Car accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the United States – in fact they are the number one cause of death for teens aged 15-20. These preventable crashes drain our economy of $292 billion annually. As a personal injury attorney, I see first-hand the physical, emotional and monetary toll these accidents have on victims and their families.
In 2015, an estimated 30,092 people lost their lives and millions more were injured on our Nation’s roadways. This fatality rate is up 7.3% from 2014 to 2015. And what’s even more alarming is that 94% of these crashes were caused by human error.
In response to this disturbing upward trend, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a strategic safety plan for 2017 and beyond.
This strategic plan, “The Road Ahead“, outlines the three areas the NTHSA feels they need to address in order to deliver a future free from motor vehicle fatalities. Through innovative partnerships and strategies, the NHTSA plans to address the following key areas:
- Proactive vehicle safety by holding automobile manufacturers and suppliers to the highest safety standards, detecting defects sooner, and enhancing recall participation.
- Advanced vehicle safety technologies, which will focus on developing automated safety features like lane detection warnings, automated braking, and eventually delivering fully automated, self-driving cars to market (see the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy).
- Addressing human factors such as drunk, drugged, distracted and drowsy driving, and working with law enforcement agencies to crack down on these types of violations before they cause accidents.
On paper this elaborate plan sounds great. Yes, we do have the ability through technological advancements to make our roadways and vehicles safer. And, in the last 40 years, we’ve made enormous strides in that area.
But with all of these safety features and automations – it is still the human factor that remains the wild card. No matter how safe we make the cars and the technology to operate them – human natures dictates that people will still make bad choices.
They drive too fast for road conditions. They drive recklessly. They drive drunk and high. They send texts and use social media while driving.
Driving is a privilege. Along with that privilege comes the responsibility of operating your vehicle in a safe and prudent manner. We all have the power to help eliminate these very preventable crashes. As we kick-off 2017, one new year’s resolution everyone should make is to never drive impaired or distracted.
Matt Casey is a partner with Casey & Devoti, a St. Louis-based personal injury law firm. He handles a wide variety of personal injury cases, including automobile, truck and train accidents, medical malpractice, product and premises liability, elder care and sexual abuse, Workers’ Compensation, and wrongful death. Matt and his law partner, Matt Devoti, are also authorized speakers for EndDD.org’s ‘End Distracted Driving’ Student Awareness Program.