Preliminary numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicated car accident fatalities had risen more than 8 percent in the first six months of 2015 as compared to 2014.
In North Carolina, death by vehicle incidents shot up by 19 percent in the first six months of last year, with at least 634 people killed from January to June 2015, compared to 531 the year before. It was an even worse start to the year in South Carolina, where state officials reported a 21 percent increase, from 436 deaths in six months in 2014 compared to 518 in 2015.
What is going on? Well if you ask researchers at the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments or those at Texas A&M University, one significant factor is the economy.
Researchers have been mining historical data to prove this theory, and say it’s fairly simple: With a better economy and lower gas prices, more people have jobs and additional spending money. They choose to take their own vehicle to work rather than carpool or use public transportation. They are more likely to take longer trips and be less discerning with efficiency in everyday errands.
A chart released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) showed, crash deaths peaked in the 1970s. They largely trended downward after that, but where there were significant drops, they coincided with economic downturns, such as the oil embargo in the mid-1970s, the recessions in the early 1980s and early 1990s and also the recent recession caused by the subprime mortgage crisis.
It’s also worth noting that discretionary kinds of trips – out-of-town vacations, nights out with friends or on a date – those are the things that tend to get cut first when the economy is bad. Those also tend to be overall riskier trips.
At the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, research found traffic deaths in that state climbed 42 percent over the course of just two years, and that largely coincided with a series of economic rebounds.
The Texas A&M University study discovered that for every $1 off the price of a gallon of gas, there was an 11 percent uptick in the number of roadway fatalities. Unemployment was an indicator as well. For every 1 percent decrease in the national unemployment rate, there was a 9 percent rise in the number of national car accident deaths.
With gas prices having dropped even lower since the middle of last year, researchers said, “We can expect a coming substantial jump in traffic fatalities,” though it generally takes several months for changes in gas prices to have a concrete effect.
Those most vulnerable to shifting gas prices? Drivers who are 16-to-24. And this group has a high per-mileage accident rate as it is. So when they start coming out in greater numbers, the risk of crashes increases disproportionately.
It also doesn’t help that distraction behind the wheel is an ever-present problem, officials say.
There is speculation that national traffic deaths rates in 2016 could be as much as 20 percent higher than they were last year.
One element in our favor is the increasing safety of motor vehicle design. This can certainly save lives, but drivers shouldn’t rely on a false sense of security when there are other things that make a bigger difference, such as:
- Slowing down
- Putting the phone away
- Driving sober
A total of 33,000 people die on our nation’s roads each year.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
How the economy affects traffic fatalities, Jan. 21, 2016, Science Daily
More Blog Entries:
Step Pavement Edge Drop-Off Cited in Accident Lawsuit Against DOT, Jan. 30, 2016, Charlotte Car Accident Attorney Blog