Massachusetts Traffic Deaths Rise at More Than Double National Average

A report released on February 15 by the National Safety Council found that traffic deaths in Massachusetts rose by 13% from 2015 to 2016, more than double the national average of 6%.

There were 399 people killed on Massachusetts roads in 2016, up from 354 in 2015. Across the United States, it was the deadliest year on record since 2007, with 40,200 fatalities from car accidents. The 6% increase in deaths follows a 14% spike from 2014 to 2015, marking the greatest increase in traffic fatalities since 1964.

Experts point to a variety of factors that are contributing to the higher death toll. A stronger economy has more people driving, both for work and for vacations. There are also more teen drivers on the roads, and as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us, teen drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers over the age of 20.

Massachusetts may have a bigger problem on its hands, however. State Highway Safety Director Jeff Larson told The Boston Globe that driver distraction was “the most problematic factor” in the Commonwealth’s above-average rise in car accident deaths.

Most drivers know that texting while driving is illegal in Massachusetts and carries a fine of $100 for the first offense, but texting is just one of the distractions found in today’s vehicles. Complex infotainment systems with satellite radio receivers, GPS systems and apps like Google Maps also present potentially deadly distractions to drivers. Looking up directions on a phone is just as dangerous as texting. Anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, even for a second, must be avoided when you are behind the wheel.

As experienced car accident attorneys, Sheff Law routinely obtains phone data, metadata and data from on-board computers in vehicles that can help determine liability. It is important for people hurt in car accidents to hire a car accident attorney shortly after an accident, because some of these important data sources can be lost if you wait too long. Insurance companies will destroy cars after they have been photographed, which destroys evidence from on-board computers. Phone companies may wipe their metadata after 30 days unless there is an order from a lawyer to preserve it.

Historically below-average seatbelt use in Massachusetts, as well as our congested roads, are additional factors in the high number of fatalities.. Boston and Cambridge present particular challenges as drivers jockey with buses, trucks, pedestrians, scooters and bicyclists for their share of the road.

Add distraction to this mix, and it is not surprising to see Massachusetts well ahead of the national average in vehicle fatalities. Reversing this trend requires everyone, whether you are a driver, cyclist or pedestrian, to give their full concentration when traveling, even if it’s something as simple as walking or driving down your own street. Remember that distracted driving, cycling or walking increases your personal liability in the event of an accident.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident involving a distracted driver, Sheff Law is here to help. Contact us online for a free case evaluation or call us at 1-888-423-4477.

Graphic showing traffic deaths in the United States over time
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