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42,642 Americans died in traffic accidents in 2006

42,642 Americans died in traffic accidents in 2006. So says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Believe it or not, that's good news. 43,510 people died in traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2005. It also turns out that the 2006 fatalities are the lowest in five years. So that's something.

But - also according to the NHTSA - car accidents are still the leading cause of death in ages 4 to 34. That kind of sucks.

Not only does it suck, it's also expensive:

In the US DOT publication "The Economic Costs Of Motor Vehicle Crashes," NHTSA investigator Lawrence J. Blincoe reports that in 1994, motor vehicle crashes accounted for 40,676 fatalites, and 4,100,000 injuries (of which 533,000 or 13% were serious). The total lifetime cost to the US economy for automobile accidents that occured in 1994 was $150.5 billion.

So why do we love cars so much?



Oh please this is good? How did it come down 600 people from May? What did 600 people come alive again? This is disgusting and they are at it again slapping each other on the backs saying what a great job they are doing.. ? They don't do anything besides sit behind their desks thinking of ways to get the fatalities down. Do you know that if a person dies after 30 days from a car crash it is NOT included into their report? So if someone dies after 31 days that crash does not count in ANY statistics? This is absurd! NHTSA is so underhanded as all of our great government. Wake up people this is NOT good news just more sweeping bodies under the table to make them look like they have done something. People need to WAKE UP and start DEMANDING our roads to be safer!
All time low my A**!

Dawn - How do you think the roads can be made safer? Is it even possible to make a significant reduction without taking more cars off the road?

Well there are several ways without taking cars off the road. First raise the age of young drivers from 16 to 18 kids are not responsible enough to be driving at the age of 16!
Next Cell phone usage needs to be outlawed while driving!
Speed governors need to be set at a lower speed, as well as highway speed limits.
More police on the roads.Though I have been at intersections where drivers run red lights and the police that are sitting there do nothing.
Laws need to be stiffer maybe if someone killed someone with a vehicle and were put in jail people would drive safer. I'm talking about speeding, or distracted driving.
There was just a case where a man was charging his cell phone plowed into the vehicles ahead of him because he was speeding and not paying attention he KILLED 8 people got nothing it was called a freak accident? Nothing FREAK about not driving correctly.
Get away with murder kill someone with your vehicle!
The list is endless Mike People just need to start thinking.

Hi Dawn - those all sound like good ideas to me, and they'll definitely reduce the number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. But by how much? It won't cut yearly fatalities in half. Right? More would have to be done if we really wanted to significantly reduce crash-related fatalities and injuries.

I'd contend that in addition to doing some of the things you recommend, we need to get more cars off the road.

And the way to do that is increase investment in Amtrak, local light rail projects, and other, safer forms of transportation.

Dawn, Mike-

This is a topic i think about a lot, living on the San Francisco peninsula. I also love to drive, as recreation and as a way to meet people from all different places, some of them not far from me at all. I have lived all over the Bay area, from the high-density center of the city to the medium-density area I live in now, to the low-density areas in Santa Cruz I lived in years ago. I grew up in Ohio, went to school in Michigan, and so I have lots of driving experience in all kinds of traffic and on all kinds of roads. There are many problems with them, and blaming the driver in all situations is RIDICULOUS!. We have designed our systems poorly, then blame the unfortunate sould who happen to be caught in the grinder. Cell phone use and other distractions like kids or angry spouses are a fact of modern life. In CA, we will soon have to use hands-free car phone systems, and that's not just a headset. You need to be able to voice-dial and hang up both with the simple touch of a button. I've been using a system like this for over a year, and I love it. It is no more distracting than having a person in the car talking to you, although I agree that can be very dangeroous according to the passenger. Banning cell phone use in cars is as useless as banning fighting in the backseat. I suport the hands-free laws, but stop there. What, do you think the police have nothing else to do? Pulling peole over has an opportunity cost -- the drunk may drive right by him while the cell-phone mom is getting her ticket. Make sure it's worth it.

The number you cited for traffic deaths is too high, I agree, but it's down from around 45,500 in 2004. Cars are getting safer, it's time to make our physical roads safer.

