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Reckless Driving is a National ‘Public Health Crisis’

A spike in dangerous and reckless driving in recent years has increased safety hazards for Coloradoans and others across the country. The combination of speeding, distracted driving and getting behind the wheel while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs is largely to blame, according to an in-depth new report from The New York Times.

“Above all, though, the problem seems to be us — the American public, the American driver,” Matthew Shaer writes for the Times. 

Careless driving has reached the level of “genuine public-health crisis,” a U.S. Department of Transportation official told Shaer. 

The trends are clear, according to researchers and traffic safety officials: Drivers are more willing to speed and engage in dangerous activity like tailgating and illegal lane changing. They are also increasingly susceptible to distracted driving. Meanwhile drivers and passengers are less likely to be wearing seatbelts.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say behavior on the road today is the worst I’ve ever seen,” Capt. Michael Brown, a state police official in Michigan, told the Times.

The Times report highlights nationwide problems that may already be apparent to anyone who has hit the road in Colorado in recent years. Dangerous driving skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, even as traffic volume dropped sharply, with rates of fatal and serious car accidents climbing accordingly.

While the pandemic has subsided, dangerous driving has remained elevated. And the consequences are still serious.

Fatal traffic accidents in Colorado hit a two-decade high in 2022, with nearly 750 people killed in collisions statewide. The total was up 8 percent from the previous year and marked a 57 percent jump in traffic deaths in just a decade.

Preliminary data show that conditions may have improved slightly in Colorado last year. Traffic deaths statewide were down by about 4 percent over the first half of 2023, compared to the same period in 2022, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

So, why are drivers more likely to engage in risky behavior behind the wheel? Some experts told the Times that it could be tied to rising stress among Americans, many of whom are spending more time on the road.

“The problem today, in the United States, may be that we’re all baseline angry and anxious — and we’re all in a car, all the time,” Shaer writes. “Or what feels like it, anyway.”

“Outside the few fully walkable cities or the ones with reliable public transportation, most communities require a car to traverse. And traverse slowly: Traffic is up across the country, as is the duration of our average one-way commutes, which recently topped 27 minutes, the longest in our history.”

Big Cars, Shoddy Roads

While driver negligence is often to blame when collisions happen, other factors are also at play. Car size and poor road conditions are among them.

“The relationship between car size and injury rates is still being studied, but early research on the American appetite for horizon-blotting machinery points in precisely the direction you’d expect: The bigger the vehicle, the less visibility it affords, and the more destruction it can wreak,” the Times reports.

Sport utility vehicles and certain vans are 45 percent more likely to kill pedestrians than other cars, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit group.

Dangerous road conditions put everyone at risk, no matter what kind of vehicle you are driving. As much as 43 percent of all roads across the country are in poor or mediocre condition, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates. 

In Denver, city officials are focusing, in particular, on street design and the potential risks to pedestrians. 

“We know it’s because our streets are dangerous by design,” Jill Locantore, executive director of the Denver Streets Partnership, told Denver7 last year. “The fundamental problem is we’ve been prioritizing cars and driving above everything else.”

Injured in a Colorado Car Crash? Do Not Go it Alone

If you have been injured in a car accident in Colorado, you have the right to seek compensation from those responsible for the collision.

The compensation typically available in Colorado car accident cases includes money for medical bills, property damage, missed wages, and other financial consequences of the collision. Additionally, punitive damages may also be awarded in some situations to punish particularly reckless behavior.

In the tragic event that a person is killed in a car crash, certain family members also have the right to pursue a wrongful death case. Wrongful death claims help families address some of the financial stress that often comes with losing a loved one.

To obtain compensation after a car crash, you generally have to be able to prove negligence. This legal theory holds people and entities responsible when they do not live up to certain responsibilities, or what courts and lawyers call a “duty of care.”

State law requires drivers in Colorado to operate their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner, for example. That means complying with traffic laws and refraining from dangerous activity behind the wheel, like drinking and driving or texting behind the wheel.

A driver who does not live up to this responsibility and causes a crash as a result is likely to be liable for any injuries and other damage stemming from the accident.

Fortunately, anyone injured in a car crash does not need to go it alone.

An experienced Denver personal injury lawyer at our firm can help you identify those responsible for the crash, prove their liability and maximize your compensation. Our track record of success includes a number of six- and seven-figure settlements and verdicts.

Speak with a Denver Car Accident Lawyer 

If you or a loved one has been injured in a hit-and-run or other crash in Colorado, a Denver car accident lawyer at Levine Law can help you take action. Our attorneys combine decades of experience and a strong track record of success in the courtroom and through negotiated settlements.

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