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Why Are Roadway Fatalities Increasing As Vehicles Become Safer?

Man using smart phone while driving car.
Why are roadway fatalities increasing as vehicles become safer? What are technology advancements that can be fatal? Learn why bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to vehicles.

It would seem rather counterintuitive that as cars and trucks become safer that roadway fatalities continue to rise, but that is exactly what is happening. Almost 43,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2021, that’s a 10 percent increase from the year prior and worst yet, the highest rate since 2005 per federal data. This has also caused NY car insurance rates to rise as the rate and severity of accidents continues to increase.

Why is this happening?  There is no simple on answer to this question but many in the industry are pointing to distracted driving along with the increase in sales of large trucks and SUV’s as the major culprit.

It wasn’t that long ago that the car crash trend pointed in a positive direction, beginning in the 1970’s as safer cars were introduced along with seatbelt legislation and stricter drunken driving laws. There was a continuance of this decrease in fatal car crashes in the 2000’s as safety airbags became standard equipment in vehicles.

Technology Advancements That Can Be Fatal

Fast forwarding to 2005 to current day, the situation began to change with the proliferation of cell phones to smart phones to high-tech communication and multi media enabled vehicles. The use of technology devices while driving is causing a lot of accidents and unfortunately fatal ones. Besides the tech use we are most aware of as people drive such as chatting on the phone and texting there are even more eye opening things that drivers are doing. In a recent survey by Farmers, over 25% of younger drivers in their 20’s and 30’s admitted to doing as least one of these while driving.

  • Streaming video
  • Engaging in video chats
  • Posting and viewing on social media websites
  • Playing video games

Really? Playing video games while driving? That is a scary thought. At 65 mph you travel at 95 feet per second. Take 5 seconds to view a social media post and you have traveled 158 yards with your eyes closed to the road, that’s over a football field and a half.

Is Bigger Really Better?

The upsurge in purchases of large trucks and SUVs over the past several years has not helped the motor vehicle accident fatality trend either. In fact, these bigger and heavier vehicles are particularly dangerous to pedestrians, especially when making turns. These vehicles come with a higher ride height which gives the driver a longer view down the road, but alternatively presents a portion of the road immediately in front of the vehicle that is completely blind to the driver.

Not to overstate the obvious, but bigger and heavier vehicles are also more deadly in a crash with compact cars or sedans. Even electric cars pose an added risk as they are heavier than their combustion engine counterparts due the added weight of their batteries.

How To Reverse The Trend?

Reversing the trend will be no easy task.  Some experts are calling for a standardization of vehicle safety features such as automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitoring. This, along with constructing safer roads and stricter enforcement of speeding, drunk driving, seat belts and cell phone use.

It also appears that people’s behaviors have changed as it pertains to driving and that even though they may know that they are engaging in distracted driving, they do it anyway and the frequency of distracted events are increasing.

In the end, it may take a combination of road infrastructure improvements, strict law enforcement and behavioral change messaging programs that help to curb this crisis of fatalities on American roadways.

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