Disturbing, to say the least.
We've been used to seeing traffic fatalities decrease from year to year, mainly thanks to improved safety technologies. But last year the exact opposite happened. That's right, the number of Americans involved in fatal highway accidents has actually gone up. According to the latest data coming from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 26,000 Americans were killed in car crashes in the first nine months of 2015.
Compared to the same time period in 2014, a total of 23,796 people were killed. That's an increase of 2,204 fatalities, or 9.3 percent. "We're seeing red flags across the US, and we're not waiting for the situation to develop further," stated NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind. "It's time to drive behavioral changes in traffic safety, and that means taking on new initiatives and addressing persistent issues like drunk driving and failure to wear seat belts." But two other factors have been identified as possible causes: cheap gas prices and a recovering economy. Unemployment is now below five percent and, therefore, more people are commuting to work and spending more time behind the wheel.
Still though, the fatality rate has increased faster than the number of miles driven. What about texting? Could that be a cause? Possibly, but there's still no conclusive data to support that. The recent automaker issues, specifically the GM ignition switch debacle and Takata airbag recalls, are only a minor factor in the fatality rate. Fortunately, only last month at the Detroit Auto Show did 18 major automakers and the NHTSA form a new safety consortium. The goal is to advance new safety technologies into production at a faster rate than ever.