Although death is inevitable, it seems to us here at Martin Oaks Cemetery & Crematory in Lewisville, Texas that Americans are authoring their own deaths more quickly than need be. Whether its obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, or unwillingness to stop smoking, it seems that we are, as a people, doing ourselves in faster than what nature would dictate.
This is especially true when it comes to motor vehicle fatalities. Even though we do not keep cremation tabulations on these numbers, the United States rate of motor vehicle deaths is increasing. Since we specialize in cremation services, our sample is somewhat limited: but, the last figures from the National Safety Council indicate that our assumptions are correct.
The estimates are not official yet, but it appears that in 2017 more than 40,000 people were killed in automobile accidents. That is down approximately 1% from 2016, but up 6% since 2015. If these estimates are confirmed, you have to go back to 2007 to find a year where more than 40,000 people were killed in cars – now we have had two years in a row where these totals are mind-boggling.
As deathcare professionals, preventable passings are always extremely painful. And, dying in car crashes, which frequently means that there is behavior involved that could be changed, is particularly troubling.
The Annual Global Numbers Are Staggering
Road crashes are the leading cause of death among young people ages 15-29; over 1.3 million people around the globe die each year in a car, that’s more than 3,000 a day; 30-50 million people are injured or disabled in these crashes; collisions cause losses of $518 billion. In the United States alone, 2.5 million are injured or disabled in car crashes, and nearly 8,000 between the ages of 16-20 perish.
In the last ten years, it is difficult to quibble with the measures automobile companies have been taking to increase safety; it is also difficult to complain that governments are not spending enough money reminding drivers to be more careful. The combination of these factors, however, have not been able to stem the disturbing tread of death behind the wheel.
Experts say that three elements are the leading causes behind these deaths – “Belts, Booze, and Speed.” By belts we mean the lack of the use of safety belt. About half of all traffic deaths are related to unbelted passengers: this is almost inconceivable in a society where wearing a seatbelt seems as natural as tying your shoes. Apparently, no amount of warning or enforcement can make a difference.
Enforcement cannot always work. Only 18 states have laws requiring seatbelts for front and rear passengers, and in 15 states drivers cannot be ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt unless they are pulled over for other violations.
In addition to neglectful seatbelt habits, contemporary drivers are increasingly subject to distractions, particularly cell phones. Calling others, using apps (like GPS), and responding to social media of all kinds are beginning to take its toll.
Alcohol and drug abuse have always been killer issues, and these numbers have not changed. Approximately one-third of all fatal accidents involved impaired drivers.
While cancer, heart disease, and suicide are more prevalent than motor vehicle death, the preventable nature of expiring in a car is certainly part of the grief process family’s face when they lose a loved one in that manner.
The National Safety Council together with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other groups have formed a partnership to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2050. That is a lofty goal, but one which, if we were to even approximate, would be a considerable advance from where we sit today. Details are available on the internet.
Consumer groups remind us to drive defensively, buckle our seat belt, don’t drink and drive, and keep your eyes on the road – simple suggestions, but definitely lifesaving ones.