The pandemic caused people to drive less last year. Roads were almost empty for months due to lockdowns, virtual work and school, and home deliveries. So a new report showing that 2020 was one of the worst years for fatal car accidents came as a shock to safety officials.
All time high for fatal car accidents
According to the National Safety Council
- Over 42,000 Americans lost their lives in car accidents in 2020 — a huge increase over the year before and the highest total in 13 years;
- A shocking 5,000,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes last year;
- For the first half of 2020, while the number of miles dropped by 17%, the number of fatal car accidents increased by 20%;
- Collisions are now the leading cause of death for our children and young people from ages 1-25; and
- The cost to our country is an astonishing one-half trillion dollars a year.
- Almost 4,000 Texans perished in a vehicle crash, the highest total in years. Year after year, Texas has the highest number of fatal car accidents in the United States.
This is crazy. How could this possibly have happened?
More open roads led to more speeding
Since streets were relatively empty, reckless drivers took advantage of the situation and became Lewis Hamilton-wannabes (his Formula 1 race car is pictured above). Reports of cars going 100 miles per hour and more on interstate highways were common and street racing was rampant.
Even before the coronavirus caused people to limit driving, the top cause of a car accident in Texas was speeding. Almost 50,000 crashes and 30% of fatal car accidents were due to driving too fast in 2019.
Kudos to the Fort Worth Star Telegram for bringing this urgent topic to our attention.
Obviously the faster that vehicles go, the inevitability of serious injuries and deaths increases. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, if speeds merely increase by 10%, say from 50 to 55 mph, the chance of fatal car accidents can increase by 50%.
Other reasons fatal car accidents increased in 2020
Other dangerous behavior that increased last year included the usual culprits:
- driving while intoxicated or on drugs;
- reckless driving,
- distracted driving, and
- failing to stop at traffic lights and stop signs.
These go hand in hand with speeding.
How to stop this serious problem
This problem just keeps getting worse. Texas is booming. Thousands of people move here every day, making our roads even more crowded. So we build more highways which encourages more people to move here. We have more car wrecks. It’s a vicious cycle.
Almost everyone drives by themselves, often in giant trucks and SUVs, which makes crashes even more deadly. Public transportation is almost nonexistent. It’s a vicious cycle with no end in sight. But no one wants to have to drive on LA-like highways.
The Safety Council said that the bad driving behavior on our highways continues without any end in sight due to “the huge increase in risk-taking behavior.”
So what are our state officials doing to solve this life-or-death problem?
Unfortunately, very little is being done to curb this epidemic. Day in and day out, drivers keep crashing into each other.
Incredibly, the Texas Legislature which is meeting in Austin may pass House Bill 19 and its companion Senate Bill 17. This draconian new law is the insurance company and trucking industry’s wildest dream. It will make it far easier for bad truck drivers and their companies to escape or minimize liability and payment of damages to those they injure or the families of those they kill. This bill is outrageous and must be opposed.
Road to Zero and Vision Zero programs
The National Safety Council has written an admirable Road to Zero deaths program. And the Texas Department of Transportation has been ordered to eliminate fatal car accidents by the year 2050 in a similar program called Vision Zero. But there are no penalties of this lofty goal is not met.
Fort Worth adopted this program in late 2019. We were one of the first cities in Texas to adopt Vision Zero. Every city must do this to try to curtail this massive problem.
Both the federal and state governments proclaim that we must take badly needed safety measures actions immediately. But there are no bills in front of the Texas Legislature that will
- Lower speed limits;
- Reduce blood alcohol limits to .05% and require that convicted drunk drivers have ignition interlocks in their vehicles;
- Disable cell phones while driving; and
- Increase enforcement of traffic light and speed limit violations;
We can help you
If you or a family member have been involved in a car wreck, we are here to answer your questions and guide you through what is usually a difficult process.
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