Suddenly, the U.S. is on pace to experience the deadliest year on its highways since 2007, with fatalities, injuries and costs associated with vehicle crashes skyrocketing over the first six months of 2015.
Here’s the grim tally gathered by the National Safety Council (NSC):
- Deaths from traffic crashes topped 18,630 through the first six months of 2015. That’s 14% higher compared to the same period in 2014.
- If the same fatality rate holds for the last six months of 2015, the annual number of highway deaths could top 40,000 for the first time in eight years.
- Serious injuries resulting from traffic crashes topped 2.25 million through the first half of 2015; up 30% compared to the first half of 2014.
- The six-month estimated bill for traffic deaths, injuries and property damage is $152 billion – 24% higher compared to the same period in 2014.
“Follow the numbers: the trend we are seeing on our roadways is like a flashing red light. Danger lies ahead,” noted Deborah Hersman, (seen below) NSC’s president and CEO, in a statement.
And while the high death and injury toll could be due to many factors, an improving economy with lower gas prices and unemployment rates herald in her words “increases in vehicle miles traveled.”
And vehicle miles traveled or “VMT” is definitely on the rise – especially for commercial trucks.
According to a recent report from The Road Information Program (TRIP), vehicle travel – which remained largely unchanged from 2008 to 2013 –increased by 1.7% from 2013 to 2014 and another 3.9% during the first four months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.
On top of all that, the amount of commercial truck travel in the U.S. is expected to increase by 72% from now through 2030, TRIP explained.
NSC also argues that low fuel prices are encouraging more vehicular traffic, with average gas prices 30% lower than they were in 2014 and are projected to remain relatively stable heading into 2016.
“This generally means an increase in traffic,” Hersman said. “More people can afford to drive, and many travel longer distances and take vacations.”
Those statistics are certainly not painting a pretty picture of highway safety as we head into the last four months of 2015.
And if simply more vehicle traffic creates such a spike in fatalities, injuries and crash costs – trumping all the advances in vehicle safety over the past decade – it leaves one wondering if we can ultimately make the roads safer to start with.