Am I referring to a bank account increasing, a retirement fund increasing, or even the stack of unpaid bills increasing? No, that’s not it. Since we are almost into the month of February we have already been looking back at 2016 to see how it compares to previous years and to see if there are any trends developing. Two weeks ago I gave you the statistics on Eugene’s weather for last year with some very interesting statistics.
When I lived in Memphis, Tennessee, before I moved to Oregon, the number of traffic accidents per year in Shelby County averaged 39,000. That sounds like an unbelievable number. Some of them resulted in one or more deaths. A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that nationally the number of traffic deaths surged in the first nine months of 2016. Possible reasons for the jump could be related to the fact that people are driving more now due to the lower gas prices and the slowly improving economy.
According to a January 13,2017 article from bigstory.ap.org (The Associated Press) written by Joan Lowy the report states that 27,875 deaths occurred in the first 3 quarters of last year compared to 25,808 deaths for the same time period in 2015. The NHTSA experts believe that there is some other reason besides cheaper gas and improved gas mileage of our cars. The article quotes Mark Rosekind, NHTSA Administrator, who said “We still have to figure out what underlying those lives lost.” He continued ‘ If it was simple, we would already know that.” The answer is even more puzzling to them when you consider that the new cars are becoming safer and safer to drive. Two such improvements are rear view cameras and automatic potential collision breaking systems.
I contacted Colleen O’Hogan, Evaluation and Data Analyst with theTransportation and Safety Division of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), to see if there is any data from our state that reaches a similar conclusion. She explained that the data’s not available yet for the first 9 months of 2016, but the available data report is for the first half of the year from January through June. Here is a look at those Oregon statistics.
For the first quarter of 2016, January through March, there were 8,175 traffic deaths which is up 11.5 percent from the same time period in 2015. The second quarter of 2016, April through June, was better, but still very bad with 9,600 traffic deaths which is up 9.5% from the same time period in 2015. Adding those two totals together gives a grand total of 17,775 traffic deaths for the first 6 months of 2016 which is 10.4% above the first six months of 2015. That is definitely a significant increase, but that is over a rather short period of time.
I’ll try to make this as simple as possible, but we need to look at the first six months of the year, January through June, for a series of years to see if there is a significant trend. Rather than copy and paste a comparative chart, which can be quite confusing, we’ll just lay out the numbers so we can see the result. Starting at 2006=+1.3%; 2007=-2.6%; 2008=-10.4%; 2009=-7.6%; 2010=-7.6%; 2011=-2.1%; 2012=+7.9%; 2013=-4.5%; 2014=-2.2%; 2015=+7.1%; and 2016=+10.4%. You’ll notice that there are two trends to follow. First, from 2007 through 2010 the trend was falling significantly and diminished in 2014. The 6-month total for 2012 sticks out as the lone trend breaker. For the first six months of 2015 and 2016 a pronounced increase in the traffic death rate is indicated. Again, it is too soon to say with any certainty that the trend will continue increasing in the future.
The total traffic deaths recorded for the years listed reflects the trends remained pretty stable through the whole of each year, for the most part. It will be very interesting to see the results of current and future research into the cause or causes of the seemingly rapid upturn in traffic deaths seen over the last two years. I will look forward to relaying the results of said research to you in this column when the research is completed and published. In the meantime a word to the rise would be to practice safe driving to keep your name off of the traffic death list.
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.