While an increase of 8 percent may not seem like much, it is actually the largest year-over-year percent increase in traffic deaths in the U.S. in 50 years, according to the National Safety Council’s (NSC) preliminary report comparing road fatalities between 2014 and 2015. The NSC estimates that 38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads in 2015 and that 4.4 million were seriously injured. Deborah Hersman, president of the NSC, fears this increase may indicate a trend towards more dangerous driving behaviors across the country.
How Do Kansas and Missouri Compare to the National Numbers?
According to the NSC, a majority of states experienced an increase in traffic fatalities between 2014 and 2015, with Vermont faring the worst at 30 percent. Missouri fell among the states with an increase in fatalities and fared worse than the national average, with 14 percent more deaths on the road in 2015 than in 2014. 862 people lost their lives on Missouri’s roads last year.
Kansas, on the other hand, was one of only 13 states to show improvement from year to year. The number of traffic fatalities in Kansas dropped from 385 to 357, a decrease of 7 percent. The difference in the number of fatalities between Kansas and Missouri can be explained by looking at the states’ total populations—Missouri has almost three times as many residents as Kansas.
Reasons for the Increase
The NSC cites several reasons for the recent increase in traffic crashes. A stronger economy and lower unemployment rate—which should be good news—actually lead to more cars being on the road and, unavoidably, more accidents as a result. Average gas prices were 28 percent lower in 2015 than in 2014, which also contributes to more people buying cars and driving them longer distances than they do when gas prices are high.
How to Stay Safe in 2016
In 2014, the three leading causes of traffic fatalities were alcohol, speeding, and distracted driving. Combined, these three causes account for nearly 90 percent of all traffic deaths. Taking a look at these and other common causes of fatal and injury accidents, the NSC recommends that drivers take certain precautions to keep themselves and others safe on the roads in the coming year, including:
- Make sure every passenger buckles up on every trip. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wearing a seatbelt cuts your risk of suffering a serious injury or death in a motor vehicle accident in half. Always buckle up in the front seat or the back seat.
- Designate an alcohol- and drug-free driver or arrange alternate transportation. Studies have shown that it is not enough to pledge to not drink and drive. The key to cutting down on impaired driving is to always have a back-up plan in case you end up drinking more than you had planned.
- Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue. Drivers report that they frequently drive while drowsy, often on their way to and from work. Following good sleep habits is the best way to combat this daily hazard.
- Never use a cell phone behind the wheel, even hands-free. Distracted driving is rapidly rising as a leading cause of car accidents. The only safe way to use a cell phone behind the wheel is to not use one at all. Even a quick glance at a text can kill.
- Stay engaged in teens' driving habits. Teens are three times more likely to crash than more experienced drivers, so it is important that you monitor their driving habits and remind them of safe driving techniques frequently.
- Learn about your vehicle's safety systems and how to use them. Cars are offering more and more advanced safety technology every year, but many drivers don’t take the time to learn how to use them properly, so the advantages they can offer are lost.
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