Traffic deaths in the nation are up by a margin of more than 10 percent in the first half of 2016 as compared with the same period a year ago, according to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The NHTSA noted that Americans drove about 50.5 billion more miles in the first half of 2016 than in the first six months of 2015, an increase of 3.3 percent, but that did not account for the rise in traffic deaths from 16,100 to 17,775. The agency has not determined a specific cause for the increase, saying that it is too soon to identify the potential contributing factors.
Feds Announce “Road to Zero” Coalition
As the grim statistics were released, officials also announced a “Road to Zero” coalition that will intend to eliminate traffic deaths, including those occurring on sidewalks and bicycle paths, by 2046. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to commit $3 million to the initiate over the next three years in the form of grants to provide short-term help, such as promoting the use of seatbelts and installing rumble strips on roadways.
The driverless car technology will be prominent in the long-term goals of the coalition, and President Obama announced new guidelines in September that will encourage the development of the technology while also promising strong safety oversight.
Regulators will be called on to balance the commercial interests of self-driving car manufacturers such as Google, Tesla, and Uber with public safety concerns, particularly in light of recent crashes involving semiautonomous cars. In June, the driver of a Tesla Model S electric sedan was killed in an accident that occurred when the vehicle was in self-driving mode. According to Tesla, “neither autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor-trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied.”