According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2015 has seen an increase in traffic deaths of at least eight percent. If the trend holds, this year will see a higher rate of death for travelers than any year since 2007. Experts believe that a combination of factors, including lower gas prices, have contributed to the higher death rate.
Holiday Travel and Deadly Statistics
Holidays are statistically likely to see higher highway fatality rates than other times of year. According to the NHTSA, 42 million Americans were expected to be traveling at least some distance over the Thanksgiving weekend. While figures are still being compiled for the 2015 holiday season, which will end on January 1, 2016, the agency has already noted that 16,000 people died on the nation’s roads in the first half of 2015, an increase of eight percent over last year and the highest quarterly increase in nearly a decade. This increase also marks the end of a downward trend in highway fatalities that culminated in an all-time low of 1.04 deaths per million road miles traveled in 2014.
More people will be on the road this holiday season due to a variety of factors.
According to experts, plummeting gas prices have encouraged travel. Not only are more people on the road, but those drivers are traveling longer distances than usual due to the comparative affordability of gas this holiday season. Experts believe that many people who avoided travel in the past few years due to a sluggish economy and high gas prices may now be taking the roads, contributing to the congestion and danger for everyone on the highway.
According to studies focusing on the increase in traffic deaths, the most common reason for vehicle fatalities was failure to use seat belts. Almost half of the people killed in crashes so far this year failed to buckle up. Back seat passengers were more likely to avoid wearing seat belts than drivers or front seat passengers.
In fact, 22 states do not have laws requiring back seat passengers to wear their seatbelts at all, even though studies have shown that those in the back seat are particularly at risk in certain types of crashes. Some back seat passengers simply do not see the need to use their seat belts due to an unfounded belief that they are safer there than anywhere else in the vehicle.
The Department of Transportation and the NHTSA are working together to address seat belt use as well as other safety issues such as speeding, drunk or drugged driving, distracted driving and falling asleep behind the wheel. The agencies hope to make drivers and passengers aware of the benefits of wearing seat belts throughout the vehicle.