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The devastating impact of car accidents in the U.S.

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Immediate, but also continued, action is required to help reduce the toll of car accidents and the accident rate in the U.S.

It is easy to assume that car accidents and related deaths have soared since the introduction of the automobile. But the reality is that the car crash death toll was at an all-time high a hundred years ago. Newspapers regularly published horrific accident photos, shocking readers every time. By 2010, the car crash death toll had dropped by a massive 90%. This was mainly due to better roads, safer vehicles, and greater awareness of drunk and distracted driving. Even though people started traveling more by car, the death toll still shrunk.

But, even with this reduction in the death toll, 1.19 million die in car accidents every year. And these crashes and deaths have an ongoing devastating toll on families, friends, businesses, and even the U.S. economy.

Sobering statistics
Too many Americans know someone or were themselves involved in a car crash. This makes for sobering statistics. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 42,915 people died in car crashes in the U.S. in 2022. That means that 117 people lost their lives every day of that year. Early statistics for 2023 reveal that traffic fatalities may have slightly decreased, but not nearly enough to cut down on the devastation these incidents cause.

The toll on human lives
For every person who dies in a car crash, there is a grieving family who is left behind. Members of that family, especially a wife, husband, child, mother, or father, are never the same again after an accident takes a loved one from them. Moreover, they may need to go into debt to cover funeral costs or settle unpaid debt. The person who dies may not have a will, leaving families without money to survive.

In addition to these struggles, some people survive car accidents and go on to live lives filled with physical pain and limitations. Some people never get over the pain and emotional distress, which means they constantly live in fear and anxiety. This leads to even more medical bills, creating an insurmountable financial burden. Add to this a loss of income, and the picture becomes even bleaker.

The toll on the economy
Car crashes also hurt the country’s economy. The economic cost is estimated to be hundreds of billions of dollars annually. This includes medical expenses, funeral expenses, productivity decline or loss, property damage, and the cost of emergency services. Car accidents are a public health crisis that affects several sectors of the economy. These include hospitals and emergency care centers, businesses, and even taxpayers.

Common causes of car accidents
So, why do car crashes keep increasing in number? It is not because people want to die or cause the death of others. It is not because they want to disappoint their families or leave them grieving. It is because of bad decisions and several other factors.

For example, many drivers are under the impression that they drive better when under the influence. This has never been proven to be correct. Driving drunk or under the influence of drugs impairs judgment. It slows coordination and reaction time. Even if a driver has just one drink, it makes a difference in how they respond to obstacles, pedestrians, and other drivers. Around 10,000 people died in 2022 as a result of impaired driving. That is 27 people gone every single day.

Another example of bad driving decisions is distracted driving. Drivers, especially the younger generation, tend to text and drive. Some don’t bother with hands-free kits while others even browse the internet while driving. These are high-risk activities while driving. But even something that seems harmless, like talking or eating while driving, can cause drivers to lose concentration, and an accident happens in the blink of an eye.

Furthermore, speeding often leads to gruesome car crashes. This is because it severely reduces a driver’s ability to react to different situations. It can even lessen the effectiveness of seatbelts and airbags. Drivers who like driving too fast don’t consider the reasons behind speed limits. Road authorities set speed limits based on road conditions. They also base them on traffic patterns. Speeding drivers disrupt these patterns and conditions, making it much more likely for an accident to happen.

Speeding and reckless driving often go hand in hand. Reckless drivers have no regard for the safety of others or even their own lives. Sometimes, recklessness comes from impatience during traffic jams or anger at yet another traffic stop. But, no matter where recklessness stems from, it always poses a risk to human lives.

Other causes of car accidents include inexperienced drivers, poor road conditions, and vehicle malfunctions.

Is it possible to reduce the number of car accidents on U.S. roads
There is nothing anyone can do about innate human behavior. If someone wants to drive too fast, they will do it. If they want to skip a red light, they will do it. However, some strategies may make drivers think twice before doing something reckless or violating a traffic law. For instance, if there is more police visibility on high-risk roads, there may be a reduction in reckless or even drunk driving. Visible policing may also help cut down on texting and driving. Sometimes, ongoing public awareness campaigns can have a similar effect.

It is also necessary for every state to invest in safer roads. Roads should have updated signage, and intersections must be clearly marked. At the same time, automakers can continue to add improved technology to vehicles. This includes emergency auto braking, lane departure alarms, and blind spot monitoring. So, even if roads are in bad condition or not marked, these technologies can still help drivers avoid accidents. That said, drivers should still not exceed the speed limit nor drive under the influence. Technology can only do so much.

Doing more to save lives
Immediate, but also continued, action is required to help reduce the toll of car accidents and the accident rate in the U.S. Some believe that road deaths can be eliminated by 2050 if America changes how it looks at car and road design. But the biggest changes need to happen with drivers themselves. What is needed the most is a culture change. That means working together to make better decisions and not just accepting ongoing deaths and injuries on U.S. roads.

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