The National Safety Council reports that fatal car accidents rose six percent in 2016, with 40,200 people being killed in crashes around the country during the calendar year (a 14 percent increase since 2014's total). 2016 was also the first year since 2007 that deaths totaled more than 40,000.
Tennessee alone saw an eight percent increase, with 1,042 people tragically losing their lives in crashes in 2016, compared to 961 around the state in 2015.
Americans drove more miles in 2016 than in prior years, with a three percent increase in miles driven year-over-year, but that alone doesn't account for the spike in fatalities. The NSC contributes much of the increase to dangerous driver behaviors like distracted driving (including texting), driving while intoxicated/under the influence and speeding. Other driver behaviors and factors contribute to the seriousness of injuries when accidents do occur, such as not wearing a seatbelt in a vehicle and not wearing a helmet while on a motorcycle or bicycle.
The NSC estimates that fatal car accidents cost Americans $432 billion in 2016 in the form of medical bills, property damage, lost wages, rehabilitation and other related expenses.
Can accidents be prevented?
It is possible, through a combination of education, law enforcement vigilance and technology, to slow the rising tide of fatal accidents sweeping across the country. The NSC has several suggestions which, if adopted, could potentially lower crash rates. These include:
- Introducing three-tier graduated licensing procedures for all drivers under the age of 21
- Using automated speed and red light enforcement cameras
- Requiring car manufacturers to install (as standard equipment) crash-prevention and mitigation technology like rear-view cameras, automatic braking systems, lane deviation warnings and blind spot alert systems on all new vehicles
- Creating public awareness and education campaigns about pedestrian safety
- Banning the use of all cellphones behind the wheel (both handheld and hands-free)
- Ensuring that seatbelts are worn by making not wearing one a primary offense in every jurisdiction