Each year, automakers release innovative safety features that help prevent accidents and protect drivers and passengers when crashes occur. Consider the technology that brakes when the driver fails to do so; steers a car back into the lane when a driver drifts; and warns of a car in a driver’s blind spot. This type of assistance works to correct driver mistakes, a leading contributor to crashes. Safety features such as full-curtain airbags, safety belts with airbags, and better-engineered crumple zones all protect occupants in a collision.

But despite these improvements, highway deaths in the U.S. are seeing an upward trend that has analysts at the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) concerned.

Traffic Deaths Up in First Half of 2016smashed car window

According to data released by NHTSA in October, an estimated 17,775 people died in motor vehicle crashes between January and June of 2016. The same period in 2015 had 16,100 fatalities. This increase of more than10 percent far exceeds the increase in miles traveled between the two periods of 3.3 percent.

This means that although there were more drivers on the road in the first half of 2016 than in the first half of 2015, this number isn't large enough to account for the increase in fatalities.

If the second half of 2016 was as deadly as the first half, that year could report the highest number of traffic fatalities since 2008.

What Explains the Increase?

While NHTSA won't have data on the causes of fatal crashes in 2016 until late fall of 2017, the increase in fatalities may be explained in part by two factors:

  • Better economic times
  • More distracted driving

Lower fuel prices and lower unemployment rates often contribute to more cars on the road, as more people can afford to buy a car and gas for trips. However, the first half of 2016 didn't see a 10 percent increase in miles traveled, so this factor cannot explain all of the deaths.

Another significant factor in highway fatalities is distracted driving. Data from the National Safety Council (NSC) shows that texting and driving continues to increase every year. The report indicates that while .9 percent of drivers admitted to texting behind the wheel in 2010, that number jumped to 2.2 percent in 2014. The rate for drivers aged 16-24 was more than double that at 4.8 percent in 2014. More recent data isn't available yet, but the problem has certainly not gotten any better in the last year.

What the Government Is Doing About the Problem

In response to the upward trend in traffic fatalities, the U.S. Department of Transportation is partnering with the NSC to launch the Road to Zero Coalition with the goal of completely eliminating traffic deaths by the year 2047. While Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx acknowledges this is a lofty goal, he believes the efforts will be worth it.

The Coalition will focus its initial efforts on promoting and enforcing the following proven lifesaving strategies:

  • Seat belt use. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seat belt use is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes, yet 20 percent of adult drivers and front-seat passengers in Kansas and 21 percent in Missouri don't regularly use a seat belt.
  • Rumble strips. According to the Federal Highway Administration, more than half of traffic fatalities in the U.S. occur after a driver crosses the outside or center line of a roadway. Rumble strips alert the driver when he has drifted out of his lane and are a low cost but highly-effective safety measure.
  • Truck safety. Whether a crash involving a semi-truck is the fault of the truck driver or a passenger vehicle, the results are often deadly. Educating both truckers and motorists about truck safety may help to lower fatality rates.
  • Behavior change campaigns. Ad campaigns about the dangers of drinking and driving and texting and driving have been somewhat successful in the past. This new initiative would target specific audiences with clear messages about dangerous behaviors.

Have You Been Injured In A Kansas City Area Car Accident?

If you've been injured in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.