Car Accidents Continue On The Rise Despite Cars Getting Safer
New vehicles in the US today are the safest and most advanced ever made. Yet, roadway fatalities per capita have increased by over 12% across the nation, the highest in the past 16 years. An estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic accidents in 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). So, what’s driving the rise in crashes? A combination of reckless or distracted driving (fueled by cell phone usage), SUV and truck sales increase, and a higher number of performance cars on the streets.
The Reasons Behind Car Accidents on the Rise
Of course, it’s impossible to pinpoint a single cause behind the increase in traffic fatalities. However, erratic behavior seems to be the leading cause behind the tip. Many experts attribute this to windup energy and lack of patience. After over two years of being stuck inside, more and more people are likely to lash out while driving.
Another interesting factor is the rise of driving under the influence. According to the US Department of Transportation, the number of drivers testing positive for opioids doubled after mid-March 2020, while marijuana prevalence increased by 50%.
Interestingly, current vehicles' weight and performance also play a role. The Environmental Protection Agency reported that the average horsepower of cars is up 80% compared with 1975. And the average weight has reached a record of more than 4,100 pounds for trucks, which also happen to have risen in popularity.
Despite having improved safety features and technology, the heavier weight of modern trucks and SUVs represents a dangerous reality for pedestrians. According to the NHTSA, more than 7,300 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles in 2021, a 13% increase compared with the previous year.
A combination of heavier and larger vehicles, paired with the erratic behavior after the pandemic, seems to be the biggest contributor to the rise in car accidents.
Staying Safe on the Streets
It’s clear that vehicles alone aren’t changing; people are too. Driver changes like traveling at lower speeds, buckling up, or avoiding distractions like cellphone use while driving can help reduce these numbers. The NHTSA reports fatalities of unrestrained occupants have increased by nearly 21% since 2019.
It seems that despite car companies including safety features like automatic emergency brakes and blind-spot monitoring, the change needs to happen at a behavioral level. After all, most traffic fatalities still involve cars that are ten years or older and aren’t equipped with such safety measures.
In the meantime, lowering speed limits, embracing safer road designs, and improving lighting and crosswalks, are among some proposals to help improve roadway safety. Other states are looking into using speed cameras to promote more equitable enforcement of traffic laws.
These are merely measures to help control traffic. Unfortunately, we can’t control how other motorists drive, leaving you vulnerable to an accident. Whether behind the wheel or as a pedestrian, always move cautiously and adopt a defensive posture to protect yourself better. If you are injured in a traffic accident, contact an accident lawyer to evaluate your case and reclaim your rights.
Related: According to Miami-based car accident attorney law firm Panter, Panter & Sampedro, some states, like Florida, far exceed national averages when it comes to pedestrian deaths.