Traffic Deaths on the Rise In Spite of Safer Cars

In spite of cars getting safer, 2015 is shaping up to be the deadliest year for traffic deaths since 2007. Serious injuries are also jumping dramatically. Though it won’t assign a specific cause, the National Safety Council is laying the potential blame on an unusual culprit: an improving economy and falling gas prices. People are driving more, which is leading to more deaths. RELATED: Google Self-Driving Car Involved in Accident with Injuries
Traffic Deaths on the Rise In Spite of Safer Cars
Traffic deaths through the end of June were 14 percent higher than in the same time frame for 2014. Nearly 19,000 people—about 104 people a day on average—were killed in automobile collisions. The number of people severely injured jumped 30 percent to almost 2.2 million. The NSC defines serious injuries as those requiring “medical consultation.” The combined impact from costs of death, injury, and property damage is $152 billion for the first six months of 2015. RELATED: Where in the US You Are Most Likely to Die in a Crash
Traffic Deaths on the Rise In Spite of Safer Cars
What’s unknown is what the impact would be if automobiles didn’t have significantly improved safety technology. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said in January that the odds of dying in a late-model vehicle dropped by more than a third from 2011 to 2014. "This is a huge improvement in just three years, even considering the economy's influence," said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer, in a news release.  "We know from our vehicle ratings program that crash test performance has been getting steadily better. These latest death rates provide new confirmation that real-world outcomes are improving, too." RELATED: See More Photos of the 2013 Audi A4
Traffic Deaths on the Rise In Spite of Safer Cars
One also wonders what the impact would be without SUVs and crossovers becoming increasingly popular. The IIHS reported that, thanks to electronic stability control, and their size, weight, and height, SUVs have the lowest death rate of any vehicle type. Here’s how vehicle classes rate by deaths per million model years (an IIHS statistic): cars, 38; pickups, 29; minivans, 23; and, SUVs, 18. There are nine vehicles that reported zero deaths using the same parameter: Audi A4 4WD (pictured above), Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorento 2WD, Lexus RX 350 4WD, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 4WD, Subaru Legacy AWD, Toyota Highlander hybrid 4WD, Toyota Sequoia 4WD, and Volvo XC90 4WD. Firefighter photos via IIHS

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