As the U.S. returns to a semblance of normalcy not seen since before COVID-19 spread across the country in early 2020, roads and highways have emerged as an increasingly dangerous and deadly place. The latest national statistics show car accident fatalities are on the rise.
In August, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) released first-quarter projections for vehicle accident fatalities across the country and by state. It’s estimated there were 9,560 deaths from motor vehicle crashes in the first three months of 2022.
It’s the highest number of car accident deaths in the first quarter of a year in two decades, and 29 states, including North Carolina, saw an increase compared to the previous year’s time period. Unfortunately, the rate of fatalities is greater than the increase in traffic and miles traveled, signaling a concerning trend in driver, pedestrian, and cyclist safety.
Car accident injuries can be life-changing, and far too often, these crashes are deadly. With the latest statistics indicating North Carolina had one of the highest increases in traffic deaths early this year, seeking the advice of an experienced car accident lawyer is crucial.
North Carolina Car Accident Statistics
Traffic fatalities in North Carolina have steadily increased in recent years. Between 2019 and 2021, motor vehicle fatalities in North Carolina rose 18%, and the severity of these accidents also increased during that time. There were 1,373 car accident deaths in 2019, followed by 1,538 in 2020. North Carolina traffic deaths in 2021 surpassed 1,700, the worst in two decades, and yet, traffic has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
According to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), there were over 275,000 traffic crashes in North Carolina in 2021, an 11.7% increase from 2020. Of those car accidents, almost 115,000 people were injured, and 1,783 killed.
In the first quarter of 2022, the NHTSA projected an alarming 51% increase in car accident fatalities in North Carolina compared to the same period in 2021. This amounts to more than 500 people killed in vehicle crashes, far surpassing the 334 recorded early last year.
One possible bright spot is that data from the North Carolina Department of Transportation showed car accident deaths were down 6.5% through July 2022. Whether the rest of the year will continue on this downward trend is unknown. But with the rise of car accident fatalities in the first quarter of this year on a national level and in North Carolina, much has to change on roads and highways to make them safer.
Causes of Car Accidents
Experts say the main cause of the increase in traffic deaths in the U.S. is drivers becoming more reckless during the pandemic. There’s been an uptick in speeding, drivers and passengers not wearing a seatbelt, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Now that traffic is getting closer to what it was before COVID-19, more people are at risk of being injured or dying from these dangerous behaviors and driver habits.
Other transportation studies and surveys have reaffirmed these causes. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a driver survey in October and November 2021. The survey’s findings were similar to what the NHTSA noted about driver behaviors causing accidents. However, it also revealed aggressive driving as a common habit among those who maintained or increased their pre-COVID travel occurrences.
There are many injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes, including broken bones and fractures, traumatic brain injuries, whiplash, concussions, internal bleeding, and spinal cord injuries. The effect of a car accident can be serious; high medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and a ruined vehicle are some of the damages someone injured in a car crash can seek if the accident wasn’t their fault.
Legal Options for North Carolina Car Accident Victims
The damages sought in a personal injury claim or when settling with an insurance company can provide the financial support needed to replace what’s lost and recover from injuries. It can also help the victim and their family be financially stable now and in the future, if injuries could affect long-term health, enjoyment of life, and/or job and professional advancement.
North Carolina’s pure contributory negligence rule regarding liability is one of the main reasons to hire a car accident attorney after a crash. This rule means that if a driver is found to be at fault in any way, even just one percent, they cannot seek compensation or recover damages. Also, personal injury claims for car accidents must be made within three years, and when someone dies in a crash, a wrongful death claim has to be made within two years.
Seeking the advice of a North Carolina car accident lawyer should be done as soon as possible to ensure your claim is made on time and with the necessary evidence to prove liability. At the Whitley Law Firm, our car accident attorneys protect the rights of our clients and help them get the compensation they need and deserve. We help victims hold negligent and reckless drivers responsible for the damages and injuries our clients suffered.
The Whitley Law Firm makes the complex legal process easy to navigate for our clients, alleviating some of the stress and burden during a traumatic and often life-changing time. If you’ve been injured or a loved one died in a car accident in North Carolina, contact us online or at 1-800-785-5000 for a free, no-obligation case consultation.
The Whitley Law Firm is a family affair—in all the ways that matter. Partner Ben Whitley works with his father and brother to create a formidable force when representing clients. After all, helping injured individuals—people who have the deck stacked against them when fighting corporations—is why the Whitleys got into the business in the first place.