By on August 19, 2015

Deadly Crash Picture courtesy

The number of fatal traffic crashes has risen 14 percent over last year, and deaths on the road could top 40,000 — the first time since 2007 — the National Safety Council is reporting (via Autoblog).

The council points to lower gas prices and a better economy as reasons why people are driving more and crashing more.

The estimated economic impact of the crashes through the first six months of 2015 was $125 billion according to the council, up 24 percent from last year.

The data from NSC shows a surprisingly sharp increase over the last two years in fatal crashes, after a long decrease in overall (read: fatal and non-fatal) crashes.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of traffic deaths decreased sharply after 2007 and there were fewer fatal crashes in 2011 than any year since 1994, when that agency started to compile statistics.

(It should be noted that NSC and NHTSA count deaths differently. NSC includes traffic and nontraffic accidents and deaths or injuries that occur within a year. NHTSA counts injuries and deaths within traffic accidents after 30 days.)

According to the Federal Highway Administration, Americans may drive more miles this year than in previous years. American drivers are on pace to drive 3.06 trillion miles in 2015, topping the previous record of 3.03 trillion miles in 2008.

Highly populated states such as California, Florida and Texas had the highest number of traffic deaths in 2015, according to the NSC.

Oregon had the largest increase in traffic fatalities from data retrieved at the same time last year, with a 59-percent increase in deaths over the first six months of 2015. South Dakota (34 percent), Delaware (28 percent) and Washington D.C. (23 percent) had the sharpest drops.

(Photo courtesy

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43 Comments on “Cheap Gas, More Driving Leading To More Fatal Crashes...”

  • avatar

    In other news, scientists discover water is wet.

  • avatar

    This article would be far more informative if it addressed:
    – change in frequency of fatalities per miles driven
    – any correlation between that number and increases or decreases in speed limits
    – any correlation between prevalence of light trucks and fatality rates
    – any evidence that increasingly large pickup trucks are more frequently killing people in cars.

    • 0 avatar

      I second that. And…

      >>>Highly populated states such as California, Florida and Texas had the highest number of traffic deaths in 2015, according to the NSC.

      That doesn’t really tell us anything. Death RATE would be more informative.

      • 0 avatar

        The death rate is useful for making safety comparisons.

        The number of deaths is useful for knowing the number the deaths, estimating the need for trauma centers, etc.

        The data as it stands is quite useful, although not surprising to those who are familiar with traffic safety: Economic prosperity kills. Spending more time in cars increases the risk of dying or being badly injured by one.

        • 0 avatar

          Is the link between economic prosperity and death the reason the left is working so hard to eliminate the middle class?

          • 0 avatar

            Which one of the voices inside your head prompted you to make yet another irrelevant political comment?

          • 0 avatar

            CJinSD almost seems like a cartoon version of a right wing blog troll. After every comment of his I hear cartoon sound effects and a slide trombone in my head.

    • 0 avatar

      1. Mass Media does not exist to inform.

      2. Most people are innumerate.

    • 0 avatar

      As I always say in situations like this:

      *Rates* matter. Totals don’t.

    • 0 avatar

      Worth noting Oregon has the highest increase and probably the lowest speed limit west of the Rockies – a pathetic and pokey 65 MPH. Driving east-west across the state is a big ball of suck.

      I saw the list of 11 states that had a reduction in fatality rates and on a quick glance it appeared all of them or maybe 10 out of 11 of them actually increased speed limits.

      • 0 avatar

        Perhaps the high fatality rate is related to scant speed enforcement. Oregon is unusual in that its state patrol is not funded by gas tax and instead has to scramble for appropriations like any other agency from the General fund.

  • avatar

    Don’t crash the Z-body Saturn.

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    I reiterate my call for a national 35mph maximum speed limit on all roads at all times.

    • 0 avatar

      Eventually road conditions will get us there anyway but thanks for your unflagging activism.

    • 0 avatar

      You apparently don’t live in Seattle. Were up to 35% to 50% of the time in some sections of I-5 and I-405 where if you could actually drive at 35 MPH it would be a luxury.

      There are a couple of key spots that are so bad, it seems almost miraculous when there is no traffic at all.

  • avatar

    Cheap gas prices = demand of SRT prices reaching record demand and lowest supply.

    High gas prices = rich people having more fun than poor people.

  • avatar

    I read this as cars are no safer than they were and people still don’t pay enough attention to their driving.

    • 0 avatar

      @Fred – cars are safer but people are just as stupid.

      An old statistic indicated that 35% or roughly 1 out of 3 drivers shouldn’t have a driver’s licence.

      The more that 35% drives the more likely they are to remove themselves and others from the gene pool.

