AASHTO Journal, 26 August 2016
Preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council indicate motor vehicle deaths increased 9 percent in the first six months of 2016 from a year earlier, and were 18 percent higher than at the same point two years ago.
The council estimated that 19,100 people had been killed on U.S. roads from Jan. 1 through June 30, and that 2.2 million were seriously injured.
It put the estimated monetary cost of those deaths and injuries at $205 billion.
“The upward trend began in late 2014 and shows no signs of decreasing,” the group said in its statement. “The continued rise in fatalities is prompting the council to issue its highest fatality estimate for the Labor Day holiday period since 2008,” predicting that 438 people will die on U.S. roads during the three-day holiday weekend.
It also said the states that have seen especially large increases in crash fatalities since 2014 are Florida with a 43 percent increase, Georgia (34%), Indiana (33%), California (31%), North Carolina (26%), Illinois (24%) and Kentucky (24%).
“Our complacency is killing us,” said Deborah Hersman, National Safety Council CEO. “One hundred deaths every day should outrage us. Americans should demand change to prioritize safety actions and protect ourselves from one of the leading causes of preventable death.”
Nationwide, state departments of transportation have been waging campaigns to warn drivers about rising crash rates and trying to educate motorists to practice more safety awareness on the road. Some campaigns have targeted impaired driving and dangerous distractions such as texting behind the wheel.
A Sept. 11-15 annual meeting of state DOT communicators called TransComm will feature a safety panel in which officials from various DOTs will discuss their efforts, and explore what is working and what is not as they try to move the fatality and injury numbers downward.
State DOTs are also making roadway improvements that improve safety and reduce crash rates, such as by changes in interchange design, separating bicycle lanes from motor vehicle traffic and building flyover bridges over railroad tracks to eliminate track crossings.
While many factors likely contributed to the fatality increase this year, the council said that “a stronger economy and lower unemployment rates are at the core of the trend. Average gas prices for the first six months of this year were 16 percent lower than 2015 levels, helping to fuel a 3.3 percent increase in the number of miles driven.”
The council recommended that drivers take the following actions:
-Make sure every passenger buckles up on every trip.
-Designate an alcohol- and drug-free driver or arrange alternate transportation.
-Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue.
-Never use a cell phone behind the wheel, even hands-free.
-Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits, as teens are three times more likely to crash than more-experienced drivers.
-Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them, features such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning systems and backup cameras.”