Despite law enforcement initiatives, innovations in vehicle safety features, and campaigns designed to curb dangerous driving behaviors, fatal car accidents are disturbingly common. Consider these statistics:
• The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that over 35,000 people died in U.S. car accidents in 2013 - and approximately 3.8 million more suffered crash-related injuries that required medical attention.
• According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a motor vehicle death occurred every 16 minutes in 2012. A motor vehicle injury occurred every 14 seconds.
• On average, car accidents cost the U.S. $230.6 billion each year. That's about $820 per person.
• Given current trends, experts say car accident injuries will become the fifth leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.
• The vast majority of auto accidents are caused by simple human error.
Here in Missouri, however, there's some good news to report: data from the Highway Patrol indicates that car accident fatalities have declined steadily over the past few years. In 2006, there were 1,257 crash deaths statewide, but in 2013, the number of fatalities dropped to 757. That's a difference of 500 lives: as a Patrol news release points out, it's the equivalent of the entire town of Irondale, MO. What's more, it's only the second time since 1949 that Missouri experienced fewer than 800 annual traffic fatalities.
Unfortunately, however, the decline hasn't continued into this year. Thus far in 2014, Missouri has experienced a 9% increase in car accident deaths. In response to this increase, the Patrol is urging Missouri motorists "to make a conscious decision to help lower that number by being safe drivers."
Preventing fatal car accidents in Missouri: Three simple things you can do to make a difference
• Always wear your seat belt. Of the 757 people who died in Missouri auto accidents last year, the Patrol says 63% of those required to be restrained were not buckled up when the crash occurred. Fastening your seat belt is the easiest way to reduce your risk of life-threatening injury: in fact, seat belts can reduce crash injury risks by 50%. It only takes a second, and it really might save your life.
• Follow the law. Sadly, factors like excessive speed, alcohol use and improper lane changes play a role in many Missouri car accidents. These accidents are entirely preventable, provided we all follow the rules of the road. When drivers break traffic laws, they pose a threat to roadway safety for all motorists.
• Don't divide your attention between driving and other activities. The NSC reports that some form of cell phone cause causes over one in four crashes nationwide. However, cell phones aren't the only source of driver distraction. Other high-risk secondary tasks (such as eating, fiddling with the radio, talking to passengers, etc.) can be extremely dangerous. Remember, safe driving requires your undivided attention.