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Side effect of better economy: more traffic deaths

Flickr/creative commons

Unemployment is improving, and gas prices are relatively low. That means more people are on the road, and they're driving more miles.

"During the recession, motor vehicle fatalities dropped by around 10,000," says the National Safety Council's Ken Kolosh. "Now with the economy improving, with gas prices at relatively low levels, we're beginning to see a rebound."

Nearly 19,000 people have died in accidents on U.S. roads since the beginning of 2015, a 14% increase from the same period last year.

Kolosh says it's a good time to remind people of the basics: Slow down. Don't drink and drive, ever. And don't text behind the wheel, ever. 

"It's really just an unnecessary risk you're taking at the very time motor vehicle crashes are becoming more prevalent," says Kolosh.

Kolosh says the U.S. made a lot of progress reducing drunk driving since the 1950s, when more than half of vehicle fatalities were linked to the consumption of alcohol.

But that progress stopped about six years ago. Since then, the number of traffic deaths related to alcohol has remained steady at about 31%.

Kolosh says one thing that would help is for all states to require interlock devices for first-time offenders.  The breathalyzer devices prevent the car from being started if the driver has been drinking.

Another thing that would help, possibly a lot, is to lower the legal blood alcohol limit. 

But Kolosh admits there is little political will for that step. 

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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