2016 Deadliest Year For Drivers in a Decade
The National Safety Council (NSC) issued new statistics demonstrating that 2016 was the deadliest one for drivers in nine years: 40,000 people were killed in car crashes last year.
In the years preceding 2015, roadway fatalities had been on a downward trend—attributed to several elements, including increased safety features in the vehicles on the road. So what caused the increase in automobile deaths when the vehicles being driven are safer than ever before?
Why the Increase in Highway Deaths?
Today’s vehicles have taken safety high-tech with things like stability and traction control, emergency automatic braking systems, electronic lane warnings and rear cameras. This leads to the assertion that increased human error might be to blame, and a survey released by the NSC on Feb. 15 backs that up.
The survey of drivers reflects the type or types of risky activities in which drivers might engage while behind the wheel:
- 64 percent indicated they were comfortable speeding,
- 47 percent indicated they had texted while driving, either manually or through voice controls
- 13 percent indicated they had driven while impaired by marijuana taken for either recreational or medical purposes
- and 10 percent indicated they had driven while under the influence of an amount of alcohol that they feel may have impaired their driving.
There’s another factor that, depending on your age and attitude, may or may not be surprising: Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest generation of living Americans, according to population estimates released in 2016 by the U.S. Census Bureau. Millennials now number 75.4 million, which surpasses the 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 53-72). And accusations have been made by a AAA study that millenials top the list of worst drivers: texting, speeding, and running redlights are all activities with which millenials have been measured to be more likely to do.
The Cost of Car Accidents are Both Human and Monetary
The NSC survey indicated 4.6 million drivers who required medical attention after a vehicular accident. And in 2016, fatalities increased by six percent over the year prior, even though the number of miles measured increased by only three percent.
In total, the monetary cost of crashes to the American public was measured at $432.5 billion.
What Can Be Done?
The NSC is calling for immediate action. They have a road to zero deaths initiative for American drivers that would involve many changes:
- Mandate ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers as well as alcohol education to allow drivers to better understand when impairment begins
- Automated enforcement techniques like red light camera to catch speeders
- Extending all laws banning cell phone use – including hands-free use—to be a primary law (not secondary) for all drivers
- Making seat belt laws primary instead of secondary
- Adopting a three-tiered licensing system for all new drivers under the age of 21
- Standardize and accelerate technology for vehicles with life-saving potential: blind-spot monitoring; automatic emergency braking; lane departure warning and adaptive headlights
- Make standard motorcycle helmet laws
- Adopt comprehensive programs for safety of pedestrians
And while it is true that one day autonomous cars may make roadways safer, today the human element is still present on America’s roadways. And for now, we must rely on automotive technology that helps actual humans to better navigate the highways.
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