Earlier this week the National Safety Council released its estimates for traffic fatalities for 2016, which paint a dire picture for the trend in the country’s auto-related traffic deaths.
The NSC’s latest estimates were that 40,200 people died in motor vehicle accidents through the whole year. This number is a 6 percent increase over the fatality estimate in 2015.
As reported by the New York Times, it will be the first year since 2007 that over 40,000 individuals have been killed in these accidents in a single year. When taken with the 7 percent rise in deaths from 2014 to 2015, the total increase of 14 percent over the last 2 years is the largest increase over the last 50 years.
Possible causes for the spike are cheaper gas and an improving economy, which tend to correlate positively with people driving extra miles. Other suggestions are that the prevalence of smart phones and mobile apps has added another layer of distraction to many drivers – this despite the fact that most new cars offer hands-free voice controls aimed at lowering distractions.
Adding to this is the fact that many states continue to oversee lenient traffic laws. For example, 15 states categorize a failure to wear a seatbelt as a secondary offense. A secondary offense means that the driver cannot be ticketed unless they are also pulled over for a different violation. Additionally, Only 18 states in the country have passed laws that require both front and rear occupants to wear seatbelts, and implement this law as a primary violation. These statistics become extremely important when compared to the fact that about half of all traffic deaths involve occupants not wearing a seatbelt.
Lastly, increases in highway speed limits are seen as another possible factor in this spike in fatalities. One such example is right here in the state of Texas, where 1,500 miles of roads have speed limits at or above 75 miles per hour (though fatality statistics on these specific roads were not reported).
For more information on this important issue, you are encouraged to look at the NSC’s official report here.
Additionally, one can read The New York Times’ article on the subject here.