We all breathe a sigh of relief after we see a major car accident in Los Angeles, or anywhere we are traveling, and check to be sure that our loved ones weren’t involved. But the sad fact is that someone else’s loved ones were, and it makes us want to hold our family a little closer after we hear about a fatal motor vehicle collision.
Emotions run high during a car accident. Yet decades of studies have shown us knowledge of how these accidents occur that could save your life if you become aware of the facts. And when you share that knowledge with others, you could even save their lives, too.
A Little Bit of Car Accident History
The first car ever built was the Benz Patent Motorwagen in 1885, but the first car accident fatality was actually 17 years before that. Just prior to the invention of cars, people rode in steam carriages, which were actually quite similar to the original motor vehicles – the only real difference was that their engines ran on steam.
It was in one of these steam engine cars that Mary Ward was riding in when the driver made a sharp turn. Without seatbelts and other safety devices to keep her secure, Mrs. Ward was thrown from the car and died, causing quite a stir back then and cementing her in history as the first recorded fatality from a car accident.
If you really want to get detailed, there were others before her, but most of those were caused by engine failure rather than human error, and we want to focus on avoidable accidents.
We don’t know the whole story. We weren’t there, and there were no smartphones back then for dozens of people to capture the tragedy on video to go viral throughout history. Instead, all we have is hindsight being 20/20.
We can tsk and say that, had Mary been paying more attention, she could have braced herself better. We can say that the driver should have slowed down earlier before the sharp curve. We can say all that, but the truth is that none of it happened, and Mary died tragically.
But her death helped jumpstart the realization that more safety features were needed, sparking a timeline of inventions that continually attempt to decrease fatalities and injuries in cars. Who knows – without Mrs. Ward’s untimely death, the first seat belt – patented by Edward J. Claghorn in 1885 – may not have been invented until countless accidents later!
Car Accident Safety Facts
As early as 1901, people were realizing that automobiles needed to be regulated. Connecticut was the first state to initiate traffic laws, limiting cars to a mere 12 mph in cities and 15 mph on country roads. This sounds slow to us today, but back then it was still faster and more convenient than the previous steam engine, bicycle, and horse options.
Even over a century ago, people were already engaging in behavior that caused car accidents and fatalities, like drunk driving. In 1910, New York implemented the very first drunk driving laws, penalizing people for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Road and motor vehicle safety features have continually improved since the first car. The traffic light was implemented in 1930, seat belts became regular features in American cars in 1950, and air bags were invented in 1951.
While these historical facts may be interesting and significant, how do they pertain to you?
The fact of the matter is that these issues are just as important today as they were over a century ago, and people who ignore their importance have been the cause of millions of car accidents every year.
Car Accidents by the Numbers
It’s scary how many people are injured or killed just in the United States due to car accidents, but the economical impact is wide-reaching, too.
Here are some statistics that show exactly how big of a problem motor vehicle collisions are just in our country – although some other countries have it even worse than we do. The issue is worldwide.
- As of 2016, drivers in America spent an average of 48.4 minutes behind the wheel of their car daily.
- Over 20 billion miles are driven annually on highways in the U.S.
- In 2016, over 2.1% of drivers were seen using their handheld devices for things other than talking while they were driving. With over 222 million licensed drivers in the country, this amounts to over 4 million drivers distracted by their phones at any given time.
- Over 7 million cars were involved in accidents in 2016. Not as many as you thought? Go ahead and add the 5 million light trucks, and the 500,000 big trucks, then don’t forget the 129,000 motorcycles, 71,000 buses and 22,000 bicycles and other types of car accident collisions. Now you’re talking about over 13 million car accidents annually in the U.S. alone.
- Every year, almost 2.5 million people are injured or disabled because of a car accident.
- Of that 13 million, over 20,000 fatalities occurred in passenger car accidents, over 20,000 in light truck collisions, over 4,000 in large truck accidents, and almost 2,000 in other types of collisions. This adds up to tens of thousands of preventable deaths.
- 8,000 of those fatalities were caused by drivers between the ages of 16 and 20.
- Over 1,600 of those fatalities were children under the age of 15.
- The average amount spent on the consequences of motor vehicle accidents is $230.6 billion per year. This equates to approximately $820 per person, whether you were involved in an accident or not.
- Billions of dollars are also recouped by victims of negligent driving through personal injury lawsuits every year.
Fatal Car Accident Facts That May Save Lives
With over 30,000 deaths per year on average, fatal car accidents fill the number one spot statistically as the leading preventable cause of death in America. Over 90 people die every day in the country as the result of a car accident – and they were almost all preventable.
Between the stress of the car accident itself, the money you will be out trying to fix your car, the increase in your insurance, the ticket you have to pay for neglectful driving, the possibility of getting sued by the injured parties, and all of the other basic stresses that come with causing an accident, you do not want to be dealing with a charge of vehicular manslaughter, too, especially since California’s penalties for this are harsh.
Here are the main reasons for fatal car accidents and how you can use the knowledge of them to avoid a collision:
- Distracted driving – Quickly surpassing “driving under the influence” as one of the largest reasons for fatal car accidents, distracted driving is a hot topic and currently under legislation in just about every state in the country. Distracted driving means engaging in any behavior that distracts you from the road.
To ensure that your distractions don’t cause an accident for which you are responsible, you need to avoid: using your phone, eating and drinking, being focused on your conversation with your passengers to the point that you are neglecting the road, grooming, reading a map or anything else, using your navigation system in a way that distracts you from the road, watching videos, fiddling with your radio or other music, and anything else that pulls your focus from paying attention to what is going on in front, to the side, and behind you while you are driving.
Does this sound too harsh? It’s still less harsh than the penalty you will get if you cause an accident in Los Angeles or anywhere else in the country. All of these are ticketable offenses under the distracted driving law. It’s possible that you may even receive jail time if your distractions lead to the death of another person.
2. Texting while driving – Although it also falls under distracted driving, texting while driving is such a problem that it even has its own law. Over one million car accidents occur because of the driver texting. Out of the 90 fatalities daily across the country, 11 of them on average are teens that were texting and driving.
The research shows that texting while driving increases your likelihood to get in an accident by over 23 times and is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving while under the influence of alcohol. In fact, texting while driving is equivalent to driving after you have had four beers.
3. Driving under the influence of alcohol – Still a problem even after the inception of laws against this behavior in the early 1900s, drinking and driving has killed over 10,000 people a year. Over 300,000 people drive while drunk daily, but only a small fraction of them are caught and arrested. Sadly, the average drunk driver has gotten away with driving drunk more than 80 times before they are arrested – potentially causing untold amounts of damage.
Statistically, men are more likely than women to drive after drinking, but the problem is so prevalent that an average of 1 in 3 people will have to deal with being involved in a car accident due to drunk driving at some point in their lives, even if they are the victim of someone else’s negligent choices.
Were You Involved in an Accident Involving a Fatality?
Between following the speed limit law, wearing your seat belt, and following traffic laws, you should be able to avoid being injured or dying in an accident, but you also need to ensure that you are not driving while distracted, texting, or under the influence. However, even if you are a perfect driver, it’s still possible to be involved in an accident due to someone else’s poor behavior, and you may even be in a car accident where someone you love is fatally injured.
If you lost someone close to you because of someone else’s negligence that caused a car accident, you are not alone. Let the experts at Hershey Law take care of the legal necessities so that you can focus on your grief and healing. Call today for your free consultation to see how they can help you through this difficult time.