Thursday, October 28, 2010

Editorial: Traffic laws can prevent tragedies And Our Letter To The Editor

Editorial: Traffic laws can prevent tragedies

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The thunderstorm that pushed across Pitt County on Thursday brought spells of heavy rainfall, making the morning commute for local drivers a bit more treacherous. While all motorists used their wipers for a clear view, few switched on their headlights as mandated by state law, a requirement intended to make vehicles more visible in inclement weather.

That represents one casual bit of illegal behavior repeated incessantly on area roadways, but another example of habits that can endanger others and contribute to accidents could prove responsible for a fatality. Drivers in eastern North Carolina should do better by one another by adhering to proper practices, just as law enforcement should strive to improve road safety whenever they can.

Tragedy visited Pitt County on Tuesday when a truck moving north on N.C. 43 had its trailer unhinge and collide with an SUV traveling south. Lisa Langemann, a 27-year-old teacher at Bethel Elementary School, was killed in the accident, and her two daughters in the car were injured. The ensuing investigation found that the trailer was homemade and lacked the safety cables and chains required by state law. The other driver has been charged in Langemann's death.

Motorists in Pitt County are likely to have seen such trailers countless times in their travels. Though they must be inspected by the Department of Transportation or the N.C. Highway Patrol, it is not a leap to question how many who use such equipment are even aware that is the case. It means accidents like this one, a wreck that claimed a young life, are more likely than the average motorist might consider.

Safety on area roadways can sometimes seem like a gamble. Narrow roadways with an abundance of traffic and the occasional piece of farm equipment can all contribute to unpredictability when driving. Factor in drivers' unsafe behavior — speeding, eating, talking on cell phones and other distractions — and it is little wonder that AAA Carolinas ranked Pitt County tops in the state for accidents in 2008.

Motorists must accept more responsibility for their habits behind the wheel by learning state laws and following them. Their repeated refusal to do so should inspire area law enforcement to provide additional encouragement through more rigorous ticketing for moving violations. Even the little things — like using the headlights during downpours — can bolster safety on area roadways. That, in turn, could prevent an accident and even save a life.

Our Letter That Was Published!

Letter: Stricter standards for trailers

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I read with interest the Oct. 18 editorial, “Traffic laws can prevent tragedies,” which referenced the tragic loss of a mom, wife and teacher due to a loose utility trailer. This accident was totally preventable had we had an inspection and safety standards for trailers under 3,000 gross vehicle weight rating.

Please note the reason these trailers are not getting pulled over is because the way the law is currently written it is a secondary offense and not a primary. An offender must be committing an offense, like running a stop sign. Then the officer can provide a ticket for not having safety chains.

The clearest example I can provide of the magnitude of the infraction is the following: Would you secure your own child in a child safety seat without using the seat belt, improper level and homemade? In this example, do we allow people to make homemade child safety seats? I ask then why is the person behind you any less important than your own child?

In closing, the Dangerous Trailers Web site has been addressing the total lack of safety standards, quality and training on passenger cars that tow trailers for more than eight years. We have documentation from the highest level of our government and yet nothing on a national level has been done. We know what needs to be done and I am willing to help. We just need the support.


Glen Allen, Va.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tragic Hay Ride Amusement Death Spotlights Minimal Laws and Regulations Concerning Safety and Regard For Life

Posted On: August 2, 2010 by Jeffrey M. Reiff

Tragic Hay Ride Amusement Death Spotlights Minimal Laws and Regulations Concerning Safety and Regard For Life

As an experienced hay ride accident and amusement accident lawyer who regularly investigates and prosecutes hay ride accident cases, I salute the efforts of government officials in Kentucky to investigate safety laws on hay rides after the death of a 44-year-old woman. The victim, Terry Hurley, was killed after a tractor and hay ride wagon carrying 30 people on a farm jackknifed on a hill and began to slide down the hill. Investigators indicated that the tractor began to slide coming down a hill and the trailer then jackknifed at which point the victim was thrown off and struck by a wagon wheel. She was pronounced dead of head and chest injuries at the hospital. Five other people sustained injuries as well. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the victims.

As an attorney who has investigated and prosecuted hay ride cases, I am surprised that there are no stringent regulations concerning who can operate farm vehicles. In this case, Dale Dobson, head of the Farm Safety Program for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture stated that Kentucky has no regulations concerning who can operate farm vehicles. “There are no laws and we don’t need any laws,” he stated.

