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I am a
car accident and personal injury blogger located in Atlanta, Georgia, and today I will be writing about a publication by the
National Highway and Traffic Administration (“NHTSA”), calledNHTSA Traffic Safety Facts.pdf. The report is based on 2008 data from all 50 states, the District of
Columbia and Puerto Rico. NHTSA pulled the information from its FARS (“Fatality
Analysis Reporting System”) and using statistics derived from the
General Estimates System (“GES”),which samples police-reported
crashes in 60 locations around the United States.

According to NHTSA, 102 people died each day in motor vehicle crashes in
2008. Shockingly, a person dies every 14 minutes from a car accident on
one of our roads.

In 2008, police reported 5,811,000 car crashes. Although 4,1246,000 of
these crashes involved property damage only, an appalling 2,346,000 people
were injured in these wrecks. Even more tragically, 37,261 people were
killed in car wrecks on American roads. Although the numbers are far too
high, NHTSA points out the the fatality rate has actually fallen per 100
million vehicle miles traveled (which they call “VMT”).

According to NHTSA, “motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause
of death for people of every age from 3 through 34 (based on 2006 data).”

NHTSA does point out a silver lining. In 1998, 1.58 people died per 100
million vehicle miles traveled. (The number comes out bizarrely, since
obviously you can’t have .58 of a person die, but extrapolated over
the many, many hundreds of millions of VMT, it would work out to a whole
number.) But the number of fatalities per VMT actually dropped in the
ensuing ten years, reading an all-time low of 1.27 deaths in car crashes
in 2008 per 100 million VMT. The number of fatalities from car wrecks
also dropped in terms of raw numbers. A total of 41,501 people lost their
lives in car crashes on American roads in 1998. By 2008, the number of
car accidents was still far too high, but it had mercifully dropped some,
to 37,261.

When the numbers are presented as statistics like this, it is easy to think
of the success we have had in preventing car accidents and injuries and
deaths from car accidents. And it is right and important that we recognize
when we have made strides toward improving traffic safety in the United
States. When we recognize where we have improved, we learn about what
works; where we see one area improve while others do not, we can determine
where to put our resources.

At the same time, as a car accident lawyer, I talk to the people who have
been injured in the car wrecks, and their families. I learn about the
enormous hole left in a family and in a whole society when someone dies
in a car crash. For that reason, I know that we cannot think of these
numbers in terms of “just” 37,261 people died, or “only”
2,346,000 people were injured. We have to remember the real toll that
car accidents take on all of us as a individuals, and also as a society.
We have to remember that it is worthwhile to spend our resources improving
automobiles and roads so that even fewer people are injured and even fewer
die in car wrecks.


Lee’s peers have named her a Georgia SuperLawyer every year for two decades.