West Virginia drivers are at a much higher risk of being killed in traffic collisions than other U.S. drivers, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report. Approximately 12 of every 100,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents nationwide between 2006 and 2010. In our state, during the same period, the fatality rate was 20.56 per 100,000.
About one in four fatal auto accidents in West Virginia occurred within five counties.
At 8.2 percent, Kanawha County was at the top of the 55-county list. Kanawha County also recorded 51 traffic deaths involving alcohol impairment, far ahead of second and third place Berkeley and Monongalia Counties, at 31 and 30 fatalities respectively. During the period, 21.5 percent of vehicle operators in fatal accidents had blood alcohol content levels of 0.08 percent, the legal limit for intoxication, or higher.
The death rate involving speed violations was 3.92 fatalities per 100,000 population nationwide and 5.43 deaths per 100,000 people in West Virginia. Over 9 percent of statewide speed-related fatalities occurred in Kanawha County, more than double the rate of any other West Virginia county. Speeding fatalities in West Virginia increased by a dramatic 45 percent during the study period, even as similar accidents declined elsewhere across the country.
As statistics show, many fatal accidents could have been avoided if drivers had adhered to speed limits and not tried to drive after drinking too much alcohol. Unnecessary deaths cause immense heartache and severe financial hardships for surviving family members. The loss of a primary wage earner's income may devastate a family, already rocked by grief.
Insurance companies may deny injured victims or families their rightful compensation or pay less than victims deserve to get. Too many individuals settle for payouts that don't cover accident-related losses. Legal actions can be taken in civil courts to recover damages caused by negligent drivers, whether or not criminal charges are filed.