Why are car crash deaths rising? Can drivers take preventative steps to protect themselves while driving down the road? There are many reasons the rates are rising, and yes, there are things people can do to stay safe. 37,461 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2016. This 5.6% increase in the number of fatalities is significant not just for the numbers of people who died, but also because it represents the highest rate of fatalities in the past 9 years. In the seven years recorded from 2007 to 2014, six of the seven years recorded decreases in the fatality rates. The lowest number recorded was 32,744 in 2014. This was followed by a sharp increase of 7.2% to 35,092 that was recorded in 2015. The last time the fatality rates increased at a higher rate was 1966 when the rate rose 8.1% over 1965's fatality rates. The number of fatal crashes is also rising steadily. In 2014, there were 30,056 fatal crashes. That number rose to 32,539 in 2015 and 34,439 in 2016. The rates are rising because of a deadly combination of more drivers on the road and an increase in dangerous driving behaviors. Kansas has an unusual rate of driver errors from people talking on cell phones, texting and mapping. At Brad Pistotnik Law we see at least half of the cases we take on for car accidents, truck and semi accidents and motorcycle accidents arising from distracted driving from people looking at their phones and maps instead of looking at the road.
Many of the causes of the increased fatality rates are entirely preventable. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that up to 94% of fatality involved car accidents are the result of driver choices. Speed is a frequently cited cause of car crash deaths and the number of speed-related fatalities rose 4% in 2016. Similarly, fatalities caused by the passenger's failure to wear seatbelts rose 4.6%. NHTSA data from 2017 indicates that only 89.7% of drivers and passengers wear their seatbelts while driving. While this is an increase from the 70.7% recorded in 2000, when compared with fatality rates, the data sets show that seatbelts are saving lives and that there are still more lives that can be saved. In the Midwestern states including Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois, seatbelt use in 2016 was roughly 88.6% which is an increase over the 85.5% recorded in 2015.
Speeding, driving too fast for conditions, and failure to wear seatbelts are primary offenses that motorists can be cited for. Data gathered by the NHTSA shows that increased enforcement of primary driving offenses does have an impact. In 2016, the number of distracted driving deaths dropped 2.2% to 3,450. This is due in part to the passage and enforcement of laws that restrict the use of handheld cellular devices while driving. Kansas requires that all passengers use seat belts. For car accident injury victims there is a statute in Kansas that makes seatbelt use inadmissible.
In addition to fatalities, injury rates are also rising. In 2016, the National Safety Council estimated that 4.6 million people suffered injuries from automobile accidents. Fortunately, people are noticing that driving is becoming more dangerous and are taking steps to protect themselves. The NSC conducted a broad survey in 2016 that showed driving was of greater concern than gun violence natural disasters and disease. Of greatest concern were drunk drivers, distracted drivers, and drugged drivers. People are adjusting their driving behaviors to protect themselves by slowing down, buckling up, and using designated drivers. The survey showed significant increases in seatbelt usage, reductions in driving speed, and increases in driver awareness of their own behaviors and the behaviors of motorists and pedestrians they encounter.
Brad Pistotnik Law represents the survivors and family members of those who have suffered truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle and car accidents, tractor-trailer accidents, farm accidents and wrongful car crash deaths in Liberal, Topeka, Kansas City, Wichita, Garden City, Dodge City, Beloit, Manhattan, Colby, Hays, Salina, Hutchinson, Coffeyville, Pittsburg, Emporia, Great Bend, Satanta and elsewhere in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Illinois. Our office can help clients establish the precise causes of the accident and determine any preventable actions that led to the accident.
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