Car crash deaths in the US fell in 2017, bucking a worrying trend that had seen fatalities increase by over five percentage points in 2015 and 2016. 37,133 people died in accidents, a 1.8 percent decrease from 2016. The National Highway Transport Authority(NHTSA) released the report Wednesday, noting they were no single identifiable reason for the slight decrease.
The news comes even after as data indicates people generally drove more in 2017 than in previous years. Deaths decreased across all classes of vehicles except SUVs and heavy trucks. Total pedestrian deaths saw a slight downward change with 5,977 killed. The report showed more people died in urban areas with pedestrians and cyclists bearing the brunt in cities as the number of deaths hit a 20 year high.
The NHTSA was cautious with celebrations, pointing out the numbers were still unacceptably high. The regulators singled out drugged and distracted driving as emerging major causes of deadly crashes. Distracted driving accounted for 8.5 percent of total fatalities but the NTHSA speculated the figure is possibly higher as motorists are usually reluctant in admitting they were distracted in crashes. Drunk driving still is the largest contributor of fatal crashes accounting for around 30 percent of deaths.
A curious trend was the increase in deaths caused by SUVs and light trucks. The vehicle category has steadily gained popularity in America with 60 percent of new car sales being SUVs or light trucks. They are particularly deadly for pedestrians when involved in crashes, with data showing deaths have shot to 81 percent over the last ten years. Analysts point out to the car design as the reason, as with larger bodies, more horsepower and higher ground clearance, chances for survival are slim in case of a crash.
Tech and automobile companies have lately been rushing to deploy technology that would drastically cut down road deaths. The 35,000 figure is normally mentioned in public events to highlight newer ideas as safer. The self-driving concept is particularly promising in improving safety, though viability on a large scale is still a number of years away.