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Road Fatalities Spiked In The First Half, NHTSA Says: Is Technology The Problem, Or Is It The Solution?

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According to a report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 17,775 road fatalities recorded in the first half of this year, which is an increase of 10.4 percent compared with the same period last year.

The spike in the number of people dying on the road is made more alarming by the fact that the 7.2 percent increase in road fatalities from 2014 to 2015 is the biggest full-year percentage jump since 1966. If the rate of road deaths continue this year, 2016 would be breaking that record once again.

The NHTSA report revealed that there were 8,175 road fatalities in the first quarter and 9,600 in the second quarter, which are 11.5 percent and 9.5 percent increases compared with the corresponding quarters of 2015. The total number of traffic deaths for the whole year is on track to go more than 35,000, which would make 2015 the deadliest year on the road since 2008 when there were 37,423 fatalities recorded.

It should be noted that the Great Recession hit that year, causing overall miles driven in the United States to be pushed down. With that, traffic fatalities largely saw decreased levels in the succeeding years, except for a 7.9 percent increase for 2012.

The NHTSA report showed that not only is the overall miles driven in the United States, the fatality rate per 100 million miles is also increasing. So far in the first half of 2016, the ratio is at 1.12, a number last seen in 2009 when the ratio was at 1.13.

While the report does not provide an in-depth discussion on the reason behind the uptick of road fatalities, it seems to be evident that most of the deaths are actually preventable and are due to human error.

Short-term solutions to the issue include stricter drunk driving laws and safer bike lanes, but long-term solutions will likely involve the continuing development of self-driving cars, the technology of which looks to eliminate human error as a factor in traffic situations.

Such initiatives include Google's self-driving car project, which recently reached over 2 million miles of experience on public roads as the company looks forward to a public release.

However, while technology is seen as the potential solution for the increasing road fatalities, it is also tagged as one of the culprits behind the problem. Drivers have become more distracted from the road due to their mobile devices and other electronic gadgets, with one study discovering more than 11,000 daily incidents of distracted drivers and pedestrians due to playing popular smartphone game Pokémon GO.

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