Good news: traffic deaths declining
We have a tendency to focus on horror stories and freak accidents in the insurance industry, especially on this blog. It's not all bad news all the time in the world we live in, though. In fact, we are better off today in many ways than we ever have been. One example of this is the dramatic decline in the number of people killed in car accidents since 2005.
In the United States, more people were killed in traffic accidents in 1972 than in any other year in our history: 54,589, according to the US Department of Transportation. The number killed each year fluctuates based on a variety of factors. With 43,510 traffic fatalities, 2005 was the worst year for traffic accidents since 1990.
Since 2005, however, car accident death numbers have fallen by 25 percent. The number in 2008 was 37,261. In 2010, the number fell to 33,808, and in 2011, the number of people killed in car accidents was 32,788. That's the lowest number since 1949, back when the Chevrolet Fleetline was among the top-selling cars on the market.
So why have car accident deaths been declining? The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration studied that question a couple years ago and concluded that a combination of safety measures, laws and public awareness campaigns have contributed significantly to the declines. Here's a key excerpt from the executive summary of that report:
In 2008, an estimated 244 lives were saved by the use of child restraints, 13,250 lives of people 5 and older were saved by seat belts, 2,546 lives of people 13 and older were saved by air bags, 1,829 lives were saved by the use of motorcycle helmets, and 714 lives were saved by minimum-drinking-age laws...
All of this tells us that safety measures work. Driving the speed limit, wearing a seat belt, having a sober driver, having properly functioning air bags, and not talking or texting on a cell phone all have a significant impact on the number of lives lost or saved on the road. Having full, affordable car insurance coverage is important, but it can never replace these safety steps.