Thousands of people lose their lives to traffic accidents every year, so it's often difficult to feel optimistic when getting behind the wheel. However, there is a bright side to all this doom and gloom.
Drivers are getting smarter, cars are getting safer, and the roads aren't as deadly as they once were. According to national statistics, the number of traffic deaths across America dropped by three percent last year and the rate of deaths per miles traveled tied an all-time low. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 32,719 people died from auto crashes in 2013, compared to 33,782 in 2012.
So what's behind this recent (and relieving) trend towards safety on the road?
Driver Education Campaigns
Safe driving campaigns have been around for many years. However, they seem to be sticking with drivers more lately than in the past. Campaigns related to texting and driving have been particularly effective across the country. In fact, the number of people who died in distracted driving-related accidents fell by about seven percent, down to 3,154, between 2012 and 2013.
In response to devastating roadway fatality statistics, auto manufacturers have put a heightened priority on the safety features of their vehicles. More cars are equipped with effective safety features, and more consumers are committed to buying new cars with the most trusted safety features on the market.
Stricter Law Enforcement
Police officers have been diligent at enforcing safety laws, including seat belt, car seat, and texting regulations. When drivers are concerned about being pulled over for even minor violations, they are more likely to comply with common sense safety laws.
Electronic devices, such as smartphones and GPS navigation systems, are often to blame for traffic crashes. However, when used safely and appropriately, they can actually have the reverse effect and save lives. One notable electronic safety device is stability control, which detects when a vehicle is off balance and manages the accelerator and brakes to prevent overturning.
Although car crashes have declined, other types of crashes are still seeing some startling statistics. The number of crashes involving semi-trucks and bicycles have both slightly increased in recent years. For example, the number of fatal bicycle crashes rose to 743 in 2013, which is the highest number since 2006.
More campaigns, enforcement, and technical features must be devoted to truck and bike crashes in the years ahead. The number of consecutive hours that long-haul truck drivers work has had an impact on the number of deaths on the road. Pending legislation about truck driver hours could have the unintended consequence of putting more drivers on the road during rush hour traffic and creating more potential for hazardous accidents around cities. Some cities are looking into ways to fund better bike lanes and separate bikes from vehicular traffic as much as possible.
However, these improved and promising statistics represent much more than just a passing trend. Traffic deaths have steadily dropped by nearly 25 percent over the past 10 years. Let's make 2015 the safest year for drivers yet!