What You Should Know if You’ve Been in a Charleston Car Accident
West Virginia’s roadways present risks to drivers. Whether it’s the mountainous terrain and winding rural roads or congested highways and urban intersections, car accidents are likely to occur when drivers fail to act responsibly.
Charleston drivers are likely to encounter risks associated with both urban and rural roadways. Often, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists are thrown into the mix. Most crashes are attributed to:
- Distraction: Drivers easily become distracted by smartphones, tablets, infotainment systems, eating, drinking, and engaging in other activities that take their attention away from the road. West Virginia law prohibits drivers from texting or using handheld devices while driving. The only exceptions include emergency purposes, reporting emergencies, or using a hands-free device.
- Impairment: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1,092 people were killed in crashes involving drunk drivers from 2003-2012. Driving while drunk, drugged, or even tired delays reaction time and impacts drivers’ overall judgment.
- Reckless driving/Speeding: Some drivers engage in reckless behavior or speeding because they’re in a hurry to get to their destinations. For others it’s habitual. West Virginia speed limits are: 70 mph on rural interstates, 65 mph on four-lane divided highways, 55-65 mph on urban interstates, 60 mph on sharp curves along some stretches of the West Virginia Turnpike, 55 mph on country highways, 25-55 mph in cities and towns, and 15 mph in school zones. Speeding can be especially dangerous in cities like Charleston and on rural roads with many curves.
- Inclement weather conditions: Precipitation in West Virginia is generally higher than the national average. During the warmer months, we get nearly 45 inches of rain and nearly 33 inches of snow during the winter. This can be especially hazardous on major highways and hilly and winding rural roads when drivers travel at speeds too fast for given conditions.
- Mechanical failures: Older cars eventually become unsafe to drive if they’re not properly maintained. Newer cars with open recalls due to mechanical defects can also pose risks to West Virginia drivers. According to Carfax, there are currently 52 million cars with open recalls on US roads.
How dangerous are Charleston roads?
The Charleston Gazette-Mail, referencing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), showed that 62% of traffic fatalities occurred on rural roads and 32% involved speeding. Additionally, one out of every four fatal crashes in West Virginia involved a drunk driver with a blood-alcohol concentration level of at least 0.08.
According to a report by the National Transportation Research Group (TRIP), 29% of West Virginia’s major roads are in poor condition. In Charleston, 17% of the major roads are in poor condition, 43% in mediocre condition, 15% in fair condition, and only 25% in good condition.
Defects that impact the quality of Charleston roads include ruts, cracks, and potholes – all requiring resurfacing or reconstructing of roadways. West Virginia’s roadway infrastructure is believed to be the cause of one-third of fatal and serious crashes throughout the state. Infrastructure hazards include:
- Number of lanes and lane widths
- Poor lighting
- Lack of lane markings
- Lack of rumble strips
- Lack of guard rails, median strips, and other shielding devices
- Poor intersection design
From 2011-2015, there were approximately 1,548 traffic fatalities, with an average of 310 per year. In 2015, West Virginia had a traffic fatality rate of 1.35 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, which was much higher than the national average of 1.13.
The majority of fatal crashes occurred on rural roads, with a rate of 2.24 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Out of all urban areas throughout the state, Charleston had the second highest number of average yearly traffic fatalities (24 fatalities), just behind Huntington.
These numbers can be brought down simply by making repairs to deteriorating roads and roadway features and making improvements to poorly designed infrastructure. This includes widening lanes and shoulders, improving intersections, adding turn lanes, and upgrading or installing traffic signals where needed.
Attorneys dedicated to helping crash victims in Charleston and throughout West Virginia
Car accidents in Charleston and throughout West Virginia often come without warning. Those who survive these crashes are often severely injured, sometimes barely escaping death. Some crash victims are able to make a full recovery through proper medical care and months of physical therapy. Others sustain physical, mental, and emotional complications that last a lifetime.
If you or a loved one are injured in a car accident due to another driver’s careless or reckless behavior, you have rights that should be upheld. Be wary of questions asked by the other driver’s insurance company or any settlement offers made. The medical expenses, time away from work, and other non-economic damages can all add up. You deserve to be compensated for every last penny.
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