According to a report by the National Safety Council, 2015 was the deadliest year for drivers since 2008. The report, cited here in an article on NPR notes several troubling statistics. Traffic fatalities had been falling for several years in a row, before suddenly, and sharply, rising in 2015. The rise in fatalities was wide-spread, with 37 states reporting increases from 2014, suggesting that the rise was not the result of a single factor, like bad weather. The report also noted that although lower gas prices had resulted in more drivers hitting the roads, and that this was likely a significant factor in the increase, the rise in fatalities exceeded the increase in miles driven, so this factor alone cannot explain the increase. The rise in fatalities, on a percentage basis, was the largest seen in over 50 years, and comes in the midst of new cars being equipped with modern safety features, like rear-view cameras, multiple airbags, and proximity sensors.
Why The Increase in Fatalities
So what is behind this dramatic jump in fatalities? The study leaves the question unanswered, but theorizes that a stronger economy may have resulted in more young drivers hitting the roads. The study also theorizes that drunk driving may be a factor, and suggests that additional information will likely show that drunk (or drugged) driving continues to play a role in a large number of fatal traffic accidents. Other authors have noted that driving while distracted may be an even-more serious problem than drunk driving, with one study stating that texting while driving is 6 times more likely than drunk driving to result in an accident (although drunk driving remains far more likely to result in fatal accidents.
The answers will probably become more clear as more data comes in. But as we wait on that data, are there things we can do to make the roads safer?
Are Safe Driving Cars the Answer?
The increase in deaths also comes at a time of great discussion of self-driving cars. Some estimates show that by 2020, there will be 10 million self-driving cars on the roads – Another report claims that if every car on the road were self-driving, a million lives a year could be saved.
But other reports note that when self-driving cars are on the road with human drivers, the results may not be positive, because self-driving cars are so careful, they act in unanticipated ways that the rest of us would not expect, (for example, leaving huge amounts of space between themselves and the cars in front of them, or yielding when a human driver would not do so).
Other Forms of Transportation to Prevent Traffic Fatalities
Other proponents believe that the answer to fewer traffic fatalities may be not in safer cars, but in alternative modes of transportation. New York has proposed a trolley system, and Raleigh is considering a light rail system. But any means of transportation carries the potential for injury or death, as seen by recent Amtrak train incidents.
While engineers and city planners try to build a better mouse-trap, we must realize that none of us will ever be 100% safe from injury. We should be vigilant, practice defensive driving and never drive drunk or while distracted. But even the most vigilant driver cannot avoid every accident. We talk to people every day who have done nothing more than stop at a red light when they were rear-ended, and there is simply no way to avoid that. In fact, if you look at our Case Results pageyou will find that most of the accidents our clients are involved in could not have been avoided by anything our client could possibly have done.
One way to get bad drivers off the streets is for police and district attorneys to cite drivers who are at fault in collisions. It is very common for police to not issue a citation to at-fault drivers in collisions when they admit fault. This is understandable; officers don’t want to spend time in traffic court, and it may be unseemly to hand a driver a ticket while he stands on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck to pick up his vehicle, or for an ambulance to take him to the doctor (drivers of at fault vehicles get hurt too). And even when officers cite drivers, district attorneys often dismiss the charges if the driver can show that his insurance has taken care of the other driver’s vehicle repairs. But when at fault drivers are not given tickets, the result is often that bad drivers are more likely to remain on the road.
If you are hurt in an accident, it is important to pursue your legal rights. You should expect the other driver or his insurance to repair your vehicle, pay for your rental, and in many cases, pay you diminished value for the loss of value in your vehicle (because when you try to sell the car, the car may be worth less because it has been in an accident. And on your bodily injury claim, you should be compensated for your medical bills, your pain and suffering, your wage loss, and usually, even for your mileage to and from doctor’s appointments. By pursuing your rights, you are not being greedy. You are seeking the justice you deserve, and in doing so, you are making it more likely that the other driver will pay a price and learn to be more careful before getting on the road again.