Here’s an unexpected bit of good news: according to preliminary data collected by the National Safety Council, deaths from motor vehicle crashes during the first six months of this year are down 5% compared to the same six month period last year.
That’s a sharp reversal from a far more negative trend the group thought might be taking shape back in February when its number-crunching determined that traffic fatalities increased for 2012 overall versus 2011.
“The Council will be keeping a close eye on our monthly traffic fatality estimates to determine if this decrease [for the first six months of 2013] is just a blip on the radar,” noted Janet Froetscher, NSC’s president and CEO. “Definitive reasons behind the decrease are not known. We are encouraged to see this downward trend and will remain vigilant to keep our roads as safe as possible.”
Still, despite that 5% drop, the loss of life to motor vehicle crashes is still staggering. From January through June this year, according to NSC, an estimated 16,620 traffic deaths occurred, compared to 17,430 over the same period in 2012.
[Below, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden provides some thoughts on why transportation is being viewed as a major health issue during a speech he gave back in 2011.]
Those fatality figures, by the way, are just unbelievable numbers when, in contrast, you realize some 1,629 American military service men and women lost their lives in Afghanistan over the last four-plus YEARS, or that the deadliest hurricane ever to hit U.S. shores – the Galveston, TX, monster storm of 1900 – left 6,000 to 8,000 dead in its wake.
In addition to human loss, NSC also stressed that vehicle crashes present a significant national cost in lost wages and productivity, medical expenses, administrative expenses, employer costs and property damage to the U.S. economy.
So, for the first six months of 2013, the preliminary cost of motor vehicle deaths, injuries and property damage totaled $127 billion, the group said – not chump change by any means.
Still, a decline is a decline and we should cheer that downward trend. Let’s just hope traffic fatalities stay on the downswing for the rest of the year.