A preliminary report released by the U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveal some disturbing findings about traffic fatalities in the United States as 2015 saw an increase of almost 3000 traffic fatalities versus 2014. Data from 2014 documented 32,675 motor vehicle traffic deaths while more than 35,200 people lost their lives in traffic deaths in 2015, the highest number motor vehicle traffic fatalities since 2008, which recorded 37,423 fatalities from motor vehicle crashes.

NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind explained 94% of crashes are caused by “human choice or error” involving distracted driving, intoxicated driving due to drugs or alcohol, texting and driving, speeding, and failure to use safety equipment such as seat belts and child safety seats. Lower gas prices resulted in more vehicles on roadways and may also partly explain the increase in traffic deaths.

Pedestrians and bicyclists suffered the most significant increase in fatalities from motor vehicle crashes. Fatalities involving younger drivers aged 15-20 years old increased 10% in 2015, and crashes with big trucks saw a 4% increase in fatalities.

The task now for officials at the local, state and national levels is to implore drivers to improve their behavior behind the wheel, and to encourage automakers to develop and improve technology designed to help lessen the effects of motor vehicles crashes, or to prevent them altogether. Technology such as self-driving vehicles and vehicle-to-vehicle communication is being developed to improve roadway safety, and a new agreement with automakers will require automatic emergency braking systems to be standard equipment on 99% of new vehicles by 2022.

The national trend is unfortunately mirrored in our own community as the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) reports an increase in traffic fatalities in 2016 as compared to previous years. LMPD also has seen an increase in the number of fatal motorcycle accidents in 2016, which they attribute to speeding, driving while intoxicated, and failure to use safety equipment.

Here’s a few tips to increase your odds of preventing a motor vehicle accident.

  • Never drive while intoxicated by alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs, and never ride with an intoxicated driver
  • Never text and drive
  • Always wear your seat belt and require your passengers to do the same
  • Always restrain infants and children in approved child safety seats
  • Avoid distracted driving ­­– eating while driving, putting on makeup, changing the channel on your radio, or interacting with your smartphone or your vehicle’s navigation device
  • Slow down and drive the speed limit
  • Keep your vehicle in good working condition including your tires
  • Don’t tailgate
  • Always use the traffic signals on your vehicle
  • Avoid driving in bad weather if you can
  • Avoid drowsy driving
  • Never try to beat a train

You may not be able to avoid all accidents, but you can increase your odds of arriving safely to your destination by following these tips.

If you or a loved one is involved in a motor vehicle accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney with your questions.