Safety

Woohoo! People Are Driving More and Dying Less.

A new federal report finds a drop in traffic fatalities.

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Lakhesis/Dreamstime.com

Americans are driving more, and dying less while we drive. So says the latest Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes report, an annual study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

According to NHTSA, 37,133 people were killed in traffic collisions last year. That's about a 1 percent decline from 2016, when 37,806 people were fatally injured. It's also a 2.5 percent decrease in the fatality rate, given that Americans drove an additional 50 million miles in 2017. Adding to the good news are preliminary stats from the first part of 2018, which suggest that this year auto collision deaths are on track to decline by as much as 3 percent.

Of course, one should not assume too much from a single-year decline in the traffic accident fatality rate. "A one-year decrease, while pleasing news, does not constitute a trend," NHTSA's Heidi King tells The Wall Street Journal.

Indeed, 2017's decline comes after two years of sharp increases in the number of road deaths, driven in large part by a post-recession spike in the annual number of vehicle miles travelled. Nevertheless, the long-run trend shows an ongoing decrease in deaths from auto crashes.

In the 1975, 44,525 people died in crashes, for a fatality rate of 3.35 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. That fell to a low of 1.10 in 2011, thanks to the travel-suppressing effects of the Great Recession. That rate has ticked up along with economic activity, but at a fatality rate of 1.16 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, it's still below mid-2000s pre-recession levels.

This is impressive given record high levels of employment, and it suggests that—even accounting for increased economic activity—auto fatalities will continue to fall.

One element of this decline is better safety technology, says Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a research organization funded by insurance companies.

"Vehicles are much more crashworthy than they used to be," says Rade. They're more likely to sport multiple air bags, and they're more likely to have technologies such as electronic stability control, which helps prevent drivers from losing control in emergency situations.

The IIHS argues that newer crash prevention technologies could bring fatalities down even further. A 2017 study from the organization found that relatively new lane departure warning technology lowers the rate of sideswipe and head-on crashes by 11 percent—and it brings down the injury rate from those crashes by 21 percent. Another IIHS study found that automatic breaking reduced front-end collisions by 40 percent.

"The latest advanced technologies hold a lot of promise in reducing crashes in the future," says Rader, though he stresses that there are limits to how much improved technology can increase safety. It's crucial, he says, to cut down on risky behaviors such as speeding and particularly drunk driving.

Here too, technology is at work saving lives. There's a growing body of evidence that ridesharing, for instance, is helping keep drunk drivers off the road.

Miami has seen a 65 percent decline in alcohol-related crashes, which local police and safety activists attribute to the rise of Uber and Lyft. A 2017 working paper from City University of New York credited ridesharing for a 25 to 35 percent decline in alcohol-related crashes. Another paper from that year saw accidents decline by 60 percent in Portland, Oregon, and 40 percent in San Antonio, Texas, after suspended ridesharing services were allowed to return to the city. (That same paper also looked at Las Vegas and Reno, but it found the presence of ridesharing had no effect on those cities' accident rate.) Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities fell 1.1 percent last year, and they made up their lowest percentage of all driving fatalities since 1982.

Another takeaway from this year's crash statistics should be the death spikes that haven't appeared.

When Congress slashed taxes on craft distillers, brewers, and viticulturalists last year, one Brookings Institution scholar warned the cheaper booze would result in an additional 280 to 660 motor vehicle deaths per year. But NHSTA's crash data from January to June of this year shows traffic fatalities falling another 3 percent.

It goes without saying that 37,000 people dying unexpected deaths while trying to get from point A to point B is 37,000 too many. But the fact remains that fewer people are perishing on the nation's roadways even while they go more places. That's well worth celebrating.

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71 responses to “Woohoo! People Are Driving More and Dying Less.

  1. Why is this good news? Doesn’t this worsen our overpopulation problem? Also, car crashes stimulate the economy, by providing business to towing companies, auto body shops, and hospitals.

    1. And glass companies! Don’t forget windshield manufacturers!

      1. And few think about the poor card manufactures, for the glass companies to leave on your windshield in grocery store parking lots.

        This is the beginning of a recession, I tell you what.

    2. Progs keep telling me we need to be dying more and driving less to save the polar bears

      1. The poor Polar Bears. Perhaps we’ll change the name to “Poorlar Bears,” and keep icy spots throughout the world for them to frequent as the Poorlar Ice Caps melt. It’s so F U C K I N G hot here in Montana, that I’ve had to open the windows and run the fans. Whew! Hot!

        I’m worried ’bout the Polars as I’m sitting in my parlor,
        The sun it is reflecting off the windows lined with mylar,
        The world is over lighted and white bears’ future blighted,
        With this loss of habitat are Poorlars feeling slighted?

