While the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to nationwide lockdowns and empty streets, highways, and transit systems, motor vehicle fatalities have increased substantially here in the United States over the past several years.
Earlier this year, the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that traffic fatalities during the first half of 2021 increased 18.4% when compared to the first half of 2020. The estimated 20,160 fatalities during the first half of last year is the highest since 2006, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
A recent investigative report from the New York Times further highlights how the issue of rising roadway deaths impacting motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians is uniquely American.
New York Times Report: Other Nations Better at Protecting Motorists
According to the New York Times, while other “comparably developed countries” have seen a decrease in traffic fatalities, the United States has diverged over the past decade and recorded a staggering increase in the number of roadway deaths.
“This American exception became even starker during the pandemic,” according to the New York Times. “In 2020, as car travel plummeted around the world, traffic fatalities broadly fell as well. But in the U.S., the opposite happened. Travel declined, and deaths still went up. Preliminary federal data suggests road fatalities rose again in 2021.”
As the chart below indicates, the U.S. experienced a spike in roadway fatalities that is in stark contrast to other developed nations:
The New York Times confirmed that in 2021, almost 43,000 people died on American roads. That figure is based on government data, and the recent increase in traffic fatalities has been “particularly pronounced” among those that officials classify as “most vulnerable,” including:
“Much of the familiar explanation for America’s road safety record lies with a transportation system primarily designed to move cars quickly, not to move people safely,” the New York Times said.
Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, echoed that sentiment, noting that traffic safety remains a low priority in America.
“Motor vehicles are first, highways are first, and everything else is an afterthought,” Homendy told the Times.
Moreover, as the New York Times noted, a poor traffic safety record is often tolerated as a foregone conclusion here in the U.S.
“Safety advocates and government officials lament that so many deaths are often tolerated in America as an unavoidable cost of mass mobility. But periodically, the illogic of that toll becomes clearer: Americans die in rising numbers even when they drive less. They die in rising numbers even as roads around the world grow safer. American foreign service officers leave war zones, only to die on roads around the nation’s capital,” the New York Times reported.
The Times cited specific examples of roadways that are deemed some of the most dangerous in the nation, including Sun Belt metros such as Tampa and Orlando which “boomed after widespread adoption of the car.”
But government data confirms that those roads and highways can be particularly deadly for cyclists and pedestrians.
Why Does the U.S. Have Such a High Rate of Traffic Fatalities?
The New York Times looked at motor vehicle fatality trends over the last 25 years and noted that the high rate in the U.S. is not simply due to America’s “history of highway dependance or dependance on cars.”
In fact, as the Times reported, in the 1990s, per capita roadway fatalities across developed countries were significantly higher than today. And other developed nations used to trail the U.S. in terms of traffic safety. Specifically, the following countries had higher rates of roadway fatalities when compared to the United States:
- South Korea
- New Zealand
However, through a revolution in car safety, a number of improvements were seen in those nations, such as:
- Increased seatbelt usage
- Standard-issue airbags
- Safer car frames
“Fatalities fell as a result, in the U.S. and internationally. But as cars grew safer for the people inside them, the U.S. didn’t progress as other countries did to prioritizing the safety of people outside them,” the New York Times said.
“Other countries started to take seriously pedestrian and cyclist injuries in the 2000s — and started making that a priority in both vehicle design and street design — in a way that has never been committed to in the United States,” Yonah Freemark, a researcher at the Urban Institute, told the Times.
According to the New York Times, many developed nations took steps to improve traffic safety, such as:
- Lowering speed limits
- Building protective bike lanes
- Taking action to include standard in-vehicle technology (e.g. automatic braking systems that detect pedestrians and vehicle hoods that are less deadly to pedestrians)
- Designing roundabouts that reduce danger at intersections where fatalities disproportionately occur
But, as the Times reported, the United States has taken a different approach when it comes to prioritizing traffic safety.
“In the U.S. in the past two decades, by contrast, vehicles have grown significantly bigger and thus deadlier to the people they hit. Many states curb the ability of local governments to set lower speed limits. The five-star federal safety rating that consumers can look for when buying a car today doesn’t take into consideration what that car might do to pedestrians.”
As a result, although the U.S. and France had similar per capita roadway fatality rates in the 1990s, Americans are now three times as likely to die in a traffic crash, according to Mr. Freemark’s research.
How Can the U.S. Improve Traffic Fatality Rates?
The New York Times report offered suggestions from roadway safety advocates, such as:
- Outfitting trucks with side underride guards to prevent people from being pulled underneath
- Narrowing the roads that cars share with bikes so that drivers intuit they should drive slower
“We know what the problem is, we know what the solution is,” Caron Whitaker, deputy executive director at the League of American Bicyclists, told the New York Times. “We just don’t have the political will to do it.”
A bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last year reportedly takes “modest steps” towards changing the current U.S. traffic fatality rate:
- Increased federal money for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure
- States will now be required to analyze fatalities and serious injuries among “vulnerable road users” – people outside of cars.
- States will now be required to identify the most dangerous traffic corridors and potential ways to fix them.
“States where vulnerable road users make up at least 15% of fatalities must spend at least 15% of their federal safety funds on improvements prioritizing those vulnerable users. Today, 32 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia face that mandate,” the New York Times reported.
“We need to change the culture that accepts this level of death and injury,” Polly Trottenberg, a former New York City transportation commissioner, said to the Times. “We’re horrified when State Department employees lose their lives overseas. We need to create that same sense of urgency when it comes to roadway deaths.”
Can I Sue After a Car, Bicycle, or Pedestrian Accident Injury?
Civil claims may be filed by victims after injuries occur in various types of traffic accidents. A car, bicycle, or pedestrian accident civil lawsuit can be a means of securing necessary financial compensation (damages) after an injury is sustained. The types of damages that may be recovered after a Los Angeles traffic accident injury typically fall under two main categories:
The specific damages that you may recover after a traffic accident injury may vary depending on certain factors, such as:
- The extent/severity of injuries
- The defendant’s degree of liability
- Whether or not you received medical care immediately after the traffic accident
- The knowledge, skill, and ability of your personal injury lawyer
- The unique circumstances of the incident (including the complexity)
- The at-fault driver’s history
All of these factors may impact what types of damages you are able to secure (as well as the amount of total financial compensation/overall value of your traffic accident injury claim).
The most common examples of motor vehicle or traffic accident injury damages are broken down below according to type.
·California Traffic Accident Injury Economic Damages:
- Medical expenses – past and future
- Emergency department treatment
- Physical therapy
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Loss of consortium
·California Traffic Accident Injury Non-Economic Damages:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Reduced quality of life
- Scarring or other serious injury
- Compensation for loss of a limb or disfigurement
Do I Need to Hire a Los Angeles Traffic Accident Lawyer?
Hiring an experienced and trusted personal injury attorney from Martinian & Associates can help ensure that you recover the maximum financial compensation you need to make a complete recovery ensuring your physical, emotional, and financial well-being
In fact, studies prove how valuable having an experienced personal injury lawyer fighting in your corner can be after a traffic accident injury.
For example, a recent study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) confirmed the following statistics:
- Settlements for injured claimants were 40% higher when they had secured private legal representation.
- The average insurance payout was 3.5 times higher for injured victims who hired private attorneys (when compared to those representing themselves).
- 85% of all money paid by insurance companies for bodily injuries is received by victims who have secured representation from a private personal injury attorney.
What is the Deadline for Filing a California Traffic Accident Injury Claim?
The California statute of limitations for most personal injury civil claims is two years from the date of an incident. In other words, you most likely have two years from the date that your traffic accident injury occurred to file a claim seeking financial compensation.
However, Martinian & Associates’ team of proven personal injury attorneys strongly encourages any injured victim to file a claim as soon as possible. Filing a timely motor vehicle or traffic accident civil lawsuit increases your chances of obtaining justice in the form of a maximum financial damages award.
Waiting to file a claim could adversely affect your chance of obtaining financial compensation for your injuries and potentially result in a significanlty reduced damages award.
Don’t wait to file your California personal injury claim. Contact the trusted car, truck, motorcycle, pedestrian, and bicycle accident lawyers at Martinian & Associates today for a free, no-obligation, and completely confidential consultation.
Hire the Best Los Angeles, California, Personal Injury Lawyers Today
If you’ve been injured in a traffic accident through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to a maximum cash settlement, which can critical in helping you cover a number of ensuing losses, including hospital or medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
However, securing the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your traffic accident injury is not guaranteed. Motor vehicle and traffic accident cases can be complex and difficult to prove. In most claims, a skilled and experienced personal injury lawyer is necessary to help prove difficult to quantify damages (including emotional trauma or pain and suffering).
That’s just one of the many reasons why choosing Martinian & Associates after a traffic accident injury can be in your best interest. We have over 20 years of experience representing personal injury victims like you and securing maximum financial damages awards. Attorney Tigran Martinian and his associates have secured more than $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts for injured clients.
If you’ve suffered an injury in a traffic accident, don’t settle for anything less than the Martinian & Associates Advantage. We will fight to recover you the largest possible cash settlement based on the circumstances of your unique claim.
Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today at 323-850-1900 for a free consultation. Martinian & Associates is a top-rated and proven California personal injury firm. We never charge a dime until after we’ve successfully secured maximum financial compensation for your case.