Since 2005, Americans have been benefitting from continuous annual decreases in motor vehicle accident fatalities. Between 2005 and 2011, crash deaths on U.S. roads declined by approximately 26 percent. Can we continue this positive pattern, or must all good things come to an end?
Sadly, it is the latter. Preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that in 2012, car accident fatalities in the U.S. increased by 5.3 percent from the previous year. While this alone is cause for concern, it is especially concerning to discover that motorcycle accident fatalities increased by an unprecedented amount last year.
The executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association told news sources that according to projections made by the GHSA, an estimated 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in 2012. Motorcycle accidents accounted for 14.7 percent of total road deaths, which is the largest percentage ever recorded. Compared to the 2011 death rate among motorcyclists, 2012 saw a 9-percent increase in fatalities.
While there doesn't yet seem to be a definitive cause for the significant rise in motorcyclist fatalities, the executive director of the GHSA said the overall rise in traffic deaths was predictable. She explained that "The news, while disheartening, is not surprising. With the improving economy and historically low levels of motor vehicle deaths in recent years, we expected deaths to increase. Highway deaths have been declining significantly in recent years."
Statistically speaking, the GHSA's explanation is logical. But does it have to be a foregone conclusion that more cars traveling more miles will necessarily mean more crash fatalities? Cars have certainly become safer and more crash-worthy in recent decades, but driver behavior has not followed suit. Perhaps if Americans made a concerted effort to drive more carefully and attentively, we could once see a reduction in accidents and fatalities.
Source: USA Today, "In a sharp trend reversal, highway fatalities rise," Larry Copeland, May 3, 2013