Why are Road Fatalities Increasing?

In 2016, there were a total of 37,461 traffic fatalities on America’s roads. For the first time in nearly a decade, more than 100 people died each day on our highways. Since 2014, traffic deaths have spiked by about 14.4 percent.

While traffic deaths in general have increased, the sharpest spikes have been among motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Motorcycling deaths have gone up by 15.1 percent since 2014, while bicycling deaths have gone up by 15.2 percent, and pedestrian fatalities have exploded by 21.9 percent. Almost 6,000 pedestrians died last year, making it the deadliest year for pedestrians since 1990. There were 840 cyclist deaths, marking a 25-year high.

The 2016 death toll rose sharply, with motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians accounting for more than a third of the increase. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) still has not reached any official conclusions as to what is causing the increase.

Possible Causes

The usual causes—speeding, drunk driving, and lack of seat belt usage—have done their share to contribute to the increase in traffic fatalities. But these factors alone aren’t enough to explain the change. Americans are speeding and drinking slightly more than they had been previously, but seat belt usage has gotten better, reaching a rate of 90.1 percent.

Americans have been driving more, with the total number of miles driven increasing by 2.2 percent from 2015 to 2016. But this doesn’t account for the whole increase, because the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven increased from 1.15 to 1.18. So American roads are more dangerous, even after accounting for the longer distances driven.

A possible cause for the increase in motorcycle deaths is that motorcyclists as a group are getting older, so there are more elderly riders on the road. In the period between 2005 and 2015, the percentage of motorcycle deaths involving riders 40 and over increased from 17 percent to more than half of all motorcycle deaths!

Despite some evidence for a decline in distracted driving, some groups believe distracted driving in general (and cell phone use in particular) has been a major factor in the increase in fatalities. It is notoriously difficult to prove an accident was the result of distracted driving, especially in the case of cell phone use. A driver using his or her cell phone can be distracted at the time of the accident but not show any signs of it a moment later. “We all know what’s going on, but we don’t have a breathalyzer for a phone,” said Jennifer Smith, founder of Stopdistractions.org.

Whether you’re a driver or a pedestrian, be safe out there.

Contact Our Firm

If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian or cycling accident, or if a loved one has died, the Connecticut injury attorneys at Ronald M. Scherban, P.C. can help. We will determine who was at fault and what damages you can seek from the negligent party. Evidence needs to be gathered quickly in the case of accidents, so it is important to act as soon as possible to begin your case.

Ronald M. Scherban, P.C. represents clients in the greater New Haven area and the entire state of Connecticut. Call us today at (203) 290-1333 to about what we can do for you and your family.