Are American Drivers Out of Control?

Posted on January 24, 2022

The year 2020 was a tough one in a lot of ways, including traffic safety. And it looks like America’s highways and roads were even deadlier in 2021 and 2022. A report from the group Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety says that as a country, our drivers are “out of control.”

As stated from our Salt Lake City car accident lawyers, the report refers to the fact that traffic deaths rose 7 percent from 2019 to 2020, despite drivers covering fewer miles that year due to pandemic lockdowns.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 42,795 fatalities in traffic accidents in 2022. While it’s too early to project totals for 2023, the information we do know is troubling. For the first six months of 2021, about 20,000 people were killed in traffic collisions, an 18 percent increase from the first half of 2020.

By the end of 2021, the total climbed to 42,939. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety call this the largest year-over-year increase in accident deaths since at least 1975. Sadly, the number only decreased by 144 deaths in 2022.

The Grim Numbers for Utah

Here in Utah, data for 2022 revealed at least 320 deaths, a sharp rise from 2020 and the most the state has had since 2002. KSL reports that the biggest factors in the increased fatalities included distracted driving, speeding, and drunk driving. Such behavior is always a problem but seems to be worsening.

Responsible drivers are always on the lookout for reckless motorists. We do what we can to avoid a speeder or someone showing signs of driving while impaired or distracted. But we can’t always avoid an accident caused by a negligent driver, and sometimes, people sustain serious injuries.

You may not have been able to prevent injury, but you can control how you seek compensation from the person responsible. An experienced personal injury attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah can maximize your chances of recovering damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for your pain and suffering after a car accident.

What Are The Rising Problems on American Roadways?

Today’s drivers engage in negligent and reckless behaviors behind the wheel, with a sharp rise in distracted driving since the integration of the smartphone into every aspect of American life. Distracted driving causes an estimated 3,000 deaths every year, and there are hundreds of thousands of injuries. Common distractions include:

  • Texting
  • Checking notifications
  • Checking email
  • Scrolling through social media
  • Selecting playlists and podcasts
  • Using GPS and Map apps
  • Taking selfies and videos

Besides these newer forms of distractions, drivers also engage in distracting behaviors such as eating, grooming, and dealing with children in the backseat while behind the wheel.

According to research, a car driving 55mph travels the length of a football field in 5 seconds—the amount of time it takes to take your eyes off the road to look at a notification on a cell phone.

Has Pandemic Stress Contributed to Higher Accident Numbers?

According to the American Psychological Association, pandemic stress is partly responsible for drivers in the U.S. showing signs of being “out of control” behind the wheel. A deadly combination of 4 factors—described by one neuroscientist as “the four horsemen of death”— has led to increased traffic accidents and fatalities.

These are:

  • Speed
  • Distraction
  • Impairment
  • Fatigue

All of the above human risk behaviors tend to worsen during times of stress. Impulsive behaviors have increased during the pandemic and its aftermath, including higher instances of alcohol and drug abuse. This combined with decreased behavior regulation and less consideration of consequences leads to reckless or careless behavior behind the wheel like driving under the influence and speeding.

 Speeding is responsible for over a third of all traffic deaths and contributed to almost 30% of traffic fatalities in 2021. Speeding not only increases the force of impact in a crash but also reduces vehicle control, increases stopping distances, and reduces the effectiveness of seatbelts and airbags.

Other Dangers on American Roads

Since the rise of the rideshare industry, traffic accidents have increased nationwide by about 3%. Not only are fewer people using city buses and more depending on rideshare vehicles, causing an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads, but rideshare drivers commonly cruise the streets between passengers, adding to overall congestion.

Other causes of increased traffic accidents in 2022 include:

  • 54% of Americans admitted to exceeding the speed limit by over 10mph in the last year
  • 53% admit to distractions behind the wheel such as using a cell phone or eating
  • 17% admit to running a red light or stop sign
  • 23% admit to yelling at other drivers
  • 21% admit to using rude gestures to other drivers

State lawmakers nationwide are turning to stiffer penalties for distracted driving, speeding, and intoxicated driving in an attempt to minimize the risks of accidents on U.S. roadways, but currently, it does appear that more American drivers are engaging in dangerous behaviors that risk lives and leave them liable for damages in an accident.