For the first half of 2016, the number of people dying as a result of vehicle accidents rose sharply, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The number of deaths was 10% over the figures for the first half of 2015.
In total, the NHTSA says that almost 18,000 people died in the first six months of year, versus 16,000 in the first six months of 2015. Five years ago, by contrast, 15,000 deaths were reported in the first six months of 2011.
The figures were not only higher, but showed that the level of fatalities is continually climbing. The March through June period was the seventh straight quarter of rising vehicle-accident deaths.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) also noted that Americans are traveling more than last year. People drove 50.5 billion miles from January to June, more than 3% over year-prior figures.
The climbing figures are a stark contrast to the early 1980s and 1990s, when deaths related to vehicle collisions fell for 11 straight quarters.
Figures rising due to pedestrian, motorcycle, and bicycle collisions
The rising accident deaths in 2015 were largely due to pedestrian, motorcycle, and bicycle collisions. Deaths related to bicycle accidents, for example, increased more than 12%, to an 818 total for the entire year 2015. Pedestrian deaths rose 9.5%, to total over 5,300 in 2015.
Deaths from bicycle and pedestrian accidents were the highest seen in the past 20 years.
The most recent census indicated that as many as 4 million U.S. residents commuted to work via walking in 2013. Over 750,000 commuted via bicycle. In total, the number of people in the U.S. walking or biking to work rose by 1 million compared to the number who did so in 2005.
While the numbers of traffic deaths could be spurred by an increased number of miles driven and more walking and biking, it is still possible to reduce them by safe driving habits.
What can drivers of vehicles do to reduce the chances of an accident? First, always wear a seat belt. Second, make sure that any children are securely in the car with a booster seat, seat belt, or car seat. What they use needs to be appropriate for their height and weight.
It is also important for drivers not to combine any substance causing impairment, whether alcohol or drugs, with driving.
Do not drive while distracted, by smartphone games or messages.
Finally, research shows that obeying the speed limit is profoundly important in cutting down on accidents.
Failure to do these things has stark results. Failure to use proper safety equipment in the car was a factor in more than 9,500 crash deaths in 2013, the last year for which statistics are available. Driving while impaired by alcohol contributed to over 10,000 fatalities. Going over the speed limit was a factor in more than 9,500 fatalities.
If you are a bicyclist or pedestrian, be sure to wear reflective gear at night. Pedal and walk the same way traffic is going. Bicyclists need to obey all traffic signs, just as cars do. Finally, all bicyclists need to wear a helmet.
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths.” https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/motor-vehicle-safety/index.html
- NHTSA. “Driving Safely.” https://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving-Safety
- NHTSA. “Bicycles.” http://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving-Safety/Bicycles