By Francis M. Smith
While there has been an overall downward trend in automotive accident fatalities nationwide, New Jersey stands out with one of the lowest rates of car accident fatalities, with 6.7 fatalities per 100,000 residents in 2017. Only Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and the District of Columbia reported lower fatality rates that year. In even better news for New Jersey residents, the number of fatal accidents last year decreased from the 2017 figures, with 624 automotive-related fatalities in 2017 and 566 fatalities in 2018. However, that reduction in automotive deaths was not evenly distributed; Sussex County saw an increase in fatalities from 2017 to 2018.
At first glance, the increase in automotive fatalities in Sussex County appears dramatic, with a 71 percent increase over the previous year’s figures. However, statistics can be deceiving, as the total number of fatalities in the county reached 12 by the end of 2018, up from 7 the previous year and identical to the county’s 2016 fatality figures. Sussex County maintains one of the five lowest rates of auto accident deaths in New Jersey, even after 2018’s apparent dramatic increase. However, it does appear noteworthy that New Jersey’s efforts to reduce automotive fatalities are not being felt as strongly in areas like Sussex County, which is largely made up of farmland, forests, and suburban neighborhoods. In 2017, 85 percent of automotive fatalities in the state took place in urban areas, making these roads the logical focus of accident prevention efforts.
Understanding the cause of the reduction in accident fatalities statewide (and nationwide) may help to determine why that improvement seems to have passed over Sussex County. Statistical experts at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety speculate that a number of distinct factors have influenced fatality rates, including higher gasoline prices and vehicles with improved accident avoidance and passenger safety features. Road safety initiatives and efforts to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety tend to focus on higher-traffic, more populous urban centers.
Road safety experts do not consider the 2018 upswing in fatality rates in Sussex County an immediate cause for concern, unless the trend continues into the next several years. The first week of 2019 saw a fatality in the county, when a motorist who had exited his vehicle onto the shoulder of Route 80 was struck by a pickup truck on January 5th. The motorist, Marc DiRaimo, was pronounced dead at the hospital, and law enforcement believe he may have originally left his vehicle to assist another motorist whose vehicle was disabled. The accident took place at 1:27 PM, making it less likely that visibility conditions played a role in the incident.
It’s also important not to overstate the safety implied by a reduction in road fatalities. Fewer automotive deaths doesn’t necessarily mean that fewer accidents are taking place; it implies only that the injuries sustained in motor vehicle crashes are less likely to be fatal – which is consistent with the idea that vehicle safety features are playing a role in reducing fatalities. Accident victims who survive their crashes may still require extensive medical treatment to make a complete recovery, and many may be left with permanent injury, disability, or disfigurement. In order to achieve as full a medical recovery as possible, accident victims who were injured by someone else’s unsafe or negligent driving may need to seek compensation for their injuries, to pay for medical treatment and other expenses caused by their accident. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney is key to securing the fair injury compensation that you need and deserve; insurance companies will bring out every excuse and trick in the book to avoid paying you reasonable damages for your injuries. Accident victims who have an attorney help them deal with the insurance companies tend to come away with significantly higher compensation figures than those who try to go it alone. When you have an experienced injury lawyer fighting for you, you can focus your energy on healing.