If expert predictions are accurate, the United States could experience its deadliest year in traffic fatalities since 2008. New statistics released by the National Safety Council (NSC) shows the traffic fatality rate of the first half of 2016 has already surpassed last year's rate for January through June.
The National Safety Council Predicts a Grim Year
From January 2016 to June 2016, the NSC estimated 19,100 people lost their lives in traffic accidents across the U.S. Compared to the same period in previous years, that is nine percent higher than 2015's totals and 18 percent higher than 2014's fatality rate.
If the rate continues through the end of 2016, the NSC predicts the death toll on U.S. roads will exceed 40,000 fatalities. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the national fatality rate has not been this high since 2007 when 41,259 people lost their lives in traffic accidents.
If the high death rate were not cause enough to worry about safety on our roads, 2.2 million more people suffered non-fatal injuries in traffic accidents during the first six months of the year. The combined total of injuries and deaths from traffic accidents has already cost $205.5 billion in damages.
Experts Weigh in on the Cause of the Increase
The economy seems to play the biggest role in the increase of traffic fatalities. As we recover from the recession, more people are going back to work, which puts more commuters on the roads. The increase in traffic is significant, with a record 1.58 trillion miles driven in the first half of the year. This year's rate is 3.3 percent higher than 2015's first half of the year.
Along with a recovering economy, gas prices have been much lower than previous years and stayed stable, encouraging more people to drive.
Historically, economy and gas prices have a significant impact on vehicle use. During the oil embargo of the mid-1970s, the scarcity of gas and price gouging kept many drivers off the roads. The same can be said of recessions in the early 1980s and 1990s.
Complacency is another significant factor among U.S. drivers.
Distractions like smartphones and too much faith in advanced safety features have created a nation of lax drivers. “…we are still a long way away from fully autonomous vehicles and need to really hone in on the unsafe driver behaviors that are still so pervasive, including distraction, drowsy and drunk driving, speeding, and failure to buckle up.,” says Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Staying Safe as a Driver
The best thing a driver can do to help reduce fatalities on the road is to be the safest driver possible. This includes personal safety such as always wearing a seatbelt and road safety such as:
- Never driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol
- Knowing your limits and taking breaks to avoid driving while fatigued
- Following all traffic laws and signals
- Refraining from cell phone use while driving, even hands-free
Parents with teen drivers have a responsibility to make sure their teen is a safe and prepared driver. Teens are one of the largest age groups for traffic fatalities and are three times more likely to crash than experienced drivers.
Staying Safe as a Pedestrian or Cyclist
Cyclists should always wear safety gear, especially a helmet, and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Both cyclists and pedestrians benefit from wearing light colored clothing and carrying lights or reflectors when riding at night.
If you are riding or walking near any roads, you should never use headphones at a volume that makes it unable for you to hear oncoming traffic; you should always avoid cell phone use that distracts your eyes from seeing where you are going.
Georgia has had the second largest increase in traffic fatalities (with 34 percent) since 2014, beat only by Florida. If you are a Georgia resident who suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a traffic accident, the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C. is here to help.
Contact our office today to schedule an appointment for a FREE consultation regarding your legal options after a serious accident: 404-474-0804.