      Darwin’s magic at work or the devil (depends on which side of the isle you sit upon)

  • avatar

    I would think that fatalities per mile-driven would actually be useful to examine vs. stating the obvious that more miles, all else being equal, means more fatalities.

  • avatar

    IIRC the number of highway fatalities 50 years ago was over 50,000.

    • 0 avatar

      As others have pointed out, the number of highway fatalities by itself means nothing. Divide fatalities by the total number of miles driven during the same time period and the data becomes more useful.

      I’ll bet that 50 years ago, the number of miles driven was several times less than today.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      50 years ago, the United States had 120,000,000 fewer people than it does right now.

  • avatar

    Don’t forget most people giving the chance would rather avoid the assault (TSA) teams at the airports. Plus the fact that the airlines haven’t shared the wealth with the decrease in fuel pricing with customers. Road improvements are going on forever in addition to increased mobile tax collectors (police) clogging up the roadways.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      One of the reasons airlines “haven’t shared the wealth” with their customers is that they lock into multi-year fuel contracts with their suppliers. Sharing the wealth would mean losing a lot of money.

    • 0 avatar

      What wealth? The drop in fuel prices has only turned the airline business from an unprofitable one to one that is barely profitable, but has the lowest margins of any major sector. Airlines have had trouble with pricing discipline since deregulation 35 years ago, and investing in them is still a great way to lose money.

  • avatar

    The apples-to-apple metric in this case would be based on deaths per 100 Million miles driven. Without that information this article and the articles it is based on are sensationalistic but not informative.

    • 0 avatar

      Again, it depends upon what you are trying to measure.

      Death per mile/km is useful for evaluating safety.

      Death per population or death per vehicle is useful for assessing the social and economic costs associated with driving.

      The problem isn’t with the data, but with misusing the data. Using death per population to make statements about driving safety would be foolish, but using it to know what kind of resources are needed to deal with traffic safety is wise.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Distracted driving is also playing a role, but investigators aren’t sure exactly how much because after they crash, people deny having been distracted by a text or cell phone, etc.

    And nobody has time to investigate this unless it’s an Amtrak train derailment or a celebrity.

  • avatar

    It’s just a random conversation I heard somewhere, and thought Tinfoil Hat quackery. But it went along the lines of the US Gov keeping the price of unleaded artificially a dollar higher than it could be, or should be (and leaving the price of diesel alone). Something about national security or something like that.

    Except if gas prices went to crazy low, and remained their for years, it would turn a lot of things and industries upside down. But when has diesel been dramatically less than unleaded??

    • 0 avatar

      That’s some really special quackery. Given the strength of the inverse correlation between gas prices and vote percentages for federal office, every incumbent of either party is going to do everything in his or her power to drop gas prices. That’s why we haven’t managed to even adjust the federal gas tax for inflation since 1993, with the result that in real terms it’s dropped by more than a third since then.

    • 0 avatar

      DenverMike – I’ve hears that theory but in relation to diesel fuel. The military runs on diesel and diesel like fuels.

  • avatar

    Improved vehicle safety vs more prevalent distraction devices and reduced attention spans.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Traffic fatalities per mile driven peaked about 1965.

    Still, that’s a dramatic increase year over year with a huge variation state to state. I doubt it’s explained by a four dollar a tank price cut.

  • avatar

    Besides phones and texting while driving, the other thing I noticed over the past year is a large increase in commercial trucks on the road. In the Detroit area at least, we had a few years during the Great Recession where we saw hardly any big trucks on the roads.

    All of these recent trucks back on the road means that we have a whole bunch of newly licensed truck drivers as well. From what I have seen in traffic, some of these guys appear to have very little time behind the wheel of large vehicles. And in fact, there is very little driving time required to even get a CDL in the first place.

    Surely this is a big contributor to the increased deaths on our roads.

    • 0 avatar

      The CDL “rubber-stamp” race-to-the-bottom for truck drivers ensures that the Chinese-made cellphone from Amazon arrives on time so we can check our Twitter account whilst avoiding underpaid, overworked truck drivers.

      Maybe some of those deaths were caused by airbag shrapnel, mixed in with so much windshield glass as to be ignored.


  • avatar

    (It should be noted that NSC and NHTSA count deaths differently. NSC includes traffic and nontraffic accidents and deaths or injuries that occur within a year. NHTSA counts injuries and deaths within traffic accidents after 30 days.)

    So all of those who happen to have enough brain stem function to make it past 30 days doesn’t fit within NHTSA data. Does that mean the NSC is in favour of universal health care? ;)

  • avatar

    Licensing illegals aliens wouldn’t have anything to do with it (sarcasm).

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