Although more car safety features are included each year in new vehicle designs, car crash statistics reveal that fatality figures continue to increase. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that approximately 13 automobile accidents occur each minute. The overall cost of these road accidents was around $474 billion during 2020, according to statistics from the National Safety Council. If the enhanced safety features included in new car models are combined with improved defensive driving techniques by drivers, many serious collisions and deaths can be prevented. In addition, if more drivers abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages before driving and avoiding distracted driving, the number of fatal car crashes each year can be reduced even more.
Motor Vehicle-Related Death Statistic for 2021
Car crash statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal that approximately 42,915 people lost their lives in U.S. car crashes during 2021. This figure showed an increase of 10.5 percent from the year 2020. In addition, the number of pedestrian deaths due to car accidents increased by 13 percent from 2020 to 2021.
This was the largest increase in yearly car crash fatalities in the entire history of records produced by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Some analysts attributed this marked upswing in auto accident deaths to the increase in road traffic during 2021 following the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
The July 4th holiday is often one of the busiest days in the country for road traffic, frequently resulting in very high rates of vehicle crashes and fatalities. Detailed studies of automobile accident statistics for 2021 show that out of the 42,915 total nationwide fatalities, 9,075 were caused by alcohol-impaired drivers. Speed-related deaths equaled 8,111, and fatalities among pedestrians and non-motor cyclists totaled 8,345. The yearly rates of car crash fatalities have increased in alignment with the rate of national population growth.
Further analysis by experts at the NHTSA revealed that approximately 400 vehicle crash deaths occur every year due to drivers texting while driving. Studies of general driver distraction as the cause of car crash deaths showed an annual figure of more than 30,000 fatalities. Approximately 32 individuals across the U.S. lose their lives in drunk-driving accidents daily. This figure equates to one death every 45 minutes. There was a significant rise in vehicle accident fatalities caused by alcohol-impaired drivers from 5,175 across the nation in 2018 to 9,075 in 2021.
Unfortunately, many people who drive after consuming alcoholic beverages tend to consider themselves to be capable of driving safely. Yet, their blood-alcohol content (BAC) may be above the legal limit. The Traffic Injury Research Foundation reports that almost 41 percent of survey participants assumed that they could drive safely even if their BAC counts exceeded the legal limit.
This report revealed that men participants were approximately 150 percent more inclined to drive during times when they felt that their BAC levels surpassed the legal count. According to the NHTSA, young drivers of ages 21 to 24 are more likely than any other age group to experience alcohol-related accidents that increase fatal car crash statistics.
Primary Causes of Fatal Auto Accidents in the U.S.
In 2021, and during recent years, the main causes of fatal automobile crashes in the U.S. have been the following:
• Drunk Driving. Inebriated drivers cause over 17,000 car crash deaths annually. An individual is killed in a drunk driving crash every 30 minutes, according to the New York State Police Department.
• No Seat belt Use. Among the fatal auto accidents each year for passenger vehicles, 44 percent of drivers and 41 percent of passengers were wearing seat belts.
• Speeding. The 8,111 car crash deaths that occurred during 2021 were caused by driver speeding. Many of the roads where these fatal accidents occurred had posted speed limits of less than 55 miles per hour.
• Distracted Driving. According to statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), six percent of the car crash deaths that occurred during 2020 were related to distracted drivers. Sixty-four of these drivers were daydreaming at the time each crash occurred. Twelve percent of drivers were using their cell phones for calling, texting or reading content.
• Non-Alert Driving. Individuals driving while drowsy or non-alert resulted in 633 nationwide road fatalities during 2020, according to the NHTSA. This number accounted for nearly two percent of all vehicle-related deaths during the year.
Safest Vehicles Statistics and Features for New Cars
Each year, the IIHS sponsors crash tests for new car models from all the major brands in the country. The cars with the best results win the high rating of “Top Safety Pick+.” The vehicle features tested include, on the driver’s side, the small-overlap front, side impact and roof strength. Crash tests for the passenger’s side include the small-overlap test and testing for head restraint.
To gain the Top Safety Pick+ status, a car model must attain a Good rating in all six tests. The car must also win a Good or Acceptable ranking for headlights as well as an Advanced or Superior ranking for its accident-prevention design elements. The following four car brands and models for 2022 have won this high rating for their excellent safety features that can greatly reduce vehicular deaths:
1. Subaru Legacy AWD 4-door Midsize Sedan
Although the IIHS has not yet tested this Subaru Legacy model for crash results and safety features for 2023, it has been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 2022-23. This high-quality Legacy design won an overall safety rating equaling five out of five stars. It achieved five stars in the frontal crash, side crash and rollover testing.
This model’s standardized driver-assistance elements include the following features:
• Enhanced rear-view camera
• Advanced forward collision warning
• Forward automatic emergency braking
• Lane-departure warning along with lane-keep assist
• Adaptive cruise control as well as lane centering
• Adaptive headlights that include automatic high beams
• Head-up display (shows relevant driving and navigating data on the windshield)
• Rear-seat alert (reminds you to check the back seats for lingering children or pets before you leave the vehicle).
Additional driver-assistance features available are:
• Forward-facing camera feature
• Driver alertness and attention monitoring
• Blind-spot monitoring along with rear cross-traffic alert
• Reverse automatic emergency braking
The 2023 Legacy measures 15.9 feet in length with a curb weight of from 3,490 to 3,787 pounds.
2. Toyota Highlander Hybrid AWD Midsize SUV
This new Toyota Highlander model won a safety score of 9.4/10 from the IIHS for 2022. Its Good ratings included tests for the moderate overlap front, side impact, rear crash and roof protection. Other ratings for this model included a Good for the overlap front passenger test and a superior for front crash protection that can prevent vehicular deaths.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded this Toyota model an overall safety score of five out of five stars. This Highlander won four stars for its frontal crash capacity and rollover protection along with five stars for side crash safety.
