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This past summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a rather sobering report indicating that the number of traffic fatalities here in the U.S. rose by an astounding 7.7 percent in 2015, marking the first annual increase in three years.

While we were hoping to see a reversal of this unsettling trend as soon as possible, a report released by the NHTSA just yesterday shows that we are on track for another disappointing -- and deadly -- year on the nation's road and highways.

What did the report find?

The NHTSA report indicated that preliminary estimates show that the number of traffic fatalities increased by 10.4 percent during the first half of 2016, reaching 17,775. Breaking the numbers down further, this marks the seventh consecutive quarter in which fatalities have risen when compared to the same time during the previous year.

Why did the first six months of 2016 see a spike in traffic deaths?

The NHTSA report offered little in the way of explanation as to why traffic deaths rose outside of citing a 3.3 percent increase in the number of miles driven. Specifically, the theory is that with the economy improving and gas prices remaining stable, there are more people out driving and, by extension, an elevated accident risk.

The National Safety Council, however, has its own theories.

What does the NSC identify as the causes of the spike in traffic deaths?

The NSC attributes the increase in traffic deaths to such familiar factors as distracted driving, impaired driving and drivers failing to buckle up.

Does the federal government have any plans to address these unacceptably high numbers?

The good news is that there is a plan underway to help reduce the number of traffic deaths on the nation's roads and highways. Indeed, officials with the NHTSA, Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently announced that their agencies would be teaming up with the NSC to form the Road to Zero coalition, whose goal is to end all traffic fatalities within the next 30 years.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Transportation has pledged $1 million per year in grant money for the next three years to be provided to those organizations working on the development of lifesaving equipment, such as autonomous vehicle technology, automatic ignition interlocks and vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems.

Here's hoping these efforts prove effective and that we start to see these numbers plummet.

In the meantime, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one because of the reckless actions of another behind the wheel.

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