Fatal car accidents have become more common recently. For instance, there was an increase of 7% between 2019 and 2020. The following year, there was an increase in fatalities of 10%. The numbers for 2023 are not complete yet, of course, but it could be that fatalities will go up another notch.
This is obviously concerning for many reasons, but one of the biggest issues is that fatal car accidents, historically, have trended downward. Traffic levels have also been going down in recent years, due to many factors, such as people working from home more often. So why is it that there are fewer cars on the road, but the roads aren’t getting safer? Instead, they’re just getting more dangerous.
Risky driving behaviors
The major reason for the increase, some experts believe, is just that risky driving behaviors have become more common. This has caused more severe accidents, even with fewer cars on the road. In some ways, lower traffic levels might have played a role. For instance, speeding is more common now. How much of that is because the lower traffic levels reduced congestion? If there were more cars on the road, drivers may actually have been forced to drive slower and may have been safer.
But people are also making intentional choices that have nothing to do with the traffic around them. For example, seatbelt use has dropped. This makes it more likely that accidents will result in fatal injuries. So, it may not even be an issue wherein there have been more crashes, but just that the ones that do occur are more severe.
Why are people taking these risks?
What is unclear is exactly why people are more willing to take these risks. Some of it may just be a force of habit. For example, distracted driving is very dangerous. But a lot of drivers are simply addicted to their phones, so they get distracted even though they technically know that it increases the odds of being involved in an accident. They just feel like they can’t help it and they assume they will be safe – despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Safe drivers and unsafe drivers alike are experiencing an elevated risk of experiencing a fatal crash because of this uptick in unsafe behavior. Until motorists start to significantly curb their poor choices, it’s going to be important for everyone to understand their rights and options in the wake of an accident, should one occur.