A Statistic No One Expected

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle fatalities increased over 8% compared to the first six months of 2014. This is an unexpected and incredibly sad trend.

The U.S. Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, indicated that the Department would redouble its efforts to boost road safety and called upon all parties, including automakers and local governments to do the same. It is somewhat puzzling to me what local governments and automakers can do to reduce the fatalities based upon existing technology. In a previous post, I indicated that self-driving vehicles have the promise and hope that that technology will have the potential to substantially reduce or even eliminate (some are saying) fatal accidents in the United States. This is because self-driving vehicles are expected not to break the law, will not run red lights, and will not be speeding.

According to the fatal analysis reporting system, over 32,000 people died in motor vehicle-related crashes nationwide in 2014 which was a slight decrease (.1% drop from 2013). In 2014, this was the lowest number of occupant fatalities since NHTSA first started tracking the data in 1975 (40 years ago).

The final breakdown of 2015 data will not be available, obviously, until mid-2016.

What is the reason for the increase in fatalities?

The Federal Government believes that the improving economy (I disagree that the economy is improving), lower fuel prices (no question that fuel prices have reduced) may have been factors in increasing road deaths. These factors do indeed put more drivers on the road, and as I recently reported, vehicle miles traveled are indeed increasing, contrary to previous belief, but lower fuel prices contribute to higher rates of leisurely driving.

As we were taught by our parents, and it was drilled into all of us, younger less experienced drivers are at a greater risk of crashing.

The latest safety initiative launched by NHTSA is the first effort to address drowsy driving. As some of you may be aware, several technologies are being tested to assist smart cars in warning drivers who doze off behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, after all these years, alcohol, driving distractions, and failing to use seat belts continue to contribute to motor vehicle fatalities. A startling statistic is that almost 50% of all occupants killed in passenger vehicle crashes in 2014 were not wearing seat belts. How can that be? How can you still sit in a car as either a front seat passenger or driver and not wear your seat belt? This is much like continuing to smoke cigarettes having known friends and relatives who have died of lung cancer directly attributed to cigarette smoking.

Drunk driving attributed to almost 31% of all fatalities and distracted driving resulted in 10% of all fatalities.

You can rest assured that local and state governments will begin to do more to combat drunk and distracted driving behavior. I believe you have already begun to see public service announcements regarding both of these issues and I believe that you will see a redoubling of these efforts.

In summary, do yourself, your friends, your family, your children, and your grandchildren a favor – #1 wear your seat belt; #2 even if you think you’re not buzzed or drunk, if you have had more than 1 drink, call Uber, save your own life as well as another’s, #3 avoid distracted driving – distracted driving cannot be described with one or two words, it is a result of everything going on inside the car that is not related to steering and driving the car.

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