Traffic statistics on injuries and fatalities were moving in the right direction about 10 years ago when traffic administrators, federal and state officials could boast that our nation’s highways were becoming safer. The reasons? Most pointed to stricter laws on drunk driving, seat belt enforcement, helmets for motorcyclists and concerted safety campaigns. However, the good news has soured over the past 2 years with the National Safety Council having recently released its 2016 statistics indicating that traffic deaths exceeded 40,000 for the first time since 2007. Deaths were up 7% in 2015 and matched last year for a 14% overall rise in the past 2 years. This is the largest increase in more than 50 years.
The culprit in the carnage returning to our highways is blamed on technology and more specifically, smartphones. While just a few years ago traffic safety analysts were concerned about people texting and calling on their phones, the tidal wave of apps has increased the risk of driving-while-distracted to new and dangerous heights.
Many cars are now equipped with Bluetooth devices that offer hands-free calling but apps are a different story. Popular apps that motorists are using include Wayze, a GPS device that encourages motorists to report potholes, police activity, stopped vehicles and traffic snarls. This requires users or Wayzers to use their phone while driving. Even more dangerous is that motorists are using Snapchat to record their speed and video their reactions. In two incidents, drivers were killed or injured while using the app to record speeds of up to 115 mph.
Other apps like Facebook, Google and Pokemon Go seemingly encourage or at least tempt drivers to play games, research nearby clubs or restaurants or to alert their friends of their current status, regardless if they are driving. Of course, texting and calling still occurs in increasing numbers despite most drivers being aware that they are putting themselves and others at risk.
Other Factors at Play in Car Accidents
Traffic safety experts, however, are quick to point out that the increase is also due to lax enforcement of current laws. Only 15 states allow police to stop you for not wearing a seat belt unless you have committed some other traffic violation first. Only 18 states require seat belts be worn by front and rear passengers. Massachusetts has consistently ranked near the bottom nationally in overall seat belt use.
Drunk driving laws are not as enforced as strictly as they once were some report. And speed limits have increased in recent years as well. Texas, for example, allows speeds of up to 85 mph! Budget cuts have reduced the size of police departments that may account for the lack of strict enforcement of many traffic laws.
Recent Safety Measures
Cars are becoming safer, though. As indicated, new cars have Bluetooth as standard equipment. Voice recognition software allows you to verbalize texts and to dial numbers. CarPlay is a device that allows Siri on your smartphone to be your personal secretary while driving and to answer calls and dictate texts among other features.
All of these measures, however, still require drivers to focus on something other than driving. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, whose book Unsafe at any Speed, published in 1965, led to substantial changes in motor vehicle safety, has argued for more basic measures such as requiring everyone to wear a seatbelt, to ban any use of smartphones while driving and to install speed cameras. While we wait for the coming of autonomous vehicles, that will reportedly eliminate the human element of driving, stricter enforcement of current laws just makes sense.
Liability and Damages in Car Accidents
If you were injured by a distracted driver, you may have an injury claim based on the negligent conduct of the motorist. All motorists are required to exercise ordinary care while driving, which means obeying the traffic laws, keeping a safe distance from other cars and bicyclists and being cautious. Using a hands-free smartphone or even Bluetooth while driving that takes the driver’s attention away from the road and leads to an accident is a breach of the duty to use due care while driving. This is a concept that can be explained by your car accident lawyer.
Damages in a car accident caused by a distracted driver may include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future wage loss
- Loss of earning capacity
- Exacerbation of a pre-existing condition
- Emotional trauma
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Diminution in quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
Consult Car Accident Lawyer Neil Burns
An injury claim is often more complex than it appears on its face. A case of seemingly clear liability can be complicated when the other driver denies liability or claims some other factor caused the accident and there are no witnesses. Gathering the necessary documentation and evidence to prove liability and damages takes the skills of a veteran personal injury lawyer such as Neil Burns. Even if liability is clear, the insurance defense industry will pick apart medical records in an attempt to reduce responsibility. You will also want your car accident lawyer to consider other potential liable parties and other sources of compensation so as to maximize the compensation to which you are entitled.
Call the Law office of Neil Burns today for a free analysis of your injury claim. Statistics consistently show that injured claimants receive far more in compensation if represented by competent legal counsel than if handled by themselves, even taking into account legal fees.