The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that each year, approximately 1.35 million lives are lost as a result of traffic collisions, with an additional 20-50 million left to suffer traumatic brain injury, amputation, severe burns, permanent deformity, disability, and other injuries. For Americans, this presents a startling one in 103 chance of dying in a vehicle accident. Although many car wrecks and truck crashes on the mountainous roadways of West Virginia result from unavoidable and unforeseeable situations, a troubling percentage of traffic-related injuries and fatalities are caused by vehicle operators that fail to exercise reasonable care or otherwise act with negligence, malice, an intent to harm, or in an otherwise wrongful manner. For West Virginia drivers, three specific hazards stand out above the rest.
West Virginia Drivers Face Higher Fatality Rates
No matter how aware, alert, and careful we are when operating our own vehicles to avoid automobile accidents, we share the road with others whose actions, when careless or reckless in nature, may pose significant danger to our lives and livelihoods. In West Virginia, the prospect of being involved in an automobile accident resulting in serious/catastrophic injury or death is a major concern, with vehicle-related fatality rates far outpacing those of other states.
The Unwarranted Threat of Reckless Drivers
While a significantly higher percentage of fatalities occur on rural roadways than urban, and the failure to utilize seat belts, vehicle restraints, and motorcycle helmet, as well as our state’s narrow, winding mountainous roads themselves, contribute to a higher fatality rate for West Virginians, careless drivers pose a particularly heinous threat because the hazard they present is unwarranted. The deaths and extensive degree of pain and suffering caused by these reckless individuals could be avoided with proper care and conscientiousness on their part.
Know the Signs of Danger on WV Roadways
Whether you are a new or veteran driver, it is helpful to take note of some of the signs that may indicate a fellow motorist represents a risk to you and your loved ones. With vigilance, you may be able to take evasive action. Be aware of the three greatest dangers to the lives of pedestrians, motorcyclists, and vehicle operators on West Virginia roadways below and take note of the following suggestions to help you safely evade these threats.
1. Drunk Driving
The #1 cause of traffic-related fatalities in West Virginia is alcohol-impaired driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately one in every three fatal car crashes involved a driver whose blood-alcohol concentration registered at 0.08 or higher. Despite West Virginia’s participation in every nationwide impaired driving law enforcement campaign offered by the NHTSA since the program’s inception and numerous sustained, intensive efforts by local city, county, and state law enforcement agencies, alcohol-related traffic accidents remain the top threat to life on West Virginia’s roadways.
Know the Signs – Avoid Alcohol-Impaired Drivers
Stay as far away as you possibly can from any vehicle which zig-zags or drifts across the roadway, nearly collides with other vehicles and/or objects, accelerates/decelerates rapidly, slams on the brakes erratically, tailgates your vehicle or other vehicles, drives much slower/faster than the posted speed limit, exhibits improper use of vehicle lights/signals, responds much slower than expected from traffic control devices, drives directly down the center or wrong side of a divided roadway and/or into opposing traffic.
Contact with other vehicles and/or objects at excessive rates of speed have been a contributing cause of death in approximately one in every four fatal vehicle accidents in West Virginia. In addition to loss of life either upon impact or within 30 days of the incident, these devastating contact events often lead to catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injury, paraplegia, paralysis, severe burns, head trauma, organ and nervous system damage, amputation, and other serious injuries that can be absolutely devastating for the victim and family.
Know the Signs – Avoid Reckless Drivers
Watch out for motorists that are driving too fast, tailgating/following other vehicles too closely, seem to be in a rush, racing, driving aggressively, running stop signs or red lights, disregarding traffic rules, changing lanes repeatedly in rapid succession, and/or actively exhibiting signs of road rage.
When possible, place as much distance between yourself and the reckless driver. Move over or change lanes to allow the unsafe driver to pass your vehicle, pull over if you can do so safely, and take care to not become provoked into driving or acting recklessly yourself. Do not slam on your brakes, engage with the reckless driver, or escalate the situation. If a passenger is present, you can ask them to alert authorities with the description, location, and behavior of the reckless driver to help prevent a tragic vehicle accident.
3. Distracted Driving
Approximately one in twenty fatal vehicle accidents is caused by a distraction affecting one or more of the affected vehicles, with 23% of these involving cell phone usage and another 23% related to either eating, drinking, or smoking while driving. Other notable distractions reported include driver unawareness, outside events/objects/persons, and those caused by objects within the vehicle/vehicle controls.
Know the Signs – Avoid Distracted Drivers
Distracted drivers can often be recognized by behavior which may include swerving, drifting off course, frequently looking down and/or taking their gaze off of the road, driving well under or above the posted speed limit, and slamming on their brakes erratically or without warning. In some cases, you may clearly witness a distracted driver actively using a cellphone or electronic device, eating or drinking behind the wheel, or engaging with people or objects in their vehicle instead of focusing on driving.
If you witness these or other concerning behaviors, be aware that distracted driving often causes accidents in the blink of an eye due to the vehicle operator’s inattentiveness to the serious task at hand. Take action to immediately place as much distance as possible between your vehicle and that of the distracted driver. If you cannot avoid the distracted driver on the road, consider pulling over if you can safely do so. Be as alert and observant as possible.
Injured or Lost a Loved One to a DUI, Reckless or Distracted Driver in WV?
Have you been seriously injured or lost a loved one in an accident caused by an unsafe driver in West Virginia? If a DUI, reckless, distracted, or otherwise negligent driver’s actions have caused your suffering and loss, you may wish to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim. You may be eligible to pursue compensation which may include monetary relief for a wide range of tangible and intangible losses including surgical procedures, medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, funeral and burial expenses, and future anticipated losses, as well. If you have good reason to believe another’s actions or negligence contributed to your injuries or the loss of your loved one, it is important to secure a professional review of the circumstances surrounding the incident as soon as possible.
Maximum Compensation for WV Accident Victims
Contact Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law
If you have been seriously injured or suffered the catastrophic loss of a family member or loved one at the hands of a careless driver in a commercial truck or motor vehicle accident anywhere in West Virginia, contact our law firm immediately. Since 1952, Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law L.C. has championed the rights of accident victims throughout West Virginia. We offer comfort, exceptional legal guidance, and vigilance to help our clients pursue the maximum financial compensation allowed by law for serious personal injuries and wrongful death on the roadways of the Mountain State.
Contact Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law for a complimentary consultation: (304) 292-4381.