While fatal accidents drop, bike and large truck fatalities rise

Fatal car accident data released on Monday from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show a promising drop in traffic fatalities. They are down 1.9 percent from last year, at their lowest since 1949. In fact, last year’s fatality rate is the lowest it has been since the creation of automobiles.

The news, however, is not all hopeful. Fatalities caused by bike and semi truck accidents have dramatically increased. Bicycle deaths increased by 8.7 percent between 2010 and 2011 and large truck occupant deaths increased by 20 percent. Motorcycle deaths have also risen 2.1 percent.

The deputy executive director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Association explained the increase in bicycle and motorcycle deaths this way: “Our culture is beginning to move away from driving and toward healthier and greener modes of transportations.”

Yet, as individuals and families begin to look toward a green society, federal and state governments must take action to ensure that the green options are safe options. Furthermore, some speculate that new state laws that increase speed limits are to blame for the increase in truck accident fatalities.

What can be done to make our roads safer for bicyclists, motorcyclists and truckers? Here are some suggestions from safety advocates:

  • Maintain safe speed limits on U.S. and state highways
  • Increase the number of bike lanes and widen roads to accommodate all modes of transportation
  • Increase visibility to bicyclists through road signs and public education
  • Fund ad campaigns that remind drivers to keep alert for bicyclists and motorcyclists
  • Continue to monitor causes of truck accidents and create regulations to address those causes, from driver fatigue to trucking company policies

Another way to prevent accidents is to take unsafe drivers off the road and hold them accountable for not paying attention, driving too fast or otherwise driving negligently/recklessly.

Of course, no one thing will dramatically decrease the number of fatal accidents, but with a combination of public education, regulations, safe street construction and legal accountability, it may be possible to put truck, bike and motorcycle accidents on the same downward trend as other fatal accidents.

Source: The Washington Post, “Bicycle, large truck deaths rose sharply last year even as total traffic fatalities dropped,” Associated Press, Dec. 10, 2012