Shrager & Sachs’ own managing partner Robert L. Sachs, Jr. recently made a poignant observation about a critical issue impacting our neighborhoods, city, and nation as a whole:
“Almost every day when I am driving, I see someone make an illegal, bad, and dangerous choice on the roads. It has become routine to see people running traffic lights, running stop signs, and swerving across the double yellow line to overtake traffic on busy secondary streets. This needs to stop. And those who engage in such behaviors must be held fully accountable for their negligence when they injure innocent victims on our roadways.”
Many of us have similar stories to share about the reckless behaviors we’ve observed with increasing frequency over the years since the pandemic’s onset—and studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that the evidence isn’t strictly anecdotal.
Below we’ll discuss the record traffic fatality statistics that raise serious questions about the impact of reckless driving on our society. If you have an inquiry related to a motor vehicle accident in which you or a loved one suffered injury, please contact Shrager & Sachs personal injury law firm in Philadelphia to discuss your case with an experienced car accident attorney.
Traffic Fatalities Are the Highest They’ve Been in Two Decades
The years between early 2020 and today have shown a marked increase in motor vehicle accident rates, particularly those caused by poor decision-making and willful acts of extreme recklessness behind the wheel. Now in 2022, we are seeing record traffic fatality and injury rates.
The following NHTSA traffic fatality estimates released in August of this year show numbers that NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff referred to as “moving in the wrong direction”:
- In early 2022, traffic deaths reached the highest point of the past 20 years.
- 9,560 people died in traffic accidents during the first three months of 2022, compared to 8,935 deaths during the same time period in 2021 and 7,893 in 2020.
- In 2022, traffic fatalities nationwide increased by 7% over the previous year.
- Fatality rates in seven states and Washington D.C. rose by 50% or more from 2021 to 2022.
Research by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) similarly found a disproportionate increase in traffic fatalities compared to miles traveled. Total vehicle miles traveled in 2020 decreased by about 430.2 billion miles (a 13.2% decrease), while fatalities rose by over 1% from the previous year. More and more, we are forced to ask ourselves the question: why are traffic fatality rates continuing to increase?
Reckless Driving Leads to Higher Rates of Traffic Fatalities
One of the most obvious reasons for record traffic fatalities is the rash of reckless driving, which has proliferated since 2020. There is a direct correlation between reckless driving and high fatality rates. Abundant data amassed on traffic statistics provides irrefutable proof that recklessness leads to injuries and deaths.
Recklessness is defined under Pennsylvania law this way: “Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.” In Philadelphia, you may have noted reckless drivers who engage in:
- Violating traffic laws
- Running red lights
- Disregarding stop signs
- Erratic lane changes
- Turning, merging, and changing lanes without signaling
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Driving without a seatbelt
- Passing on shoulders
- Texting and driving
- Using social media while driving
- Engaging in other distractions like eating, drinking, smoking, livestreaming, or watching videos
- Drag racing
- Hard braking
- Deliberately “brake checking” a following vehicle
- Tailgating (following too closely)
- Road rage and aggressive driving behaviors like honking, cutting off other motorists, and yelling
Recklessness is the cause of thousands of traffic accidents in Philadelphia every year. If you were injured or lost someone close to you in a crash caused by another driver’s recklessness, Shrager & Sachs is available to answer your questions about legal options for recovery.
Why Is There an Increase in Reckless Driving?
There’s no one, simple answer to explain the outbreak of reckless driving our nation has suffered in recent years. Experts point to a number of factors that may have contributed to the statistics that have been steadily rising since 2020.
Dr. Cliff of the NHTSA again noted in a recent interview, “When everyday life came to a halt in March 2020, risky behaviors skyrocketed and traffic fatalities spiked. We had hoped these trends were limited to 2020, but sadly, they aren’t.”
Sifting through the data unveils a disturbing picture of the state of our country’s attitude toward highway safety. Police in multiple states reported a jump in instances of 100+ mph speeding, a traffic violation that was considered a rarity pre-pandemic. California even issued a public warning to all motorists in the state after 100+ mph speeding citations leaped 87% from 2019 to 2020. Mobile device data gathered by data analytics companies also showed a sharp upward trend in speeding, hard braking, and screen time while driving. Traffic citations and accident reports from across the nation painted a similar picture.
At the same time, death rates rose, and hospitals saw record numbers of traffic injury victims.
It’s clear that reckless driving and traffic fatalities have experienced a parallel trajectory over the past two years. Reasons to explain this phenomenon are less apparent. Researchers and analysts have pointed to a few social and behavioral digressions that may have partially contributed to the public’s increased tendency to engage in behaviors considered unnecessarily dangerous.
Some theories that have been presented to explain the high rates of motorist recklessness include:
- Lower traffic congestion leads to a false sense of safety and invincibility on roads
- Higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse
- Shifted driving patterns during the pandemic skewed motorists’ perception of what constitutes traffic safety
- Restlessness after quarantines and periods of social isolation
- Anxiety, depression, and overall diminished mental health contribute to poor driving decisions
- Increased behind-the-wheel cell phone usage
- Social media trends challenging drivers to complete city-to-city routes within dangerously low timeframes
- A sense of irresponsibility among motorists who violated stay-at-home guidelines
- An attitude of detachment from reality after prolonged periods of isolation and virtual communication
A Law Firm That Takes a Stand Against Reckless Driving in Philadelphia
If you’re anything like we are, you’re concerned for the people of our city. Our pedestrians, children walking to school, bicyclists, and motorists who work hard to stay safe on the roads are no match for the select few who choose to endanger themselves and everyone around them.
Through each and every car accident claim we handle, we strive tirelessly to hold motorists to a higher standard of accountability. When we see a reckless driver devastate the life of an innocent victim, we see an instance of gross injustice. At Shrager & Sachs, we devote our personal injury practice to righting those wrongs.
If you have questions about a motor vehicle crash in Philadelphia, reach out to schedule a free consultation with a car accident lawyer on our team.