Personal Injury & Medical Malpractice Blog

Saturday, August 19, 2017

U.S. Traffic Deaths Rise for a Second Straight Year

What Are The Top Causes of Auto Accidents?

In a recent alarming article, the New York Times reports that in spite of hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on safety improvements for automobiles, for the second year running deaths due to traffic collisions have increased by a significant number.  The National Safety Council estimates that in 2016 as many as 40,200 Americans died in car accidents, representing a 6% increase from the year before and a two-year rise of about 14%.  

Why are deaths on the rise?

Although conclusive research on the increase in traffic mortality is not yet available, early indications point to a few likely factors as being primarily responsible.  One simple explanation is increased road usage—with the improving economy, more people are driving both for business purposes as well as recreation and travel.  With more drivers on the road more often, the number of collisions and fatal accidents should be expected to rise.  But according to auto safety experts, the increase in the number of drivers on the road doesn’t fully account for the escalation in traffic deaths.  Other factors they point to include:

  • Failure to use safety devices
  • Overly-lenient enforcement of traffic laws
  • Increases in distracted driving

Don’t people wear seatbelts?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately half of all Americans who die in car collisions are not wearing a seatbelt.  Based on the National Safety Council’s estimates, that means about 20,100 American lives could have been saved in 2016 if those people had been wearing a seatbelt.

How does law enforcement play a role?

Despite current knowledge about the dangers of failing to wear a seatbelt in the car, not every state allows police officers to enforce state seatbelt laws.  Although in New York police officers can stop a driver simply for neglecting to wear a seatbelt, in states such as Pennsylvania or Ohio officers are prohibited from addressing a driver’s failure to wear a safety belt unless they stop the driver for some other reason, and then happen to notice he or she isn’t wearing a seatbelt.

Experts also point to budget cuts at police departments as a factor in the rising road mortality rates.  With fewer resources available, fewer officers are deployed to patrol the roadways for drivers who are speeding or driving under the influence, two common factors are fatal accidents.

What about ‘texting and driving?’

Unfortunately, in recent years “texting and driving” has metastasized into the even greater specter of distracted driving.  Despite laws to prevent it, modern drivers are not only sending text messages but posting on social media, watching and recording videos, and searching for directions all while attempting to pilot thousands of pounds of metal careening down the highway.  It’s no wonder this all too frequently results in tragedy.  The National Safety Council has gone so far as to ban the use of smartphones while driving, even if using the phone with a “hands free” device.

What can I do to be safe on the road?

Certainly all of this information can be scary, but drivers can take some basic safety precautions to protect themselves on the road.  For starters drive sober, obey the speed limit, and wear a safety belt!  But sometimes there’s nothing you can do…after all, accidents happen.  If you’ve been involved in a traffic collision you probably have questions about your rights.  Our firm’s attorneys focus on car accidents and have handled hundreds of cases involving traffic collisions, so please call New York personal injury lawyer Arthur O. Tisi today for a FREE consultation.

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