Traffic fatalities rise dramatically in Washington and nationwide

Traffic fatalities are increasing dramatically in both Washington and across the United States.

After a decade of almost constant declines in traffic fatalities, there will likely be a dramatic increase in 2015, according to Reuters. Across both Washington and the United States traffic deaths are on the upswing, with many blaming low gas prices and dangerous driving behaviors for the increase. In particular, officials are pointing to car accidents caused by impaired driving and distracted driving, both of which have cost thousands of lives over the past year. The increase comes after traffic deaths in 2014 reached one of their lowest points on record.

Increasing fatalities

For the first six months of 2015 traffic deaths across the U.S. jumped 8.1 percent compared to the same period in 2014. The total number of deaths from January to June were 16,225 nationwide. If current trends continue, the increase from 2014 to 2015 will be the biggest percentage-wise since the 1970s. In Washington, traffic fatalities also increased dramatically, with The Olympian reporting that by December there had been more than 500 traffic fatalities in 2015, an increase of more than 100 compared to the same point in 2014.

The increase is particularly disheartening given that traffic deaths in 2014 had reached a record low. In 2014, nationwide traffic deaths reached 32,675 translating to about 1.07 deaths per hundred million miles traveled, the lowest rate on record.

Looking for causes

Most analysts agree that low gas prices are contributing to the increase by leading to an overall increase in traffic congestion. In particular, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that lower gas prices may have encouraged drivers who are already at a higher risk of being involved in an accident, such as teenagers, to drive more often in 2015.

The NHTSA also points out that driver behavior, such as speeding and reckless driving, account for 94 percent of all accidents. Officials are taking steps to try an counteract the effect poor driving decisions have on public safety. The Washington State Patrol, for example, has increased its DUI patrols to help slow the rising fatality rate, while the NHTSA says it plans to unveil a program in 2016 to tackle poor driving behaviors, such as distracted driving.

Car accidents

Serious car accidents are on the increase both in Washington and across the country. With more people on the roads, there are more opportunities for crashes to happen, especially when drivers are impaired or distracted. Anyone who has been hurt in an accident should reach out to a personal injury attorney to talk about their case. A serious accident can completely change one's life, leading to high medical bills, lost income, and both physical and emotional pain. An attorney can help victims go over what legal rights they may have and can also help them recover whatever compensation they may be due.