Understanding the Surge in U.S. Traffic Fatalities: An In-Depth Analysis


Throughout the initial century of the automobile's existence, safety had been on the ascent. In the 1920s, however, the United States faced a grim reality as the death toll from vehicle crashes soared, capturing gruesome images that became a regular feature in newspapers. Fast forward to 2010, and the concerted efforts towards improved road and vehicle design, seatbelt usage, and increased awareness of drunk driving had successfully slashed the death rate by almost 90 percent from its 1920s peak.

The Reversal: Regrettably, this trend of progress began to reverse about a decade ago, particularly in the United States. Despite a global decline in vehicle deaths, the U.S. witnessed an alarming rise. To put this into perspective, if the U.S. had matched the advancements of other high-income countries over the past two decades, approximately 25,000 fewer Americans would succumb to fatal accidents each year.

Unraveling the Mystery: In a recent story by our colleagues Emily Badger, Ben Blatt, and Josh Katz, efforts are made to unravel the mystery behind this outlier status. The focus is on a specific aspect — the surge in pedestrian deaths, particularly at night.

The Smartphone Dilemma: Numerous potential explanations for this concerning trend have been considered. Notably, the size of cars in the U.S. has not increased significantly, drunken driving remains stable, and roads are not becoming more perilous. The one major shift in driver behavior is the adoption of smartphones.

As Emily, Ben, and Josh emphasize, "Smartphones have become ubiquitous with remarkable speed, overlapping closely with the timeline of rising pedestrian deaths." Despite smartphones being prevalent globally, American drivers seem uniquely addicted, spending more time on their phones while driving compared to drivers in other countries. This addiction is attributed to cultural values and the widespread use of automatic transmission cars in the U.S., allowing drivers to use their phones more freely.

Contributing Factors: Beyond smartphones, other factors contribute to this complex issue. The spread of legal marijuana, the rise in opioid addiction, and a federal study indicating drug involvement in half of serious accidents are all part of the puzzle. The Sun Belt's population growth, lacking infrastructure, and the recent increase in homelessness also play a role.

Potential Solutions: While some problems are inherently challenging to solve, promising solutions exist. Building safe sidewalks, mirroring successful European models, is cost-effective, and implementing traffic cameras to identify distracted drivers, coupled with significant fines, is feasible. However, these solutions require the commitment of state and local governments.

The alarming rise in U.S. traffic deaths demands a comprehensive approach. From addressing smartphone addiction to tackling substance abuse and improving infrastructure, we must collectively work towards safer roads. Recent tragic incidents highlight the urgency of acting, reminding us that every fatality is a human tragedy that could be prevented. It is time for a concerted effort to reverse this troubling trend and prioritize the safety of all road users.

At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC we follow the statistics involving accidents and deaths. This allows us to better represent our clients because it gives us information on where to find evidence. For example, we may subpoena telephone records of drivers who cause accidents. We can request information from the “black boxes” which are in every automobile and big truck. If alcohol is involved, we can attempt to find where and how the intoxicated person obtained his alcohol. Did a nightclub, bar, or restaurant serve an obviously intoxicated person? Was a minor served? These are the facts we track down to fully serve our clients.

Over our 43 years of serving the people of Mississippi, we have handled more automobile and truck cases than we can remember. Let us be your experienced and faithful voice for justice. There is one matter upon which I can assure you and it is we will push your case as fast as possible and seek to recover every dollar you deserve. 

Call (601) 265-7766 or click here to speak with an attorney.

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