If you feel like driving today is more dangerous than in recent decades, you’re not alone. In the Metro Atlanta area where our offices are located, the daily commute can sometimes feel like you’re taking your life in your hands.
According to the NYT article, reports of vehicle-related injuries spiked significantly in 2020. Even though most of the United States was in lockdown and roads were less busy than usual, states like Nevada saw numbers of road-related fatalities the likes of which they hadn’t seen in 15 years. 2021 and 2022 also saw higher-than-normal reports of car crashes and crash-related fatalities across states.
According to the article, data revealed that drivers weren’t wearing their seatbelts as frequently, were speeding more, and were driving while intoxicated. Those close to the issue—medical, highway safety, and law enforcement professionals—suspected the emotional and psychological complications of the pandemic had a lot to do with the changes:
“My own theory is that whatever personal conflicts [drivers] had were exacerbated because they’d been sheltering in place during Covid,” established trauma surgeon Deborah Kuhls is quoted as saying in the article. “So they’d get on the road having self-medicated with drugs or alcohol, or they’d just be incredibly reckless.”
In this vein, the article seems to mainly attribute the increase in dangerous drivers to the collective traumatic experiences of the American public in the past few years. The political disagreements and unrest surrounding the pandemic, racial tensions, and inflation, suggests the article, have left many Americans extremely stressed and anxious. And that comes out behind the wheel.
Vehicle Manufacturing and Maintenance Quality
Another contributor to the uptick in road-related fatalities highlighted by the Times is the quality and structures of vehicles on American roadways today.
Compared to cars of past generations, modern vehicles are heavier and taller. Preliminary research into the relationship between vehicle size and roadway safety suggests that bigger vehicles have worse blind spots and cause more damage when they hit something.
Additionally, many US drivers operate vehicles that are in “poor or mediocre condition,” says the NYT article, citing data from the American Society of Civil Engineers. This, combined with the increase in weight and size of US vehicles, contributes to the deadliness of US car crashes.
Though the previous factors discussed in this post contribute to the violent car wrecks we see in the US, experts say that by and large the biggest culprit when it comes to deadly car crashes is us, the drivers.
Said a Michigan police captain quoted in the NYT article: “It’s not an exaggeration to say behavior on the road today is the worst I’ve ever seen. It’s not just the volume. It’s the variety. There’s impaired driving, which constituted 40 percent of our fatalities last year. There are people going twice the legal limit on surface streets. There’s road rage. There’s impatience—right before we started talking, I got an email from a woman who was driving along in traffic and saw some guy fly by her off the roadway, on the shoulder, at 80, 90 miles an hour.”
Rates of intoxicated drivers have surged, reports the article. Additionally, more drivers are speeding, and a significant number of those killed in car crashes not wearing seatbelts.
Aggressive driving like illegal passing, tailgating, and erratic lane-changing factors into a majority of fatal crashes, and that’s not including violent road rage behavior in which an aggressive driver shoots another person.
Add to this the distraction of many drivers in some way interacting with their smartphones while driving, and it’s no wonder crash fatalities have remained high.
Protecting Yourself From Dangerous Drivers
While state governments attempt to instill measures that would curb dangerous driving behavior, the responsibility for safer roadways largely lies with the general public. While you can’t control the actions of other drivers, you can take every precaution to be aware of your surroundings: Don’t use your phone while driving, use your turn signals, always check your blind spots before changing lanes, and don’t antagonize aggressive drivers.
Likewise, we are each responsible for making sure we are not the dangerous drivers: Never drive impaired, don’t speed, do not engage in road rage behaviors, and—it bears repeating—do not use your phone while driving.
If you or someone you know is injured in a car crash or pedestrian accident, contact The Champion Firm for a free consultation. Our attorneys have experience handling all kinds of car wreck cases in Atlanta, Marietta, Woodstock, and across Georgia.
About the Author
The Champion Firm is a full-service personal injury law firm serving the greater Metro Atlanta area. Our award-winning team of attorneys specializes in car accidents, wrongful death, premises liability, and slip-and-fall cases. Learn more about our team here.