2016’s Surge in Traffic Fatalities: Potential Causes and Solutions

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), deaths from traffic accidents increased by 10.4% from January through June of 2016. Considering that last year’s sudden jump in traffic deaths was the largest in about 50 years, experts like NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind are calling the current situation “an immediate crisis.” In Michigan specifically, deaths increased 10% between 2014 and 2015.

It’s always difficult to pinpoint the causes of an increase in traffic fatalities. However, it seems like that texting while driving plays a role in this surge, as does the fact that Americans have driven about 3.3% more miles this year than last year, thanks to an improved economy. People tend to travel more and farther distances when the economy is good, which is why some are linking that increase to the increase in deaths. However, the Federal Highway Administration says that the 3.3% alone cannot account for such a surge.

The NHTSA, along with several other safety groups, is in the midst of launching the Road to Zero Coalition, which is an initiative that aims to end all traffic deaths in the U.S. within the next 30 years. A million dollars a year for three years has been promised to this initiative by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the goal is to work on semi-autonomous vehicles, automatic emergency brakes, better blind-spot detection, and alerts when drivers drift from their lanes. There is also some ongoing work on technologies that may be able to stop drunk drivers from turning a car on as drunk driving remains a leading cause of deaths on the road.

However, these things are only part of the puzzle. After all, cars have many more safety features now than they did in decades past, and yet people are dying at greater rates. So the other puzzle piece is determining how and why people are so distracted (whether it’s from texting, adjusting GPS, or playing with self-driving features while in motion) and working to combat that. It’s possible that the high speed and the crowding on the U.S.’s highways may also play a role. As researchers and administrators work on the various causes and solutions, it’s still up to drivers to do what they can to protect themselves by remaining alert, following traffic laws, and driving defensively whenever they head out on the road.

If you feel the loss of a loved one was a result of someone being careless or negligent, contact us so we can become familiar with your circumstances and advise you of any possible legal steps that you can take.

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