It has been almost a decade since the National Safety Council saw traffic deaths as high as last year’s numbers.
An estimated 40,200 people died in crashes on the road in 2016. That is a 6% increase over 2015 and a 14% increase since 2014—the highest two-year hike in over 50 years. The month with the most deaths was October, and the month with the highest percent change over 2015 was February.
What is the cause of this fatal uptake? Lower gas prices and an improving economy means there are more drivers are out on the roads—yet that only accounts for an estimated 3% increase in vehicle mileage. An increase in distracted driving and other risky driving behaviors are likely the cause as unsafe behavior grows more rampant behind the wheel.
The National Safety Council released survey results along with their estimates that may provide insight into these dangerous drivers. While 83% of drivers surveyed believe that driving is a safety concern, 64% are comfortable speeding, and 47% are comfortable texting either manually or through voice controls. However, voice controls are not as safe as they appear to be. Using voice commands can take more than 15 seconds and may exceed the safe levels of interaction time.
The estimated cost of these deaths, injuries, and property damage was about $432.5 billion over the course of the entire year—an increase of 12% from 2015. All of these numbers are only preliminary estimates and once more data is taken into account, the numbers may increase or decrease.
The number of deaths has not surpassed 40,000 since 2007. The NSC President, Deborah A.P. Hersman feels that not enough is being done to solve this problem. “Americans believe there is nothing we can do to stop crashes from happening, but that isn’t true,” she said in a statement.
The NSC is working to change this upward trend. As part of the Road to Zero Coalition, the National Safety Council is encouraging the use of life-saving measures. Some of these include required ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers, improved drunk driving education, extended hands-free calling bans for all drivers instead of just teens, and accelerated use of life-saving technology such as blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warnings, among other measures such as passing or reinstating motorcycle safety laws.
Source: National Safety Council