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Better economy heralds increase in driver death rate

The trend of lower driver death rates that began in the 1970s may be coming to an end, and motorists in West Virginia and other states may want to take note. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the risk of dying in an accident while operating a late-model vehicle increased in 2015. Preliminary reports indicate that the toll will be higher for 2016 as well.

The rise appears to be economy-driven. Forecasters say that a higher rate of driver deaths is a predictable consequence of an improving economy. While commuting tends to remain constant during fluctuations in the economy, discretionary driving increases when consumers have more dollars to spend on non-essential travel and entertainment. Data also suggests that an improving economy may affect how fast people drive.

Size is also a factor. Research shows that small cars are more dangerous to operate than vehicles in other categories. With a smaller structure surrounding the safety cage, the occupants of a tiny vehicle are not as well protected in a crash as they may be in a larger car. Five minicars and three small cars are among the 10 vehicles with the highest driver death rates. The lowest rates are found in the 4-wheel-drive large luxury SUV category.

Safer technology and improved vehicle design may lead to lower driver death rates, but these factors are not enough to eliminate catastrophic injuries and traffic deaths by themselves. People who have been injured in a collision caused by the negligence of another motorist might want to have an attorney's help in attempting to obtain a settlement from the at-fault driver's insurance company.

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