Driving Safety: How Safe Are Our Roads?

Drivers everywhere, breathe a sigh of relief. Traffic fatalities have dropped to their lowest level in recorded history.

safer roads

Every driver knows that the road is a potentially dangerous place and that the risk for car accidents and (not to be morbid) fatalities comes with the territory. But now drivers everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief because our roads are safer than they’ve ever been in recorded history.

Traffic fatalities drop to lowest level on record

Preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that fatality rates declined by 1.6 percent for the first 9 months of 2011 compared to the same time frame in 2010. Big deal, you say?

Well, actually, it kind of is.

A 1.6 percent decrease may not seem like much, but when it comes to lives saved it’s monumental. There were nearly 400  fewer fatalities in the first 3 quarters of 2011 compared with 2010. And when you consider that traffic fatality rates dropped to their lowest level in history in 2010, you can see why we’re excited.

In fact, though Americans are driving more than ever — 3 trillion miles in 2010 alone — the number of deadly accidents has decreased relative to the number of miles driven. In other words, we have more drivers on the road putting more miles on their odometers, but the same number of fatalities as in 1949.

Car accidents on the decline

In 1990, about 6.5 million car accidents took place on our highways and byways. In 2010, highway safety improved and that number plummeted by one million, or about 20 percent. Of course, as a car insurance company, we think this is pretty great news.

Car technology and safety laws work

So what or who can we thank for our safer roads? The sudden discovery of the safe-driving gene? Seat belts? Air bags? Tougher distracted driving and drinking and driving laws?

Well, it’s a little bit of everything. Nifty things like seat belts and air bags, now standard in every car, have been proven to reduce fatalities by a whopping 61 percent. Plus, with 86 percent of the driving population buckling up and air bags that protect everything from your knees to your forehead, it’s easy to see that safety features have come a long way since 1949.

Additionally, the Highway Loss Data Institute reports that new-on-the-market crash avoidance technology like autonomous braking and adaptive headlights (which shift direction as you steer) have been shown to reduce accidents (particularly front-to-rear fender benders). These features are currently only available as options in higher-end cars. But over time, they might find their way into your ride as standard elements (the way antilock brakes did), improving road and highway safety even more .

Add to these facts an increased public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and drunk driving — and stricter laws to back it all up — and you’ve got a fairly reliable formula for safe roads.

Special thanks to all you good drivers out there for buckling your seat belts, putting your phones away, and driving as if our safety (and lives) depend on it.

Driving safety tips

While these stats are encouraging, we still have work to do. After all, fatality and accident rates may have dropped, but millions of accidents still happen each year. To help you stay safe on the road, we’ve amassed a wealth of driving safety tips. Check them out and find out how to handle anything the road throws your way, from driving in high winds to handling a car breakdown to avoiding animals on the roads.

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