Each year for the past fifty years, the total number of people killed in traffic accidents has dropped. This pattern seemed attributable to improving vehicle safety technology and driver awareness of the dangers of drunken or distracted driving. However, for the first time since the 1960s, the total number of roadway fatalities went up in 2015 by a substantial margin over 2014’s totals, and the fatality rate of the first six months of 2016 increased by 10% over 2015’s numbers. Safety researchers and government officials are at a loss as to the complete reason for the jump.
The fatality rates were released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), resulting from its preliminary analysis of data gathered by local and state law enforcement. According to the NHTSA, fatalities rose in nearly every category of road occupant, with a total rise in fatalities of 7.8% over 2014’s totals. 9% more motorcyclists were killed in 2015, and accidents involving large trucks rose by 4%. Pedestrians and cyclists saw especially steep rises in fatality rates, with a nearly-10% increase in pedestrian deaths, and almost 13% more cyclists killed.
Generally, safety researchers look first to economic causes for an increase in accident rates. As more people get jobs and see their incomes rise, they tend to drive more and take longer trips. Since 2015 was a year of marked improvement in the economy and decreasing unemployment rates, this was undoubtedly a contributing factor to the rise in fatalities. Additionally, gas prices fell substantially, encouraging even more driving. However, the total increase in vehicle miles traveled was only 3.5%, leaving much of the 7.8% rise in fatalities unexplained.
Certain factors tend to appear again and again in fatal accidents, according to NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind. “The data tell us that people die when they drive drunk, distracted, or drowsy, or if they are speeding or unbuckled. While there have been enormous improvements in many of these areas, we need to find new solutions to end traffic fatalities.” While official NHTSA data reveals distracted driving as a cause in 11% of all fatal accidents, the ubiquity of distracted driving and difficulty in proving that it occurred absent a driver confession or eyewitness account leads many safety experts to believe it plays a much larger role in causing traffic accidents, fatal or otherwise.
If you’ve been involved in a serious accident with a distracted driver, a drunk driver, or a driver displaying reckless behavior on the road, seek the money you deserve for your injuries by contacting the dedicated, aggressive, and trial-ready personal injury lawyers at Whibbs Stone Barnett Turner, PA for a consultation on your case, at 1-888-219-4561, with Florida offices in both Pensacola and Ft. Walton, as well as offices in Fairhope, Alabama.