Car accidents have always been a leading cause of death among all demographic groups. As cars have gotten safer and as safety features have reduced the risk of a crash causing very serious injuries, the number of people dying in car accidents each year had been steadily declining. Unfortunately, we're now seeing that trend reverse and the risk of deadly crashes rising dramatically again.
The reported reason: Unsafe driver behavior. NPR reports that 94 percent of deadly car crashes are caused by some type of human error. Unless and until there are fully autonomous cars that drive themselves, the mistakes that people make will continue to cause thousands of deaths in auto accidents every year.
Unfortunately, completely self-driving cars are not ready to hit the market for most consumers. Meanwhile, the dangers that motorists present to each other are now sending accident rates skyrocketing.
According to NPR, 14 percent more people died in car accidents in 2016 than in 2014. When comparing 2015 and 2016, 6 percent more people died in collisions in 2016 than just the year prior. The two-year increase is being described as the biggest rise in car accident fatalities in more than 50 years.
Although there has been an increase in people driving due to improved economic conditions, NPR makes clear that the increased traffic on the road cannot explain such a big increase in car accident fatalities. It is the actions of drivers that are causing crash rates to rise so much.
There are three primary causes of deadly car accidents: distracted drivers, excess speed, and drunk driving. Unfortunately, more than 70 percent of drivers text and speed while driving, at least some of the time. Among young motorists, 88 percent text and speed sometimes while they are behind the wheel. Drunk driving, which is known to be among the most dangerous of all driving behaviors, remains a problem as well. About 10 percent of drivers admit to driving drunk on occasions. Drugged driving is also becoming a bigger issue, according to USA Today.
Because the number of fatalities is increasing so much, drivers should be especially careful to avoid these behaviors that cause crashes. Infotainment systems, which are being installed in more and more new cars, may prove tempting to drivers, but motorists need to resist using these systems. Live Science says research shows they still cause a cognitive distraction even if the system is hands-free.
Motorists also need to be aware that rising crash risks and increased traffic means they are more vulnerable to becoming involved in a crash caused by another driver making unsafe choices. Try to steer clear of drivers who look intoxicated or distracted, and consider calling the police if you see signs - like a driver weaving or leaving his lane - that could suggest the motorist is impaired or not paying attention and is putting others at risk.