Spike in Traffic Deaths Highlights Gaps in Safety Laws

After years of steady decline, traffic deaths spiked in 2015: 35,092 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes –the largest percentage increase in nearly 50 years. Preliminary data for the first nine months of 2016 show an eight percent increase in fatalities compared to the same time period in 2015.

The 2015 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed steep increases in fatalities for nearly every crash category.

Here is the breakdown:

  • alcohol impairment, up 3%
  • excessive speed, up 3%
  • unbelted vehicle cccupants, up 5%
  • occupants under 16, up 6%
  • motorcyclists, up 8%
  • distraction, up 9%
  • teen drivers, up 10%
  • pedestrians, 10
  • cyclists, up 12%

The attorneys at Parker Waichman have many years experience advising and representing people who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents.

Safety Report Show Gaps in Safety Laws

Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety issued its 14th Annual Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, titled, “Have We Forgotten What Saves Lives?” The report ranked and analyzed traffic laws around the country. According to their website, Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety is “an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer.”

The researchers analyzed:

  • seat belt laws
  • impaired driving laws
  • booster seat laws
  • teen driving laws
  • text messaging laws
  • speed
  • enforcement

Many of the states evaluated in the report had low scores on their report cards. The team that developed the study said many motorists and pedestrians are needlessly injured or killed on U.S. roads even though there are effective measures that prevent traffic accidents or reduce the risk of deaths and serious injuries. The research group identified nearly 400 state laws that could help improve traffic safety, including strict seat belt laws, a graduated licensing process for teens, enforcement of distracted driving laws, and motorcycle helmet use.

Among the states with the worst safety scores were Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming. Rhode Island had the best scores; the state has at least a dozen laws to protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians from potential car crashes. States with a yellow need improvement in one of more categories. Red states fall well below optimal standards.

Based on government and private data, Advocates has determined the type of traffic safety laws that are critical to reducing motor vehicle deaths and injuries. According to Advocates:

  • 16 states need an optimal primary enforcement seat belt law for front seat passengers
  • 32 states need an optimal primary enforcement seat belt law for rear seat passengers
  • 31 states need an optimal all-rider motorcycle helmet law
  • 39 states and DC need an optimal booster seat law
  • 35 critical impaired driving laws are needed in 33 states
  • 9 states need an optimal driver text messaging restriction
Spike in Traffic Deaths Highlights Gaps in Safety Laws

Spike in Traffic Deaths Highlights Gaps in Safety Laws

In recent surveys, at least 60 percent of New York drivers admitted to distracted driving in the past six months, while another 40 percent have admitted to speeding. Most car crashes now involve a driver who was either distracted or speeding, or in some cases, both. According to NHTSA, in 2015, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. In 2010, the economic cost of crashes involving at least one distracted driver was $40. The Roadmap report says, “In order to get people to pay attention while operating a vehicle and to adopt safer behaviors, education must be combined with strong laws and appropriate enforcement.”

In the Roadmap report overall ratings, no state is eligible for a green overall rating (the highest rating), unless it has seat belt laws covering all passengers, front and rear. And a state that has repealed its motorcycle helmet laws within the previous 10 years is ineligible for a green rating. “This weighting is to emphasize the significance of comprehensive primary enforcement seat belt laws and all-rider motorcycle helmet laws in saving lives and reducing injuries,” according to the Roadmap report.

In the ratings, five states (Delaware, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Oregon, and Washington) and the District of Columbia attained a green rating; 28 states had yellow rating (needs improvement); and 17 states fell into the red category, that is, “dangerously behind” in the adoption of optimal laws. The report contains a state-by-state breakdown of fatalities, annual economic impact of crashes, and what laws the state needs to achieve a green rating.

Legal Help for Those Injured in a Vehicle Crash

If you or a passenger in your vehicle has been injured in a vehicle crash, the attorneys can at Parker Waichman LLP can provide a free, no obligation case evaluation. To reach the firm, fill out the contact form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).



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