According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2008 alone there were 37,261 deaths out of 5.81 million “police-reported motor vehicle crashes.” This suggests there may have been more highway fatalities that simply were not reported. Beyond alcohol, drugs and simple driver inattention, the Bureau investigated five broad categories of “transportation-related factors” that impact roadway fatalities.
- Traffic controls
- Speed and route type
- Road characteristics
- Weather impacts
- Road classification
Since these five broad categories all imply controllable road conditions, it is staggering that just last year, a report by TripNet.org examined roadway conditions nationwide and specifically looked at each state's road conditions. The report found that Spokane roads are among the most dangerous in the entire country. So the question is, do the poor road conditions in Spokane necessarily cause higher rates of auto crashes? To answer this, one must look at the data more closely.
What Makes Roads Dangerous?
According to the 2015 report, 45% of Spokane's major urban roads were in poor condition, with 23% in mediocre condition. More frighteningly, the report claims that 22% of all bridges in Washington are structurally obsolete.
Why are Road Conditions Important?
Road conditions play a role in many simple traffic accidents. Consider the last time you were driving on a highway and felt out of control even at very slow speeds. Perhaps the curvature and grade were treacherous or the pitch of the road made it hard to see just over the next hill. While not necessarily dangerous on their own, these can contribute to accidents, especially when inattentive or intoxicated drivers are added to the mix. Let's briefly look at the five broad categories that greatly impact accidents in our state.
According to figures from the DOT, over 86% of all single-vehicle crashes and nearly 71% of multi-vehicle crashes happened in locations with no traffic control devices.
Speed and Route
The DOT explains that most fatalities occur on 55 mile per hour roadways. However, since speed is a driver choice, speed limits play little role in ultimately determining why accidents happen or how severe they are. Nevertheless, accidents in higher speed areas typically claim more lives.
While weather certainly plays a role, the report found that roughly 82% of all serious crashes occur on dry roads in normal weather conditions. Nevertheless, the DOT was careful to qualify this by explaining that more investigation into local and regional data may be necessary.
The majority of fatal collisions occurred on level, straight roadways. This naturally calls into question whether road conditions play a significant role in accidents. One might take this as evidence that twisty roads necessitate slower rates of speed, and in turn result in lower speed collisions that are less likely to be fatal. However, this would be pure conjecture.
More collisions happened in rural settings than in urban areas. Therefore, it does draw into question whether congestion and traffic are a significant cause of crashes and fatality.
Do Poor Road Conditions Mean More Accidents?
While it is impossible to completely answer this based on the data from the 2015 DOT report, it does seem that poor road conditions are not a significant cause of collisions. Instead, the more common cause of automobile collisions in Spokane remains driver inattention and intoxication.
How Do I Know if My Accident Was Due to Negligence or a Road Condition?
When an accident happens, there are a lot of fears and concerns. Who will pay the bill? What if I can not go back to work? Will I recover? One thing you should not have to worry about is how you will get through it and who is to blame. Spokane auto accident lawyers are trained and experienced in handling your accident case from start to finish.
Attorney Russell West is available for a free consultation to explain your rights and set your mind at ease. Not all accidents in Spokane are related to negligence. Some are just bad road conditions. Knowing the difference is key. A skilled attorney is the best way to find out if you are entitled to recover for your injuries.