Roadway fatalities have risen in recent years after declining for some time. In 2021, there were almost 43,000 traffic-related deaths. Many of them involved pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. In fact, traffic fatalities are a leading cause of worker deaths and child deaths in the United States.
When researchers look at crash rates in other countries, they often see very different trends. Countries with similar income levels and car ownership rates frequently report lower per capita vehicle deaths over time. What makes car crashes such a persistent safety issue for drivers in the United States?
Culture and community design play a role
When researchers look at what factors contribute to crashes, there are numerous elements in play. The highly-individualistic culture in the United States no doubt plays a role. People think nothing of breaking social rules for personal benefit, which is different than in countries where a sense of social duty may be a higher cultural priority.
Additionally, large vehicles and the prestige associated with them are also important considerations. The proliferation of bigger and heavier vehicles is one of the reasons why crashes have become deadlier, especially for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcycle riders.
Finally, it is the design of urban centers and streets themselves that plays a role. In many countries with cities previously established around pedestrians, the roads are not wide enough to encourage unsafe driving practices, like speeding in urban centers. Researchers point to cultural issues, vehicle considerations and also the designs of cities themselves when trying to pinpoint why traffic deaths are such an ongoing concern in the United States despite declining elsewhere.
People must plan for what they cannot control
The average driver doesn’t have any influence over what other people drive or how experts plan the cities where they live. However, they can prioritize defensive driving techniques for their own safety and specifically avoid unsafe practices very common on domestic roads, including speeding and digital distraction.
Those who have been negatively impacted by a recent collision will likely need to educate themselves about their rights after a wreck. Drivers and surviving family members may have the right to file an insurance claim. Occasionally, there may also be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit or even a wrongful death claim following a severe motor vehicle collision. Understanding the factors that contribute to crashes can help drivers avoid car wrecks and pursue appropriate justice after an accident.