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Fatal Car Accidents in the U.S. – An Avoidable Epidemic

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Peter J. Gregory
Nov 21, 2022
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In the United States, car accidents are a somewhat common and normalized occurrence, as most Americans in their lifetimes will either be in an accident themselves or at the very least know someone who has been in one. Many accidents are non-fatal, leaving only minor injuries, but fatal crashes may be more common than you think.

However, in 2020, 38,824 people in the U.S. lost their lives in car accidents. This was a 7 percent increase in deaths compared with 2019. Sixty-two percent of crash fatalities in 2020 were passenger vehicle occupants, 17 percent were pedestrians, 14 percent were motorcyclists, 2 percent were bicyclists, and 2 percent were occupants of large trucks. In 2021, the National Safety Council’s data indicates that 46,020 people died in motor vehicle crashes.

The biggest causes of fatalities on the road are caused by driver negligence or recklessness, and are avoidable. These include drunk driving, distracted driving, speeding, dangerous weather conditions, drowsy drivers, and lack of seat belt use. On their own each of these conditions can prove to be fatal, and when combining two or more can greatly increase the chance of a fatal accident. Driving drunk appears to be the most known dangerous driving condition in terms of its public awareness, and this is shown through various laws which combat this problem with high fines and serious penalties such as incarceration. Although this is known to be an inherently dangerous driving condition, it still proves to be one of the leading causes for fatal car crashes. Distracted driving is perhaps the easiest of these dangerous conditions for an ordinarily safe driver to fall victim to. Distractions while driving can include sending or receiving a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system, eating, and anything else that may impair your ability to focus on the road. In 2019, a reported 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers and 6 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes that occurred a year later in 2020 were coded as distracted. Following the posted speed limit is something that can greatly decrease your chances of being involved in a fatal car crash. Although an easy way to increase your chance of survivability when on the road this warning is often disregarded. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that more than 11,000 deaths — 29 percent of all crash fatalities — occurred in speed-related crashes in 2020.

With all this loss the persistent question continues to emerge, as a country how can we avoid this? A recent study by Johns Hopkins seems to have the answer with their proposed “Safe System Approach.” This approach centers on not pushing all of their blame on the drivers who are involved in the accidents, but rather attributing some to the common denominator in all of the fatal accidents in the U.S.: The roadways.

There are two major components to this plan. The first one focuses on anticipating and accommodating predictable human limitations and behavior such as lapses in diligence, perception, and attention through the implementation of road diets and pedestrian hybrid beacons. The second component focused on reducing crash forces to levels that are survivable by reducing impact speeds or changing angles of collisions by implementing more roundabouts and median barriers. This “safe system” also appears to have had some success in the 5 nations that enrolled it starting in 1990. From enrollment to 2017 there was a reported decrease in car crash fatalities from these 5 nations ranging from 47% in Australia and all the way up to 80% in Spain. Although the United states has yet to fully enroll and buy into this system, it is safe to say that it seems to be a viable option to help curtail this ongoing and increasing epidemic of car crash fatalities.

If you or a loved one has sustained a serious injury in a car accident, an experienced personal injury attorney can help. It is important to consult with a lawyer early to investigate your options, and preserve crucial evidence.  For assistance with these matters, please contact us to learn more.

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About the author: Peter J. Gregory is a partner with MCCM Personal Injury Lawyers in Rochester NY.  He is a trial lawyer with extensive experience resolving disputes in state and federal trial courts. As a personal injury lawyer, Gregory focuses on advising clients who have been injured or lost loved ones in accidents caused by the carelessness or recklessness of others. Please feel free to contact him directly at or (585) 512-3506.

This publication is intended as an information source for clients, prospective clients, and colleagues and constitutes attorney advertising. The content should not be considered legal advice and readers should not act upon information in this publication without individualized professional counsel.

About MCCM

McConville Considine Cooman & Morin, P.C. is a full-service law firm based in Rochester, New York, providing high-quality legal services to businesses and individuals since 1979.  With over a dozen attorneys and a full paralegal support staff, the firm is well-positioned to right-size services tailored to each client. We are large enough to provide expertise in a broad range of practice areas, yet small enough to devote prompt, personal attention to our clients.

We represent a diverse range of clients located throughout New York State and New England.  They include individuals, numerous manufacturing and service industry businesses, local governments, and health care professionals, provider groups, facilities and associations. We also serve as local counsel to out-of-state clients and their attorneys who have litigation pending in Western New York courts.  For more information, please contact us at 585.546.2500.