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Distracted drivers, marijuana play role in rising car accidents

Car accidents have been increasing over the past several years in West Virginia and across the country. Since 2011, there has been a 30 percent increase in motor vehicle accidents. Analysts attribute the rise in vehicular crashes to the increased use of phones while driving, an increase in employment rates, the legalization of marijuana in many states and an increase in the average number of miles driven by drivers.

According to a survey done by State Farm Insurance, in 2011, only 52 percent of drivers owned smartphones. By 2016, an estimated 91 percent of drivers used the devices. An estimated 29 percent of these drivers access the internet while driving their vehicles. Experts believe that approximately 20 percent of the rise in accidents is due to this increased use of smartphones, which distracts drivers. Another contributing factor, marijuana use, is estimated to play a role in 5 percent of accidents in the states with legalized marijuana, according to a survey by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Though the analysts believe that drivers will continue to be distracted while driving and that marijuana use will still play a role in car crashes, new technology is expected to decrease the number of accidents over time. The IIHS estimates that improvements in collision avoidance technology, automatic braking and other safety features will decrease the number of car accidents by 20 to 30 percent by 2030.

Traffic accidents that are caused by a distracted driver or a driver who was under the influence of marijuana may result in injuries that require costly medical care, physical therapy and follow-up treatments. Though many insurance companies in West Virginia cover the cost of medical care, the insurance company of the negligent driver should pay for the damaged vehicle, property and medical needs. In this case, a lawyer may be able to show that the driver was using a cell phone when the accident occurred and help the injured party receive compensation.

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