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Why are motor vehicle accident deaths rising again?

In 1963, the number of people that died in the United States because of car accidents surpassed 40,000 for the first time ever. It stayed above 40,000 every year from then until 1992, when it barely dipped below 40,000 (to 39,250), before immediately going back above 40,000 deaths every year again until 2008. Since 2008, it has remained below 40,000 deaths per year.

There were numerous spans over these decades where motor vehicle fatalities were well into the 50,000-death range. And yet in the last decade, the number of deaths in motor vehicle accidents have usually resided in the low 30,000s. This is a tremendous accomplishment.

But in the last two years, we have seen the trend revert back in the wrong direction. In 2014, 32,744 people died in motor vehicle accidents. In 2015, that number jumped up to 35,485 deaths in motor vehicle accidents. And in 2016, the number jumped again to 37,461 motor vehicle accident deaths.

This is a shift in the dynamic that no one wants to see, and the reason for this rise in motor vehicle deaths is unknown. Could it be distracted driving and cell phone usage? Sure it could, but those things existed for the last decade too while the numbers were declining. Until we know more about this shift in motor vehicle accident deaths over the last couple of years, it will be difficult to know exactly why road safety is changing for the worse.

Source: Wikipedia, "List of motor vehicle deaths in U.S. by year," Accessed Jan. 16, 2018

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