This car design includes the following updated driver-assistance elements:
• Rear-view camera
• Advanced forward collision warning
• Updated forward automatic emergency braking
• Pedestrian detection alert
• Adaptive cruise control
• Lane stray and departure warning
• Lane tracing assist (aids in keeping the SUV centered in its lane)
• Enhanced automatic high-beam headlights
• Road sign assist
Available driver-assistance features are:
• Strategic blind spot monitoring
• Updated rear cross traffic alert
• Both front and rear parking sensors
• Enhanced parallel park assist
• Advanced surround-view parking camera system
• Improved head-up display
• Bicyclist detection
• Updated rain-sensing windshield wipers
The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is approximately 16.2 feet in length. Its curb weight is from 4,330 to 4,595 pounds, and this model’s gross weight rating ranges from 5,960 to 6,000 pounds.
3. Toyota Sequoia 4WD Large SUV
The 2023 Sequoia from Toyota has not been crash tested by the Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In addition, neither of these two organizations has fully completed crash testing for the 2022 Sequoia. However, the 2022 model was awarded four out of five stars for the rollover test category.
Standard Driver-Assistance Elements
The following driver-assistance features are components of the current Sequoia design:
• Car front and rear parking sensors
• Full surround-view parking camera setup
• Advanced blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
• Updated forward collision warning along with pedestrian and non-motor cyclist detection
• Forward automatic emergency braking
• Lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist
• Adaptive cruise control with lane centering
• Automatic high-beam headlights
• Traffic-sign recognition
• Rear-seat alert (reminds you to check the back seats for kids or pets before you leave the vehicle)
Additional driver-assistance elements available:
• Rear-view mirror with integrated camera display
• Head-up display (shows relevant driving and navigation information on the windshield).
4. Volvo XC90 AWD Midsize Luxury SUV
Although crash test results are not yet available for this 2023 Volvo model, test ratings are on file for the 2022 XC90. This car received the top rating of Good in each of the six crash tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety chose this Volvo model as a Top Safety Pick+, the highest honor given by the IIHS.
The IIHS also gave the XC90 the highest rating of Superior for its front crash (vehicle-to-vehicle) prevention design. The car’s vehicle-to-pedestrian design won the mid-level score of Advanced, and it can greatly reduce vehicular deaths.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration granted the 2022 XC90 the overall score for safety of five out of five stars. This SUV won five stars in both the front and side collision tests and four stars for the rollover protection test.
Standardized Driver-Assistance Features
Standardized driver-assistance features of this Volvo model include the following:
• Quality rear-view camera
• Updated front and rear parking sensors
• Blind spot monitoring along with rear cross traffic alert
• Advanced forward collision warning as well as pedestrian and cyclist detection
• Enhanced forward automatic emergency braking
• Adaptive cruise control
• Updated lane departure warning and lane keep assist
• Quality road sign recognition
• Updated adaptive headlights design along with automatic high beams
Other features currently available for driver-assistance include the following:
• Enhanced head-up display
• Updated surround-view parking camera design
• Improved hands-free parking assist
Proven Safety-Increasing Car Features
For the last 51 years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has promoted improvements for optimal vehicle safety. The NHTSA sets and regulates standards for safety measures in vehicles. There are important major vehicle safety enhancements that they have created and enforced over these decades.
Automobile design components that are proven to increase the safety of your new vehicle include the following:
1. Seat Belts
Many people who have passed their young adult years remember when there were no seat belts in cars. Perhaps they remember using the first seat belt, which just stretched across their laps.
The three-point belt that protects vehicle drivers and passengers today secures them via the lap and shoulder and is required safety equipment in vehicles. These latest seat-belt designs contain a pretensioner that pulls the belt tight to reduce extra slack if a car crash occurs. This can save many thousands of lives.
2. Air Bags
The design of air bags for car safety has gone through many revisions since the invention of these bags during the 1950s. The early bags required restructuring to prevent injury to vehicle drivers and passengers when the bags were activated.
Children and older people were especially at risk of suffering these air-bag injuries. In 1987, frontal air bags were introduced, and they have since prevented over 50,000 deaths. Today, many cars contain side or side curtain air bags as either standard or optional features.
3. Electronic Stability Control
This type of car safety system is designed to help drivers avoid spin-outs and plow-outs. Electronic stability control systems have been a requirement in new car models since September 2011. These systems initiate auto-controlled wheel braking to help you regain control of your car in difficult road situations.
4. Backup Camera
A rear-view video system, or backup camera, is designed to aid in preventing backover accidents. They give the driver a true view of the area right behind a vehicle. Today’s advanced rear-view video systems show a broader view behind a car. They have been required equipment in all new cars as of May 1, 2018.
5. Blind Spot Detection
This safety feature makes use of digital cameras or sensors to determine whether another motor vehicle is in a road lane that is adjacent to a driver’s current lane. This system sends an alert to the driver to inform them that changing lanes may not be safe. Offered as either a standard or optional car feature, it has helped prevent a significant number of vehicle crashes each year.
6. Driver Assistance
A prediction for the coming years is that automated driving systems may manage the entire act of driving a motor vehicle. Yet today, with the aid of driver-assistance, vehicle operators still control the actual driving.
Yet some primary driving aid features like auto-emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane stray or departure alert and adaptive cruise control are handled by driver- assistance. All of the features included in driver-assistance can help save many lives on U.S roads every year.
There is a wide variety of official statistics issued by reliable sources relative to vehicular safety on U.S. roads today. The more aware drivers around the country become of these important figures relative to car and driving safety features and measures, the more safe and secure the nation's roadways will be for everyone.
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