Traffic fatalities were going down. The push to reduce traffic fatalities began decades ago. This push was primarily associated with reducing the number of accidents connected to drunk driving. A combination of education efforts, laws put in place making it illegal to drink and drive, steep penalties for violating these laws and increased enforcement measures was used, and it worked.
Unfortunately, things have changed. Last year, according to a recent report by the Chicago Tribune, the nation had the largest increase in traffic fatalities in over 50 years. The statistics for this year are just as dire. The first six months already show an increase in nine percent over last year's numbers.
So what's different? It appears two main factors have led to this increase:
- Economic improvement. For many families, economic times are getting better. Families can afford not only to have a vehicle but to put gas in it and use the vehicle to get to work, go to shopping centers and head out for vacation. This translates to more cars on the road which results in more accidents.
- Distracted driving. Safety advocates refer to distracted driving as a national "epidemic". Lawmakers throughout the country are attempting to reduce the temptation of using a smart phone while driving. Some proposals are considering legalizing the use of a "totalizer" by officers responding to accident scenes. This tool is designed to work like a type of breathalyzer for phone use while driving. Instead of testing a driver's breath for the presence of alcohol, it would test a person's phone to see if it was in use prior to an accident.
- Increased speed limits. A rise in speed limits is also thought to contribute to this increase. Increased speed limits are estimated to be responsible for a 3 percent increase in fatalities.
Fatalities due to car accidents are projected to reach 40,000 this year. If true, this would be the highest number of traffic fatalities since 2007. These three factors are thought to play a significant role in this increase.
What can victims do? Those who are injured due to another driver's negligence, whether in the form of distracted driving, speeding or another cause, are likely eligible to receive compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. This can result in monetary awards to help cover the costs associated with the accident. Costs like medical bills and physical therapy as well as lost wages.