The increase in traffic deaths between 2014 and 2015 was notable. Now, we have learned this trend has continued, with an 8 percent uptick in roadway fatalities in the first nine months of 2016. There were nearly 28,000 motor vehicle deaths reported in the first three quarters of last year, compared with the 25,800 reported during the same time frame a year earlier.
Some have opined that an increase in travel is a major culprit, citing lower gas prices and the improving economy. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports there was only a 3 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled during this time frame, compared to an 8 percent increase in crash deaths. So while it may account for some of the problem, the problem can’t be pinned entirely on more travel.
Analysts say some of the problem undoubtedly stems from driver distraction, primarily involving our collective pre-occupation with our smartphones. Another element to consider is the ever-expanding legalization of marijuana. Although the medical benefits may be up for debate, there is no question that it can cognitively impair users, which can be deadly behind the wheel.
In North Carolina, we don’t have 2016 crash data yet. However, in looking at 2015 Traffic Crash Facts from the North Carolina Department of Transportation, we know there was a marked increase in traffic deaths that year as compared to the year before. Specifically:
- There were 252,000 reportable crashes in 2015 compared to 226,500 in 2014 (an 11 percent increase).
- There were 1,380 car accident deaths in North Carolina in 2015, compared to 1,277 in 2014 (an 8 percent increase).
- There were 124,000 car accident injuries in the state in 2015, compared to 110,500 the year before (a 12 percent increase).
- There were 195 pedestrians killed in 2015, compared to 170 in 2015 (a 15 percent increase).
- In Buncombe County, the 10-year average annual number of traffic deaths is 29. In 2015, it was 38 – and increase of 31 percent).
- The number of vehicle miles traveled statewide increased, going to 111,900 in 2015, compared to 108,000 in 2014 (an almost 4 percent increase).
Clearly, this data shows too that vehicle miles traveled can’t account for the entire problem. This is especially true when we consider the fact that motor vehicles have really never been safer.
Of course, there are ongoing issues with manufacturer defects (no doubt you’ve heard about the problems with faulty airbags, ignition switch errors and faulty gas pedals). However, the fact is that cars and light trucks are being built according to standards that are set higher than ever. For example, almost all vehicles are now equipped with rear view cameras and electronic stability control as standard elements. Increasingly, cars are being made with other features like emergency brakes that are automatic, blind spots that are carefully monitored and cruise control that is adaptive. These kinds of features, when they first became available, used to only be included in luxury vehicles.
Our Asheville accident attorneys recognize that the majority of crashes are caused due to driver negligence. Self-driving automobiles could curb this to some extent, but those are still in the experimental phases. The U.S. Department of Transportation did recently choose the North Carolina Turnpike as one of the pilot testing sites for automated vehicle technologies (one of 10 out of 60 applicants), but we’re still years away from having this type of technology widely available.
In the meantime, our dedicated injury lawyers will fight to ensure our clients’ rights are protected and their interests furthered. In many cases, there may be multiple defendants and numerous sources from which to seek compensation.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Surge in Traffic Deaths Outpaces Increase in Travel, Jan. 13, 2017, Associated Press
More Blog Entries:
Study: Pedestrian Accidents Are a Major Problem in the South, Jan. 23, 2017, Asheville Car Accident Lawyer Blog