The simple fact is, getting behind the wheel of a car is the riskiest thing most people do every day.
But since fatal car crashes typically involve on average one-to-two people, coupled with the fact that accident occurrences are scattered daily all over New York City, the general public doesn’t realize their collective toll.
“If a passenger jet airplane were crashing every day in the U.S.,” Jay W. Dankner, managing partner of the top New York auto accident law firm of Dankner Milstein, P.C. said, “the air transportation system would be shut down with demands for the government to do something. But that doesn’t happen with auto crashes.
“Instead,” he added, “drivers are forced to take it upon themselves to determine how best to stay safe when driving in dangerous weather conditions, or to schedule trips to the supermarket or mall at times of day when statistically a lower percentage of fatal accidents occur.”
Behind the Numbers
According to The New York City Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, time of day plays an important role in the incidence of fatal crashes. It should come as no surprise to any motorist that dangerous factors are compounded at night. The instances of drunk driving, speeding and driving without a seat belt all significantly increase during the night hours and each contributes directly to increased fatality rates.
Speeding is a factor in 30% of all fatal crashes. Eighteen percent of fatal crashes during the day are alcohol-related, while 54% of crashes at night are alcohol-related. Two-thirds of the people killed at night are not wearing a seat belt.
Nationwide, 49% of fatal crashes happen at night, with a fatality rate per mile of travel about three times as high as daytime hours. These statistics correspond very closely to comparable statistics for the 5 boroughs of New York City. Of people killed at night, roughly two-thirds aren’t wearing restraints. During the day, the percentage of unrestrained fatalities tends to be under half.
The fewest deaths by crash happen early in the morning, between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. Those hours see significantly less traffic–only 9% of the average amount during peak hours.
Mid-week days like Tuesday and Wednesday pose the lowest number of fatalities when compared with weekends, Fridays and Mondays, according to recent NYCDOT data.
Weekends–when the greatest numbers of people are on the road–predictably see the highest numbers of crash victims.
Simple Steps to Safety
“It’s the simple things that enhance safety,” Dankner advised. “Wearing a seat belt, driving the right speed for the conditions and turning off your mobile devices are the most important deterrents to car accidents and fatalities. But those are the very things most drivers involved in accidents neglect to do, particularly since the advent of the use of mobile devices while driving. The use of mobile devices while driving is an accident waiting to happen.”
Ninety-five percent of crashes are caused by human error, according to the NHTSA. Yet a recent survey by the NHTSA revealed that 75% of drivers say they’re more careful than most other drivers.
“I think that people in some instances have a false sense of their own driving abilities,” Dankner said. “Since most crashes are a result of human error, somebody’s got to be making the mistakes that cause so many accidents in our city.”
According to AAA, 82% of drivers say distracted driving is a serious problem, but more than half say they talk on a mobile device while driving, and 21% admitted to reading or sending text messages while driving.
Nearly 75% of drivers report speeding as a serious problem, but 20% say they have driven 15 miles per hour over the speed limit on the highway, and 14% say they occasionally do the same on a neighborhood street.
Winter Weather Woes
According to the NYPD, driving too fast for the weather conditions plays a major role in fatal crashes each year, especially during the winter.
“Speeding is a significant factor,” Dankner warned. “If you’re on an icy, slippery road with a posted speed limit of 55 mph, even if you’re only going 40 mph, you may be going too fast.”
Snowfall obviously makes for dangerous road conditions. But counter-intuitively fatalities actually drop in the City during days with high amounts of snow, both because more people stay home and because motorists tend to drive slower when conditions are especially bad. Researchers found that fatal crashes were 14% more likely to happen on the first snowy day of the season compared with subsequent ones.
It’s the Driver, Not the Car
The findings of the vast majority of studies related to auto crashes reinforce the idea that most crashes don’t involve mechanical failures on the part of the car.
“Even though there are always technological improvements or preventative safety features and signs in the roads,” Dankner noted, “a lot of it comes down to human behavior. It’s hard to change that. But to the extent that we can, that would very likely avoid crashes.”
For more information, or if you have been in an auto accident and injured, contact the top New York auto accident injury law firm of Dankner Milstein, P.C. by calling 212-751-8000. Or you can E-mail one of the firm’s lawyers for a free consultation.