Traffic Fatalities are on the Rise, Highest Since the 1960s
Statistics show that the number of traffic deaths is increasing in the United States. According to statistics from the National Safety Council, the number of motor vehicle fatalities increased by six percent in 2016. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also indicate a rise in traffic fatalities.
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According to the NSC, a total of 40,200 people died in traffic-related incidents in 2016. This is six percent higher than in 2015, and also marks the first-time traffic deaths exceeded 40,000 since 2007. Statistics from 2016 are preliminary so far and may be updated later when more data is submitted. The number of fatalities in 2016 is 14 percent higher than in 2014.
There was also an increase in traffic deaths the year prior; from 2014 to 2015, fatalities rose by 7 percent to 37,757. In 2016, the cost of motor vehicle injuries cost approximately $4.6 million. This is a seven percent increase from 2015. From 2015 to 2016, the total cost of motor vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage increased 12 percent to $432.5 billion.
The NHTSA, which counts traffic fatalities differently than NSC, also notes that traffic deaths are increasing. During the first half of 2016, 17,775 people died in a motor vehicle accident compared to 16,100 during the same period the year prior. The second quarter of 2016 also represents the seventh consecutive quarter where traffic deaths increased compared to the same period the year before.
According to NHTSA, 2015 had the largest spike in traffic deaths in 50 years, since the 1960s. Traffic fatalities rose seven percent to over 35,000 in 2015. Authorities say that the increased driving, drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving, contributed to these figures.
Government Initiatives to Reduce Traffic Accidents and Deaths
Government agencies and safety groups have launched initiatives to address the rising number of deaths on the road, Parker Waichman notes. In October 2016, NHTSA, NSC, the National Transportation Safety Board announced its “Road to Zero” initiative. The goal is to eliminate traffic deaths within 30 years. Self-driving cars are a large part of the vision.
To help fund the coalition, the Department of Transportation is allocating $1 million a year for the next three years to fund organizations dedicated to preventing traffic-related fatalities. “Our vision is simple – zero fatalities on our roads,” said then-U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, according to a DOT press release. “We know that setting the bar for safety to the highest possible standard requires commitment from everyone to think differently about safety– from drivers to industry, safety organizations and government at all levels.”
The initial steps involve implementation of proven safety measures. This includes promoting the use of seatbelts, installing rumble strips, truck safety, behavior change campaigns, and data-drive enforcement.
“Every single death on our roadways is a tragedy,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “We can prevent them. Our drive toward zero deaths is more than just a worthy goal. It is the only acceptable goal.”
Distracted driving is also a very relevant issue, given the ubiquity of smart phones, touch screens, and other devices that can divert a driver’s attention away from the road. Late last year, the NHTSA proposed new guidelines to reduce distracted driving from mobile devices. The agency proposed that device makers implement pairing, so that phones are synchronized with the vehicle’s infotainment system. Additionally, the agency advised a driver mode, which provides a simpler interface while the driver is operating a vehicle.
“NHTSA has long encouraged drivers to put down their phones and other devices, and just drive,” said Dr. Rosekind. “With driver distraction one of the factors behind the rise of traffic fatalities, we are committed to working with the industry to ensure that mobile devices are designed to keep drivers’ eyes where they belong — on the road.”
Report Says States Need to Pass More Safety Laws
Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety released a report titled 2017 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, “Have We Forgotten What Saves Lives?” The report, which cites data from the NHTSA, urges legislators to pass more safety laws in various states.
“Too many states are still lacking too many safety laws and this is contributing to the problem. Advocates urges governors and state lawmakers to remember that state laws will save lives and spare families the loss of loved ones,” said Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety President Jacqueline S. Gillan. “We know what needs to be done – enact state laws to require vehicle occupants to buckle up in every seating position, motorcyclists to always wear a helmet when riding, children to be seated in age appropriate child restraints, new teen drivers to gain necessary experience behind the wheel, and to address impaired and distracted driving.”
The report notes that traffic fatalities increased in every category, including unbelted vehicle occupants (five percent), motorcyclists (eight percent), pedestrians (10 percent), teen drivers (10 percent), impaired and distracted drivers (three and nine percent) and children (six percent).
In total, the report called for 376 state laws that should be adopted for traffic safety. These laws focus on seat belt use for front and rear seat passengers, motorcycle helmets, boost seats, and graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws. According to the report, the use of seat belts could have saved over 360,000 lives and prevented 5.8 million injuries from 1975 to 2010. Rear seat passengers are three times as likely to die in an accident if they do not have a seatbelt during an accident.
“If every state with a secondary seat belt law upgraded to primary enforcement, about 1,000 lives and $4 billion in crash costs could be saved every year, as reported by NHTSA,” the report states.
Legal Help for Car Accident Victims
Parker Waichman has decades of experience representing car accident and other accident victims. If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident, you may have valuable legal rights. Our personal injury attorneys offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).