Traffic Fatalities Increasing Nationwide, But Decreasing in Connecticut

Across the United States, the number of traffic fatalities increased 14 percent in the first six months of 2015 compared with a year ago.  In Connecticut, however, the number of motor vehicle deaths dropped by 20 percent. From January through June of this year, there were 95 motor vehicle deaths in Connecticut, compared with 119 during the same period in 2014 and 116 during the first six months of 2013. Connecticut’s percentage drop in the number of traffic deaths was the 5th largest in the nation, comparing the first six months of this year to a year ago.nsc_logo

Nationwide, the number of traffic deaths rose from 16,400 during the first half of 2014 to 18,630 during the first six months of this year.  According to the National Safety Council, which analyzed the data, the increase in fatalities in 2015 likely reflects the effects of the low gas prices that have averaged 30 percent below 2014 levels over the first two quarters of 2015, helping to produce a 3.4 percent increase in cumulative vehicle mileage through May.

Distracted drivers – specifically those behind the wheel attempting to talk or text on a cell phone – are also pushing the numbers. The NSC says cell phone related activities are to blame for 27 percent of all crashes.

Connecticut is one ofcar accident 15 states where the number of traffic fatalities has dropped in the first six months of 2015, compared with a year ago.  The others were Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Kansas, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

Three states – California, Texas and Florida – have seen more than 1,000 deaths through June of this  year.

Medically consulted motor-vehicle injuries for the first six months of 2015 are estimated to be about 2,254,000, an increase of 30 percent from 2014 nationwide, the National Safety Council (NSC) indicated. The NSC estimated that the nation appears headed towards the deadliest year, in terms of traffic fatalities, since 2007.

“While the statistics point out a dangerous trend, we have the ability to influence outcomes through our choices and behavior,” said Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the NSC. “Take your responsibilities behind the wheel this summer seriously and ensure that you get to your destination safety.”

In addition to the personal toll, the estimated cost of motor-vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage through June was $152.0 billion, a 24 percent increase from 2014, according to the data reported by the Illinois-based NSC. The costs include wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, employer costs, and property damage.

The number of traffic deaths reported this year nationwide is greater than the number for the same period in recent years; in 2012 there were 1,755 deaths, in 2013 there were 16,617; in 2014 there were 16,400.  The NSC counts both traffic and non-traffic deaths that occur within a year of the accident, while NHTSA counts only traffic deaths that occur within 30 days, so the numbers reported will differ.

Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, the National Safety Council, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to save lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy.  Deaths are reported by state traffic authorities, and all figures are preliminary.

More Social Capital = Fewer Traffic Accidents, Research Study Finds

If you’ve never made a connection between traffic accidents and social capital, you’re probably not alone.  However, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) is reporting on research by Matthew G. Nagler of the City College of New York which found, perhaps surprisingly, that a 5% increase in the average level of agreement with the statement "most people are honest" within a U.S. state results in a decline in traffic fatalities in that state by about 11%. The “most people are honest” statement is a measure of trust in others that is an indicator of the state's level of social capital, sometimes defined as a willingness to engage in community activities. Less-conscientious people who reject civic engagement presumably drive more recklessly, HBR reported.

Nagler’s abstract for the researchCarAccidentSafety_main_022, to be published next month in the journal Economic Inquiry, explains thatevidence that social capital reduces traffic accidents and related death and injury, using data from a 10‐year panel of 48 U.S. states show that social capital has a statistically significant and sizable negative effect on crashes, traffic fatalities, serious traffic injuries, and pedestrian fatalities that holds up across a range of specifications.”

In case you were wondering, Nagler – an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics - did not want the research unduly impacted by snow-related accidents, so he used only data from summer months.  The research data used was from 1997 to 2006. His research paper is entitled “Does Social Capital Promote Safety on the Roads?”

The death toll in the U.S. from traffic accidents has been approximately 43,000 deaths annually, according to the report. Traffic fatalities remain a major cause of death at all ages and the leading cause for persons under the age of 44.

In the paper’s conclusion, Nagler notes that the results of his study “parallel prior findings with respect to social capital’s beneficial effects on economic growth and various health outcomes.”  In 2004, a study by three University of Connecticut researchers found that social capital is associated with decreased risk of hunger.“Households may have similarly limited financial or food resources, but households with higher levels of social capital are less likely to experience hunger,” they concluded.