol in one’s blood.  This ratio is usually calculated at 2100:1 blood to breath ratio.  However, this ratio can be inaccurate for a number of reasons including that a person’s body temperature is inflated due to illness.

Another common problem that may result in unreliable breath test results is the presence of mouth alcohol.  The breath test device is supposed to measure the concentration of alcohol in breath that has been metabolized.  Alcohol that remains in a person’s mouth will not have been metabolized and may result in abnormally high test results.  Breath alcohol may be a problem either because you have very recently consumed an alcoholic beverage or because you used mouthwash that contains alcohol.  This is why officers are supposed to allow for an observation period before administering a breath test.  If the officer fails to properly observe this waiting period, the test results may be subject to challenge.   Even if the officer observes the waiting period, factors such as vomiting or belching can make mouth alcohol an issue potentially compromising breath test results.

These potential flaws in breath testing represent only a few grounds upon which an experienced Kansas DUI attorney may be able to challenge breath test results in your case.  Other potential issues include:

  • The breath sample did not come from the deep lungs (alveolar breath)
  • The test was not administered properly or the machine was not properly calibrated or cleaned
  • Radio frequency interference (FRI) caused by the police cruiser radio
  • Environmental exposure to vapors like paint or varnish

The fundamental point to keep in mind is that there are many basis that an experienced Kansas DUI attorney may use effectively to challenge breath test results.  DUI offenses are treated very seriously in Kansas and can result in severe penalties.  It is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible following a DUI arrests.

Our Wichita DUI defense attorneys at Cummings and Cummings have helped many people in Sedgwick County and south-central Kansas charged with DUI offenses.  We have over 30 years of combined litigation experience so contact us today at 316-264-1548 to learn about your rights and options.