Motor vehicles have become an indispensable part of modern transportation. Heck, most of us probably don’t think twice about cruising along side-streets or highways. How else are we going to get around town?
Although cars are certainly more convenient than horse-drawn chariots, they have also introduced a persistent public safety concern: traffic collisions.
Traffic-related fatalities and injuries remain incredibly common around the world. According to the CDC, car crashes are one of the leading causes of death for children, teens, and adults.
In 2020, the NHTSA said there were 1.37 fatalities in the USA per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. The Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) also notes that at least 38,000 Americans die, and another 4.4 million are injured in traffic collisions per year.
While infrastructure changes may reduce these figures, there are simple ways drivers and local governments could minimize the risk of traffic collisions. Using these science-backed strategies, everyone could enjoy the conveniences of modern transportation without increasing their risk of injury.
Traffic Safety Challenges & Prevention Strategies
Snap Those Seat Belts For Super Security
Statistics clearly show seat belts are the best way to prevent a traffic fatality. In fact, the NHTSA claims seat belts were the sole reason ~ 375,000 people survived their crashes between 1975 and 2017. The CDC also claims seat belts reduce the risk of severe injuries or death by ~ 50 percent.
Despite the strong correlation between seat belts and traffic safety, many Americans still don’t regularly use their seat belts. In fact, a recent survey out of the NHTSA suggests 14 percent of Americans don’t regularly wear their seat belts.
However, some studies suggest states with solid seat belt laws have higher seat belt compliance. Road safety experts found that states with primary enforcement laws had 12 percent more drivers wearing seat belts than states with secondary enforcement rules. A PEW Research report also suggested states with stricter seat belt laws had seven percent fewer traffic deaths.
While not every state agrees on seat belt enforcement, the CDC recommends more states opt for stringent laws and public awareness campaigns. More vigorous enforcement of these policies generally results in lower traffic fatality scores.
Avoiding The “Smartphone Swerve” — Data On Distracted Driving
By now, most people probably know that distractions decrease driving performance…and yet many drivers continue to text while behind the wheel! Indeed, the CDC estimates at least eight Americans die in a distracted driving collision every day. That translates to about 3,000 distracted driving deaths per year.
Smartphone use remains one of the most prevalent and lethal forms of distracted driving, especially among younger drivers. CDC data found that teens between 15 – 19 were the most likely to use their phones while on the road.
One research-backed strategy for preventing distracted driving is to increase police presence for these cases. According to NHTSA data, when states put these stricter policies in place, they noticed a year-on-year reduction in distracted driving crashes.
For instance, between 2010 and 2013, total driver cell phone use went from 4.1 percent to 2.7 percent in Sacramento, California. Even more striking, the NHTSA found cell phone usage dropped from 6.8 percent to 2.9 percent in Hartford, Connecticut.
Another way authorities are trying to mitigate distracted driving is by installing rumble strips on roadways. Some data suggests these bumpy strips could significantly reduce crashes related to distracted driving and drowsiness. For instance, the FHWA found that shoulder rumble lines had 40 – 80 percent fewer crashes related to distracted or drowsy driving.
Dealing With DUIs
Thanks to the efforts of organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), DUIs have decreased throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. In fact, the NHTSA claimed DUI fatalities fell to a low point in 2019. However, that doesn’t mean DUIs aren’t a prevalent threat on America’s roads.
Indeed, the NHTSA was quick to note that roughly 10,100 people die in DUI crashes every year. That translates to about one DUI-related death every hour.
Like seat belts and distracted driving, the CDC believes the best deterrent for DUIs is highly visible policing. Research out of Maryland’s Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation suggested that states with sobriety checkpoints had between 18 and 24 percent lower DUI fatalities than states with lax policies.
There’s also scientific evidence that supports the use of alcohol interlocks for first-time DUI offenders. According to research published in MADD, states that use interlock systems for all DUI offenders say a 16 percent reduction in DUI fatalities. For comparison, states with laws for repeat DUI offenders only saw a 3 percent fall in DUI deaths.
Facts From The Fastlane — Speed Prevention Strategies
Speed is a crucial contributor to many fatal vehicular crashes. According to the NSC, speeding is involved in at least one-quarter of total US traffic fatalities. In other terms, roughly 9,400 people die in speeding crashes every year in America.
The most common way states attempt to mitigate speeding accidents is via speeding tickets. While studies are mixed on this method, scientists at the University of Maryland found that probation before judgment (i.e., fines without a loss of license points) had the greatest chance of changing speeders’ driving patterns.
However, there’s even more evidence that cameras could deter speeding even more. For instance, the CDC published data that found speeding cameras could reduce traffic fatalities anywhere from 8 to 49 percent. While researchers are examining how to best use these cameras, it appears they could reduce the tendency to speed.
Be Wary Of The Weather — Rain-Related Car Wrecks
Poor weather is another common factor behind fatal traffic collisions. According to the Federal Highway Administration, roughly 20 percent of crashes are attributable to hazardous weather conditions every year. Researchers also estimate at least 5,000 Americans die in weather-related crashes every year.
Of these weather-related crashes, most are related to the rain. Indeed, at least 70 percent of weather traffic collisions involve slick roadways. Between 2007 – 2016, the FHWA counted 860,000 total crashes on wet roads. In these crashes, roughly 4,050 people died.
While safety officials always recommend avoiding the roads during torrential weather, there will be times where drivers get caught in hazardous situations. If this is the case, drivers must always reduce their speed. AAA reports that wheels could lose their grip on a wet road even at 35 mph.
If drivers experience skidding on the road, AAA says it’s imperative to avoid hitting the brakes. Slamming the brakes too fast will increase the likelihood of spinning out. Drivers should continue in their intended direction for the best chance of avoiding a serious crash.
Don’t Wait For AI — Use Traffic Prevention Today!
Despite all the advances in driving technology, it’s still riskier to operate a motor vehicle than to fly in a plane. Indeed, PBS claims we have a 1 in 11 million chance of dying in a plane crash versus 1 in 5,000 for a car collision.
Thankfully, there are ways drivers and public officials could reduce the chances of motor vehicle collisions. The easiest preventative steps include wearing seat belts and avoiding the three Ds: drugs, distractions, and “dashing!” While the innovations in AI driving may help reduce total crashes further, there’s a lot drivers could do today to take traffic safety into their hands.