Living in Western Washington can by trying to say the least. It seems as if it is a constant traffic jam no matter where you go. Is it bad planning, bad driving, or bad policy? Some advocates of the concept of the Traffic Safety Culture (TSC) suggest that it could be a combination of all three and the Puget Sound area is not an exception.

Bad Planning – Part of this can be attributed to bad engineering plain-and-simple on the side of city planners. These include common things you’ll find in Western Washington such as surface streets merging into the fast lanes of freeways, merging freeways into other freeways without the option of dispersing into a major arterial into the city, and of course closing surface streets at certain times to traffic during rush hour to only transit.

Bad Driving – According to All State Insurance company, Western Washington Drivers are some of the worst drivers in the country. We examined this in our article, “Why are Western Washington Drivers Ranked So Low On Safety?” We set forth the argument that it is impossible for drivers in one area of the United States to be worse than another purely for regional reasons and that there have to be other factors such as weather, policy, legal ramifications, and civil design involved.

Bad Policy – Washington may not be suffering from bad policy. The reason for this is that our state has some of the most stringent policies in the country when it comes to distracted driving, driving under the influence (DUI), and speeding. This is apparent with Governor Chris Gregoir’s aggressive Target Zero program. This program implemented in 2010 vowed to eliminate traffic deaths by 2030…you read that right, eliminate traffic deaths. Creating a Traffic Safety Culture is a giant part of the success of this policy and advocates say that it is achievable. Governor Gregoir certainly does.

What is a Traffic Safety Culture?

The white paper published on the subject by the Department of Preventive Medicine & Biometrics entitled, “Towards operationalizing and measuring Traffic Safety Culture” examined the topic of TSC by tackling it in an academic manner. They examined the term and the definitions presented by others writing on the subject. They define it as:

“A social climate in which traffic safety is highly valued and rigorously pursued.”

This rather sweeping definition does not address the many elements that surround the creation and perpetuation of a TSC. These elements include:

  1. Society needs to be fully conscious that there is a problem in the first place.
  2. There also needs to be agreement that the problem needs to be addressed.
  3. Society has collective commitment to safety.

Only when these things are achieved will any of the many specific problems that cause serious car accidents and vehicular deaths be fully addressed.

Do we already live in a Traffic Safety Culture?

Some may argue that TCG is already happening, particularly in Washington State. They would cite stricter laws such as the ones cited above (DUI, etc). Others suggest that society is far from a TSC citing the fact that car accidents remain the leading cause of death amongst all people between the ages of 16 and 35. Looking at the elements below, one may conclude that we do already have a thriving TSC, however, the numbers of deaths and injuries are hard to deny.

Things being done to form a TSC:

Laws – Making social rules is a political process and politicians run on platforms based only things that they or they think their constituents are most concerned about. These things can be good for traffic safety or detrimental. An example of this was the defunct abolition of the speed limit in Montana. It was found that the law may have encouraged bad and dangerous driving behavior and might have been linked to some serious wrongful deaths that could have been prevented.

Consequences – Consequences for breaking certain laws are considered one of the biggest deterrents from dangerous behavior. This has shown to be true. As consequences become more stringent for DUI in Washington State, the rate of re-offense has decreased considerably. It is not completely known what kind of impact on first offenders the increased consequences has had on first offenses, but studies suggest that an increased number of people consider the legal and social consequences when making decisions to go out drinking and then driving home.

Advertising – The aggressive advertising done by State and Federal agencies has had an impact on the number of deaths on the road from seat belt use to drinking and driving, distracted driving to drowsy driving. However, these behaviors are still rampant amongst less experienced drivers and younger drivers.

GDL – Graduated Driving Laws are meant to give certain milestones based on age that allow new drivers to gain the experience they need to drive at night and with passengers. Unfortunately some very strong studies have come out questioning these laws and saying that they only postpone behavior and may even encourage dangerous behavior amongst teenage drivers. We examine this in the article, “Are Strict Teen Driving Rules Really Protecting Teen Drivers?”

Technology – The car manufacturers have made great strides in creating safety features that they can use to sell their cars. These are purely economically driven. This is proven by the car manufacturer’s historical reluctance and slowness to embrace safety until they found out that it sells cars. Now, they are forming technology that detects other cars, drunk driving, and potential danger before it happens in order to prevent accidents.

Social Mores – Social mores (more-ay-s) are behaviors that are looked down upon by society to such a degree that behaviors displayed by individuals could effect their relationships with peers, coworkers, and family. Some newer social mores that have formed recently include smoking, excessive drinking, and wearing fur. These have begun to extend to DUI, but have yet to be recognized in association with distracted driving and speeding.

Seattle Car Accident Lawyer

There are many strides being made legally to aid in the TSC. By forcing a monetary consequence on individuals and insurance companies, the lack of proper safety on the roads becomes very tangible to both private industry and the public sector. Individuals may be safe drivers, but those who take their own lives in their hands by speeding, DUI, drowsy driving, and distracted driving need to recognize that they are putting everyone around them in danger, not just themselves and their passengers.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident anywhere in Washington state, you need a skilled lawyer to deal with the insurance companies to assure you the best settlement. Call the Seattle car accident attorneys at Phillips Law Firm for a free consultation.