The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released preliminary data on 2015 traffic fatalities and news was not good. Over the first nine months of 2015, the NHTSA estimates that 26,000 were killed in fatal car and truck accidents. During the first nine months of 2014, fewer than 24,000 people were killed. The increase of 9.3 percent puts 2015 on track to be the deadliest year on American roads since 2008.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is responding to the news with renewed emphasis on the driver behaviors that cause deadly accidents. According to government officials, 94 percent of motor vehicle fatalities are the result of human error. While there is definitely room for improvement in preventing deadly auto defects, the truth is that most car accidents happen because a driver was behaving negligently.
Reducing accidents caused by speeding, drinking and driving, distracted driving and drowsy driving would make a tremendous difference in highway safety. Speeding and alcohol-related accidents make up more than half of all fatal crashes by themselves. Unfortunately, these problems are the hardest to combat because they involve changes in human behavior, rather than purely technical advancements. Too many drivers simply don’t prioritize safety when they get behind the wheel.
The head of the NHTSA mentioned another behavior that strongly impacts highway fatalities: the use of seat belts. A surprising number of fatal accident victims are unbuckled when their accidents occur. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 percent of the people killed in auto accidents are not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. Given that seat belt use is at an all-time high, with around 87 percent of drivers and passengers buckling up, it is clear that wearing a seat belt is an easy way to protect yourself.
Source: Automotive News, “Rise in traffic deaths last year raises alarm at NHTSA,” by Ryan Beene, 5 February 2016