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Improving economy could worsen road safety

September 26, 2012

Traffic deaths have fallen dramatically since 2005, but estimates for 2012 suggest that the trend may be ending. According to UMTRI research professor Michael Sivak, road fatalities dropped 26 percent from 2005 to 2011, but are up 8 percent over the first seven months of this year (based on estimates from the National Safety Council).

"After a recent peak of 43,500 fatalities in 2005, fatalities dropped to 32,300 in 2011," Sivak said. "The last time road fatalities were lower was in 1949 when, relative to 2011, we had only about 17 percent of the vehicles on the road and drove only about 14 percent of the miles. That is a remarkable reduction in fatalities."

Sivak said that while vehicle manufacturers, federal regulators, driver-licensing agencies and public-interest groups have taken credit for the drop--and all have certainly contributed--there is another factor: the tepid economy.

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