Traffic fatalities were up 9% in the first six months of 2016, compared with the same period last year, continuing a surge in deaths that began two years ago as the economy improved and travel picked up, according to information released by the National Safety Council.
An estimated 19,100 people were killed on U.S. roads from January through June. That's 18% more than two years ago at the six-month mark. About 2.2 million people also were seriously injured in the first half of this year.
The council estimates the cost of these deaths and injuries: $205 billion.
At that rate, annual deaths could exceed 40,000 fatalities this year for the first time in many years. More than 35,000 people were killed on U.S. roads last year, making it the deadliest driving year since 2008, when more than 37,000 were killed.
Our complacency is killing us. Americans should demand change to prioritize safety actions and protect ourselves from one of the leading causes of preventable death.
While many factors likely contributed to the fatality increase, a stronger economy. Lower gas prices and lower unemployment rates are likely at the core of the trend. More people are driving more often.
Historical data show that after peaking in the 1970s, traffic deaths have generally trended downward, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Large dips in deaths have corresponded to shocks to the economy — the oil embargo of the mid-1970s, the recessions of the early 1980s and early 1990s and the more recent downturn that began in late 2007 with the subprime mortgage crisis.
During the Great Recession triggered by the housing crisis, the number of miles Americans put on the road each year plunged and fatalities dropped to levels not seen since Harry Truman was president.
COMMENT: More people are on the roads, more cars are on the roads and therefore more potential exists for crashes. We have to add to the mix is that there are ever-increasing distractions for these drivers (cell phones, tablets and the electronic “fun stuff” in all cars).
We all have to be more alert, more attentive and more careful. We cannot control others on the road—we can only control ourselves. But, understanding that a problem exists is the first step in correcting it.
Likely, there is not one single person on the road who was not taught the principles of “defensive driving”. That will not prevent all accidents, but it can prevent many.
Again, we cannot control what others do behind the wheel—only what we do. Stay safe everyone.