I posted to the West Virginia Car Accident Law Blog yesterday regarding a study that just came out yesterday:
There was a report just released from the federal government indicating that younger drivers are more likely to die on West Virginia roads than anywhere else in the country. According to an article on WSAZ.com, statistics show that West Virginia’s death rate among younger drivers was 70 percent higher than the national average. Thirty six West Virginians between the ages of 16 and 20 died in crashes in 2006.
The article notes that “experts say traffic fatalities are twice as high in rural areas where drivers are more likely to speed and less likely to wear seat belts.”
I think those are two factors involved, but not the only ones. A reporter called me today and asked me what I thought were the main reasons for this problem. I responded that I think that younger drivers are reckless drivers no matter what state you are in. But when you put them on windy, mountain roads with no enforcement of the speed limit, you are asking for disaster. And that is my theory at least, about why the young fatalities are so high on West Virginia roads. But certainly the advent of new cell phone technologies and their 24/7 usage by younger persons is playing a part as well.
This is an issue that I am passionate about. Growing up in Florida, where nearly all roads are straight, I always felt that the police, when giving tickets, were more interested in harassing people – or making money for local entities – than they were in “serving and protecting.” But here in West Virginia, I the situation is the opposite. Law enforcement can’t be bothered to pull people over for merely speeding. They are too busy showing up to domestic disturbances and what-not. But anyone who drives on these roads can tell you what it feels like to approach a blind curve in the road and see a maniac tractor trailer driver halfway into your lane and speeding. They do this because they absolutely do not fear speed limit enforcement.
Law enforcement are understaffed, but like I told this reporter, they are also under-motived in that their superiors have no incentive to require them to make traffic stops. Very, very little of the total amount paid for traffic tickets in West Virginia go to the political subdivision where the ticket is given. It literally is not worth it to the county or city.
Almost all of the troubles that cities and counties have in paying for law enforcement could be alleviated by ticketing speeding and reckless drivers consistently, and then funneling most of the money into the county or city operating budget. This could bring other problems, such as notorious speed-traps, but that is a sacrifice I would be willing to make in order to save lives.
And for the tractor trailer drivers and companies who selfishly speed through our communities: they should be made to pay big. And I mean big. If they are speeding on our roads here in West Virginia, we should figuratively filet them with a “ginzu” knife. The fines should be so high that they will never, ever forget to obey the speed limit in our state.
– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney