Posted: September 30, 2016
From January through June of 2016, about 19,100 people lost their lives in traffic accidents on roadways throughout the U.S. This alarming figure represents an 18 percent increase compared to January through June of 2014, according to a report recently released by the National Safety Council.
The report also indicated that, in addition to the fatalities, 2.2 million people reported injuries sustained in car wrecks. Experts have estimated that the costs associated with these fatalities and injuries are at about $205 billion. And what’s worse, if the rate of increase holds steady, the total number of traffic fatalities could climb higher than 40,000 for 2016. There haven’t been that many deaths on the roadways in one year since 2007.
“Complacency is killing us”
Deborah A.P. Hersman is the president and CEO of the National Safety Council. Upon the release of the report, she released a statement saying, “Our complacency is killing us. Americans should demand change to prioritize safety actions and protect ourselves from one of the leading causes of preventable death.”
The Council has acknowledged that it’s likely that multiple factors have contributed to the disturbing trend, including an increase in traffic. In the U.S., drivers put in 1.58 trillion miles on the road in just those six months alone. This is a 3.3 percent increase over the same period from last year, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The average gas prices for the six-month period in 2016 were also lower than in 2015 by about 16 percent.
Additionally, the Council has suggested that the trend could be fueled by lower unemployment rates and a stronger economy, both of which facilitate families’ capacity to travel. After the housing bubble burst and the Great Recession was triggered, the total number of miles that Americans traveled plummeted. As a result, traffic fatalities decreased to the low levels of the 1940s and 50s. Historically, traffic deaths peaked in the 1970s and then steadily declined. This latest upward trend was first noticed in late 2014.
One of the country’s biggest offenders in traffic fatalities is Vermont, which has seen traffic deaths increase 82 percent since 2014. Traffic deaths in Oregon have increased by 70 percent. In New Hampshire, deaths increased by 61 percent.
Back in 2015, the National Safety Council had also sounded the alarm about the rising trend. When the Council’s report on 2015 was released, Hersman stated, “These numbers are serving notice: Americans take their safety on the roadways for granted. Driving a car is one of the riskiest activities any of us undertake in spite of decades of vehicle design improvements and traffic safety advancements. Engage your defensive driving skills and stay alert so we can reverse this trend in 2016.” Unfortunately, drivers did not heed Hersman’s warnings.
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- PBS NewsHour, Traffic deaths up nearly 20 percent since 2014, government says, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/traffic-deaths-injuries-cost-205-billion-far-2016/
- National Safety Council, Motor Vehicle Deaths Increase by Largest Percent in 50 Years, http://www.nsc.org/Connect/NSCNewsReleases/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=103