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By Jim Adler August 25, 2016

Traffic fatalities nationwide surged in the first half of 2016, rising by 9 percent compared to the same period last year and by 18 percent compared to the same period in 2014. The National Safety Council attributes such increases to rising rates of travel spurred by improvements in the economy and 16 percent lower gas prices for the first six months of 2016.

How much more travel is happening on America’s roads? According to the Federal Highway Administration, American drivers traveled a record 1.58 trillion miles from January through June of 2016, an increase of 3.3 percent over the same period last year. And more driving means more accidents.

On U.S. roads through June of this year, 2.2 million people were seriously injured (meaning they required medical attention) and an estimated 19,100 persons died. If traffic deaths this year continue at that pace, fatalities for the entire year could top 40,000 for the first time in nine years, the NSC says.

Last year, over 35,000 people died in U.S. traffic accidents, making 2015 the most deadly year for crashes since over 37,000 were killed in 2008. Traffic fatalities largely have declined since they peaked in the 1970s, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Texas Not Among the Worst

Texas is not among states with the largest jump in traffic deaths so far this year. Traffic deaths in Texas rose by 11 percent in this year’s first six months compared to last year’s first half, and by 9 percent compared to the first half of 2014.

In stark numbers, 1,824 persons died on Texas roads through June of this year, compared to 1,643 deaths in the same period for 2015 and 1,668 deaths for 2014.

States with the worst increases in traffic deaths so far this year were Vermont, up 82 percent; Oregon, up 70 percent; New Hampshire, up 61 percent; Idaho, up 46 percent; Florida, up 43 percent; Iowa, up 37 percent; Georgia, up 34 percent; Indiana, up 33 percent; California, up 31 percent; and Wisconsin, up 29 percent.

Seven states have had decreases in traffic deaths so far this year: Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Hawaii and Delaware.

Yet the looming Labor Day weekend presents concerns for every state. The NSC has issued its highest fatality estimate for the three-day weekend since 2008, projecting that 438 persons will die in Labor Day weekend traffic accidents.

Cost of Traffic Accidents Is High

The NSC estimates that the cost to the nation for this year’s traffic deaths and injuries will be more than $200 billion.

Deborah A.P. Hersman, NSC President and CEO, says “complacency is killing us. Americans should demand change to prioritize safety actions and protect ourselves from one of the leading causes of preventable death.”

Indeed, car accidents are the sixth-leading cause of preventable deaths in America, says the IIHS. The worst cause of preventable deaths is tobacco smoking, followed by obesity, alcohol, diseases and toxins.

Jim Adler & Associates encourages everyone to keep these sobering statistics in mind, and to drive safely on the upcoming Labor Day weekend — and any time of the year.

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