A Better Economy Means More Motor Vehicle Deaths

Apr 5, 2016

Credit Daly C. / CC BY-SA 2.0

Last year, motor vehicle deaths were up 8 percent nationwide. The National Safety Council estimates that 38,300 people died on U.S. roads and 4.4 million were injured. In Nevada, roadway deaths were up 14 percent in 2015 compared to the year before.

Deborah Hersman is president of the council. She told our partner KNPR in Las Vegas that there’s no single theory on why deaths have gone up, but the strongest correlation may be with the economy.

“We know when the economy improves when we’re coming out of a recession that motor vehicle fatalities go up. Likewise, when we go into recessions and we have fewer drivers on the road, fewer people commuting to work we do see fatalities go down. And we did, indeed, see that over the last ten years in the most recent recession.”

She also points to alcohol use, excessive speed, and distractions as major contributors. And those distractions impact both drivers and pedestrians.

“When we look at pedestrians, for them not to be distracted—taking selfies or walking out in front of traffic. And also we see a higher rate for pedestrians when they’re impaired by alcohol or drugs.”

The National Safety Council has issued annual fatality estimates since 1921 and has not seen an 8 percent national increase in half a century.

This story was produced with information from an interview that recently aired on KNPR.