    3. think of the poor plaintiff’s and defense firms der

  2. When Congress slashed taxes on craft distillers, brewers, and viticulturalists last year, one Brookings Institution scholar warned the cheaper booze would result in an additional 280 to 660 motor vehicle deaths per year. But NHSTA’s crash data from January to June of this year shows traffic fatalities falling another 3 percent.

    Imagine what other bad happenings further tax cuts could reduce!

  3. Hard to get into a fatal wreck when you’re in bumper to bumper traffic all day.

    1. There’s more traffic since the economy is doing better.

  4. Hecklers are yelling at Susan Collins! She’s speaking now!

    1. So far pox on both your houses.

      1. No now it’s pro Kavanaugh!

        1. She’s criticising his opponents only!

          1. Not too fast though.

            1. Could be winding up to go the other way.

              1. No, now looks like she really is justifying what she’s about to say!

                She’s saying he’s going to uphold the ACA. And dammit, she’s probably right.

                1. She’s knocking down prog criticism of him over and over.

                  1. Jeez. Maybe Collins is the smartest prog in the Senate. She knows Kav’s got Manchin, so she figures the most she can do is completely take every bit of joy out of their victory.

                    It’s like she’s delivering a Mercatus Center/ Alliance Defending Freedom joint talk denouncing this nomination in the most vicious possible terms.

                    1. Brent Kavanaugh is basically the second coming of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s long departed ghost, it would appear.

                    2. Mainers have always been fiercely independent. Except for the crunchy ones along the coast.

              2. I’m here to offer you a associate editor position here at Reason.

                1. Far more even than that, I take it as a show of the utmost respect and esteem for me that you have not offered me a presidential nomination, Mr. Sarwark.

                  1. You will only get that nomination if you do a personal favor for BUCS. You have to clear some land for him, get rid of some woods, if you know what he means.

    2. Thanks for the play-by-play — I kept hearing this.

      1. Through delivering K’s hosannas. Now defending the idea that the confirmation must have some standards of procedural propriety.

        1. Now denouncing the gang rape accusation. Impassionately defending the presumption of innocence. Shocking if a No at this point.

          1. Yep! “NONE of the individuals Prof. Ford is at the party has any recollections at all.” Etc.

            1. Actually a very eloquent and excellent “principled moderate for Kavanaugh” speech.

              1. Collins is delivering THE history book speech of the occasion. Everyone must see this shit. (Especially Reason staffers.)

                But since the drama of the moment is gone, and there’s no real thread for it, I’ll probably be wrapping up here.

      2. LOL! No problem!

    3. @3:08 … still at it @ 3:52 wtf say yes or no!

  5. You can find graphs all over showing deaths per Vehicle Miles Traveled, and they show a jerky consistent drop since the very beginning back in the 1920s. You cannot look at those graphs and pinpoint any obvious point at which government safety regulations stepped in (1960s, thank you Nader). Ergo, car manufacturers have made safer and safer cars, and road builders have made safer and safer roads, and this would not happen without customer demand.

    I got into an argument with some clown who could not understand this basic overall statistical reality. He kept on bringing up individual components which he claimed would never have seen light of day without government mandates. Seat belts, disk brakes, I forget the whole list.

    Fucking slaver. Can’t see beyond the end of his nose cuz he’s got it so far up Big Brother’s Butt.

    1. THe roads would be a lot less deadly if the entities that owned them were personally liable. Roadz are seen as somehow proof that we need forcible government, but they are probably the worst thing ever built.

  6. Damn! I bet the over!

  7. Booze makes you drive sloppy and crazy… Pot helps you slow down and drive mellow.

    People need mind-bending stuff-and-stuff to de-stress. Push the balloon in on one spot, it pops out on the other spots. Pot has become more and more legal, so those who want a pot buzz rather than a booze buzz are now doing pot instead of booze. THAT is why auto accidents are down!

    But, good luck getting the Government Almighty ninnies and nannies to take THAT hypothesis seriously, and investigate it!

  8. *gets out popcorn*

    While wind energy is widely celebrated as environmentally friendly, the researchers concluded that a dramatic, all-out expansion in the number of turbines could warm the country even more than climate change from burning coal and other fossil fuels, because of the way the spinning blades disturb the layers of warm and cold air in the atmosphere.

    1. It’s almost as if warmunists were full of hot air.

      1. Same sort of stuff reported here http://www.sciencedaily.com/re…..112553.htm

        All large-scale energy systems have environmental impacts, and the ability to compare the impacts of renewable energy sources is an important step in planning a future without coal or gas power. Extracting energy from the wind causes climatic impacts that are small compared to current projections of 21st century warming, but large compared to the effect of reducing US electricity emissions to zero with solar. Research publishing in the journal Joule on October 4 reports the most accurate modelling yet of how increasing wind power would affect climate, finding that large-scale wind power generation would warm the Continental United States 0.24 degrees Celsius because wind turbines redistribute heat in the atmosphere.

