1963 was the first year that more than 40,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents in the United States. This was a combination of the vehicles becoming more widely used and a dreadful lack of safety equipment available on them. The rules of the road were also much different back then.
However, for nearly three decades the figure stayed above 40,000 deaths per year, and routinely jumped above 50,000 deaths per year. It wasn’t until 1992 that it dropped below 40,000, and then it immediately went back above it the following year, and remained there until 2008.
That was the year of a major change, and ever since the motor vehicle fatality rate has stayed beneath 40,000 deaths per year. It reached a modern era low of 32,479 deaths in 2011, and it seemed poised to remain at these lower levels well into the future. But a funny thing happened: the last two years of recorded data saw dramatic upticks in the number of people dying in car accidents.
No one is entirely sure why it is happening, but in 2016 there were 37,461 motor vehicle accident fatalities.
Of course, distracted driving is an easy culprit to point to, and for good reason. People have become so enamored with their cell phones that using one while driving has become commonplace. It will be interesting to see where the data goes from here, as road laws may need to change to ensure that safety improves.
Source: Wikipedia, “Motor vehicle fatality rate in U.S. by year,” Accessed Feb. 21, 2018