Officials Report That Motor Vehicle Fatalities Have Increased. In an alarming trend, the National Safety Council reports that motor vehicle fatalities have increased for the second straight year. Deaths increased by six percent in 2016, with the total exceeding 40,000 for the first time since 2007.
The safety council points to continued lower gas prices and an overall improvement in the economy that have resulted in more miles being driven each year, which increases the risk of an accident on the more crowded roads. The 2016 death total is placed at 40,200 (though that figure could be revised if more late-year data becomes available). The death total for 2015 was 37,757, a 7 percent increase from 2014.
The National Safety Council estimates the cost of motor vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage in 2016 was $432.5 billion, up 12 percent from 2015.The costs include medical expenses, lost wages, decreased productivity, administrative expenses, employer costs, and property damage.
The attorneys at Parker Waichman have many years experience in advising and representing victims of auto crashes.
Rising Accident Rate
The accident rate is rising sharply despite many vehicle safety improvements and public safety campaigns aimed at reducing the risk to drivers and passengers. Many experts say the increase is simply a consequence of Americans driving more, a record 3.2 trillion miles in last year. But the ratio of accidents to miles driven also rose, suggesting that there are factors at work beyond the number of miles driven.
Many highway safety experts blame an “epidemic” of distracted driving for the increase in crashes. What is worse, they say, is that most drivers know distracted driving is dangerous, but many still succumb to distractions like texting and Internet browsing while behind the wheel.
Not all distractions trace to smart phones, however. Drivers have many bad habits that fall into the category of “distracted driving.” A new study from the National Academy of Sciences concludes that nearly 40 percent of all crashes would have been avoided if the driver were not distracted.
The researchers five extremely risky behaviors that often contribute to car crashes.
- Reaching for an object. Reaching for something in the car – whether a phone or other object – increases the odds of a crash by up to nine times.
- Using touch-screens. Many cars are now equipped with touch-screen menus and navigation. According to the study, the crash risk is more than four times greater when the driver is using a built-in device. Some drivers have become adept at using a car’s touch-screens, but the researchers warn that this facility with the touch screen may create a false sense of security. When the driver’s attention is not on the road, the crash risk increases.
- Operating the radio. This is a very old distraction. Toying with the radio dial doubles the crash risk. The risk is even greater when the driver is operating an iPod or a music player on the phone.
- Texting. Most states have banned texting while driving because it is one of the most dangerous things a driver can do. But despite the danger, polls show that around 40 percent of drivers ignore texting and driving laws. Texting while driving increases the crash risk over six times.
- Dialing a number while driving is the most disorienting form of distraction. The researchers found that inputting 10 or more digits on any phone increases a driver’s crash risk by over 12 times. A car’s hands-free technology can help but experts say that any phone use while was a factor in 26 percent of all car accidents in 2014.
Any activity that takes the driver’s attention off the road – eating, drinking, reading a map or directions, or even talking to passengers – is a distraction that can increase the risk of a crash.
Experts say distracted driving is even more dangerous for teenage drivers, who have less experience behind the wheel. Many states have enacted graduated licensing laws that, for instance, limit the number of passengers a new driver can have in the car.
A distracted driver is a risk not only to him- or herself but also a risk to those who share the road with them. Distracted driving plays a part in millions of crashes every year, resulting in serious injuries and deaths.