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Why Does Mississippi have the Highest Traffic Fatality Rate in the U.S.?

Mississippi has the dubious distinction of having the highest car accident fatality rate in the country. In 2017, the fatality rate was 23.1 per 100,000. That might not sound very much until it is compared with other states. Nowhere else tops it. What’s worse is that despite a slight dip in the fatality rate back in 2014, the statistics seem to be showing an increasing trend. So what’s the reason for this alarming state of affairs?

Like many things in life, there is no easy answer and several factors are at play. Some people cite the fact that Mississippi is a predominantly rural state and that means that there are a lot of roads that are relatively narrow and winding, perfect for accidents to occur. However, other states are also just as rural as Mississippi and don’t have anything like Mississippi’s severe accident rate. Car accidents don’t just occur “by accident.” The vast majority of traffic accidents are caused by negligence. One driver or another is responsible for causing the accident, because they were drunk, they were under the influence of drugs, they were too tired to drive, they were using a cell phone at the time, they were speeding or any one of several other reasons. The fact that they were doing these things on a rural road is not an excuse. They are all preventable reasons for a car accident.

If Mississippi drivers are ignoring common sense and driving dangerously and/ or ignoring state traffic rules and regulations that might help to explain why there are so many serious accidents, but what are state law enforcement agencies doing about it?

Numerous observers say that the three main reasons why so many Mississippi drivers are driving unsafely is because:

  • the rules are too lax;
  • the rules are not enforced strictly enough;
  • the rules that do exist are unenforceable.

A good example of a rule that is too lax is the law regulating the use of mobile devices while driving. Half of Mississippi drivers admit to using a cell phone or mobile device freely when driving. The law prohibits drivers from texting while driving, but permits the use of a cell phone for a voice call. Theoretically, police officers could issue a citation if they could detect someone actually texting while using their phone, but in practice this is almost impossible. The result is a poor law that is almost completely unenforceable. Of course, this doesn’t excuse drivers from using their cell phone while driving. To do so is to act negligently. If you have been hit by a distracted driver and are injured anywhere in Mississippi, you have good grounds for suing the driver and claiming compensation.

Another law that is quite lax in Mississippi is the law on drinking while driving. Theoretically, the DUI law is the same as anywhere else in the country. If you have a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or more or shows of obvious intoxication, you can be charged with DUI. However, Mississippi is the only state in the country where you can drink from an open can of beer and one of only a very few states where an open container of alcohol in your vehicle is not an offense. Again, despite the law being too lax, this doesn’t absolve Mississippi drivers from doing the right thing. Drinking beer while driving is a negligent act and those who do so are more likely to cause accidents than those who don’t. Even if police cannot charge a driver because their BAC was less than 0.08%, you may still have grounds to sue a drinking driver who injured you.

Finally, a failure to increase the number of troopers who are out enforcing traffic laws will do nothing to reduce Mississippi’s accident rate. Drivers are more likely to obey rules and act with a certain amount of common sense when they see law enforcers out on the highway and handing out citations when they see someone acting against the law. Mississippi should have 650 troopers by now, but the real numbers fall well short of what is authorized.

Call an experienced car accident attorney if injured in a Mississippi traffic accident

If you, or a member of your family, have been injured in a car accident, anywhere in the state, you should make an appointment with a Jackson based car accident attorney to discuss the possibility of filing a personal injury claim. Call the Diaz Law Firm in Jackson MS as soon as you can at 601-607-3456.