According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the significant increase in auto accident fatality rates in 2015 may be attributed to a combination of improved economic conditions along with negligent driving behaviors, including drunk driving, distracted driving and failing to wear seat belts. The NHTSA and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx reported that the auto accident fatality rates increased by 7.2 percent in 2015, the biggest single-year increase in death rates since 1966. While experts are uncertain about the specific causes of the increase, they believe that the improved economic conditions and a corresponding increase in traffic on the nation’s highways have led to an increased number of accidents and fatalities. An auto accident lawyer in Chicago will analyze an individual case to determine the cause as well as to determine liability.
Safety Improvements Led To Years Of Declines
In the past few decades, car manufacturers have made great advances in safety technology for automobiles. Such features as blind-spot warning systems, automatic braking systems, backing cameras and others have resulted in a substantial decrease in the number of traffic deaths. Ten years ago, 42,708 people were killed in motor vehicle collisions. In 2015, the NHTSA reports that 35,092 people died in motor vehicle crashes. While this is 25 percent less than the number of deaths from a decade ago, it is concerning that such a large increase happened in a single year despite the safety options in today’s cars.
The economy has been improving in the last few years. Part of that economic recovery has been growth in the job market and a reduction in the unemployment rates. As more people have gained employment, the number of vehicles traveling on the roads has also increased. At the same time, gas prices have fallen significantly with the dropping prices of oil. The vehicle miles traveled in 2015 was 3.5 percent higher than the number of vehicle miles traveled in 2014. This was the biggest increase in miles traveled per vehicle in a quarter century. When more people are on the road, an auto accident lawyer in Chicago knows that more negligent drivers are also driving, risking the lives of other people traveling around them.
Negligent Driving Behavioral Factors
An auto accident lawyer in Chicago works with cases involving different types of negligent driving behaviors. Some of these include drowsy driving, drunk driving and distracted driving. As an increasing percentage of people have smartphones, distracted driving has become a serious problem. The NHTSA and safety experts concur. The data from 2015 demonstrates the persistence of the problems of drunk driving and failures to wear seat belts. In the fatal accidents from 2015, more than half involved car occupants who were not wearing their safety belts at the time that the accidents occurred.
Call For Research
The U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx responded to the data by issuing a call for researchers to investigate the reasons why the increase occurred. The hope is that additional research will lend guidance into steps that can be taken to reduce the fatality rates and help them continue on their downward trajectories.
When Fatal Accidents Happen
The statistics do not discuss what happens when families lose loved ones in fatal motor vehicle accidents. When a family experiences the sudden loss of a loved one, the family may be left dealing with both economic losses and noneconomic losses. An auto accident lawyer in Chicago analyzes the facts of what happened in order to determine who was at fault. If the at-fault driver’s actions resulted in the death of the family’s loved one, the attorney then conducts an assessment of the losses that have been and may be incurred.
This may involve using the help of financial and medical experts. Doing so allows the lawyer to provide an analysis to the family about the likelihood of recovery and the amount that might be expected. He or she may then negotiate with the insurance company in order to try to secure a recovery amount within the range that the attorney believes the family should receive. If a settlement is not reachable, the auto accident lawyer in Chicago may then file a wrongful death civil lawsuit on behalf of his or her clients. The amount and types of damages will depend on the facts of the case. Typical damages may include medical expenses incurred before the loved one succumbed to his or her injuries, lost income, lost inheritance rights, lost companionship and guidance and pain and suffering the victim experienced before dying.
Agencies like the NHTSA work to reduce traffic fatalities with the eventual hope that they will cease to occur. Curbing problematic driving behaviors that lead to fatal accidents must happen so that the fatality rates decline no matter the number of people traveling on the roadways.