We should be proud of the fact the lowest percentage of people have been killed in car accidents in the U.S. since the 1950s. Nevertheless, far too many drivers lose their life, or suffer serious injuries, in car crashes, truck wrecks, and other types of auto accidents that could be prevented.
For example, speeding is a factor in more than 31 percent of car accident deaths, drunk drivers are involved in 32 percent of fatal wrecks, distracted driving plays a role in about 16 percent of crashes, and 55 percent of people killed in auto accidents are not wearing seat belts, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2009, nearly 34,000 people died in traffic crashes in the U.S.
All of these numbers need to go down.
"Zero is the only thing that's acceptable," said Anthony Kane, director of engineering and technical services at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
That's why a new program called "Toward Zero Deaths" was created. Six states - Idaho, Minnesota, Oregon, Utah, Washington and West Virginia - have adopted many of the provisions in the "Toward Zero Death" program.
Utah is a prime example of the improvements that can be made by adopting the "Toward Zero Deaths" program. The state has seen a 15 percent drop in their car accident deaths since beginning the program in 2006, according to USA Today. In fact, Utah decreased auto accident deaths by 24 percent from 2000 to 2005. How did they accomplish this? Well, one of the key components was initiating engineering reforms such as improving rumble strips and median separations. This model could, and should, be implemented nationwide.
Technological advancements also play a crucial in reducing car accident deaths. Some of these advancements include cameras that detect when a driver is sleepy, electronic stability controls that reduce fatalities in rollover accidents, and alcohol ignition interlocks that prevent a drunk driver from starting the car.
If these innovations can make their way into a majority of cars, trucks, and SUVs across the U.S., there's a good chance we'll see the loss of life from auto accidents decrease significantly. Will we ever get to zero deaths from traffic accidents? Probably not; though it's a laudable goal and we should aim to get as close to zero as humanly possible.