Early estimates from the National Safety Council are that motor vehicle fatalities have increased for the first time in five years, with some 36,000 people killed on U.S. roadways last year.
Our Asheville car accident attorneys know that this represents a 5 percent upswing from the year before, and the first time we’ve seen this kind of trend since 2005. It’s not just fatalities either. Serious injuries due to motor vehicle crashes also rose by 5 percent during this time frame, with nearly 4 million people receiving medical treatment.
There are a number of reasons why.
To start, the number of total miles driven has steadily climbed since late 2011. A lot of this has to do with the fact that our economic recovery has continued to make strides, meaning more people are driving to and from work or otherwise have gas money to be traveling. Also, while there were a number of significant snowstorms throughout 2012, overall we had a fairly mild winter season. Inclement weather can be a major contributing factor to crashes. Less of it would seem to indicate fewer crashes, but instead, it led to more people willing to brave the roads, which in turn led to more traffic deaths.
The NSC hypothesizes the bigger reason why we experienced such a surge has to do with distracted driving, particularly among teenagers and with specific regard to cell phone use and text messaging. Cell phones and text messages have been around for a while, but the technology we have at our fingertips makes it easier than ever to check our e-mail, surf the web and engage in conversations from anywhere.
As of the beginning of 2012, there were nearly 91.5 million smartphones in the U.S., with 90 percent of those users engaging multiple times daily, according to Gpo-Gulf.com. The most popular features on those phones is texting, followed by internet browsing followed by games. Smartphone users tend to be younger, with more than 60 percent between the ages of 25 and 34. Teens also make up a significant number. For younger drivers, who tend to be especially wrapped up in social interactions, this can be a powerful distraction – and a deadly one when they’re driving.
In addition to the irreplaceable and devastating loss of human life that motor vehicle crashes cost us each year, the NSC noted that there are serious financial implications as well. In terms of lost wages, medical expenses, productivity and property damage, the estimated cost of motor vehicle deaths and injuries last year topped $276 billion. That’s also a five percent increase from the previous year.
The most dangerous months last year were July and August, with 3,370 and 3,360 deaths, respectively. Again, one might expect winter to produce more crashes, but bad weather causes people to drive less. People tend to be out and about more in the summer months, and school is out, meaning teens are more likely to be driving throughout the day. That trend hasn’t changed in the last five years.
We realize it’s already February – a bit late by most standards to initiate a New Year’s Resolution. However, in light of this new information, we would urge everyone on North Carolina’s roadways to renew their commitment to being a safer driver this year.
Make sure you do the following, every time the keys go in the ignition:
- Always wear your seat belt.
- Never drink alcohol or consume drugs before driving.
- Obey the speed limits, and go slower if the conditions require it.
- Keep your passenger level to a minimum, if you can, to reduce distractions.
- Put your cell phone away. Your calls, e-mails, texts and social media updates can wait.
- Maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.
- Be considerate. Remember that people in the other vehicles engage in behaviors that are aggravating, but it’s almost always best to let it go.
- If you notice someone who is driving erratically or dangerously, keep a safe distance and call police.
Contact the Asheville injury attorneys at Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. by calling 1.800.533.6845.
National Safety Council Estimates First National Increase in Traffic Deaths Since 2005, Feb. 19, 2013, National Safety Council
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Submerged Vehicle Survival in the Carolinas – What You Need to Know, Feb. 11, 2013, Asheville Car Accident Lawyer Blog