My solution - Automated highway lanes. UCSD has been doing this for 15 years, it's time to adopt these lanes for general use.

We have a fundamental problem in eliminating the car that Europe does not face: the distances between places in this country are IMMENSE. France would fit comfortably inside of Texas. You could fit Italy and Scandanavia in the rest of the leftover area. My point is that public transportation only makes sense in areas where there are enough people per square mile to make it feasable. It also only makes sense for regular commuters or long-distance travellers. Touring by train makes sense in Europe, where every tiny town has a train station. We've lost that ability here (we used to have something like that, but there were not as many people in the 1880's, and the country essentially ended at St. Louis.)

Now, there's no room in the cities to build the new rail lines that would be needed to build a European-style rail system, which is what you need to do if you want to "eliminate the automobile". SF has the best public transportation outside of NYC in the country and it still only makes sense for about half of the people in the area. The others are either not doing the kind of things you can do on a bus or train (like carrying more than your briefcase), or are not going to a place that is easily served by public transit.

Like it or not, we've set our infrastructure up for the automobile, or more precisely, for autonomous travel scheduling. Many, many people drive more than 20 miles to work, not because they want to, but because for various reasons, they have to. These people do not live or work in cities, but commute around rural and semi-rural areas. They have more than a briefcase to carry, or they work at odd hours, or they live in a remote area.

Responsible people still make errors in judgement or even heinous errors, but don't blame the system for evoking failures in those people who are doing the right thing. Despite the numbers, there were only around 300 cell-phone related deaths in the last year's numbers, if I remember right. (I'm looking for the reference now).

The majority of the problems come from the natural conditions -- wet, snow, ice, fog, etc. For cryin' out loud, there are 4000 deer-car incidents every DAY in the US.

Tug on my heartstrings and I'll cry for you, but I'm unmoved by your proposed solutions.

It is my firm belief that on the majority of the multi-lane highway miles in the country, the speed limit is far too LOW. 55 MPH will kill you as fas as 155. 55 MPH is hypnotic, and can lull you to sleep in 20 minutes.

We need to start using rail to replace the airlines, not the automobile.

"...but don't blame the system for evoking failures in those people who are doing the right thing..."

Ooops: I meant, "DO blame the system for...."

Brendan, Brendan, Brendan…
Where to begin? You’re all over the map here…
First, I’ll say about automated highway lanes what I said about Dawn’s suggestions – they ain’t going to reduce fatalities significantly, and are just another band aid on a much larger problem.
And if I’m reading your comments right, about 40,000 deaths a year in traffic accidents is acceptable to you, and you won’t shed any tears for the dead. That’s remarkably callous. Were you not moved by the plights of the dead and dying in the Minneapolis bridge collapse? I was, and I also lost my grandfather to a traffic accident, due to some dumbass 16 year old driver, about 5 years ago. So, as many other Americans can claim, I’ve been personally affected by these statistics. Statistically, you will be, too, if you haven’t been already.
So let’s just take the 40,000 per year number – which is a little low – and look at that over 5 years. I know you’re good with math, but I’ll do it for you anyway – that’s 200,000 dead men, women, and children every five years so we can continue our love affair with the car. That shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone.
Regarding your comments on the role trains can play, you’re ignoring the historical record when you say trains can’t replace the automobile. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here – in the early part of the 20th century, this country had 220,000 miles of track (compared to 22,000 today) and moved over a billion passengers around the country every year. That little town you live in – which you claim has the second best public transport system in the country (not true) – used to have cable cars, etc, to move people around. So did the town where I live – Ann Arbor, MI. And by the way, the European train system doesn’t just work in France. It connects France to all the other Western European countries as well. So your “U.S is big, France fits in Texas” comment is just bogus.
Nothing you’ve said in your comment resembles a solution to the car problem in this country. You’ve just inherited the obsession with and complacency about car culture that your baby boomer parents gave you. And right now, you’re suffering from the cognitive dissonance that occurs when a closely held belief or obsession is challenged. Don’t worry, though. You’ll work through it. Someday.

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