NHTSA Data Shows Fatal Vehicle Accidents In U.S. At Nine-Year High

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For the second year in a row, the number of fatal vehicle accidents in the U.S. has been at a nine-year high. Despite state investments in self-driving cars and additional safety features in new vehicles, the number of deadly accidents remains as high as those in 2015.

According to USA Today, the reason behind the drastic increase in fatalities includes failing to wear seat belts and speeding. There has also been an increase in deaths related to motorcycles.

Data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that those who passed away from car accidents in 2016 (a total of 37,361) has increased by 5.6% since 2015. However, in 2014 the number of deaths from vehicle accidents was at an all-time low at 32,744.

Strangely enough, one of the culprits to the increasing number of accidents may very well be the technology designed to make roads safer. The Seattle Times reports that out of 31 vehicle collisions involving self-driving cars, 13 involved self-driving cars operating in autonomous mode.

“You put a car on the road which may be driving by the letter of the law, but compared to the surrounding road users, it’s acting very conservatively,” said Karl Iagnemma, the chief executive officer of NuTonomy, a self-driving software developer. “Humans violate the rules [of the road] in a safe and principled way, and the reality is that autonomous vehicles in the future may have to do the same thing.”

However, the introduction of self-driving cars on the road isn’t the main reason behind the rise in vehicle accidents. Up to 80% of bumper scratches, after all, happen when a driver is parking their own car.

The number of distracted driving accidents fell by 2.2% in 2016. However, there was a 4.6% fatality increase due to passengers failing to wear seatbelts, a 4% fatality increase due to speeding, and a 5.1% fatality increase involving motorcycles. Additional fatality increases include incidents of drunk driving and pedestrian deaths. AAA also released a study on Thursday, October 5, which points a finger at touchscreen systems in vehicles. Compared to the average number of 136 guests at a typical wedding, the 3,450 Americans who were killed on U.S. roads in 2016 by distracted driving alone is staggering.

Safety advances aim to improve that number. Technology such as rearview cameras, lane departure warnings, advanced airbags, and automatic emergency braking are becoming increasingly common in modern vehicles. These advances alongside the safe and principled manner of human driving may prove to be the road safety improvements the U.S. needs.

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