West Virginia can be a dangerous place for motorists. A recent study looked at population and motor vehicle fatality data in 2018 and placed West Virginia in the top ten states for dangerous roads.
In West Virginia, there were 16.34 traffic fatalities for every 100,000 people in 2018. The national average was around 12 fatalities per 100,000.
What makes West Virginia’s roads so dangerous? The experienced team of auto accident attorneys at Prim Law examines common causes of car accidents in West Virginia below.
According to West Virginia’s Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) data, the majority of fatal crashes in West Virginia in 2015 involved a single vehicle running off the road. One of the main causes of these crashes, among others, was speeding.
Speeding alone is dangerous and can cause traffic accidents. Speeding affects your safety as a driver, as well as the safety of those around you on the road.
When combined with other dangerous behavior like driving under the influence or driving distracted, speeding was prevalent in a majority of fatal crashes in West Virginia, according to the Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP).
Another top cause of motor vehicle accidents in West Virginia is impaired driving. Impaired driving means driving a vehicle with a 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC) level or greater. It may also mean driving while under the influence of prescription drugs or illegal drugs.
In 2015, alcohol-related fatalities comprised 23% of all fatal crashes in the state. Most of these alcohol-related fatalities occurred when a single-vehicle ran off the road at night. Nationwide, there were over 10,500 deaths from drunk-driving crashes in 2018.
Distracted driving — caused by talking on or using a cell phone, eating, talking with other passengers, and more — is a problem and severe safety threat across the nation. In 2017, crashes involving a distracted driver accounted for 9% of all fatal crashes in the country.
GHSP data showed that there were approximately 8,500 cell phone citations and 3,200 warnings issued in 2015 in West Virginia. Additionally, 760 texting citations and 260 warnings were issued that same year.
In West Virginia, it’s illegal to use your phone while operating a vehicle on a public street or highway, except in emergencies like reporting an accident, for example. Anyone who violates the law in West Virginia is fined $100 for a first offense and $200 for a second offense. For third and subsequent offenses, motorists are fined $300 and given three points on their license.
Drowsy driving is not a problem limited to West Virginia. It claimed nearly 800 lives in 2017 across the U.S. Drowsy driving may be caused by irregular or long working hours, staying out late with friends, less sleep due to a new baby, or a lengthy drive. Whatever the cause, driving while drowsy can affect your cognition and driving ability.
While there are no laws in West Virginia punishing drowsy driving, a drowsy driver may be charged with reckless driving, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor. In turn, that can bump up your insurance rates and affect your driver’s license.
Terrain and inclement weather
West Virginia has nearly 39 million miles of public highways in the state, the vast majority being rural two-lane roads. Drivers must be alert and cautious when driving on the state’s mountainous terrain, narrow roads, and small shoulder areas.
Most fatal crashes in the state from 2011 to 2015 involved single vehicles running off two-lane rural roads. While these crashes were mainly due to impairment, speeding, or failure to obey traffic laws, it’s less likely for drivers on local, rural roads to wear a safety belt.
Rural roads themselves may not contribute to an accident, but typical driver behavior on rural roads in West Virginia can sometimes be less safe than in other areas of the state.
In addition to road conditions, drivers in West Virginia must also be aware of their surroundings when driving in the rain. In 2016, over 2,100 crashes in rainy conditions occurred in the U.S. A
Safewise study found that West Virginia is the seventh most dangerous state for driving in the rain, due to the number of crashes that occur in the rain, as well as the chances of being in a crash.
Get help from a West Virginia car accident attorney
Being involved in a car accident is scary. Physical, mental, and emotional recovery from a car accident can be a long process. Recovery can take even longer when dealing with the aftermath of another driver’s reckless behavior.
At Prim Law, we want you to focus on healing and getting back to normal. If you or a loved one is experiencing pain and suffering from a car accident in West Virginia, we can fight for the compensation you deserve.
Call Prim Law today at (304) 513-3336 for a free initial consultation with a West Virginia car accident attorney. You can also contact us online and follow the Prim Law Facebook page for helpful legal resources and news updates.