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What Is the Leading Cause of Fatal Car Accidents?

When you tragically lose a loved one in a fatal car accident, determining the cause of the accident is an important step in the recovery process. Not only can it help provide closure, but it also determines whether your family has grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit

Fatal car accidents typically leave loved ones facing significant financial and non-financial losses. Along with medical bills, funeral expenses, and loss of income and inheritance, family members can also struggle with their own emotional trauma, loss of consortium and companionship, and loss of enjoyment of life. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit holds the at-fault party accountable, and it provides grieving family members with the financial resources they need to begin to move on.

Drunk Driving is the Leading Cause of Fatal Car Accidents 

Sadly, most fatal car accidents are 100% preventable. According to a recent report, drunk driving is a factor in nearly a third of all roadway fatalities (11,654 out of 35,768 deaths in 2020). Despite the fact that driving under the influence (DUI) is illegal precisely because it is so dangerous, it is clear that far too many people still choose to get behind the wheel after drinking. 

According to the latest data from the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), the proportion of fatal crashes involving DUI is over 6.6 times that of all crashes. This translates to hundreds of Alabama residents dying in alcohol-involved car accidents each year. This is a tragic statistic, and it is one that highlights the importance of holding drunk drivers accountable. 

Speeding is the Second-Leading Cause of Fatal Car Accidents 

While drunk driving is the leading cause of car accidents in the United States, speeding is a close second. In 2020, speeding was a factor in 11,259 roadway fatalities. This increased to 12,330 roadway fatalities in 2021. As the National Safety Council (NSC) notes, this comes to “an average of over 33 people per day.” 

Similar to drunk driving, speeding is illegal because it is dangerous. Also similar to drunk driving, speeding is far too common. While the NSC’s data show that speeding-related fatalities decreased during the decade from 2010 to 2019, we have seen a sharp increase in speeding-related fatalities in recent years. 

Distracted Driving is a Common Factor in Fatal Car Accidents, Too

While not as big a concern as drunk driving and speeding, distracted driving is still responsible for thousands of car accident fatalities each year. In 2020, just under 10% of all fatal car accidents involved distracted drivers. Texting behind the wheel is the most common factor in these accidents, and hand-held texting is against the law in Alabama as well.

Seat Belt Use is a Major Factor in Car Accident Survival Rates

Alabama’s seat belt laws are categorized as either “primary” or “secondary” enforcement laws:

  • Primary Enforcement for Drivers and Front Seat Passengers: Law enforcement officers in Alabama can pull over a vehicle and issue a ticket solely for not wearing a seat belt if the driver or a front-seat passenger is not buckled up. This is known as a primary enforcement law.
  • Secondary Enforcement for Rear Seat Passengers: For passengers in the rear seats, the seat belt law is under secondary enforcement. This means that officers can issue a ticket for not wearing a seat belt to rear-seat passengers only if the vehicle has been pulled over for another reason.
  • Age-Specific Rules: The law explicitly covers drivers and passengers aged 15 and older in all seats of the vehicle. This implies that anyone in this age group must wear a seat belt, regardless of where they are seated in the vehicle.
  • Child Restraint Laws: Children aged 5 and under must be secured in an appropriate child restraint system, like a car seat or booster seat. This part of the law is usually primary enforcement, meaning officers can stop a vehicle if they see a child in this age group not properly restrained.

Statistics show that seat belts save lives; yet, unfortunately, many people still choose not to “click it” before hitting the road. 

Understanding Your Family’s Legal Rights After a Fatal Car Accident in Alabama 

If you have lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, your family’s legal rights depend on why the accident happened. If a drunk, speeding, or distracted driver was to blame, your family may be entitled to significant financial compensation. This is true regardless of whether your loved one was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. 

Determining who was at fault—and how much your family is entitled to recover—starts with conducting an on-scene investigation. It is important that this investigation takes place as soon as possible. Evidence can begin to disappear quickly; and, the longer you wait to take action, the more difficult it can become to hold the at-fault party accountable. 

Speak with a Car Accident Lawyer for FREE

If you are coping with the aftermath of a fatal car accident in Alabama, we encourage you to contact us promptly so that we can help protect your legal rights. Contact Morris, Andrews, Talmadge & Driggers, LLC today online or at 844-654-6228 to schedule a FREE case evaluation. We serve clients throughout southern Alabama and the Tri-State Area, including Dothan and Mobile.