Motorists got good news when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its statistics on motor vehicle traffic accidents that occurred over the course of 2013. During 2013, there was a 3.1 percent reduction in the number of people who died in vehicle crashes.
It is refreshing to see the death toll decrease. However, lingering safety concerns related to high death rates among vulnerable road users like bicycle riders, motorcycle riders and pedestrians cannot be ignored.
Road Safety Improving, But There’s Much More To Do
The U.S. has greatly reduced traffic accident deaths over the last several decades. According to statistics, there has been a 41 percent reduction in the number of people who are killed in car crashes each year as compared with during the 1970s.
However, the United States’ reduction in traffic-related deaths is much smaller than many other countries like Germany and the Netherlands, which saw an 81 percent decline in death rates over the same period.
How were other countries able to make their roads so much safer than the U.S.? Some safety advocates suggest the theory that the U.S. has focused too much on technological improvements in vehicles and not enough on actually changing the behaviors of drivers to make the roads more safe.
The new NHTSA data on 2013 fatalities lends some support to that position. While there were fewer people killed in car crashes, there were actually more people killed in bicycle collisions. There was a 1.2 percent increase in bike accident deaths compared with 2012 and more people died while riding a bicycle than at any time since 2006.
There were slight declines in the number of pedestrians killed in 2013 and in the number of motorcycle riders killed in 2013. However, these declines did not offset the fact that motorcycle riders and pedestrians have had big increases in deaths over the last several years. In 2013, for example, there were a total of 4,735 pedestrians killed in motor vehicle accidents. This is 15 percent more pedestrian fatalities than in 2009.
Bicycle riders, pedestrians and motorcycle riders do not benefit from the fact that in-vehicle technologies have reduced the impact of a crash on people’s bodies. In-vehicle technology can do a lot to save lives, but it can only go so far.
In the long run, it is far better for our country to shift attention to changing driver behavior, rather than focus on designing and manufacturing cars that can withstand crashes. If drivers make smarter and safer choices on the roads, it is inevitable that fewer overall accidents will occur. Everyone deserves to stay safe on our roadways, whether they are in a car, on a bike, on a motorcycle or on foot.
Metzger Wickersham is one of Pennsylvania’s leading accident and personal injury law firms. Metzger Wickersham attorneys serve clients throughout the state, with offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pottsville, York, Lancaster, Shippensburg, and Harrisburg, PA. Contact us at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit www.mwke.com for a free case evaluation.