In the last few years, low gas prices and a recovering economy have encouraged Americans to get out and enjoy the open road again. According to the National Safety Council, there was a 3% increase in vehicle miles traveled in 2016 from the previous year. Unfortunately, this trend of people driving more is accompanied by an alarming rise in fatal car accidents.
The last two years have shown dramatic increases in traffic deaths — the highest percentages of fatalities in 50 years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This surge points not only to the rise in miles driven, but also to issues that plague American drivers: distracted driving, speeding, failure to wear safety belts, and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
What Are Pennsylvania’s Car Accident Statistics?
In Pennsylvania alone, 1,189 people died in car accidents in 2016. Though this is actually a 1% decrease from 2015, throughout the United States there was a 6% increase in fatal car accidents from 2015, and a 14% increase compared to 2014. Let’s check out more statistics:
- In 2016, the motor vehicle death toll for the country was 40,200. This is the first time this number has exceeded 40,000 in almost 10 years. These rising numbers include everyone on the road, with the most vulnerable being those outside of a vehicle.
- The number of passenger-vehicle occupant fatalities increased by 6.6%.
- Motorcycle deaths increased by 8% in 2015, and bicyclists and pedestrian deaths reached the highest levels in 20 years.
These across-the-board increases have alarmed law enforcement, governmental agencies, and non-profit safety organizations alike, and have stimulated the need for research into just what is happening on American roadways. While these agencies have outlined basic causes for these fatalities, they continue to work toward solutions that can be applied to large segments of the population.
What Is Causing This Rise in Fatal Car Accidents?
The actions of drivers have contributed greatly to increased fatal car accidents these last few years. According to an analysis by NHTSA, almost half of the motor vehicle occupants who died were not wearing seat belts. Although Pennsylvania law mandates drivers and passengers in the front seat must wear a seat belt, only children are required to wear one in the rear of a vehicle. Failure to do so could result in a ticket, and drivers can be pulled over and ticketed for this alone. Some states have even less stringent laws than Pennsylvania, and often this means that drivers choose not to buckle up. According to The New York Times, only 18 states have laws requiring front and rear seat occupants to buckle up and can punish offenders for this without the driver having committed another offense.
Almost one third of the fatalities involved driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In 2015, alcohol-related fatalities increased by 3.2% from 9,943 in 2014 to 10,265 in 2015. This is the largest increase in 10 years. During the same time period, Pennsylvania saw a 4.3% increase in alcohol related fatalities, which was above the national average.
Speeding is also a factor in about one third of the fatalities, reports the NHTSA, with speed-related deaths increasing 3% in 2015.
The NHTSA reports that 1 in 10 car accidents involved distracted driving. Smart phones, texting, GPS mapping apps, music, and other popular apps like Facebook and Snapchat create a whirlwind of distractions. However, according to Car and Driver, unless drivers admit to using their smartphones or other devices during a crash, it is very difficult to determine the role the device played in the incident. For this reason it is likely that the statistics for distracted driving fatalities are far under-reported.
How to Avoid Becoming a Statistic
The increase in fatal car accidents may make you want to avoid driving altogether; however, this is not a realistic solution for most people. There are basic rules that you can follow that will keep everyone on the road safer, especially you and your family. Your busy life should not stand between you and safety on the road! Take time to review these tips before you head out on your next drive:
- Wear a seat belt every single time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle, and require your children to do the same.
- Keep your smartphone out of reach.
- Obey the speed limits.
- Keep your distance from other vehicles and do not tailgate.
- Pack an emergency kit and store it in your trunk.
- Stay alert. If you are sleepy, pull over and take a quick nap rather than continuing to drive.
- Check the weather before you leave your house, and consider staying home during storms, ice, and snow.
- Have basic maintenance done on your vehicle on a regular basis.
- Never drink and drive.
Car Accident Lawyers in Philadelphia, Chester, and Delaware Counties
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a car accident through no fault of your own, our personal injury lawyers can help. The expert attorneys at Donaghue & Labrum have over 25 years of experience handling car accident cases, and are well equipped to win your personal injury lawsuit. We will fight for you every step of the way, and will not rest until you receive fair compensation for your injuries. Call to schedule an appointment – we have offices conveniently located in Media and West Chester, PA.