2016: A record year for fatal accidents

Fatal accident rates rose sharply in 2016.

Preliminary data provided by the National Safety Council, a nonprofit safety organization, shows a troubling uptick in the number of fatal car accidents across America. The NSC reports that 40,200 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, a six percent rise over the previous year, and a 14 percent increase since 2014. This was the first time that NSC data (derived from the National Center for Health Statistics' cause of death criteria) showed more than 40,000 accident fatalities since 2007. More than 4 million injuries occurred in traffic collisions during the same period. Accident injuries and deaths cost the American economy an estimated $432 billion in 2016 in the form of medical expenses, property damage, lost wages/productivity, administrative expenditures and other related costs.

Connecticut roadways proved to be even more dangerous than the national average, with an eight percent rise in deadly crashes. Tragically, 309 people were killed in auto accidents in the state in 2016, compared to 283 in 2015 and just 249 in 2014. The two-year accident rate increase on our state's roads was even more dramatic: 23 percent.

Turning the tide

The NSC has offered several different initiative and legislative ideas which, if implemented nationwide, have the potential to dramatically lower the number of injury-causing and fatal accidents. These are broadly focused on two areas, legislation and public safety campaigns. The public safety aspect has to deal specifically with increasing awareness of pedestrians who share the nation's roadways, including providing reminders to drivers to be on the lookout for pedestrians and refresher courses on pedestrian safety tips.

The legislative ideas are more varied, and have to deal with many different aspects of safe vehicle operation and travel. They include:

  • A nationwide, graduated, three-tiered licensing program for all "novice" drivers under the age of 21 (current legislation caps out tiered licensing for drivers once they hit the age of 18)
  • Mandatory ignition interlock system installation and use for all drivers convicted of DUI/DWI/OUI/OWI (even first offenses)
  • Increased use of automated speed and red light enforcement cameras to catch irresponsible drivers before accidents can happen
  • Banning all cellphone use (handheld and hands-free alike) for all drivers behind the wheel across the country, and ensuring that using any type of cellphone to talk or text while driving is a primary offense
  • Requiring automakers to install life-saving crash prevention technologies as standard equipment in all new cars (including lane deviation warning systems, blind spot warnings, rear view cameras and emergency automatic braking)
  • Mandatory helmet use for all motorcyclists and bicyclists (and their passengers) across the country

It should be noted that the NSC is not a legislative or regulatory body, just a watchdog group, so all their potentially life-saving ideas are theoretical (even if backed by data and persuasive anecdotal information). It must also be noted that these initiative suggestions, while all good ones, are not necessarily in response to specific facts indicating the real reason behind the sharp rise in accidents in recent years. There was a three percent rise in miles driven year-over-year from 2015 to 2016, but safety experts don't think that the relatively modest rise in mileage could alone account for the increase in crashes.

Even the safest, most conscientious driver could be hurt in an accident because of the reckless or negligent behavior of a fellow motorist. Have you or someone you love been seriously injured by a drunk, distracted or speeding driver? Have you tragically lost a loved one in a fatal crash? If so, you have legal rights. Schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney at the Wallingford law offices of Loughlin Fitzgerald by calling toll free at 866-475-8805 or sending an email.