Cars Are Getting Safer and Yet, Fatalities Continue to Rise…Why?
Every year, car manufacturers release their latest and greatest designs to the public, each touting accolades like “the highest safety record” or innovations such as “new blind spot technology.” These factors are what keeps people coming back to dealerships year after year. We have come a long way in terms of vehicle safety in the US, and cars only continue to improve. Despite this, the number of car fatalities has continued to rise. In 2021, there was a 10.5% increase in the number of fatalities from 2020, the highest rate of change since 2005. This trend has only continued to go up this year.
Over the past century, there have been many changes to vehicles and the technology within them. Of these changes, the weight of vehicles has been a major contributing factor to the rising death rate. It has been found that heavier vehicles are far more likely to kill pedestrians and cause greater damage in auto accidents. Greater weight and the increasing size of vehicles go hand in hand, as vehicles today are physically larger than ever. This increase in size means that drivers have less visibility in the immediate vicinity around their car or truck. According to the Institute for Highway Safety, larger vehicles like SUVs, pickups, vans, and minivans are much more likely to hit pedestrians than smaller vehicles.
Along with changes to the size and weight of our cars, changing driver behavior is also a contributor to the death rate. When the pandemic hit, Americans were driving less than ever, but as restrictions lessened, people began to hit the roads. After a year of lockdown, the fatality rate was way up, and this is due to drivers being much more careless and reckless on the roads. Unfortunately, this trend has continued into 2022. To help combat this, experts recommend things like standardization of car safety technologies, along with changes to our urban centers like lower speed limits and pedestrian-centered infrastructure.
In most American cities, the infrastructure is designed around cars, not people. This makes urban areas especially hostile for those who walk, bike or use other forms of transportation. Around the nation, there has been an acknowledgment of this problem, and cities are working on ways to get drivers to exercise greater caution. This can be achieved through changes like installing speed bumps, narrowing vehicle lanes, lowering speed limits, and improving infrastructure so it puts people first. Of course, there is not one cure-all for lowering vehicle-related fatalities, however, we do need to continue addressing issues with our cities, roads, and cars in order to create a safer environment for future generations.
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