The results of a recent study by the National Safety Council confirm that South Carolina road deaths increased by 16% in 2015 from the year before. That is double the national average of an 8% increase nationwide. South Carolina was the fourth highest increase among all fifty states, right behind Oregon (27%), Georgia (22%) and Florida (18%).
Overall, the Council estimates that 38,300 people were killed on roads and 4.4 million were seriously injured nationwide in 2015, making it the deadliest year on record since 2008. Traffic fatalities are now the fourth-leading cause of death among Americans. Although most people don’t think twice about the dangers associated with the everyday task of driving a car, it is certainly the single deadliest activity that more Americans partake in on a daily basis than any other activity. Since driving is such a routine part of our lives and accidents are bound to happen, it’s important to study the causes for increased accidents in an effort to make our roadways as safe as possible.
Reasons For Increases in Traffic Deaths
The Council cites a stronger and growing economy along with lower unemployment rates as the main reason for increased traffic fatalities on roadways. Presumably, the correlation is that since more Americans are working, there are more Americans driving to and from work each day and the overall potential for more accidents. Another supporting factor for that assertion is that average gas prices decreased by 28% in 2015 from 2014. Lower gas prices would seemingly permit more people to drive each day and increase overall traffic on roadways. In fact, the United States Department of Transportation estimated a 3.5% increase in overall miles driven in 2015 from the previous year.
Although this reasoning seems valid and an easy explanation, I would urge researchers to dig deeper and look at more underlying factors that may also contribute to the increase in traffic fatalities. We know that, overall, there are simply more people on the road each year. However, the overall general population is also increasing so any statistic showing an increase in traffic deaths for a given year needs to be taken into consideration and compared to the overall increase in the general population to give a better understanding of its per capita increase.
It is also well known that distracted driving has become an increasing epidemic in our society. States are constantly passing laws to try to prevent or minimize distracted driving as best they can. For example, in the past few years there have been an increasing number of laws passed to ban texting while driving. Some states are even passing laws banning hand-held use and even entire all cell phone uses when driving. Currently, South Carolina only has laws banning texting while driving.
Perhaps there is a correlation with this increased hazard and the number of millennials on the road each year that grew up with phones in their hand. Overall, there are more teenage drivers on the road than ever before. It has been shown that teenagers are three-times more likely to be involved in a car accident than an experienced driver. On the other end of the spectrum, people are also living longer than ever and are driving at later ages in life than ever before. Perhaps there is also a correlation between older aged individuals and the number of accidents senior citizens are involved in. Should states also start to consider a maximum driving age to limit these dangers? Should they require individuals over the age of seventy to retake their driving test every so often? This is all information that, I believe, needs to be studied and scrutinized so that we can take appropriate steps in making our roadways safer.
Tips to Prevent Roadway Deaths
Although we will never be able to totally prevent all traffic fatalities, I do believe that educating people and understanding the main causes of car accidents can help to make our roadways a little safer. In an attempt to keep each other as safe as possible, we should all remember and encourage the following tasks:
- Make sure all passengers buckle up at all times;
- Make sure infants and small children are adequately restrained in properly tested and approved safety seats;
- Always designate an alcohol and drug-free driver or arrange alternate transportation if needed;
- Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks on long trips to avoid fatigue;
- Never use a cell phone behind the wheel, even hands-free devices are distracting to the driver;
- Stay engaged and pay attention to your teenager's driving habits and enforce no cell phone policies when driving;
- Get routine maintenance and check ups on your vehicle to assure all parts are working properly;
- If possible, try to avoid driving in extremely hazardous weather. Make sure windshield wipers and lights are properly working for times you do have to drive in poor weather. Always use extreme caution in hazardous conditions;
- Learn about your vehicle's safety systems and how to use them. My Car Does What can help drivers understand features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning systems and back up cameras.
I believe we all owe a duty to each other to do our part to operate our vehicles safely and help prevent accidents. Although accidents will always happen, its important to understand the leading causes of traffic fatalities in hopes that we can work towards making our roadways safer for everyone.