The total number of traffic fatalities in Indiana in 2017 increased by more than 10 percent to the highest annual total since 2005, an alarming development due to a number of factors, including a sharp rise in the number of motor vehicle accidents involving motorcycle fatalities (44 percent increase) and pedestrian fatalities (25 percent increase).
In 2017, a total of 911 people died in motor vehicle accidents in Indiana, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and published in an annual traffic safety report written by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. That figure represents a 10.9 percent increase or 90 more fatalities compared to 2016, when 821 people died in motor vehicle fatalities in Indiana.
The last time there were more than 900 motor vehicle accident fatalities in Indiana in a single year was 2005, when there were 938 motor vehicle accident deaths, according to statistics compiled by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute.
Why were there so many traffic fatalities in 2017?
Several different types of accidents accounted for the dramatic increase in the number of motor vehicle accident fatalities in Indiana in 2017. Specifically, there were significant increases in the number of fatal motorcycle accidents, as well as more pedestrian fatalities, passenger fatalities and fatal car accidents caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol in Indiana in 2017 compared to 2016.
The number of motorcycle accident fatalities last year (144) was the most since 2012, when there were 152 motorcycle accident fatalities in Indiana. And last year's 107 pedestrian fatalities in Indiana were the most since at least 2004, according to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Why did motorcycle accident fatalities increase in 2017?
This is a question many public safety officials have been trying to figure out ever since the Governors Highway Safety Association released last year's motorcycle accident statistics this past June. Will Wingfield, spokesman for the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, said intoxicated driving and a lack of rider training for inexperienced riders contributed to the 44 percent increase in the number of motorcycle accident fatalities in Indiana last year compared to 2016, according to an interview Wingfield gave to Indiana Public Radio.
Wingfield and others said they also suspect that distracted driving - particularly texting while driving - may have been a significant reason why there were so many more motorcycle accident fatalities last year. However, Wingfield added that it's difficult to say if texting while driving contributed to the increase in motorcycle accident fatalities since "distracted driving numbers are probably underreported," according to the Indiana Public Radio story.
Texting while driving is against the law in Indiana. Since July 1, 2011, texting while driving has been banned in Indiana for all drivers statewide, according to Indiana's government website. Violators caught texting while driving face fines up to $500.
Why did pedestrian fatalities increase in 2017?
Along with motorcycle fatalities, pedestrian fatalities in Indiana were the highest since at least 2004. The only year that comes close to the 107 pedestrian fatalities in Indiana last year was 2015, when 96 pedestrians were killed in accidents in Indiana. Such figures resulted in Indiana being ranked the 12th highest nationwide for pedestrian deaths last year, according to the Indianapolis Patch. That finding comes one year after Indianapolis was ranked 15th nationwide for pedestrian accidents, according to the NHTSA. In 2016, there were 20 pedestrian fatalities in Indianapolis, which accounted for 20.8 percent of all traffic fatalities in the city that year.
There are many reasons why officials believe there are so many pedestrian accident fatalities in Indiana. Studies have shown that access to sidewalks can often be a significant contributing factor to the number of pedestrian fatalities, according to a Fox 59 news report about pedestrian fatalities in 2017.
Alcohol also continues to play a significant role in many pedestrian accidents nationwide, according to statistics compiled nationwide for 2016 by the NHTSA. Specifically, 34 percent of pedestrians and 5 percent of drivers had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher at the time of the accident.
Poor lighting and visibility might also be contributing factors when it comes to pedestrian accidents. Nearly half (49 percent) of pedestrian accidents occurred between 6 p.m. and midnight nationwide in 2016, according to the NHTSA.
What can Indiana do to decrease motor vehicle fatalities?
There are many things people can do to decrease the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents. Many of the solutions have been well known for many years. They include not texting while driving, not drinking and driving (or drinking and walking) and driving the posted speed limit (since speeding remains a significant contributing factor in many fatal car accidents in Indiana). Speeding was a contributing factor in more than 200 motor vehicle deaths every year in Indiana between 2013 and 2016, according to the NHTSA.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident in Indiana, it's important to understand your legal rights. That's why it always pays to talk to an experienced Indiana car accident attorney about your crash. To learn more about your legal options, contact our law firm and schedule a free case evaluation. If we do not win, you will not owe us attorney fees. We have offices in Fort Wayne and South Bend, IN. Call us today at 1-877-962-4372.