A recently released AAA study reveals a record amount of hit-and-run injuries and deaths, the majority of which are to bicyclists and pedestrians. This raises a confluence of issues related to a lack of adequate bicycling and pedestrian safety infrastructure, the prevention of DUI driving, public video surveillance, and uninsured motorist coverage. According to AAA, there were 2,049 hit-and-run related fatalities in the United States in 2016, and 65% of those were bicyclists or pedestrians. Twenty percent of all pedestrian deaths were hit-and-run related. The reasons that a driver may flee the scene often relate to the fact that many of the drivers are intoxicated with prior DUI records. The study notes that a large percentage of hit-and-run collisions occur in the hours between midnight and 4 a.m. when drivers are more likely to be intoxicated, it is easier to flee the scene due to lighter traffic, and there are fewer witnesses out at that hour.
The NHTSA has released its 2016 injury data, but the data is rather limited in comparison to data released for prior years. For example, there is no data re injuries related to intoxicated driving.
In past years, the NHTSA has released annually an overview of motor vehicle crashes for the prior calendar year which includes both injury and fatality data. However, the NHTSA recently released its overview of 2016 fatality data without including the 2016 non-fatal injury data. I contacted the NHTSA to find out whether the 2016 non-fatal injury data is currently available and if not when it will become available. The response from NHTSA was as follows:
In a nut shell, there is no 2016 injury data at this time. NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) redesigned the nationally representative sample of police-reported traffic crashes, which estimates the number of police-reported injury and property–damage-only crashes in the United States. The new system, called the Crash Report Sampling System (CRSS), replaced the National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES) in 2016. However, the 2016 estimates are not currently available. NHTSA is currently processing the file to ensure the data is accurate and complete and is finalizing the new weighting and calibration procedures to produce national estimates. Once completed, NHTSA will release the data and publish the estimated number of police-reported injury and property-damage-only crashes that occurred during 2016.
The NHTSA recently released its 2016 fatal motor vehicle crash data. Noteworthy among the data are the following:
Nationally, there were 37,461 fatalities during 2016, a 5.6 increase from 2015. Pedestrian fatalities increased by 492, a 9.0% increase from 2015 and the highest number since 1990. The fatality rate per 100 million Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) increased by 2.6% from 1.15 in 2015 to 1.18 in 2016. Fatalities in distraction related crashes were 9.2% of total fatalities in 2016. Approximately 28% of all fatalities were in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes (29% in California). There were 11.5 times as many un-helmeted motorcyclist fatalities in States without universal helmet laws (1,923 un-helmeted fatalities) as in States with universal helmet laws (166 un-helmeted fatalities).
As reported by several news agencies, Aniket Gadre, a young boy, was tragically killed while walking with his mother in the parking lot of San Jose’s Westfield Oakridge Shopping Center during the evening of June 30, 2016. According to witnesses, a Mercedes automobile traveling at low speed, apparently looking for a parking spot, fatally struck Aniket. As a Bay Area pedestrian accident lawyer who has handled many such cases, distracted driving is a huge factor in many fatal and severe injury incidents. While we frequently see drivers take their eyes off the path in which their vehicle is traveling, it is negligent to do so. This comes at the same time that the NHTSA has released its crash data showing a dramatic increase in pedestrian fatalities, as I reported in my earlier blog post.
The NHTSA has released their preliminary analysis of 2015 crash data. Traffic deaths nationally increased 7.7% over 2014, 6% in California, with 9 out of 10 geographic regions reporting increases. Bicycling deaths nationally increased a startling 13%, while pedestrian deaths increased an equally troubling 10%. The data is still being analyzed but the NHTSA reports that human factors such as distracted driving and young drivers to be primary factors. This of course comes as no surprise to San Francisco Bay Area drivers who constantly witness distracted driving activity on our roads due to drivers’ use of smartphones. Congressional action and local strict enforcement are clearly needed.
In my humble opinion, we have a duty as citizens to report unsafe drivers in order to prevent traffic accidents. If one knows of an incompetent or chronically impaired driver, there is action that can be taken to report that person and thereby hopefully eventually remove that person from the road, either temporarily or permanently, in order to prevent fatalities and injuries. If we are out driving and observe someone exhibiting unsafe driving behavior, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) wants us to report it while it is happening by calling 911. There is also a procedure for reporting such drivers to the DMV. The DMV has a Form (DS 699) Request For Driver Reexamination, which can be found online, by which ordinary citizens can report to the DMV unsafe drivers known to them. I recently used this form to report an extremely elderly man who I observed for several minutes exhibiting incompetent driving behavior on Highway 101. While I should have notified the CHP immediately, I later used the DS 699 to report the driver using the car plate number and vehicle and driver description.
Tragically, another life has been taken by an elderly unfit driver purportedly suffering from so-called “pedal confusion”, i.e., hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake. Kathy Baker, the beloved CFO of Lawrence Livermore Labs, was killed on 9/22/15 during her early morning workout at the LifeStyleRx Fitness Center in Livermore when an 80-year-old female Livermore resident (identified by ABC News as Mineko Deakin) drove her Mercedes ML350 SUV through the front of the gym and kept going, evidently mentally confused. Five or six others were reportedly injured.
Unfortunately, this scenario of an elderly person who, due to mental or physical disabilities brought on by age or illness, injures or kills innocent victims, is all too common and too little is being done to prevent such accidents. In my decades of practice as a car accident lawyer, I have found that drivers quite often drive long past the point at which they are competent to do so. According to ABC News, Ms. Deakin reportedly had approximately 18 months previously jumped the same curb and nearly run into the same fitness center but no police report was made due to lack of injuries or damage.
While much can be recovered by the victim’s family from the driver’s car insurance, umbrella insurance, assets, and under certain circumstances even from the driver’s physicians or the premises owner’s insurance, nothing can fully compensate the victim’s family for their immeasurable loss.
The final 2013 crash data was recently published by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The data reveals that in California, in 2013, there were 3000 total crash related fatalities, 29% of which involved alcohol-impaired driving. As compared to 2012, the number of fatal and injury crashes in the United States dipped only slightly, both absolutely and per vehicle mile traveled (VMT). The relative distribution between rural and urban remained unchanged. A whopping 49% of passenger vehicle occupant fatalities were unrestrained. And 41% of motorcyclist fatalities were not helmeted. There were 4,735 pedestrian fatalities in the United States in 2013 (13 per day) and 66,000 pedestrian injuries (181 per day). The statistics for bicyclists are equally sobering, with 743 killed and 48,000 injured.
Since distraction is a factor in a large percentage of auto injury accidents, our office encourages viewing of the following AAA-produced educational video regarding the causes, effects, and prevention of cognitive distracted driving, in addition to the video posted on our car accident lawyer web page.
Cognitive distraction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOshfzVsUlU&index=13&list=PL422FE5F91658622A
Update: 6/12/14: Driver Distracted by GPS Crashes Head-On into Muni Bus on Laguna Honda Street in SF Injuring Four: http://abc7news.com/traffic/driver-distracted-by-gps-crashes-into-muni-bus/112958/