It is a sad, if well-established, fact that an improving economy and lower gas prices tend also to lead to increased traffic deaths throughout the United States. A recent Associated Press article, republished by The Oregonian, documented how true this statistical trend remains.
“Traffic deaths surged last year as drivers racked up more miles behind the wheel than ever,” the news agency writes. “Fatalities rose 7.7 percent to 35,200 in 2015, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last year was the deadliest driving year since 2008, when 37,423 people were killed. It was also the year in which Americans drove 3.1 trillion miles. More than ever before.” What is striking, however, is the revelation that “the Northwest region, including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, saw the nation’s biggest increase in fatalities with a 20 percent jump.” The article also notes that motorcycle-related fatalities “are a bigger and bigger percentage of deaths each year.”
Analysts have debated for years why traffic deaths go up during better economic times. The article quotes a spokesman for the Insurance Institute, an industry research and lobbying group, saying: “it’s not just that Americans drive more miles when the economy improves, it’s the kind of miles they drive… what comes back after a recession is the optional driving that’s riskier, like going out on the weekends or taking long trips.”
As we head into a long holiday weekend – always a dangerous time to be on the roads regardless of the state of the economy or the cost of gas – this article serves as an important reminder of the responsibility each of us takes on whenever we slip in behind the wheel.
As a Portland traffic accident attorney I hope everyone has a fantastic Fourth of July Weekend – but that all of us also remember at all times how important it is to follow some basic rules: stay off your phone, don’t get distracted by the GPS, watch other drivers carefully, don’t speed, watch for cyclists and pedestrians and never drink and drive. All of these, of course, are important rules to live by every day. But with so many extra people on the road this weekend they are especially important to remember.
Have a happy – and safe – 4th.
AP via The Oregonian: Traffic Deaths Surged in 2015 as Driving Hit New Record