Fatal car crashes are down this year compared to 2016 data, though it’s impossible to predict whether the trend will continue. 2016 saw an increase in traffic fatalities, with over 1,000 deaths in Illinois. Drivers should be attentive and cautious on area roadways. A Chicago auto accident attorney can answer questions after a crash occurs.
Why were there more fatalities in 2016 than in recent years?
The surge in deaths in 2016 is thought to be the result of lower gas prices and higher speed limits around the state. The last year that Illinois traffic fatalities broke the 1,000 mark was in 2009.
Lower gas prices mean more people will be on the roads. People have more money and can afford to drive more often and farther. When there are more drivers, the likelihood of accidents increases. A Chicago auto accident attorney can use his or her experience to reach a fair settlement after a crash.
Speed is also a factor. Speed limits were raised on rural interstates from 65 to 70 mph in 2014. More fatalities are typically seen in states with higher speed limits. Accidents that occur at higher speeds are more likely to cause serious injuries and death than those at lower speeds. Enforcement of speed limits is on the decline. There are fewer officers to stop speeders. Illinois State Police issued over 200,000 citations in 2010, whereas just over 100,000 speeding citations were issued in 2016.
What are the causes of fatal car accidents?
Many factors can contribute to a fatal accident, including:
- Drunk driving
- Bad weather
- Using cell phones
- Daydreaming or being lost in thought
- Sleepiness or fatigue
Drunk driving is still the most common cause of fatalities in the United States, but numbers have been slowly declining since 1982. Tougher laws, public awareness, and checkpoints help reduce drunk driving accidents.
Inclement weather, including snow and ice or floods, caused an average of 17% of crash fatalities from 1995 to 2005. Drivers should monitor weather conditions and make plans to avoid driving during adverse weather. Cars should be equipped with snow tires when appropriate. Drivers should never attempt to drive through flowing water or standing water of unknown depth.
Using cell phones while driving is dangerous. Texting forces drivers to look at a phone instead of the road. Each second spent looking away increases the likelihood of a crash. It is illegal in Illinois to use hand-held phones in school zones or construction areas. Texting while driving is also prohibited. Drivers under 18 are banned from using a phone unless making an emergency call.
Rubbernecking, or turning to look at an accident, causes crashes. Drivers who are looking at an accident are not watching traffic in front of them. Cars may be rear-ended, and law enforcement officers or people on foot are at risk of being hit.
A study of 65,000 fatal accidents found that around ten percent of crashes were due to distracted driving — and 62% of those crashes were due to daydreaming. Drivers who are focused on their thoughts may not realize how sharply a road curves or recognize that a car in front of them is stopping. All drivers should remain alert, keeping their eyes and minds on the road.
Fatigue or sleepiness is also a problem for drivers. Driving while sleepy is almost as dangerous as driving while under the influence. Fatigue decreases awareness and slows reaction time. Being sleepy impairs judgment just as drugs or alcohol does. Drivers who feel tired should consider pulling over for rest as soon as possible.
An experienced Chicago auto accident attorney can provide guidance after an accident has occurred. Drivers should never admit fault as it takes some time to understand all the facts after an accident.
How can accidents be prevented?
The majority of fatal car accidents are the result of human error. With the advent of autonomous vehicles, fatal car crashes may soon be a relic of the past. Until that point, however, drivers can take steps to ensure a safe trip every time.
Drivers should always:
- Buckle up
- Inspect their vehicles regularly for damage and wear and tear
- Properly restrain children and insist that everyone wear a seatbelt
- Obey all traffic laws, including speed limits
- Be aware of other drivers
- Avoid using alcohol or cell phones, or daydreaming
What happens after an accident?
The moments after a car crash, especially if fatalities are involved, will likely be full of chaos. Medical treatment is the number-one priority.
Families may face financially ruin after a fatal crash. Insurance companies may be reluctant to pay claims. A qualified Chicago auto accident attorney understands how insurance companies work. Victims should consider discussing a case with a lawyer to ensure their rights are protected.