Vehicle deaths more than halve in 20 years

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There might be a big hubub in the US and around the world at the moment when it comes to car safety – with some 60 million cars recalled in the US alone last year – but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that we’re living in the safest period of road travel in US history. According to new data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), some 7,700 people made it through 2012 than would have had we still all been driving the same cars we were back in ’85.

During the mid-80s, for every million cars on the road, some 175 people were killed. That’s not a horrificly high number – especially if you compare it to today’s figures for the Central African Republic, which when adjusted for the same vehicle numbers, over 130,000 people are killed – however it’s far from ideal. Since then though, things have improved a lot and despite predictions that around the mid ’00s death numbers would go up, they’ve continued to decline ever since that fateful decade, bringing us to today, where less than 70 people per million cars die on the roads.

According to the researchers behind this data, the most likely reason for the improvements in these numbers comes from vehicles themselves becoming safer. As well as development improving in terms of the structural integrity of vehicles, the introduction of mandatory seatbelts and airbags, two of the biggest changes were said to be the development of anti-lock-brakes and electronic stability control (ESC), which can help prevent a car from skidding and flipping respectively. These two together have prevented a lot of accidents from being far worse than if the person just hit what they are braking to avoid.

80s

Who would have guessed all that bodywork wouldn’t protect us well?

Moving forward, the IIHS believes there is a lot more that can be done to improve car-safety. Some of the most basic measures, include campaigns to educate and incentivise people to wear their seat belts, as over half of the deaths recorded on the road in 2012 involved people not wearing their seatbelts. Another popular measure suggested is the reduction of the national speed limit on highways. It was set at 55 miles per hour back in the early ’90s, but that was repealed in 1995, allowing for much higher speeds on the motorways.

Another suggested rule change is to encourage more motorcycle riders to wear helmets. As it stands, a large number don’t and it has been proven to be the most effective piece of safety equipment when it comes to keeping a motorbike rider alive in the case of an accident. It is even more effective for passengers.

In the future though, it may be new automated safety features that bring the numbers of deaths down even further. Systems like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) could be as effective as the mandatory introduction of seat belts, with some estimations suggesting that it would cut road deaths in halve within the next 10 years if forced on auto-makers.

What are some measures that you guys think would help reduce road deaths even more?

[Thanks MedicalDaily]

Image source: Dave7

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Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.