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Is Climate Change Linked to Increasing Traffic Accident Deaths?

Climate change has been in the news for years now regarding its effects on weather related tragedies.  From eroding coastlines, rising poverty levels and soaring temperatures -climate change is blamed for an entire range of global disasters. Every region on the globe, including Georgia, has seen dramatic shifts in its weather.  However, could these changes in weather also be linked to increasing highway accident fatality numbers?

It appears that they could. Traffic safety experts have been trying to understand why road accident fatality numbers have been increasing since 2015, after several decades of a downward trend in fatality numbers. Earlier, safety experts focused on increasing rates of cell phone use by motorists as the leading factor causing this increase. However, they were later able to debunk that theory because there was no increase in smartphone use during the period of time that they studied.  They then changed their focus to another possible factor-the weather.

Temperature increases are likely to be at least partly the reason why we are seeing an increase in the number of people dying in traffic accidents. Warmer weather simply means more people out on the road. People drive, walk, bicycle and ride their motorcycles more in warmer weather, than in wet or snowy weather. The experts found in their analysis that pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists –   people who are much more likely to be out walking, riding or bicycling during warmer weather – accounted for a large percentage of traffic accident fatality fatalities during the study period.

Obviously, there isn’t yet a proven cause-and-effect association between warmer weather and an increased risk of dying in an accident. However, there is an association which seems to suggest that warmer temperatures lead to more driving.  This then increases the rate of carbon dioxide emissions,  which in turn contributes to even higher temperatures. According to the researchers, between 2014 and 2015, there was an average annual temperature increase of 1.5°F in the areas they studied. In these areas, the researchers found that motorists drove approximately 60 more miles every year with every degree increase in temperature.

While the change in global climate has possibly played a role in increasing traffic accident fatalities, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the improving economy has also played a strong role in contributing to this spike. People are likely to drive more not just when it’s warmer, but also when they are economically more successful, or when gas prices are not as volatile. Those conditions were definitely been in place over the last couple of years.

As Atlanta’s climate and population continue to rise, making the roads safer for both drivers and pedestrians as the number of motorists increase can help reduce accidents and any resulting injuries or fatalities.  Such measures can include reducing speed limits in high traffic areas, as well as installing traffic circles in high congestion or dangerous intersections to prevent dangerous collisions between motorists and/or pedestrians.

The Atlanta car accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent persons injured in car accidents in the metro Atlanta region and across Georgia.