The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports car accident fatalities went from 33,244 in 2019 to 42,060 in 2020—despite the Covid pandemic that kept many people at home. When put into a different perspective, these numbers are troubling (e.g., there are almost 5 roadway fatalities every hour in the U.S.).
The Human Factor in Car Accidents
If technology is making cars safer, then why are they killing so many people? The answer might surprise you. It’s not faulty computer programing, defective AI, or gremlins. Cars are killing more people largely because of one factor: the human factor. It’s you… It’s me… It’s all of us.
Humans are able to undermine a vehicle’s best safety features, such as forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, and land-departure warning.
Data shows the largest cause of motor vehicle fatalities is distracted driving. Distracted driving includes the use of cell phones (texting, dialing a phone number, playing games, or internet surfing), fumbling with complex in-car infotainment systems, looking at other people or things in the car, and looking at car crashes.
Driving While Impaired
Data also shows that driving while impaired and speed are major causes of car accident deaths. This includes driving after taking narcotics, drinking alcohol, while tired, while emotionally upset, and going at speeds that prevent safe control of the vehicle. Based on observation and news stories, it appears alcohol and drug use increased during the pandemic. The NHTSA reported an increase in the use of mind-altering substances among seriously and fatally injured drivers in 2020. That will likely continue as we break from the pandemic.
Researchers believe speeding factors into at least 33% of motor vehicle fatalities. Increased speed decreases the necessary time to avoid a crash. Increased speed increases the forces between two objects, which translates to increased forces on the body and increased injuries. During the pandemic, speeds increased by 22% in major cities. Rural areas likely saw an even greater increase.
The other odd effect of the pandemic was that seatbelt use decreased. Data shows ejection rates in car crashes increased significantly in the first half of 2020. Many of these deaths were completely avoidable.
Things are only going to get worse as people break out of isolation. People are going to start traveling more, all while other people are continuing pandemic activities like bicycling and walking. Roadways are slowly filling up. Drivers and pedestrians are interacting more frequently. It sounds odd, but people need to relearn how to be safe in these interactions.
Virtually all of the major causes of crash fatalities are human factors. Today’s technology cannot eliminate them. One reason is because very few vehicles have the technology. Older vehicles cannot be retrofitted with the technology. Also, when manufacturers charge extra for certain safety features, people are prone to opt out. Another reason is there are no unifying standards for safety measures. Yet another reason, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, some drivers become overconfident and over reliant on a vehicle’s advanced safety features, which increases the risk of a crash.
Prevent Car Accident Fatalities
This may sound frightening, but there are things you can do to prevent a fatal car accident. You should always be extra alert when driving, including during periods when accidents are likely (e.g., on weekend nights, during weekday rush-hour traffic, and during holidays). It goes without saying, do not drive while impaired—either due to alcohol, drugs, or fatigue. Ignore your cell phone or use hands-free tools. Ensure everyone in the car is wearing a working seatbelt. Obey all road signs and traffic signals, and drive at a speed that is reasonable under the circumstances (i.e., not faster than surrounding traffic, go slower if dark or in bad weather, and leave more than 3 car lengths between you and the vehicle ahead so you can slow down ahead of time as traffic slows).
You can greatly lower your chances of being involved in a fatal car accident by taking the protective measures suggested above, as well as using standard defensive driving techniques. If you are injured or a family member is killed in a car accident, the car accident lawyers at Gage Mathers will be there to help you through the process of obtaining the compensation you deserve.
Read the article online: “If Modern Cars Are Safer, Why Are They Killing More Of Us?”
And to read more about Arizona law regarding car accidents, medical malpractice and personal injury, visit our Featured Articles page.