Crash Fatalities Decline for Sixth Straight Year

Car crash fatalities on America’s roadways are an everlasting issue, and have continued to trouble policymakers and families alike. From advances in modern technology that provide a variety of ways for drivers to be distracted, to impaired driving controversies, we are constantly in the middle of trying to find ways to make the nation’s highways safer for everyone using them. In 2005, the number of crash fatalities in the United States reached a recent high of 43,510. But the number of annual deaths has been on a steady decline, as they did in 2011 for the sixth straight year.

Where to Start?

There are a lot of factors that play a role in the tens of thousands of car crash fatalities that occur in the United States every year. Needless to say, this makes it very difficult for policymakers and advocacy groups to know where to begin in attempting to curb the dangerous trends.

In 2005, the number of traffic deaths in the United States reached a recent-year high of 43,510. However, the following years produced a significant decline, leading to a steady decline over the next few years. Initially, experts hypothesized that the trend may have been due to the dwindling economy and a decline in the annual average of miles driven in the United States.  

However, as the economy rebounds and Americans are driving more – there has been an increase in the average miles driven over the past two years – the trend continues. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s early estimate of 2011 traffic fatalities, released May 7, shows that the decline has continued for its sixth consecutive year, with 32,310 car crash fatalities – the lowest since 1949.

Factors Affecting the Decline in Crash Fatalities

Aside from the abovementioned economical factors, there have been a number of additional factors playing into the steady, six-year decline in crash fatalities.

Efforts made by law enforcement agencies throughout the country to eliminate drunk driving and distracted driving, such as Washington State Patrol’s Target Zero program, have had a significant impact, according to experts.

“There’s no magic bullet but rather a combination of factors contributing to the decline,” says Jonathan Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Association. “These include high seat belt use, safer cars and safer roads.”

But like with the economic factors, changes in circumstance could lead to a reversal in the declining trend.

“The continued high gas prices and high unemployment are no doubt also factors,” Adkins adds. “We suspect that optional trips, such as those taken by teens, are also occurring less frequently, so that may be a factor, too.”

Some believe that the increased popularity of traffic cameras aimed at deterring drivers from running red lights has been a help as well. However, the negative press that these devices have received since their implementation makes for even more controversy, if in fact they are aiding in the decline in fatalities.

What do you think is the most likely cause of the decline in traffic crash fatalities? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comment box below. 

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