        1. What about the huge swaths of black solar panels absorbing heat and warming the surrounding air?

          1. Yes, and displacing desert tortoises, too?

            Nothing is perfect, except for Government Almighty experts, who tell us what to do and not to do!

  9. Americans are driving more, and dying less while we drive. So says the latest Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes report, an annual study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

    It’s because texting-while-driving has pretty much slowed everyone down to a crawl. Pretty hard to die at 48,mph on the freeway and 17mph on the surface streets.

    1. Also, the average car is bigger and safer, since people like SUVs.

      1. Yeah but…

        According to NHTSA, 37,133 people were killed in traffic collisions last year. That’s about a 1 percent decline from 2016, when 37,806 people were fatally injured. It’s also a 2.5 percent decrease in the fatality rate, given that Americans drove an additional 50 million miles in 2017.

        Cars are always getting incrementally safer, but they haven’t been getting incrementally bigger since 2016. In fact, after 2007, they probably got statistically smaller since gas prices have gone up and people started to eschew the largest SUVs.

        Yes, cars are bigger than they were in 1978, but I haven’t seen an overall size increase since the first Escalade was release some years ago.

        1. This is just not true AT ALL.

          Avg vehicle weight since 1980. They were heavier in the pre-embargo 1970’s than in 1980 – but they are heavier now than they have ever been.

          More importantly, the weight back then was low to the ground in the steel chassis. Now it is much higher. Don’t have info on height of the center-of-mass but anyone who’s old enough to remember then knows that the SUV itself is much higher than the station wagon (the vehicle it replaced). Since humans are not taller, it means that humans now are much less visible themselves and more vulnerable to genl injury from vehicles. It’s not just peds/bikes/kids/etc that are more vulnerable. There used to be an entire category of cars called ‘roadsters’ – which has now basically disappeared because they became near-invisible as cars around them got bigger. SUV’s drove the roadsters – and peds/bikes/etc – off the road.

          1. but they are heavier now than they have ever been.

            Yes, but I’m not sure if there’s been a dramatic rise in weight and overall size since 2016.

            Also, even if model-per-model is heavier (because the NHTSA requires they stuff more crap into them to make them safer) I’m not convinced that Americans as a whole are driving heavier cars. Specifically, if since 2006, if a large number of Americans who previously drove Denalis and Escalades have switched out for Prius’ and Nissan Leafs, then those Americans are driving lighter cars, even if a 2018 Prius is heavier than a 2016 prius.

            Sorry if I’m being clear as mud.

            1. I’m not sure why a dramatic one-year change would reflect anything other than a recession/boom. The vehicle chart there is a total fleet number – not a model-by-model number. All the cars that people DID drive in the 1980’s – remember econoboxes and hatchbacks? – well those are all basically gone now. Maybe good riddance – but I suspect that if one could still drive them safely on the road (largely a function of OTHER vehicles on the road) there would still be demand esp from young singles. Subcompact CARS? – Nope. They are now selling subcompact SUV’s instead and pretending that the word ‘subcompact’ actually links the two – when it only links the two relative to the size of the rest of the vehicle fleet – not relative to the size of a human being (the thing being transported – or hit).

          2. Hell the SUV is even driving the sedan off the road now. The Tesla is now the #5 selling sedan (behind the two remaining Toyota and Honda sedans). Once sedans cease to be safe around SUV’s – then everything will have to be an SUV or bigger – and there will be more ‘consumer’ pressure to upsize to Hummers/APC’s/tanks. This will not an actual consumer choice in a ‘free market’ – it will be the consumer choice in a market where streets themselves are more predatory/dangerous if one does NOT upsize.

            1. This will not an actual consumer choice in a ‘free market’ – it will be the consumer choice in a market where streets themselves are more predatory/dangerous if one does NOT upsize.

              I don’t get the sense that anyone is buying a larger vehicle on safety concerns. Most seem to be purchasing cars based on utility/need. I just don’t get any sense that there’s an escalating size war going on based on fears of getting creamed on the road. Certainly not in my area where the Prius is the National Car.

              1. I got rid of my roadster in the late 90’s PRECISELY because it was no longer fun to drive. I could no longer see at intersections so I had to inch out further and risk getting slammed – SUV’s around me no longer gave a shit that I was there (assuming they could even see me). And it became very obvious that if I WAS hit – I was now gonna be bug-splat. That wasn’t my country/recreation car – it was my everyday/utility car. My needs didn’t change. Only the daily risks did. Obviously ‘new family’ is a changed need for many – but even then there really is no consumer reason why SUV (light truck) chassis replaced station wagon (car) chassis.

