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Automobile Fatalities Decrease as Drivers Demand Safety Features

| Mar 13, 2016 | Infographic, Personal Injury

Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 16 and 24. In 2014, the most recent year that this data was available, 32,675 people died in motor vehicle crashes. Fortunately, this represents a lower number than 2013, and preliminary data from 2015 indicates that the rate of automobile deaths is slowly but steadily decreasing. This is in part due to consumer demand for increased safety features.

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When considering the history of automobile manufacturing, the current demand for added safety features is no surprise. The seat belt, for instance, began being offered as an optional feature in some vehicles in the mid-1950s. As seatbelt technology advanced and the benefits became clear, law makers and automobile manufacturers took note. Now, seatbelts are not only a required component in new vehicles, but most states, including Illinois, now have laws on the books requiring all occupants able to utilize them to do so. Seatbelts saved over 12,000 lives in 2014 alone.

The Reasons that Cars Crash

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding is one of the top causes of motor vehicle crashes. Driving too fast decreases the level of control that a driver has over a vehicle. Drunk driving is also a common cause of automobile injuries and fatalities. The combination of drunk driving and speeding is common, with about 42 percent of fatal crashes involving a driver with a high blood alcohol content.

Failure to adhere to traffic laws also leads to fatal motor vehicle accidents. Over 900 people die each year, for example, as a result of vehicles running red lights. Improper lane changes, failure to observe safety zones and not using turn signals are all additional examples of dangerous driving practices. Fatigue accounts for around 21 percent of fatal crashes, and 13 percent of those cause major injuries. Most drivers admit to driving while drowsy, at least occasionally.

As technology advances, drivers are now dealing with a new threat. Talking on the phone, texting and even browsing the internet while driving are all unsafe practices that are known to cause fatal accidents. Legislation is now being enacted across the country to prevent distracted driving. Illinois is one of many states that prohibit the use of mobile phones while driving, unless connected to a hands-free device.

Safety Devices Save Lives

Seatbelts are, perhaps, some of the most well-known of automobile safety devices. While not mandatory in all vehicles, there are several safety devices that are becoming standard features. As these features become more common, many drivers will not settle for a car without them. As demand increases, so does the likelihood that the law will eventually demand their use.

  • Airbags: There are now over 200 million air-bag equipped passenger vehicles on U.S. roads. Frontal airbags are responsible for saving the lives of 2,396 people over the age of 13 in 2014.
  • Electronic Stability Control: Passenger vehicles manufactured after model year 2012 are required to include electronic stability control. This feature helps to prevent rollovers and crashes by controlling engine power and brakes. This technology is credited for reducing the amount of rollover crashes by close to 60 percent in 2014, and by 73 percent for pickup trucks, vans and SUVs.
  • Tire-pressure monitoring: All cars weighing 10,000 pounds or less, manufactured after 2008 are required to be equipped with a tire-pressure monitoring system. Wheel sensors alert drivers when tire air pressure is too low.
  • Blind-spot detection system: This technology alerts drivers to cars in their blind spot while driving or parking.
  • Adaptive headlights: These headlights follow the direction of a vehicle and brighten objects which are difficult to see with the naked eye. They can be speed-sensitive.
  • Rearview cameras: These cameras protect both cars while also protecting pedestrians and animals from accidental back-up collisions. Some of these devices also include alerts when a vehicle gets too close to an object.
  • Emergency response: Depending on the vehicle type, these systems work differently. Some turn on interior lighting, unlock doors and shut off fuel when the airbags deploy. Others automatically switch on hazard lights. Many vehicles are now equipped with devices that alert response centers so that crash details can be reported to emergency personnel.

As technology continues to increase, so will the safety features in vehicles. This is good news for drivers, who will now face less risk of injury or fatality. Unfortunately, even this technology cannot prevent all car accidents. Despite the dangers, some drivers still drive under the influence, practice unsafe driving and act aggressively on the road. When an accident occurs, a personal injury lawyer can provide information regarding liability and potential compensation.