You might think that since more people work remotely and drive less these days, there should be fewer vehicles on the roads and fewer car accidents. However, just the opposite is true for New Jersey. The New Jersey State Police is reporting a rise in deadly car accidents in the Garden State, with increasing numbers each year from 2019 through 2021. At the end of December 2021, they claimed there had been 652 car accidents with 682 deaths that year, which is a significant increase from the past two years. In 2020, there 549 accidents and 587 deaths; in 2019, it was 524 collisions and 558 deaths. A good number of the drivers involved tested positive for alcohol or drug use, but these two factors are not the only reasons for these worrisome statistics and loss of lives.
Looking at the national figures, New Jersey’s annual car accident rate is 359 incidents for every 100 million vehicle miles driven. The national average is 208. When comparing fatal car accidents, NJ ranks 27th out of the 50 states. The most common kinds of injuries that cause car accident fatalities are traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken ribs, and internal bleeding. These can result from head-on collisions, rollovers, and driver- and passenger-side impacts. With impact injuries, part of the person’s body is hit by a moving object or strikes a stationary object. Penetrating injuries involve having an object pierce the person’s skin; examples of impact and penetrating injuries include a rapidly expanding airbag and shattered glass from the windshield penetrating a person’s skin.
Car Accident Statistics in New Jersey
According to the New Jersey Department of Transportation, in 2020 there were 190,783 car accidents in the Garden State. Of that number, 550 were fatal. Moreover, there were 42,791 car accident injuries the same year. The ten counties with the highest number of fatal car accidents in 2020 are:
- Middlesex County: 67
- Essex County: 45
- Bergen County: 43
- Burlington County: 42
- Atlantic County: 40
- Camden County: 38
- Gloucester County: 35
- Monmouth County: 34
- Union County: 30
- Ocean County: 30
New Jersey’s Most Dangerous Roads
The Department of Transportation (DOT) also tracks the state’s most dangerous roadways. This list does not include crash stats for some specific toll roads such as the Garden State Parkway, which are maintained and reported on independently from the DOT. For 2020, the top ten most dangerous highways according to their crash rates are:
- Route 59: 11.13%
- Route 143: 10.04%
- Route 27Z: 9.26%
- Route 439: 8.04%
- Route 67: 8.02%
- Route 7: 7.79%
- Route 66: 6.92%
- Route 523: 6.91%
- Route 63: 6.66%
- Route 82: 6.37%
What Are the Main Causes of Deadly Car Accidents?
It is not surprising to learn that distracted driving is a leading cause of fatal car accidents. Although it is impossible to know exactly how many accidents are caused by distracted drivers, it is estimated that there are more than 3,000 fatalities and 400,000 personal injuries that result from distracted driving each year in the United States. Categories for distracted driving include:
- Using electronic devices such as cell phones and GPS
- Other occupants, including children, other adults, and pets
- Eating, drinking, and smoking
- Grooming, including putting on makeup, fixing hair, shaving
- Changing the radio station or adjusting other controls
- Things on the side of the road, such as pedestrians, billboards, abandoned cars
Although it is also impossible to remain 100 percent focused on driving at all times, there are things you can do to limit these dangerous distractions. A big precaution is putting the cell phone on Do not disturb. Even if you use hands-free to text or talk, that still takes your attention away from driving. Maybe your hands are not occupied, but your eyes and mind are, especially if you receive an upsetting message or make a mistake when sending one.
Another leading cause of traffic fatalities is bad driving behaviors. Speeding is an ongoing problem, and even though fines and penalties are high when these lawbreakers are caught, you probably see someone speeding almost every time you are out driving. Speeding is especially dangerous because there is an increased chance for a loss of vehicle control and an increased stopping distance once a driver realizes they have to stop. Besides that, occupant protection equipment such as seat belts is less effective at high speeds, and there is a higher risk for crash severity, serious injuries, and deaths. Other aggressive driving behaviors such as driving through red lights, not yielding the right of way, tailgating, and road rage also cause traffic fatalities.
Is Urban Driving More Dangerous than Rural Driving in New Jersey?
Essex, Hudson, and Passaic counties have the highest rates of car accidents and are also where New Jersey’s three largest cities are located. Although the New Jersey Turnpike extends from the Delaware Memorial Bridge up to Ridgefield Park, the southernmost stretches are less congested than up north. You also have the Garden State Parkway, I-80, and I-78 to contend with. Drivers on these highways are allowed to legally drive at higher speed limits; on the Jersey Turnpike, the speed limit is 65 mph, but people routinely speed by at 80 mph and higher.
Driving on urban streets presents its own set of dangers as well. You can find yourself in bumper-to-bumper traffic much of the time, with distractions such as car horns, traffic signals, and billboards. Many intersections mean that you will stopping and starting often, increasing the risks for getting into accidents. You might also need to cross over several lanes of traffic when you need to merge, turn, or exit on a road. There may also be sudden, unexpected changes in speed limits, driving rules, and road widths.
The high volumes of traffic in cities causes uneven and damaged road surfaces, and you can also usually count on having to drive through construction sites when on urban streets. There also pedestrians and pets everywhere, and they might walk in front of or behind your vehicle without any warning; people can also ignore red lights and enter a crosswalk at the wrong time. You will also need to deal with delivery personnel, vehicles suddenly pulling out of driveways and blind alleyways, and of course, buses. Another significant danger is angry drivers who get frustrated with the slow-moving traffic, pedestrians, and other obstacles to their routes. This is when you will see people exhibit aggressive driving moves, such as cutting other drivers off, yelling, and ignoring stop signs.
There are a lot of rural roads in New Jersey as well, and these can be hazardous in different ways. People tend to lose focus when driving for long stretches of time on quiet roads, and that distraction can cause fatal accidents. Rural roads usually only have two lanes, increasing the possibility of head-on collisions. They can also be narrow and without shoulders or have sharp, blind turns. These roads might also not get plowed quickly enough after poor weather conditions, so the likelihood of skidding on ice could be higher.
What Are the Costs of Fatal Car Accidents?
It is hard to assign monetary values to the pain and suffering associated with the loss of a loved one, and these feelings can be even stronger if it happened in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence. Measurable monetary costs might include medical bills, funeral and burial costs, the lost of that loved one’s salary, and other financial contributions such as retirement benefits. Surviving family members might have to hire help to care for their homes and children, and they might need to seek the help of a therapist. If they were in the accident and survived, they might have physical injuries of their own as well, and accompanying medical expenses to handle.
Not all fatal accidents can be avoided, but there are things you can do to avoid them. Putting away that cellphone is at the top of the list, and you can also turn the music lower and ask your passengers to keep their voices down. If going on a longer drive, plan out your route in advance and try not to be on the roads during rush hours or in inclement weather. Always follow posted speed limits and pay attention to traffic signals and signs; remember, driving too slowly can also be hazardous. Motorists are well familiar with the last two ways to avoid fatal accidents: Never drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and always wear your seat belt.
Monmouth County Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Help Families Deal with Traffic Accident Fatalities
If you have lost a loved one in a deadly car accident, you do not have to face this alone. The compassionate, knowledgeable Monmouth County car accident lawyers at Ellis Law understand how these events impact lives, and will fight to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. For a free consultation, call us at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We are located in Freehold, New Jersey, and help clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn, New York, and New York City.