Drivers, battling rush hour each morning, would be shocked to hear that despite the growing number of vehicles on the road, car accident statistics show a decline in injuries and fatalities. While a decreasing trend may bring a little peace of mind to many drivers, the number of annual accidents is still higher than it should ever be. The statistics change, but driving behaviors remain problematic. A car accident lawyer explains it well, “Car accident statistics show the sad reality that many families are affected by preventable injuries or even deaths… when drivers are simply not careful enough behind the wheel.” With the number of commuters at all-time high, within the last 10-20 years, driving habits must continue to evolve if we want to continue to see a decreasing trend in car accidents.
A Closer Look at Statistics
According to Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), the national trend regarding fatal car accidents has decreased significantly between the years 2001-2011. While the there was a slight increase approximately at the five year mark, the number of fatalities continued to drop after the halfway mark. Year and Fatalities are as followed:
2001: 38,491, 2002: 38,491, 2003: 38,477, 2004: 38,444, 2005: 39,252, 2006: 38,648, 2007: 37,435, 2008: 34,172, 2009: 30,862, 2010: 30,296, 2011: 29,757
Additionally, during the 10 year period, passenger vehicles, light trucks, and heavy trucks were the types of vehicles most often involved in an accident, but like the number of fatalities, the trend is decreasing.
More Drivers, More Cars, and Less Accidents: What’s Going On?
While fatal accidents are decreasing, our dependency and love for vehicles is not. Watch television on any given night and you may catch at least one or two advertisements for new cars, Eco-conscious drivers are trading in their older cars for hybrids, leaving a number of drivers able to upgrade to something more affordable, and rush hour continues to drag on. The auto industry is doing well, despite the last couple of years, and the average American household owns 2 vehicles. We can’t give drivers sole responsibility for the decrease in fatal accidents, can we?
As much as we’d like to think that drivers have changed their dangerous ways, driving behaviors still remain problematic, but experts agree that the decrease in accident fatalities is due to a conglomeration of factors and changes:
Safer vehicles: Drivers now care more about the safety of their cars more than they have before. It’s rare, these days, to see a vehicle without air bag protection, and the overall safety features of newly built vehicles have improved greatly. Such features include detection features and vehicle rollover protection, to name a few.
Drunk Driving: Drivers are still driving while under the influence of alcohol, but states are cracking down on offending drivers with zero tolerance laws and strict laws regarding blood alcohol content (BAC). In addition, many states increase their sobriety checkpoints, giving authorities a greater chance of catching drunk drivers before it’s too late.
Distracted Driving: Distracted driving is a widespread problem and is broadly defined. Unlike specific issues like drunk driving, a distracted driver could be engaged in anything from eating a sandwich to texting a co-worker, while driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted drivers are responsible for approximately 9 deaths and 1,060 injuries on our roadways each day. Lawmakers, desperate for change, are trying to reduce distracted driving related incidents by banning cellphone use while driving. Currently, in the U.S., there are 41 states that ban texting while driving. The biggest challenge? Monitoring a distracted driver can be very difficult.
Seat Belts: To many of us, not wearing a seat belt in a vehicle is like, well, not wearing a seat belt in a vehicle! Many of us were raised to buckle up and it was ingrained in our brains by the Crash Test Dummy Duo. In a report published by the CDC, approximately half of all car accident fatalities could have been prevented if the driver or passenger would have worn a seat belt. Many states have the “Click It or Ticket” policy, but many drivers may not recognize the importance of a seat belt until all states make it a primary law and hopefully not before it’s too late.
Drivers and their driving habits are in desperate need of change and while lawmakers are trying to make our roadways a safer place, drivers need to initiate change. Adult drivers should be good role models for budding, young drivers. Young drivers should view driving as a privilege, not a social event. The next time you get behind the wheel, honestly assess your own driving behaviors. Do you wear a seat belt? Do you hand over the keys when you’ve had alcohol? Do you keep your phone out of reach and distractions to a minimum? While you can’t change the way that others drive, a change can start with you. Help to keep accident fatalities at an all-time low.