Answer: The overall trend in the number of car accidents is downward. In light of the increased traffic and higher speeds, this is a great win for public safety.
Overall, the odds of getting into a traffic accident and the odds of surviving are better than they were a quarter century ago. The overall number of accidents remains relatively steady, with between 10 million and 11 million motor vehicle accidents every year, but there are signs that they may be becoming more deadly for the first time in years, after a significant period of improvement.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 2012 marked the first time in seven years that the number of motor vehicle fatalities has increased. They report that an estimated 36,200 people died in motor vehicle accidents last year, compared with 34,600 in 2011. While their estimates aren’t final and official, they are based on monthly reports it receives from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Based on NSC statistics, in that seven year period, the overall trend for motor vehicle fatalities is down, from a little more than 45,000 in 2005 to the 34,600 in 2011, which is a significant improvement. So the sudden increase for 2012 is shaping up as a troubling sign to many safety professionals.
The NSC and other safety advocates say much of the reason for the increase is due to more people driving more because of an improved economy. The total number of miles driven by Americans increased in 2012 for the first time in several years, and with people driving more, there are more opportunities to get into accidents. Some also blame the increase in fatalities on an increase in incidents of distracted driving. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has been an increase from 7 percent in 2005 to more than ten percent in 2009, in the number of drivers claiming to have been distracted at the time of a fatal motor vehicle accident. The CDC noted that more than 5,400 people died in fatal car accidents in 2009, which is more than one out of every seven fatalities that year.