Why has there been an increase in traffic fatalities over the last 10 years while the rate of seat belt use has gone up and car safety features have improved? Why does it seem that driving is safer than it was 10 years ago but your chances of dying are higher? Is it us?
As we can see in the graph above, there has been an 7.9% increase in traffic fatalities since 2009 from 33,883 to 36,560 deaths per year and a 11.7% increase in deaths in just the last 5 years. During this time, there was a 5.5% rise in seat belt usage.
The correlation calculation shows that the total amount of traffic fatalities does have a slightly positive linear correlation to seat belt use. We don’t have any data to determine why there is a correlation here but I would assume that as yearly traffic fatalities rise, more people hear about the dangers of driving, prompting more people to use their seat belts.
Next we look at distracted driving. After seeing a 36.8% decrease in the number of distracted driving related fatalities from 2009 to 2010, the number of distracted driving fatalities stayed in the range of 3,092 to 3,526 until 2018 when we see a massive 46.5% spike in fatalities in one year. Without more recent data it would be hard to determine the cause of this spike, but the fact that texting and driving has increased 250% in 10 years could definitely cause the distracted driving body count to rise.
Texting and driving seems to contribute much more to the total amount of traffic fatalities than handheld phone calls or headset use. Although they all have very low correlation scores (as seen in the correlation map below), I suspect more recent data would show a stronger correlation from phone use to total traffic fatalities because of the increases in the statistics above.
The correlation map below shows that the amount of miles driven, the amount of licensed drivers, the amount of registered vehicles, and the number of drunk driving fatalities are all correlate to the total amount of traffic fatalities each year. This is why were dying on the road.
Right now there are more cars on the road than ever before, there are larger waves of new drivers every year, and distracted driving is on the rise again for the first time in 10 years. Seat belts save hundreds of lives everyday but we need bigger advancements in safety for the number of traffic fatalities to finally begin to decline.
The data used is an aggregation of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and other data. The sources for the data are available here and the aggregated CSV is available here.
Code & Contact Info
GitHub Repo: github.com/JackRossProjects/Traffic-Fatality-Analysis