Reducing Traffic Deaths

February 17, 2017 • Volume 27, Issue 7
Can automation and tougher laws save lives?
By Ellen Kennerly


Jacksonville, Ala., in 2010 became the first city (AP Photo/Gadsden Times/Marc Golden)
Jacksonville, Ala., in 2010 became the first city in the state to adopt a “no texting while driving” ordinance. Forty-six states now have anti-texting laws and 14 states ban hand-held cellphone use while driving. But experts say the laws have had little or no effect on traffic deaths. (AP Photo/Gadsden Times/Marc Golden)

Behavioral choices — such as speeding, driving while drunk, texting or not buckling up — are fueling a highway death rate that increased more in 2015 than in half a century. After decades of decline, fatalities jumped by more than 7 percent that year, and early figures indicate that 2016 may be an even deadlier year. Nearly half of the 2015 fatalities involved an unbelted passenger or driver and about one-third were alcohol-related. Experts say stronger laws and beefed-up public awareness programs would help. And they say technological developments, including automatic braking and collision avoidance, also will save lives. Distracted driving raises new concerns: As more cars include hands-free capabilities for smartphones as standard equipment, safety experts warn that use of such devices is as dangerous as talking on hand-held versions. Self-driving cars are on the road in California, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, potentially adding another dimension to the possible safety solutions but raising new questions around the life-and-death choices the software programs in those vehicles must make.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Jun. 19, 2020  Fuel Efficiency Standards
Feb. 01, 2019  Self-Driving Cars
Feb. 17, 2017  Reducing Traffic Deaths
Jul. 25, 2014  Future of Cars
Feb. 06, 2009  Auto Industry's Future Updated
May 16, 2003  SUV Debate
Oct. 26, 2001  Auto Safety
Jan. 21, 2000  Auto Industry's Future
Jul. 25, 1997  Aggressive Driving
Oct. 16, 1992  U.S. Auto Industry
Apr. 27, 1990  Curbing Auto-Insurance Premiums
Jul. 14, 1989  Automakers Face Trouble Down the Road
Aug. 31, 1984  U.S. Auto Industry: Strategies for Survival
Feb. 23, 1979  Auto Research and Regulation
Apr. 28, 1978  Automotive Safety
May 10, 1974  Auto Industry in Flux
Apr. 18, 1973  Auto Emission Controls
Jan. 13, 1971  Auto Insurance Reform
Jul. 27, 1966  Fortunes of Auto Industry
Jun. 04, 1965  Automobile Safety
Jul. 10, 1964  Automobile Insurance and Traffic Safety
Nov. 19, 1958  Small Cars
Apr. 17, 1957  Better Driving
Jul. 01, 1954  Competition in Automobiles
Mar. 23, 1954  Automobile Liability Insurance
Dec. 24, 1952  Highway Accidents: Causes and Remedies
Aug. 21, 1945  Automobiles in the Postwar Economy
Sep. 02, 1938  The Market for Automobiles
Oct. 26, 1932  Outlook for the Automobile Industry
Dec. 10, 1929  Condition of the Automobile Industry
Jan. 30, 1928  Automobile Fatalities and Compulsory Insurance
Dec. 10, 1927  The Status of the Automobile Trade
Consumer Behavior
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Motor Traffic Safety
Motor Vehicle Industry
Motor Vehicles