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Driving on Arizona Highways is Dangerous

A new study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that compared the number of fatalities to the number of miles driven has lead investigators to conclude that from 2013-2015, the number of highway deaths in Maricopa County exceeded the US rate by 61 percent.  In that period, a fatal freeway accident occurred in the Valley about every five days, killing more than 200 people.

Most of these crashes happened on I-17 and I-10, most of them happened in the summer, and most of them happened at night.  But one significant statistic has emerged, half of the people killed on Valley highways between 2013 and 2015 were not wearing seatbelts.  Their deaths and serious injuries may have been preventable had they been wearing seatbelts.  Ejection from a car during a crash is 30 times more likely for people not wearing seatbelts, and more than 75 percent of people ejected during a crash die from their injuries.  Arizona does not allow troopers to cite people for failing to use a seatbelt when there is no other apparent violation, and thus Arizonans use seatbelts less than the national average. The clear message to be learned from these statistics is that seatbelts save lives.

Another risk factor for being killed on a Valley freeway is riding a motorcycle.  While motorcycles make up only four percent of all registered vehicles in the state, they were involved in 22 percent of fatal crashes in this time period.  This does not mean that motorcycle drivers are worse than car drivers.  Frequently these crashes and deaths occur because the car driver did not see the motorcycle.  This is compounded by the fact that in Arizona riders are not required to wear helmets, and they wear helmets only 43 percent of the time, while riders in other states use helmets more than 60 percent of the time.  Statistics show that helmets would have prevented about 40 percent of Phoenix riders’ deaths.

Another obvious factor cited is highway speed.  Because the main freeways in the Valley, I-10 and I-17, are generally straight and flat, when traffic thins out at night, drivers are tempted to exceed the speed limit.   A high rate of speed, when combined with equipment failures such as tire blowouts or debris in the road causes many fatal crashes.  Excessive speed is also related to alcohol consumption, which is more frequent at night.  In almost 60 percent of the highway fatalities in Maricopa County, alcohol consumption was a factor.   There are other highway factors which present dangers to drivers, including poorly designed curves and interchanges, ineffective median barriers, and poorly maintained road surfaces.

The final factor that causes highway injuries is distracted driving.  Almost 25 percent of the Valley’s fatal crashes are caused by distracted drivers who cause rear end collisions.  Various forms of distracted driving include talking on the phone, texting, and eating.   While Arizona law permits citations for distracted driving, there is no specific prohibition against texting while driving, which contributes to the high death rate.

Attorney Stanley J. Marks of this firm was the founder of the Arizona chapter of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and has been involved with other groups working to pass legislation to prohibit texting while driving.  He and other firm attorneys have represented many victims of auto crashes and have succeeded in convincing the Arizona Department of Transportation to fix dangerously designed roads, which has undoubtedly saved lives.

Please give us a call for a free consultation if you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury caused by a car crash.  We can discuss with you how we may help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

Author: Serena C. Montague
Publication Date: November 29, 2016



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