Driver Deaths Rise as Economy Recovers
On May 25, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) came out with an alarming announcement. As the economy improves and more workers are regularly driving on our nation’s roads and highways, the driver death rate is predicted to rise. With current expectations for the economy to continue its recovery, the IIHS expects driver death rates to increase slightly in the next few years. All of this underscores the importance of staying alert and practicing safe driving habits.
As Richmond auto accident lawyers and truck accident attorneys, we want to emphasize that safe driving habits are critical to protecting your life and the lives of those you love.
Facts from the May 2017 IIHS Report
- The overall driver death rate has increased over the past three years. For 2011 model vehicles, the rate was 28 deaths a year per million vehicles registered. For 2014 models, the rate increased to 30 deaths a year per million vehicles registered.
- The driver death rate correlates with the brand and type of car you choose to drive. A driver can lower his risk of dying in a car accident by choosing a large car that does well in crash tests. Eleven large luxury cars, SUVs and pickups have a great safety record that includes zero driver deaths a year per million registered vehicles, an achievement that was unheard of just 10 years ago. It’s worth noting that six of the 11 are SUV models. Specifically, these safest-rated vehicles include luxury car and SUV models from Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mazda, along with the Toyota Tacoma Double Cab pickup, and the Mercedes-Benz M Class, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota Tacoma and Volkswagen Tiguan SUV models.
- By choosing to drive a smaller car, consumers may inadvertently increase their risk of dying in a car accident or tractor trailer accident. Many vehicles that fit into the smaller and “mini” car categories have a much higher driver death rate. The vehicle rated as having the highest death rate is classified as a four-door minicar: the Hyundai Accent had 104 deaths a year per million vehicles registered according to the IIHS. You can see the specific rates for driver deaths overall and from multiple-vehicle crashes, single-vehicle crashes and single-vehicle rollovers in the chart here.
- The statistics for vehicle driver deaths had been on the decline since the early 1970s. In its previous calculation of driver death rate in 2011, the IIHS found the overall death rate had decreased by more than 33 percent in just three years. These longstanding decreases were credited to improved structural features in vehicles and the invention and inclusion of new safety features, in addition to the slumping U.S. economy beginning in 2008, which kept driver deaths lower.
- With the expectation of an improving economy and a limit to how much more vehicle safety improvements can improve crash test performance, the prediction is that traffic deaths will only be slightly lowered in the years between 2014 (the latest year for which data is available) and 2024.
Working from predictions by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which forecasts a 1.7 percent decrease in unemployment between 2014 and 2024, the IIHS predicts that traffic deaths peaked in 2016 and will slowly decrease to about 34,400 deaths in 2024, compared with 35,092 recorded in 2015.
As Richmond auto accident attorneys, we encourage you to drive safely and use precautions to avoid traffic accidents.
Goal: Zero Driver Deaths per Year
Will we ever get to a point where there are zero driver deaths per year? That’s definitely the goal. We’ve seen manufacturers work toward that goal with the recent implementation of collision avoidance technologies including onboard cameras, blindspot monitoring, pedestrian detection, adaptive headlights, lane departure warnings, drowsiness detection and rear detection cameras – many of which are designed to apply the vehicle’s brakes automatically before the driver can assess the situation.
“The complete elimination of traffic deaths is still many decades away, and, along with vehicle improvements, getting there will require changes in road design and public policy that can help protect all road users,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. Zuby went on to say that the increase in the number of cars, SUVs and trucks with zero driver deaths is an encouraging statistic that shows what is possible.