I’ve written several times about the role personal injury trial lawyers have played in making vehicles safer. Auto makers are frequently more interested in saving a few dollars per car than in adding safety devices such as side air bags. But after enough lawsuits, the manufacturers usually figure out that it’s cheaper in the long run to make the safety changes than to keep fighting the lawsuits.
The increasing safety of vehicles (although not the role played by trial lawyers) was discussed in a recent report bu the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This report was mentioned in an article in Motor Trend. Here are excerpts:
Despite Americans driving more miles than ever before, traffic fatalities have actually gone down thanks to improved vehicle design, suggests a new report from NHTSA. To better understand how the improvement in vehicle safety helped contribute to a declining number of road deaths, the NHTSA conducted a study documenting design improvements for cars between the 2000 and 2008 model years and has found that design improvements have saved over 2000 lives and prevented over one million occupant injuries in 2008 alone.
To find out the effect of improved vehicle design on traffic fatalities, the NHTSA examined the crashworthiness and crash avoidance performance of vehicles from model years 2000 and 2008 based on the type of crashes that occurred and the miles driven. Though the NHTSA was studying how technologies have improved automotive safety between model year 2000 and 2008, it wasn’t seeking to pinpoint any specific technology that may have caused automotive deaths to trend downward.
The NHTSA’s results also show that the likelihood of crashing in 100,000 miles of driving has decreased from 30 percent in a model year 2000 car, to 25 percent in a 2008 model year car. The likelihood of escaping a crash uninjured has also improved from 79 to 82 percent. Technology improvements between model year 2000 and 2008 have prevented 700,000 accidents, the NHTSA reports.
Of the 9 million vehicles involved in accidents, 200,000 of them were considered preventable by technologies regularly implemented by 2008. Of the 12 million occupants in those accidents, 600 lives could have been saved, and 300,000 injuries could have been prevented or mitigated.
“Between better safety practices developed at the Department of Transportation and improved designs by automakers, we are making real progress protecting drivers and passengers nationwide,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We celebrate the historic decline in deaths and injuries on our roads as we remain laser-focused on continuing to improve safety.”