That title may sound a little alarming, but a recent release from the National Safety Council (NSC) seems to indicate exactly that. Although they are preliminary, the National Safety Council estimates that motor vehicle deaths increased by 8% in 2015, compared to the previous year.
That may not seem like a large percent, but this marks the largest year-over-year percent increase in nearly 50 years. Approximately 38,000 people were killed on U.S. roads, and 4.4 million had serious injuries. That’s a pretty big deal.
On a state level, it becomes even more concerning: compared to 2014, only 13 states showed an actual decrease in fatalities in 2015. Those that experienced the largest increase of fatalities include:
- Oregon (27%)
- Georgia (22%)
- Florida (18%)
- South Carolina (16%)
No matter how you shake it, a 27% increase in driving-related fatalities is utterly unacceptable.
Why and How?
While nobody yet knows the primary cause for these eye-opening numbers, there are a few good hypotheses:
- Average gas prices in 2015 were considerably lower than in 2014, making driving more affordable for all Americans.
- Lower unemployment rates result in more people on the road driving to their jobs – and also more people with money to spend on leisure and vacation.
- Distracted driving is still an ever-increasing issue, with no real solution in sight.
Those may seem like logical reasons, but they don’t get to the heart of the matter: drivers are getting in major accidents primarily due to lack of a proper safe driving education, not because of an upswing in economy. If everyone practiced safe, responsible, defensive driving, the amount of cars on the road would not have a such a huge impact on traffic fatalities.
Remedying This Epidemic
Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix when it comes to this issue. You can’t simply tell someone to be a better driver – that comes with thousands of hours of practice of good driving behaviors. However, there are a few things you can do to immediately reduce your risk of being involved in a major collision:
- Ensure that you (and everyone else in the vehicle) has your seat belt on whenever you’re on the road. No exceptions.
- Never drink and drive. Ever. If you’re heading out for a night on the town, take a designated driver with you or use a ridesharing service to get home.
- Never use a phone while driving – and that includes hands-free devices.
- Get plenty of rest to prevent driving while tired. It can be just as bad as driving while intoxicated.
If you’re motivated to improve your driving habits, take a defensive driving course. It may not seem helpful, but it would nonetheless be a great refresher on the principles of safe, responsible driving. Plus, you may even earn an insurance discount for your efforts.
Additionally, if you have a teen driver in your household, it’s equally important to instill safe, responsible driving behaviors in them. Planting the seeds of safe driving in the next generation of drivers can go a long way in preventing major collisions and vehicle fatalities.
Accountability, responsibility, and awareness – that’s all it takes to make the roads a safer place for everyone.