US traffic fatalities fall sharply
Road deaths down 4.2 percent in first half of 2013, reversing upward surge in 2012.
U.S. traffic deaths fell by 4.2 percent during the first half of 2013, according to preliminary figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reversing an unexpected upward surge the previous year.
The federal safety agency still estimated that 15,470 people died in all forms of motor vehicle crashes between January 1 and June 30, though that was down from the 16,150 fatalities reported during the first half of 2012. Some states, such as Ohio, are on track to have their lowest death tolls since record keeping began on a per-mile basis.
Measured in terms of fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, the rate for the first six months of the year dipped to 1.06, down from 1.10 fatalities during the first half of 2012.
There had been some concern that the total fatality count might rise as the economy recovers, a traditional pattern that reflects more Americans taking to the road — particularly during the dangerous rush hour periods. Government and industry officials are studying the surprising reversal to see what has contributed, instead, to the decline in deaths.
Among the possible factors various sources cite:
- Improved passive safety systems in vehicles, including better vehicle designs and improved airbags;
- New active technologies, such as electronic stability control, which is now required in all new vehicles, and even more advanced collision avoidance systems;
- Crackdowns on drunk and distracted driving.
Whatever the reason, the preliminary report was taken as good news. Highway deaths had been on a sharp decline for nearly a decade before suddenly reversing course in 2012. Last year, 33,780 people were killed on U.S. roads, an increase of 4.4 percent.
If the current estimate holds, road deaths will have fallen 26 percent since 2005. But they'll also have dropped by more than 40 percent since hitting a peak of 54,589 in 1972. As recently as 1978 more than 50,000 Americans were killed each year in highway crashes. The figure dropped below 40,000 in 2008 — for only the second time — dipping to 37,423.
There are some worrisome exceptions to the downward trend, however. As more and more states have eliminated motorcycles mandatory helmet laws, fatalities have been on the rise. In Michigan, total motorcycle deaths rose 18 percent in 2012, even though the law was changed only in April. NHTSA has not provided a breakout of motorcycle deaths for the first half of 2013.
Even the latest overall highway fatality numbers concern safety advocates. But new technologies could help bring the numbers down even faster, proponents contend.
"We have a clear vision of accident-free driving," Steffen Linkenbach, director of emerging technologies at Continental AG, a major supplier of automotive safety equipment, told TheDetroitBureau.com recently.
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When you can't hardly afford but drive to work, I would imagine that overall traffic issues would go down. No money, no means to drive places........
At the peak in 1972 we had few safety deices in cars. We had lap belts and that as about it. Therefore, new safety measures are very welcome. But we have also had some safety provisions in our transportation network that is also helping such as improved shoulder treatment since the 1990's.
But what has worsened is inattentive driving. Only an increase in safety equipment and in roadway safety design of vehicles are we actually gaining. for several years, inattentive driving has cause more injuries and deaths in Idaho than any other factor.
"Some states, such as Ohio, are on track to have their lowest death tolls since record keeping began on a per-mile basis."
Why? I think this reason, at least in part: Ohio is one of the few states with an effective State Highway Patrol and vigilant enforcement of unsafe/impaired/aggressive driving laws. Whenever I drive to Ohio (especially I-71), the OSHP are very visible and they mean business. Not only on I-71, but on all the major thoroughfares - they are well funded and presumably generate much of their own revenue through ticketing. Take the Turnpike across the border over to PA, and there is hardly a PA State Police vehicle to be found, and the speeds automatically increase (despite Ohio having a 70 MPH speed limit and PA having 65) just because people know they can get away with it. Nothing compared with I-95 or I-84 in NY/CT though!!