Yesterday the National Safety Council announced that an estimated 40,200 Americans died in traffic collisions last year. Picture the crowd inside the Texas Rangers ballpark to get an idea of how many people that is.
This number is just shy of the highest number ever in U.S. history.
While 3,412 Americans have died in any terror attack in the last 16 years (including the 2,996 people who perished on 9/11), by comparison 650,000 fellow citizens have died on our highways.
Americans very rarely die at the hands of jihadists. But each day about 100 Americans — including 10 Texans — die in a vehicle crash. Fortunately my client in this car was not killed when an 18-wheeler suddenly pulled out in front of her.
Even worse, 2016’s crash fatality rate is a substantial six percent increase from the year before, and that was seven percent higher than the year before that — the fastest two year increase in over 50 years.
Why is it that even though new cars and roads keep getting safer, more and more people die each year driving? And why doesn’t any one seem to care?
In my practice as an injury lawyer, I see most crashes being caused by our addiction to smartphones as well as drunken driving, speeding, and drivers and passengers not wearing seat belts. All are preventable.
Clearly not enough is being done to stop the carnage on our highways. As the president of the National Safety Council observed when she announced the news yesterday, “complacency is killing us.”
This critical problem is rarely, if ever, raised by our politicians. In Austin, the bill to ban texting while driving will presumably be defeated again.
Many safety officials believe that the rise in deaths has been caused by state lawmakers failing to pass laws to curb negligent drivers and law enforcement being too lenient on them.
For example, only 18 states require both the front and back occupants to wear seat belts, making this a primary offense. This is a vital concern since half of traffic fatalities involve an occupant who is not wearing a safety restraint and one third involve drunk or drugged drivers, according to government statistics.
And 13 states have raised their speed limits in the last three years. In parts of Texas you can now drive 85 miles an hour.
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader stated that we could reduce the horrible fatality statistic by installing cameras and electronic notifications to nab speeding drivers, require seat belts to be worn by all occupants, and regulate tractor trailers more heavily.
The National Safety Council has requested a ban on all cell phone use. This is a long overdue idea, even if enforcement will be difficult.
States could reduce traffic deaths by increasing traffic safety laws, increasing enforcement, and tightening regulations on 18-wheeler companies.
Until we stop believing that terrorists are going to hurt us more than Tundras, the death toll will tragically continue to climb.