Vehicle fatality estimates were up 8% in 2015, according to the National Safety Council’s estimate. What’s the deal? With all of the safe driving technology available, as well as better road maintenance and stricter laws, shouldn’t fatality rates be decreasing? The increase is the largest “year-over-year percent increase in 50 years.”

While these results were released in February, it’s important to consider them as the summer months approach—the time of year that is typically more dangerous on the road. Here’s a look at the potential reasons why this statistic is growing, and how we can change it for the rest of 2016.

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head on car accident, collisionStates with the Largest Percentage Increase of Traffic Fatalities from 2014 to 2015:

  1. Vermont 30%
  2. Oregon 27%
  3. New Hampshire 24%
  4. Georgia 22%
  5. Washington 21%
  6. Florida 18%

Possible Reasons for Increase:

More drivers are on the roads because of lower gas prices.

            More people were driving on the roads in 2015. The traffic volume increased nearly 4% each month compared to the same month in 2014. This may largely be impacted by the low gas prices and booming economy. However, with more vehicles on the road, the amount of accidents still outweighs the percent increase in traffic volume.

Car technology use is not optimized.

            Do people know how to use their car technology? More vehicles are coming equipped with driver-assist features and other safe driving aids such as rearview cameras, automated braking and blind spot monitors. However, motorists may not be using their car technology to its full advantage. The National Safety Council partnered with the University of Iowa to form a campaign, MyCarDoesWhat.org, that explains car technology to users. They wish to inform users about their vehicles so people can use their car’s technology to prevent crashes and improve their driving skills.

Distracted driving is increasing.

            Florida, one of the states with the largest traffic deaths increase, found that there was actually a surge in distracted driving crashes, despite the ban on texting while driving. More people are turning to their phones instead of focusing on the road and that results in vehicle collisions and deaths, which in turn, typically leads to pricer auto insurance rates. In fact, texting while driving makes motorists 23 times more likely to crash. Furthermore, while most states now have distracted driving laws, they range in severity and that variance may not help reduce traffic fatalities.

Solutions:

April was Distracted Driving Awareness Month but with these escalating crash statistics, it’s clear that safe driving awareness is needed all year long. More drivers are multitasking on the road, attempting to text, check social media channels or send emails. Drivers owe it to themselves to make the roads safer. By continuing to drive distracted, the likelihood that 2016 traffic fatalities will also increase is growing.

Perhaps the best way to reverse this statistic for 2016 is to help motorists drive safer on their own. Drivers should focus on the roadways by driving defensively or checking their own safe driving skills to make the roads safer this year. They can also optimize their car’s safety features and remain aware of the growing number of cars on the roadways.

Photo credits: Car Time, Wikimedia