When you look at long-term accident trends, you’ll quickly find that fatalities have been on the decline over the decades. It appears that safety technology — everything from your standard airbags to new lane-departure warning systems — has been working. People still crash, but they appear more likely to live through those accidents than they were a few decades ago.
However, experts warn that the statistics can be misleading. If you shrink the scale down a bit, you’ll see some worrying trends. The roads may not be as safe as these large-scale reports lead you to believe.
One study examined statistics running all the way back to the start of the 21st century, and a researcher noted that fatalities have dropped worldwide in that span — now nearly 20 years. If you compared just 1999 and 2017, you’d find that drop.
The misleading part, though, is that a lot of the progress started in 2000 and continued until 2010. After that, the rate of decrease started slowing down. By 2015 and 2016, researchers were finding that fatalities hit a plateau in some areas — not decreasing at all anymore — or even started trending back up again.
That does not mean that they have hit pre-2000 levels, so the overall trend in the past two decades is still a decline. However, it is clear that the short-term trends are more concerning than the big picture. The roads hold more danger now than they did a few years ago.
Why is this happening?
Of course, the big question for researchers is why things have turned around. Safety technology is only getting better. Newer vehicles are safer than they’ve ever been. Why are more people losing their lives?
Ironically and tragically, technology could also be part of the problem. While people had cellphones in 2000, they did not have smartphones, which wouldn’t come around until the middle of the decade. These allow for far more functions, with modern users taking pictures, answering emails, browsing social media and using a nearly endless array of apps for almost anything you can imagine.
As useful as this technology is, it also causes massive distractions when drivers use it in the car. That’s true for young and old drivers alike. When people choose these distractions, prioritizing modern connectivity over safety, it is as bad as having far more drunk drivers on the roads. Distraction causes accidents and that increases overall fatality numbers.
Even if you understand the risks these studies show and the dangers of allowing yourself to get distracted, you could still get hit by another driver. You must know all of your potential rights to financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages and much more.