NHTSA Touts Decrease in Traffic Fatalities as a Win, But Are We Really any Safer?

Every year when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) releases accident data, our Portland accident attorneys know reviewing the information offers important incites into traffic accident trends in Maine and throughout the United States.

A decline in the number of auto accident deaths means less tragedy, fewer family members left without their loved ones and an indication that the streets may be getting safer.

This month, when NHTSA released the 2011 data, their statement accompanying the release indicated that there was some good news and that maybe safety efforts, public education campaigns and enforcement efforts really are having an impact on reducing deaths. However, a close look at the data shows that any reduction in the number of auto accident fatalities is limited to a specific class of accidents and that most categories of traffic deaths are on the rise.

Is the NHTSA Data Good News?
NHTSA assembles data from individual states on traffic accidents to get a comprehensive summary of the total accident deaths in the United States. According to NHTSA, the number of auto accident fatalities has experienced a reduction in recent years, with the number of fatalities dropping 26 percent since 2005. This year, with a reported 1.9 percent decrease in highway deaths, NTSA found that the number of auto accident fatalities fell to the lowest level in six years.

While this decline is great, it doesn’t tell the whole story. In fact, while the number of highway deaths overall decreased, there was an increase in deaths in almost every other category. For example:

  • Fatalities among large truck occupants experienced a 20 percent increase. This increase was so large that NHTSA made a special note in their announcement that they have joined forces with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety administration to try to figure out why this occurred.
  • Fatalities among pedacylists experienced an 8.7 percent increase.
  • Fatalities among pedestrians experienced a 3 percent increase.
  • Fatalities among riders of motorcycles experienced a 2.1 percent.
  • The number of casualties of distracted driving accidents increased 1.9 percent.

The increase in the number of deaths in almost every category except passenger vehicle occupants (who experienced a 4.6 decline in fatalities) casts doubt on whether NHTSA is correct in attributing the overall decline in the number of highway deaths to “the tireless work of our safety agencies and partners,” since their enforcement and education efforts would likely have led to an across-the-board decline in deaths.

However, NHTSA also points to another possible reason for the decline in traffic deaths among occupants of passenger cars: that cars are safer. This very well may be true since cars now have more safety equipment and features to protect their passengers.

Of course, while it is great that cars have become safer, the people driving those cars also have to be safer too if a meaningful reduction in traffic accident fatalities can ever occur. Every driver has a responsibility to others to behave in a reasonably prudent way and if every driver would live up to this responsibility, the number of car accident injuries and deaths could be significantly reduced.

If you are the victim of a Portland driving accident, contact us at 1-800-804-2004 or read more on our website.

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