The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 32,744 deaths in traffic accidents in 2014. The NHTSA and the Department of Transportation are now reporting that traffic deaths rose 7.2 percent last year to a total of 35,092. That is the largest year-over-year increase since 1966. The National Safety Council reports that the first 6 months of 2016 have seen another increase. The NSC projects that the total fatalities in 2016 will be 9 percent higher than 2015. This alarming two-year trend has safety experts searching for new methods to improve auto safety.
Fatalities in 2015 increased in almost every category of traffic incident. Deaths among motorcyclists and pedestrians increased sharply, 8.3 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively. Deaths among SUV drivers and passengers rose more than 10 percent. Deaths among bicycle riders rose by 12 percent and are now higher than they have been in 20 years. The administrator of the NHTSA suggested that the numbers should make the public, “desperate for new tools that will help us save lives.”
The NHTSA has previously highlighted the four Ds of dangerous driving: drunk, drugged, distracted and drowsy. Alcohol-related deaths are readily identified. The NHTSA reports that 29 percent of deadly crashes involve a driver who is impaired by alcohol. Drowsy and distracted drivers are harder to identify. If a driver is looking down at his cell phone when his fatally strikes a pedestrian, it may be only his honesty that allows us to identify it as a distracted driving accident. If the distracted driver is killed, phone records might point to distracted driving, but they might not. It is a difficult problem to gauge accurately.
There are undeniably multiple factors driving the increase in deadly vehicle accidents. Identifying these factors and eliminating or reducing them is vital for the health of the nation. Some states stand more to gain than others. Georgia has seen the second largest increase in traffic deaths among all U.S. states. Only Florida exceeds the 34 percent increase in deaths seen in Georgia. With early numbers showing that 2016 could be even worse than 2015, now is the time to get a handle on what is driving the increase in traffic deaths. Thousands of lives are at stake.
Source: MSN Autos, “What’s Driving the Massive Surge in Traffic Deaths,” by Pete Bigelow, 2 September 2016