Experts Looking for Answers to Rising Traffic Injuries, Deaths

Thanks to advances in safety, auto accidents have trended downward for decades. Road fatalities steadily declined, too. There were more than 50,000 annually in the early 70s and just over 30,000 in recent years. 

For 45 years, the U.S. death toll had been going in the right direction. 

However, we hit a major roadblock in 2015 when the number of people lost in crashes jumped 7.2% from 2014, the most significant increase in 50 years. More than 44,000 Americans died in traffic crashes in 2023, which was a 13% increase from 2019 until now.

Experts are looking for answers as to why, when there have been many improvements when it comes to safety, including:

  • Crashworthy vehicles that better protect those involved in crashes
  • New technologies like anti-lock braking, vehicle stability controls, self-driving sensors, and backup cameras that prevent crashes
  • Educational programs and stricter laws aimed at seatbelt use, teen drivers, and driving while impaired

Numbers Even Continued to Go Up During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In 2020, traffic levels dropped to the lowest in decades, with millions of Americans staying close to home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Federal Highway Administration reported that the number of miles traveled by vehicles in 2020 decreased by about 430 billion miles, representing a 13% decline.

However, motor vehicle fatalities increased by 7%. This was the highest number of deaths since 2007. The culprit? Those who did continue to drive were more reckless, including speeding, distracted driving, and impaired driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that the main behaviors driving an increase in deaths include impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear a seatbelt.

“Safety is the top priority for the U.S. Department of Transportation. Loss of life is unacceptable on our nation’s roadways and everyone has a role to play in ensuring that they are safe,” Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s acting administrator, said in the report. “We intend to use all available tools to reverse these trends and reduce traffic fatalities and injuries.”

And yet, the numbers keep climbing, even as traffic fatalities have continued to decrease in nearly every other country. So, what’s going on? Here are some possibilities:

  • Since the introduction of smartphones in 2007, distracted driving has skyrocketed. Surveys suggest Americans spend more time on their phones which means they’re more distracted than ever while driving.
  • Americans have less available and accessible public transportation, and most cities are built to prioritize cars over pedestrians.
  • Billions are spent on the U.S. roadway system each year. Still, many current and former employees of the U.S. Department of Transportation argue that the money is mainly spent on making roads faster or more efficient and not safer.

Tips to Prevent Traffic Accidents and Protect Yourself

With those factors in mind, here are some tips to prevent traffic accidents and protect yourself and others:

  • Silence and put away all phones for the duration of your drive.
  • Keep your eyes on the road and leave the distractions at home.
  • When buying a new or used car, prioritize safety ratings and purchase vehicles with safety features. Also, be sure to run a recall check on your car at
  • If you are a pedestrian or bicyclist, pay attention to vehicle traffic even if you have the right of way. A distracted driver could mean disaster.
  • Follow all posted speed limits and wear your seat belt.
  • Always drive alert, awake, and sober.

Have You Been Injured in a Traffic Accident? We Can Help.

It will take all of us to significantly reduce driving crashes and fatalities. Public policy, funding for safer streets, and driver awareness must come together to create a country that prioritizes safety.

If you have been injured in a traffic accident and you wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced Tucson personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.