The family of Michael Waddle, 50, told The Palm Beach Post the former firefighter always insisted on kisses and hugs whenever someone left the home because, “You never know when you might see them last.”
It turned out to be wiser than perhaps he would ever realize. After working 20 years as a firefighter, he was forced to retire due to a work injury. He was on his way to his new job as a security guard when was killed on his way to work, just miles from his home, when his Ford F350 struck another vehicle before rolling over and then striking a cement pole near Summit Road in Palm Beach Gardens. The driver of the other vehicle, a 54-year-old woman, was transported to a local hospital with serious injuries.
Now, Waddle’s wife and three children say the man who was always their hero is now their angel, who will continue to inspire them in new ways.
Sadly, stories like this aren’t all that unique, especially in light of the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that reveals traffic accident deaths are up 7.7 percent in 2015 compared to the year before.
It’s estimated that 35,200 people died on American roads last year, compared to 32,675 who lost their lives the same way in 2014. Of course, that’s down dramatically from when they reached a high of 53,000 in 1980. Still, it continues to be a major problem and we need to be asking ourselves why that number isn’t closer to zero – and further why it’s creeping up. In fact, in Region 4, which includes Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee, there was a reported 14 percent increase in traffic deaths year-over-year – the second-highest in the country behind Region 10, which includes Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington state and Alaska.
Researchers at the NHTSA said they haven’t yet pinpointed exactly why the numbers have increased, but they do have a few theories.
The first has to do with the fact that Americans are driving more miles over all as the economy has continued its steady improvement. Gas prices are lower and people have more cash to burn for road trips. But beyond that, we know that 94 percent of all crashes can be traced back to human error. Although we have a wealth of technology that is helping to improve traffic safety, we also have technology that is stealing drivers’ attention (i.e., smartphones, GPS units, interactive dashboards, etc.).
Of particular concern based on the report is the safety of cyclists and pedestrians, both vulnerable road users. Pedestrian deaths are up 10 percent and bicyclist deaths are up 13 percent. Although it’s true more people are choosing to walk and/or ride their bikes in their communities, they are doing so in and along streets that were not constructed with their safety in mind. Although a number of Florida communities have committed to adopting a Complete Streets remodel, we need to be doing more, or else we risk losing even more lives.
The U.S. Department of Transportation reported it is working on a number of measures that involve further development of crash avoidance technology. One notable measure involves a safety agreement with automakers in which 99 percent of new vehicles will come standard with emergency braking by 2022. The agency is also working on technology that might help prevent drunk driving, which accounts for one-third of all car accident deaths.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
NHTSA data shows traffic deaths up 7.7 percent in 2015, July 1, 2016, NHTSA
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Wheeling Park Commission v. Dattoli – Premises Liability Fall Case Falls Flat, June 19, 2016, West Palm Beach Car Accident Attorney Blog