After a disturbing uptick in car accident deaths in 2012, U.S. traffic deaths fell by 4.2 percent during the first half of 2013, according to early figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Accident related highway deaths had been on a sharp decline for most of the last decade before reversing course in 2012 with a 4.4 percent increase. Despite the decline in 2013, the federal safety agency still estimated that 15,470 people died in all forms of motor vehicle crashes between January 1 and June 30. This number accounts for all car accident deaths nationally including motorcycle deaths for the first half of the year. Additionally, some states have seen their car accident death rates decrease while others have seen increases.

This welcome ebb in car accident related deaths actually comes as a surprise to government officials who had predicted an increase in fatalities as the economy improves and there are more cars on the road during rush hour. Officials are studying the reasons for this outcome and possible factors include:

  • Crackdowns on impaired and distracted driving.
  • Increased awareness of the effects and consequences of impaired and distracted driving.
  • Improved car safety systems such as better vehicle and airbag designs.
  • New technologies such as the electronic stability control now required in all new vehicles and further improvements to collision avoidance systems.

Studies will likely show even more reasons for the rate of accident death decline but whatever they are, it is good news. If this trajectory holds, road deaths will have taken a 26 percent nose dive since 2005 and an even more staggering 40 percent decline since their peak in 1972 with 54,589 deaths. It wasn’t so long ago on the late 1970s that more than 50,000 Americans were dying in car accidents every year and it took until 2008 before the number dropped below 40,000.

Despite the overall good news, there are some serious concerns over the rise in motorcycle deaths in 2012 (The NHTSA has not yet provided numbers for 2013). Sadly, despite the direct correlation between decreased helmet use and increased deaths more states are taking a “freedom” approach and reversing motorcycle helmet laws. For example in Michigan, motorcycle deaths rose an alarming 18 percent in 2012 after ending their helmet law in April. The overall trend doesn’t look good either as motorcyclist fatalities have more than doubled since the mid 1990s to almost 4,550 last year. According to a report by fairwarning.org biker groups backed by major motorcycle manufacturers are advocating for or against the following laws in Washington:

  • Repeal State helmet laws.
  • Implementing a rule that would prevent the NHTSA from providing any more grants to states to conduct highway stops of motorcyclists to check for safety violations such as wearing helmets that don’t meet federal standards.
  • Preserve a rule to prevent the NHTSA from communicating safety measures at the state and local levels, in place since 1998.
  • Derail a measure to reinstate financial penalties for states lacking helmet laws.

This lobbying on Capitol Hill has caused downward pressure on state legislators who have begun repealing helmet laws in alarming numbers. Compared to the late 1970s where 47 states had helmet laws, only 19 states do today. Although Washington State does not have a bicycle helmet law it does require helmets for Motorcycle riders.

Helmets save lives! The NHTSA estimates that helmets saved 1,483 lives in 2009 and that 732 deaths could have been prevented if all riders had worn a helmet.

Automakers and automotive safety equipment manufacturers would like nothing more than to eliminate all vehicle deaths in their vehicles and equipment but it is unclear how this would ever be accomplished. In the mean time, safety advances are real and getting better every year.

If you or a loved one were injured in an accident, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!

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