What’s Causing The Decline in Vehicle Deaths?

When it comes to accidental deaths in the United States, traffic fatalities normally rank right up there with slips and falls, but a decline in recent years indicates we’re far more likely to survive a traffic accident than ever before. Last year, the total number of traffic accident-related deaths fell by another 3% and established that year as the lowest in car accident deaths since 1949.

What’s Saving Our Lives?

Certainly, we want to be thankful that traffic fatalities are continuing to drop, but, at the same time, we want to know what’s causing the drop in deaths. If it’s something we’re doing as a society or some new technology, we want to know what that is so we can further improve upon it. Eventually, we may be able to eliminate traffic fatalities altogether, if we can identify and build upon a successful trend.
Many experts in law enforcement and in the automotive industry seem to agree that the lower traffic deaths is due to a combination of factors. Bachus & Schanker suggest that technological advances have led to improved safety features. Vehicle rollover protection, improved airbags, rear cameras, and proximity alerts all contribute to safer driving conditions.
Equally effective are the efforts of law enforcement to ensure drivers are better prepared for the roads. Among long-running programs, improved laws targeting drunk driving, distracted driving, and seat belt use have been credited with curbing traffic accidents, while laws targeting younger drivers, such as raising the minimum drinking age, have added to greater protection on the roads.

Distracted Driving Plays A Significant Role

texting and driving

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood feels that laws against distracted driving are especially helpful in reducing traffic fatalities. He says there’s still a long way to go towards getting everyone to put away their smartphones in the car, but he’s quick to add that significant strides have been made.
LaHood may have a point. Distracted drivers account for nine deaths every day in the United States and cause nearly 1,000 injuries per day.

Distracted driving is essentially engaging in any activity that takes your attention away from the road and your driving duties. The CDC lists the three types of distracted driving as:

  • Visual– Any act that forces you to look away from the road.
  • Manual– An action that compels you to use your hands for something other than operating the vehicle.
  • Cognitive– Thinking about something other than driving.

While anyone is capable of distracted driving, teens and young adults are among the most likely to be at fault in distracted driving accidents. Currently, state and federal laws are beginning to combat instances of distracted driving, but prevention can also be addressed by individuals by setting hard rules for themselves. By taking personal responsibility to drive safer, anyone can contribute to lowering the rate of traffic fatalities even more.

  • jcwconsult

    Improved safety features on cars to both avoid crashes & survive those that happen have sharply decreased the fatality risks per mile traveled. So have improved safety features of roads including better guardrails, moving signposts & other hazards away from the roadside, longer entrance & exit ramps on freeways, more visible signs, etc.

    More serious improvements could be made right now by eliminating all incentives to do traffic enforcement for profits instead of for safety. Require most urban and rural main road speed limits to be set at the safest 85th percentile speed points to promote the smoothest traffic flows with the fewest crashes. Time all yellow intervals on traffic lights long enough for the actual perception/reaction times and actual approach speeds of at least 85% of the drivers. Require most fines and fees from local traffic enforcement to be submitted to the states, to eliminate incentives for local officials to enforce for profits. Make ticket or traffic stop quotas illegal in every state, as they are in some now, with violators to be fired from law enforcement.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

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