Statistics that make the heart sink.
Have you ever heard someone talk about their fear of planes, and responded with “you’re way more likely to die in a car crash”? For most people, the small possibility of a fatal traffic accident is just a fact of life.
What many aren’t aware of, though, is the fact that the number of deadly car crashes has risen dramatically in the last couple of years. Due to many different factors (most of which are likely related to the COVID-19 pandemic), car crash fatalities have increased even though people have been driving less.
The question is, what can be done to roll these numbers back? If someone is injured in a car crash and wants to determine if they may be entitled to a settlement, they can contact lawyers specializing in auto accidents. But what about the people who never made it back from the scene of the accident? That cost is simply too high, and concrete steps are being formulated to reverse the trend.
Statistics on 2020-2021 traffic fatalities
According to the NHTSA, there were 38,680 deaths resulting from car crashes in 2020 – that’s the highest number we’ve seen since 2007. In the first nine months of 2021, there were already an estimated 31,720 deaths from car crashes, which was 12-percent more than what had been projected based on 2020’s numbers.
If you compare 2020 to the previous year – before the coronavirus was on anyone’s radar – there was a 7.2-percent increase in deaths, even though there was also a 13-percent decrease in miles driven that year.
Even if they’ve never been in a car crash, American drivers are being affected by them
To start with, there’s the rise in statistical probability that they’ll be a victim of a fatal car crash. Even though people rarely think about statistical probabilities unless they’re trying to determine their chances of winning the lottery, this has real consequences for people every day. It might not be you, and it may never be you – but that is not something you can say for sure.
One consequence of these statistics hits closer to home, however; specifically, it affects your bank account. Motor vehicle insurance has risen by a whopping 40.5-percent from 2012 to 2021, so even if you’ve never so much as dented someone else’s car, you’re indirectly dealing with the consequences of other people’s reckless driving.
An individual’s car insurance policy can be affected by many things, including how often they drive, where they’re located (due to concern about crime rates), their age and gender, and what type of car they drive. Even with all those variables, though, it would seem that insurance rates have been increasing for everyone no matter how well they behave.
What the Department of Transportation (DOT) is doing to address the issue
There are plans to implement new safety measures under the Safe System Approach, which operates under the assumption that traffic accidents are avoidable with the right proactive measures. This system has been used successfully in places like the Netherlands and Sweden, as well as Hoboken, New Jersey. Between 1994 and 2015, traffic-related fatalities dropped by 50-percent in both countries, and Hoboken has seen several years with no deaths at all. If this plan is implemented nationwide, who knows how many fatalities it could prevent?
Main principles and policy objectives of the Safe System Approach
To start with, the DOT has laid out the following principles to guide their efforts:
- This approach will focus on eliminating crashes that cause death or injury, as they are unacceptable.
- Mistakes due to human error are inevitable, but a well-designed transportation system can accommodate some of these mistakes to prevent serious injury or death.
- Human bodies are vulnerable, so any system that reduces the incidence of serious crashes should be human-centric and plan for physical human vulnerabilities.
- The responsibility for preventing serious injuries or fatalities is shared by all levels of government, industries, non-profit and advocacy groups, researchers, and members of the public.
- Safety should be proactive, so tools must be implemented to identify, address, and prevent safety problems within the public transportation system.
- Redundancy is key; if one part of the transportation network fails, there should be another part in place to keep protecting people.
These principles have been used to formulate these policy objectives:
- Post-crash medical care. The faster that injured people get emergency medical services, the more likely they are to survive. If a safe working environment is created for first responders, and if secondary crashes can be prevented with strong traffic management practices, this will improve the survival rates of crash victims.
- Safer speeds. Between enforcement, outreach campaigns, targeted education, and thoughtful roadway design, safer speeds can be promoted in every roadway environment.
- Safer vehicles. Many vehicles already offer sophisticated safety features, but they’re far from universal. If these features are made available in more vehicles, this will help prevent crashes, as well as minimize the consequences of crashes for both occupants and non-occupants.
- Safer roads. Roadway environments should be designed to mitigate the effects of human error and address low injury tolerances. They should also promote safer driving behaviors and facilitate easy and safe travel for vulnerable users.
- Safer people. Safe and responsible behavior should be encouraged in drivers; this can be done by creating conditions that are conducive to helping them arrive at their destination unharmed.
Improving the Statistics Via Safer Driving
Eliminating traffic deaths is an ambitious goal, and with millions of people on US roadways every day, that probably won’t happen. There’s still a reason why this is the goal in the first place – if it were higher than 0, that’s effectively establishing an acceptable number of deaths per year. If these safety measures are going to have the impetus they need, it’s necessary to work towards something more than the bare minimum. To make real progress, both government policies and individuals’ behavior need to meet in the middle to improve safety and responsibility for every driver in the US.
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