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Improving Economy Translates into Higher Accident Risks

Car accident fatality rates are often linked to the state of the economy. As the US economy improves, experts are already identifying a perceptible increase in the number of people being killed in accidents.

The logic linking a higher risk of accidents to an improved economy is fairly simple. When the economy is good, people tend to drive more, and more numbers of vehicle miles traveled simply translates into a higher risk of accidents.  With more vehicles on the road there is a much higher risk of collisions.

It is not just the higher number of people on the roads that increases crash risks, however. It’s also the fact that people tend to drive more for recreational purposes when the economy is doing great. For instance, people are likely to travel more on holiday or go out for dinner in a good economy, compared to a distressed economy. Interestingly enough, people are also likely to drive faster when the economy is good.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety research found a steady downward trend in the number of accident fatalities since the early 1970s. However, in 2014, that changed. The number of fatalities increased by around 7% that year. That spike came after several years of reducing fatalities, brought about by the recession coupled with high gas prices that discouraged people from driving.

The drop in car accident fatalities over the last couple of decades has been credited not just to an increase in the number of efforts targeting drunk driving and speeding, but also the kind of auto safety technologies that are now installed in most vehicles. These safety technologies like forward collision avoidance systems, lane departure warning systems and electronic stability control help reduce the risk of some of the most devastating types of accidents.

The troubling fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, is that auto safety technologies alone may not be able to help offset the increased risks that appear when more motorists are driving on the roads. In other words, as the economy continues to expand and grow, merely relying on safety technology is not likely to help control the fatal accident rate.

To see more progress in helping save lives every year in accidents, we need to spend more efforts in initiatives and campaigns that actually help reduce the risk of accidents caused by human error. Relying only on technology to reduce the number of accidents caused by drunk driving or distracted driving will not help. More concentrated efforts are necessary to help mitigate these risk factors.