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Traffic fatalities and economic growth

Some West Virginia residents may have figured that the health of the nation's economy has a significant bearing on road safety. Road traffic accident injuries and fatalities fell in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, but lower energy prices and consistent economic growth have since led to higher traffic levels and a sharp rise in the number of crashes. According to data from the National Safety Council, road fatalities were up by 14 percent and injuries were up by 30 percent between January and June 2015 compared with the first six months of 2014.

According to the NSC report, approximately 19,000 people lost their lives and a further 2.3 million suffered an injury that required some form of medical attention in traffic accidents during the first six months of 2015. The nonprofit group estimates the cost of these accidents to be $152 billion. The report indicates that 69 people were killed in West Virginia auto accidents during the first six months of 2015. This represents a 5 percent increase over the 66 who died during the same period in 2014.

Gas prices during the period studied were 30 percent lower than they had been a year earlier, and this combined with higher employment rates resulted in more vehicles on the nation's roads driven by both commuters and vacationers. Annual traffic fatalities approached 44,000 prior to the financial crisis, but they fell to below 40,000 annually between 2008 and 2014.

While some of the accident fatalities and injuries detailed in the report may have been caused by mechanical failure or poor weather conditions, a great many others were the result of negligent driving. Reckless motorists who cause harm to others may be held financially responsible through personal injury lawsuits brought by attorneys for injured victims.

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