Highway Fatality Drop Linked To Technology & Behavior Shifts


Some technologies that helped reduce traffic deaths seat belts, air bags and anti-lock brakes.

In a New York Times article published in September 2012, a definitive link was made between a fairly steady decline in the number of traffic fatalities in the U.S. over the last 60 years, and the appearance of safety technology and highway behavior breakthroughs. Even though vehicle-miles-driven has dramatically increased during this time frame – an estimated 3 trillion miles every year – changes in driving behavior have significantly reduced accidents and death rates since a peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Some of the more significant technologies that helped reduce traffic deaths at the point of their release and continue to be factors in safety today, are seat belts, which began state-by-state required use in 1988, and air bags and anti-lock brakes which became standard in new vehicles beginning in the early 1990s. David L. Strickland, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that “fatalities drop after a breakthrough in new technologies or behaviors, and then plateau until the next one. It takes time for new safety technologies to work their way into the whole fleet of cars on the road.”

The whole world is taking an interest in curbing the high number of traffic. The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 in 2011. The goal is to reduce the nearly 1.3 million people world-wide who die each year as a result of a road traffic collision – more than 3,000 deaths each day. Non-fatal injuries are sustained by 20 to 50 million more people. One year after the initiation of the safety program, the 2nd Global Status Report on Road Safety was released by WHO earlier this year. Many of the initial recommendations for improved road safety were repeated, and conclusions to the effectiveness of the Decade of Action program had some positive results. But, as reported in the New York Times article, there was a slight increase in the number of traffic fatalities in the United States during the first half of 2012, a trend that was estimated to continue.

According to an analysis by cars.com, high-tech solutions will most likely be the way for vehicle safety to progress. The development of both crash-avoidance technology and vehicle crash-protection improvements, and a continuing and intensive education on the dangers of impaired and distracted driving, will ultimately save millions of lives throughout the world.

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