New vehicles in the U.S. are the safest vehicles ever built, but the country’s highways are seeing the highest fatality rates in nearly a decade and that has safety officials scrambling to figure out what to do about it.
Despite more cars and trucks than ever being equipped with collision prevention equipment and vehicles designed to crash in ways to better protect vehicle occupants, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced U.S. traffic deaths jumped 9.5% to an estimated 7,500 during the first quarter of 2015.
Part of the increase is being blamed on the fact that due to an improved economy spurred by low gas prices, Americans are driving more. Miles logged are up 3.9% during the same period, but that doesn’t account for everything, according to safety experts.
The news isn’t going to get any better in the short term as the Labor Day holiday approaches. The National Safety Council, or NSC, predicts another 395 people will die on U.S. roadways during the three-day weekend this year an additional 47,800 will be injured. The NSC is forecasting that traffic deaths through the first six months of the year are up 14%, citing the same factors as NHTSA.
From January to June, nearly 19,000 people died in traffic crashes across the U.S., and more than 2.2 million were seriously injured, putting the country on pace for its deadliest driving year since 2007.
Even with the latest, upward trend, the U.S. highway death toll is down almost 40% from its peak four decades ago. That said, there is “no way our country should tolerate 32,917 people dying on our roadways,” Mark Rosekind, the new head of federal traffic safety enforcement declared during a visit to Detroit last month. That was the figure for 2013, the last year for which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has complete numbers.
Costs are also up. The six-month estimated bill for traffic deaths, injuries and property damage is $152 billion – 24% higher than 2014.
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“Follow the numbers: the trend we are seeing on our roadways is like a flashing red light – danger lies ahead,” said Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the NSC. “Be a defensive driver and make safe decisions behind the wheel. Your life really depends on it.”
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However, good news is on the way. Many of the aforementioned safety devices are finding their way into more and more vehicles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
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The group notes 52% of new vehicle models are equipped with technology that warns the driver if a crash is imminent. That feature is shown to cut crashes by 7%, IIHS said. Another layer of safety feature — automatic braking — is also gaining traction with 27% of new models offering it: twice as many as just three years ago. It reduces accidents by 14%.
6 responses to “NHTSA Says Traffic Fatalities on the Rise in 2015”
I remember a study of the effectiveness of ABS when it became common. The researchers were surprised that it didn’t reduce accidents as much as expected. It turns out that people took more risks if they had ABS, reasoning they could drive faster in the snow, stop shorter, etc. Of course it doesn’t work that way but that’s what the perception is.
Are we seeing that effect here as well?
I’d bet money that distracted/inattentive driving accounts for the majority increase in accidents, injuries and fatalities. It’s such a widespread affliction in the U.S. that it’s almost incomprehensible.
I see people daily that drive through solid red traffic lights while talking on their cellphone. I see daily people driving in the left lane of primary roads and limited access highways at speeds 10+ mph below the speed limit and obstructing normal traffic, while talking on their phones. they don’t even know traffic is backed up behind them… They park in their arse in the left lane so they aren’t distracted by vehicles entering or exiting the roadway.
Let’s not forget the drug addicts and those abusing prescription drugs. They would appear to be the majority of vehicle operators today. Even bus drivers and 18 wheeler drivers have become super aggressive in many areas of the U.S. I see accident after accident daily where there should be no accidents. Anyone who doesn’t see this epidemic of potential carnage daily is in for a huge surprise when it comes to their town.
The auto manufactures trying to out do each other as they load new vehicles with electronic technology that distracts the driver is a definite cause. Touch screens, phones, access to social media,checking on home security etc etc.
not only causes people to take their eyes off the road, but also diverts their mental attention and concentration away from driving and paying attention to traficand road conditions.
Also I find that sad that it wasn’t even addressesd in the report.
Sorry for the typos in last transmission !
I’d wager you should blame Apple, Google, Verizon, and AT&T at least as much as the auto OEMs. Most of the systems on the cars are actually slightly safer ways to do those things than directly on the phone. But most people don’t have them, and the systems are in their infancy, so there is a tidal wave of people texting, or, just as bad, the self-absorbed jerks who must talk on their handset while driving. They always either drive like idiots or maniacs!
It’s the people, stupid.
All involved are responsible for the carnage. We have a social affliction to car phones and electronic widgets in the U.S. Some folks are dying to use them, literally. It’s the innocent bystanders that suffer.