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Traffic Fatalities Are On Their Way Up, Says NHTSA

September 8, 2016

Most of us rely on our cars for just about everything. We drive to work and school, run countless errands and take weekend trips. The more we drive, the more likely we are to be involved in a car accident, especially in a thriving city like Chicago. With millions of people on the road every day in Illinois and across the U.S., experts are also seeing a rise in fatal traffic accidents.

Preliminary reports show that an estimated 35,200 people died in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. last year, which is an estimated 7.7 percent increase from 2014. These numbers aren’t exact because some of the traffic data from 2015 won’t be available until later this summer, but this projected outcome shows a significant increase in traffic accident fatalities. In light of these data, experts are already meeting to find solutions to make roads safer for everyone.

It’s not just low gas prices

There are several possible reasons for this rise in fatalities. For one thing, motorists in the U.S. drove more than 3.15 trillion miles in 2015. That’s 3.5 percent more than 2014 or in previous years. Naturally, with more vehicles on the road, we’d expect to see more fatal accidents.

Much of this comes from the recent drop in gas prices. When the price at the pump grew to above 3 or even 4 dollars per gallon a few years ago, commuters began looking to public transit and other methods of transportation. Now that gas prices have come back down to around 2 dollars a gallon, commuters are again relying more on their cars.

On top of this, the U.S. is seeing some of its lowest unemployment rates since the economic crash of 2008. More jobs mean more people are travelling on the roads every day, especially at rush hour. While the economic recovery is good news for our nation as a whole, more people on the road can also mean more accidents.

Mark Rosekind, and administrator with NHTSA, had this to say: “As the economy has improved and gas prices have fallen, more Americans are driving more miles. But that only explains part of the increase; 94 percent of crashes can be tied back to human error, so we know we need to focus our efforts on improving human behavior.”

While it’s true that more cars on the road will lead to more accidents and more fatalities, that doesn’t absolve drivers of responsibility for crashes. Distracted driving is an epidemic on American roads, with people causing serious crashes while texting, reading email, or engaging in other distracted behaviors. People who get behind the wheel while intoxicated or exhausted likewise endanger everyone else on the road.

With the number of cars on the road, motorists need to be more vigilant than ever to stay safe and avoid causing deadly crashes. If you’ve been hurt or lost a loved one in a collision caused by a reckless or distracted driver, an experienced attorney can help. Contact Coplan+Crane today.