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Does Criminalizing Unsafe Driving Practices and Increasing Penalties Reduce Auto Accidents?

November 01, 2012

Few motorists are happy to see flashing red lights in the rearview mirror, and to feel anxiety settle in as one is pulled over by a law enforcement officer. A traffic citation carries with it penalties which can often include fines worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Some argue that traffic citations are often more about filling the public coffers than preventing Georgia car accidents. Many people dispute whether there is a correlation between traffic fines and the rates at which car accidents occur. However, an interesting study conducted in Spain suggests that driver behavior is impacted by more stringent penalties for traffic-related offenses.

Researchers in Spain were attempting to determine the relationship between criminalizing unsafe driving behavior and traffic accident rates. Some argue that if drivers are unwilling to drive safely to reduce the risk of serious injury in a Georgia car crash, then it is unlikely that imposing jail time or increasing fines is going to make drivers engage in safer driving practices.

The study revealed that drivers may actually alter their driving based on criminalizing unsafe driving behaviors and imposing more stringent penalties. Spain reformed its Penal Code in 2007 imposing more severe penalties including extended terms of incarceration for certain driving practices. The researchers conducted the study to determine what if any impact the increased penalties had on motor vehicle safety. Criminalizing offenses resulted in actual jail time for traffic offenses, such as a maximum five-year term for reckless driving putting others in danger, one year in jail for refusing a breath test and six months for driving without a license. The criminal sanctions resulted in an 11 percent reduction in traffic-related injuries for male drivers and a 12 percent reduction for female drivers.

Although this does not necessarily mean we should impose more severe criminal sanctions for driving offenses, it does suggest that drivers may modify driving practices in response to potential adverse consequences. It might be the case that increasing fines for certain high risk driving practices like reckless driving and DUI may save lives and prevent injuries.

If you or a loved one is injured in a Georgia car accident, you may have a right to pursue a claim for financial compensation. The experienced Georgia car accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates have been representing car accident victims in Georgia for almost three decades. Our Georgia car accident attorneys are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.