                Vehicle size also changed driver’s mindsets. That phenomenon has been very well studied with things like seat belts and such. If a driver FEELS safer, they will push it more. They will be more aggressive because the personal risk to them has in fact been lowered. You don’t see that if you are also in an SUV – but it is very clear when you are in a smaller car – or biking or walking or crossing the street. That phenomenon is also the core of what I mean when I say ‘cars take over the roads from everything else’. Streets are very much (in the US especially) a biggest animal dominates everything environment. So even if people aren’t really aware of that (ie don’t walk or bike themselves), there is still the desire to be on the biggest damn animal on that street.

  10. So…is reason just not interested in the Van Dyke trial for some reason? You’d think they’d be all over that

      1. Shot a black kid. His career has really gone downhill recently

        1. never mind, they just posted about it

      2. selfies to everyone

    1. Tsk tsk. Posted one minute before you complained. I’d think you’d be all over an apology. Well, no, I wouldn’t, actually.

      1. They haven’t posted much about the trial, which surprised me given they’re usually really up on reporting about police brutality stuff and it seemed more relevant to Libertarianism than 10 Kavanaugh posts a day

  11. >>>Vehicles are much more crashworthy than they used to be

    my ’75 Monte Carlo was an M1-A2 prototype

  12. That’s still over 100 people a day. It’s horrific.
    If there were 2 or 3 plane crashes a week, people would want to ban air travel.

    1. Not if they were flying their own airplanes all over creation. If that were the case, they’d accept the risk, just as they do for automobile travel.

  13. 37,133 were killed in auto accidents? Why, that’s more than were killed by guns!

    What we need are common sense laws for driver licensing and vehicle registr……never mind.

    1. ….. nice try, Unibat ! I admire your sense of humor though. They can have my steering wheel when they pry it from my cold, clutching, white-from-Raynaud’s-Syndrome, dead hands.

      Drive, drive, drive!

      1. I have Reynaud’s myself. Thank God for remote starters.

  14. But the fact remains that fewer people are perishing on the nation’s roadways even while they go more places. That’s well worth celebrating.

    Much of this is disingenuous statistical bs (did any Reason writer EVER take actual stats classes or just ‘how to lie with stats classes’?) Measuring fatalities alone is itself very limited. Injuries and ‘scares’ are BOTH significant. The scares in particular have driven people away from walking/biking – so decline of walking/biking fatalities reflects decline of that activity rather than improved ‘safety’.

    Measuring fatalities/vehicle mile is even more disingenuous since it is assuming that vehicle miles is a function of choice (ie a preference that grocery store be 10 miles away rather than 1 mile away).

    Further, there is a big difference between fatalities inside the vehicle vs fatalities outside the vehicle. Even the stats linked to in the article show that that change over time has been that fatalities inside the vehicle are at lows (never been safer to be driving at high velocity surrounded by 2 tons of cage) – while fatalities outside the vehicle are at highs (being hit by 2 tons of steel cage at high velocity is very fatal). If your default state is ‘outside the moving cage’, your only safe step is to get ‘inside the moving cage’. I don’t find that worthy of celebration.

    1. If your default state is ‘outside the moving cage’, your only safe step is to get ‘inside the moving cage’.

      So what you’re saying is that bike lanes are killing America?

      1. Bike lanes are the wrong approach. 100% the wrong approach. You cannot mix velocities/sizes merely by paint. Those cyclists who want to pretend they are in the Tour de France by speeding up to vehicle speed (while eliminating their own sightlines by adopting race position rather than upright) are destroying actual utility biking.

        Kids – no helmets – THAT is the velocity/size/cost model that a ‘bike transportation grid’ should be based on. It is very vulnerable – but also very constant over time until humans evolve to rhino size. But it produces completely different transport decisions.

    2. Jfree, your retardation knows no bounds!

  15. > automatic breaking

    “braking”

  16. The flu killed 80,000 last year compared to 37,000 in auto accidents.

    Flu shots will be the next big safety push with the current vaccination rate around 50%. A 95% vaccination rate to reach herd immunity would probably save as many lives as are lost in auto accidents.

  17. 1. In 1975 or in the year 1975, but not in the 1975; automatic braking, not breaking.
    2. Hemp and acid/ecstasy hardly impair driving ability at all compared to ethanol.
    3. So Brookings Institution prohibitionist soothsayers were WRONG in their predictions that additional freedom kills. I wonder if that sort of thing has ever happened before… like, in 1932 perhaps?

  18. Lets not forget recreational marijuana is legal in nine states and medical marijuana is legal in 30 states. It would be interesting to see the fatality rates in states with recreational or medical marijuana. There is no reliable test for impairment on marijuana like there is for alcohol.

    Working patrol I never stopped anyone for being impaired while using marijuana alone. Marijuana and alcohol, marijuana and barbiturates, marijuana and PCP, marijuana and anything else you can think of from after shave to unknown white powders.

  19. You should have titled this article “The Texting & Driving Crisis That Wasn’t”

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