As the economy gradually improves and gasoline prices stay relatively low, people are driving more – and more people are dying in motor-vehicle crashes.
The National Safety Council has released preliminary data for 2016 showing that 40,200 people died in motor-vehicle crashes last year. If that number holds, it will mark the deadliest year on the nation’s roads since 2007.
Crash-related fatalities increased 6 percent over 2015 and 14 percent over 2014, which would be the biggest two-year escalation since 1964, according to the National Safety Council.
The council estimates that overall motor-vehicle mileage increased by 3 percent in 2016. Fatalities occurred at a rate of 1.25 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles, an increase of 3 percent over the 2015 rate.
Some 4.6 million roadway users were injured seriously enough to require medical attention in 2016, according to the council, at an estimated cost to society of $432 billion.
Dangerous Driving Habits
A recent National Safety Council survey might provide a glimpse into why fatalities are on the rise.
Although 83 percent of surveyed drivers indicated that they believe driving is a safety concern, 64 percent said they’re comfortable speeding, and 47 percent said they’re comfortable texting (either manually or through voice controls). Another 13 percent said they’d driven under the influence of marijuana in the past month, while 10 percent said they’d driven after drinking too much alcohol.
“Our complacency is killing us,” National Safety Council President and CEO Deborah Hersman said. “Americans believe there is nothing we can do to stop crashes from happening, but that isn’t true. The U.S. lags the rest of the developed world in addressing highway fatalities. We know what needs to be done; we just haven’t done it.”
In a separate survey, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that too many motorists don’t practice what they preach when it comes to safe driving. For example, the survey found that while 78 percent of drivers believe that texting and driving is dangerous, nearly one in three drivers (31 percent) admitted to doing it within the past month.