Fatal Auto Accidents Are Far Too Common On West Virginia Roads
While final statistics for 2017 are not yet available, the numbers we have show a disturbing trend: West Virginia's roads see significantly more fatal crashes than the national average.
As the Charleston Gazette-Mail recently reported, 242 people died in West Virginia car accidents as of late November 2017. The fatality rate in West Virginia was 14.7 deaths per 100,000 people, well above the national average (11.6 per 100,000) and higher than the rates in most surrounding states. Among West Virginia's neighbors, only Kentucky has a comparable fatality rate, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Unfortunately, the 2017 numbers are not an aberration. According to the NHTSA, West Virginia's rate of car crash fatalities has been well above the national average for the last five years.
Myriad factors put West Virginia motorists at risk
There is no single explanation for the high rate of fatalities on West Virginia roads, but a key contributing problem is the quality of the roads themselves. Rural roads are more difficult to maintain, especially in mountainous terrain. Moreover, while many other states have put road maintenance in the hands of local governments, in West Virginia, the state Division of Highways still owns and maintains the vast majority of roads - and is often overwhelmed by the task of keeping them safe. That's an especially huge issue in the winter months when state workers struggle to plow and clear the roadways during snowstorms.
However, negligence on the part of drivers is ultimately to blame for most fatal accidents. Drunk driving is a reported factor in about a quarter of fatal crashes, and as the opioid epidemic continues, driving under the influence of drugs is a growing concern as well. A USA Today article reported that over 7 percent of drivers killed in accidents had prescription opioids detected in their systems.
Other key risk factors include speeding, which played a role in nearly a third of deadly accidents, and distracted driving, both of which are especially dangerous on West Virginia's winding rural roads. Indeed, over 60 percent of fatal crashes occurred on those rural roads.
Families who have lost loved ones have legal rights
Nothing is more devastating than the accidental death of a loved one. Family members are left reeling, trying to grieve their unexpected loss and find a way to rebuild their lives without someone who played such an important role.
No lawsuit can bring a victim back to life, but the funds recovered in a wrongful death action can help to take care of the people left behind - and send a strong message that driving under the influence, reckless driving and other dangerous behaviors are not acceptable here in West Virginia. The auto accident attorneys at Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC are proud to represent families who have lost loved ones and fight for justice on their behalf. If you have lost someone in a fatal accident, we would be honored to meet with you for a free consultation.