Fatal Traffic Accidents on the Rise: Increasing Danger of Death in Crashes Involving Cars, Trucks, Pedestrians, Bicyclists

Fatal Traffic Accidents on the Rise: Increasing Danger of Death in Crashes Involving Cars, Trucks, Pedestrians, Bicyclists

When there is a serious accident here in Indiana or Illinois involving any kind of motor vehicle, one of the first questions that arises — from a legal perspective — is whether or not the driver that caused the crash was acting as a reasonable and prudent person would be doing at that point in time. It’s a key question regardless of whether or not the driver was operating a small sedan, a minivan, a big SUV or even a school bus or semi-truck.

Why? If the answer is “no,” then the driver is considered negligent under state liability laws and can be held responsible for what has happened.

Part of determining how reasonable the actions of that driver were at the time of the crash involves knowing the laws and regulations that apply to his operation of the motor vehicle, as well as to the vehicle itself. There are speed limits, for instance. Was he speeding? There are laws against driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Was he drunk or drugged?

And there are concerns to be investigated regarding the vehicle itself. For instance, was it equipped with a Takata air bag? If so, was this known defect and dangerous product the underlying cause of the accident? If there is a product defect, then the liability claim can proceed against the product manufacturer under state products liability laws.

It’s amazing how advanced technology seems to be these days: think of it, we’ve got self-driving cars and semi-trucks operating on American roads now! These advancements would suggest that we would have safer roads for our loved ones to use as drivers or passengers or even pedestrians, right? Well, no.

It’s still very dangerous to be driving on roads here — and it’s becoming more and more dangerous for people who are walking alongside streets as well as people riding bicycles, too.

More People Are Dying in Traffic Accidents

New statistics have just been released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the year 2015. According to NHTSA, the number of people dying in motor vehicle accidents is rising. Compared to the year before, in 2015 there was a 7.7% jump in traffic fatalities in this country.

You can read the full report here.

One of the most disturbing facts released in this report is the jump in deaths involving pedestrians and bicyclists. We’ve warned about the growing dangers to people walking and riding bikes in an earlier post, as well as the rising danger of crashes with semi-trucks.

What’s going on? Why are we seeing more traffic deaths while cars are becoming more and more technologically advanced?

NHTSA’s Administrator gave a partial explanation:

“As the economy has improved and gas prices have fallen, more Americans are driving more miles. But that only explains part of the increase. Ninety-four percent of crashes can be tied back to a human choice or error, so we know we need to focus our efforts on improving human behavior while promoting vehicle technology that not only protects people in crashes, but helps prevent crashes in the first place.”

Fighting Back for Safety: Federal Regulations

Which means that the government’s viewpoint on combating the danger of death in traffic accidents in this country is to try and fight the real problem of drivers who do not act reasonably and prudently and are the cause of the fatal accident. How to do this? Apparently, by increasing the automation of the vehicle itself so that the driver has less and less chance to make a fatal error while operating his car, truck, SUV, or minivan.

1. The Transportation Department is Working With Car Makers for Greater Safety Features

For instance, the federal government is trying to combat the traffic death trend by a variety of programs pushing for car makers to create and provide more automated safety technologies. In fact, President Obama wants Congress to fund $4 Billion in developing and implementing automated safety technologies in American cars over the next ten years.

These include Automatic Crash Notification; Automatic Emergency Braking; Forward Collision Warning; and Pedestrian Crash Avoidance and Mitigation. For videos that detail how each of these automated technologies work, check out SaferCar.Gov.

Already, the federal government has an agreement with the major American car manufacturers to have their products include automatic emergency braking as a standard feature. This should be fully in place by model year 2022. And, the automated safety technology “Electronic Stability Control” (ESC) for U.S motor vehicles has been standard in American makes since model year 2012.

2. New FMCSA Rule for Big Rig Passengers

Other efforts are being made to promote more “old school” technologies to save lives. For instance, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has just imposed a new safety rule for all truck drivers who operate big rigs, semi trucks, 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, etc., on our roads while carrying a passenger with them in their cabs. Beginning August 8, 2016, those passengers are required by law to wear a seat belt — and it is the responsibility of that trucker to make sure the law is followed by that passenger.

The final rule appears in 49 CFR Part 392 and reads in part:

FMCSA revises the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) by requiring passengers in property-carrying commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to use the seat belt assembly whenever the vehicles are operated on public roads in interstate commerce. This rule holds motor carriers and drivers responsible for ensuring that passengers riding in the property-carrying CMV are using the seat belts required by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs). DATES: This rule is effective August 8, 2016.


Will the push to automate vehicles make our roads safer? That’s not clear — those gizmos can fail, too, they aren’t perfection. However, the reality is that more and more folk are dying in fatal car crashes and truck accidents in this country and for their families, friends, and loved ones it’s a tragedy that demands justice.

Whether it’s a negligent driver or a defective product, the truth is death in a motor vehicle accident is a growing danger and risk right now. Be careful out there!

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