There are over 20,000 car accidents in Florida every year. Preliminary counts of South Florida traffic deaths in 2015 suggest a sharp increase. In Palm Beach County, for example, The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles counted a 29 percent increase in the first six months of the years to the first six months of 2014 – 102 deaths versus 79 deaths. Motor vehicle fatalities in Florida were also up 29 percent and nationally, up 14 percent.
There is of course the growing element of distraction now that most every driver has access to their own person computer at all times via their smart phone. But there is something else going on, researchers say.
We are now at the tail end of what has been one of the longest roads to economic recovery since the end of WW II. The labor market has improved. Unemployment is down. So are gas prices. This has meant people have more money in their pocket. More freedom to take a trip. More incentive to take a private vehicle rather than opt for public transportation or bicycling. In turn, there are more vehicles on the road and a higher likelihood of traffic deaths.
That’s the theory posed by researchers at Texas A&M University, where professors at the school’s Health Science Center School of Public Health have studied the issue extensively. Researchers say they are still combing through the data, but note that in 2015, gas prices dropped more than $1 per gallon in many areas. When that happens, for every $1 decrease in the cost of a gallon of gas, there is an 11 percent spike in national roadway deaths.
The groups primarily affected by this? Young drivers under the age of 24. Most commonly, it affects drivers between the ages of 18 to 24. Researchers think the reason for this has to do with the fact that they generally have less disposable income, so they are more directly affected when the gas prices start falling. They are more likely to alter their driving habits to a price drop or increase.
Another correlative relationship the study authors have found is between unemployment rate and traffic deaths. Our Broward injury lawyers understand that for every one percentage point decrease in the overall unemployment rate, there is a 9 percent increase in the national number of motor vehicle deaths.
What that tells us is the reported increase in deaths on the road that were reported in South Florida in the middle of last year likely weren’t some kind of odd fluke. What’s worse is that it’s probably only going to continue.
The researchers say it is entirely plausible that the national traffic fatality statistics for 2016 could end up being more than 20 percent higher than they were last year.
There are some factors that could work in our favor, though. For example, cars are increasingly being designed with improved safety features, including things like electronic stability control, rear view cameras and sensors and collision-avoidance technology. Other studies have shown drivers of newer model vehicles suffer fewer fatalities when involved in traffic crashes than those in older cars. Those older cars are going to become less common and technology is only going to get better.
Still, human error remains the No. 1 cause of traffic deaths. By remaining alert, sober and cautious, every single driver can help to curb this problem.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
How the economy affects traffic fatalities, Jan. 21, 2016, Science Daily
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