Ron Melancon, a former medical emergency technician from Richmond, Virginia, has been a stalwart consumer advocate promoting stringent safety regulations to prevent injuries and deaths resulting from defective trailers. Ron regularly collects information regarding deaths and accidents involving trailers and farm vehicles and knows that people operating hay rides or trailers often don’t even know how to work the lights or connect the trailer properly. Ron states, “a lot of trailers out there are just in bad condition.” For more information go to Ron’s website at or visit our website and click on our dedicated subsections devoted to defective trailers and hay ride accidents.

Many trailers are homemade and do not require licenses to operate. Nobody is there to verify that it is safe. Unfortunately, many of the laws being used in 2010 are from the 1920's and 30's. Not so surprisingly, in excess of 400,000 people a year are injured in trailer accidents in the United States and many of these unfortunately involve children and unsuspecting patrons at Halloween hay rides. We recently concluded a case where a young man and his mother were run over by the wheels of a Halloween hay ride amusement ride.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a hay ride, amusement, or defective trailer accident, please contact one of our attorneys for a free no obligation consultation at 1-800-421-9595 or online at

Hayride death spotlights lack of safety laws

Wednesday, Jul. 07, 2010

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Hayride death spotlights lack of safety laws

woman died after hayride crash


As police investigate the death of a woman thrown from a hay wagon Saturday, a Kentucky agriculture official says there are few laws concerning safety on farm vehicles.

Terri Hurley, 44, was killed after a wagon carrying 30 people on a Mercer County farm jackknifed on a hill. Investigators have said the tractor pulling the trailer began to slide coming down a hill and the trailer then jackknifed. Hurley was thrown off and struck by a trailer wheel. She was taken to James B. Haggin Memorial Hospital in Harrodsburg, where she was pronounced dead of head and chest injuries.

Five other people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, a deputy coroner said.

Kentucky State Police are waiting for toxicology reports of the driver.

Dale Dobson, head of the Farm Safety Program through the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, said the state does not have any regulations concerning who can operate farm vehicles.

"There are no laws, and we don't need any laws," he said.

Dobson said the death rate from farm-equipment accidents has decreased from 50 a year in the mid-1990s to 13 or 14 a year in the late 2000s. The safety program educates farmers on how to prevent accidents and trains emergency responders on how to handle accidents.

"We educate that it is your life, your family, your farm and your responsibility," Dobson said.

Ron Melancon, a former emergency medical technician in Richmond, Va., collects information regarding deaths and accidents involving trailers and farm vehicles, and he said changes need to be made in Kentucky law. People often don't know how to work lights or connect a trailer properly, he said.

"A lot of trailers out there are in bad condition," said Melancon, who runs the Web site "There is no training in how to drive one with people in it; they are meant for cargo."

Melancon said the crashes occur because many wagons used by families are homemade and do not require a license to operate.

"Nobody is verifying what you are building is safe," he said. "We are using 1930 laws in 2010."

Mark Purschwitz, an extension professor in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, said that when a wagon or trailer jackknifes, it is usually because the tractor pulling the wagon could not handle the load.

"People think the tractor just needs to be big enough to pull the load, but it also has to be big enough to stop it," said Purschwitz, who specializes in farm health and safety through the Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention.

Because farm work is often shared among a family, including children, Purschwitz said, regulations probably won't change because of deep-held farm traditions.

"There are so many variables and so many different situations that occur with farm work, so the tradition has been to leave it as an issue of personal responsibility," he said.

Melancon began his Internet project in 2003 after he rear-ended a trailer while driving his ambulance. He said the trailer was black with wire mesh and the lights were so low he couldn't see them. He was found not guilty in the collision, began researching trailer accidents and realized how many people were at risk for injury or death because of improper use of farm vehicles.

According to data he has gathered, Melancon said, more than 400 people a year are killed in trailer accidents in the United States. He said people might not realize the frequency of farm-vehicle accidents.

"Newspapers report a freak accident here and a freak accident there, and no one notices it is a national problem," he said.

Purschwitz said calls for reform on farm-vehicle regulations usually come from people outside the world of agriculture. He said some people want to require a license to use farm equipment, while "old-timer" farmers respond that they began operating tractors well before their teen years.

"There has to be a middle ground," Purschwitz said.

Melancon said he has pushed for new trailer laws in Virginia and is pushing for change in other states. Hearing about Hurley's death only reinforced his desire to reform state regulations.

"It is horrific, and it bothers me," he said.

Hurley was a meter reader for American Water Co. She is survived by her parents, Harold and Patricia Ann Hurley of Harrodsburg, and a brother, James Harold Hurley of Burgin.

Services will be conducted at 1 p.m. Thursday at Immanuel Baptist Church in Danville. Visitation begins at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the church. Ransdell Funeral Chapel in Harrodsburg is in charge of arrangements.

Herald-Leader staff writer Karla Ward and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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