Car Crash Crisis: Road Deaths Hit Record Highs, Latest Statistics Show
Safety advocates are calling it a national crisis and emergency.
At a time when people are driving less due to the pandemic, deaths on roadways have spiked. In fact, automobile deaths in the United States are higher than any year since 2006, when federal officials began tracking the statistics, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The data shows that 31,720 people died from causes related to motor vehicles in the first nine months of 2021, a 12% increase from the same time period in 2020. Thirty-eight states had an increase in fatalities in 2021, including California. With a 17% increase year over year, California saw an uptick from 2,770 death to 3,246, reports show.
Why the drastic surge? Initially safety experts blamed the rising deaths on reckless drivers speeding on emptier roads, impaired driving, while also not wearing seat belts. At the same time, vehicles are getting bigger, state lawmakers are making it legal to go faster, and U.S. regulators have been less aggressive than those in other countries on vehicle safety requirements.
Now, the statistics are leading safety officials to call for better safety standards in vehicles, such as automatic emergency braking and pedestrian automatic emergency braking.
“We are now experiencing two pandemics, one involving COVID-19 and the other involving motor vehicles,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Clark. “These are preventable deaths, and should not accept them as a part of life. We can do better.”
WHAT’S BEING DONE
Recently, federal officials unveiled the National Roadway Safety Strategy, aimed at making roadways safer and reducing deaths. Among the ideas include vehicle automation, assisted driving programs, lane departure warnings, automated braking, pedestrian detectors, and automatic high beams.
Some cities, like Austin and New York, are redesigning their streets by narrowing vehicle lanes, adding features that force drivers to reduce speed for turns, and protecting pedestrians with sidewalks at intersections and islands in crosswalks.
Another concern lies in larger vehicles themselves, which are great at protecting drivers and other passengers inside in the event of a crash, but can cause devastation to drivers and passengers in other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. According to studies, the average weight of new vehicles is a record 4,000-plus pounds. Add speed to the equation, and we experience travesty.
The new Congress infrastructure bill requires federal agencies to test cars for their risk to pedestrians, as well as for states to administer road safety assessments to spur localities to lower speed limits and embrace safer road design such as dedicated bike and bus lanes, better lighting and crosswalks. The strategy also urges the use of speed cameras, which the department says could provide more equitable enforcement than police traffic stops.
Chain | Cohn | Clark reminds drivers to please slow down, never drive while under the influence, and always wear seat belts. And if you are involved in a car accident, follow these three steps:
1) Obtain the name, address, insurance information, vehicle identification number (VIN) and driver’s license number of any and all persons involved in the accident, as well as the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all witnesses.
2) Make sure that a report is filed with the police, sheriff, or highway patrol, but do not talk to anyone else, especially insurance adjusters, about the accident or sign anything without first consulting an attorney.
3) Seek medical attention immediately and explain to your physician or surgeon all of the symptoms and complaints you have been feeling since the accident occurred.
If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark by calling (661) 323-4000, or learn more about our Bakersfield law firm.