There is a troubling trend overtaking our country and the roads we travel on every day. Even though the pandemic led to a year and change of lower traffic numbers, the rate of car accident fatalities has actually gone up. It has nothing to do with the cars themselves, and everything to do with a dangerous mentality amongst some of the riskier drivers.
Around the entire country, Vox reports, 2020 saw the biggest single-year spike in car fatality rates in nearly a century, and experts agree that speed and recklessness is to blame. Fewer drivers are wearing seatbelts and more are drinking before going for a late night race, emboldened by a false sense of security and liquid courage.
Even though the traffic levels are almost back to normal, this trend is still continuing. Arizona is no exception, either. In fact, 2021 is on track to be the deadliest year on the roads in Arizona in over a decade, and speed has been the main contributor.
Who is most affected by the rise in car accidents?
The past decade has seen an extraordinary increase in the number of people killed by cars while walking, so much so that pedestrians account for most of the recent increase in car fatalities. Cars killed 6,205 people walking in 2019, an increase of 51 percent from 4,109 in 2009, according to the NHTSA. (The National Safety Council estimates a higher number, 7,700 pedestrians killed in 2019.)
People who can’t afford cars are also less likely to live in neighborhoods where it’s safe to walk. Black Americans, Native Americans, wheelchair users, and people walking in low-income areas are much more likely to be killed by a car, a structural disparity that worsened during the pandemic.
But for all the vulnerabilities of pedestrians in any given incident, most American car deaths don’t involve them. More common are crashes of two or more cars, or just one car crashing into an object like a tree, post, or storefront (something that happens with bizarre frequency in the US).
Pedestrians face unprecedented risks every day, and the pandemic made it worse for different reasons. The sheer size of today’s SUVS and trucks puts pedestrians at risk of life-threatening injuries in the event of a crash. Aside from the risks of speeding drivers being unable to stop in time to avoid a pedestrian, the increase in outdoor dining reduced the amount of space for pedestrians to move. This was especially hard on people with disabilities, who use assistive devices (like wheelchairs, or even guide dogs).
Multi-vehicle crashes are common when drivers are speeding, because the impact can force cars to literally bounce off of one another, or into stationary objects. Reckless driving, including drunk driving, also causes a significant number of multi-car collisions. In early November in Phoenix, a drunk driver ran a red light and hit another car, which hit a third vehicle. Debris from the crash hit a fourth vehicle. Multiple people went to the hospital, and at least one person died from his injuries.
Single car collisions
In 2020, there were 17,766 single-car collisions in Arizona, resulting in 314 deaths. They accounted for just under 18% of all crashes, but about 32% of all fatal crashes. Cars hitting buildings, also known as car incursions, are also more common than you might think. Often, this is the result of pedal confusion, but drivers who speed around curves, fall asleep behind the wheel, or hit a median and sail through the air are all at risk of crashing into a building.
Filing a wrongful death claim after a fatal car accident
No one wants to get the call that their loved one was killed by the recklessness of another, regardless of the cause, and the only thing that can make it worse is having to fight with the law and responsible parties to receive compensation and justice.
This is why you need the law on your side as quickly as possible, and why working with an experienced wrongful death attorney gives you a better chance for real justice. The sudden death of a loved one can cause undue financial burdens, from medical and funeral costs to coping with a loss of wages and new debts. You should not have to deal with these stresses while you are coping with your grief.
In Arizona, a surviving spouse, children, and/or parents can seek accountability by filing a wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations on these claims can vary based on the cause of death. Generally speaking, you would have two years to file a claim after your loved one’s fatal car accident, but this is not guaranteed. You should seek legal representation as soon as possible for you are not time-barred.
While car accident cases can be very complicated, Plattner Verderame, P.C. has the skills, resources, and experience to help you. Whether your injuries were caused by a single reckless driver in a two-car crash or in a complicated multi-vehicle collision, we can help you seek the damages you are entitled to receive, and the justice you deserve. While we may not be able to undo your tragedy, we can handle your case so you can focus on healing. To learn more about how we can help, call us today at 602-266-2002 or via our contact form. We are proud to be on your side. We maintain offices in Phoenix and Tempe for your convenience.
I have been active in leadership in the Arizona Association for Justice (lawyers who represent injured folks, and formerly known as the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) since 1985. I served as President in 1991. I was an active participant in battles to protect the Arizona Constitution from the insurance industry and big business interests in 1986, 1990 and 1994.
Read more about Richard Plattner