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The Good and Bad News About Traffic Fatalities

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) recently released data on traffic fatalities brought some good news. Fatal crashes last year reached an all-time low since record-keeping of such accidents began in 1949. The decline was nearly countrywide, with all but a few states reporting improved safety numbers. Illinois was among the states showing improvements, with fatalities decreasing 26% since 2006 on state roadways. However, just as safety officials were heralding the good news, some surprising news emerged. Despite the long trend of incredible improvements, initial figures on the first quarter of 2012 showed traffic fatalities had increasing dramatically.

NHTSA’s study showed that last year 1.7% fewer fatal traffic accidents occurred nationwide. While this percentage seems initially low, when comparing these figures with those of 2005, the decline in such accidents has been approximately 25%. Most states saw improvements, with only the area of California, Arizona and Hawaii showing an increase. Officials have cited many reasons for the improved figures. First, standard safety features on cars have improved considerably. An NHTSA study of estimated that the “design improvements between Model Year 2000 and Model Year 2008 cars helped save 2,000 lives and prevented one million occupant injuries in the 2008 calendar year alone.” Such improvements include increased use of air bags, improved braking technology, collision avoidance systems and electronic stability control. Improved public education and state laws about safety restraints, drunk and distracted driving, speeding and the increased use of traffic cameras as enforcement are also cited. Even the lingering recession has been suggested as improving road conditions, as the high cost of gas may have decreased the amount of vehicles on the roadway. In Illinois, the use of red light cameras led to such a steep decrease in violations and crashes at intersections that Governor Pat Quinn recently signed into legislation a law allowing such cameras to be installed in Chicago-area schools and parks. Similar statewide legislation has been introduced.

However, the good news has taken a turn for the worse. The first quarter of 2012 has dented the years’ long decline in traffic fatalities. Numbers released by the NHTSA showed that nationally traffic deaths had increased in 2012 by 13.5% over the same quarter last year. Illinois mirrored this increase, with deaths on the roadways surging 9%. The Chicago Sun Times reported that by mid-July 533 people had died in area roadway crashes, forty-five more than the same time last year. In the article, the Illinois’ Department of Transportation Secretary cited a number of causes for the increased figures. Distracted driving continued to be a problem, and mild winter weather may have led to more travelers on the roadways, leading to more crashes. More significantly, Illinois saw a stunning 70% increase in motorcycle-related fatalities.

While, undoubtedly, advancements in safety technology, improved education and stronger laws have increased our safety on the roads, the worsening numbers of 2012 remind drivers that we can never take our safety for granted. Even when crash numbers are improved, they are still higher than they need to be. Be vigilant on the road, and be certain to report unsafe drivers. If you are injured in a car accident, contact an Illinois personal injury lawyer who can assist you.

About the Author: Brooke Haley is a Marketing Associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation attorney that practice in the areas of Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts in the State of Illinois. For more information about Illinois workers compensation lawyer,please visit www.millonpeskin.com.

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