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Are Drivers in Houston at Greater Risk of Motor Vehicle Accidents?

A five-vehicle crash on the Southwest Freeway recently resulted in one death in Houston, according to ABC 13.The accident occurred at approximately 2:30 on a Saturday morning. Following the crash, officers shut down Westpark Drive for several hours so police could investigate the cause of the fatal accident. at the wheel

This deadly collision is one of many that will forever change the lives of families throughout Houston and the U.S.  Rising car accident rates are more than statistics. It means many more families may have to go through the pain and anguish of losing a loved one in a senseless traffic crash.

For the second year in a row, the number of car accident deaths climbed between 2015 and 2016, according to a recent report.  The increase in the risks of collisions is not a small one. Troubling data from NPR shows that the roads are becoming much less safe than they were just a few short years ago. For example, NPR reports:

  • The number of car accident deaths exceeded 40,000 in 2016. This was the first time since 2007, before the great recession, that car accident fatalities topped 40,000 in a year.
  • There was a six percent increase in car accident deaths that occurred between 2015 and 2016.
  • There was a 14 percent increase in car accident deaths when comparing 2014 and 2016.
  • The two-year 14 percent increase in fatalities from 2014 to 2016 was the largest jump in car accident fatalities for more than 50 years.

There are a number of possible theories for why this risk is has spiked so dramatically in recent years. One of the primary reasons likely has to do with the fact there are simply more people on the road. A healthier economy and lower gas prices means more people driving, and this means there is a higher potential for crashes.

More people means more traffic congestion. When cars are packed in tightly together, there is a greater chance of multi-car accidents like the recent five-vehicle collision that caused a fatality. If one car goes out of control in a tightly packed or high-traffic space, this can set off a chain of events that results in many cars being involved in a crash, since other motorists cannot easily get out of the way.

If more traffic is the primary cause of the increased crash risk, this is bad news in terms of the danger motorists will face in 2017. Most metrics indicate that the economy is continuing to improve. It was better economic conditions, like lower unemployment and falling gas prices, that resulted in more people being on the roads in 2014 and 2015. If this trend holds in 2017, fatality rates could rise again.

However, experts who spoke to NPR also warned that driver behavior plays a role too, with more drivers distracted and many motorists speeding and doing other dangerous things like driving drunk. Motorists may not be able to control traffic conditions, but can make the commitment not to engage in high risk behaviors to try to avoid another year where fatality rates rise.

 

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