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National traffic fatality rates climbed sharply in 2015

Some of our recent posts have focused on the idea that new automobile technologies could potentially eliminate the car accident as we know it. At the very least, they could dramatically reduce the number of accidents and the severity of injuries associated with them.

This is an exciting prospect, to say the least. But if a safer driving experience is being made possible by new automobile technologies, it stands to reason that we should be seeing an annual decline in the number of car accident fatalities nationwide. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case - at least not for 2015.

For decades, the car crash fatality rate in the United States has been slowly but steadily trending downward. But according to preliminary statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, crash fatalities rose significantly in the first nine months of 2015. Compared to the same period a year earlier, estimated car accident fatalities had increased by 9.3 percent. In human terms, that amounts to an additional 2,200 deaths over a nine-month period.

The NHTSA is already trying to address this problem by holding a series of regional summits to discuss persistent traffic safety issues. Although cars are getting safer, the behavior of many drivers is still problematic. Drunk driving rates remain stubbornly stagnant (accounting for about 10,000 deaths each year), and distracted driving seems to be on the rise.

Failure to wear seat belts is another issue the NHTSA has identified as a significant problem. In many crashes, wearing a seat belt can literally mean the difference between life and death. Yet too many Americans continue to drive without them.

Texas has more miles of roadway than any other state in the nation. As such, we need to make traffic safety one of our state's highest priorities. Hopefully, these 2015 statistics will serve as a wake-up call to everyone.

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