Why Don’t We Take Traffic Fatalities More Seriously?

May 8th, 2017 by Attorney Julie Butcher

Traffic accidents happen every day. Maybe that’s the problem. Traffic accidents are like dripping water from a faucet we can’t be bothered to fix. When it comes to traffic crashes, each drip is like a life lost and the country and Kentucky can’t be bothered to do much to fix the problem of the rapidly increasing number of traffic fatalities.

Tom Eblen, writing in the Lexington Herald Leader, challenges us about our perspective on those who die on the state’s and country’s highways and roadways:

  • If tornadoes ripped through Kentucky killing 834 people, the President and the Governor would declare a disaster.
  • If terrorists killed more than 40,000 Americans across the country, people would panic and politicians would scramble to try to keep it from ever happening again.

Those are causes that grab headlines, including those of the Herald Leader. Unless someone famous is killed in a crash, the accident is spectacular and a video of it races across social media or the death is especially tragic, a fatal traffic accident is just another fatal accident.

  • 834 people died on Kentucky roads last year, 73 more deaths than in 2015 and the most in a decade. At least 218 people have been killed so far this year on the state’s roads.
  • 40,200 people died in traffic accidents across the country last year, the most since 2007. That’s more than twice as many Americans as died in the War of 1812 (at least you read about that in the history books).

How do we react to this carnage? Just like the annoying dripping faucet, mostly, we shrug and move on, stick our noses back into our smartphones and tablets, check for the latest UK scores or kitten videos.

Unless a victim is known by us personally, most of us casually accept the death of thousands (plus tens of thousands more injuries) as the price of modern life and convenient transportation. We see “accidents” like they are random events beyond the control of mortals. Are they?

  • More than half those killed on Kentucky roads last year weren’t wearing seat belts.
  • Speeding and aggressive driving contributed to 36% of traffic deaths.
  • Nearly a quarter of these accidents involved drivers who were using cellphones or were distracted by something else equally critical in their lives, like the need to change the radio station.
  • Alcohol use was linked to 139 deaths.
  • Of the 92 motorcyclists killed on our roads, 62 weren’t wearing helmets.
  • Big trucks and other commercial vehicles were involved in 82 deaths.

These grim numbers bring up several issues. The first is personal responsibility, which we lack because we too often find excuses for ourselves and others.

  • We love our cars.
  • We’re in a hurry.
  • We like to drive fast.
  • We love our cellphones even more than our cars.
  • We are busy.
  • We have short attention spans made shorter by cellphones.

Eblen says one answer is to make distracted driving as socially unacceptable as drunk driving. He doesn’t know how we’ll do that, but it will be hard. Unlike drunken driving, virtually everyone has driven while distracted.

As Eblen points out, we are facing many challenges when it comes to the deaths on our roads and highways. We can’t control other drivers, but we can control ourselves. Don’t drive while distracted, after getting too little sleep or when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you’re having a bad day, aggressive driving will just make it a bad day for others, too, some of whom you may put in the hospital. Getting someplace late is far better than causing an accident because you were driving too fast. Use your seatbelt and make sure everyone else in your vehicle uses their seatbelts, too.

If enough of us take responsibility for ourselves, we may be able to turn this trend around and more people may be able to get home safely at the end of the day.

If you or a family member has been injured in a vehicle accident in Kentucky, you can rely on the Julie Butcher Law Office, which has extensive experience handling the claims of those injured in vehicle accidents. Call us at 859-233-3641 or fill out our contact form so we can talk about the circumstances of your case and how we might help your family obtain compensation for your injuries.