From 2009 to 2012, car accident fatalities dropped 1.74 percent according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The drop was typical of the past 15 years during which fatal crashes fell substantially. NHTSA data indicates that there were 42,013 motor vehicle deaths in 1997 compared to 33,561 in 2012. That decrease occurred despite a nearly 14 percent increase in the total miles driven during that time period.
If you've been following national news, you may have seen ongoing reports of a fatal bus-truck collision in California. A tractor-trailer collided with a motorcoach that was carrying about 40 high school students, and a bus window had to be kicked out for many of the students to escape. Flames engulfed the truck and the bus, and 10 people lost their lives. The tragedy underscores the need for updated safety standards for large buses.
Properly installing and using child car seats is an important safety step. The national Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that car accident fatalities can be reduced by 71 percent among infants and 54 percent among toddlers when child seats are used properly. Despite the safety gains made possible by car seats and other safety technology, car wrecks are still the top cause of death among children in the United States.
A national survey comparing drivers from all 50 states ranked Illinois drivers number 22, in terms of safety. The survey used several different factors, including car accident fatalities per 100 million miles driven, to identify which drivers were the worst. Louisiana drivers ranked as the least safe in the country while the safest drivers were found in Vermont. Illinois finished with the same composite safety score as drivers from New York and Wisconsin.
The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System is a telephone survey conducted each year in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey of more than 147,000 people from 2009-2010 included questions to determine how many drivers had nodded off or fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days. The CDC was attempting to gain a clearer understanding of drowsy driving and the behaviors that are connected to drowsy driving accidents. The survey reported that 4.2 percent of drivers admitted to falling asleep or nodding off behind the wheel.
Fatalities in car accidents saw a slight decline from 1997 to 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. During that same time period, motorcycle deaths increased by more than 100 percent. Motorcycle fatalities saw another increase in 2010. These numbers are part of what has prompted the Government Accountability Office to ask Congress to grant greater flexibility in using state grant money to help prevent motorcycle deaths.
Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication devices are two methods by which cars may be made safer in the future. The U.S. Transportation Department has begun a new test of so-called "smart car" technology. Some 3,000 cars, trucks and buses equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle crash avoidance technology and vehicle-to-roadway devices will be evaluated to determine the efficacy and reliability of these devices. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland, this form of technology has the potential to "significantly reduce" traffic deaths and injuries, and help accidents from occurring in the first place.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has announced a recall of Ford Windstar vans due to concerns over a potential equipment defect posing an increased risk of crashing. The recall is intended to fix brackets and mounts in the front subframe that may separate and cause reduced steering control. More than 400,000 vehicles are potentially affected, including vehicles sold in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced a new safety rule aimed at reducing the number of occupants ejected from vehicles in rollover crashes. Under the new rule, vehicle manufacturers must develop a countermeasure for cars and light trucks which prevents the equivalent of an unbelted adult from moving more than 4 inches past the side window opening in the event of a crash. To meet the standard manufacturers are expected to improve the strength, size and effectiveness of existing side-impact air bags.