The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released their comprehensive 2015 statistics on vehicle crashes — and the figures are very troublesome and perplexing. The numbers reveal that the year saw a 7.2 percent increase in traffic-related fatalities. So, why specifically should we be concerned? Well, this is the greatest single-year increase in deaths since 1966.
The news has left researchers, safety experts, and authorities scrambling. How can we account for this dramatic rise? Some have speculated that lower gas prices, an improved economy, and more miles driven have contributed to this problem. However, safety experts remind us that most crashes still occur due to human error and negligence.
The statistics tell us that “people die when they drive drunk, distracted, or drowsy, or if they are speeding," said NHTSA Administrator, Dr. Mark Rosekind. "While there have been enormous improvements in many of these areas, we need to find new solutions to end traffic fatalities."
The Enormity of the Problem
Let’s back up a minute and remember that, in 2015 alone, 35,092 people lost their lives to vehicle crashes. That is a startling figure. It means that every day nearly 100 people were killed on America’s roadways. On top of this, countless more were injured — 2,443,000 people, in fact, which is an increase of 4.5 percent from the previous year. In 2015, traffic fatalities involving pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists increased dramatically as well — by 9.5 percent, 12.2 percent, and 8.3 percent respectively.
The numbers are all trending upward, and, at this point, it may seem that we are experiencing a public health and safety crisis.
Appropriately, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a call to action directly soliciting help in understanding the recent data. “Whether you’re a non-profit, a tech company, or just a curious citizen wanting to contribute to the conversation in your local community, we want you to jump in and help us understand what the data are telling us.”
Insurance Companies Protect Themselves — and Take Advantage of Victims
Throughout all this, insurance companies have one goal in mind — to protect their own interests. The personal heartbreak and loss associated with these crashes are not seen as important. To an insurance company, an increase in traffic fatalities and injuries means only 1 thing: a threat to their financial bottom line.
For this reason, insurance companies will try to convince victims to settle — quickly, and for the lowest amount possible. It is important not to rush into a settlement. Once a victim accepts a settlement, that decision is final, and in most cases the victim cannot file another claim, even if additional injuries manifest over time.
Legal Representation: Now More Important Than Ever
Beyond insuring that a victim will receive the most compensation possible, an attorney is an invaluable resource in navigating the complexity of the courts in the aftermath of a vehicle crash. The claims process is fairly involved, and contains lengthy, often complex, documents — but an experienced lawyer is familiar with these forms, and can not only complete them, but can also help the victim understand them.
Additionally, a lawyer is a great defense against potential harassment from insurance companies. It may seem shocking that an insurance company would harass a victim, but, it’s important to remember that all that matters on their end is protecting their bottom line. It is in the company’s best interest to convince a victim to settle.
There are a lot of victims out there. If you or a loved one has been injured, or if a loved one was killed in an accident, make sure to take your time in assessing injuries and losses, and consider hiring a lawyer to protect you and to help you in your quest to receive justice.