SAFETY: Traffic Fatalities up 10 Percent for 2016

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Cars come equipped with more safety technology than ever, but that hasn’t stopped traffic fatalities from rising. Last year saw the largest rise since 1996, and new data suggests this year the number will rise once again.

The news comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s preliminary data for the first six months of 2016. Deaths rose 10.4 percent compared to the same period in 2015, which shows last year’s unfortunate trend is continuing.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the report estimates that 17,775 people died the first half of this year versus 16,100 in the first half of last year. That’s over 1,500 additional deaths, which is a startling number. The big question is what’s behind this trend that, until 2014, was going in the opposite direction.

Part of the reason has nothing to do with the safety in our cars or whether or not we’re all good drivers. The same report shows that the number of miles we drove in the first half of the year increased by roughly 50.5 billion or 3.3 percent. It makes sense the more we’re driving, the more accidents we have, and the more potential for fatalities.

Our additional time on the road might help explain part of why we’re seeing an increase, but that doesn’t make this any less of a problem. The goal of regulatory agencies and automakers is to bring traffic deaths down, no matter how much we drive.

NHTSA launched the Road to Zero Coalition to not simply reduce traffic deaths, but bring them down to zero within the next 30 years. The Department of Transportation is joining them in this effort by committing $1 million a year for the next three years to programs designed to improve traffic safety. This includes efforts to encourage things we already know work like using seatbelts, installing rumble strips, and reducing distractions behind the wheel.

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The coalition also supports the introduction of autonomous technologies as quickly as possible. They believe it will play a big role in getting to that zero fatalities mark in 30 years. It’s a lofty goal and one they realize is complex.

The hope is that through a combination of improved vehicle design, new technology, and better driving practices we can hit the target and make our roads safer for everyone.