Traffic fatalities declined for years, as cars got safer. Airbags saved lives. Crash-warning systems prevented accidents. Back-up cameras helped people see more clearly. Seat belts preserved lives and reduced injuries. Continuous advancements meant that driving — while still the most dangerous thing that most people will ever do — kept getting safer.
In 2016, traffic fatalities rose to more than 40,000. That's a fairly stunning change, and one that worries experts. In 2017, the National Safety Council now estimates that more than 40,000 people died yet again.
It is important to note that estimates do show a small reduction in deaths from 2016 to 2017. The total fell by about 1 percent. However, that projected total is around 6 percent higher than the numbers from 2015. It is a concerning trend.
Why did it happen?
One could argue that modern cars have never been as safe as they are today. Regulations are as strict as ever and safety systems get better every year. Why aren't these things, largely credited with the decline in deaths in previous years, enough to keep that downward trend going? Why are deaths increasing once again?
One potential reason is driver distraction. As cars have gotten safer, drivers have started taking more risks. Having smartphones in the car means a whole host of distractions are at a driver's fingertips at any moment. Smartphones are essentially handheld computers capable of surfing the internet, sending and receiving text messages, accessing social media, taking pictures and much more. Drivers engage in these activities behind the wheel, and they cause accidents.
Ignoring seat belts
Another potential issue is that people keep ignoring one of the main safety features they have — seat belts. Even though it is clear that seat belts save lives, some adults still refuse to wear them. Worse, some don't make their children wear them. This turns accidents that should have resulted in mild-to-moderate injuries into fatalities and keeps the traffic death numbers higher than they need to be.
Breaking the speed limit contributes to these statistics in two critical ways. First, it can cause accidents directly when drivers lose control, run red lights or crash into motorists moving at the proper speed. In addition, speeding cuts back on reaction times so that drivers cannot avoid accidents.
The bottom line is that speeding increases the odds that an accident will result in a fatality. Much like not wearing a seat belt, it turns an accident with injuries into a lethal event.
If people slow down, put on their seat belts and get off their phones, the fatality statistics may decline. Until then, if you get involved in a serious crash caused by another driver where a loved one is killed, make sure you know your legal rights to compensation.