Traffic Fatalities Contribute To US Life Expectancy Decline

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A recent research study published in the BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal, observed a decline in US life expectancy at birth in 2015 and 2016. According to the study, one reason for the decline is traffic fatalities. Study author Jessica Ho, a professor at USC, answered some questions for CleanTechnica.

What are some of the factors in road fatalities? Is it distracted driving, like texting while driving? Is it driving while drunk? All of the above?

According to the CDC, key factors in motor vehicle crash deaths include: not using seatbelts or car seats, drunk driving, and speeding. Roughly half of the drivers or passengers who died in motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2013 were not wearing a seatbelt.

Is there anything we as drivers can do to reduce the chances of getting in a fatal accident?

Wear seatbelts and use car seats for infants and children, don’t drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs, and obey speed limits.

Are there certain cities where there are more fatalities like in LA, where there are more dangerous freeways? Are there more fatalities on certain roads, or at particular intersections?

Geotab and Everquote have put together analyses based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. Their analyses seem to agree that Florida, Texas, California, and Arizona are the states with the highways with the most fatal crashes.

About half of traffic fatalities in 2016 occurred in rural areas, although only 19% of the population lives in rural areas (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

Is there any technology that can help reduce fatalities, like traffic apps?

According to the CDC, advances in technology and engineering including ignition interlocks for those convicted of drunk driving (these prevent the vehicle from starting unless the driver’s BAC is below a pre-set limit), automated enforcement like speed and red light cameras, and improving vehicle safety and transportation infrastructure can help reduce fatalities.

Are there particular age groups that are more prone to dying while driving?

Yes – young men and older adults. Men between the ages of 15 and 25 have very high death rates from motor vehicle accidents. Per mile traveled, involvement in fatal crashes starts increasing at age 70 and is highest among drivers aged 85 and older. Older adults are believed to be more prone to dying in crashes because of their greater increased susceptibility to injury and medical complications (e.g., physical frailty), not because they have higher risks of being involved in crashes.

Are there particular vehicles that are more dangerous?

Older model vehicles are more dangerous compared to newer model vehicles. Collisions with light trucks are particularly hazardous for occupants of passenger vehicles, “Among passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2016, the percentage of fatalities in rollover crashes was highest for SUVs (49%), followed by pickup trucks (43%), vans (28%), and passenger cars (22%).” (Source)

Is it logical to say that for some people using public transportation more often is safer than driving?

Yes, particularly if this reduces behaviors like speeding, impaired driving, aggressive driving, etc.

Image Credit: Analogue Kid, Wikipedia, CC BY 2.5

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Jake Richardson

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