Deaths resulting from motor vehicle crashes are at their highest in nearly a decade, according to preliminary data released by the National Safety Council on Wednesday. The increase for 2016 combines with the jump in 2015 to add up to the largest two-year increase in motor vehicle-related deaths in 53 years, an increase NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman noted in a release is at least partly attributable to “complacency” on the part of drivers.
The preliminary numbers from the NSC aren’t final, and the organization says that it’ll experience slight increases or decreases as more data comes in and more analysis is performed. But the estimates usually don’t see dramatic shifts, so you can expect their early estimate of roughly 40,000 motor vehicle deaths in 2016 to remain consistent. The tally represents a 6 percent increase over last year, and a 14 percent bump when compared to the numbers from two years ago in 2014.
The trend towards growing motor vehicle deaths is alarming, and has caught the attention of regulators and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA issued an open call for assistance in making sense of the raw data last year, releasing it in bulk early as way to help spur finding some answers.
The NSC, which holds a charger from the U.S. Congress, also conducted a survey that indicates some possible causes for the steady increases, including speed, texting via touch input or voice, as well as driving while under the influence. The nonprofit organization also offered some recommendations, including ignition locks for all convicted drunk drivers, automated enforcement for speed limit violations, full bans on cell phones including hands-free kits and more.
One thing the NSC does not comment on is the use of fully autonomous vehicle technology, though it does advise accelerated standardization and introduction of features including automatic emergency warning, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning systems.
Many studies and observers cite the rise of mobile devices and their growing role in our lives as a possible cause behind the recent spike in traffic fatalities. NHTSA has proposed rules that would impose more strict use of mobile devices at the level of the OS and individual devices, with increased responsibility on operating system providers like Apple and Google. But others argue that the cat is already out of the bag, so to speak, and the way forward is actually via autonomous vehicle systems.
Industry executives presented views along those lines to a U.S. Congressional panel on Tuesday, asking them to consider regulation for autonomous vehicle tech that doesn’t restrict innovation in the field.