The failure to slow down and buckle up can have widespread (and costly) ramifications at anytime, but this is, apparently, especially true when you find yourself traversing Mississippi's roads and highways. A recent study published in Reader's Digest found that Mississippi indeed has some of the nation's most dangerous roads, with a majority of car accidents occurring due to speeding and improper safety measures. In fact, the statistics show that with approximately 27 road deaths per 100,000 Mississippians, the state languishes at the bottom of the list in the U.S. when it comes to safe roads.
Personal injury lawyers, however, know that while speeding and lack of seatbelt usage are the primary culprits, it is actually a combination of conditions/events that account for Mississippi's "dangerous" status. These additional reasons include distracted driving, poorly lit rural roads and insufficient maintenance.
Still, more than half of those who perished while driving on Mississippi's roads in 2010 were not wearing a seatbelt. In response to the alarming numbers of deceased who perished while not wearing a seatbelt, Mississippi joined the nation in implementing a program specifically targeted at encouraging motorists to buckle up. In fact, the aptly named "Buckle Up, Mississippi!" program, and law requiring motorists to fasten their belts, seems to have experienced a certain amount of success.
In February of this year, Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB) reported that seatbelt usage was on the rise and car crash fatalities were subsequently decreasing. Says reporter Daniel Cherry, "The year before Mississippi's seat belt requirement law went into effect there were more than 900 traffic fatalities. Now the number of highway deaths is down nearly 300 people per year. Safety officials say the decline in fatalities is due to an increase in seat belt usage." Since the law's passage, "traffic safety officials say 83 percent of Mississippians buckle in regularly...up 7 percent since 2006."
Those who don't buckle up, naturally face an increased chance of fatal injury when involved in a crash."Probably 90% of the people who have a rollover and are not belted get ejected. That's one of the biggest things in car crashes now is either going through the windshield or the door coming open or the windshield coming out and being ejected," according to Albert Santa Cruz, Mississippi's Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. According to the MPB, in 2010 approximately 640 people died on Mississippi's roads. Of those fatalities, more than than half weren't wearing a seatbelt.
In terms of distracted driving, interestingly enough, Mississippi is one of only 11 remaining states where texting while driving is not against the law for all drivers. The state senate approved bans on texting as well as using handheld phones while driving in 2011, but the bills were rejected by the House Judiciary Committee in July of 2012. The House also killed a bill that would have banned texting while driving and the use of handheld cell phones for all drivers. In addition, drivers under the age of 18 would have been prohibited from using cell phones of any kind. The law would have been accompanied by fines of up to $500 or if an accident resulted, $1,000, if promulgated. Personal injury attorneys in Mississippi recognize the validity of such legislation in terms of top-down car accident prevention. Perhaps this proclivity for rejection is why some critics have chosen to dub the House Judiciary Committee the "graveyard" for distracted driving bills.
All Mississippi citizens should view the state's dangerous roads as a cautionary tale. Buckle up and slow down - it's the law.