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To Err is Human...

The day after Christmas, three people on their way home from a nightclub were killed when their car smashed through two fences and plunged into a lake near Fort Lauderdale. Only the driver escaped the sinking vehicle and, although the cause is still under investigation, witnesses reported that the car had been speeding prior to the crash. A tragedy for sure, perhaps even a preventable one – and they happen all the time. In 2015, there were more than 35,000 traffic fatalities. To give some perspective, that measures out to almost 100 deaths a day and is roughly equal to the population of Aventura.

Things had been heading in the right direction, but 2015 reversed a ten-year trend of decreasing fatalities. Instead of making further progress, that year saw an increase of 7.5 percent over 2014 and was the largest single-year increase since 1966. Final figures for 2016 have not yet been released, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that traffic fatalities in the first six months were up 10.4 percent.

There were 35,092 people killed in traffic crashes in 2015. Human factors are responsible for as much as 94% of fatal traffic crashes. Making better decisions by choosing not to drive while drowsy, drugged, drunk, or distracted could save lives.

So, what’s going on? Well, there are greater volumes of traffic as evidenced by the Federal Highway Administration’s conclusion that Americans drove a record of more than 3.1 trillion miles in 2015. But aren’t vehicles and roads designed to be safer? Turns out, they are only part of the battle. The rest of the problem lies with the fallibility of humans, with as much as 94 percent of crashes caused by human error.

One of the biggest issues is drivers who seem unable to give their full cognitive, visual, and manual attention to the challenging act of operating a motor vehicle. Instead of focusing on the road, many people are driving while using their cell phones to check email, post social media, take pictures, watch videos, listen to music, send texts, and (gasp!) make phone calls. The potential for distraction is obvious, and even hands-free operation is risky. Using a mobile phone engages the same parts of the brain as driving. As if that isn’t terrifying enough, there is some evidence that the diversion lasts for as long as 27 seconds AFTER voice commands are used.

Making a poor choice to speed, drive while tired, or drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs adds to the increase in road deaths. In fact, around one-third of 2015’s traffic fatalities involved an intoxicated or speeding driver. Furthermore, despite a national seat belt law (except for adults in New Hampshire), almost half of the deaths were passengers who had not been wearing their seat belts.

One way to fix the problem is to take away free choice. Certain technologies are gradually becoming standard on most new vehicles, such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings, blind spot monitors, and adaptive headlights. These four innovations could save 10,000 lives annually, according to estimations by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. While that’s a step in the right direction, other opportunities to supersede drivers’ bad decisions must be pursued.

Whether you were a motorist, passenger, pedestrian, or cyclist, if you have been hurt in a vehicle accident, the attorneys at Stabinski & Funt, P.A. can help. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless traffic collision victims, and we are highly experienced in handling a wide range of auto and truck accident cases throughout South Florida. We also work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee or cost to you. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a case evaluation form.

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