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Why More Americans Are Dying on Highways

Recently, NBC News published a troubling report entitled: "Why are More Americans dying on the highway?"

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As the report indicated, cars today are safer than vehicles ever were in the past. Not only are vehicles designed with crash-protection features to shield the body if an accident happens but vehicles are also increasingly equipped with features that are aimed at preventing accidents from happening in the first place. The improvements in car safety have been a major contributing reason why there have been decades of decline in car accident fatalities, culminating in a historic low number of deaths in 2014.

Unfortunately, these positive trends may now be reversing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released preliminary data showing a nine percent rise in car accident deaths over the course of 2015.  An estimated 26,000 people died in collisions over the first half of the year, compared with 23,976 during the same time period in the year prior. At the current rate, this means there will be close to 36,000 vehicle fatalities over the course of 2015 when all of the data is tallied.  The increase in fatalities would be the second time there was a full annual increase over the course of the past decade.

The rise in fatalities is especially troubling because it appears to be escalating. In mid-2015, researchers had announced an eight percent rise in fatalities which was called a "wake-up call" by NHTSA Administrator.  Things only got worse from that point, though.

Researchers wanted to try to understand better why there has been an uptick in deaths and why Americans are dying at a rate equivalent to two 747 planes crashing every single week.

Why are More Americans Dying on U.S. Highways?

There are a number of possible explanations for why there has been a troubling rise in car accident deaths. One possible explanation is a large number of recalls caused by defective vehicle parts, but these recalled vehicles and cars with other problems accounted for just about five percent of fatal crashes nationwide- not enough to explain the uptick.

Instead, researchers believe human behaviors are the primary leading cause of fatalities.  An uptick in the economy has led to more people driving, and more people putting more miles on their cars, and this has created an increased risk of car accident fatalities.  Drivers are also taking more risks, especially younger drivers who are already a dangerous demographic group behind the wheel.

Another problem is that cars tend to last longer, so many people do not have the latest safety features and crash-avoidance technologies in their cars. The average car on the road is at least 11 years old now, with some vehicles on the roads for at least two decades.  As a result, many motorists are not getting the full benefits of safety advantages and these motorists face a greater likelihood of death when drivers make errors behind the wheel.

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