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Traffic fatality rates across the nation have climbed over the last five years. Rhode Island has not been immune to this unfortunate reality. When comparing the first half of this year to the first half of last year, Rhode Island officials and safety advocates were stunned at the rise.
The Washington Post reports that United States traffic fatalities hit an all-time low in 2011. This was a result of fewer vehicles being on the road after the economy started to spiral nearly a decade ago. Fewer vehicles were driven and fatalities rates declined between 2008 and 2011. Unfortunately, traffic fatalities have been steadily rising ever since. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 37,000 fatal injuries were sustained on the roads of America in 2016. This was an increase of 5.6 percent of the number of fatalities in 2015. Now, in 2017, more than 18,000 people died nationally during the first half of the year. These figures put America on pace for as many – or more – traffic fatalities in 2017 as we saw last year.
As for Rhode Island, The Providence Journal investigated a sharp spike in roadway deaths in the first half of 2017 after learning that the number was 70 percent higher than roadway deaths in Rhode Island for the first half of 2016. A Rhode Island State Police superintendent told the Journal that many of these deaths were preventable. Aggressive driving, distracted driving and excessive speeding were direct causes of many of these roadway deaths.
Failure to wear a seat belt often increases the likelihood of being injured, though it should be noted that this fact doesn’t bar a plaintiff from seeking compensation from an at-fault driver. As a pure comparative negligence state, Rhode Island allows motorists who shared part of the blame for the crash to still collect damages from another party – even if the plaintiff was more at fault than the defendant.
The increase in Rhode Island traffic deaths is concerning, but can be remedied. The Rhode Island State Police have already identified many driver behaviors which increase both the risk of having a car accident and the severity of injuries sustained in an accident. Distracted driving and aggressive driving both increase the risk of having an accident. Rhode Island drivers must accept personal responsibility for implementing safe driving habits.
Seat belt use and reduced speed both decrease the severity of injuries which are sustained in a car accident. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that seat belt use saved an estimated 64,000 lives between 2011 and 2015. The World Health Organization reports that an injury victim is twenty times more likely to die in an impact at 80 kilometers per hour than an impact at 30 kilometers per hour. This is more than a wise safety precaution: Rhode Island traffic law also requires drivers to avoid excessive speed. Section 31-14-1 of the Rhode Island General Laws prohibits drivers from traveling faster than is reasonable and prudent under current conditions. Drivers also have a specific obligation under this statute to control speed as necessary to avoid colliding with persons, vehicles, or conveyances on the highway.
Those injured by negligent drivers have the legal right to be compensated for their financial losses. A Providence car accident attorney with extensive experience can help fight for that compensation.