Just a few months ago, this blog discussed a rise in auto accident death
rates in 2015. Now the numbers are in for 2016, and they’re even worse.
The National Safety Council data show a 6-percent increase in deaths in
2016 from 2015. The number of deaths was more than 40,000 for the first
time in a decade. Unfortunately, that was a continuation of a trend. The
number of deaths for 2015 were from 35,000 to 37,000 (depending on which
figures one uses), and that was an increase of almost eight-percent from 2014.
Until 2014, traffic deaths per year had been declining steadily for decades.
This means a favorable trend flipped to an unfavorable trend within the
space of a few years.
Post-accident medical care numbers also rose. In 2016, about 4.6 million
people needed treatment after a crash. That’s an increase of seven
percent over 2015. Costs attributed to injuries and property damage also
increased to $432.5 billion, a 12-percent increase from 2015.
Some of this increase is likely due to an improved economy and relatively
modest gas prices. Better economic conditions puts more people on the
road for work and recreation. However, the increase in miles driven was
only three-percent from 2015 to 2016. The increases in injuries, death,
and property damage were much higher than three-percent. This suggests
there may be more involved than just the amount of cars on the road.
This brings us back to distracted driving. Despite campaigns to reduce
texting and driving and other forms of distracted driving, people don’t
seem to be getting the message. Young drivers in particular still admit
to driving while distracted by electronics at alarming rates. It may be
that increases in traffic are simply compounding the harm, because distracted
driving accidents are even more likely when high traffic volume leaves
no margin for error.
Car insurance companies have already begun raising rates in light of these
new figures. While we have always disagreed with the idea of raising rates
just to boost profits, we can’t quarrel with raising rates to keep
up with accident-related claims costs. An insurer can hardly be blamed
for just trying to “cover the spread.”
Individually, we’re all going to be paying more to insure our cars
and trucks. As a society, we’re going to bear increased costs from
deaths, disability, medical, and property damage caused by the increase
We hope policymakers will begin to take this problem seriously as the death
toll mounts. Individual drivers also need to do their part by redoubling
their efforts to be safe. Otherwise, this grim trend will likely continue,
and we’ll all pay an even steeper price.