Car Accidents: Leading Cause of Death Among College Students
Car accidents on college campuses rarely raise many eyebrows because of the stereotypes associated with college students and their driving abilities. The high density of people is also a very real factor that shouldn’t go unnoticed. While some students may choose to drive to classes at some of the nation’s larger schools, most students walk to and from class. The combination of high foot traffic and high vehicle traffic makes accidents on campus all too likely.
Car accidents are the number one leading cause of death among college students. Although that fact is fairly well known, it’s important enough to be restated. However, UAF has a leg up on some other universities because of the small number of students with cars; only 23% of students bring cars on campus.
In recent years, the addition of cell phones has brought even more attention to car accidents within the college age group. According to Pew Researcher, 97% of Americans between 18 & 24 have cell phones. Distracted driving accidents accounted for over 3,300 deaths in 2012, and 421,000 were injured in similar accidents. That number has drastically spiked in the last few years, as the students of the technology generation become licensed drivers.
According to the Department of Public Safety Alaska State Troopers, the penalties of texting and driving can be very severe.
- Pulled over while texting and driving – up to $10,000 and one year in prison
- Injure someone while texting and driving – up to $50,000 and five years in prison
- Seriously injure someone while texting and driving – up to $100,000 and ten years in prison
- Kill someone while texting and driving – up to $250,000 and 20 years in prison
There are also many cases where the driver(s) weren’t specifically distracted by phones, but simply were not paying attention to the road. Obviously this is dangerous for everyone on the road, but especially concerning on campus where most people are walking. Accidents involving a motor vehicle and a pedestrian are almost always the fault of the driver because of the general road rule to “yield to pedestrians,” but this does not let pedestrians off the hook. Headphones, texting, friends across the street, and a slew of other things can easily win the attention of pedestrians, especially when they are not in the habit of looking for vehicles.
Sadly, another aspect of car accidents on college campuses that must be addressed is drunk driving. Alcohol, bad decisions, and an occasional class often represent the college years for most graduates. The UAF handbook states that the Department of Residence Life has the authority to hold students accountable for their actions by using one or more sanctions. The first of these are simple, correctional warnings that the student has violated the Student Code of Conduct. Further consequences may be put in place, like denial of benefits, restitution, discretionary sanction, loss of housing, and finally, suspension and expulsion. The alcohol/substance sanctions are clearly laid out. UAF follows the “3-strike” principle, insinuating that a student who violates the alcohol policy three times will be evicted from their residence hall.
Drunk driving accidents cost more than $37 billion annually, and in 2012, over 10,000 people were killed in these accidents. After crunching the numbers, that’s about one death every 51 minutes. About 50% of all fatal car accidents in college-age drivers involve alcohol. UAF is not a dry campus, but it does have these clear drinking policies.
The penalties of driving under the influence in Alaska can also be debilitating.
- First DUI – about $1,500 and a minimum of 72 hours in jail
- Second DUI – about $3000 and a minimum of 20 days in jail
- Third DUI – up to $10,000 and up to 120 days in jail
- Fourth DUI – up to $10,000 and up to 120 days in jail
- Fifth DUI – up to $10,000 and up to 360 days in jail
A third variable on the topic of car accidents on college campuses is inclement weather. With a large number of students attending UAF from out of state, it’s likely that they are not familiar with driving in winter weather. Although much of that is dependent upon the car and not the driver, a student from the south behind the wheel may be at a greater risk to cause an accident during winter weather.
Learning to drive a car is basically the same across the country: the right pedal is gas and the left is brake. Some things, however, are different. In LA, drivers will need to learn substantially more about patience and huge highways than driving students learning in a rural community in our home state. Alaska drivers, and citizens of other northern states, are required to learn about icy roads, how to manage brakes that lock up, and the best ways to defensively drive in cold weather. On college campuses, there is an immense amount of diversity, and there is no way to ensure all drivers are able to maneuver their vehicles in the Alaskan temperatures. This further increases the risk of car accidents on college campuses.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks Police Department states that the driver that caused an accident that lead to injury, death or damage exceeding $2,000 is required to contact the local police department. It’s also mandated that the driver must complete a citizens report form that provides information to the necessary authorities. This is easily accessible and can be done entirely electronically.
As many of us know from experience, proving who is at fault for a motor vehicle collision can be difficult. That’s why witnesses are important and why police are present at some serious accidents. If you’ve been injured while behind the wheel because of someone else’s negligence, you deserve justice and you may be entitled to some compensation.
While the students involved in the car accident focus on healing and returning to their studies, the lawyers at Ringstad Law Office, P.C. can step in and use their experience, dedication, and personal connection to set things back in their rightful places.