Over the last decade, deaths due to automobile crashes have dropped approximately twenty-five percent, according to an analysis of federal data prepared by the Wall Street Journal. Vehicle safety experts attribute the reduction in fatalities to improvements in safety features such as vehicle stability control systems and airbags. Automobile deaths declined by 3.1% in 2013 when compared to 2012. The number of people injured in automobile crashes dropped by 2.1% during the same period.
While automobile deaths have declined in recent years, pedestrian and motorcycle deaths have increased. Even as auto fatalities decline, automobile recalls are on the rise. In 2014, manufacturers recalled 52.5 million vehicles in the United States. According to the Wall Street Journal report, GM alone recalled 2.6 million vehicles for an ignition switch defect linked to 42 deaths. As previously reported on this blog, airbags manufactured by Takata Corp. were recalled following the discovery of defects when the airbags were deployed.
To put fatality rates in perspective, in 2013 the "new car" automobile fatality rate was 3.4 deaths per 100,000 vehicles on U.S. roads. From 2008 to 2013, the rate of fatalities in new cars dropped by approximately one-third, reflecting a considerable improvement in auto safety. In addition to airbags and stability control systems, increased use of child safety seats and seatbelts have helped reduce fatality rates. More states are restricting driving privileges for young drivers, while at the same time seeing greater compliance with mandatory seatbelt laws. All of this adds up to less fatalities and safer cars on the roadway.